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!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Reaching out from the dark

Two nights ago I barely made it through the night. I wish that was an understatement. It's not. I couldn't sleep. Couldn't even get tired. And my brain was as dark as it's been in a very long time. It was dark. So dark.

I reached out as best I could. I wrote a long email to a friend sometime in the middle of the night. I called the same and another friend in the wee hours of the morning and left voicemail messages. I'm glad they didn't answer. I had no desire to awaken either of them at 3 or 4 AM. Finally I did something I hate. I called a crisis line.

I don't know why I called a crisis line. First of all I'm a writer much more than a talker, especially at times like that. Secondly, I'm barely able to talk to the 2 or 3 people I most trust when I feel so low. I don't know why I expected I'd be willing or able to talk to a total stranger. As soon as the polite young woman answered I regretted my decision. But that's how desperate things were. Despite all of my reasons not to, I called. The conversation was short and superficial, but I guess it kept me around a few minutes longer.

Something is wrong with my brain. That probably sounds strange to those of you who don't have this nasty illness, but unfortunately probably makes perfect sense to those of you who do. I don't always feel like something is wrong with my brain. But right now something is wrong with my brain.

My brain, my hip, my body, my soul...something is wrong. I'm doing my best to put one foot in front of the other, but the combination of super slow recovery from hip surgery, coronavirus isolation, and the inability to do the things I would normally be doing to cope (like work or even going for a walk) have been an almost lethal combination of circumstances for me.

I'm sorry. This is not an upbeat, enlightening or even very well written post. I generally try to give you something a bit more here, but I don't have anything else. This is the reality I'm currently living with, but I'm still living. And that's all I've got today.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Dichotomy

I want to say something...but I don't know that anything I say makes a difference. That's one of the problems with this illness. No matter what I say, I can't make you get it. I've been writing about depression for over 10 years, and I still don't think I can make it make sense. If you know me and/or you don't have depression, I really doubt you can comprehend what depression does to my body and my brain.

Here's the thing. In my everyday life, I am a normal person. I have wonderful relationships with friends, coworkers, and patients. I'm polite and kind even when nobody is looking. Okay, I do get frustrated with slow drivers in the left lane, but we all have our gripes, right? I'm a good employee. I manage my money. I take care of my body. I do things I enjoy. And I generally make well thought out decisions. I live my life, manage the ups and downs, and do my best to be a decent human being. I'm normal.

Depression steals normal. But that's too easy. It's so much more complicated and secretive than that. Depression steals my life in ways so disruptive, yet subtle; so illogical, yet calculated. Sometimes it sneaks up from behind, attacks with a vengeance, and leaves me flailing violently and blind. But at other times it slowly seeps; slimy, secretive and unseen, gumming up neural pathways, dulling my senses and corrupting my thoughts. But even that's too easy.

I can't explain how it feels not to feel. It's like walking through the world cloaked in cheesecloth. Every touch, every sound, every sight...nothing is sharp. Nothing is clear. Everything is muted.

I'm getting frustrated trying to write this. My "normal" brain is not working. It's overwhelmed with both lethargy and noise. Obscene, obscure, distorted thoughts continuously collide inside my skull. Unending noise crashing about. Yet unending lethargy paralyzing me.

I can't say anything more.

The dichotomy of my normal state versus my depression state... It makes me nuts. It makes me feel crazy. It makes me want to disappear because I know you can't get it. Even if you try to, want to, love me, and support me... you can't understand. I guess I should be happy about that.

But the isolation is killing me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I needed this today

Good for an aching heart.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

the gym is closed

Ever have that feeling you're standing on the precipice, maybe a cliff or a bridge or metaphorical despair? You're standing there knowing it would only take one small nudge to knock you off balance. One small bump and you'd be set free from your perch. Free falling into an abyss--the very abyss you were just contemplating--with uncertainty, yet not fear. Not fear. Maybe even relief? Ever have that feeling?

I've had a few days on that perch. There's been a lot of contemplating going on. A lot of consternation, distress, questioning and fatigue. The isolation brought about by the coronavirus has been intense. My only salvation to the isolation has been my gym. For a couple of hours almost every day I've been able to mingle among other human beings while working to strengthen my hip. That was it.

At 5:00 PM today my gym is closing. Seems like such a little thing. After all I can do almost all of my hip exercises at home--alone. Maybe it is a little thing, a little nudge, but it feels like a full-on block in the back. There's no bracing oneself for that. I'm officially flailing.

Flailing, yet stuck. What an interesting dichotomy. I know there are things I can do to help myself. I tried yesterday to take a trip north with Jet. With great effort I got us packed and ready to go, but we didn't even make it 2 miles before I turned back. Even if I could have mustered the energy for the 3.5 hour drive, I couldn't imagine being able to socialize once I arrived. It was too much.

Socializing takes energy. That's why the gym was ideal. I could nod, say hello, and answer questions about my hip rehab. I could be social without expectation or pretense. Socializing with family and friends requires so much more than that.

