Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Running, and running, and running

I'm in my final week of long miles and hard runs. I'll probably end up with a bit over 50 miles again this week, including a 20-miler on Sunday. I'm doing well. My right Achilles tendon continues to be a bit sore, but I'm trying to be smart, and cautious, and yet get my miles run. I'm encouraged I've been able to keep the tendon from getting more sore. I actually think it's improved over the course of this week. That's a relief.

I'm feeling encouraged about the Twin Cities Marathon as well. I ran a hard, 10-mile, marathon pace run today, and I was able to hit my pace for 7 miles. (Used the other 3 miles for warming up and cooling down.) It hurt, but I was able to bear the discomfort, mentally and physically, and I was satisfied with the result. I'm cramming in a speed workout tomorrow, as I have to work Saturday, which generally exhausts me, so I'll take a rest day on Saturday before my 20-miler on Sunday. Things are going well.

I'm looking forward to beginning my 3 week taper next week. I'll probably feel slow and fat in the week prior to the race, but I've done this enough to know to expect that. I'll try not to panic. I just got my participant information e-mail today, so I'm really getting excited. Finally, my brother just informed me he's coming to watch the race, and maybe run a couple of miles with me, which will be wonderful! I'm used to doing everything associated with my marathons solo, including the training, the expo, the travel and the running. It will be really nice to share part of the experience for a change.

Other than running and working, I have little else going on right now. Sorry I don't have more to report, but as I've said in the past, sometimes having little to report is nice. My mood is good. I'm doing what I want to do. My furniture is still dusty (see last post), but my mood is good. That's way more important than dust!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Little sore, little lazy

After a good 20-miler last Sunday, I am now officially signed up to run the Twin Cities Marathon on October 6th. Unfortunately my right Achilles tendon did get a bit sore from approximately miles 18-20, so I've taken a few extra running days off this week.

Instead of running as scheduled I attended a killer spin class on Tuesday and rode my ElliptiGo on Wednesday. I ran pain free Thursday and today. I'm looking forward to a 15K race I have scheduled for tomorrow. Next week I'll be back into high mileage, 50+ for the week including another 20-miler, prior to beginning my taper for the marathon.

I can tell I'm in the meat of my training cycle, as I've been very lazy around my house. I have little motivation to do just about anything around here. I'm doing fine at work. Running is going well. But when I'm home, it's been a chore to do any, well, chores.

My house is fairly neat. That's pretty easy when you're a household of one, but "dust" and "clean bathroom" have been on my to-do list for at least two weeks! Prompts to vacuum and mow the lawn also spent more time than necessary on that list, but at this point they're done. It took herculean effort to cross them off, though. I've just been lazy.

I've experienced this before when training for other marathons, but it seems more pronounced this time. Maybe it's just because I'm older. Maybe training is taking more out of me than I think. Or maybe I'm just lazy. I suspect it's a little of both.

Of course feeling lazy and unmotivated always makes me concerned about my mood. These feelings, after all, are incredibly familiar. So I'm keeping a watchful eye on my mood. Fortunately, at this point other symptoms, which typically accompany a drop in my mood, have not presented themselves. That's somewhat reassuring. Nevertheless, I'll keep paying attention.

I'll also keep running. And eventually I'll probably clean the bathroom, too. Or not...

Saturday, August 31, 2019

32.5 + 20

It's funny. As I sit here today, thinking about tomorrow, I feel butterflies in my stomach. No, I'm not running another race tomorrow. That's next Sunday. I've got butterflies because tomorrow I'm scheduled to run my first 20-mile training run since 2016. The long, long road between 20-milers is about to come to an end. I'm excited, and anxious, and ready. I think.

Twenty miles. I've already run 32.5 miles this week, so not only will this be my longest run, it will also be my highest weekly mileage total in well over 2 years. I haven't yet signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon, which is the first Sunday in October. I wanted to wait until I had at least one healthy 20-miler under my belt prior to registering. Hopefully I'll be an official registrant by tomorrow afternoon.

I'm excited the Twin Cities Marathon is in sight. I'm ecstatic to be relatively healthy this far along in my training. Of course my legs are tired and my feet are calloused, but that's all normal. I've got some soreness in both Achilles, but I'm taking care of them, babying them, actually. I'm able to run pain free, and that's huge. As I've said in just about every recent post (sorry about that), I'm extremely grateful to be running and training again.

I'll have several hours to reflect on the last several years while I'm out there running tomorrow. Twenty miles. It's going to be difficult, mentally and physically. Twenty miles always is. But I'm certain I will also experience satisfaction, gratitude and perhaps even joy intermingled with the pain. That's the beauty of marathon training, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't wait!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Unexpected Rewards

I ran a 1/2 Marathon yesterday. It started and finished only 1/2 mile from my house, and I had a 13 mile training run scheduled, so how could I not participate? I had no idea what to expect, but at the same time I was anxious to see what I could do. There was no tapering. In fact I ran 18 miles just 6 days before the race, but I thought it was worth it to test myself, nevertheless.

The Healthy Human Race was a medium sized race. Unbeknownst to me, it was also a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) regional championship race. The RRCA is a nationwide organization which sponsors yearly state, regional, and national championship races in a variety of distances. Yesterday's race was the Central Region 1/2 Marathon Championship. Whatever... I paid no attention to that. I was there to see if my marathon training was on track and to test myself in a race.

The race went surprisingly well. I started too fast, or so I thought, at around 8:10 pace. I felt okay so I decided to roll with it as long as I could. I'm a slow to warm-up runner so the first several miles never feel great. As a result (and as usual), I struggled with worry thoughts for the first 5-6 miles yesterday. I pushed through and was pleasantly surprised to discover I felt pretty damn good going into mile seven. Hmmm...

I did a quick body scan. My legs were tired. I could tell I was working hard, but I finally felt like I could maintain my pace. In fact, I thought I might be able to improve it. I found myself surging and ran miles 8 and 9 under 7:55 per mile. My fastest mile of the day was mile 13 at 7:46. I sprinted the last 800 meters and was a bit frustrated to be passed in the finishing chute by a young chick who came out of nowhere. My goal is to never get passed in the closing miles. It's just a little challenge I set for myself on race days.

When I crossed the finish line I knew I had run faster than I expected. I was right. I finished in 1:45:49, which is an average of 8:05 per mile. For reference, I ran 1:59 (9:05/mile) in late May and 1:52 (8:34/mile) in mid June. Running 8:05 per mile for 13.1 miles was surprising. And I wasn't totally wasted at the end, which made the effort even more satisfying. I was very happy! My training, it appears, is working. I'm getting back to being a runner again!

It was while basking in my satisfaction when things got really strange and fun. I was chatting with some friends about 45 minutes after the finish when the awards presentation began. I happened to be chatting with a very fast 61-year-old woman, so we expected her name to be announced. Her name was announced. She won the Senior Grand Master (age 60+) Regional Championship with a time around 1:38 or 1:39. Fast! However, before her name was announced, our conversation was interrupted when my name was announced! What???

I believe the presenter announced my name twice before I registered it. Totally dumbfounded, I approached the presenter with skepticism and asked, "What did you say?" Apparently all the other 50 year old women stayed home yesterday. I won the 50-59 year old age group, and therefore I am the new Central Region Female Grand Master 1/2 Marathon Champion. My extremely large, shiny gold medal is pictured below. Absolutely crazy! I still can't believe it.

The big, shiny gold medal was icing on the cake yesterday. I'm really happy with how I ran. I'm relieved to know I can still improve when I put in the work. I'm glad the work is paying off despite my advanced years. And now I have new goals, realistic goals which wouldn't have felt realistic prior to yesterday, which I will work to attain. How cool is that?

The big shiny medal was a nice surprise, but the thrill for me is in what I just described. Challenging myself, working toward a goal, meeting and exceeding the goal, and now beginning to work toward even bigger challenges; that's what drives me. Running gives me direction and brings me joy. It keeps me healthy, mentally, physically and spiritually. That's why I love running. I'm so grateful to be able to train and race again. I can't wait for the next challenge!

