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!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A little dip

Without a moment to spare, I will be receiving my next ketamine infusion tomorrow. I'm glad, as my mood took a dip late last week. I battled back by going for a walk with a friend, talking to my doctor, riding my ElliptiGo, and watching several inspiring documentaries. What can I say? I like inspiring documentaries. It's the perseverance, I think.


I'm attracted to the perseverance of people who've overcome obstacles. Maybe it's because I think those of us who face each day with a mental illness share that noble characteristic. Instead of conquering mountains, however, I persevere every time I make it to work, go for a run, or pay my bills. It's not quite as movie-worthy, but living with a mental illness definitely requires perseverance. 

Anyway, back to the ketamine. It's been almost 4 weeks since my last infusion. Seems it may have been just about a week too long. I'm relieved I have a treatment tomorrow. I expect it will help, as usual. I'm lucky. At the same time, I'm a little disappointed my mood dropped prior to this scheduled infusion. I really expected I'd be well, without difficulties, throughout the span between treatments.

I'm in the maintenance stage of my ketamine treatment, so we're spacing out the infusions. The hope is we will eventually discontinue them all together. This time it was nearly 4 weeks, but my next infusion isn't scheduled for another 6 weeks. I was hoping my next infusion might be my last, but perhaps my next one will have to be moved up a few weeks instead. Damn.

I'm not complaining. Well, I shouldn't be complaining. I am so grateful I have access to ketamine, and I'm even more thankful it works amazingly well for me. I guess my wish to require the least amount of intervention and the least amount of medication is still alive and well. Tomorrow, however, I'm ready and willing to be intervened upon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Family ick

I'm feeling hurt. I rarely feel hurt these days, but when I do it's almost always due to the action (or inaction) of the same culprit, my family. Ugh...why do families have to be so emotion-laden and difficult?

My family life has been difficult and complicated almost since day one. I remember some good years, mostly between the ages of 6-10, but after that... complicated. I grew up in a physically and verbally abusive household. My parents divorced when I was 12. After that I moved a lot, in and out of homes with step-parents and a varying amount of biological brothers, and in and out of foster homes until I was finally on my own.

As an adult I have chosen to have a very limited relationship with my father. My mom and I were closer than we had ever been until last August when the dysfunction of her current relationship became apparent, and her relationship with me and my brothers crumbled. That continues to make me sad, but I (we) can't change the way she chooses to live her life.

Missing that relationship with my mom, however, brought me closer to my two younger brothers. My brothers have lives that don't resemble my own. Each of my brothers is married with children. They each work full-time, their spouses work full-time, and they generally have a ton of things to think about, worry about, and/or do. Me? Not so much.

The responsibilities of their lives are different than mine in volume and substance. However, the support and family connection they each have is also very different. They have it. I don't. No matter how many friends I surround myself with, I do not have the same love and support I see in the extended family units of my brothers. I feel like a very solitary being down here in my little corner of the state.

Most of the time I'm okay existing as a very solitary being. I realize there are advantages to my life. But lately I've been a bit envious of what my brothers (and my friends, for that matter) have, specifically love and connection close at hand. Unfortunately, envy sets me up to feel hurt, and surprise(!), I'm feeling hurt.

My nieces and their mother, my sister-in-law, have been in Minnesota from their home out West. My sister-in-law is from Minnesota, so they have been here visiting her family. However, they did stop at my brother's home for an afternoon of fun a few days ago. The pictures on Facebook told the story of a beautiful, happy day lounging in the pool, playing games and eating good food. I knew nothing about it.

In my brother's defense, I do live 3 and a half hours away, but I still feel hurt he didn't invite me. I'm stinging even more so by the lack of communication with my eldest niece. Purely by accident I spoke with her the day she arrived in Minnesota. I called to congratulate her for getting into med school and found out she was here.

During the call with my niece we talked about getting together while she was here. She happily promised she would call me when she was "out of the woods" (The literal woods, as she went camping with her grandparents for a week). Based on the cheerful Facebook photos of this past weekend, she was out of the woods. She didn't call.

My guess, and it's purely a guess because I haven't heard anything from my sister-in-law either, is they have all flown back home by now. I'm disappointed, confused and hurt. The old tapes have been recycling in my head. "What's wrong with me?" "Why don't they like me?" Yadda, yadda, yadda... I hate the old tapes. But I'm hurt, nonetheless.

I did send a text to my brother asking him, in the future, to let me know when he's having a family get-together. He apologized right away, stating, "I'm sorry. I didn't even think of it." And that's just it. Since I'm down here all by myself, living in a world nothing like the their own, I often feel forgotten. That's not a nice feeling.

I haven't addressed my niece or sister-in-law yet. That's more complicated. I'll likely choose to work on acceptance of what is and move on instead.

But family... Nothing brings out the ick in life better than family. They (we) are masters at it. I love them, but I wish it was simpler. It isn't. But I wish it was.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Hip(s)

I had my five month follow-up appointment with my hip surgeon yesterday. My right hip appears to be healing well, though not as perfectly as I would like. Of course, I hoped for perfection. I guess I'm too old and have had too many previous surgeries on this hip to expect perfection. Nevertheless, I'm happy with my progress at this point in time.

The joint injection and bursa injection I had in May and early June definitely helped decrease the residual post-op pain I experienced. I'm not back to running, but I'm definitely able to do more of my normal activities. I'm wearing out my ElliptiGo, which has been quite fun. I'm working without too many restrictions. I'm able to put my socks and shoes on without cringing. And I'm no longer awakening overnight secondary to pain. I could not have reported any of those things 4-6 weeks ago, so I'm moving in the right direction.

