Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Don't call me a Consumer!

Consumer. Who's idea was that? When did patient become a four-letter word? And why is it only a four-letter word for me, a person with depression, but not for my neighbor with cancer? Please do not call me a consumer! When I am in line at Starbucks, I am a consumer. Shopping at Wal-mart I am a consumer. But while conversing with my doctor, I am a patient!

Who came up with this idea that we were not patients, not people with an illness, but consumers? Brilliant. While I stand in front of classrooms enlightening the charges that mental illness is no different than cancer, MS, or any other illness, someone somewhere decided that it would be too stigmatizing(?) to call us patients? People? In an effort to make us less different, we just rocketed ourselves into another plane of difference! How can we say we are the same, but please don’t call us the same? We have a biological, treatable illness, but the word patient is pejorative? Cancer patient, woman with MS, guy with heart disease; no problem, it is okay for them. But we are different. We, those of us with depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, have an illness just like they do, but please don’t refer to us in the same way. We are not patients. We are consumers. Huh?

Consumer? Talk about stigmatizing!! I have a biological brain disease! When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown or a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, scoliosis, diabetes, or depression! All are illnesses that may lead to death if we do not allow ourselves to be treated, to be patients.

I am a person with a mental illness. While visiting my psychiatrist, I am her patient. While visiting my psychologist, I am her patient. While getting my blood drawn, having an MRI or getting an EKG, I am a patient. Regardless of my diagnosis, when getting treatment, I am a patient. Why, if the diagnosis is depression, undergoing the same tests and treatment, must I be a consumer?

We can’t have it both ways. If our premise and platform is that we have biological, treatable illnesses, just like everybody else, how can we define “patient” as a stigmatizing word? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t fight for research dollars. We can’t educate the school children. We can’t demand equal insurance coverage. We can’t reduce stigma. We can’t align ourselves with other biological, treatable illnesses if we continue to separate ourselves by denying our status as patients. We can't have it both ways.

Choosing between Ajax and Comet? Consumer.
Choosing between Prozac and Paxil? Patient.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

a birthday of sorts

Today.

Twenty-three years ago
today.

it was the end.
and I was so, so relieved.

I can still feel that
relief.



Today.

Twenty-three years ago
today.

I didn't end.
and yet, I was so relieved.

I can still feel that
relief
too.


Happy
re-birth-day
to
me



...if you consider suicide an option
I get it.
please, call someone.
anyone.
now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

triumph here, frustration there

a long day.

actually thought of posting a picture today of my now 10-day-old clean clothes hanging on the drying racks in my living room. it's become a bit comical. but, my dishes are clean again today.

spent almost all day--during our mega-degree below zero, blizzard conditions--online learning. i would really like this site to be helpful to people. i would like to connect with others who are suffering, struggling, or battling with this illness. i'd like to educate the families, friends, and even professionals we surround ourselves with...or, more accurately, who surround us even when we could care less! i'd like to have a forum where people felt like someone was speaking their language, and at the same time not celebrating helplessness, victimization or negativity.

unfortunately, i spent 8 hours researching how to find "my market," and so far, the results are pretty disappointing. there may not be a market. my disappointment culminated when what appeared to be an organized, reputable, fairly popular depression forum hadn't had a post since 12-31-2007. the chat room was only slightly more active.
and that is the problem with this illness. we have depression!! we have an illness that makes it difficult to trust, share, connect, expend energy, risk, or even feel sometimes! so i found that there is space for what i want to provide, the trouble is, there appears to be few virtual souls to fill that space.

i actually think the souls and the need are there, but connecting people with mental illness is a dilemma. the bigger dilemma, based on my experience with depression, is how to keep people engaged once they're connected. maintaining breathy engagement is contradictory to depression's suffocating immobility. what to do? what to do?

i will keep brainstorming, researching and learning. i want to provide an informative service. if you are reading this, please help me out. any comments, suggestions, thoughts or ideas will be greatly appreciated. thanks.