The big, shiny gold medal.
This is what a faster-than-expected 1/2 marathon looks like in the final sprint to the finish line. Not pretty, but very satisfying.
The Regional Champions
Me with my finisher medal and regional champ medal, still not quite believing it...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Going home

Meadowlands, Minnesota, only occupies 1/3 of a square mile. It is located in the middle of nowhere on Hwy 133 in northeastern Minnesota.When we moved in 1981 the population was 128. The population fell below 100 people in the 1990's but rebounded over the last several years and is currently listed as a robust 130 residents. When I left I was one of 24 students in my class. Five years later my class, the class of 1986, graduated just 14 students. The K-12 Toivola Meadowlands School closed after graduation in 1990. 

My two younger brothers, their families, and I returned together for the first time since we moved 38 years ago. We ran a 5K race together, laughed with long lost classmates, toured our old school, and told animated stories about what happened at every corner, on every vacant lot, and in the various wooded areas within and surrounding our old town. It was a blast! I'm so glad we went and so grateful to have shared such quality time with my brothers. 

We've arrived.
Our old house, now surrounded by a fence and in a state of disrepair. That's my old bedroom window on the second floor.
My younger brother, Brendon, and my older brother's best friend, John, who still lives in the area.
Toivola Meadowlands School (Toivola is a spot on the road about 10 miles from Meadowlands). The elementary school, on the right, was built in 1923. The high school and gymnasium were added later.
My two "little" brothers and I in front of the school, which hasn't changed one bit! It is now owned by a gentleman who lives and works out of it, and he was kind enough to allow us inside to explore. So thankful for his trust and generosity.
Younger brother, Patrick, checking out the old concession stand near the gymnasium. We were the T-M Rockets.
The girls locker room, exactly as I remembered it! I even remembered which locker was mine. 
A chalkboard sign in the boys locker room, which I discovered was 4 times the size and smelled a lot worse than the girls locker room, in case the boys forgot the score, I guess. 
The secretary to the principal's office. That's my niece's husband and my nephew discovering that the PA system still works!
The library. The neatly stacked magazines were from 2008, so not sure how or why they were there. Perhaps the town used the space for a community library for awhile?
Row of lockers upstairs in the old part of the building. The open door enters into my 7th grade social studies classroom. It's where I was when we heard President Ronald Reagan was shot.
My brothers and I in the high school hallway. Lots of dust and some water damage, but otherwise unchanged.
A surprise on the chalkboard in the science classroom. Apparently somebody from my graduating class had been inside in years past.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Meadowlands

Maybe the timing isn't the best, but my mom gave me the okay from her hospital bed, so I'm on a planned vacation in northern Minnesota. I've been looking forward to this time away for the entire summer because my brothers, at least 2 of the 3, their families, and I are traveling to our teeny tiny "hometown" to run a 5K race and reminisce. The tiny community of Meadowlands (population 128 when we left) hasn't seen this many of us since we moved in 1981! 

In actuality, Meadowlands is as close as we come to a hometown, as my two younger brothers and I moved at least twice more (not necessarily together) before we each left for college. But the time we spent in Meadowlands was crucial growing up time. We moved there when I entered first grade. We moved away after I finished 7th grade. Moving away was traumatic. I didn't want to leave.

In such a tiny town, in long ago days, our parents rarely knew where we were, and that was okay. During the long days of summer we left in the morning, maybe came home for lunch, returned for dinner, and then went back out, often until after dark. There were very few other kids to play with, so we spent a lot of time playing with each other; sports, hide and seek, burning things, biking, building things, sneaking onto the roof of the school, climbing around inside the old, burned-out theater, collecting frogs from the ponds, and generally exploring every inch of that community. It was, we all realize now, quite ideal. We were never bored. And we had a lot less to worry about then.

I'm really looking forward to returning with my brothers. I've taken a couple of trips back with a couple of different people over the years, but never with anyone who shared time with me there. I can't wait to hear their memories, especially of the experiences I may have forgotten. Sharing our little town with my nieces and nephews will be fun, too. I anticipate a lot of sarcasm, a fair amount of teasing, possibly some re-enactments, and a ton of laughter.

Look out Meadowlands, here we come!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Family Drama

I grew up with drama in a dysfunctional family. Until I got sober, my life was frequently filled with drama. Having a chronic illness sometimes creates drama. I despise drama. I strive these days to live a drama-free life. I'm usually pretty successful in this quest. I have to be. Drama isn't good for my mental health.

To stay away from drama, I fill my life with healthy people and disassociate from unhealthy relationships. I work hard to maintain healthy relationships with friends, family, and coworkers by being honest, compassionate, and forthright. Oh, and I'm pretty funny, too. That never hurts. Life isn't nearly as serious as most people think.

Unfortunately, as I'm sure you all know, sometimes drama is thrust upon us. That's where I find myself today. The drama is really my mom's, but being a daughter, it's difficult not to get sucked in. Here's the story...

My mom had major back surgery on Friday. The scheduled 7 hour surgery to fuse her lower thoracic and entire lumbar spine, in order to correct severe and debilitating scoliosis, took 10 and 1/2 hours. There were unforeseen complications which had to be addressed and which will delay her recovery. As a result, she has to remain flat for 72 hours. She's in a fair amount of pain, has unexpected weakness in one leg, and is generally as vulnerable as any of my brothers or I have ever seen her. And her husband disappeared. Drama.

Apparently my stepfather couldn't handle staying in a big city by himself. He couldn't figure out how to get around without my mom's hand holding, couldn't enter an address into a GPS device they use everyday, and oh, didn't even bother to get the name or address of my mom's hospital before he left it to find his rented room. He didn't even eat for the entire day she was in surgery.

After trying to assist the lost puppy via repeated phone calls (including reminding him to eat, advice which he ignored) I finally got my brother, who was awaiting my mom's arrival in the recovery room, to rescue him. My brother and BB, my mom's husband, stuck around until they were able to briefly talk to my mom in ICU late Friday evening. Then my brother escorted BB back to his place of lodging so he wouldn't get lost.

Well, BB apparently didn't like the looks of the parking lot and feared his car would get broken into (his explanation), so instead of staying in Minneapolis with my mom, he drove himself back to their home (3 hours away) in the middle of the night! Oh, and he had my mom's phone and all of her belongings with him, because of course, he was supposed to bring those things to the hospital!

He was supposed to stay in Minneapolis the entire week to support his wife, my mom. He left because of some fantastical fear that their car might be burglarized. Apparently the vehicle was more important than my mother. By the way, he didn't tell anyone he left.

Yesterday, my mom was concerned because it was late morning and BB still hadn't shown up or called. She asked my brother to text BB (because she didn't have her phone) and ask him where he was. They sent texts back and forth several times, with my brother even suggesting that BB take a cab rather than drive the few miles to the hospital. Not once did BB ever let on that he wasn't, in fact, in town! It wasn't until I dialed his number and gave my mom my phone that she discovered he was in Duluth, 3 hours away!

To say I'm angry is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year. I'm angry, disappointed, appalled, and disgusted. My mom has made excuses for his barely supportive behavior for years, and for the most part I've given him the benefit of the doubt, but he went way too far this time! My mom was in tears as she realized he chose improbable car vandalism over her and her very real need for support.

My mom has lived with his BS for 20 years, and even she was stunned by this glaringly selfish, inexcusable act. Let me tell you, it's hard to see your mom lying flat on her back, basically immobile, in pain, and in tears--not because of the pain--but because of the selfish callousness of the man who supposedly loves her.

My mom has taken care of this man's every need for years. He apparently can barely function outside their home without her direction. That became glaringly clear when I tried to assist him from afar while my mom was in surgery. He's had multiple medical issues and surgeries, and she has, of course, hardly left his side each time. I knew he could be a jerk, but I always thought he really loved and cared for my mom, or at least would, when the chips were down. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And I want to kill him (though I'd have to fight back my 3 brothers to get to him first)!