On the other hand, or should I say hip, I've got a new issue to report. It appears likely I may have torn the labrum in my left hip. I know. You can't make this shit up! I actually think I tore it while hopping shortly after my surgery on my right hip. At that time, I was non-weightbearing on my right leg and wanted to grab something just out of my reach, so I hopped. Immediately I feared I did something. My left hip just didn't feel right. There was no great pain, but I felt certain something wasn't right.

I forgot about that hop for a few months. But as I began increasing my level of activity over the last 4-6 weeks, my left groin began to ache. The aching has been more pronounced with prolonged sitting, like when I drove three and a half hours back from Duluth a few days ago. It's a familiar ache, the same ache I endured for years in my right groin. So, this sucks. Aching in the groin, which is worse with prolonged sitting, happens to be a classic labral tear symptom.

My surgeon took an x-ray yesterday. Just as was the case with my right hip, the head of my left femur isn't perfectly round and sits very deep in the socket. Those are characteristics which often lead to labral tears. I wasn't surprised. My surgeon wasn't surprised. But it sucks.

Neither my surgeon nor I want to pursue aggressive treatment of my left hip at this time. If things don't change in a few weeks, we may try a joint injection. If it's just a small tear and inflammation, an injection may fix it. But even if it doesn't, my surgeon wants me to be fully healed, functional, and exercising without restrictions before we pursue further left hip diagnosis and treatment. That's fine with me. I'm not anxious to undergo another surgery, even a relatively minor one, on either hip ever again.

I plan to keep moving forward. I'll continue strengthening my right hip as directed. I'll keep riding my ElliptiGo as I'm able. I'll continue icing my right hip after I exercise. And I guess I'll add an ice pack to my left hip now, too. Geez... getting old is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Thinking about the future

I'm back in Duluth, Minnesota. I've been here visiting my friends and my brother since Friday. The weather has been gorgeous, which is a pretty big deal here, as the weather can change on a dime and is often negatively impacted by Lake Superior's ominous presence. But when it's beautiful, it's really beautiful. The beauty is one of the primary draws of this summertime tourist area.

I've taken full advantage of the elements by playing outside all weekend. I went whitewater rafting with my brother and his family on Saturday, rode my ElliptiGo up the north shore of Lake Superior and along a scenic ridge on Sunday, and went fishing with my friends on Island Lake today. We didn't catch anything, but it was still nice to be out on the water.

Between my outdoor adventures I've spent time talking, laughing, and sharing meals with my friends, two of my favorite people. They're moving into a new house soon, so I tried to help a little bit with some of those logistics. I'm not sure I was much help, maybe more of a distraction than anything else, but I think they appreciated occasional distraction, too.

Moving has been on my mind for awhile now. I'm thinking about moving back up here to northern Minnesota. My life in Rochester is changing and will keep changing in the near future. My doctors are all retired or retiring, some of the service professionals I've used for years are retiring, and one of my closest friends will be moving out of town as soon as her husband retires within the next couple of years. Soon there won't be much holding me in my current community.

There are things I will miss if I leave, like the running community, the recovery community and my coworkers. It will be hard rebuilding those communities and supports in a new place, but I think I can do it.

Leaving my current job will actually be the toughest challenge. I love the building in which I work. I love the staff of the facility. I love being able to bring Jet to work with me. And I really enjoy my coworkers there. We do good work and have solid, fun relationships. I will miss that immensely if I go. Re-creating what I currently have may be difficult at another facility, but I think it's worth the risk to return to an area I love.

Right now I'm just thinking. I'd have to find a job and a house up here in order to move, and that's unlikely currently. The housing market is fiery hot and the job market is ice cold. But I'm willing to be patient. I'm content in Rochester, so there is no urgency to leave. I can wait until the right set of circumstances emerge before making a decision. It's fun to think about, though. Fun and scary...but I've never let fear get in my way in the past. I'm certainly not going to start now.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Is it okay to be angry?

I was alerted to something happening outside last night by flashing lights and the sound of several young male voices, both unusual experiences in my residential neighborhood. I exited my house and discovered 3 police cruisers, on my side of the street, a few houses away. But the noise was coming from 4-5 young men congregated in and around a car on the opposite side of the street. They were filming and yelling at the police officers who were apparently arresting a man.

Based on their comments, they did not appear to know the man being arrested. I also do not know the race of the man being arrested, but there were a few indications he may have been black. The young screaming men likely were black, as they kept referring to each other using the N-word. They were laughing and mocking the police officers relentlessly.

Soon another car came screaming down my street and parked right behind the boisterous young men. It was another young man--apparently his friends had called him to the scene. A few minutes later a third car arrived, music blaring, with a few more young men. They all seemed to know one another. The new arrivals quickly pulled out their phones and joined in the filming and jeering.

The man being arrested began to resist and was taken to the ground by at least 4 officers. This, of course, caused quite a raucous with the men across the street. They grew louder and more confrontational. The man arrested was fairly quickly subdued and placed in a police cruiser. The jeering, cussing, mocking and laughing from across the street continued. It was crazy. And I was so angry!

The police were trying to do their job while ignoring the taunting of the crowd across the street. Of note, in the last 16 years I have never seen anyone arrested in my neighborhood and none of the young men in the crowd live on my street. I'm not sure how they happened to be here. Were they at the nearby convenience store, saw the flashing lights and decided to investigate? I don't know. Like I said, none of them appeared to be associated with the arrested person.