Monday, January 28, 2008

coming up

I think I am heading up the sides of the slippery slope of my rut. Rather than the slip-n-slide cliffs of a few days back, my rut now is less angled, less wet. The footholds are occasionally slick but sometimes firm. I washed the dishes--a firm foothold. I scarfed down 1/4 pan of brownies topped with a pint of ice cream--"Look out below!" I took Puck for a short run--good footing. I couldn't organize my meds, put away those damn clothes, or finish a work project--oops, I slipped. But, hey, I will take a shallow, damp rut over a steep, soaked cliff any day of the week!
Progress, not perfection.

Progress, not perfection. Wow! I never could or would have been satisfied with that a few years ago. It's not something I could have even wrapped my mind around. Sure, I may have been able to say it. I could certainly teach it. It was okay for you. But me--progress not perfection? NO WAY! Tolerating, even embracing progress, and letting go of perfection is another example of this horrible illness positively impacting and changing my character and my life. Remarkable.

I hate the illness.
But-
I am grateful for the character-building it has forced upon me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Success!

Yippee!
Yesterday, I washed the dishes!
Then, I made it to my morning AA meeting, though I had to struggle out of my house.
After the meeting, I planned to swim, but the girls convinced me to go out for pancakes. I am a sucker for pancakes, especially when I'm in a carbo-loading rut! So, I went for pancakes, but I told them all I HAD to go swimming afterward. Saying it out loud gave me no choice of going home to nap instead.
Once in the pool, I pushed past the windedness and just kept going and going and going. One mile. I did it! I swam one mile again! That made me smile a very satisfied smile.

One of the beauties of my depression is it pisses me off! When I am pissed off, I find pain rewarding, dammit!! I get that competitive fire. Me against the illness, and I don't like to lose! I don't like to lose at all! That anger and fire allows me to push harder, hold on longer, and beat up on my demon depression! And, as I did yesterday, when I get to this anger point, I usually WIN!! HA!!

Okay, so I am still walking around the 8-day-old, clean, dry clothing hanging in my living room, but it's progress! Besides, I'm running out of clean clothes. I see those drying racks coming down any day now!
Have a successful day!

Friday, January 25, 2008

rut.

Why does a rut seem to feed on itself? Thereby making a rut into a big rut, and a bit rut into a huge rut, and a huge rut into the Grand Canyon!!! If there is something wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon, I am afraid I just might discover it within the next couple days! God, I hate this!! Ruts SUCK!
The only thing hungrier than a rut is ME when I am in a rut! And of course, I scarf up crud and crap and chocolate when I am in a rut, which feeds my gut and the rut, which expands the gut and the rut, and...I feel like crap.
I feel like crap when my house is a mess, and my dishes aren't done, and there are bills piled on my kitchen table, and the laundry I did last week is still hanging on the drying racks in my living room (which was supposed to force me to put it away because I wouldn't want to walk around it). The deepening rut led to the compounded mess, and the mess resulted from my inactivity (i.e. rut) these last 4-5 days.
Well, okay, I got into the pool yesterday, but other than that it's been hot fudge and recliner all the way! What's up with that? Why does everything feel so damn hard? I know it will pass. I have been here before. I am much better at waiting these things out than I used to be. I just pray the mess doesn't get too great, the physical shape too misshapen, and the hole too deep before the rut starts to fill itself in.
If only I could turn the rut into a mountain once in awhile...hmmm...that could be fun!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Paralysis

Still rough today. Still wiped out from my ill-fated research yesterday. Hardly able to move. Eating too much. Sleeping too much. Not exercising at all--day #3, and counting. All of which makes me feel worse rather than better!! Yet, I can't seem to do anything different.
I've had this illness so long I no longer know what's "normal." Specifically, is my heavy-heart-hangover, sloth-like immobility, and debilitating despair--which I am sure will turn into at least 30 days of desperation and hopelessness--is this normal? Or is this depression?
Part of me wants it to be depression. It feels so big, so debilitating, so overwhelming it must be abnormal. But another piece of me wants it to be normal, something everyone would experience given the same circumstances. It would be nice to share some experiences with "normal" people once in awhile. It gets frustrating talking with Normies about how I'm doing when I'm talking about depression and they're talking about feelings. (right now, the readers with depression are nodding, "yes!" and the Normies are looking confused and thinking, "huh?")
The bottom line is I am tired
and sad.

