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!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A simple hug

It may come as a surprise to anyone reading this post that I sometimes have a very difficult time reaching out for help.

Today was an incredibly difficult day. This morning I had an MD appointment for my back, an appointment which normally would have taken a few minutes. But in the vast expanse of the Mayo Clinic, it took much longer than that. You see, I could barely move, and it had nothing to do with my back pain either. It was fatigue and lethargy plain and simple. I barely had the energy to move from one end of the Mayo building to the other. Three times I had to stop, sit, and rest. Three times. I felt 81 rather than 51 years old. It was frustrating and mind boggling.

Unfortunately, my mind was boggled throughout the day. My brain was filled with creative, deadly, violent contemplations. I was hanging on for dear life today, both wanting to follow through with the destructive thoughts while simultaneously holding myself tightly against those same compelling urges.

It was a dilemma. And the dilemma was made worse because I only  halfheartedly wanted to fight the suicidal urges. Now what was I supposed to do?

What I decided to do was an impromptu load of laundry, went for a drive to nowhere in the dark, and made a few phone calls. I was lucky. My physical therapy assistant was actually in town, just a few blocks away. It was incredibly difficult for me to ask her to come sit with me, but I did. And she did.

I had little energy or humor for any kind of discussion, but she sat with me, nonetheless. And when she left, we exchanged a hug. A hug. It was such a simple act yet it brought tears to my eyes. Never underestimate your power to comfort a friend, my friends. It surprised me, but I guess I needed that hug.

Take a chance. Surprise someone in your life, today, too. You just might make a bigger difference than you think.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The disintegration of my brain

I missed work Friday because my brain was sick. I missed work Saturday because my brain was sick. We had a blizzard Saturday night into Sunday morning. There were at least 12-16 inches of snow in my driveway, and my snowblower belt broke...again. The snowblower repair man felt guilty, as he had just replaced the belt, so he came over and fixed it again.

Unfortunately, the repairman's truck got stuck in my driveway, and as I assisted in digging him out, I injured my back, my left lumbar spine, with the same knock-me-to-my-knees pain I experienced 18 months ago when my L4 disc exploded. I had no choice but to finish clearing the snow, but once I came into the house, the extent of my injury became quite clear. It's more than 24 hours later, and I can barely move.

In the meantime, my mood and my thinking have been disintegrating before my eyes. Violent thoughts, self-inflicted violent thoughts, have been overwhelming. These thoughts are distressing, disturbing, and crazy-making. I feel "less than" every time I have them. I don't understand where they come from. I don't understand why they are so detailed and visual. And I especially don't understand why they are so compelling.

Admitting to these thoughts here is especially anxiety producing, as some of my friends and coworkers occasionally check in on this blog. I don't want to be the crazy one. I don't want to frighten people. I don't want to lose the confidence of my patients or my coworkers. But I'm trying to be honest in hopes one of you may identify, too. You are not alone. And if you are not alone, I hope I'm not alone either.

This thinking symptom of depression is not something most people understand, in my humble opinion. The fucked up thinking, for me the violent fucked up thinking, is yet another disturbing, distressing, unsettling symptom of a disturbing, distressing, unsettling illness. Depression is an illness which removes me from my life. Telling somebody my mood is low is a little more PC than telling them I wish to slice my neck from stem to stern. Let's see how many people hang around after that revelation! Yet that's my revelation for this evening. If you can relate, I'm sorry. But if you can relate, I bet you're not alone. Let's hang in there together, my friends.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Crash

I've got friends calling. They want me to go to the hospital. Actually, they want to take me to the hospital. That's how fast it happened. Between Wednesday evening and Friday morning I went from feeling "a little off" to barely being able to move. I don't understand that. Consumed so quickly it makes my head spin, I don't understand that.

I made it to work yesterday morning, but by the time I got there it was clear I wouldn't be functional, so I turned around and drove the 30 minutes back home. I'm supposed to be working today. I'm not. I feel so tired, foggy, and heavy. It takes energy to move from the sofa to the kitchen. It takes energy to answer the phone. It takes energy to form words. The only thing that feels possible is lying flat on my back.

My thinking sucks. My resolve to push through my vile stream of consciousness sucks. My goals are out the window. I'm in this weird suspended state of inertia. I'm doing what I can, although now that I look at myself, maybe I'm not. It appears I haven't changed clothes in at least 24 hours. I guess I slept like this. Oh well. No harm in that.

As far as the hospital. I don't want to go there. It would be nice if I could just check myself in for a tune-up, get some things straightened out, and get back home. But that's not what happens in a psych unit. Perhaps if I had MS, or diabetes, or even the flu, that's how it would work. The doctors would wonder what they could do to help resolve my issue. They'd likely suggest med changes, even if temporarily, and make sure I received a bit of TLC.