I'm white. I know I don't understand how black men feel about police, but this was so rude, and disrespectful, and... Their behavior, in my opinion, wasn't justified or okay. It wasn't okay regardless of the color of the participants. Is that naive of me to say?

I agonized for the police. They seemed helpless to do anything to quell the mini riot for fear of being labeled racist and displayed on Facebook, which is where they likely ended up anyway. Who knows, they may have been live-streamed to multiple social media sites throughout the entire interaction.

Like the police, I felt helpless to do anything, even if it had been safe for me to do so, for the same reasons. If I confront behavior which is just plain disrespectful, does that make me racist? Nobody deserves to be treated the way those young men treated the police last night. Likewise, I don't think anybody has the right to behave like that toward other human beings. Naive?

I don't know how to feel. It doesn't feel okay to be angry, but I'm angry. I can't imagine doing my job while being subjected to merciless mocking, cussing and taunting. What happened to respect? Again, I'm white. Maybe I don't get it? Nevertheless, to me, this type of behavior is disgusting regardless of the race of the those involved.

I'm left wondering what to feel, what to do, and how to help. And I don't have any of those answers. I guess that's why I wrote about it here. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts and perspectives.

Friday, June 12, 2020

I've got nothing

I apologize. I'm trying, but I just don't have anything interesting to write about today. And if you made it past that sentence, thanks! You must be a loyal reader!

Life is going well. I'm working a few more hours every week, but we still don't have enough patients to allow me to work my regular schedule. I'm supposed to be receiving supplementation with unemployment, but despite applying 7 weeks ago, the state still hasn't reviewed my case. I'm trying to be patient.

Meanwhile, I'm spending my extra time taking care of Jet. He's pretty bored. Because of my hip surgery, we're not running. But worse, due to COVID restrictions, he's not allowed to come to work with me! I can tell he misses working immensely because any time we're actually around other people--I took him with me to get my oil changed yesterday--he greets them with intense enthusiasm!

Apparently, the forlorn longing goes both ways. Jet misses working, and my coworkers miss him. Today one of my coworkers asked if she could FaceTime with Jet! I laughed, but that's how valuable he is to the moral of the staff, I guess. I get more questions about his health and activities than I do about my own! Upstaged by my dog. Totally okay with me.

Planning to exercise with and without Jet this weekend. Hoping to hike with my brother and Jet on Sunday in one of our favorite state parks. Tomorrow is going to be sunny and warm, so a long ElliptiGo ride is in order, maybe another 40-miler. And Monday I'll have another ketamine infusion. My mood is still holding strong. After Monday I won't have another infusion for almost 4 weeks. Praying for continued good health--mental and physical.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Crazy times

Crazy is not a word I use lightly. In fact it's a word which usually makes me cringe with anger or defensiveness. But I don't know what else to write about today. I don't think another word works as well to describe our current state of pandemic, murder, power, protest, racism and riot. What has happened to our world? Unprecedented craziness.

It's hard to think about much else these days. The larger world is so off-kilter, my day-to-day life seems tiny and insignificant, so tiny and insignificant I've not felt compelled to write. I mean, who cares? The world seems to be imploding!

I'm grateful for my tiny boring life right now, but it doesn't mean I'm any less anxious about what's going on around me--around us all. I feel somewhat helpless in the grand scheme of things, but I will do what I can to stand up for what I feel is right. I'm hopeful meaningful discussion, action, and perhaps even change will come out of all of this chaos.

In the meantime I continue to care for myself. I'm staying safe by following CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 when I leave my house. At work we are gowned and gloved and facemask(ed) to the max. So far not one of our patients has tested positive for the virus, so our efforts have paid off. I'm proud to work in a facility which takes such excellent care of its residents.

The precautions we take to protect our residents apparently protect the staff, myself included, as well. So far we are all virus-free. I'm also happy to report I'm nearly free from depression. My mood is almost back to normal. I'm continuing with ketamine treatments. We are now in a diminishing frequency maintenance stage, and I feel great! I feel almost 100% back to being me. I'm so incredibly grateful for that.

Lastly, I'm pleased to say my hip recovery continues. I had a second steroid injection yesterday. The first injection, 4 weeks ago, went directly into the joint. Yesterday we injected the bursa at the front of my hip. The first injection improved my symptoms at least 60%, so I'm hopeful yesterday's injection will totally resolve my lingering pain. I've been riding my ElliptiGo as much as possible, and I'm definitely getting stronger. I can finally see a return to running on the horizon. It's still a horizon far far away, but at least I have a glimpse!

Stay safe, my friends. Take care of yourselves during this unprecedented, unsettling time. We need to care for ourselves first despite (or perhaps more accurately, because of) what's going on around us.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mourning in Minnesota

It's been a difficult week here in my home state. A police officer murdered a man in broad daylight while 3 other officers stood by, intermittently protecting the murderer and/or doing nothing to intervene. I wish I hadn't watched the horrifying video, but if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I don't think I would have believed it. Not here. Not a police officer. Not in broad daylight while being videotaped. Not with multiple civilians begging the officer to stop. But he didn't stop. And like millions of other viewers, I watched a man die in front of my eyes. Absolutely horrifying! I almost puked.

I have friends who are police officers, some currently working others retired. They didn't enter the field to perpetrate violence on others. I can't imagine any one of them putting themselves in this situation. But I also know, through personal experience, the blue line too often protects officers behaving badly, even if it means attacking and blackballing a fellow officer who has the audacity to call out bias within the ranks. That is not a culture conducive to officers policing themselves. But this? Murder? I can't wrap my mind around this.