I have friends. I love them, but I don't want to talk to them right now. It's too difficult. I can fake smile, get through a cup of coffee, and then leave feeling even worse. Or the other option, I could be honest about how I'm feeling, and leave feeling a burden. It must be terribly exhausting to be my friend. Full of energy, I am, for a month, or six, but inevitably there's the crash landing filled with doom and gloom. I'm tired of being that friend. And it's too invalidating and exhausting to pretend I'm not that friend.

I wish they hadn't closed my gym. My perch is shrinking. Because of my hip, I already couldn't do most of the things which usually help my mood, and now because of the coronavirus I'm unable to do the remaining few which, until today, were available options. Standing on the precipice... Sure wish I could enjoy the view.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Isolation is NOT good for my brain

My brain has been up to some old tricks lately. Lots of random thoughts, one after another, with little or no defining line between them. I'm having trouble focusing. I'm tired, and even when I'm not tired I want to sleep. My brain needs the break. I can't tell where my mood is at. I wouldn't say I'm low. Rather I'd say I'm disjointed, detached and uneasy. I wish my brain would shut up. I don't like where this is going, that is if it's going anywhere at all.

Last night I attempted to combat the chaos in my head by going to a meeting. I went but when I arrived the room was dark. Apparently the nursing facility which hosts our meeting is not currently allowing any visitors. I felt lost. I looked for another meeting and discovered there was one scheduled in a church basement a mile away. Once again, however, the room was dark. I must have missed the memo. Like the nursing home, the church had a sign on the door cancelling all activities due to the Coronavirus. Even Sunday services were cancelled! I left feeling lost all over again.

This Coronavirus is not helping my brain. Not only am I unable to go anywhere, I can't even watch my favorite distracting programs, i.e. sports, on television! Everything is cancelled! I'm either stuck at home with little to distract me, or I could drive around the block a few times--alone. Those are my options. There doesn't even seem to be a place where I can just go sit. I think that would help. I've got to get out of my head!

My brain, unfortunately, is taking full advantage of this public and private isolation. And that's not a good thing. My depression brain is bombarding me with the typical paranoia, pessimism, and doom. Inside my skull the shit is flying purposelessly in every direction and landing with a splat, and a splat, and a splat. It's random, messy chaos in there, and I don't know what to do to make it stop.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Offended

So this just happened. As I was perusing Facebook I came across a post from a former coworker of mine. It was a picture of Jim Carrey with this quote, "I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don't exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren't giving yourself a fighting chance." I can agree with that.

My former coworker, who happens to be a very active Christian, added the following thoughts to the post prior to sharing it, "Amen. 100%! Let's use what we now know to be beneficial to the fullest!" I'm not exactly sure what she means by that statement, but I took offense.

I took offense because I felt the post--the combination of Jim Carrey's quote and her attached thoughts--was implying that I (and you) could control or even avoid depression if I (and you) only did all of the things of which Jim Carrey spoke. Who knew?? If only I was a better person and lived a healthier lifestyle I wouldn't have depression! So simple! (I hope you read that with the intended dripping sarcasm.)

I don't usually engage in controversy or say negative things on Facebook. In fact, I hardly comment at all. It's just not worth my energy. But I was so offended I had to comment on this post. I wrote, "And if you exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, and surround yourself with support, you can still have depression. Just as you can still have diabetes or cancer. It's an illness not a character or lifestyle defect."

I was especially offended and angered by her post because this woman worked with me! She knows me! She knows someone who has been hospitalized for depression despite living a healthy lifestyle and surrounding myself with support. I'm healthier than most people half my age! Depression doesn't give a shit! She wouldn't have considered posting that comment, or her 2 cents, if the topic had been cancer! Never! Why did she feel it was okay to post this about depression?

What does that mean? "Amen. 100%! Let's use what we now know to be beneficial to the fullest!" What does that even mean? It sure sounds like she's implying that somehow I am the reason for my illness. Or is her comment a swipe against using medication for my illness? Because if I just lived better I wouldn't need medication because I wouldn't have depression? I don't know her reasons for posting this. Who is this post aimed at? Who is it helping? Clearly she believes what she shared, but I don't think she would have posted similar thoughts or statements about cancer.

I'm going to stop now because I'm actually shaking a bit. I just don't know how we are ever going to get across to the world that depression is an illness of the brain. It needs to be treated as we treat any other illness of any other organ. And as an illness it should carry no moral judgment. If a person with whom I worked side by side, who has seen me train, and eat, and act silly, and be fun, and have meaningful relationships can't grasp that fact, who can? Who will?

Monday, March 2, 2020

May we discuss suicide?

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile, but I knew it would take a lot of energy, and I just haven't had it. I also knew it would take a long time and prolonged sitting, which hasn't been doable since my hip surgery. But it's time to give it a try. 

Here's the question. Is it okay to have a discussion about suicide? Is it possible, especially as someone whose depression has tried to take my life more than once, to have a frank discussion about suicide without panicking those around me? And is there anyone out there willing to have that discussion anyway? I've broached the subject with my doctor and at least one friend, but not to the depth I've wanted. I guess this post is my attempt to get the discussion going even if it's not face to face.

I began thinking about suicide more objectively during my last severe depression relapse. I began wondering, when is it okay for someone with a chronic mental illness to decide to take their life? Is it ever okay?

