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, 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...