Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

14 today

I don't remember my last drink. I don't recall one moment where I thought, "This is going to be my last drink." In fact, after being sober for a bit, I wasn't even sure on which date that last drink took place. As near as I could figure it was December 28, 2005, (give or take) so that's the date I went with. Fourteen years ago today I took what would be my last drink.

I'm sober. But more importantly, I'm in recovery. I'm in recovery "from a seemingly hopeless state of the mind and body." That state is alcoholism. I'm an alcoholic. I will always be an alcoholic, but without continued work on my mind and body there is absolutely no guarantee I will always be in recovery.

Recovery is actually different than being sober. Anyone can get sober. I did it a bunch of times. I stopped drinking for days, weeks, months, and even years in the past. I was sober a lot. It's easy to stop. The key to recovery is to stay stopped. That's the piece I never understood despite years of accumulated "sober" time.

It takes willpower to stop drinking. It takes a willingness to change to recover. It also takes acceptance, humility, honesty, and guts. Every time I stopped drinking I had the opportunity to recover, but I never took it. I thought removing the alcohol was enough. Funny thing was, removing the alcohol did nothing to change my personality, and I was miserable.

Eventually it became a conundrum. I was miserable when I drank. I was miserable when I didn't. It wasn't until December 28th, 2005, that I accepted the possibility I might need to change something more than the alcohol. I might need to change me. I didn't leap into this thing with enthusiasm, not by a long shot! But I was so tired of feeling miserable and confused, I finally became willing to look at other possibilities.

At that time I was fortunate to be connected to two people whose lives I admired. I wanted what they had; connection, security, serenity, laughter, and love. They weren't constantly thinking about the alcohol they weren't drinking. In fact, they didn't seem to think about alcohol at all! And they were fun! The more time I spent with them the more willing I became. I became willing to ask for help, to listen, to humble myself, and to learn. Those two people played an instrumental role in my first steps toward recovery.

That was 14 years ago. A lot has changed since then. More people than I can count have contributed to my recovery. The only constant over the last 14 years has been me. And how I look and act today is unrecognizable when compared to how I looked and acted prior to December, 2005. Thank God!

I like who I am today. Recovery taught me to be a better daughter, friend, sister, coworker, therapist and patient. I owe who I am today to the program I was taught and to the actions I took in order to recover. I will be forever grateful to the people who guided me, cared for me, and cheered for me over the past 14 years. I proved countless times I couldn't stay sober on my own. But together, we did what I couldn't do alone. That, my friends, is a priceless gift. God willing, I've no plans to let it go.

Fourteen years... damn. So amazed. So grateful.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Solo Christmas

It's Christmas Eve. I'm home alone tonight. I'll be home alone again tomorrow. It's okay. But it's not great. I'd almost rather be working tomorrow, Christmas day, as it would allow me to be around people I enjoy during a time when nearly everyone feels upbeat and cheerful. I have tomorrow off though, and I'm not yet sure what I'll do. Whatever it is, I'll be an entity of one doing it.

Being alone on Christmas is not new. I don't have a spouse. I don't have children. My 3 brothers all have their own families with whom they share the day, and my mother is in Florida. I've likely spent the large majority of my Christmases alone over the last 20 years. So this is not new. I'm used to it. I don't let it bother me. That being said, for whatever reason, I'm feeling the solitude a bit more this year.

Perhaps the solitude is more noticeable because I'm not that far removed from my last depression episode. I was hospitalized earlier this month, so I'm still gingerly moving forward. I don't think I totally trust I'm out of the woods yet. Maybe I'm feeling more alone because I'm not training. I have no goal race on the horizon, and truth be told, I haven't done any exercise in at least 8 days! That month long respiratory illness, followed so closely by another month of depression, knocked me flat. I can't seem to get going again.

In years past I've loved going for a long run on Christmas morning. I've loved running miles through a silent city imagining the joy and chaos behind each window and door. But running has felt so heavy and slow lately, even if I do get out there tomorrow the run likely won't be long. Three miles is probably my max these days, and that's disheartening, too. So I'm not looking forward to my Christmas morning run right now. Nevertheless, I should probably do my best. I think skipping it will only intensify feeling alone.

I know Christmas is a difficult holiday for many people, and especially for those of us with mental illness. Perhaps it's because so many people with mental illness battle it alone. I don't know. I've always kind of taken pride in the fact I wasn't bothered by being alone over the holiday. Weird, I know. But this year is apparently different. I guess it doesn't matter the reason.

I'm trying to do what I can to combat the solitude. I went to a lovely Christmas Eve service tonight complete with all the traditional carols including the candlelit Silent Night finale. It was beautiful. I'm glad I went, but I wish I could have shared it with someone. I was among hundreds of people, but I was still alone.

Tomorrow is Christmas day, and I won't be totally alone. I do have Jet, and he doesn't care what day it is! After a cup of coffee and a snuggle, I hope to fetch the dog leash and the running shoes so Jet and I may begin our Christmas day in our traditional way. I can't let the miles, or lack thereof, deter me. I just need to get out the door. If I accomplish that, I think the rest of the day will be a whole lot brighter.

I hope you all have a very happy day tomorrow. Be gentle with yourself if you're struggling for any reason. That's what I'm going to try to do. We'll see how it goes. Merry Christmas!

Addendum: It's Christmas morning, and Jet and I just returned from a lovely run. It was a balmy 34 degrees when we began. We ran through several quiet neighborhoods and along a path into the woods. In a city of 110,000 people we passed more people and dogs than we did vehicles.

I didn't look at my watch and let my body guide the distance and pace. Strangely, on our way home it began raining! It doesn't rain in Minnesota in December, and even stranger, before it stopped raining the sun came out. It warmed our backs the entire way home.