Attacking him, unfortunately, won't help my mom heal. My brothers and I know we need to bite our tongues, especially when he's in the room, in order to keep my mom's stress as low as possible. This is her issue to deal with right now. I'm hoping when she heals she'll be able to make a decision to get out of this relationship, as hard as I know that would be for her. She deserves better. And he has clearly proven he doesn't deserve her.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A satisfying 16

I ran 16 miles yesterday. I haven't run that far or for that long, over 2.5 hours, in well over 2 years. It's great to be training again, but I think I forgot just how tough marathon training is. The fact that it's been over 2 years since I last trained doesn't help. I'm working hard, and I'm tired.

I'm on track with my training for Twin Cities Marathon in early October, and the fatigue is setting in. My legs are tired, my back is tired, my feet are tired, even my brain is tired. But I'm not complaining. I'm running. I'm training. Of course I'm tired.

My brain, especially, is tired because I'm worried about getting injured. Every little twinge and ache scares the crap out of me. As a result, I'm babying my body like never before. It's a bit silly. So far, so good, but I am certainly feeling my age, or my long layoff from training, or both. Most likely both.

Perhaps age, lack of training, and all those injuries have taken their toll. I'm not as strong as I used to be. Unfortunately, the middle of a training cycle is not the best time to attempt to build muscle. At best, I should be able to maintain what I have, but I'm finding doing that has also been difficult. On my non-running days, like today, I have such a long list of other things to accomplish, I often don't get to the strength training I'd like to be doing. I guess I have to accept I'm a normal, aging person, with a job and other responsibilities, who can't focus all of my energy on running.

But I'm not complaining. The fact that I get to focus any of my energy on running is extremely gratifying. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be training again. Yesterday's long run was tough, but I was so pleased to finish it! As usual running proved to me I am tougher than I think.

I had to fight through the desire to cut my run short around mile 12 yesterday. I knew the immediate fatigue and discomfort might pass. I knew I'd pushed through feeling worse in the past. Running gave me that knowledge. Running taught me I can do more that I think. I can reach higher and push harder than what, in the moment, seems possible. And that's exactly what happened yesterday.

So I'm not complaining about my fatigue. I'll never complain about the number of miles I choose to run. I have been gifted another opportunity to do something I love; to strive toward goals which motivate and empower me. I'm praying my body allows me to continue running as long as running continues to challenge me, satisfy me, and bring me joy. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Feeling accomplished

I have to admit, it doesn't take too much for me to feel like I've accomplished something. Having lived with depression for 18+ years, I've learned there is no accomplishment too small to celebrate. When I feel like crap, getting out of bed is an accomplishment. But I'm feeling well now, and I'm feeling accomplished tonight.

It's a bit silly, actually. And for most people my accomplishment could be looked at as more of a failure. But not to me. It may have taken 7 years, but now it's done, so rather than flog myself for 7 years of procrastination, I choose to celebrate. And it's not artificial celebration, I truly am feeling accomplished tonight.

So what's the big accomplishment? I finished painting my lower level bathroom.Yup.That's it. Not a very big deal, and certainly something I could have been finished 7 years ago, but I finished it today instead. And I'm not talking about bare walls, either. Literally, I finished painting walls which have been half painted for seven years!

Of course there's a back story, and here it is. My basement flooded 12 years ago. At the time I had a partially finished basement, which included a 3/4 bathroom. I had to tear it all out. Every single piece of stinky, moldy drywall, lumber, carpet, flooring, and fixtures, I took a sledge hammer to it all. I heaved each piece out a small open window into my driveway. When that pile got too big I borrowed a truck, loaded it, and unloaded it all at the local dump. It was a ton of hot, dirty work.

At that time I had just enough money to have my basement waterproofed. That's all I could do for several years. Then I got a loan from the county, a loan for people who had property damage and planned to stay in their homes for at least 10 more years. I didn't think I was going anywhere for 10 years, and the terms were favorable. So I took it. That was about 11 years ago. I'm still here.

I'm still here, and my basement is still unfinished. Being a single woman in a community with a non-stop housing boom, I was wary of hiring somebody off the street to remodel my basement. I figured I'd get overcharged for questionable work. So I waited. Eight years ago I discovered the husband of one of my best friends used to be a contractor. He came and looked. And while he decided it was too much for him, he suggested his father-in-law, my friend's dad. Though he was officially retired, he and "his crew" still did projects like mine occasionally.

With my friend's eye for project design, we designed a remodel which included a large family room, a larger-than-before 3/4 bathroom, a utility room, a laundry room, and storage space. It took Dan and his crew over 6 months to do the work, and I eventually ran out of money. That was seven years ago.

All of the rooms had insulation and walls. The ceilings were finished, the doors were roughed in, and I had new plumbing and electrical throughout the basement. To finish it off, I needed a floor, trim, doors, and bathroom fixtures. I didn't have the expertise for any of that, but I did what I could in the meantime.

After I painted the large room and all of the ceilings, which took a very long time, I started on the bathroom walls. Those walls have had one coat of paint, which stopped just short of the ceiling, for seven years. It's silly. I'm not sure why I never finished them. I didn't have money to finish the remodel, but I have no reason as to why I didn't finish painting the bathroom walls!

Well, they're painted now, two coats all the way to the top. I finally have some extra cash to (hopefully) finish what began over 7 years ago. I found another retired, honest handyman who comes highly recommended. He quoted me a price I can afford, and I'm hoping to have a fully functional, beautiful finished basement within the next few months. That will be weird. Imagine how accomplished I'll feel then!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The beauty of boring

It's been awhile since I wrote a post on my phone, not since I was in the Himalayas, in fact, but I'm waiting for a hair cut so thought I might as well make good use of my time. The good news is I have very little news. I'm doing well.

My mood is great. In fact, my PHQ-9 score, the depression inventory test my doctor makes me take every time I see her, is the lowest it's been in years. Low is good! I'm really pleased about that.

Running is also going well. I ran 14 miles with Jet a couple of days ago. That was the end of a successful week. I survived despite the oppressive heat and humidity! That 14-miler was the first cooler, drier run of the entire week. In total, I ran 4 days and covered 35.2 miles. Nice.

I'm pleased I ran so many miles and lived to tell about it. I'm feeling the added miles a bit in my joints and Achilles tendons, but nothing major. Each run takes me a little longer to get going. I long for the days I used to be able to just bound out the door and down the street without a care! But that's no longer reality.

I've been taking care of my legs like the precious commodities I now know they are. I've been using ice as needed, compression, elevation, Glucosamine Chondroitin (figured it was worth a try), turmeric, strengthening and massage. In fact, I have my own massage tool, and I've been burning up the battery! It all appears to be helping, as I'm still running, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Work is also going well. I've been busy, and that's okay. I usually have one shorter day per week, which is nice. I get a lot more done during the day than I do in the evening. Once I get home from a full day of work, I have a difficult time doing much more than eating and preparing for the next day. It's nice to be able to cross things off my to-do list when I have shorter days, like today.

I apologize for the rather boring post. But as I've always said, sometimes boring is good. No depression symptoms (except for that sleep problem I wrote about in my last post), and no drama is a satisfying place to reside. I'll stay here as long as I'm allowed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sleep, or lack thereof

I'm not sure what's up, but my sleep has been poor lately. I love to sleep. I need to sleep. But my no-longer-new, fancy Garmin watch tells me I'm getting less and less sleep. I'm not sure how accurate my watch is, but over the past couple of weeks, it's recorded less and less deep sleep.

My watch records time awake, and time spent in REM, light, and deep sleep. Since I bought the watch last Fall, I've averaged around 1.5 to 2 hours of deep sleep each night. When I was in Duluth over the 4th of July, I noticed my deep sleep increased to well over 2 hours three out of the four nights I was there. And I could tell!

