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!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quiet.

I've been quiet for a few days. I don't mind being quiet, but now that I've got this blog, quiet stresses me out. If I don't write, people don't visit. If people don't visit, I don't get comments. If I don't get comments, I miss out on cool interactions! I try to write every day, and I feel a certain obligation to keep that up, but my brain has gone blank and my energy bust. Frustrating.
I guess this has been one of those weeks, and especially weekend, where I've had to be quite stingy with and protective of my energy. I may have set a new record for napping over the last 3-4 days! It seems everything I planned to do required a preemptive nap. And I mean everything I did! I think I napped 3 or 4 times yesterday! I'm used to taking naps before running, but not EVERY run! And this morning, within 90 minutes of getting out of bed, I required a 15 minute nap just to motivate out to a meeting, which was only 2 blocks from my home! That was a bit pathetic. But, I know if I hadn't laid down and closed my eyes, I would have missed that meeting.
And I felt it was critical to get to that meeting, for if I had not gotten out of my house early, I may not have made it out at all. That has been my experience. Instead of feeling more refreshed because I'd allowed myself more rest, I'd have felt more sloth-like if I had skipped the meeting! Missing a scheduled appointment compounds rather than relieves the energy shortfall. This is the joy of this illness! I am constantly forced to figure these complexities out! Logic is useless.
In fact, attempting to describe this almost feels useless. On the one hand, I'm telling you I required a record number of naps just to function. Yet, if you looked at what I accomplished this weekend, you'd shake your head in confusion. I'm not feeling fatigued necessarily, but I don't have any energy. If I am able to nap, I get a lot done--except my dishes and laundry, which are always on the bottom of the list! Over the past few days, I ran my miles and swam my laps, but I didn't have the energy to sit and write. I don't really get it. Do you? I've been through this with my artwork, too. I do my best painting when I feel like crap, but if I feel too crappy I don't have enough energy to paint. Weird.
The bottom line today: I'm sober. I'm very grateful. I am fortunate to have had the time and space to nap which allowed me enough energy to run, swim, get to some meetings, and socialize this weekend. My brain? Hopefully it will resume active residence in the very near future.
Now, where did I leave my pillow?

Friday, April 25, 2008

You can't make this stuff up!

Hey Garrison-
It was a surreal day here in Lake Wobegon. My mood's been a bit low since the whole intrusive thinking episode a couple days ago. Barely made it out for a run yesterday, and when I finally did, it was a shortened version of the planned whole. Today, not much different. Eight long miles looming over my head. Looming. Even blogging has become a struggle. What do I have to say today that I haven't already said? Or that somebody else hasn't already said? Blankly clicking through my blog, I solemnly contemplate this conundrum.
And then I get a comment that I think is spam, but it isn't, and they like my writing, and want to hire me to do more of it, which, of course, was the original goal and a lifelong dream, to be a professional writer, that is, and to educate others about mental illness, and now on a day when I feel low, the dream comes true? And just so you know, that sentence was meant to be a run-on sentence like that, in case any agents, editors, or people with money who want to pay me to write are reading this right now and thinking, "Boy, I don't think she can write too well after all."
So all that happiness and excitement plum wore me out, as usual, and I had to take a nap. I awoke and jumped into my running clothes before I could think twice. I only had about 40 minutes, and since I am far from a 5-minute miler, the entire 8 mile run was out of the question. I ran 4 miles too fast. I finished those 4 miles around 3:05PM wearing only shorts and a sports bra, sweating profusely, and in desperate need of a quick, cool shower. Why am I telling you this, Keillor? Because this is the part you just can't make up! Two hours later--TWO HOURS--I started my remaining 4-mile segment wearing tights, jacket, and a hat, and was painfully sorry I hadn't worn gloves, too! By the time I got home, my hands were fire engine red and needed to be thawed! Only in Wobegon, Minnesota, Garrison; where right now it just happens to be snowing...
I guess Mother Nature is a bit discombobulated today, too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A little RANT

Had myself a little rant this morning over in the comment section of one of Marissa's recent posts. I couldn't help myself. It was a concise, informative post that just happened to hit most of my big buttons--stigma, lack of education about mental illness, myths and stereotypes, violence and the media, and supposedly educated people making harmful public statements. Yup, that pretty much covers it. By the time I was finished commenting, I realized I had basically written another post. So, here is my comment. Check out Marissa's blog for more details and the links to her source information. Thanks, Marissa, for getting my blood flowing this morning!

The fact that the student knew he had mental illness but didn't appear to be getting any treatment only highlights the stigma surrounding mental illness. One of the primary reasons people do NOT seek mental health care is stigma. Perhaps
if mom and dad knew that people with mental illness can "look okay" but still need help (and I am NOT blaming the parents, only the lack of education we provide our citizens about the realities of these illnesses), but perhaps if they understood that the illness is not better just because their son looked better, he would have been actively getting treatment.
Regarding the violence comment: well, I can't say what I'd like to say...but what an idiot! Comments like these, by a doctor(??), only further the stigma to which I just referred. And his clarifying comment did nothing to diminish the stigmatizing impact of his initial statement. The REALITIES are-- the overwhelming MAJORITY of people with mental illness are NOT violent, except toward themselves if at all, AND that perhaps 99% of all violent acts are committed by people WITHOUT MENTAL ILLNESS! We only hear about the sensationalized cases.
The other reality is that substance use and abuse does play a HUGE role in violent crime, and while it may technically be a mental illness, it should not be lumped with the other brain diseases for these discussions. For example, if I commit a violent crime because I got drunk and stupid; it is BECAUSE I got drunk and stupid, NOT because of my depression, that led me to commit the crime.