Jet and I ran just under 6 miles in a bit under 60 minutes. I'm so happy I got out the door. As I have every year, I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional Christmas morning run. It filled me with serenity and peace. I'm going to hang onto those feelings as long as I can. And now I believe I will enjoy a well deserved Christmas morning nap. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Another year older

It's my birthday. I'm another year older. Wiser? I'm not so sure about that. It's been a tough year. And it's been a good year. I take the good with the bad, but if I'm honest, I admit I'm hopeful my 52nd year will be a bit kinder than my 51st.

Two bouts with severe depression took a lot of my energy this year. The episode in late Winter lasted several months and required multiple interventions. Medication changes, a 3 week hospital stay, and 5 or 6 Ketamine infusions finally helped get me back on my feet. During this time I lost months of employment, unpaid time which required several months to repair. More importantly, the severity of this episode left me traumatized. I worried I wouldn't be able to survive another.

After recovering things did get better. I reconnected with family and friends, took a couple of brief but fun vacations, and began a successful return to running. Beginning in late Spring, I slowly made my way back into my former running life. I was thrilled to be running injury free for the first time in two and a half years.

My first race back in late May was slow but gratifying. My second race, also a half marathon and just 4 weeks after the first, was considerably faster. That was very exciting. By mid-summer I was finally, officially, training for my 29th marathon, the first one since December 17, 2016.

Marathon training was more difficult than in the past, but in my third half marathon of the season I again significantly improved. I won some pretty medals, and I gained the confidence required to get to the marathon starting line. Unfortunately, just as all my effort was about to be poured out over 26.2 miles, I once again was thrown a curve. I got sick.

Missing the Twin Cities Marathon in early October and battling a tough respiratory illness for the rest of the month certainly contributed to my second battle with depression. More med changes, a brief hospitalization and a gifted vacation seemed to put me on the mend. That was a relief.

I'm thankful this most recent episode was arrested quicker than the episode in February/March, but I think the trauma I experienced after the earlier episode made this one an even bigger beast. I'm grateful to be feeling better, working again, and getting stuff done.

I enjoyed my birthday today with some of my favorite people, including my patients and coworkers. Tonight I had dinner with good friends, and now I'm hanging out at home with Jet. It was a good day. I'm not terribly thrilled to be older, but I'm looking forward with hope, and that's something I couldn't say just two weeks ago.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Meds Cure as Well

If you read my last post, you might think the only things required to arrest a bout of severe depression are some sunshine, a bit of exercise, and time with good friends. In fact, for several days after I wrote that post, something didn't sit right. I thought, "This seems odd. What else is going on here?" I mean, if it was as easy as sunshine, exercise and friends, I wouldn't have depression! Of course there was more to it than that. I just conveniently forgot.

I was so pleased and relieved to be feeling better when I returned from Austin, it seems I had a brain cramp. I forgot my doctor had changed my medications 3-4 weeks ago. Hmmm... How long does it typically take for psych medication to prove itself useful? About 3-4 weeks. Apparently there was more going on than just sunshine, exercise and friends.

Around the time I went to the hospital, my doctor and I decided to increase one of my meds and add another. I already took a handful of medications, so I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but I agreed. I was desperate. Once again, my doctor was right. The changes she recommended, I believe, are definitely making a difference. I'm glad.

Well, I'm glad, and I'm not so glad. That sounds utterly ridiculous, I know. Maybe conflicted is better than not-so-glad. Let me explain. I know I'd be dead if I didn't take psych medication. I'd also be dead if I never went to the psych hospital. But I hate going to the hospital, even though when I go it helps 100% of the time. I don't hate taking medication, but I don't love having to rely on them either, even though they also help most of the time. So I'm conflicted about adding more medication to my regime.

A couple of months ago, I was having a conversation with a stranger about depression. She knew nothing about me when she stated, "Well, I don't believe in people taking meds for depression." In an attempt to educate, I responded by saying taking meds for depression is no different than taking meds for diabetes. She cavalierly retorted, "I know. I have depression. I don't need meds to help me feel better." I was polite but quickly extricated myself from the conversation. If I hadn't, I might have angrily screamed, "Well goody for you! Aren't you lucky!"

I was angered by her blanket statement condemning anti-depressant medication. In reality, maybe I was a bit jealous. If I had mild depression, I might not "believe" in taking meds, either. But I don't have mild depression. I have severe, treatment-resistant, stubborn, overbearing, evil, debilitating depression which repeatedly attempts to take my life! So, while I'm grateful the medication changes (in addition to the sunshine, exercise and friendship) fought off the evil beast, I can't help but feel a bit conflicted about increasing the pills in my already overflowing handful.

Bottom line? Conflicted or not, I'm grateful to be feeling better. I'll continue to do whatever is necessary to move forward on this path. Functioning and feeling well, regardless of how I got here, is much preferable to debilitated and feeling hopeless.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Vacation cures all

I'm back in the cold after thriving for one week in the sunshine and warmth of Austin,Texas. The time spent with my friends seems to have been the cure for what ailed me. My mood is much improved. The sunshine, warmth, laughter and friendship was just what I needed. Seeing the newest and greatest running gear was helpful, too.

I attended 3 full days of The Running Event, the largest retailer event in the country for specialty running stores. Basically, companies participating in this event try to woo shoe store owners to carry their product, and they go to great lengths to convince owners (my friends) of this. There were probably 500 different companies set up in the convention center, from tiny start-ups to the largest shoe and apparel companies, like Brooks, Hoka, and UnderArmor. I got to see, try, and frequently even keep the latest technology in running shoes, apparel, socks, outerwear, and nutrition. Yes, it was heavenly.