My body is tired
and sad.

My brain is tired
and sad.

I am tired
and sad.

I am sad.

I am sad
I am sad
could be depression
could be life

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

sometimes it's best not to know

today is a rough, rough day.
I immersed myself in new information from a past hurt.
I knew I was stepping ever closer to the precipice of despair with each new revelation
but onward, ho!

onward, hole...big, black, sucking hole.
dumb.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dear Mrs. Hoffman

Dear Mrs. Hoffman,

I have been planning to write you for years. I thought of writing you in 1990 when I graduated from college, and again one year later when I received my first master's degree. Then there was the successful mental health career, a poignant reason to contact you. My wedding followed by acceptance into and graduation from another master's program all made me wish to connect. Multiple joys over multiple years each reminded me I needed to reach you. And then, unfortunately, the illness, sadness, and misfortune you were previously familiar with brought back soothing thoughts of you. Finally, the unexpected, sudden death of a cherished friend and mentor highlighted the urgent need to say today what I have planned to say, for none of us is promised tomorrow. Without your having a clue, I have integrated you into over 23 years of my life, Mrs Hoffman. Today, I want to say, thank you.

I want to thank you for saving my life. Every time you listened to my sadness you saved me. Every time you read a piece from my journal you saved me. You saved me with each passing smile in the crowded hallways. You saved me with kind words, hugs, and encouragement. You saved me because you took time to know me, and because you cared.

Teachers often get a bad rap. It seems parents think teachers don't care about their kids, or worse, teachers have an evil agenda to ruin their child's future. In my case, if it hadn't been for you caring about me and my future, I likely would not have had a future. You cared about my day-to-day safety, happiness, and growth more than anyone else in my life at that time. Ironically, I never had the opportunity to sit, officially, as a student in your class. Instead, I sucked up hours of your free periods, hours meant for you to work, as you selflessly gave me more time. You, Mrs. Hoffman, never deserved a bad rap.

Mrs. Hoffman, I cannot convey in a few written words the level of my appreciation and respect for the time you gave me 23 years ago. Thank you. I am so grateful. The little things you did probably feel slight and unimportant to you, especially today. But that is exactly the point of this note. That is exactly the point. Little things to a vulnerable kid--me--those are precisely the things that saved my life. Those little, seemingly unimportant gestures 23 years ago continue to have a positive daily impact on me. That's huge! Too huge for a few written words...

You have traveled my life's path with me, Mrs. Hoffman, and now, in the ultimate gesture of gratitude, I am in the midst of that same opportunity with a 17-year-old, high-school junior. I am honored to be allowed in his life and grateful to have your generous example guiding my interactions with him. Perhaps, if things go well, he will offer his time to a troubled teen in the future. If one minute of our shared time eases his life's journey, I owe it all to you, Mrs. Hoffman. Thank you.

You probably never expected the little time you gave back in the early 1980's would mean so much, but it did, and I want you to take great pride in it. I want you to know you made a difference. I am only one person, but the time and love you shared with me gets shared with every life I touch. So by caring for me when I couldn't care for myself, you have changed many lives, Mrs. Hoffman. You should be proud of that. I will continue to carry your generosity and spirit with me in all that I do. Thank you.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Energy

Energy...what a precious thing. I just responded to a comment by noting I had "given up on showering daily and brushing my teeth twice-a-day a long time ago." That's not a rule, of course. I always shower after working out, and sometimes my teeth do get the two-a-day treatment. My point is, this disease steals so much that I need to constantly decide when, where, and how much of my limited energy supply I am willing to spend. Brushing my teeth and showering dive down the priority list if doing those "simple" tasks means depleting my precious energy supply.
How much do I have in reserve? I would like to run, feed the dog, pay a few bills, and maybe go to a meeting. If I brush my teeth, will I have enough left to accomplish any of those things? If the answer is no, I swish the mouthwash and move on.