In the psych unit, however, there would be lengthy discussions about what I've been doing wrong. Why is it I'm back there? There would be a referral to an occupational therapist to instruct me in how to create a daily schedule, because that's clearly what's lacking. I'm not following a daily schedule, so my depression is back. Relaxation, sleep hygiene (I love that term!), recreation therapy, and showering regularly would also be examined. In other words, I must not be taking care of myself correctly, or I wouldn't be suffering depression symptoms.

The difference between MD rounds on a medical floor versus MD rounds on a psych floor can be summed up like this: Medical doctor rounds; how can we help you? Let's order some tests and see what's going on. Psych doctor rounds; what happened? Why are you here? What weren't you doing?

I know how to keep a schedule. I actually keep one, and it's a schedule which includes work, exercise, recovery meetings, chores, errands, socialization and relaxation. Yet I'm still looking up from under a pile of shit.

Depression, despite my best efforts, is right this minute smothering me. And I'm not being smothered because I didn't perform my last set of heel raises yesterday. I'm suffocating because I have an illness. Yes, I probably need some help right now, but shaming me for my less-than-perfect (though pretty-damn-near-perfect) adherence to my daily schedule, is not the help I need.

Help is okay, even if it's hard for me to accept. But I hope I can avoid the hospital. What would be more helpful? Maybe just sit with me. Read a book or watch TV. Maybe just tell me you care. Maybe assure me this too shall pass. It always has. Maybe you know I'm stronger than I think. Remind me of that. And if all else fails, say a prayer. That's help I can appreciate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Stepping in it

I didn't mean to do it, but I stepped into the middle of something at work today. In an effort to assist a coworker, thinking only of helping the coworker, I inadvertently created an issue which went all the way to the top brass of my facility. In deference to the coworker and other staff at my facility I don't want to say too much about the specific situation, but I'm going to try to process my thoughts anyway.

Basically, in doing what I did, I created something bigger than I anticipated. It never crossed my mind that what happened would happen, and perhaps that's what I'm most concerned about. I didn't think things through.

To be clear, I don't think I did anything wrong. I was concerned about another staff person, and based on my observations and a bit of clinical data, I rendered an opinion about what should be done. And what I thought should be done was quite simple. Problem solved, or so I thought.

My opinion started a ball rolling, which is what I had hoped for, but the ball didn't stop. That's the part I didn't anticipate. The ball knocked through one person after another, as if they were bowling pins, and didn't come to rest until it reached the director of the facility. The director of the facility then questioned whether I was qualified to form the opinion I formed. She wasn't happy. She didn't say she wasn't happy, but I'm not a dope. She wasn't happy.

My simple fix wasn't as black and white as I thought. My opinion created work for others, and my opinion went against the opinions of other staff people who are more directly involved with the person I was concerned about. There were many layers to the issue, and I feel I should have anticipated those layers prior to the director visiting me in my office. But I didn't, and as soon as the director left my office I began to panic and second guess myself. I've yet to stop.

I'm still worried. I don't like making waves, especially if I have no business getting in the pool! Did I do the right thing? Did I have any business rendering an opinion? Was this an issue in which I needed to get involved? I'm still not sure. My gut feeling isn't good.

It's a difficult situation, and I don't like that I stepped into the middle of it without thinking through the ramifications of my involvement. I didn't intend to create extra work for anyone else in the facility, and I didn't intend to devalue or discredit anyone by rendering a different opinion, but perhaps I should have anticipated the potential of both consequences prior to sticking my nose into the mix.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Slipping?

I sent a note to my doctor yesterday. I'm a little bit worried. Something feels off. I'm not quite right, hence the note to my doc. Nothing to do but wait and see, really, but I just wanted her to know. Over the last several days, I've periodically had that sickening feeling I sometimes get prior to a depression episode. I hope it's just a little dip, or even better, nothing at all.

It's been awhile since I've had that sickening feeling. It scares me, but I'm trying not to focus on it. I'm trying to feel it and let it pass. I can't control whether depression descends or not. I can only control what I'm doing to keep it at bay. So I'll keep taking my meds, working, exercising, going to meetings, and seeing my doctor. That's where my focus needs to be. Worrying won't help. Acting will. I have to remember that.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Feeling frustrated

It's been a week. I sat down at this computer several times over the last 7 days to write a new post, but I just didn't have anything I wanted to say. I'm still not sure I do. I apologize. My life, most of the time, is not terribly exciting.