The highlight of my week came when I got to meet and chat with two running pros, Des Linden and Jared Ward. Des is sponsored by Brooks, so she spent a few hours mingling with customers in the Brooks booth. Jared did the same with his sponsor, Saucony. While I spent more time chatting with Jared, 6th place at the Rio Olympics, I was absolutely thrilled to meet two-time Olympian and Boston Marathon Champion, Des Linden! She won the 2018 Boston Marathon! I have followed her career for years, so meeting her was special.

Des Linden!
Jared Ward
Austin, itself, was special as well. It's a unique city with lots to do, but I was most enamored with the weather. It was sunny and in the 70's the entire week. The sky was a brilliant blue every single day, and the warmth of the sun felt so good. It was so nice, I was motivated to go for a run. Actually, I ran 3 times! I couldn't resist the opportunity to spend as much time outside as possible. I explored the University of Texas campus during one run. Everything is huge! During my next two runs I enjoyed the beautiful path which winds along the shores of Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River. It was very motivating to be surrounded by tons of runners and cyclists. Running felt slow and at times heavy, but I was happy to be moving, nonetheless.

View from the path around Lady Bird Lake
I'm so grateful to my friends, Mary and Jim. I am humbled by their generosity and kindness. They thought I'd enjoy and benefit from this trip, and they were right. I'm feeling so much better today than last Sunday. Amazing that one week of friendship, warmth, and sunshine could make such a big difference. But it did. I have no way to thank them enough, but I hope they know how much I appreciated our time together.

Jim and Mary under a really cool tree
I returned to my life today. I go back to work tomorrow. I'm hoping my mood will hold under the stress of returning to work, remodeling and repainting much of my home, and the basic, everyday tasks of life. I'm celebrating every moment of feeling better, but I must confess I'm also waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's hard not to do that, but I'm doing my best to stay focused on feeling well instead. Forward I go.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Gifted a trip

I'm one lucky woman. I have some great friends. They own a running shoe store in Duluth, Minnesota, which is quite convenient for a shoe lover like me! But that's beside the point. My friend, Mary, contacted me last week and invited me to join them on a business trip to Austin, Texas. She thought I could use some sunshine. Fortunately my employer agreed. Sunshine here I come.

If you've been following the weather you might know Minnesota got hit by a massive blizzard this weekend. I live in southern Minnesota and only got freezing rain and sleet, but Mary had to dig out from under 20 inches of snow! We will be leaving it all behind tomorrow. I hear it's sunny and 70 in Austin.

I've been to Austin. I ran the marathon there several years ago. It's a very cool city. I'm looking forward to going back, feeling some warmth, soaking in some sunshine, and taking in all that Austin has to offer. We will be attending a huge shoe retailer show...more shoes, yeah! But we'll be playing, too. I'm really looking forward to getting away and spending time with two people I enjoy.

My mood is still fair to poor. In fact, even though I was preparing for something I'm looking forward to, it took maximum energy for me to pack for this trip. My resilience is low. So today, when I've been battling a migraine, my mood has dropped further. It hasn't helped that I've been unable to exercise for at least 6 days. That's a really long time for me. Motivation is gone. I'm hoping Austin sunshine will help me get back on track.

So I'm off. I'll let you know how things go. Thank you all for your continued comments and support over the last few weeks. This continues to be a very tough time, and I appreciate your kind words, wishes and prayers. Thanks.

Monday, November 25, 2019

You help Me

I should be in bed. I'm exhausted. Today I worked my first full day since being hospitalized a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very busy day! Patient care takes a lot of brain energy and/or mental stamina. I'm not sure I have enough to do too many of these days back to back. But tomorrow will be a similar day. Unfortunately tonight has been a tough night.

Maybe it is just mental fatigue, and maybe I'm more mentally fatigued than I otherwise would be if I were back to one hundred percent. But I'm not back to 100%, and tonight I've been tearful and low. Tearful is new. There's likely no reason for the tears other than this damn depression episode hanging on for dear life. And that's where you, those of you who read and comment on my blog, come in. You helped me tonight.

Tonight I re-read your comments to several of my recent posts. Your comments to my post about returning home from the hospital were very poignant. I needed those encouraging words and reminders tonight. I believe I read through them all twice. Thank you.

You likely have no idea how much you guys help me. I write a blog with the hope it helps someone else, and so often I am actually the one being assisted. Your comments to the first post after my hospital discharge, which was a very difficult post to write about a very difficult, vulnerable time, saved me tonight.

You guys saved me. You are all so certain this will pass, and as Paul noted in his comment, I also know that somewhere deep within my being. Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to locate or believe that thought right now.

So instead of digging for a possibly realistic thought I can't yet believe, I read your thoughts instead. Thank you all for holding me up when I'm down. I needed you tonight. I don't know any of you, but I needed you, and you all came through. Thank you. I think I can go to sleep now.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Marking another year

Nineteen years. After surviving and thriving following teenage depression, this ugly illness returned 19 years ago. It was November, 2000, when I first noticed the old, familiar symptoms. I was in my early thirties. By March, 2001, I was in the hospital for the first time. Hospitalized more times than I can count since then, I never imagined I'd be sitting here 19 years later doing what I'm currently doing, battling depression and writing a blog about it.

I never imagined a lot of things 19 years ago. The sheer number of treatments and interventions I tried or participated in would have boggled my mind back then. In an attempt to rid myself of this illness I've taken multiple medications. Most of the prescribed meds helped for a time and then didn't. Perhaps that's what's going on now?

I'm sure ECT never crossed my mind in November, 2000. I probably didn't realize it existed, never mind the thought of actually utilizing it. TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation, wasn't even invented yet. Regardless, I utilized both therapies, again with brilliant initial results. Unfortunately, like so many meds, each therapy lost it's effectiveness. Ketamine, a powerful drug I'd never heard of, certainly wasn't on my radar 19 years ago, yet it's pulled me out of two severe depressive episodes. I'm grateful, but I never imagined that.