Three officers stood by and did nothing as a man stopped breathing beneath a fellow officer's knee. It's disgusting, horrifying, and unacceptable. I feel enraged. I'd join the protests, but the protests have now devolved into something almost as disgusting as the original incident. The streets are burning. Rather than allowing us to confront the original horror, I'm watching as a beautiful city is overrun by understandable rage and not-so-understandable hoodlums (white, brown, and black) who seem to be taking advantage of the situation by stealing everything in sight and setting fire to the rest. This is not okay either. It's scary and disgusting, too.

I am a white woman. I cannot understand the experience of my brown and black neighbors. I do not know what it is like to fear being killed during a routine traffic stop or police interaction. That is not my experience, though this murder makes me question. Why not me? I've had interactions with police in my home more than once--mental health calls, safety checks. If this could happen to George Floyd, why couldn't something untoward also happen to me? It's unsettling to say the least.

My state has turned into a war zone. It's sad. It's frightening. It's unbelievable. I'm not sure how we heal. I pray the destruction stops. I pray the culture of policing changes. I pray I will feel safe to travel within my community and state again in the near future.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Getting away

After months of being cooped up in my house avoiding the Coronovirus, recovering from hip surgery, and surviving a horrendous depression relapse, I left Thursday to go north. I've been in Duluth visiting friends and family since then. I planned to go back home today, but I just can't leave. I love it here. It's always hard to leave, so this morning I decided I wouldn't.

I decided to stay one more day so I can continue visiting my friends, see my brother and his family one more time, and go for at least one more hike. I just returned from hiking. I thought I might tolerate hiking on a variable surface better than I've tolerated walking on level ground. I was right. My hip was much less sore during and after my 2 mile hike along Tischer Creek. It was beautiful. I love the sound of rushing water. I felt so grateful to be able to experience it. I feel like I'm getting closer to getting back to normal, physically, mentally and spiritually.

I brought my ElliptiGo up here so I could experience some of the long trails I've previously been unable to fully explore on my feet. The Willard Munger State Trail runs for 70 miles from Duluth to Hinckley, Minnesota. It's a paved bike trail through the woods. I would love to ride the entire length at least once, but I settled for a 41 mile round trip on Friday. It was a quiet, gorgeous, and at times grueling workout! Loved it.

I spent most of yesterday with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. We had a nice barbeque and enjoyed each other's company on a warm sunny day. We may go for a hike together along Lake Superior later today. I've been here three and a half days and have yet to stick my toes in the lake. That's unusual for me. I'll get down there before I leave though.

Here's a sample of what I've done thus far. Hope you all had a nice weekend as well.

After 30 miles on the Munger Trail the continued beauty finally coaxed me off the ElliptiGo to take some photos
The forest floor was carpeted with this white flower at several places along the trail
More Willard Munger State Trail with typical rock cliffs found on the North Shore of Lake Superior
Tischer Creek running through the eastern half of the City of Duluth
Tischer Creek
Tischer Creek
Looking down from one bridge to another over Tischer Creek

Pictures don't do it justice. Tischer Creek, Duluth

Monday, May 18, 2020

Little annoyances

Something is going on with me. I'm annoyed. I'm irritated. Little things, seemingly one after another, keep getting under my skin. I'm irritable and irritated. It's uncomfortable, and I don't like it.

  • The company that hasn't sent my product 8 weeks (and 12 mostly ignored e-mails) after I ordered it. 
  • The mysterious neighbor who again put their trash can so close to my driveway I can barely squeak by without scratching my vehicle.
  • The work e-mail I can't ever seem to access from home without a lengthy call to the help desk.
  • The state office from which I require assistance whose phone line is still busy after 68 redials.  
  • The freshly painted doors, which became freshly unpainted around the knobs and hinges after I removed the painter's tape from them. 
  • The hot flashes... Oh, the hot flashes!
  • The scam calls warning me about my lapsed vehicle warranty (which I never had) or offering to improve my prescription drug coverage (which I do have), but only if I provide them with all of my vital stats first.
  • The Amazon Prime video stream which fails, and fails, and fails again in the middle of my WWII movie.

I could go on, and that's the point; I could go on. I'm hoping writing down all of these stupid things will decrease, or better yet stop, my irritability. Looking at them one at a time, these are all things I usually deal with as annoyances. They don't usually leave me cussing and kicking garbage cans. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say, I did that. That's not the person I typically choose to be.

Irritation is a choice. I'm not sure why I'm choosing it now. It certainly isn't doing me any good. As I look back over my list I see only one item over which I have absolutely no control. Yup, the damn hot flashes. For every other item on the list I can choose to take an action to mitigate the annoyance. I can then decide to let go of the results. After all, I can't control what happens on the other side of the street. I may or may not get what I want, but once I've taken the action it does me no good whatsoever to stew over the unfairness and injustice of it all. (That last part is best read while yelling and raising a fist in the air.)

Life isn't fair. Sometimes people are assholes. Sometimes companies are fraudulent. Sometimes helpers are busy helping others. Sometimes equipment doesn't work. I can't change any of that. I need to get back to taking appropriate actions, accepting outcomes, and letting go of the emotional garbage I've attached to these small, insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things annoyances.

Phew... Thanks. I needed that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The return

I returned to work today. When I had my hip surgery in January I expected I'd be out of work for 6-8 weeks at most. Instead, it was today, almost 4 months post op that I actually returned. It was so strange. I felt like I was starting a new job rather than returning to one I've held for 6 years. It was strange, but I was glad to be back.