Unfortunately, the only "excitement" I have to report is negative. I'm so sick and tired of writing about my aches and pains. In fact, perhaps due to a severe case of denial, or more likely due to unreasonable hope that what I knew happened would magically repair itself, I haven't written about this injury even though it happened in early January. I just didn't want it to be true.

I'm afraid it's true. Even before the MRI confirmed it, I knew it was true. I re-tore my right hip labrum. It's the same hip in which I've had 3 previous arthroscopic labral repair surgeries. I knew it the moment it happened, but I prayed I was wrong. I wasn't wrong.

The labrum is a thin ring of cartilage surrounding the acetabulum (hip socket) which helps cushion the hip joint, and more importantly, it helps hold the head of the femur securely within the socket.


The front or superior part of the labrum, as shown in the picture above, gets pinched in certain positions in certain people. I'm one of those people. I originally injured it in PT school in the mid to late 90's. I didn't know I injured it at the time, but when all the sitting I did in PT school became quite painful, I knew something was wrong.

In the late 90's nobody in the United States knew about labral tears. In fact, after a series of tests showed nothing (or at least nothing they recognized as an issue) Mayo Clinic Sports Med docs referred me to psychiatry because they were certain the pain I was experiencing was in my head. This was long before my depression began, and I really let the resident making the psychiatry recommendation have it as I stormed out of her office! I knew something wasn't right, and I knew I wasn't faking. Boy I was angry!

Fortunately, a few years later, in my first year as a physical therapist, I attended a hip continuing education course. The instructor was from Belgium. He began describing my symptoms! My boss and I stared at each other in disbelief. I learned right then and there what my problem was. At that time, while surgeons all over Europe were performing arthroscopic labral repairs, only 2 surgeons in the United States were doing the procedure. Thankfully, one of those surgeons was only 90 minutes away from me.

Well, Dr. Palmer, the surgeon who performed my previous 3 procedures, has retired. His office referred me to another orthopedic surgeon, who (fortunately and unfortunately) is one of the premier orthopedic surgeons in the state of Minnesota. Over the past month I've been jumping through a bunch of hoops in order to get "offered" an appointment. Apparently I made the cut. I'll be seeing Dr. Larson in April. 

Until then it's kind of business as usual for me. I can run with a labral tear without discomfort or much risk of further injury. My Achilles tendons are currently preventing running, and any kind of squatting, jumping (which is how I re-tore it) and sometimes even biking are not great for my hip. Sitting is actually the most uncomfortable thing to do. Nevertheless, I'll continue to do what I can to maintain my fitness.

I'm tired of hurting. I'm hoping Dr. Larson will see something he can repair, but even if he can, it's another set back for me. After my last procedure in 2014, I was non-weight bearing on crutches for 4 weeks. I'm frustrated. I've got no choice but to address the issue and keep moving forward. At some point, the tide has to turn. At some point, I'll be a runner again. I have to keep believing that.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

To run or not to run

I'm happy to report Jet and I made it through the recent Polar Vortex. It was 20-30 degrees below zero here for the better part of 3 days. It got so cold I had to put socks on Jet's feet every time he went out to pee. If he was out longer than 30 seconds without the socks, he barely made it back into the house due to his frozen feet. With the socks he at least had time to pee!

Despite the cold, I was able to get out to run 3 times this week, including yesterday when the temperature rebounded to almost 40 degrees! I didn't run at all last week, as I focused instead on the heel drop exercises I had begun for my sore Achilles tendons. I'm in the midst of a 12 week, 180 repetitions per day, heel drop program, which is supposed to essentially cure Achilles tendinopathy in about 75% of cases. (It's called the Alfredson's heel drop program if you're interested.)

I figured I wasn't supposed to run while doing the Alfredson program, but I couldn't find any evidence to support that assumption one way or the other. I didn't run at all last week. My Achilles tendons felt better by early this week, so, being a runner, I decided it was time to give running another try.

My first two runs this week went very well. I ran 6 miles each time, and my Achilles tendons didn't scream at me every step, as they had during the previous few weeks of running. I was encouraged. Unfortunately, after running 7 miles yesterday my Achilles tendons are very sore today.

I know, I probably wasn't supposed to run, but every run lately has felt wonderful! Maybe it's because I've been unable to run for so long that I'm now grateful for every step, every breath of fresh air, every foot fall crunching on the snow. I've thoroughly enjoyed being out there putting on the miles again.

I'm hopeful I'll be able to get back to pain free running and training again. But at this point I'd probably be smart to take another week or two off and continue working on my heel drops. I pray the tendinopathy resolves. But I also know, being a runner, I'll likely keep pushing the limits despite knowing better. The internal battle will continue. What can I say? I'm a runner.



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