In addition to trying multiple treatments I couldn't have foreseen, I also never imagined I'd drink myself into alcoholism trying to numb the pain. I certainly couldn't have predicted I'd get and stay sober through a recovery program I previously belittled as stupid, but I did.

I never saw depression taking away my ability to work. Who gets (illegally) fired from a hospital while out on sick leave? Disability? I never predicted that, either. I never imagined losing my income, requiring financial assistance, needing the food shelf, or being incapacitated by inertia. Humbling experiences never envisioned, yet all of those things happened, too.

So many things happened over the course of 19 years. There have been numerous challenges in battling this beastly illness, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also focus on the opportunities. I've had multiple opportunities over the past 19 years, opportunities I wouldn't have realized were it not for depression. In some ways, I'm lucky.

I already mentioned sobriety. If it weren't for sobriety I'd likely be dead. It's that simple. No marathons, no travel, no job, no house, no dogs; I'd have or have done none of it today. But most importantly, depression allowed me to become a kinder, gentler, more spiritual person than I used to be. That's mostly as a result of getting sober, but I wouldn't have gotten sober were it not for depression. It's nice being kinder, gentler, and more spiritual. I like who I am today. It's a gift.

I've been gifted other opportunities, too. For example, depression brought me into public speaking. I've been allowed to educate others in classrooms, churches, across the airwaves, on television, in the newspaper, through running, and in a series of videos available on the Internet. Wow! And let's not forget this blog. Who would have thought? Certainly not I.

I couldn't have imagined any of it 19 years ago. So while I am unfortunately marking an anniversary I'd rather not have, this journey has been about more than just sadness and struggle. It's also been about relationships, and perseverance, and growth, too; lots of growth. It's been about living a good life. So while I can't say I'm grateful to have depression, I can emphatically state I am grateful for the person I've become because of it.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Back in my environment

After four and a half days I exited the hospital yesterday. I'm not sure I was totally ready to leave, but weekends on the inpatient unit tend to be very, very long. There was no guarantee being inpatient a few more days would have been any more beneficial. Also being home allows me to use a few of my primary coping skills, including spending time with Jet and getting outside to exercise.

I utilized both of those skills when Jet and I went for a short run today. It was crisp and partly sunny. The fresh, cold air felt good on my face and in my lungs. Unfortunately my legs are still complaining. Nevertheless, I'm glad I got outside. The rest of the day has been less productive.

Maybe running was too much for a body battling inertia. I felt okay after I returned home, but then everything slowed. My brain slowed. My movement slowed. I felt heavy and flat. Fatigue took over and was oppressive. I had no choice but to hit the sofa. I don't know how long I slept. I'm still tired, but at least I'm moving.

I have to admit it's a little scary being home. Where I was, what I was planning, prior to my doctor sending me to the hospital was about as real as real gets. I'm not 100% yet. Sixty five percent is more accurate I think. I have fewer reserves with which to fight this unforgiving beast.

Perhaps more importantly I'm questioning whether I wish to continue to fight? This illness makes me weary. Every relapse steals another piece of my soul. It ransacks my resilience. Each episode plunders my thoughts, desecrates my perception, and absconds with my hope. Bit by bit I have been rendered less whole by a contemptuous illness. It's an evil beast. I'm not convinced I have the strength to keep fighting. Advantage depression.

I'm doing what I can, but depression has stripped me of so much, my current efforts feel ineffective at best. That's the unpalatable reality right now. I'm moving, but... This illness sucks. I'm tired, apathetic, and numb. Depression is a thief; a cruel ruthless thief.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The 3 hour swim.

It took me 3 hours to swim 21 minutes and 32 seconds a couple of days ago.

Sunday was a slow day. I knew I needed to move. My brain was slow. My body ached. My soul was empty. I could find little reason to continue on. I felt like if I sat still long enough my heart just might stop beating, and that wasn't necessarily discomforting. I decided a relaxed swim was about my only option to keep moving.

I live exactly 1.5 miles from my gym. Might as well been 1.5 days, as I knew it was going to take a herculean effort to get there. To ease the transition I put my swimsuit on at home. Having to only remove my sweats would make getting from locker room to pool more likely. I figure it still took at least 1/2 hour to get out of my house. 

After the short drive it took another 30 minutes, which included a phone call to a friend for assistance, to get me out of my vehicle. Thirty minutes sitting in a parking lot because I couldn't open my car door. This is depression, my friends.
 
Inside the locker room the sweats came off easily, but I'm not sure how long I sat on that bench staring at the floor in my swimsuit. With the alacrity of a tortoise who had no place to be I eventually showered and made it into the pool. Twenty one minutes and 32 seconds later, only 16 minutes of which were actually spent swimming 2 to 4 lengths at a time, I climbed out and made my way back to the showers.

Showering and getting dressed took almost more effort than swimming, but eventually I found myself first sitting and then standing alone in the lobby. At least 2.5 hours had already passed since I donned my swimsuit at home. I'm not sure why I didn't just leave. I had no reason to stay there watching people walk by. I guess opening the door and heading to my vehicle was more than I could muster.

As I stood there blankly contemplating my next move a familiar face appeared outside. It was a young nurse I had worked closely with during my last hospitalization. She entered the door directly to my right, and we reacquainted ourselves with each other.
 
I don't remember exactly what I said, but I noted the irony of bumping into her, as I had been, and was at that moment, mightily struggling. We talked for awhile. I felt guilty keeping her from her workout, and it was obvious she wasn't really comfortable leaving me alone. Eventually I assured her I would be okay, and we parted ways.
 
It wasn't until that moment, however, that I decided I'd have to be okay, that I would make it through the rest of the day. I'd have to because I told her I would, and I don't typically lie. I would never want to betray that trust or cause someone anguish or guilt.
 