A lot has changed since I last worked prior to my surgery. For starters the front door is locked! To get past the front door I had to disinfect my shoes, sanitize my hands, get my temperature taken, answer questions, put on a face mask and finally don a Darth Vader-like eye shield. That got me in the door.

The facility now has multiple rules in place secondary to COVID-19 so the inside of the building felt a bit foreign, too. There were very few residents out and about. Residents who were out of their rooms wore masks. Cleaning supplies were everywhere. Anything I used with a patient had to be immediately cleaned. It was a whole new world. Nevertheless, I'm proud to say my facility has not had one case of COVID-19, so the aggressive precautions have made a difference.

As for me, I did okay. I worked 3 hours and saw 3 patients. I spent time figuring out the new documentation system which was instituted while I was gone. My hip got sore, which was discouraging, but after icing it at home it felt better. Despite my fears overnight, I didn't forget how to be a physical therapist. Seriously, I couldn't sleep last night! I was anxious. You would have thought I was starting a new job.

All in all it was a good day. It was such a pleasure to work with patients again. It was a joy to see some of the long term residents. I missed them. It was great to be side by side with my PT assistant again, too. We work well together, and I really appreciate her. It was also nice to see the rest of the staff. They were very kind in welcoming me back. I'm thankful I work with so many professional, compassionate people. Together we do good work. I'm glad to be back with the team.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Regaining life

I'm trying to return to some semblance of normalcy. Between post op hip recovery, depression relapse and recovery, and COVID-19 my life has not resembled the life I knew prior to mid-January. I haven't worked or exercised or even functioned near normal. But today I'm seeing, potentially, some light at the end of the tunnel.

First of all, I decided to attempt a return to work next week. I haven't worked since January 22nd. That's a really long time ago, and that length of time was not at all what I had planned. I thought I'd be out 8 weeks, at the most, but I'm now approaching 16 weeks! My supervisor and I discussed having me return for a couple of very short days, likely Tuesday and Thursday. I'm relieved but anxious.

There's plenty to be anxious about. I'll have to adjust to wearing the COVID-19 personal protective equipment and to the restrictions on patient movement within the facility. I have to learn a new documentation system, just to make things a bit more challenging. And of course I will have to adjust to and determine the limits of my repaired right hip. Despite the anxiety I'm really looking forward to getting to see my patients and coworkers again. I'm looking forward to being a productive member of a team again. It's been way too long.

Speaking of my hip. I saw my surgeon today to address the ongoing pain in my anterior right hip. We went over the results of my most recent MRI which showed mild bursitis in the area of my pain but was otherwise fairly benign. That was good news in that the surgical repair appeared to be intact and healing, but it didn't explain the origin of my ongoing pain.

After examining me, the surgeon suggested a cortisone injection into the hip joint. If the pain resolved after the injection, great, but if the pain continued, that would at least indicate the source of my pain was not coming from the joint or the labral repair. In other words, if the pain continued after the injection it would actually be good news.

So far the pain hasn't resolved, but it might be too soon to tell. In a few weeks, if I'm continuing to have the same pain, we'll inject the bursa. It's acting like bursitis pain, so I'm hopeful that's all it is. Bursitis can be difficult to resolve, but it would be better than potentially having to perform another arthroscopic procedure.

Lastly, my mood continues to improve or at least hold fairly steady. I did notice a bit of a dip by the end of last week and over the weekend, which concerned me. I had my fifth ketamine infusion on Monday. I've been doing well since. I have a couple more infusions in this "acute series," and then I will begin a "maintenance series," which basically means there will be increased time between infusions until we find I need them at lesser defined intervals or don't need them at all.

Thinking back to how desperately low I was just a few weeks ago, I feel incredibly lucky, amazed and grateful to be feeling so much lighter today. I think returning to work may challenge my mental health as much as my physical health. I'm feeling hopeful but guarded about my prognosis; not quite ready to believe the recent relapse is totally resolved and not quite confident the increased stress of returning to work won't challenge my shaky stability. I won't know until I try. And it's time. I'm ready to try.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Facebook thinks Depression Marathon is Abusive??

Try to share one of my posts on Facebook and this is what you get.
Imagine my surprise when I attempted to Facebook message a friend one of my recent posts. Instead of messaging it to her and going along my merry way, I got the above pop-up window from Facebook. In case you can't read the fine print it states: Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive. WTF??

The particular post I attempted to send was filled with hope and gratitude. Yup, sounds abusive to me. I attempted to send other posts just to see what would happen. I got the same message every time. Apparently my blog has been black-balled by Facebook...because it's abusive! This is so ridiculous! I have never, ever posted anything abusive on this blog. I've posted about difficult subjects like, um...depression, hopelessness and suicide, but abusive?? Never! Not once!

Being a pissed off blog author, I went to Facebook to try to figure out how to remedy this situation. First I read through their incredibly long list of "community standards" to see if my subject content might be to blame. Nope. Nothing there. There are no rules against writing about depression, hopelessness, suicide, running, gratitude, medication, hospitals, family, Mt. Everest, stigma, labral tears, fatigue, goals, disability, ketamine, my dog Jet, discrimination, or employment. Nothing. It's all okay.

There are very specific rules against hate speech, threatening speech, fake news, pictures of dismembered animals, bullying, and pictures of dead people, but nothing remotely related to depression, hopelessness, suicide, running, gratitude... Nothing related to anything I've ever authored on this blog. So how did I get black-balled by Facebook? And if someone complained, don't I have a right to know? Apparently not.

Here's the fun part. After hours of research over the course of two days, I found dozens of links to "report abuse," but not one bit of information on how to remove an erroneous ban on content. Not one! I read through hundreds of frequently asked questions, clicked on dozens of links, and searched endlessly for terms I thought might bring me to a helpful page. Nothing.