I had my best running year in 2002. In 2002, at the age of 34, I ran like the wind! I set personal bests in every distance from one mile to the marathon. I comfortably qualified for Boston. I won 3 gold medals and one bronze at a major international track meet. All of these accomplishments were significant because while I was hitting those all-time athletic highs, my depression was hitting an all-time desperate low! Incredible... But it was all about the energy, I realized years later. I was determined to keep running, and I was willing to part with all of my energy to do it.
I was a runner. I had already lost so much of my identity, I was compelled to hang on to that one piece--runner. So despite pounding fatigue, smothering darkness, loss of appetite and weight, self-medicating with alcohol, at least one suicide attempt, and multiple hospitalizations, I ran. There were hundreds of days when I did nothing else. I couldn't. If I wanted to keep running, I needed all of my energy to do it. I needed to do it to save one sliver of me, the runner.
So, that's what I did. I got out of bed to run, went running, and then returned to bed. Running hurt, too, which was another bonus! Pain was supremely preferable to the vacant emptiness I otherwise experienced. Ironically, my fatigue, weight-loss, singular focus, and pain tolerance combined to produce speed I had never achieved before or since.
And it was all because I didn't brush my teeth.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

goals

So, I had my second hip surgery 15 months ago. As a result, I just reached a goal of swimming one mile without stopping. Took me about 8 weeks to get there. Started at zero. I could swim, but I couldn't swim laps. One or two lengths of the pool and I was sucking air big time!! I hated it! But my hip wasn't strong enough to allow me to run like I wanted, and with the depression weight gain I was motivated to get fit! So, although I couldn't believe it, I swam one mile 3 times within the last 7 days! Meeting a goal feels so good! Having a goal felt good...
It was nice to have a concrete goal with a concrete training plan again. I had tried a concrete training plan last summer with the goal of running a qualifying time at the Twin Cities Marathon. Soon, the combination of an extra 15-20 pounds and my apparently still-too-weak hip derailed that goal. I was slow. Running was hard, really hard. It was so hard, I was sure there was something seriously wrong, like a heart or lung problem. I just couldn't go.
I changed the goal to just finishing the TCM, but by late July I was injured and done. I didn't figure it out at the time, but now I realize my hip weakness caused achilles and patellar tendonitis. Being a runner, I tried at first to run through the pain. Being a PT, I then tried to treat the pain. Being a person with depression, I continually tried not to succumb to anxiety, disappointment, and hopelessness.
Goals are tricky things when you have depression. The evil depression constantly bombards my brain with condemnation. "You are worthless! You are stupid! You are slow! You will never be the person you used to be! This is it. This is how you are going to be the rest of your life! What a hopeless waste, you are!" (insert evil laughter here)
The audacity it takes to strive for a goal you may FAIL to achieve is enormous! Yep, goals are tricky with depression. With my illness constantly corrupting my thoughts, setting goals is often terrifying. If I fail to meet or exceed those goals all of the nastiness screaming in my head is instantaneously reinforced. And once those thoughts are "proven" to be "real," they stop being thoughts and become me. My depression loves when that happens. It gets what it was craving, and it is satiated by my desperation. Depression wins.
So swimming 1 mile when I previously couldn't swim 1 lap...that was a big deal. This time, Etta wins.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

tired

tired today.
just
tired.
hard to be tired.
unfortunately
part of this damn illness.
this is where the runner
the athlete
identity
gets so screwed up.
hard to run
when
tired.

hard to work
too.

but lying around
does
not
feel
better.
lying around
screws with the identity
too.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