In November, as my psychiatrist was endeavoring to admit me to the hospital, I repeatedly said something to the effect of, "It's my life. It should be my choice. I should have the right to make this decision." She, of course, informed me she felt that was my depression talking and sent me off to the hospital. In that moment she was correct. It was my depression talking. But this question, the right to die on one's own terms, has been on my mind ever since.

It's interesting. As soon as this question niggled my mind, I began seeing the issue everywhere I turned. First I came across the movie, The Bridge. The Bridge is a documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge and follows the stories of several people who decided to jump.

This documentary drew me in. In graphic, painful detail I watched with compassion and empathy as one suffering person after another stood at the edge and contemplated their last moments. I viscerally understood their desperation in those moments. I could feel the depth of their pain and hopelessness. I've been there. It was so familiar. I got it.

Unfortunately, many of the survivors who were interviewed didn't seem to get it. They didn't get it! Despite warning signs, statements, and downright knowledge that their loved one was suffering and contemplating suicide, many survivors were cavalier, cold, and detached afterward. I heard dismissive statements downplaying the depth of their loved one's suffering. I heard blaming statements. Consistently, the thing I didn't hear was a sense of empathy. It was frustrating and maddening. And I didn't understand.

Shortly after viewing The Bridge I came across this graphic. It was shared on Instagram by The Depression Project.


Wow. How true is this graphic? Take a moment. The "Suicidal" side of the graphic is what I saw and heard in the documentary, The Bridge. It is what I often see and hear in healthcare professionals; yes, even mental health professionals. And certainly this is what I frequently see and hear among the general population.

I experienced "No one believes they'll ever do it" when I attempted suicide at 17, despite the fact I had told multiple people of my desperation and intention. The most troubling truth I see in this graphic, however, is "Everyone feels irritated." I don't understand that. Besides sharing it, I'm not sure how to change the reality of this graphic. It is a powerful illustration. Ironic that I came upon it while still digesting my feelings about The Bridge.

The niggling didn't stop at this graphic, though. Recently I came across an article in Outside Magazine which also dealt with suicide. It was an article about a couple who lived in remote Alaska. He was an artist. She had MS. They had been married for years and were considered by all who knew them to be soulmates. She didn't want to live through the ravages of MS. He didn't want to live without her. They put their affairs in order, left their home, and died together somewhere in the wilderness. It was exactly how they wanted to end their time on earth, and they believed they were headed to a higher spiritual realm together.

As with most Outside Magazine articles, this one was thorough and interesting and made me think. I found myself feeling supportive of their decision. I respected how thoroughly contemplated and planned their decision seemed to be. They left nothing to be managed in their wake. They believed they were headed to a better place where they would be content, together, forever. Of course, I didn't personally know this couple. If it were one of my family members or close friends, would I feel the same support? If the circumstances were equal, I think so. But I'll likely never know.

I believe it is the right of any person with a chronic condition to end his/her life. If the pain or debility is such that life is no longer worth living, I believe we as humans have the right to die. We have a right to choose. That is what I believe.

But here's the question. Is it ever okay for a person with chronic depression to decide to commit suicide? If they are unable to live a life worth living, if they are unable to participate in the quality of life they desire, if their illness is treatment resistant and they've tried everything, and if they can't deal with the pain of another relapse, is is okay? Is it more okay if the decision is made outside of a severe depressive episode? Is it understandable? Forgivable? Is it their right, ever? That is my question.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Discouraged

One step forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back... I'm writing this from a nearly supine position, which is pretty challenging, because I've had a setback in my right hip recovery. I'm experiencing increased pinching-type pain in my right groin. Standing in a fully erect position is nearly impossible, and sitting is uncomfortable and worsens my symptoms. I'm discouraged.

I'm trying to be patient, but this development is deflating. It makes me anxious. The pain originally developed last week. My PT generously worked me into her schedule and did some uncomfortable but amazing work. I felt better for 3 days.

Today I'm feeling worse. I'm feeling more pain than I did last week. I'm supposed to be working my way off my crutches, but that's now on hold. I'm supposed to be doing increased range of motion and strengthening exercises, also now on hold. I'm frustrated and scared.

I see my PT again in a couple of days. I'm hoping she can work her magic and get me moving forward rather than back. Even if she fixes me, however, I'm still going to be worried. It's getting scary to move, scary to sit too long, scary to walk. I fear more pain, i.e. less healing, with every movement. I hate that. I feel like I should be much further along by now, but I am trying to be patient. Really, I am.

Really...

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The value of friends

How many friends do you have? And I'm not talking about Facebook. I'm talking about face-to-face, actual relationship friends. I count three. I have three close friends.

Of those 3 friends I think 2 would also list me as a close friend. The third friend has so many other friends I'm not sure I would make the top three. Nevertheless, I count her as a close friend of mine. Like the other two, my third friend is always there when I need her. We can go months without talking yet pick up right where we left off. There is a mutual respect and understanding between each of my friends and I, with no judgement and few expectations. I value each of them, and they each bring different beauty to my life.

Why am I thinking about friendship this morning? Well I just I read a very interesting interview with a scientist, a scientist who studies friendship. Who knew? The scientist and author, Lydia Denworth, just published a book detailing the results of her research. I'm feeling a sense of relief after reading about her findings because I typically feel friendship is just one more area where I fail.