Finally, I resorted to clicking on the "Something went wrong" link and sent an email detailing my issue with an included screen shot. That was several days ago. Again, nothing. There is no sign Facebook even received the message I sent, much less read it, researched it, or took any action to resolve it. I'm beyond frustrated and just a bit (okay more than a bit) annoyed.

I'm wondering how long this ban on my content has been in force. I rarely share anything I've written on Facebook. If I want someone to read something, I usually just refer them to my blog. But I wonder if any of you have tried to share any of my posts on Facebook? If so, were you able to share? Please let me know. Or, if you're so inclined, let Facebook know this blog is not abusive and request they remove the ban on sharing its content. I'd provide you with a link as to where to complain, but like I said, I couldn't find one!

I'm pretty fired up about this. I'm angry. I'm also offended, and I feel totally powerless to change the situation. I write this blog to help others. If a reader finds a post they think might help a friend, and they're not allowed to share it? That's a nightmare! That's literally a life that could be saved, education that could help a family cope, or soothing reassurance that an isolated sufferer is not alone. It's a nightmare to think the purpose of my blog has been silenced because of a ridiculously inaccurate ban on content.

How, Facebook, did you determine to ban me? If there was one person who complained about something I wrote is that enough evidence to ban the sharing of all my content? Especially since I have never, ever posted anything abusive about or toward anyone! And again, why wasn't I at least notified and given a chance to respond? If the ban is due to some Facebook algorithm, is it because I write about depression and suicide? And if so, why or how is that abusive? Making a pretty big, uneducated leap there, Facebook! I'll say it again, WTF Facebook? (Wait, is that abusive?)

Any help any of you may provide to remedy this situation would be greatly appreciated. I don't know what else I can do.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Memories

I'm getting rid of stuff. I've been unloading stuff, on and off, for about 6 months now. It began when I felt so low in late October, early November. In fact, donating a SAD light to my psychiatrist when I was incredibly low was the impetus which led to her hospitalizing me. (For those of you who don't know, one sign of imminent suicide is when a person begins giving stuff, especially stuff they value, away.) She was correct to hospitalize me, but that's beside the point.

I kept giving stuff away after my hospitalization. I donated 3 big boxes of household items to the Salvation Army in December. I also gave away a bunch of clothes to a local homeless charity. I filled the garbage can with a ton of other crap, too. It felt great!

I'm back at it. Over the last few days I've been de-cluttering and organizing my upper floor, which is essentially just storage space. This house, which I moved into 16 years ago, is about half the size of my previous home, which I shared with my ex, so I've got a lot of stuff up there. I cleared out much of what I had about 6-7 years ago, had a huge garage sale, and sold almost all of it. Nevertheless, there's still more stuff! I don't like stuff.

The problem with the remaining stuff is it's laden with emotion. I've got long-unopened boxes up there; memorabilia from my high school and college sports days, photos from long ago relationships, photos from a complicated childhood, and writing--lots of writing. I had to pause and take a deep breath just to open a few of those boxes.

Each box flooded me with different memories. Organizing the photos compelled remembering the moment captured in each of them. Or, and this happened a lot, too, wondering what or who the heck was in that picture? I relived memories of thrilling wins and painful losses from both high school and college, mulled over old relationships, and rehashed much from my complicated, not-always-happy childhood. The pictures and memorabilia brought up a lot of old emotions.

The writing, tucked neatly into two folders, conjured up more emotion than I was able to handle. After scanning a couple of poems and sketches (I forgot I used to sketch) I had to put it away. I had barely scratched the surface, but I knew if I continued I would have become overwhelmed.

I began writing at age 15, which is when my first depressive episode began. That depression, which lasted through the end of high school, is documented in those folders upstairs. I kept writing through college and beyond, but usually only when times were tough. I have several legal pads filled with writing, a hand-written blog, I guess. I couldn't have handled reading it yesterday. Just finding it set me back a bit. It's now neatly tucked inside it's new and improved plastic bin. I plan to get it out again one day. I would like to read it, but now is not the time.

I've got a bit more to do upstairs, a few more memories to unpack. I think the most heavy remembering is done. I'll be very satisfied when I'm finished, when everything is neatly organized and in its place, and when I will no longer have to relive the saga that has been my life. I prefer to look forward rather than back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Miracle?

Maybe it was the cold wind on my face. Maybe it was my heart beat decelerating, palpable in my chest, after just ducking out of a strapping headwind. Or perhaps it was the stillness of the monochromatic woods, sunshine beaming through leaf-less trees, as I whirred along on my bike. I'm not sure why it occurred right there, suddenly, at that precise moment Monday afternoon, in those woods 2 miles from my home, but it did. Like a shock from beyond I realized, "I feel better."

Probably it occurred because I felt joy. At that moment I was enjoying my bike ride. Rather than just doing, I was feeling. I may have even said it out loud, "I feel better."

Miracle is a strong word. What works for one may not work for another, and previous success doesn't guarantee future success. However, that moment Monday afternoon, a few hours after my third ketamine treatment, continues to feel miraculous. Ketamine, for me, has been a miracle.

As it did in 2017, ketamine once again yanked me back from the edge of the cliff just as I was beginning my forward lean. It's unfortunate I had to endure hours of frigid darkness and cold contemplation, staring into the abyss, prior to the ketamine lasso. But as it was in 2017, that's the reality today. It's beyond unfortunate.