...and there ends my rant on that subject.
Thanks for the post.
Posted by: etta
April 24, 2008 at 12:03 PM

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

intrusive thoughts

sometimes, usually when things aren't going great, I have horrid, scary, intrusive thoughts.
today. I had horrid, scary, intrusive thoughts. and I've been doing okay--I thought.
driving 200 miles north of my home.
horrid, scary, intrusive thoughts. suicidal. happening in front of my eyes, but not...
driving my car into an oncoming semi.
seeing my body...
seeing Puck bounced around. the aftermath. the whole scene.
and then I am back.
73 miles per hour, radio on, Puck sleeping behind me, moving north.
not bloody. not dead. Puck safe.
and then again--
car rolling. crushed. noisy. sharp. bloody.
seeing it. feeling it. hearing it.
so, so, so real. and then I'm back.
and then again.
dial my psychiatrist. busy. turn the radio up.
and then again. back.
focus!
and then again. back.
and then again. back.
what the hell is going on? stop it! stop it!
scared the next one won't stop with the thought.
dial my psychiatrist. busy again.
they call these intrusive thoughts. at least I am aware of that.
but why?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Week Six Round-Up

Despite some mood dives this week, a really good week of running! Here is the summary for week six of the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon Training Program.

Week Six: April 14 - 20, 2008
Ran: 6 days
Miles: 37.9!
Long Run: 9.2 miles
Speedwork: 4 miles at tempo pace
Hills: 10 x 25 seconds each (supposed to do 6 x 90 seconds, but my hill was short!)
Found Money: $0.27

I ended last week's post with the thought that I needed to up my mileage. I certainly accomplished that goal! My legs really felt it during yesterday's 9-miler, too! The next off day isn't scheduled until Friday, but that would be 9 consecutive running days for me. Unheard of! Based on the fatigued legs I felt yesterday, I think today may be a good day to hit the pool.
Happy running!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Boston, Boston, Boston--Marathon, that is.

As I was attempting to cruise through my 5 mile tempo run last night, I had only thoughts of Boston in my head. Boston. A wonderful city in which I lived and ran. The city, really, where my running "career" began once my years as a team sport athlete ended after college. This morning, I watched online as 150+ of the fastest women in the United States ran 4 loops of the same roads and trails on which I used to daily hoof, as they attempted to qualify for the Olympics in Beijing. Ironic, as I look at the map of their course--the same exact paths along the Charles River, through Back Bay, and around The Commons. I wish I were there to share the energy of the day.
But it was the Boston Marathon, taking place tomorrow, which was especially on my mind last night. I will be cheering from afar as 10-15 friends, local runners, toe the historic Hopkington starting line with 20,000 others around 10AM tomorrow; Patriots Day. It is a Massachusetts holiday filled with reenactments of Paul Revere's ride and the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, but it is better known to us runners as Boston Marathon Day. During my years as a local, I wanted to participate in the historical events of the day, but watching the marathon always won out. Several times, I even ran sections of the course, as I helped pace friends in their efforts to re-qualify for the next year's race. Once I even accidentally crossed the finish line--a BIG no-no for an unregistered runner in Boston! I was lucky to get away without being shot! What fun!
Now I live far away again, and I realize I may have taken all of those opportunities for granted. I have never towed the line in Hopkington myself. And therein lies my sadness today. I planned (hoped) to be in Boston this weekend both to spectate and run. Over the past year, I was vocal in my encouragement of others within our community. "Let's make it a party in Boston," I said! "We'll all qualify and go together! It will be great!" Obviously, the rest of the story is by now quite clear. Of the many who did qualify and decided to go, I was not among them. Ironic, huh?
I am sad that I will not be there to celebrate with all of them, and experience a first Boston with so many of them. You see, Boston is the ultimate goal for those of us competitive-runner-types who will never have a shot-in-hell of qualifying for the Olympics. Why? Because of that one little word--QUALIFY. You must run a qualifying time to run Boston. They don't let any ol' shmo on their course! For us mere mortals, running Boston is often the ultimate, life-long goal. Boston is special.
Boston Marathon weekend has been tough for me since 2003, the first year I had the opportunity to officially run Boston and didn't. I qualified at the Twin Cities Marathon in September, 2002. But by Spring 2003, running was fighting a losing battle with my depression. No worries, I thought, I'll just run it next year. While my qualification was still valid for 2004, my body was even less inclined to travel 26.2 miles on foot. I have not run a qualifying marathon time since. I haven't run close to a qualifying marathon time since. So Boston Marathon weekend continues to be bittersweet.
As I remember it today, it was depression that kept me from training, and therefore kept me from meeting that life-long goal. But I wonder. Depression was ever present and grueling, yes. But, was I also taking for granted that I would be able to qualify again? If I had known then how significantly my running ability, motivation, and desire would drop off after 2003, would I have pushed myself just a bit harder? Would I have gone and run anyway, despite not being in "perfect" shape? I think I might have, but then hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?
Fortunately, hindsight and disappointment found a willing student in me. From them, I learned the concept of living in the moment. Given the same opportunity today, I might delegate my energy resources differently or make different decisions. Today, I know I need to strangle the moment I am in, for I will not have that moment again. Missing Boston, twice, likely hammered that lesson home. So today I will live in today, and I encourage you to do the same. Don't take your Boston for granted.
Live now. Grab now. Do it now. Tomorrow, especially when living with a chronic, debilitating illness, is never guaranteed.