To work or Not to work

One of the minor (she states facetiously) issues of having a chronic, unpredictable, life-threatening illness is work. Work is an issue. Not only because I was fired while participating in treatment for my depression, but because there is never a clear indication of when to go back, when to increase hours, when to decrease hours, when to take a break...you get the idea. Work is an issue.
Finances, benefits and survival while ill are also issues. For me there was initially the issue of survival once my company-sponsored disability eligibility expired. Then there was the overwhelming Social Security Disability paperwork. What a nightmare! If I didn't have severe depression before completing their questionnaires, witness statements, doctors' opinions, etc... I sure as hell felt like crap afterward!
As a professional familiar with scholarship applications and resumes, it was devastating to eloquently define myself in such unseemly terms! The goal, ultimately, was to make sure everyone agreed I was a listless, non-functioning, hopeless mess (which, thankfully[?] I was). If I had claimed any sense of pride or accomplishment, my benefits may not have been approved.
It's even worse during periodic SSDI reviews, prior to which I sometimes had some progress to brag about. SSDI is a tightrope of working to regain and improve function juxtapositioned with focusing on my defects and non-function when the reviewers come calling. It's odd, stressful, and necessary.
I understand the necessity of the questions, progress reports and reviews. I am extremely grateful for the assistance I receive. Without it, I would be hospitalized, or homeless, or dead. I survive partly because I qualify for benefits. And I can hardly wait until I no longer qualify...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Speaking Out!

Yesterday I wrote about the stigma and derogatory labels attached to people with mental illness. As a speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, I attempt to dispel that stigma. The extensive list of labels, put-downs, and untruths I included in yesterday's post comes straight out of the mouths of my audiences. We ask for those labels as part of a stigma-busting exercise. The junior-high kids, especially, love yelling them out. But audience members of all ages recognize, use and understand them. Similarly, each audience shifts uncomfortably when asked to vocalize derogatory terms for people with other illnesses like liver disease, cancer, or diabetes. Someone in the younger crowd usually yells something like, "You can't call those people names. That's not nice." I love it.
I decided to "come out" as a person with mental illness shortly after being fired (see "It all started when..."). During the long process of attempting to reclaim my job, suing, arbitration, and settlement, I developed an awareness of unfairness. I realized if this could happen to me, an educated healthcare professional working at a hospital, it was likely happening to many others in every walk of life! I was lucky. I had my education and was 5 years into my second career when my illness struck. Many of us with this brain disease are struck in our developmental prime, late high school or early college years. If I could be fired from a professional healthcare position, what was happening to my compatriots who were still working their way up? And, even more scary, what could they do about it? Did they know they could do anything about it? Or did the loss of their educational and/or financial foundation just pile on to the loss of their emotional foundation, effectively pushing them yet further down. Throw into the mix the family's confusion and perhaps shame...on and on and on. I had to "come out".
I was lucky. I was an educated mental health professional. I knew a bit about the law. I knew there were resources to find any information I didn't know. I was motivated by unfairness. And though my spouse jumped ship, I had a big mouth and was able to find community support. I had paid into a disability plan while working, and initially those benefits paid my bills. I could focus on getting treatment, getting well, and fighting the discrimination. I was fortunate.
Don't get me wrong. It absolutely SUCKED! I would prefer never to have gone through it. And while I won my suit, the amount was not great. It didn't take long for that amount to disappear. Healthcare costs are astronomical when you don't have health insurance! But, I won. They were wrong. I didn't roll over and go away. Instead, I was motivated to share my experience, educate, support and fight for others. And I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do this.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Loony Tunes"

Loony Tunes, and he didn't mean the cartoon...
Those words were uttered by someone I know meant no harm during an AA meeting this morning. So why have those words bugged me for the rest of the day? I'll tell you why.
Think of any other biological, treatable, medical illness that carries more stigma than mental illness. Today, we are much more likely to know when a friend or co-worker is hospitalized for alcoholism or drug abuse than if they were hospitalized for mental illness. Even among alcoholics, mental illness is seen as "less than". For some reason, alcoholics can fully embrace defining alcoholism as an illness. But depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia; those are character defects. I could point out that if I never lifted a drink to my lips, I never would have become an alcoholic. With or without drinking, I would still have mental illness.
My mental illness developed without any action on my part. It developed because it is a biological, treatable, brain disease!! In fact, you would think my healthy lifestyle prior to the onset of my illness should have protected me! I shouldn't have gotten depression! But that's like saying someone shouldn't get cancer. They are both non-discriminatory illnesses.
At least with alcoholism, I can point to an external cause...drinking! No drink= No alcoholism! But depression? No cause other than screwed-up brain chemistry.
Why is it okay to use derogatory terms to speak about people with mental illness? Why, even among alcoholics, do those of us with mental illness feel the need to whisper when speaking of it? Why, whenever I mention my mental illness in a meeting, do several other alcoholics "confide" in me about their own closeted mental illness struggles?
We can yell loud and proud about our drinking problems. But our mental illness still crushes us with shame and for good reason. If we dare be open about it, we may be reprimanded, as I was after one meeting. I was scolded for discussing my struggle with fatigue and the resultant difficulty connecting with others, which ultimately put me at higher risk for relapse. Can you imagine that woman scolding me if my fatigue had been caused by a brain tumor rather than by my brain chemistry??? NEVER! Never in a million years!