I feel better. The reality of the limited availability and expense of ketamine will perhaps be debated in a future post but not today. Today I'm just going to be. I'm focusing on feeling. Joy is nice. Gratitude is nice. But even anger, sadness or fear would be okay. I'm so relieved to be feeling. I'm grateful to be feeling. I'm feeling again. That is a miracle.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Ketamine and Hip Update

It's been a long week. As are many of you, I am spending days upon days alone in my house. That very real isolation, combined with my inability to partake in my typical active coping skills, no walking, biking, hiking, or running, has made this episode of depression incredibly difficult. That being said, I am feeling a little bit of hope and relief right now.

I'm relieved because I began my ketamine treatment protocol at Mayo with two infusions this week. Each infusion takes 40 minutes, but it's about a 2 hour process in total. I had my first infusion on Tuesday and the second one yesterday. I felt a little more spacey, the most common side effect, during each infusion than I felt during my previous treatments in 2017 and 2019, but I think my mood is already improved today. I'm hopeful that continues. My third treatment will be Monday.

Today I had my weekly post-op follow-up visit with my physical therapist. My low mood and fatigue have impacted my right hip recovery, as I've been less motivated/willing/able to complete my required daily exercises. Over the last several days I've also had an uptick in my hip pain and a decrease in my range of motion. Worries about my hip have not helped my mood.

My physical therapist has been a savior. Out of necessity I have been honest about my depression and current battle with my mood. She's been compassionate, understanding, and willing to reassure me time and time again. Today she patiently and repeatedly reassured me that I'm doing okay, progressing well, and will return to competitive running. And that was after she skillfully worked on me for 45 minutes to improve my hip mobility and decrease my pain. The glacial pace of this recovery has been so challenging. I'm grateful I have a wonderful physical therapist to support me and keep me moving forward.

I hope to keep moving forward over the weekend. I want to get outside, maybe ride my ElliptiGo, which will hopefully boost my mood and strengthen my hip at the same time. I'm trying to keep looking ahead, which is more than I was able to do even a few days ago. One day at a time. One step at a time. I need to keep moving if I have any hope of getting my life back. And I'd really like to get my life back.

Monday, April 13, 2020

I heard it

I heard a sentence. One year ago. I was lying in my hospital bed. The depression which had deposited me there showed no sign of release. A hostage, I was, to my very own brain. And then the sentence. Out of the blue, clear as day, I heard the words. Those words, that sentence frightened me then, so I wrote about the experience. It's a lot less frightening now. It just is.


Tough day.
Tough day.
Again.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Sad about Jet

It's been a tough day. For the last 8 or 9 months I had an inkling that Jet's eyesight wasn't great. First his eyes began to look a little cloudy. Over the summer, especially around the 4th of July, he quit going to his safe space in the basement when he was scared. He'd get halfway down the steps and then just stop and stand there. After a bit he'd turn around and come back up. But he was still scared, so he'd do this again and again. I wondered if it was because it was dark, so I put a light at the bottom of the stairs. He began going all the way down the stairs after that.

Early yesterday morning he flew out the door into the backyard as he always does when I let him out. A bunny ran right past him, and for the first time ever he didn't charge after it. I could tell he knew it was there, but he just stood there looking around. The bunny stopped on the other side of the yard. When Jet finally located it, he charged. He was on it's tail until the bunny made a quick move to one side. Jet lost him. The bunny was still running away from Jet, but he couldn't seem to locate him. I was crushed.

Today my vet confirmed my fear. Jet is losing his sight. He has a condition called Progressive Retinal Degeneration. The blood vessels which bring circulation to his retinas are shriveling up. He is losing his sight. There is no cure. He will go blind, and that may happen sooner rather than later. He's only seven and a half years old. I know it's not the end of the world, but I am so sad.

I'm sad because I want my boy to have the highest quality of life possible. I want him to run with me, hike with me, and play with me as he wishes. And I especially want him to feel safe and comfortable in his home.

I'm afraid he's already less comfortable in his home. For the last week, every night when I turn out the lights and go to bed, Jet has been standing uncomfortably in my bedroom doorway. Just standing. He usually sleeps in his bed in the living room, but lately I've had to convince him to go to his bed and lie down. I even escorted him there one night, as he just didn't seem to know what to do. He was kind of stuck standing in my doorway.

I already have a light on in the living room, but I guess I may need to add more lights throughout the house. He's never been interested in coming into my bedroom, but I may add a bed in there, too, in case that's changed. He's an anxious dog to begin with. I fear losing his sight isn't going to help.

So I'm sad today. Like I said, I know it's not the end of the world. He's otherwise very healthy. Going blind is not likely to shorten his lifespan. Nevertheless this was a tough thing to hear. I feel like I have so little resilience right now, barely keeping my head above water, so handling another hit has been challenging. Prayers for Jet. And in case you need encouragement, just look at that face!

Love you, Buddy.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Baby steps

I'm feeling a little bit better today. And you, the readers of this blog, had something to do with it. In addition to the support of my friends and professionals, this blog, specifically your comments, helped me immensely the last few days. All I can say is thank you.

I appreciate all who took time to reach out after my last 2 posts. Your comments made a difference. You told me your stories. You decreased my hopelessness and isolation. You reminded me depression is a vicious liar! You told me I mattered. I am grateful. I am humbled. Thank you.

I've also taken some concrete steps which I think have helped my mood a bit. A few days ago, with little to no forethought, I emailed a Mayo doctor to inquire about Ketamine. If you've been reading for awhile you know I participated in a clinical trial of Ketamine in the Fall of 2017 which saved my life. It also kept me from another depression relapse for 18 months! It was a miracle.