US Women's Olympic Marathon Team Crowned


A great day in Boston for women's running! And a great big thank you to Joan Benoit Samuelson who ran her last marathon today in spectacular fashion. The pioneer of women's marathoning won the first Olympic Marathon Trials, the first Women's Olympic Marathon, and today in her last appearance, at the age of 50, set a new American marathon record for her age. Thank you Joanie for all you have given back to the sport.
Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell will now represent us in Beijing. Read more here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inspire and Amaze

Perhaps you've seen this already. I hadn't. Prepare yourself for a jaw-dropping few minutes. That's all I've got...

Tag--you're it!

So I got tagged by crackedheadblog today. I actually got this awhile back with specific questions, and since questions are easier on my brain, I am going to go with them--instead of the random thoughts crackedheadblog so nicely used.

The rules are:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1) What was I doing 10 yrs ago?
I was in the first full year of my new career as a physical therapist, and my spouse and I were just beginning the bid process on what became our first home.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
1. Laundry
2. Run 5 miles at tempo pace
3. Wash the dishes
4. Get a haircut
5. Go to an AA meeting

3) Snacks I enjoy:
Popcorn--the old-fashioned way, popped on the stove in a pot. Cold cereal. Chocolate pudding.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Purchase a home on the north shore of Lake Superior and on the ocean. Travel the world. Volunteer in Africa. Build a public running track in my town. Develop a foundation to financially assist the mentally ill and the working poor. Practice random acts of kindness with people down on their luck.

5) Three of my bad habits:
1. Chew my fingernails--occasionally! It's getting better!
2. Eating too much chocolate.

3. Procrastinating--especially if fearful.

6) 5 places I have lived:
1. Cambridge, MA
2. Duluth, MN
3. Winter, WI
4. Meadowlands, MN
5. Belmont, MA

7) 5 jobs I have had:
1. Dishwasher in local restaurant
2. Housekeeper at ski resort
3. Video store clerk
4. Mental health program coordinator
5. Orthopedic physical therapist


8) 5 peeps I wanna know more about:
1. depression introspection
2. letting go
3. untreatable
4. bpd in okc
5. beartwinsmom

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Uh-oh...going down?

I love rollercoasters. Love them...but not when they snatch me up so quickly, before I know it I am hurling down a spiral track into a heavy, swirling morass. Here I am trying to scream. Snatched up. Twisting down. Lightning quick. No warning. No inkling of what lies ahead. Will I keep spiraling down? Will there be a bottom? Or will this be a mere divot, as I am swiftly turned, again, and head back up?

Recovering...

Yesterday, Puck and I ran in one of our favorite MN State Parks. It is beautiful! Didn't encounter another soul during our seven mile run through the tall trees, under the bright sun, on the often muddy trails. The park is a sentimental favorite for too many reasons to get into. There are a lot of memories there--good memories that made me a bit sad to remember, but in a good, okay way--if that makes any sense! I love running the rolling hills there. The deciduous trees are so tall it allows me to let Puck run free and still keep him in sight. I love watching him bound around. He is at his happiest out there. The trip to the park was my reward for the difficult trip to my family member's home. By the end of my run, I was tired, and muddy, and filled with fresh air. I'm so glad I went. It was a good decision, to go, and it reminds me I need to go there more often.
Today, I spoke for a small college class about my journey with depression. I enjoy speaking. I have a basic routine, but I never do the same presentation twice. I felt a little off today, but the feedback was quite good. There are so many things to focus on with this illness, it's hard to narrow it into one cohesive story sometimes. I like to hammer on the stigma, the difference between depression and feeling depressed, and the fact that I have a biological, treatable brain disorder. Today, I also chatted about loss, isolation, relationships, "consumers"(ugh!), medication, ECT, finances, and I'm sure a few other topics. I do love the opportunity to educate.
I also ran 8 miles today! Yippee! That was cool. Ran 7, with hills, yesterday and 8 today, I'm pretty happy with that. So a decent day. Always more to do, but I am trying to stay in the moment and be okay with what I've already done. Hope all of you may do the same!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I hate hurting

Recovered slightly today from yesterday's frustration and disappointment. My brain is still skipping around but less so. Feeling a bit less unsettled. That's pretty good considering I had to start my day by driving to a family member's home--a family member who, when we last spoke (via e-mail), wrote some incredibly derogatory, arrogant, sarcastic, cutting, MEAN, and most of all, hurtful things. It was a tirade so out of the blue, unfair, and out of proportion to the issue at hand that I was absolutely dumbfounded. Rather than continue down that road with him (thank you Deb and DBT), I responded by apologizing for my part in the disagreement. That was 6 months ago. I haven't heard from him since.