Crazy. Nuts. Psycho. Stupid. Lazy. Weird. Weirdo. Loony. Loony tunes. Bonkers. Warped. Not playing with a full deck. Fried. Gay. Retarded. Idiot. Schizo. Schizoid. Mental. Sick. Sicko. Wacked. Wack-job. Psychotic. Loco. Maniac. Mad. Insane. Fruit. Fruitcake. Bent. Off. Off his rocker. Braindead. Loopy. Looped. Slow.

Think about it. How many derogatory labels are used daily to describe people with cancer? Or diabetes? Or heart disease? Can you come up with two? One? Think about it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Parking Wars

While working at my computer late last night, A&E's new show, Parking Wars, began on my tv in the other room. I don't usually like to watch or especially listen to shows where a lot of people are yelling, but I was engrossed and too lazy to go shut it off. Wow! What a nightmare!
The show highlighted a major problem in this country. No, not people parking wherever they want. Rather, people parking wherever they want, and then complaining when they get caught!! People break the law, or don't follow the rules, or expect the rules to be enforced for everyone but themselves. And when they are discovered, or confronted, or caught, it's somebody else's fault! I used to have this attitude, too. Thank God I got depression!
Shows like this remind me this illness has changed me in many positive ways. And as much as I can't believe it sometimes, I am actually grateful to have this illness. Of course, it is hard to remember that gratitude when depression is stealing my soul, but this life-threatening, cruel brain disease has helped reform the way I interact with this world.
I don't have to yell at the parking attendant any more because I don't park where I don't belong! If I choose to risk parking illegally, I am also choosing to accept the consequences.
Instead, and what Parking Wars clearly revealed, is the victimization so common in society today. We are force-fed this victimization every single day by our media, political leaders, churches, parents and friends. How sad...

*A bridge mysteriously collapses killing and injuring hundreds of people, and within minutes the national media suggest someone must be to blame! Negligence!
*Residents brazenly ignore public evacuation orders prior to an impending storm or natural disaster and then blame the government for their trauma. Negligence!
*Volunteers spend hundreds of hours providing services to needy people; mowing a lawn, transporting to an appointment, or painting a room, yet recipients complain the grass is too short, the transportation late, and the room the wrong color!
*Students skip class, don't pay attention, or don't bother with homework, and parents berate the teacher when that student gets an "F".

In Parking Wars, the odds were approximately 10 to 1 in favor of the violator blaming the parking patrol. The show culminated with a particularly aggregious violator complaining about how poorly she was treated by an employee. This was after the woman spent hours debating with and demanding that the employee release her car despite her multiple violations and against department policy. How much simpler would her day have gone if:
a. She hadn't parked illegally to begin with.
b. She had paid the respective fines after previously parking illegally multiple times.
c. She had kept proof of insurance, as required, in her car (or at least in her wallet, for crying out loud!!)
d. She had re-registered her car, as required, when she received the notice 4 months ago!!

But it wasn't her fault.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It all started when...