But other than those 4 nights, my deep sleep has been on the decline. Last night, for example, I apparently only got 14 minutes of deep sleep. Again, I'm not sure how accurate my watch is, but since I'm only comparing my historical results to my current results, the trend is clear. I'm not sleeping as well.

Unfortunately, my Garmin results are backed up by my current state of being. I'm tired. Maybe I forgot how much energy training for a marathon takes. I'm in week three of my training, and it's going well, but between work and running I'm finding I have little energy for anything else. I'm hoping that will improve as I continue training. After all, it's been awhile (over two years) since I seriously trained for anything. Who knows, maybe the training is causing the poor sleep.

The fact that I slept better in Duluth makes me wonder about my mattress. I don't have a cheap mattress, and it's not even 10 years old, but I'm considering getting a new one. It seems like a big step to take with no guarantee of success, though, so I'm putting it off. I'm hoping things magically turn around.

If there's no magic, however, I can't wait too long for things to change. I don't like being tired, but more importantly, being too tired is a danger to my mental health. Like I said earlier, I need sleep. I don't function well when I'm lacking sleep. I can pull it off for a few weeks, but any longer than that and life gets dicey. Sleep is crucial to my well being.

It's odd for me to sleep poorly, and that worries me, too. Usually the only time sleep is an issue is when I'm not doing so hot. I think my mood is great right now, but is this lack of sleep an ominous sign? I don't think so, but if you have depression you know how these little things, which may not mean anything, can cause concern.

So I think I'm going to start with new pillows. In addition, I'm watching my caffeine intake, not taking naps (also unusual for me), and watching less TV right before bed. I'm hoping these changes will make a difference. If they don't I may consider that new mattress. Ugh! I need my sleep.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Training again

It's only week two, but I'm pretty excited to be officially training again. My goal is the Twin Cities Marathon, October 6, 2019. Week one of my training could not have gone much better. I ran a total of 27.8 miles, including a long run of 11.2 miles, and I hiked another 6 miles. I felt good. I explored new places. I ran in the sunshine and in a delightful downpour. It was a good week.

That downpour occurred on my way to Duluth last Thursday, July 4th. After a sunny 3.5 hour drive, I stopped at my brother's house to check out a bike trail. I had to do 4 miles at tempo pace, which is currently about 8:12 per mile. It was going to be a hard run. I figured the bike trail thru the woods would be scenic and flat. My brother lives about one mile from the trail, so it was a great excuse to visit him and get my run done before beginning my holiday weekend in earnest.

I visited with my brother and his family for a few minutes and then got ready to go. But by the time I changed into my running gear and got directions, it started to rain...hard. I waited it out. I ventured outside when it had calmed down to a sprinkle. Unfortunately, within the first 1/2 mile it began to pour again.

As long as it's warm, and it was, I don't mind running in the rain. Good thing, because it poured the entire time, almost an hour! After a one mile warm-up I began my tempo pace, but it was raining so hard I could barely see. I missed the trailhead and had to double back, meaning most of my miles were completed on the side of a busy road. No worries, there was a wide shoulder, but I must have looked a fright, as one woman even pulled over to ask if I wanted a ride! Despite missing the trail, it was actually kind of fun running hard in a downpour. I hit my pace, didn't need a shower, and once I changed into dry clothes, I was on my way.

I had another wonderful run Saturday morning. My friends, with whom I was staying, live just up the road from my beautiful alma mater, The College of St. Scholastica, in Duluth, Minnesota. I don't know what I was doing during my four years there, studying and playing volleyball, I guess, but I had no idea there was a network of wooded trails behind the school! Well, I discovered them, totally by accident, during an easy 6-miler Saturday morning. There was a cemetery where all of the nuns have been buried, several Catholic statues, and even a Stations of the Cross nature walk! Who knew? I love discovering new places! I could have run around back there all day.

Finally, I ran my long run on Sunday along a new-to-me section of The Duluth Lakewalk. It was a gorgeous morning. Lake Superior was flat calm and the sun was glinting beautifully off the surface. Many boaters were enjoying a nice morning to fish. I ran 11.2 miles while taking it all in. Afterward I iced my legs in the big lake at Brighton Beach. It was a bit warmer than the 40-ish degree water up the North Shore where I took a dip after my hike on Friday, but it was still a perfect ending to a long run.

I love running. I love discovering new places. I love exploring while cruising along in my running shoes. I'm so grateful to be training again. It's only the middle of week two, which has also gone really well, and I'm feeling hopeful. I'm feeling energized. I have no idea what will happen from here on out. I'm aware another injury could crop up anytime, but I'm doing my best to take care of myself. And so far, I'm enjoying the ride.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Perfect Weekend

If there is such a thing as a perfect weekend I think I just had it. I went to Duluth over the long July 4th weekend. I visited family, stayed and played with my good friends, watched fireworks, had 3 great training runs while exploring 3 new trails, hiked 6 beautiful miles along the Split Rock River, ate some good food, saw Trampled by Turtles in concert, and took a dip (sort of) in my favorite big lake.

Most of my time was spent with my good friends, Mary and Jim. I'm not sure if Mary realizes it, but she is my longest standing friend, and I love her. We've known each other for 33 years. Other than via Facebook, none of my high school, college, or PT school friends are currently a part of my life. I value our friendship more than she probably knows.

I especially enjoy my time with Mary because we enjoy many of the same things; nature, hiking, and everything Duluth among them. We also have similar tastes in movies, music, coffee, and food.

As you all know, I spend much of my time alone, so the opportunity to play with someone who shares my interests, and someone with whom I enjoy spending time, was invaluable. And that's why this was a perfect weekend. I got to do all the things I love to do alongside a great friend. I'm so grateful.

Here are some pictures to enjoy. I'll write more about my running later.

Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge sporting the red, white, and blue.
Fireworks over the harbor as seen from our spot up the hill. I love fireworks!

Early in our hike along the Split Rock River.
Mary, sitting in front of the "Split Rock," 2 miles into our hike.
Waterfalls all along the way. Wonderful background noise!
The view of Lake Superior about 5 miles into our hike.
Me, freaking out a bit, as Lake Superior was colder than I'd ever experienced! Around 40 degrees! Great for icing the legs after a long, hot hike, though.
Trampled by Turtles takes the stage at Bayfront Park on the shore of Lake Superior.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Less Stress

I don't have much time to write tonight, but I wanted to follow up on my last post. I am happy to report my supervisor and I had a long, face-to-face discussion yesterday, and as a result I am less stressed today. I'm grateful my supervisor was willing to listen to my concerns. I give her a lot of credit. The discussion was professional but occasionally a bit heated. It was frequently uncomfortable but also relieving. I'm so grateful, again, that my supervisor was willing to go the extra mile to work with me to resolve our issues.

There was, I think, a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions on both sides. After all was said and done, I think I understood better where her decisions were coming from, and I think she understood why I felt I was being treated unfairly. We worked it out. I'm really happy about that.

Working it out was what I had most hoped to do. I love my job. I love the building in which I primarily work. I love the nursing staff and other therapy staff with whom I share my days. We have a really great team, we do good work, and we help people. I value that. I didn't want to lose it.

I was offered another position at another company, but I'm glad I didn't have to take it. I didn't want to leave. I'm relieved, grateful, and satisfied we were able to work through our differences. It appears happier, less stressful days are on the horizon. I'm anxious to get back to work!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

More stress

I know I wrote recently about a stressful situation at work. I wrote about trying to accept the situation even though I didn't like it. Well, I just got my yearly performance review, and it brought the whole issue up once again. My supervisor, the very person who has decided to cut my hours without my consent, nicks me for my recent "struggle" with my new schedule and my not-so-positive attitude. I admit, I had a couple of episodes of not-the-most-positive attitude, but I find myself angry and resentful at this being raised as an issue.