Often, I believe, things do happen for a reason. It took me 3 hours to swim 21 minutes and 32 seconds Sunday afternoon. Monday morning my doctor sent me to the hospital. Guess which nurse took me in.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Irritable in all the wrong places

"Through my writing I hope I left this world with a better understanding of depression and maybe brought solace to a few people along the way."

I wrote that sentence. It was before I fell asleep one night and apparently hoped I wouldn't wake up. I did wake up, of course. I woke up and discovered I should have wished for solace for myself and my coworkers rather than for a few random people.

Maybe it's another depression symptom--poor problem solving. Maybe it's my personality--fierce independence. But in attempting to single-handedly solve my symptoms, I made a mess of things this week.

You see, one of my values is to be dependable, whether as an employee or as a friend. It's important to me. To that end, I've been forging ahead this week, making it to work everyday no matter how difficult it's been. It's been tough, but I didn't want to increase my colleagues' workload by not showing up.

Well, I may have shown up, thinking it the admirable thing to do, but I was irritable, cranky and impatient. Despite treating my patients with care, my depression symptoms came out sideways. Rather than concealing my pain with an Oscar-winning performance, my misery landed squarely in the laps of my coworkers. A phone call with my supervisor today confirmed it. I've been an asshole (my word, not hers). I guess I thought I was a better actor than I was.

Perhaps I'm too angry and frustrated to act my way out of this one. I wanted so bad to NOT feel so bad, I thought maintaining some sort of normal routine would help. I didn't want to saddle my colleagues with more work. But continuing to work only left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and isolated. I ended up alone in a crowd, which increased rather than decreased my depression symptoms. I should have known better than to trust a solution generated in the same brain which brought me this misery to begin with.

I spent a fair amount of time apologizing today. I needed to, and it helped. I hope I can return to work as my normal self soon. Acting as if I was okay didn't solve anything and made myself and those around me feel like dirt. I'm so sorry about that.

I guess I need some solace for myself. Depression makes me feel vulnerable, frustrated and alone. But telling coworkers I'm not feeling well also leaves me feeling vulnerable and isolated. I don't want to be different. I don't want to be the sickly coworker. I want to be one of the team, not the focus of the team.

Acting like Rambo didn't help me heal. It didn't allow others around me to offer compassion or assistance either. Sometimes being fiercely independent does me more harm than good. This was definitely one of those times. My eyes were opened today. Perhaps if I work on accepting where I'm at, rather than railing against it, I'll find some of that solace I seek. I doubt it, but what I'm currently doing isn't working so I might as well give it a shot.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

the ugliness of reality

This is one of those posts I hate to write. It's one of those reality check posts, where everything isn't going to turn out all sunshine and roses. This is a post about the stranglehold of depression. It's about feeling vulnerable and transparent when out in public. It's about convincing, repetitive thoughts of disappointment and failure. Letting so many people down, that's the well rehearsed message, and it's on auto-play. It's about me turning my phone off almost all weekend because it was painful to talk to anyone, and what was I going to say anyway?

"How are you doing?"
"I feel like shit."
"What do you mean?"
"I hurt. I can't breathe. My body aches. My chest is filled with the heaviest of lead. My thoughts revolve around what a useless existence I am currently living, and how it's equally useless to keep on living it. The only thing I want to do is sleep. Yet I can't sleep enough, partly because I'm exhausted, but mostly because sleep is my only reprieve. I go to sleep hoping I don't wake up. But so far, I have."
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Me, too."

What else is there to say or do? I can't hold up my end of any relationship right now. It's not fair to whine and complain. I'm doing my best to continue moving. But that hurts, too.

Such a silent, invisible illness, depression is. If only people really knew how difficult it is to get out of bed. How nearly impossible it feels to take a shower or get dressed. How I have to calculate my movements in order to allow for rest after each and every one. And not just physical rest. My brain is overflowing with negativity, self-doubt, and failure. To focus I must crawl through a swamp of strangling slime and screaming banshees. An intermittent coherent breath is my only hope. I may appear a little off, maybe impatient or slightly cranky. But beneath the surface there is so much more ugliness than that.

Depression is cruel and hideous. It is warring just below the surface, my surface. I only have so much fight. Depression steals that, too. I can only fight so long before depression strangles me. Bit by bit, it buries me. And then I'm gone. Currently I must be losing the fight, because "gone" sounds like relief.

Really, again?

Plagiarism, again? As if feeling like crap wasn't frustrating enough, now I have another idiot plagiarizing my blog posts. Perhaps this particular idiot hasn't been around long enough to know I always, 100% of the time, hunt down plagiarists. Look out, etta's angry. I just don't get it. It takes a special kind of lazy thief (jerk) to take another person's words and pass them off as one's own. In addition, it doesn't even make sense. My words are about my life, as a PT, and a runner, here in Minnesota. It's almost comical to find them in Indonesia or France or Alaska. Well, it would be comical if it wasn't so infuriating. Give me a break, plagiarist. Stop now. Please, read my words. Enjoy them. Relate to them. Tell others. Even copy a few here and there to make a point. But to rip off entire, or nearly entire, posts is low and pathetic. Just quit it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Dear Doc

Dear Doc,

You must get so weary, maybe even frustrated, with my I-don't-want-to-live-like-this moments; moments like now. It must be difficult for you. You've heard all of my complaints, processed every fear. You've heard it all again and again and again over the last 18+ years. You've seen me at my lowest and at my best and everywhere in between. But it must be difficult when I'm low, because you know this will pass.

You know I'll get through this. We'll get through it. You know it. You've seen it multiple times. But in the midst of despair, I can't embrace that. You remind me, and I know it, but it's apparently impossible to believe when I feel low like this.