I expect he would be perfectly okay with never contacting me again. I certainly do not expect an apology. We weren't taught to apologize in my family. I don't think I have ever heard my father apologize, and my mother is only slightly better, although that would come as a shock to her. We all have an obsessive need to be right--all the time--and to know a lot (or so we think) about everything. If it weren't for lots of therapy, DBT, and AA, I'd still be running around justifying all of the stupid things I'd done or said, and I'd butt in on every conversation because without my expert knowledge and opinion the world may come to an end! HA! I'm sure my family member was stunned to receive nothing more than an apology from me. I'm sure it wasn't what he expected, and apparently he didn't know what to do with it. I expected he wouldn't.

I apologized because I was truly sorry, not because I expected an apology in return. I didn't. It's ironic. For seven years, I'd utilized hospitals, therapy, and educational groups in an effort to relieve the symptoms of this debilitating illness. Along the way, I learned many valuable lessons, life skills, and coping tools. I learned how to be a responsible, communicative, respectful, and humble adult. I grew. I learned to ask for what I needed, LISTEN to others, and apologize when I was wrong. I grew a lot! I learned to be direct. I learned to be honest. I learned to be nonjudgmental. I grew up.

I'm not perfect. I said some things to tick him off. Again, that's why I apologized. But I am having a very difficult time getting past the hurt. On one level, I am sad for him because he has no idea that there is another way to live--an easier way, in my experience. On another level, I am sad for me, and I miss what little relationship we had. And you're thinking, "Call him! Be the bigger person!" Am I right? That's a nice thought. However, the swords he pulled were old, yanked from his own unhealed wounds, and viciously misplaced when he aimed them at me. The lashing meted out was likewise quicksilver sharp, cutting, and still stinging today. Perhaps I am not all grown up yet, because I can't pretend the bloody scars aren't still visible within. That's probably what he would want, pretend...but such a beating I can't just forget. Progress, not perfection...I guess there is still work and healing left for me yet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I hate days like this.

What a weird day.
What a strange day.
I hate days like this.
Yet, what am I complaining about?
Nothing happened, really.
That's what I am complaining about.
Maybe.
So tired I could barely stand up.
That's how it started.
Back to bed after brief morning errand.
So tired I could barely stand up.
One hour later.
Then she didn't show up.
Got up to see the sponsee.
But she didn't show up.
Irritated. Still tired.
Tired and irritated.
Cleaned the table off.
That was good, but it felt like wasting time.
Gotta run--5 miles.
Always in the back of my mind.
Tried to work on the computer.
More wasted time.
Should be out running.
Tired. Back to bed instead.
Up to mentor teenager.
School. Piano lessons. Teaching him to drive.
Parallel parking ad nauseam.
But at least he's finally getting it.
Rush from there home.
Feed Puck.
Off to my meeting.
All dressed in running gear.
Supposed to encourage me to run before coming home.
Didn't work.
Wasted more time after meeting.
Tired. Drove home.
Hungry, but check e-mail and get stuck in junk mail offer.
An hour and a half later cussing at myself.
I knew it was too good to be true!
Idiot!
Should have called Pete about business.
Should have called Don about business.
Need to call Linda about business.
Need to clean the floors.
Laundry could have been done.
Still dressed in running clothes.
Loathing myself for not going.
Feeling fat. Gross.
Stomach hurts. I never did eat.
Headache.
Feeling overwhelmed, useless, bored and lazy.
All at the same time.
Mind is unsettled, skipping beats.
Want to yell.
No, cry.
No, punch and hit.
No, sleep.
Head hurts. Who knows what I want to do?
Action thoughts.
Useless busyness.
All day just like that.
Nothing accomplished. More to do.
No wonder my head hurts.
And now it's time to go back to bed.
What a strange day.
What a weird day.
I hate days like this.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Week Five Round-Up

A very exhilarating, frustrating, and exhilarating week. Here is the recap of my 5th week of preparation for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

Week Five: April 7 - 13, 2008
Ran: 5 days
Miles: 27.2
Long Run: 7.4 miles
Speedwork: 5 miles between tempo pace and 5K race pace! Awesome!
Hills: 6 x 80 seconds (approximately 0.20 miles each). That was a tough day!
Found Money: $0.69

A pretty good week considering I was battling a decline in my mood, my energy level, and the elements! In fact, two of my runs were done on the treadmill, and I typically run in just about any kind of weather! I hate the treadmill, but it was just tooooo nasty outside most of the week. I really have to start increasing my mileage from here on out. That will be this week's goal.
Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

just another week in lake wobegon

Motorcycles were popping out of garages like popcorn out of sizzling pots. That's what happens around here the first time the temp hits about 50. I ran 6 miles, in shorts and a t-shirt, and had enough energy to swim 1/2 mile on the same day! I still had energy for 5 miles the following afternoon despite the arrival of my menstrual cycle and a gray, nasty, icy storm. That's what happens here at least once every April, a reminder that we live in Minnesota and motorcycles are no match for Mother Nature. It was the next day that I first missed a scheduled run, and the day after that when I was confined to bed after the migraine ice pick found its way into my head. The snow, sleet, ice and cold did not help the following day's fatigue, as my mood also took a dive toward the cellar. The dishes in my sink began to interfere with getting a drink, as there was no longer room to fill my glass. The table I had so diligently cleared just last week began again to disappear under unopened mail. Things were stacking up, as my energy tumbled down. Saturday's scheduled challenging run weighed heavily, even as I stepped out the door. But after a crappy couple miles, something clicked. Like a magic fairy waving her wand, I ran--fast! Five quick miles, freshly fattened lungs, and one dilated heart later, and my world had changed again. I couldn't believe I had accomplished such a run despite lurking depression, fatigue, and especially after such an inauspicious start. Today, the weather brought another change, as the sun finally reappeared and brightened the land. And so the week ended as it began, with warmth, sun, and motorcycles, and energy enough for a relaxing run.
Now, about those dishes...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