I had two episodes over the past 4-6 weeks where I didn't display the best attitude. I admit that. It was in the midst of all of the schedule changes, which I thought were unfairly being forced upon me, but that's no excuse. I didn't say anything I shouldn't have said, it didn't affect my patient care at all, but it was clear to the staff person who wrote up this performance review that I was unhappy. I regret that I let my unhappiness show in that way. But that happened twice.

In the grand scheme of things, my attitude at work is beyond positive. I engage cheerfully with my coworkers and other staff within the facility. I'm interested in being a part of the entire facility team, not just a member of the therapy staff. With this goal in mind, I began a "Question of the Day" white board a few months ago. It hangs just outside the entrance to our therapy office. I post thoughtful or humorous questions, and the staff, visitors and patients post their answers. As I suspected, the staff love it. Visitors love it. And even some of the patients participate. The conversations the questions initiate strengthen the relationships between the therapy staff and nursing staff. It was a simple thing to do. I enjoy it. They enjoy it. It creates discussion, lighthearted debate, and humor among all of us. This is not mentioned on my review.

In addition to my yearly review, there is another reason my schedule issue has once again come to the forefront. Throughout the process of my schedule changing and me losing hours, I had been told it was a temporary change. I now know that is not true. But I don't know it from the person who should have communicated it to me. I learned of it secondhand. It's exactly what I suspected all along, but I feel like being lied to and stringing me along with "it's just temporary" has caused me a lot of undo stress. I'm honest and direct with my supervisors. I guess I expect honesty and directness in return.

Of course, I wouldn't have been happy if the decision to change my schedule had been delivered honestly and directly, but at least I could have processed it and moved forward. Since it wasn't communicated honestly, since I was told things which weren't true, I had added stress every time one of those untruths was contradicted by my supervisor's actions. I'd feel betrayed and disrespected. I'd point out the contradictory action, raise the issue again, and end up in another stressful conversation with my supervisor. It is clear to me now that she was only saying things to appease me all along. I would much rather have been told the truth from the get go. If I had, there would no longer be an issue. And I wouldn't be sitting here writing about it, again, months later.

I'm frustrated. I feel disrespected, betrayed, and lied to. I'm not used to interpersonal work stress. I'm really not. I'm accustomed to working well with others and having respectful relationships with my supervisors. I feel like I've held up my end of the bargain on this one, but I don't feel I've been treated with equal respect from the other party involved.

I guess the lesson is I can't control the actions of others. That's a sucky lesson in this case, but it's the lesson, nonetheless. No matter what I say or do, how professional or unprofessional I am, she's going to do and say what she chooses. And I have no control over that. It sucks. I no longer trust anything she says, and I don't like that either. I wish she had communicated with me honestly, but wishing it won't make it so. Now it's up to me to decide what actions I need to take to ease my stress. I can't fix her, but I can fix me. And that's what I'm going to (attempt to) do.

Monday, June 24, 2019

1:52:19

Well, that was fun! I ran the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on Saturday. It's the half marathon run in conjunction with Grandmas Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. I figured I'd run it a bit more like a race, as compared to the Med City Half Marathon, which I ran on May 26th, and which I used as a gauge of how my training was going. I figured it was time to see if I could run a bit faster, so I gave it a shot.

Just as with Med City, I was very pleasantly surprised on Saturday at Grandmas. I started out too fast, or so I thought, but after 3 miles of unsuccessfully trying to slow my pace I decided to just go with it. I figured I'd blow up eventually, but I took the risk. I didn't blow up! In fact, I again ran a negative split, and my fastest miles were my last miles. I love it when that happens!

I ended up clocking a 1:52:19, which is an average of 8:35 per mile. It's still nowhere near where I used to be prior to almost 3 consecutive years of injuries, but it's a full half minute per mile faster than I ran just 4 weeks ago. I was thrilled when I crossed the finish line. I was even more thrilled that I still had something left in the tank. I think I could have run even faster! That was a great feeling.

I'm feeling encouraged now. I'm thinking about being a runner again, a competitive runner--um, age group competitive, that is. I'm already looking ahead in my calendar, looking for the next good race. I'm also thinking about the marathon. With two good, not too tough, half marathons under my belt, maybe it's time to up my training and think about my next marathon.

Oh, who am I kidding? As soon as I crossed the finish line I began thinking about getting back to running marathons! In fact, I've already decided to up my training. I'm aiming for the Twin Cities Marathon in October. You know me, I need a goal. I love the Twin Cities Marathon almost as much as Grandmas, so it would be great to make my marathon return in that race.

So that's the plan. I'm going to begin training for the Twin Cities Marathon, which will be run on October 6, 2019. I have no idea how my body will respond to the increased time and mileage training for a marathon will require. I have no idea if I still have it in me to commit to what needs to be done. But if I don't try, I'll never know. And I love running marathons, so it's time to try. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Hiking again

I'm in Colorado for my niece's wedding. I've never been to this area of Colorado previously, and it is gorgeous! Silverthorne, we're staying above 9500 feet, is surrounded by high peaks, multiple ski resorts, and seemingly unlimited hiking trails. It's not only beautiful, it's an outdoor lover's paradise. I could easily live here.
To take advantage of this local paradise, my brother (the father of the bride) and I went for a 6.5 hour, 14 mile hike to the top of Ptarmigan Peak yesterday. We topped out at 12,405 feet with a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks. It was amazing!



I'm out here with my mom and step father, but all of my brothers and their families are here, too. It's been a long time since we've all been in the same place at the same time. I haven't seen some of my nieces and nephews for a very long time. It's nice. 
I'm glad I'm here. I wish I was staying a bit longer to enjoy more time with my family in this outdoor paradise, but I've got to get back home, as I'm traveling again in a few days. Nevertheless, being here has been a really nice diversion from the stress I wrote about in my previous post. I'm grateful for this time. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

My fragile brain

Sometimes I wonder if mental illness has made my brain "fragile." It seems I'm unable to handle stress like I used to. Or perhaps I get stressed with less provocation than previously. My brain has been feeling fragile for a couple of weeks, and it's getting exhausting.

Here's the scoop: I've got a couple of things going on right now. One is political. If you've been reading for awhile, you know I don't say a lot about political crap. I used to be very active politically. I grew up in a very politically active family. I then lived in Boston where politics seems to be front and center all of the time. And I was okay with that. I've also been to Washington D.C. to march for more than one cause over the years.

But those years are long past. As I've dealt with this illness, politics (which basically feels like arguing these days) just exhaust me. I still have feelings about things which are important to me. I still vote regularly, but I just don't have the inclination to debate or participate anymore. That is, until now.

The City of Rochester's Park Board has decided, with little to no input from anyone in the community, to destroy the one and only public running track in the city. In its place they are going to create a short, paved oval. The track they are destroying is a 90 year old cinder track which is in a park dedicated to soldiers. It is used daily by countless numbers of people from various walks of life. The reason for the asphalt oval (not regulation track size) is to allow food trucks a place to park for the one festival (7 days long) which takes place in the park every summer. It is ridiculous.

The local running community, of which I am a part, organized an effort to stop the paving of this track. We were encouraged to show up en masse to the park board meeting last Tuesday. I knew I probably shouldn't go, because I feared it would be too much for me, but I went anyway. It was too much for me.

Maddening, frustrating, infuriating; I left the meeting early. I had to. But I haven't been able to let it go. I feel so strongly about this issue, so angry, yet so hopeless to do anything. I've tried and tried to move forward, to allow the feelings to pass, or at least to reduce from a boil to a simmer, but I just can't. And it's driving me crazy. I'm so glad we have people in this community taking the lead on this fight. I don't know how they do it. I've had to pull back, but I wish I could let it go.

So that's going on... Meanwhile, I'm still dealing with post operative complications from my most recent oral surgery. It's coming up on 3 weeks since that horrible experience, and I still have an open sore in my mouth and pain. In fact, on Thursday night I realized the pain had actually localized to one tooth, and that sent my stress level through the roof.