Feeling low brings out the desperation in me. You're so patient, but inside you must be screaming. We've been here before. We've worked through this a hundred times, yet I'm unable to find comfort in that. I try, but I can't. Every time feels lower than the last. Every time feels impossible to survive. Every time feels like I'll never be who I want to be again. Yet my track record is 100 percent. I've come out the other side 100% of the time. Why is it so impossible for me to believe this time will be no different, that I'll survive.

I'm sorry, Doc. I can't believe it. Despite my track record, to you I bring only despair. Despite your expert guidance, medical interventions and reassurance, healing feels impossible when I feel so low. Yet it is as a direct result of your expert guidance, medical interventions and reassurance that I heal every time. I know that. You must get so tired of my pessimism and worry. But I don't want to live like this, Doc. I don't.

I don't want to go through the motions. I can, but that makes me weary. I don't want to simply survive. I want to thrive. I want to feel light. I want to feel energetic. I want to feel strong. I want to feel sharp. Depression steals the light. It weighs me down. Depression saps my energy. It makes me feel weak. I can't think. Depression absconds with my clarity. Colors are muted, and my world is hazy and gray. But you know all of that, Doc. From me, you've heard it so many times before.

Unfortunately, you're hearing it again. I know it's your job, but the repetition has to be disheartening. You never let on. You never let my hopelessness, angst and doubt weigh you down. I appreciate that. And you never give up on me. I count on that. Thanks, Doc. I hope you can bear with me one more time.

Your grateful patient,
etta

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fulfilling the Dream


I say if you're going to dream, dream big! I do. But I think it's just as important to act on my dreams. Otherwise they're just, well, dreams. Sometimes a dream, or a goal, is the only thing which keeps me moving forward, especially when I'm not feeling well. On this date, just one year ago, I fulfilled my dream (number one on my bucket list) of standing in the shadow of Mount Everest in Everest Base Camp. I cried tears of joy and amazement.

Entering Everest Base Camp was a magical moment. I was proud of myself for taking on my dream; for doing the research, saving the money, enduring the travel, and confronting the challenge of 20 days in the Himalayas, most of the time above 14,000 feet. I was proud, and grateful, and awestruck.

The following day, I hiked up to 18,425 feet, to the summit of Mount Kalapatar, which offered unobstructed, unbelievable views of the entire Everest Range. The photos do not nearly convey the overwhelming beauty of Mother Nature, but the memories are crystal clear. Over the last several days I've been reliving the moments, each one more magical than the last, and enjoying memories of my month in Nepal.

Take on your dreams, my friends! You won't regret it. 

Incredible waterfall, day 2 of my trek.
The highest of the many suspension bridges I crossed. Felt like it was at least 1/4 mile above the river below. I loved it!
First view of Mount Everest, left, approximately 26 miles up the trail.
Everest Base Camp, 17,650 feet. Happy hiker. Really happy.
That's my wrist, on top of Mt. Kalapatar.
View of Mount Everest, 29,029 feet, on left, and Lohtse Mountain, 27,605 feet, on right, from the top of Mt. Kalapatar.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Struggling on

I'm not a fan of the word struggle when it comes to depression. I hear many people say they "struggle with" depression when identifying themselves as a person with depression. If you've been reading for awhile, you know I say I "have" depression. I have an illness. I live with it. Much of the time, most actually, it is not a "struggle." Most of the time I live a fairly ordinary life despite having depression.

When my depression symptoms rear their ugliness the struggle I have is with life! Depression makes life a struggle! And unfortunately life is exactly what I've been struggling with over the last couple of weeks. Life... let's see, where to begin.

For starters, I've barely removed my buttocks from the sofa since I got that nasty respiratory illness two weeks ago. I still haven't fully recovered from it. Energy has been at a minimum. Exercise has been impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning, running errands... all nearly impossible and exhausting. Even if I could've gotten out of my house, I wouldn't have been presentable much of the time. I made it to work, but until today it had been an absolute suffer-fest. I did some decent acting while working, but that didn't feel good either. Life has been challenging.

Today was a better day. I don't know what's changed, but I feel a bit lighter. It was still tough getting going and getting to work this morning, but as the day went along I felt less of the stifling heaviness which has been weighing me down. I was able to think a little more clearly, regained some of my patience, and actually laughed a bit. I'm hoping as my physical health improves, if that ever happens(!), the depression symptoms will recede. I'm hopeful, not confident, but hopeful.

Feeling hope is actually a new development. If you read my last post, that's probably quite obvious! Hope is better than the depression lies which have been crowding my head. Life hasn't been easy. The struggle has been (and still is) tough, but I hope I'm moving in the right direction.

Friday, October 11, 2019

depression lies

depression lies. unapologetically lies.
worthless. hopeless. loser.
incompetent. unsuccessful. fake.
depression lies.
inconsequential. expendable.
no matter evidence otherwise. doesn't matter. doesn't make a dent.
depression is beyond persuasive.
helpless. incapable. burdensome.
unlovable. insignificant.
only hear the lies.
only believe the lies.
forget they are, in fact, lies.
unlovable. isolated. alone.
nobody cares.
nobody feels like you.
depression lies.
stupid. dope.
malcontent.
what's wrong with you?
something's very wrong with you.
depression lies. convincingly.
defective. useless. plain.
gutless. weak.
toughen up!
smile. cope. get over it.
it's life.
handle it.
everybody else does. why can't you?
failure.
depression lies.
this is it. it will never end. there is no relief.
why bother?
this is your life.
forget it. it's just not worth it.

depression is loud.
depression is cruel.

truth is indiscernible.

depression lies.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Not tough enough

I wish I could say I handled yesterday with grace. After all, as I said, there will be other marathons, so missing the Twin Cities Marathon, in the grand scheme of things, was not the end of the world. But it sucked. Truthfully, I was crushed. I'm sure feeling physically unwell, to the point where I no longer even have a voice, did not help my cause. But I wish I was tougher.