Perhaps like a few of you, I have some persistent feelings of not measuring up when it comes to relationships. I often wonder if I'd have more friends if I didn't have severe and persistent depression. I'm guilty of comparing myself to others. Those comparisons invariably lead me to determine that having (only) 3 friends is a weakness. It's bad, and it's indicative of my unworthiness.

This assumption of unworthiness is further reinforced by the fact that I'm single. I'm old and single. I've been single most of my life. Would that be different if depression wasn't stalking my every move? Well you can guess my answer to that question. After all, my longest, most intimate and stable relationship ended after I was diagnosed with depression. Proof!

I don't think I'm detailing unusual thoughts and feelings here, especially among those of us with depression. Depression is certainly not a selling point when it comes to relationships. And depression clouds our thinking when it comes to our self worth. Hell, it flat out lies! So feeling less-than is routine for most of us, regardless of whether it's true or not.

Among its many lies depression convinces me I should have more friends, closer friends, friends banging down my door, blah, blah, blah... But it's not true! And now there is research to support that fact. Ms. Denworth would say I'm actually doing okay in the friendship arena. According to her research having (only) 3 close friends is, dare I say it, normal!

Per her research, "On average, people have only four very close relationships, and very few people can sustain more than six." More importantly, Ms. Denworth notes the many proven health benefits of having close friendships. There are benefits to many aspects of our physical health, not just our mental health. She has some interesting observations about social media and middle school, too. (Ugh! Middle school--wouldn't do that again for a million bucks!) I encourage you to check out her research if, like me, you think you don't measure up. Maybe, just maybe, depression is lying to you, too.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Long days

I apologize. I don't have much to say. My days are incredibly long and dull as I recover from my labral reconstruction. I'm struggling to keep my mood in check. I go to the gym almost daily even though I'm still very limited on what I am allowed to do. At least it gets me out of the house and around other people for a bit. Unfortunately, as was the case today, sometimes being around other people without ever saying a word, or having a word said to me, is more isolating than staying at home. That's tough. It's great to have (only) a couple of very close friends, but right now I wish I had just a couple more.

I did get some good news this week. After several lab tests, some x-rays, and a couple of MRIs, I met with the neurologist who told me everything looked good. There was nothing of concern in any of the studies and her hands-on evaluation revealed no issues. As she pointed out, we may never know why I had sudden onset foot drop, numbness and tingling in my right leg after my surgery, but there is no scary underlying disease or condition. That was what I expected, but it was relieving to hear it confirmed.

And that's about it. I'm off to ice my hip and binge watch yet another series about the mafia on Amazon Prime. Yes, I find the history of the mob fascinating. I've also watched almost everything available on the topics of  Mt. Everest, running, and Antarctica. If I don't get on my feet soon I may have to develop other interests! That's all for now. Carry on, my friends.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Doing well...okay

I'm continuing on my road to recovery, now just over 2 weeks post-op. My hip seems to be coming along as it should. I'm having less pain, more range of motion, tolerating my exercises better, and generally getting around better, though still quite slowly. I'm encouraged my hip is on the mend.

My mood, on the other hand, seems to be going in the opposite direction. I'm not panicking yet. Actually, I'm not even close to panicking, but I'm getting concerned. My level of concern varies from day to day. One day I'm doing well. Another day I feel not quite well, more like okay. But I've had several days now where I feel neither well or okay. Those are the concerning days.

I had one of those days yesterday. I think it began the night before. I hoped a good night's sleep would cure me, but I could barely pull myself out of bed yesterday morning. Worse, a few hours after getting up I headed back to bed. That continued throughout the day. Moving was exhausting, mentally and physically, but my bed brought little relief. I was low, tired, discouraged, and worthless. I just couldn't break through the heavy shroud weighing me down.

By mid afternoon I may have begun panicking a bit. I knew the forecast called for a large snowstorm overnight and into this morning. I knew that would lock me inside my house, so I felt an urgency to get out yesterday while I still could. I needed to get out. I needed to move. I needed to do my exercises, get to the gym, ride the bike, get some groceries. But the more urgency I felt the more impossible moving seemed to be.

I'm not sure how I did it, but I eventually did get out. I believe I got to the gym around 7:30 PM. I slowly made my way around the place. Twice I headed for the door but turned around. I ended up spending 30 minutes gently spinning on the bike and lifting a few weights. I probably spent another 30-40 minutes standing around contemplating what to do next, if anything. But I did it.

On the way home I bought a couple of grocery items, including a pint of gelato (it was on sale), which I unfortunately consumed in its entirety prior to going to bed. Oh well, two steps forward one step back. I'm still not sure how I got out of my house, but I'm glad I did. My mood might be a bit better this morning.