The painful tooth is the last molar on the bottom left. Actually, it's the second to last, but I'm already missing the last molar. That's important, because the painful tooth is a crowned tooth. I had a root canal on that molar 4 or 5 years ago. That's important because it means there's no way to repair the tooth if, as I suspect, the root canal has cracked (as a result of that violent surgical procedure 3 weeks ago). I'm pretty sure I'm about to lose another tooth! And if I do, I'll be unable to chew on the left side of my mouth, as I won't have any molars!

Again, I'm so frustrated and angry! I've called the surgical office at Mayo Clinic multiple times to express my concerns about the open sore and the amount of pain I've continued to have. I've been brushed off each time, reassured that "nothing was wrong." Finally, on Friday morning, after being put off by Mayo once again, I called my dentist. She put me on antibiotics, in the hope that it's just an infection. But after almost 3 days of Penicillin, I'm pretty sure it's a broken crown or root. Unfortunately, I've been through this before, so I'm familiar with the feeling.

I have an appointment with my dentist tomorrow afternoon. And even though I think I know what's going to happen; the tooth will need to be pulled which will set in motion yet another lengthy, expensive and painful implant procedure, I can't seem to quell my feelings of frustration, anger and fear.

These intense emotions, to situations I think I should be able to handle better, make me feel as if my brain is fragile. I don't know if that's the case, and I don't know how to explain what I mean any better than that. Just fragile.

I think it's okay to have intense emotions. But I also think it's healthy to be able to move past the intensity, especially when I take healthy steps (like signing petitions, talking to others, writing) to move forward. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my brain seems to be stuck on boil. Boiling is exhausting. I'd really like to reduce the intensity to a simmer. Know what I mean?

Monday, June 3, 2019

Living my values

News flash: In the past I could be a jerk. When I was drinking and depression ruled my life, I wasn't always nice. I was self-centered. I was a victim. I was a know-it-all. Sometimes I was an ass. Looking back it makes me cringe. But that was my reality for a few too many years.

Thankfully, I don't act that way anymore. I've done a lot of work, opened my ears and shut my mouth, and learned from people around me; people who have what I want, people I admire for their ability to live life on life's terms. I'm talking about people who are nice when being nice is hard. I'm talking about people who feel empathy for others even when they're dealing with their own shit. I'm talking about people who not only have values but those who act according to the values they profess.

That's the kind of person I strive to be these days. Of course, I'm a work in progress, but I'm definitely not an asshole anymore. Thank God for that! But here's the thing I'm thinking about today. It's easy to be nice, grateful, humorous, empathetic, and professional when things are going well. But do I live up to those values when faced with a challenge?

At this moment of reflection, I confess I fell off the beam recently. I don't feel I handled a stressful situation at work very well. In a nutshell: I had something I value taken away from me, without my consent, and feel I was treated less than honestly and less than fairly by at least one superior. The question of fairness is a tough one for me. In my past life playing the victim was something at which I was well practiced. Unfortunately, I think the it's-not-fair-trigger got the best of me over the past couple of weeks.

I'm not happy with how much angst, consternation, and bitterness this situation engendered. I'm especially not happy I allowed that bitterness and anger to come out sideways. While I didn't say anything inappropriate, I didn't necessarily act nice or professional either. I didn't stomp my feet pound my fists and yell, "it's not fair, it's not fair," but I really wanted to! And that bothered me.

It's been a couple of weeks, and I am still angry, but I'm also now at the point of practicing acceptance. After all, I said what I needed to say, politely and professionally to the appropriate person, but nothing changed. I acted pissed off and less than friendly, and nothing changed. I could keep pushing to the point of being an ass, but the only person that will hurt is me. It's not worth it. I've worked too hard to become the person I'm proud to be. I don't want to throw that away.

I like being the funny coworker, the professional, skilled coworker, the kind coworker. I'm proud of the fact my coworkers like to work with me. That wasn't always the case. Acceptance, therefore, is the only reasonable route to take.

I may not like the situation. I may not think it's fair. But if I can accept it, let go of that which I have no control, and take actions over which I have control, then I won't turn into an asshole. Being an asshole takes a ton of energy! It's simply not worth it. To quote from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, "acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today." Acceptance and living my values are the only things which will bring me the peace and serenity I seek.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

2 hours

Sunday was a gorgeous day to run 13.1 miles. Of course I haven't run 13.1 miles in several years, so I had no idea what to expect. Based on my recent training runs, which have been slow as usual, and my recent 10-mile race experience, where I averaged 9:23 per mile, I figured I'd have a great day if I ran 10-minute mile pace during Sunday's Med-City Half Marathon. So that was the plan. Run 10 minutes per mile and be thrilled with the result.

Well sometimes I'm not too good at following plans. You see, my friend Mike was pacing the 2 hour pace group. His sign said that was around 9:10 per mile. Too fast, I thought, but I lined up with him anyway. I expected to quickly fall off the pace once we got going, but I didn't. That was kind of fun. And I wasn't dying, yet, so that was a bonus. I kept an open mind but didn't put any pressure on myself to keep up.

That laid back attitude came in handy when Mike and his pace group slowly progressed beyond my sight beginning around mile three. By mile 6 I could no longer see his sign bobbing up and down, and I was okay with that. I was still comfortably running way faster than I had expected. I wanted to stay comfortable, so I hung out around that 9:10 to 9:15 pace. I was very happy with how I was feeling at the pace I was running.

At mile 6 we hit a long, fairly steep downhill which lasted almost a mile. After a pit stop (dammit!), I just let the road take me for a ride. I ran that downhill mile at 8:30 pace. From that point on, I was able to keep my legs turning over, as if still on a downhill, and didn't run slower than one 8:54 mile the rest of the race. I passed Mike with a smile around mile 11. My fastest mile was my last, 8:23, and I was still feeling good! That's how a well executed race is supposed to feel! I was so excited; shocked and excited!

1:58:56. That was my official time. I averaged right around 9 minutes per mile, a full minute per mile faster than I thought possible! Never in a million years did I believe I would run a half marathon, at this stage in my training, in under 2 hours. I wasn't sure I'd ever run under two hours again! While it's a far cry from my pre-injury days, when 1:40ish was more my time, it proves (to me) I may have a better chance of regaining my form, and speed, than I thought possible.

I ran with my Defeat the Stigma tank top and had a few conversations about mental illness along the way, so that was a bonus, too. I was very proud to represent those of us with mental illness and proud to be putting the issue out there for "regular folks" to see. Sharing the moment with my brother, who also ran well, was nice, too. It was a beautiful day to run 13.1 miles, and I'm so happy I did!

A friend and I just before the gun went off.

My brother and I at the finish. My smile says it all.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Pain

Being in pain is tough. Actually, it sucks! And I'm in pain. I had an oral surgery one month ago to remove some excess bony growth in my mouth, under my tongue, basically the entire floor of my mouth. It hurt, as the surgeon had to slice along my teeth in order to fold back the tissue to get at the bone. Thankfully, I was asleep for the procedure. With pain meds, a lot of ice, salt water rinses, Tylenol and Advil, I got through it. It took about a week for everything to calm down.

On Tuesday I returned to the surgeon's physician assistant for a follow-up. I was concerned, as I had developed a sore below my teeth on the inner surface of the left side of my mouth. Turns out I had reason to be concerned. There was dead bone pushing its way out through the tissue, much like a sliver works its way out through your skin over time. Why was there dead bone?? I don't know. But apparently it was kind of a big deal, as the PA sent me down the road to the surgeon's office right then and there.

The surgeon's resident checked me out and informed me he'd basically have to re-do the procedure on the left side in order to remove an entire ridge of rough, dying bone. Okay. I had no idea what I was getting into! Remember, I was asleep for the initial procedure. This time I was awake. I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say the procedure was very rough! The number of and amount of Novocaine injections was enough to begin my barely contained panic, and it only got worse from there.