I'm still feeling crushed today. I still don't feel well physically. I've lost motivation to do just about anything. Beyond lying on my sofa in hopes a few hours of sleep will block out the world for more than a few hours, I've been pretty much sedentary. My attention span has shrunk and nothing interests me anyway, which makes for some awfully long days. And on top of that I can't even talk, which makes for extreme isolation. Things are not good.

I feel I'm letting this setback overwhelm me too much, but I'm having a very difficult time doing anything different. Yesterday I did ride my ElliptiGo for over an hour, but that was the extent of my day. I slept long and hard after that. Today I went to work, which was painful on so many levels. Physically, I got exhausted quickly. My throat hurt from trying to talk. And nobody could hear me, anyway, which made every interaction challenging and demoralizing. I like to have fun at work. Today was not fun.

I wish I could sleep for a few days and wake up in a different physical and mental state. That's purely wishful thinking, of course. I know I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if every step is uncomfortable and exhausting. I wish I was tougher. If I was tougher, maybe this wouldn't be so difficult. But it is difficult. So I wish I was tougher.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mood taking a hit

I'm sorry to say that my illness has progressed into what feels like pneumonia. I'm totally wiped out. With the exception of yesterday, I've not been able to work. I'm seeing my doctor tomorrow. It seems every time I get one of these upper respiratory illnesses I end up on a steroid medication. With underlying asthma, my lungs just don't seem able to battle these respiratory hits. My chest is so tight I have one of the best smoker's coughs I've ever heard! Dry, screechy and wheezy, it's no fun.

Besides the respiratory hit, my mood has taken a hit, too. It's almost a certainty I will not be able to run the Twin Cities Marathon this Sunday, which is incredibly disappointing. But I have to admit I've been feeling a bit off for a few weeks; long before this illness and subsequent disappointment occurred.

Other than to my doctor, I haven't mentioned feeling a bit off. I've been trying to forge ahead and wait for it to pass. That happens a lot. I feel off for a while, but it doesn't advance beyond that. So I haven't been focusing on it. And had I not had this major disappointment, and this illness, I think I would have been okay. But now my mood has taken almost as big of a hit as my lungs.

I'm concerned, but I'm still hopeful. I think when I feel better physically, my mood will improve as well. That's why I didn't wait to get into my doctor. I want to stop this illness as soon as possible. If I don't, I fear my declining mood will rapidly take me down. My fight to get well has taken on a new urgency, and it has nothing to do with running a marathon.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Wake up call

The illness situation at work intensified yesterday. Our medical staff closed and quarantined the entire facility. Nobody, no outpatients, no visitors, nobody was allowed inside. We have several patients with pneumonia and at least half the staff appeared ill yesterday. The staff who were able, including all of the therapy staff, were doing our best while wearing facemasks and toting gallons of hand sanitizer around the building. I left work yesterday afternoon feeling well and relieved.

Unfortunately, I'm not at work as scheduled this morning, and that's because I began getting ill last night. I upped my use of my zinc-based, cold-preventative product, which has always staved off illness for me in the past, but overnight I knew I was in trouble. By this morning I was aching, coughing, and feeling generally terrible. I hate calling in sick to work on a Saturday, because staffing is always an issue, but I knew I wouldn't be helping myself or my patients by going to work.

As I slumped over my toast and coffee this morning, feeling horrible, I began composing this blog post in my head. It was all about my bad luck. Eight days out from my first marathon in nearly 3 years, eight days away from the culmination of 4+ months of dedicated training, eight days from what I hoped would be a glorious return to the distance I love, I'm sick. Poor me. Poor me. Poor me.

I went back to bed after my toast, but the composition continued as soon as I woke up, still feeling horrible. Poor me. More poor me as I drove to Walmart. Poor me right up until I parked next to a very dirty, broken-down looking Audi in the Walmart parking lot. So sad. Poor me.

The Audi was filthy inside and out. There was a huge oil slick slowly expanding under the engine. Shaking my head as I walked past, it was then that I noticed there were two people inside the vehicle. It quickly became apparent they were living in their car. An Audi...

I thought about those two young people as I filled my cart with oranges, chicken noodle soup, orange juice, more zinc, a couple of cold/flu medicines and some tea. Somewhere in the middle of Walmart I realized how lucky I actually am. I am sick, yes, but I woke up in a warm bed. I drove to the store in a fully functional automobile. Everything I bought to combat my illness I paid for with ease. Yet I was feeling sorry for myself because I might not be able to run a marathon.

In my recovery program we call this a "high class problem." The composition of this post began to change. Cart full and paid for, I walked across the parking lot to my vehicle. The Audi was still there, but the occupants were gone. I couldn't imagine having to live as they were living. I began to feel thankful for my good fortune rather than sorry for my minor inconvenience of an illness.

I think God wanted to make sure I got the message, though, because as I slid into my seat I noticed another car, facing me, in the opposite row. It, too, was filthy. There were 3 people and a lot of stuff, including at least one pillow, inside. As I pondered their situation, the woman in the backseat pulled a toothbrush and toothpaste out of her bag. Got it, God. Thanks.

I don't necessarily believe in coincidences, and the fact that I saw yet another, similar vehicle as I exited the parking lot really hammered home the point; I'm lucky. I don't think seeing 3 examples of  real people with real problems in a tiny portion of the Walmart parking lot on this Saturday morning was a coincidence. I think I needed the wake up call.

Driving home from Walmart I began focusing on the solution rather than the problem. Suddenly, I remembered there were several other nearby marathons scheduled over the next 4 weeks. Funny, that thought hadn't crossed my mind before my Walmart wake up call! I have options, high class options, which I may choose in order to deal with the ramifications of this very temporary illness.