We did get that snowstorm. It's beautiful. Jet loves it. But I'm now stuck in my house until somebody is able to come shovel me out. I'm feeling the urgency to get out again, but now it's because I'm stuck inside. I think I may get bundled up, hop out to the backyard and lie down. I can make snow angels with one leg as Jet ecstatically leaps over and around me. Pretty sure that will help my mood.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Recovery Road

I'm now into my 10th day of right hip labral reconstruction post-op recovery, and I can say this for certain; recovery is exhausting! Damn, I'm tired. Living alone, doing everything on one leg and with extremely limited use of both hands (since they're supporting me on my crutches) is downright exhausting. Despite the fatigue I'm learning a lot, and I'm hoping I adapt and things get easier over the next few weeks.

I learned really quickly that planning and patience were the name of the game. Everything I do has to be thought out in advance and takes 2 to 4 times longer than usual, if it can be done at all. Simple things like getting the coffee creamer from refrigerator to counter or the jelly from fridge to toaster, a span of floor space only 6 feet wide, boggled my brain the first time I attempted them. Showering, getting dressed and moving about in public were other puzzles I had to solve. It's amazing what I took for granted prior to this.

Each extra step I am forced to take, each activity completed requires using my body in different ways than I've used it before. Left leg balance work, trunk range of motion and stability, and stretching way outside my base of support are now constant endeavors. I've become a bit of a contortionist, and in doing so I've developed stiffness, soreness, and discomfort in a multitude of muscles not at all associated with my repaired hip!

As for my hip, it seems to be healing. I'm having very little trouble with pain at this point, which is nice. I'm doing my prescribed basic exercises several times per day. Avoiding the hip motions and positions I'm supposed to avoid in this early stage of healing has been a bit stressful, though. Again, doing so sounded easy pre-op but in reality requires planning, patience, and constant vigilance. I really don't want to screw this up.

I'm still awaiting follow-up with neurology regarding the foot drop episode I wrote about in my last post. I did see my regular MD on Friday. She ordered a brain MRI, which thankfully came back normal, and scheduled a lumbar MRI for later this week. No answers yet regarding what actually caused the concerning symptoms, but we're likely ruling out some big scary things along the way. I'm okay with that.

Well, I've been up for a few hours now and it's already time for a nap! Like I said, this healing process has been exhausting. Nevertheless, I feel like I'm on the road to recovery. It's going to be a long road, I know, but I'm pleased with my progress thus far. One day I'll be running again. That will be a great day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Post-op ER

After sitting together for more than 10 hours, my friend Wendy finally felt okay to depart. On her way out the door she wryly smiled and said, "This could only happen to you." I laughed and said, "I know." After 10 hours we could find some humor in my situation. It wasn't so funny earlier. Thirteen hours after I checked in to the ER Friday afternoon, I got home. It was 5:20 AM Saturday morning.

My right hip surgery went "perfectly," according to my surgeon. He did a lot of bony work, constructed a new labrum out of a cadaver tendon, and sewed it neatly into its new home in my hip. I was discharged from the surgery center before noon and arrived home around 1:15 PM Friday.

My brother helped me set up a few things prior to leaving for his home. I sat in my recliner to ice my hip and rest. A few hours later I made the 15 foot walk from recliner to kitchen, got a bit to eat, opened my computer and sat down in the very spot in which I am currently planted. It was 4:15 PM. All was well.

Well...maybe not well. Within a few minutes of sitting down my right leg began to feel odd. My right groin, where much of my surgical pain was located, felt tight and full. I tried to adjust my right leg and shockingly discovered I couldn't lift my right foot off the floor! With panic setting in I tried again and again to move my foot. Nothing. I had lost all ability to dorsiflex (pull my foot up toward the ceiling, as you do when walking on your heels) my right foot. As a PT I knew this could be a medical emergency. I could be having a stroke!

Numbness began setting in to portions of my right leg as I made my way to the bathroom to check my face. I looked for telltale signs of a stroke but fortunately found none. I did a quick scan of the rest of my body. Again, fortunately, my symptoms seemed to be confined to my right leg.

Foot drop is typically caused by neurological impairment--stroke and nerve impingement most commonly. But I didn't appear to be having a stroke. I also had no pain so a lumbar disc protrusion was most unlikely. I know what a disc exploding feels like. In fact, I still have a bit of foot drop on my left side as a result of my disc extrusion in 2017. This was not that. Nothing hurt.

I called the surgical service, left a message, and then called a friend to take me to the emergency room. The surgeon's PA phoned as I was en route to the ER. His comment, which I will never forget, was, "In over 6000 hip procedures, we've never had anything like this happen. Keep going to the ER."

I could write a whole book on my frustration with Mayo Clinic's emergency room, but I don't think I have the energy to relive it even 4 days later, so here are the low-lights.