I survived, and left feeling relieved and numb. I wasn't too worried, or maybe I just didn't think about what would happen after the Novocaine wore off. Two hours later I was in agony. I dealt with it as best I could with Tylenol, Advil and ice, but within a few hours I was back on the phone to the PA. I have never in my life requested pain medication, but I couldn't believe how much pain I was in. Not only did the surgically traumatized area hurt, my entire jaw, the left side of my face, and my neck were aching beyond belief. I could feel my heartbeat in my jaw! I was awake during the procedure so I think I tensed the muscles into oblivion! I could barely open my mouth.

Well, the PA politely refused to prescribe pain meds. Instead she prescribed a Lidocaine rinse (which tastes like rubbing alcohol and numbs the tissues for about 30 minutes!) and prescription strength Advil (whoopee!). Since I'm only supposed to rinse with the Lidocaine solution every 3 hours, and since the Advil and Tylenol do absolutely nothing to relieve my pain, I've been in utter agony for 5 days and counting! With the exception of rupturing my L4 disc a couple of years ago, I've never experienced this much pain!

My mouth is now full of canker sores and basically feels like one big open wound. Eating and drinking is a tortuous experience. I can carefully slurp down yogurt or drink protein shakes with the right side of my mouth, but even that is excruciating. I guess this is one way to lose a few pounds. I had to leave work early on Wednesday, took Thursday off, and only worked part of the day yesterday. I can't think. I can't concentrate. My mood is, at best, slightly cranky, as my mouth hurts all the time!

I talked with the PA again yesterday to voice my concerns. She assured me it will get better. Of course it will, but geez is this amount of discomfort really necessary? I'm frustrated, and in pain, and concerned.

I'm scheduled to run a half marathon with my brother tomorrow. I'm not sure how that's going to go. Instead of a fun return to the event, it may be more of an uncomfortable slog. Not exactly what I had hoped or planned for, but I'll do my best. Being in pain sucks. I'm counting the minutes until I find some relief. And I don't think I'll allow anyone to take a scalpel to my mouth ever again!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Spam

I just finished a long day of work on top of a long week of work, more hours than I've worked in months, and I came home to spam. And I'm not talking about the mystery meat, produced in a town just down the road (really), which comes in a can! I'm talking about the stupid comments stupid people attempt to post on this blog. You never see these comments because I moderate them out of existence, but unfortunately I do. They aren't pretty. They are, in fact, stupid.

Maybe I'm overly cranky today. Maybe I worked one hour too many this week. But after reading the comments today, I guess I snapped. I know some of you don't like having to jump through hoops in order to leave a comment, but if you had to read the crap I have to read, you'd understand why I require you to jump. Those hoops at least keep some of the spam from reaching me, but despite the hurdles, some self-serving commentators persist.

These people almost always leave a comment which has little or nothing to do with my post. Their comments are almost always boastful diatribes about what I need to do to cure my depression. If only I'd do this or that I'd feel better, and oh, by the way, here's a link to my website where you may purchase my product or my YouTube channel where you can hear me preach my happiness gospel. It's maddening and stupid.

Apparently there's no cure for stupid. If any of these people actually read just a few paragraphs of this blog, they'd realize they were wasting their time. If they read the introduction to my comments section, they'd know there was no chance of me posting their link. They don't really think I'll actually look into their magical cures or listen to their self-promoting, stupid thoughts, do they?

I'm sorry. I know I'm not solving the problem by posting this, but sometimes this blog is just my selfish venting platform. And today is one of those days. I know I will continue to get stupid comments from stupid people who have only their own interest in mind. They will continue to contribute nothing to any meaningful conversation. And I will continue to delete them.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Social...or not

I don't understand me. My coworkers and few close friends are shocked when I refer to myself as an introvert. With them I'm happy, smiley, funny, confident and energetic. But put me in a group of people, even a group of like-minded people like runners, and I feel totally out of place. I often avoid such groups for that very reason.

But in an effort to expand my horizons, once again, I put my insecurities aside and went to a meet-and-greet with a local running group. These people weren't total strangers. I knew at least 25-30% of them at the get-together Thursday night. This group is extremely popular and from all accounts very fun. They do a ton of things together and also volunteer in the community. I've participated in some of their activities but never as an official group member.

I've stayed away from joining this group for years because drinking is a prominent fixture in many of their social activities. It was a big part of why the group was originally formed. However, in recent years they've expanded to focus more and more on running, training, volunteering, and including families in their events. There's still a lot of drinking, but I like what the group has become, a very tight-knit, supportive, community-centered, and fun group of people.

With all of that in mind, I went to the meet-and-greet event at a local microbrewery. They had a large tent outside and there must have been at least 100 people in attendance. They had games meant to encourage mingling and meeting others, free food, and several drawings for various prizes. The tent was loud, boisterous and filled with laughter. And I felt totally alone and out of place.

It was silly. I was frustrated. I knew many of the runners in the tent, yet I spoke with a total of maybe 5 people the whole evening. The only person to whom I said more than a couple of words also admitted to being an introvert, and I think we kind of clung to each other for much of the evening. If it hadn't been for her, I might not have lasted the 2 hours I did.

In attending this event I had hoped for something new and different, yet what I got was the same old familiar feeling. Discomfort. Loneliness. An outsider looking in. I didn't feel like I belonged. I was certain everybody else was having a totally different experience, one filled with joy, laughter, and connection. That's what I wanted to feel, but it just didn't happen. Again.

For as long as I remember I've felt the same way no matter how familiar the group. I don't understand me. I don't understand how I can think, feel and behave one way with my coworkers and close friends yet totally the opposite anytime I'm in a group. Maybe I'm a part-time introvert? I don't know.

As a result of this experience, I don't feel any closer to officially joining the group, but I haven't given up yet. I plan to attend at least a few of their upcoming group runs, which they hold a few times a week. Hopefully running side by side, even with a stranger, will encourage me be social and help me feel the connection I seek.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Bombshell

I told her I was scared and freaking out. She encouraged me not to freak out. But it's no use. It's been 5 days since she broke the news, and I'm still frightened. I'm still freaking out. My psychiatrist, the only one I've had since this illness began over 18 years ago, is retiring.

She works so hard, and she might be 60 years old now, so I knew this was eventually going to happen. I selfishly hoped it wouldn't happen for a few more years. Unfortunately, I only have a few more months. She's retiring at the end of this year.

I've said it multiple times. I have the best psychiatrist on the planet. We have an excellent working relationship. She knows me better than most, if not all, of my family and friends. She's warm, intelligent, humble and incredibly compassionate. She routinely goes above and beyond for her patients, and I've routinely been the beneficiary of that dedication.

I'm really worried about how I'm going to get along without my doctor. She stuck with me and by me throughout my illness; in the early years when I was unstable and angry, in the midst of my alcoholism when I was self-centered and manipulative, and through multiple depressive episodes when I was hopeless and suicidal. She never shied away from doing what needed to be done. This woman kept me alive.

But Dr. L always went way beyond just keeping me alive. Whether through new medication trials, referral to and collaboration with outside providers, and/or just good ole fashioned talk therapy, Dr. L made sure I got the most out of my life while being least affected by this impossible illness. She worked hard for me and celebrated enthusiastically with me. (She was perhaps my number one cheerleader while I trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal last October.)

I love that she takes pride in my success. She should. She'll never take any credit though. That's not her style. Nevertheless, Dr. L is directly responsible for my health, prosperity, and success. Without her I would not be where I am today. I'll never be able to thank her enough.

Eighteen years. I know I'm lucky. Dr. L's care and support has been extraordinary. I think I'm going to have a very difficult time developing a similar relationship with another doctor. So despite her admonishment not to, I'm freaking out. Still. Sorry, Dr. L.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lazy...and not

Things are weird here. Maybe it's the weather. Sun and 70 one day, snow the next. (I wish I was kidding.) My energy level and productivity have mirrored the weather in some ways. Some days, like yesterday, I get a lot done. Other days, like today, I feel like I accomplish little to nothing.