Late November, 2000, I noticed I wasn't feeling quite "right." Nothing new or special, traumatic or dramatic going on in my life. I was 33 years old, married, 3 years into my new career, had 2 cars in the garage and 2 dogs in the house. Living in our first home, both working full-time, we were fine financially, spiritually, physically.
I had depression as a teenager, and I recognized this new feeling as a familiar, old feeling. I sought help, therapy and psychiatric intervention, but by March, 2001, I was in the hospital. Unable to function at work or home, and unable to feel the joy that I cognitively recognized around me, I was hopeless.
I couldn't cry.
I couldn't laugh.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't cope.
I started some new meds and improved. I went back to work. I went back to the hospital, again, a few months later. I chose ECT treatments that summer, desperate to get back to me. Rebounding in the fall of 2001, my spouse announced, "I'm leaving." I guess I wasn't the same person anymore, but I will never really know...nothing more was said of the reasoning, just, "I'm leaving." Three months of painful, confusing, distant cohabitation later, the empty house was mine alone. Well, mine with my boy, Puck (black lab), still my faithful companion today.
It was December. In less than one year, this illness had totally turned my life inside-out and upside-down. Dreams of owning a small farm together, growing old together, sharing more and more joy together; they all died as I stepped into my empty living room that day, December 17, 2001.
It was a sentinel moment caused by depression.
Over the next several months, I returned to work, and then to the hospital, and then work, and then the hospital. In the spring of 2002, I made a decision to enter an 8-week inpatient program where I could receive the care I couldn't seem to provide for myself. Things like cooking, showering, and socializing had become overwhelming and foreign. I also entered this program to learn some new skills. I needed new coping skills to deal with myself, this illness, and others. And I got them! It was my first exposure to DBT.
sidenote: I was formerly a mental health practitioner (first career). I knew all about DBT and the corresponding stigmatizing diagnosis it was created to treat, Borderline Personality Disorder. During my mental health career, I used that same garbage-can diagnosis on patients who just "wouldn't get better," or who spoke-up a little too much, or who disagreed with their treatment plan too often. Now here I was, carrying this same diagnosis and pissed as hell about it! But it got me into this program, and I knew if I went back home alone, at that time, my depression would have killed me. In retrospect, I did have BPD traits, and learning DBT has improved the quality of my life immensely. The skills I learned are now an ingrained piece of my personality. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn them. Unfortunately, even with these shiny new skills, the black cloud of depression continued to blind my path.
It was while learning these new skills, in my fourth week of hospitalization, that I was fired. My job? I was a physical therapist in a hospital. I was terminated via letter, which arrived one week after my official last day of employment! It was the cruelest of all events, and it never would have happened if I had been in the hospital for breast cancer, or heart disease, or maybe even alcoholism! I immediately phoned my psychiatrist (a member of the hospital, my employer's, board of governers), and I learned that she knew nothing of this action. I spoke with my medical director who was also shocked and had not been consulted. In an apparent unilateral action, a member of the hospital's HR department had decided I was done. Long story short, I made multiple attempts to get my job back. Other professionals made attempts on my behalf. I complied with everything the HR rep requested I do in order to return to work, but it soon became clear that no matter how many hoops I lept through, she would find another one to place in front of me. It was grueling, exhausting, and demoralizing. I sued. I won. But I miss my department, my patients, my job.
While this scenario was playing itself out, the hospital apparently had another employee, with breast cancer, who was in the middle of a 2-year medical leave. Based on my experience, I firmly believe if I had any illness, other than mental illness, I would still be working at this hospital today.
to be continued...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Running

Depression sucks because it makes me fat.
Just back from a run with Puck, my svelte black lab, and feeling the weight of me.
Yes, I look fine, and I don't have an eating disorder or body image disorder, but I am 20, that's TWENTY pounds over my best racing weight.
Thought it was the birth-control pill started in October, 2006.
By May, 2007; 20 extra pounds, and losses to all the locals I used to beat when racing!
Turns out, my psychiatrist and I just realized I also started a new anti-depressant in October, 2006. (I'm not going to say which anti-depressant because I don't want a bunch of people to throw away their meds.)
So now what?
This med has made a HUGE difference. I have been very stable and functional since starting it.

But, I am also a runner.
And a runner can't compete with 20 extra pounds.
Part of my identity is missing...
Now what?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I have depression

I have depression.

Seven years.
Life interrupted.

Intelligent, witty, athletic.
witless
Master degrees #1 and #2.
useless
Career of helping others
helpless
'Till death do us part
spouse-less
House, two cars, dog
yard-less

Joy
joyless

Humor
humorless

Hope
hopeless

I am not depressed
I have depression.

I have depression.



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