I'm not happy I'm sick, but possibly altering my marathon plans, or even missing the race altogether, is a high class problem to have. I'm grateful it's the only "problem" I have to worry about today. I will treat myself with care, do what I can to encourage healing, and then see what next Sunday brings. My attitude shift has been dramatic. I feel lighter and more content. Living in gratitude beats living in self pity any day of the week. I'm glad I got the message.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The tapering paranoia

Everybody around me is sick! Race day is less than 2 weeks away. I'm in my second week of tapering, and I am paranoid! I'm certain I'm going to get sick.

Something nasty is going around. We have a severe respiratory illness sweeping through the skilled nursing facility in which I work. So many of our residents are sick we've had to quarantine half of the building! Coworkers, friends, even my doctor has been sick!

I can avoid friends, coworkers can stay home (and have), but I can't skip work. If I'm well, it doesn't matter that my patients aren't. I still need to do my job, which means mingling with illness for 6-8 hours per day. Ugh!

It's fairly normal to worry when tapering for a marathon. Getting to race day requires so much time, energy, and devotion it's normal to feel worried about every little twinge or sniffle in the final weeks before the race. I'm used to that. I expected it. But never before have I been completely surrounded by extremely ill people, as I have been for the last 7 days. It's unsettling to say the least.

I'm terrified I'm going to get sick, but I'm trying to let go of that fear. Other than staying out of the direct line of coughs and sneezes, and washing my hands a bunch, there's nothing I can do. If I get sick, I'll have to deal with it. But I really hope I don't have to deal with it!

Other than being paranoid and terrified, I'm doing well. (Yes, that was supposed to be ironic.) Jet and I ran the trails in a local state park yesterday. It was a nice change of pace, literally, for my last long run. The footing was uneven and sometimes very muddy, so I had to run about 1 minute per mile slower than normal for at least 10 of the 12 miles. That was okay. It was a different kind of work for my muscles, and much more enjoyable than the road. I think Jet thought so, too. We were both tired and muddy by the end.

I don't expect any more tiring runs until race day. Mileage will be cut way back over the next two weeks. It's always nice to run fewer miles after so much heavy training, but I'd be lying if I said I was totally looking forward to it. Running less requires mental toughness, too.

I'd likely manage my anxiety and paranoia better if I ran more, but that would defeat the purpose of tapering. So I'll have to cope with my anxiety, paranoia and fear in other ways for a bit. I've tapered 28 times before, so like I said, I expected the worries. It's always been part of the process. But I really, really hope I don't get sick!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Mutual rescue

My dog, Jet, is 7 years old today. Six years and 9 months ago, I rescued my boy. Who knows what his destiny may have been had he not been rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri by a Minnesota non-profit organization. He was living in a foster home about 2 hours away when I found his picture online. He was adorable, even though his original name,Virgil, wasn't.

I found Jet just 3 weeks after my first black-lab-mix running partner died suddenly. Puck was 12, and I had rescued him when he was only 8 weeks old. When Puck died I swore I would never get another dog. His death was that painful. But then I found Jet.

Jet has had a unique, silly, neurotic personality since the day I brought him home. He's a timid dog, and that lends itself to some very funny, neurotic behaviors. For example, he often follows me into the bathroom, but he won't walk out of the bathroom forward. Sometimes he stands there and contemplates walking out forward, but he always ends up turning around and backing his way out the door! No, I don't know why.

Jet loves to play, and he often does so all by himself. He frequently tosses a stick, ball, bone or toy in the air, pounces on it, and then repeats the process again and again. But if his toy, ball or bone ends up behind, under, or sometimes even near a piece of furniture, or a bush, or even a wall, he won't retrieve it. He stops short and stares at it. Sometimes he'll gingerly reach for it from as far away as possible, but if the thing it's near or under moves, he jumps away in fear! It makes for some pretty hilarious moments, especially at work.

Jet began coming to work with me very early in our relationship. He had to. I lived alone, he was a puppy, and there was no way he could stay alone all day without peeing! Initially he stayed in a kennel most of the day. But for the last 5-6 years he's had free reign of the physical therapy room. He knows he can't leave the room, but he likes to lie right in the door, especially if I've left to get a patient, with his paws in the hallway, and watch the procession of patients and staff as they amble by. He greets every patient and staff person with love. And they love him right back.

He loves going to work, and I'm so grateful I'm allowed to bring him. We get to spend every day together. He's good therapy for the patients, and I love watching them interact with him. He's a magician with some of our cranky, stubborn people, and he brings out personalities we rarely get to see in some of our dementia patients. He's not a therapy dog, officially, but he's a therapy dog.

I don't know what I'd do without my boy. I ran a few miles today without him, and it wasn't nearly as fun. It's much nicer to exercise with him than without him. And we don't just run together. He helps with push ups and sit ups, too. When I get down on the floor Jet's right there. It's as if he wants to assist, or at least give me a kiss, which is how he assists, I guess. He's a helper and a lover.

Jet seems to intuitively know when I need some extra love. In times of turmoil or depression he sticks close. He keeps me centered and grounded when my depression creates chaos in my brain. Even when I can't take care of myself, I have to take care of Jet, and that's a good thing. Sometimes he's the only reason I get out of bed. I love sharing my space with him, feeling him near (as he is right now), and taking care of him.

It's hard to believe Jet's already seven. I'm trying not to be sad about it. He's getting older, but we likely have many years left to share. I love him so much, I'd like him to be around forever. I'm so grateful I found him, or as I often tell him (yes, I talk to my dog), we found each other. I may have rescued him, but he rescues me on a daily basis. He makes me smile. He makes me laugh. He comforts me and fills my heart with joy. He's a dog, yes, but my life would be empty without him.

Happy Birthday, Buddy. I'm so glad we rescued each other.




 


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.



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