For example, despite the dreary, cold, constant rain yesterday, I ran intervals on the treadmill, lifted weights, ran some errands, took myself out for a pancake lunch, and went to an appointment. Then I crashed. So all of the household duties on my list didn't get done. I hate that. But at least I felt productive for half the day.

On the other hand, today and Monday I got nothing accomplished other than work. I worked, and then I crashed. Sitting here typing is a big accomplishment. I was on my way to bed after falling asleep in my chair at 6 PM! I'm not a fan of that either. I feel lazy.

I seem to have a consistency issue. I've had some really good productive days recently, like running 8 miles and then cleaning my basement (something I've had on my list of things to do for... oh, I don't know, a year!). But the next day I didn't even come close to being productive, unless you count moving slowly from room to room and then taking a nap as productive, that is. On those days, it's been difficult to move. I've felt lazy while simultaneously feeling like there was nothing I could do to combat the laziness. I'm not sure what that's all about.

I think my mood is okay, but I'm certainly more tired and sleepy than usual. Maybe I'm not yet back to 100% following my recent depression relapse. Maybe running a few more miles is robbing me of energy at other times. It doesn't feel like I'm doing too much, but I'm leaving lots of things on my to do list most days of the week. For every burst of energy and productivity, I seem to have double the amount of lethargy. It's frustrating and a little weird.

I hope I even out soon. I'd like to have a more equal distribution of productivity and rest. And I'd prefer my lazy time be a decision rather than feel forced upon me. But hey, if this is my biggest worry right now I guess I'm actually doing fairly well.

I am happy to be working and running and getting things done again. I've come a long way compared to where I was just a couple of months ago. That's a relief, and I'm grateful. Perhaps this is all part of the healing process. It never happens as quickly as I'd like, but maybe I'm getting there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UnitedHealth Sentencing MI Patients to Death

Read this. UnitedHealth, a medical insurance company based right here in my home state of Minnesota, I'm sorry to say, apparently thinks health insurance parity laws are merely suggestions rather than rules.  UnitedHealth is being sued in a massive class action suit for cutting off benefits for patients with mental illness or substance abuse. Benefits have been cut and appeals denied at the expense of and even resulting in the death of patients. According to a judge quoted in the article, when it came to covering behavioral health, UnitedHealth consistently demonstrated a pattern of putting dollars ahead of patient care. Are we shocked by this? I wish I wasn't.

We all know insurance companies are for-profit businesses, but it seems UnitedHealth is going the extra mile to make money (or at least not lose a dime) on the backs of their beneficiaries with mental illness. Haiden Huskamp, a Harvard Medical School economist quoted in the article highlighted that reality. He said, "A 2008 federal law requires insurers to treat mental health care the same way they treat physical health care. Insurers, though, can find strategies around it, such as not having enough people in-network to provide mental health care or making it hard to get the medications people need." So much for parity.

This is so scary and maddening. UnitedHealth is a huge company insuring 6.1 million people across the United States and in 130 other countries. And it's apparently company policy to cut off mental health benefits. The lawsuit alleges UnitedHealth, after initially covering an acute mental health crisis, routinely failed to provide coverage for any type of follow-up care. As the article notes, this would be like an insurer covering a diabetic emergency but then not covering insulin once the patient returned home. In more than one case, their careless disregard for one of their beneficiaries led to death. People died. People with mental illness died as a result of UnitedHealth cutting off their access to care.

I do hope justice is served for the patients and families UnitedHealth screwed. Perhaps if an example is made of one company, other insurers won't be so quick to look for the parity law loopholes. Of course, no matter the outcome of this case, the lives lost due to UnitedHealth's callousness can never be recompensed. It's sickening. I don't know how these insurance company executives sleep at night.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A holiday run

I love running on holiday mornings, especially the family-focused holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My city is unusually quiet on these mornings, just as it was this morning. And the people I meet are always cheerful. I also get to look in on the lives of many as I pass by homes bustling with family activities. It's a unique perspective, and I love it.

It seems I always feel serene and hopeful after returning from a holiday run. That was certainly true this morning. It was a beautiful morning for a run, slightly overcast with moments of brilliant sun, cool breeze, and barely another soul on the roads and trails. Jet and I set out around 8:30 AM. I wish I could have stayed out for hours and continued my enjoyment.

I settled for 93 minutes of enjoyment. We ran 9.7 miles. It was probably too far, but it was too nice to come back sooner. And too interesting. Within the first mile, I observed an 8 or 9 year old boy all dressed up in cowboy hat, boots, and fake beard hanging out on the sidewalk. I smiled. Some sort of church program?? I don't know, but he was pretty proud of his look.

Families were the order of the day from that moment on. I passed several families outside in their yards, parents with video cameras in hand, little kids racing around picking up hidden (and not so hidden) eggs. Screeches of delight I could hear for blocks, as there were virtually no cars to drown out the fun.

Late in my run I passed two incredibly well dressed children, maybe 8 and 6 years old, getting their photo taken (by 2 equally well dressed adults) on their front steps. The little boy was wearing a 3 piece suit, complete with a pastel green tie. He had his arm around his little sister and could not have been standing any taller. It was cute.

The run was a lovely start to my day. I pampered myself a bit after my run. And I spent most of the afternoon enjoying some really good food with friends. I hadn't spent time with these friends all winter, as they go south when it gets cold, so they wanted to see my Everest photos. We were able to do a slide show on their television. I got to re-live my entire trip (all 393 photos worth) in extra large HD. That was really cool. I'm not sure who enjoyed the slide show more, my friends or me!

I hope those of you who celebrate Easter had a lovely day as well. Holidays can be difficult if you're sick, or alone, or both. Earlier this week I was feeling a little sorry for myself, thinking this was going to be a long, solitary day. I'm grateful for my ability to run and for my friends. Because of each, I had a very nice day instead.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

(not quite) Humming along

I've been meaning to write for 4 or 5 days, but I'm not feeling all that inspirational or interesting right now. I'm getting back into the routines of my life as best I can. Things still aren't as honky dory as they were prior to my recent depression relapse, but I'm functional. I'd like to be feeling 100% better. I'd like to be as free and light as I was just 2 months ago, but I'm not quite there yet.

I'm not quite humming along, but I think I'm moving in the right direction. I'm working close to my normal schedule. Unfortunately, we are really slow right now so I've had to take some extra, unwanted time off. I still get really tired after a full work day, though, so maybe working a little less is still for the best. Regardless, I'm looking forward to resuming my regular schedule.

I'm in the process of resuming my normal exercise schedule and intensity as well. I'm happy and extremely grateful to report I've been able to run 2-4 days per week for the last couple of weeks. I'm super slow, and I'm not running very far, but my Achilles tendons are hanging in there. Every time I run I feel an overwhelming sense of joy, gratitude and relief.

Unfortunately, every run also brings a bit of fear, as I'm constantly waiting for one of my Achilles tendons to flare. I'm running so cautiously I feel like I'm tip-toeing down the road. But so far so good. One thing is for certain, I am not taking being able to run for granted. I'm doing everything in my power to keep my Achilles tendons healthy so I may continue to feel the overwhelming joy, relief and gratitude which only running provides me.

They say we really don't appreciate what we have until it's lost. I can now verify the truth behind that statement. Even though I'm getting back to my routines, I still feel the sting from the losses of my mental wellness, high level of functioning, and running. Of course, I do myself no good staying stuck in the losses. Instead I must continue to diligently put one foot in front of the other, which is what I'm currently trying to do.

One foot at a time, I'm doing my best to move forward and regain my momentum. What was lost certainly hasn't returned as quickly as it disappeared. In fact, it's taking a lot longer than I would like. And the work required isn't always enjoyable. Life could be kinder, easier, or more fair, but it's not. It's not. Nevertheless, getting my life back is, for now, worth the effort. From past experience I know the results will be realized, eventually, if I continue to do the work. I'm trying to be patient.



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