of mood, running, and that time of the month

The last dip was quite awhile ago, maybe even more than one month ago by now. Ahhh...yes, that's right. I believe it was two months ago, exactly two months ago. How do I know? Because the last dip descended for the same reason this dip has dropped in. (Guys, cover your ears!) It's my period! How could I forget? Miss Progesterone Hormone is back in town! Now it all makes sense. That damn Progesterone!
Let's recap the havoc she and the rest of her relations have so far wrought. After two months of bliss, realizing that bliss for me--a person with chronic depression--is of course a very relative term, I have suffered one severe, bed-confining, 20-hour migraine, a precipitous drop in my mood, 3 routine slow runs in what felt like concrete shoes, and two missed runs due to fatigue and energy loss. Tough week, but I've made it despite the Hormone Clan's unwelcome return.
It all makes sense. The fatigue, mood dive, lack of energy, headache, heaviness, irritability, and frustration always coincide with Progesterone's visit. It was nice of her to mellow-out on her last visit, but it seems the Hormone Clan is back to their old loud, raucous, thieving routine. If I can't keep her and the rest of that family from returning every month, I'm going to have to get Lo-Jack protection for my serotonin.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lunatic Asylum--offensive?

This is a tough one. Today, I read a NAMI Stigmabuster Alert about the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, Virginia.

Last summer, Joe Jordan, an asbestos demolition contractor, bought the Weston Hospital in West Virginia, which is registered as a national historic landmark.
He has renamed it the "Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum," which was its name in another era. Constructed in 1864 as a psychiatric hospital, it housed more than 2,000 patients at its peak. It was closed in 1994.
The Associated Press (AP) has reported that Jordan is trying to revive the property by offering tours and other "attractions." The planned attractions include a "Hospital of Horrors" at Halloween season, a "Nightmare Before Christmas" tour, as well as "Psycho Path" dirt bike races on the 307 acre complex.
StigmaBusters are outraged that the stigmatizing name has been resurrected and that the hospital, where many people once suffered, will be used as the setting for entertainment, featuring violent stereotypes and disparaging language.

Like many of you may be right now, I was initially outraged! However, after spending the last hour looking over the old hospital's website, my outrage has mellowed from a boil to a simmer. The situation is a bit more complex than it initially appears.

This building is quite historic and apparently was a centerpiece of the community for most of its 130 years. I am a big fan of historic buildings, and this one looks beautiful! It is a gigantic, stone hospital. Like so many others around the nation, it was closed in the 1990's and has since fallen into disrepair due to the huge expense required to maintain it. It was on the demolition block when it was purchased at auction by Mr. Jordan.
The website appears to positively focus on the history of the hospital, it's architecture, and it's economic impact on the local community over its 130-year lifespan. Some of the tour guests have commented on the site that the tour was done respectfully and actually highlighted the suffering of the mentally ill patients. I don't even have a problem with them resurrecting the old, stigma-laden, stereotypical name as long as it is historically accurate and done in the name of preservation.
The problem is, with scheduled fundraising activities including 20 hours of "Hospital of Horrors" tours before Halloween and something called the "Nightmare Before Christmas" on December 23rd, determining whether or not the name change is purely preservation-driven is difficult. (Note: It's also been reported that the upcoming truck races scheduled on the hospital grounds were to be called the "psycho path" races, but the hospital web site only refers to them as the "Mud Bog" races.)

So there are more complexities here than it appears at first blush. Many of the comments on the website are either totally supportive of Mr. Jordan, and unfortunately dismissive of the concerns of the mental health community, or they contemptuously blast Mr. Jordan's "ignorance" and dismiss any potential positive impact of his undertaking. I think the reality lies somewhere in between these two extremes.
Preserving a beautiful, historic building is laudable, maybe even altruistic, especially when that building has been instrumental to the community's economic survival. Mr. Jordan has an opportunity to use a unique and spectacular platform to attract and educate people about the history and reality of mental illness. Imagine how powerful that tour could be if it incorporated personal statements from the doctors, nurses, patients and family members associated with the institution. (Have you ever been to Alcatraz or Ellis Island? Aren't those audio tours more educational and memorable because they include the actual experiences and voices of the guards, prisoners, and immigrants who were there?) Heck, what a great opportunity for Mr. Jordan to employ some people with mental illness as tour guides. There's no better way to change people's ideas about a stigmatized, stereotyped group than to have them come face-to-face with each other. I'd volunteer to give tours if I lived anywhere near the place! The opportunity for enlightenment is great.
Unfortunately, it appears the financial stresses of such a massive undertaking and/or Mr. Jordan's lack of knowledge or concern for the mentally ill have led to poor fundraising choices. It is unfortunate and maddening that he and his supporters cannot comprehend why holding a "Hospital of Horrors" tour in a mental health hospital is offensive. I can't comprehend why they can't comprehend that! That's frightening. Let's hold it at a cancer hospital where guests can stick their fingers into darkened containers of real tumors and experience the side effects of chemotherapy firsthand. How about having the horror tour at a rehab hospital for spinal cord and brain injury where guests could be temporarily paralyzed, blinded, or rendered mute and then asked to negotiate a staircase, busy street corner, or answer the telephone. Ha! Ha! Ha! What a hoot! Oh, does that sound outrageous, insensitive? Exactly.
Think about it. Nightmare Before Christmas? Hospital of Horrors? Those titles would not work at the cancer institute or the rehab center. If they weren't based on stigma and stereotypes, those titles wouldn't work at all. They only work in a former mental institution because they are based on the stereotype that mentally ill people are violent, murderous, and scary. It is a powerful, pervasive stereotype, and that stigma is what makes these ill-conceived tours and programs appealing and profitable.
So I commend you, Mr. Jordan, for standing up and using your own funds to save an important, historically significant building. But I also urge you, Mr. Jordan, to use your creative mind to develop alternative methods to raise funds for your undertaking. Hold a dance or a costume party. How about inviting locals to use your grounds for proms, weddings, family reunions, or flea markets. Are you requesting outside assistance? Perhaps you could set up your website to accept donations. Please, Mr. Jordan, out of compassion for those of us living with mental illness, and certainly out of respect for those spirits with whom you now mingle, please reconsider your fundraising decisions. I look forward to visiting your beautiful site soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