*When I arrived the entire waiting room was full and there were 3-4 people at the check-in desk complaining about how they had been waiting for 6+ hours.
*Despite my protestations that this could be a serious emergency, that my nerve could die if compressed too long, the staff could only apologize and send me back to the waiting room.
*I waited with my friend Wendy for 7 hours, as my symptoms worsened, before I got called back to a treatment room.
*It took 8 hours to actually see an MD.
*The MD was good and did put in a neurological consult.
*The ER was too full, they said, so they moved me from my treatment room to an "observation area" in the bowels of the ER. I agreed to the move, but later discovered this dark corner of the ER where there was one nurse sitting at a computer, where I wasn't checked on unless I initiated the contact, and where I had no access to a call light is exactly where they place "behavioral health" patients to live, sometimes for days, when there are no psychiatric beds available. Coincidence? I'll never know.
*The neurologist, who remarked he had "never treated anyone back here before," was excellent. He listened to me, performed a complete and thorough neurological exam (where we discovered I could now move my foot a bit), talked to me like a professional, discussed several possible causes of this weird set of symptoms, and ordered an MRI. It was just before 2:00 AM.
*I laid alone in that room in silence for another hour before I dragged myself out of the bed to inquire. The nurse knew nothing about an MRI, and in the next breath informed me they don't perform MRIs overnight in the ER. She said I'd have to stay there overnight in order to have an MRI "ordered" in the morning.
*After I protested, a CT scan with contrast dye was ordered. I got a CT at 3:00 AM. By the time of the CT I had been lying flat on my back for approximately 4 hours and my symptoms were thankfully, though still inexplicably, resolving.
*The neurologist returned at 4:00 AM to tell me the CT didn't show anything but the most likely cause was, as we had discussed earlier, a bleed or blood clot compressing my femoral and/or common peroneal nerves in the groin area based on the distribution of numbness and weakness. He recommended a neurology follow-up for MRI and EMG studies. I thanked him. He was so good.
*I was discharged around 4:30 AM, exhausted and in pain, 12 hours and 15 minutes after I had arrived.

When I left the ER, thankfully my symptoms had pretty much resolved. I could dorsiflex my right ankle and the numbness from my buttocks to my toes was almost gone. I waited 30 minutes for a cab prior to the 10 minute drive home. I got home at 5:20 AM.

Interestingly, during that 10 minute drive my right leg symptoms began to return. Sitting, it appeared, was not a doable position. The explanation of something compressing the nerves in my groin made even more sense in light of this new evidence.

Things have gradually been improving. This is the first day I've been able to sit here at my computer without my leg getting numb. Mayo has not called yet to set up the neurology follow-up (shocking!), but I'm hopeful I won't need the appointment after all. My groin area still feels full. My leg still feels different if I sit for a long period (like right now), but overall I'm doing well. I know things could have turned out much, much worse. I'm so grateful they didn't.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Pre-op Jitters

Part of me just wants it to be over. It will be so much easier when it's done, I think. I hope. The waiting is nearly done, and although I'm anxious, I'm also relieved.

I have to arrive at the surgery center at 6:45 AM tomorrow morning. My hip surgery is set for 8:15. I hope to be home by mid-afternoon. My brother is arriving tonight in order to drive me, in the predawn darkness, the 90 minutes it will take to get to the center. It's going to be a long day for him. I'm grateful for his willingness to take the day off and escort me.

It seems like I've been preparing for this day everyday for the past month. I had a long list of things to get done prior to spending the next 4 weeks on crutches, non-weightbearing on my right leg. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning and laid there fretting about all the details, some done and some not done, up to this point.

Fortunately I finished a lot of what I wanted to prior to surgery. I worked hard to finish the basement remodel and upstairs painting, which included multiple visits to Home Depot and hours upon hours of hands on work in my house. It wasn't easy, but the end is in sight. I rehung all of my artwork on my freshly painted walls today. Painting a couple of bookcases, that's all I have left, and I'm hopeful I can do that on one leg over the next few weeks.

This blog post is the final item on my long to-do list today. It's 9 PM and this is the first chance I've had to sit here and write. Besides rehanging all of my pictures, I cleaned the entire house (even dusted, yuck!), washed everything in sight (and I mean everything, including rugs, dog beds, sheets, blankets, towels, clothing, and anything else I didn't want to have to deal with for a month), went grocery shopping, spent too much money at Costco, picked up paperwork from my doctor, shoveled and snow-blew the sidewalks and driveway, filled my gas tank, went to a meeting, and did a 4 minute, 30 second plank (more on that in the coming days). 

I guess I do have one thing left to do. I have to shower with an anti-bacterial soap tonight before bed and again tomorrow morning. I'm worried about getting up early, not eating after midnight, the likelihood of a caffeine headache tomorrow morning, and of course the outcome of the surgery. I have to have faith I will be okay. Worrying I won't does no good whatsoever. That being said, I'll take any thoughts or prayers you'd like to offer.

Off to shower. I'll let you know how everything turns out.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Internalized Stigma

Stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.

I made an unhappy discovery this morning. I'm holding onto stigma. The very thing I preach against in others reared its ugly head this morning, and I was all alone. I was working at the very same computer I'm using to compose this blog post right now, and suddenly it was there, stigma.

I'm a bit ashamed about this self-discovery. I thought I was way past internalized stigma, but I guess not. Here's what happened. In preparation for my upcoming hip surgery I was asked to fill out an online "pre-op survey" by my surgeon's team. It was all the basic information any surgical team would want to know prior to operating.

The survey consisted of a bunch of yes or no questions. So instead of asking me to list my medical history, it asked if I had this illness or that illness. High blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and cardiac conditions were all covered, of course. Before they put me to sleep I guess they'd like to know if I'm going to wake up. Like I said it was pretty standard stuff.

