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!

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.