working with others...

it was 10:15, and she's wasn't here. not like her. usually here right on time. didn't think too much of it, though. life happens. 10:30...hmmm, must have forgotten. unlike her. we just spoke about this appointment yesterday. the phone rang. it was 10:37 am. tears. choked voice. where are you? i fucked up. okay, but where are you? i really fucked up. tears. choked voice. crap. here it comes. what happened? i drank. there it is. okay. where are you now? i'm at home. do you know you are supposed to be here? yes. i'm sorry. i fucked up. you drank? yes, last night. are you okay? yes. what are you going to do now? i don't know. well, that's a problem. go to a meeting, i guess? okay. is that what you want to do? yes. okay. what are you going to do after that? i don't know. do you have a friend you can call? i don't know! i don't want anyone to know! too late for that, don't you think? yes. and it wasn't even fun, you know? i threw away 19 months for that? yup, been there, done that. aa really screws up the enjoyment of drinking, doesn't it? yes! do i have to tell my parents, too? crying. well, that's up to you, but aa really screws up lying, too. these are the consequences of the choice you made. i know. you'll get through it, but we don't need to worry about that right now. let's just focus on what you are going to do for the rest of today, okay? okay. and don't drink. okay. okay.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What happened to integrity and decency?

This post has nothing to do with depression or running...I AM PISSED!

Whatever happened to human decency? When, where, and why did it go? I know you had none of it when you bashed into my car tonight and apparently drove off without a care! This post is for you.

My parents didn't always do the best job, but I was taught if you damage something that does not belong to you, it's proper to own up to it! Side-swiping my car in the parking lot, the small parking lot of the meeting place you just LEFT, and swiping it so severely that the paint is actually GONE (not just scratched) definitely qualifies as damaging property that does not belong to you!
It boggles my mind that you could drive off after that! Yes, there are other offices which share that parking lot, but they were all clearly closed. Ours were the only illuminated windows in the entire complex! Therefore, it seems very, very likely that you had just walked out the door of the same room we had shared with less than 20 people for 90 minutes! Yet, you thought nothing of driving away? Not even a NOTE? What is wrong with you?!
The spot next to me wasn't even a parking spot! So you squeezed in there and then couldn't find your way out? Now you've taken my paint and my momentary sanity without a second thought? After all, I'll be the one stuck with the, oh I don't know, $500 repair bill! No worries, dude, I've been meaning to eat less anyway.

Prozac funny.


A great cartoon, don't you think? Thanks to bpdokc and Stable Today for the link!
Smile, and pass it on!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Way to Go, Dorothy Hamill!

After pondering the potential negative backlash from others last night, I figured I should focus on how I feel--ecstatic, grateful, hopeful, thrilled, congratulatory--about Dorothy Hamill revealing her life-long battle with depression.

WAY TO GO, DOROTHY!! Thank you so much for speaking out, sharing your darkness, and revealing your debilitating struggle, despite all evidence to the contrary, with depression and suicidal ideation. The fact that you are a successful, recognizable, "smiley sweetheart" suggests your message may reach many whom otherwise would not have heard. Perhaps we'll even get a few, "Wow. Dorothy Hamill? Well, if it can happen to her, I guess it can happen to anyone," light-bulb moments within the general populace. I am so sorry you are one of us, Dorothy Hamill, and yet I am so grateful you are one of us who is willing to share! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your message of despair, struggle and healing will likely change, possibly save, at least one life. And for that, you should be incredibly proud! Congratulations.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is Dorothy Hamill next to be vilified?