Unfortunately, you may also recall I had a disastrous experience with poorly managed Ketamine infusions one year ago. Maybe the 2019 disastrous experience explains why I didn't think of Ketamine prior to the moment I composed that email a few days ago. The email was simple. I wrote, "What if anything are you doing with Ketamine now?" That was it. I hit send and awaited a response.

I was still waiting when I wrote my last post. Friday morning the response I got was was positive but vague. The doctor stated Mayo was still offering Ketamine infusions, but appointments were limited and difficult to schedule. She said she was holding an appointment for me, then 11 days away, and would wait to hear back from me. I hung my head in disappointment. She had basically just confirmed I was about to experience exactly what I experienced one year ago.

I hoped I was wrong, however, so I wrote back and asked her what Ketamine infusion protocol they were currently using. You see, the problem last year was the inpatient doctor didn't follow the 2017 clinical trial protocol. Appointments were scheduled one at a time and haphazardly. That didn't work. It led to more hopelessness rather than less, and it was incredibly frustrating and stressful. There was no reason to put myself through that again. I was crestfallen.

Fortunately the disappointment I felt quickly turned into irritation, and that motivated me to take further action. I called my psychiatrist. She agreed to research nearby (the nearest are 85-90 miles away) Ketamine clinics and made some phone calls on my behalf.

I also reached out to the research assistant and lead researcher from the 2017 clinical trial. I wanted to ask them for the exact clinical trial protocol which had saved my life. I needed it if we were going to have to seek treatment at one of the clinics my psychiatrist was researching.

The lead researcher, a psychiatrist who now lives and works at Mayo in another state, called back within an hour. I was so relieved. He's an empathetic, detailed, upstanding doctor who always treated me with compassion and respect. I was happy to talk with him again.

He eagerly provided the clinical protocol after I briefed him about my situation. In addition, unbeknownst to me, he took the extra step of documenting our conversation in my medical record; the same medical record the local Ketamine psychiatrist would be reviewing. I believe that extra step made the difference.

Several hours later, after my psychiatrist and I had taken steps to get my treatment initiated elsewhere, the local Mayo doc sent me a message stating she had seen the research psychiatrist's note in my chart. She then offered me 7 appointments which exactly followed the 2017 clinical trial protocol. I couldn't accept the proposed schedule fast enough. After I agreed to her plan I called my psychiatrist. We are both so grateful. I begin Ketamine infusions at Mayo Clinic, only 2 miles away, on April 14th.

But wait! That's not even the big news...

I walked today. Outside. With Jet. All the way around the block! I haven't walked more than an uncomfortable, painful two blocks since my right hip surgery 10+ weeks ago. I'm not allowed to do anything which increases my pain, and on my previous attempts my pain always increased. Today my pain didn't increase. I wasn't fast. It wasn't pretty. But I walked 0.42 miles. Outside. In the sunshine. With my dog. Hope...

Thursday, April 2, 2020

My dilemma

When I feel very, very low I struggle with what to write here. That's the case today. I have plenty of material. I've been writing up a storm. I'm just not sure much, if any of what I've already written should be put out for a larger audience, especially for those of you who regularly come here (my humble little blog) to visit. I want to be real, but sometimes I fear real may be too much.

I have a dilemma. Right now I think real may be too much. I began this blog to educate people about depression, and being real certainly does that. But I also think readers come here looking for (and hopefully finding) strength, courage, hope and gratitude. If I published some of what I've recently written, I don't think readers would leave here feeling any of those positive things. Likewise, I don't want people leaving feeling worse or worrying about me. So I have a dilemma.

(That being said, I am going to be talking about suicide in this post. Please stop reading now if that triggers or bothers you.)

This illness sucks, and right now it's ripping me to shreds. To shreds... I'm bouncing between barely being able to move and anxiety-fueled purposeless gyrations. I'm sleeping too much and then too little. Barely having the energy or will to move out-paces the anxiety-fueled gyrations by far, but neither reality feels good. Neither option allows me to live my life. I'm hurting, and I'm tired.

In the midst of this current state I've been contemplating life. I've been having long discussions about suicide with my close friends, my doctor and my social worker. I'm so grateful I have 2 friends and 2 professionals who are willing to let me talk despite the subject matter. I know they are scared and concerned, but they've been willing to walk with me rather than fight me. I'm so lucky. And so grateful.

Something happened 4 or 5 days ago. I heard an old hymn for the first time, and it became the fuel for these in depth discussions with my friends, doctor and social worker. The hymn, "It is Well with my Soul," was posted by a friend on Facebook, ironically the same friend who so offended me with her Facebook post just a few weeks ago. This hymn affected me. It spoke to me. It comforted me.

I don't usually listen to or find comfort in contemporary Christian music. Yet despite, or maybe because of the depth of my despair this song continues to comfort me. I can barely stop listening to it. Ironically, however, it's a hymn which brings me to a place of peace and acceptance with suicide. I now know that whatever happens I'll be okay. I am okay.

Please know this is not a suicide note. I'm also not advocating for suicide. If I were a friend of mine or a professional dealing with a client, I'd be doing the same things my friends, doctor and social worker are currently doing. They're concerned but they're listening. They're understanding where I'm at, supporting me, encouraging me, but certainly not giving me permission to end my fight. And I'm not ending it today.

I don't feel well. I'm contemplating suicide. But despite my pain, I'm spiritually okay. Since internalizing this hymn I feel less struggle. I'm still fighting to get past this relapse, pummel depression into submission and get back to living my life. But if I don't, I'm okay. I am well within my soul today.

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 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.



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