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, 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


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

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

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

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

Look out Meadowlands, here we come!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Family Drama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

A satisfying 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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