The invective leveled at J.K. Rowling after she revealed her struggle with depression and suicidality does not bode well for "America's Sweatheart," who details her own struggle in her upcoming autobiography, A Skating Life. Dorothy Hamill will also be the cover story in the preview issue of esperanza, a new magazine focused on depression and anxiety disorders, according to a NAMI press release today. While the announcement of the magazine is exciting, I wonder if Hamill is aware of the potential for vitriol and vilification as a result of her honesty. Perhaps JK Rowling could give her a heads-up... (See: JK Rowling speaks of suicide--hate responds)

Week Four Round-Up

Whew! Tough week. Legs really tired this week. Many runs required hours of motivational self-talk to get out the door and occassionally a fully clothed (running clothes, that is) nap, too! Gotta get back in the pool, I think, to give my legs a little regeneration time, but I know I may not have the energy to swim and run, so I have been hesitant to swim and potentially miss more runs. It's a game of craps, this depression. I cannot know if the dice will allow another roll, or if the house will take all of my energy, leaving me broke after only the first toss! It's a crap-shoot.
And with that, here's week four of the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon Training Program.

Week Four: March 31 - April 6, 2008
Ran: 5 days
Miles: 28.2
Long run: 8.6 miles
Speedwork: ugh! Only about 1 mile at tempo pace.
Found Money: $0.11

Have an energetic week everyone!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

to med or not to med...

I'm feeling uneasy today. As I keep working to get my message out into the wider web, I have been honored to be added to a few blogrolls. Today, I noticed my addition to a space where the taking of meds is, it appears, frowned upon. This is not a position I agree with, hence my uneasiness.
First, let me clarify. I have no problem with any person treating any illness in any way they wish--holistic, medications, magnets, prayers--as long as that decision is made with a sound mind and in consultation with a medical professional. We all have the right to control what we put into and do with our bodies.
What makes me uncomfortable, and sometimes downright angry (Tom Cruise) is when those who have made a decision (i.e. not to take meds) purport to know that their decision is the right choice for everyone. Regardless of the issue, I dislike when anyone scribbles in a chat room, blabs on television, or writes an article condemning the opposite option as if it was the devil reincarnate! Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet seems to heighten this arrogance.

The feelings about taking meds for mental illness are strong. The arguments against taking meds appear to run passionate and deep. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I guess I just don't get it. If there were no psychiatric meds, I would be dead. Or worse, I would be living an incredibly debilitating, miserable, isolated life without value or meaning. It would be suicide, literally, for me to disavow psychiatric meds. I may choose not to take a cold medication. I am pretty health conscious, and I know a cold will eventually run its course. But if I had a life-threatening brain tumor, I wouldn't think twice about intravenously running poison through my bloodstream, at great risk to my immediate quality of life, in order to shrink that tumor and possibly save my life! In my opinion, a non-medical stranger discouraging someone from treating his mental illness with medication, is no less ridiculous than encouraging him to allow that brain tumor to grow!
I have a LIFE-THREATENING illness! It happens to be called depression, perhaps a less scary term than tumor, but the illness should be taken no less seriously. This illness has nearly claimed my life more than once. Why wouldn't I treat it with everything at my disposal? Nutrition, exercise, sleep, sobriety, therapy, supportive relationships, volunteering, working, and MEDICATION! Without my medication, I cannot pull off the rest of my treatment plan--my illness won't allow it. I have little hope of working, running, sleeping, eating, or relating to others if my basic, biological condition is not treated with the medication that was created to treat it.

That brings up another point I don't get. We give billions of dollars and accolades to the brilliant chemists who research and formulate medications for all of those other deadly illnesses--cancer, heart disease, ED (Ha!), diabetes. Heroes are the companies who develop these meds. But, when it comes to mental illness, research dollars lag behind, and the drug companies are demonized. According to the hyperbole in some of the books, magazines, and websites available, you'd think that the drug companies were actually attempting to harm us rather than ease our distress.

Yes, drugs are big business! All drugs are business, not just drugs for mental illness. Most drugs have side effects, not just the ones for depression, schizophrenia, etc... Many drugs are very expensive, not just ours. And without the development of new, cutting edge, expensive medications, many of us have relatives, friends, or co-workers who would have died long ago from an illness for which there was previously no cure. We also must realize the cancer, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction drugs are much more profitable and better for company PR than are the poorly compensated, stigmatized, and often vilified medications for mental illness. Yet, some in the non-med camp make it sound as if the drug companies and my psychiatrist are in a worldwide conspiracy to increase my suffering by medicating me. HUH??

We have to quit playing the victim. Choosing whether or not to take psychiatric medication is a personal decision, preferably made in consultation with one's doctor. Once made, however, we need to take responsibility for OUR choice. Instead, it appears there is a need to justify the choice not to take meds by blaming the idiot doctor, condemning the money-grubbing drug companies, claiming that med use is not biblical or Godly, or the list goes on. Because meds aren't appropriate for one person, or are against an other's beliefs, does not mean we should run around encouraging everyone with mental illness to throw out their meds. I shudder to think of how many teenagers saw Tom Cruise's rant on Oprah, stopped taking meds or seeking treatment because of his beliefs, and are no longer alive to tell us about it. Mr. Cruise, if you get depression, you can choose not to take meds, just as I choose to no longer support your career.