It felt like pretty standard stuff, that is, until they asked if I had been hospitalized in the past year. Of course if I answered yes, as was twice the case, I was expected to fill out the next little box, a box which asked, "What for?" Damn it! It took me less than two seconds to rationalize that my two stints in the hospital for inpatient mental health treatment were not pertinent to disclose, so I answered no and moved on.

Despite moving on, I felt a pang of shame and guilt almost immediately. I'm not a fan of lying, and I had just lied. The rationalizations quickly followed: how will it help the anesthesiologist to know I was hospitalized for depression? It won't! They don't mean mental health hospitalizations anyway. They're just looking for any recent significant medical issues...You get the idea.

I was doing well with the rationalizations until I was thwarted by the dreaded medication list. UGH! I knew this one would be way more difficult to rationalize my way out of. There was no way around it, I would have to list my laundry list of medications. I hate the medication list!

I reluctantly filled out the med list, but that didn't stop me from attempting to build up an indignant rage all the while. In the end I couldn't even do that. The medication list is necessary. I could lie, but that might put me at significant risk. The anesthesiologist needs to know what medications I'm taking in order to prevent any dangerous interactions with the meds he'll use during my surgery. So I filled it out, but I hated to do it.

And why do I hate it? Because it reveals I have more than a melancholy mood once in awhile. I take a cocktail of mental-health-related medications. Severe depression will be quite obvious to any MD observer. But here's the thing, why did I care??? Why did I feel so uncomfortable with revealing my medications?

My shame and discomfort surprised me. Aren't I the one who has preached about depression being an illness like any other, an illness which can and is successfully treated with hospitalizations and medications? Isn't that the crux of what I've been writing about for the last 11 years? Treat me and my depression as you would treat anyone else with any other chronic illness. I'm sure I've said or written that at least 1000 times since I began this blog.

Unfortunately, I'm also the one who began this blog partly because of the misinformed, inequitable and downright discriminatory treatment I experienced while seeking help for depression. But is that just another excuse? (I'm protecting myself by lying about my hospitalizations, right? I'll be treated differently after they see my list of medications, right?) The bottom line is I was afraid to fill out the pre-op survey honestly, and I feel shame about that. Whether my fears were rational or not, I still feel guilty. I feel like I, of all people, should be above such concerns. But clearly, I'm not.

Stigma.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

One thing leads to another, and another, and another

Last Spring I finally decided to finish my basement remodel project, which I began over 10 years ago. I had one finished room and a half bath in my basement when I bought this house 15 years ago. After the basement flooded in 2007, however, I spent months tearing everything out; the finished room, the bathroom and the unfinished storage space. I'm allergic to mold so tearing everything out was a necessity. I received some flood assistance to remodel, but that money ran out before the project was finished. Last Spring I decided I had the time, energy and funds to tackle the project once again.

Ten years ago the plumbing, electrical, walls and ceilings were finished. I needed flooring, trim, doors, and bathroom fixtures. Fortunately, I met a handyman I trusted through work. Unfortunately, that handyman, whom I hired in the Spring, quit before he ever started. That was in July. It took until September to find another semi-retired, competent professional. I hired him and a flooring guy to finish the work.

They were both busy until November, so the work didn't start until after Thanksgiving. It took through December and into January for them to finish, not because there was a ton to do, but because they were simultaneously busy with other projects. Now it's done. Two days ago my basement was finished. It's so cool!

Well, you know how one thing leads to another? With the new tile on the basement floor the wooden stairs leading to the basement looked awful. So I hired the flooring guy to also tile the stairs, and since the stairs descend from the kitchen, with it's well worn linoleum, I had to ask him to do the kitchen floor, too. That work will begin tomorrow.

Once I decided to tile the kitchen I could no longer ignore my walls, which I painted 15 years ago. So I decided to paint the kitchen. But since I was painting the kitchen a lighter color, I had to paint the trim, too! I mean it was brown. I like white. Besides, my kitchen is tiny. How hard could it be?

It turned out painting the trim was a very time consuming, back-breaking little project! I had to sand it, but even with sanding the paint just wouldn't stick. My trim took 3, and in some places 4 coats of paint! Painting the ceiling, walls and trim, a project I thought would take a few days, turned into a project which stretched into 2 weeks!

At least one full day of that two weeks was spent changing outlets and covers. With the new white trim and lighter colored walls the damn almond-colored switches and outlets looked like hell, so I had to change those, too. My hands ached after removing each outlet and switch and rewiring each in order to change them from almond to white. I had to ice my hands that night, but they look a lot better now.

Unfortunately, despite all of that work not every part of my kitchen looks better, so my kitchen actually isn't done. I discovered way too late the new wall color almost matches the counter top, backsplash, and cabinet color. I need some contrast. I did some research. The least costly and labor intensive solution seems to be changing the backsplash. I picked out the product, but that project will have to wait until well after my hip surgery.

I'm trying to get everything else done before my hip surgery on the 24th. After painting my kitchen the plan was to repaint my living room, hallways, bedroom and all of the trim. When I made that plan in late November, I had no concern about getting it all done before January 24th, but after my kitchen experience I'm ashamed to say I threw in the towel. I decided to hire someone to do the rest.