I have a life-threatening illness. I choose to take medication as one piece of my treatment plan. My illness, when not treated with medication, vacates my soul, chokes my voice, and snuffs out my life. That's my experience. So I take my medications faithfully, not because I am weak, nor spiritual enough, nor "addicted" to their effects (I love that one!). I take them because without them, my illness would control a debilitated, worthless life rather than me controlling a cruel illness and creating a worthwhile life.
For me, it's a no-brainer.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

my friend Pete

He is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. With great humor and candor, he'll regale a crowd with horror stories of his teenage depression and hospitalization at Mayo Clinic, his career as a motorcycle drag-racer--including the broken bones, how he fell into working as an artist for Harley Davidson, and finally how multiple sclerosis PALES in comparison to the pain of depression. Keep in mind, he is making these comments after wobbling with assistance to his chair, as MS has stolen his balance, energy, muscles, and now finally, his vision. Yet MS pales in comparison? While I understand it, I am sure it is a powerful message most normies have difficulty comprehending. Pete is a larger-than-life advocate for those of us with depression, and it pisses me off that MS dares to slow him down, too! It is a cruel, cruel world sometimes...
Pete and I met at a speaking engagement for my local NAMI affiliate a few years ago. While I speak a few times a year locally, Pete traipses around the world sharing his educational message with thousands, maybe millions, of people. He is a role model to which I aspire, and therefore I boldly sent him a link to my new blog in January. Pete passed the link on to Access Press, a disability organization and newspaper based in Minneapolis. Access Press asked yesterday if they could publish, "Don't call me a Consumer!" (ummmmm...let me think about that... HA!) So thank you, Pete. I am incredibly humbled and honored. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

soon to be...Published!

I'm going to be published! I'd love to tell you more, but too tired tonight... I am going to be published, and that's pretty damn cool, don't you think?!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Symptom of Thinking Remix

Prester John
March 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm

(dear) etta - Sometimes I feel like my personality, my addictions, and my depression have somehow colluded to ruin my little life. Other times I think I’m really just a maladjusted-dysfunctional goof-ball. The few times my depression has really been beaten back (in the last eight years or so) I immediately begin to doubt that I was ever sick and that I was just somehow allowing life to kick my ass. Before I can make any real progress though, it comes creeping back and becomes the thing that defines me.

etta
March 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm
(dear) Prester John- Ain’t depression GRAND?! What other illness could screw a normal, hey-I’m-feeling-better day (or moment) into another reason to worry rather than celebrate? Gotta love it. I know exactly what you are talking about. Fortunately, I have a wonderful therapist who was able to teach me, finally, after seven years of this fun, that negative thinking is actually one of the symptoms of depression! Rather than a cause, as most well-meaning friends will tell you, negative thinking is actually a part of or a result of the illness–--not the other way around. That gives me some relief on those “good” days when my mind starts trying to F it up.

Prester John
March 30, 2008 at 7:29 am
(dear) etta - “negative thinking is actually one of the symptoms of depression...!"
I’ve never heard that before. In fact, the joke of a therapist I had several years ago once noted how negative my thinking was. Mind you my life was disintegrating around me. Even if I hadn’t been depressed I’d have certainly been under a lot of stress.
Thanks…

This brief conversation over on crackedheadblog led to Prester John checking out my February post titled, The symptom of thinking. He then gave me one of the nicest compliments any writer could receive, which you may read for yourself, as I am going to rerun that original post today. After re-reading the post myself, I also thanked my psychologist. She was the person responsible for the revelation that negative thinking is a symptom, not a cause, of depression. So simple...but so counter to everything we learn and hear. This IS a big deal. Thank you, Deb. Keep spreading the news!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The symptom of thinking
No resolution yet to this most recent mind-numbing, purposeless rut. But maybe a reprieve... Yesterday, I swam. Today, I ran. Two consecutive days of exercise, and yet I still feel bad. That's the mind-numbing part. Even when I take positive steps to take care of myself, the satisfaction which would normally follow is stolen quickly away. I'm left in a blank stare thinking, "and what was the purpose of that?"
Depression is a clever demon. It steals the meaning from the meaningful. Strips the purpose from the purposeful. Life becomes a slow series of steps, literal steps, one foot in front of the other, with no reason for the journey nor reward at the end. So I ask again, "What's the point?"
Intellectually, I know exactly the point. My brain knows there is purpose even where I feel none. My mind is numb, but my brain knows. My brain, as if detached and looking in on the scene, answers the question as I methodically remove my sweaty running gear. "This is helpful," it says, "even though your body won't let you know. You have to keep moving forward. You'll only feel worse if you stop." That's been one of the few times my brain has been able to squeeze a word in lately.
Depression is clever and consuming. It normally boxes out those rational thoughts. I assume, after swimming, or running, or cleaning that I will feel the satisfaction of my accomplishment. A sliver of pride, maybe? Not so when depression is running the show. No matter how positive the steps I take, depression bombards me with unrelenting disparaging, derogatory, and demoralizing thoughts. There is no room for rationality nor emotion when depression's thoughts consume me.
It took me a long time to learn and trust that these horrible, put-down thoughts are actually a symptom of this illness. Sneaky depression! The thoughts are mine, aren't they? If we listen to most people, depression is the result of our negative thinking--our own character defect. (Hence, the popular fallacy that we can cure depression by smiling and thinking happy thoughts!) But it's not true! Finally, after 6+ years of illness, thousands of hours of therapy, multiple hospitalizations, and countless treatment regimens, I learned that these all-consuming, horrid thoughts are a symptom not a personality flaw.
A symptom, not a personality flaw...now that's a thought!

Copyright to me: etta - 2/13/2008 05:19:00 PM 2 comments



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