The painting will begin Tuesday or Wednesday so I spent my weekend removing everything from my walls, emptying shelves, storing knickknacks, moving furniture away from the walls, and cleaning everywhere. Phew! I'm tired. This is the first time I sat down today.

By the time the flooring and painting is finished I think I'll have just enough time to replace the furniture, hang the pictures, unpack and replace my stuff prior to surgery. Now I understand why I let this basement project sit for 10 years! It will be nice, however, to have everything done when I'm sitting in my house for 4 weeks doing little to nothing; nothing that is except enjoying my new floors, walls, outlets and trim.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Cited

My plagiarism checker found an interesting little tidbit the other day. It turns out, in what was not a case of plagiarism, I was cited in a scientific journal article. I always thought I might publish a scientific research project someday, especially when I was master's level student, but I never thought I'd be a source for scholarly material in a study authored by someone else. Kind of cool.

In a 2016 edition of The Journal of Qualitative Health Research, a few snippets from a few of my early blog posts were cited in a research study titled, Depression Narratives in Blogs: A Collaborative Quest for Coherence. I was unable to access the full research article online so I emailed the author. He very kindly sent me a copy of his study. It's interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

Blogs like mine are so personal. It's weird to think of them in a scientific light. In this study the author, Don M. Kotlier, takes a very academic look at depression blogs written specifically by women. I'm honored he found material of use in my blog, especially since he chose only 5 blogs to use in his analysis. Out of all the depression blogs written by women in 2009-2010, mine was one of the five chosen. Nice.

If you'd like to read the study I think you're out of luck, unless you want to pay for it. I found the study interesting, and I'm humbled he used some of my work in his research. My only complaint is I wish he'd have done it a few years later. I've grown up a lot since 2008. My posts have improved a lot since 2008, too. Selfish reasons for sure, but also a reminder of how much I've changed and matured since I began this blog 11 years ago.

Eleven years. I never expected this little idea to continue so long. And I've no idea how much longer it will continue. But hey, getting cited in a scientific journal is, as I've already stated, pretty damn cool.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

New year, New surgery

I believe it was last January. I landed a broad jump in an exercise class and knew immediately I shouldn't have done that. It was a tiny twinge. So slight, most people wouldn't have even noticed, but I quickly put it together. The landing position followed by the tiny twinge certainly meant I had just re-torn my right hip labrum. I hung my head and prayed desperately, "no, no, no, no, no!"

Unfortunately, my prayers went unanswered. An MRI confirmed it. My thrice-repaired right hip labrum was torn...again. I put a call in to the skilled surgeon who had cared for my hip for the last 20 years. I was devastated to learn he had retired. You're probably thinking, "What's the big deal? Go to another surgeon." Well, that's what I did, but it wasn't that simple.

Good surgeons who do labral repairs are few and far between. It's an arthroscopic procedure which is apparently quite technical. I've been told the learning curve for this surgery is quite long, therefore not many US docs take the time to learn it. In fact, when I originally sought out a diagnosis in 1997 Mayo Clinic orthopedic doctors were so clueless they suggested I seek out a psychiatrist! And this was before I had depression!

Fortunately, I'm a physical therapist. My first continuing education class as a new professional was on the hip. I was even more fortunate the class was instructed by a brilliant therapist from Belgium, where they had been diagnosing and repairing labral tears for years. Halfway through the first day the instructor began describing my symptoms to a tee! After four years of unexplained pain I finally knew what was wrong. It took the instructor about two seconds to confirm my diagnosis with a simple special test.

The instructor told me he usually referred US citizens to Belgium for surgery, but I was lucky. There were, at that time, two surgeons in the United States who performed arthroscopic labral repairs; one in Texas and the other in Minnesota. Dr. Palmer in Stillwater, Minnesota, repaired my torn labrum three times, most recently in 2014.

Now five years later, and after some nifty maneuvering by my local orthopedic doctor, I now have a new surgeon in Minneapolis. I'm lucky once again. He just happens to be a hip expert and one of the most sought after hip surgeons in the United States. Since this is my fourth tear (the labrum is a fragile little piece of cartilage, especially once it's been torn) my new surgeon, Dr. Larson, told me it was no longer repairable. What???

Thankfully, he interrupted my rising panic by telling me he'd just replace it. What??? Yup, I'm going to get a new right hip labrum, a cadaver labrum, transplanted on January 24th. It's an arthroscopic procedure, but it will require an extended healing time. That's why I put off the surgery, with Dr. Larson's blessing, as running doesn't cause or worsen a labral tear, until after my planned marathon in October.

As you all know I missed my marathon due to that nasty respiratory illness. And I couldn't run for an extended period of time due to that damn respiratory illness so I began lifting weights. That apparently caused more damage. I've been battling pain since mid-October. So...surgery.

I'm glad I'm getting it done because even my running is being affected now. I'm hopeful this will resolve my hip issue once and for all, but I'm concerned about the recovery time. I will be non-weight bearing for at least 4 weeks, and I will not be allowed to return to running for 3 to 4 months. I'm going in with eyes open knowing there will be risks to my mood (financial stress and no exercise). I'm going to do my best to get through it, but I have a feeling you'll be hearing more from me during that time.



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