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!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Post-op Day One


Puck is home. He seems to be in a lot of pain. I'm exhausted, and I have yet to run today! I've already missed two days this week, and it's getting desperately close to three if I don't liven-up pretty quick! But I think Puck's being in pain makes me exhausted! Is that possible?
He's got some pain meds, an anti-inflammatory, and an antibiotic, but he's had everything he can have today, and he still hurts. I hate it! He's quite pathetic, actually, and I mean that in the most loving way possible!
I have to do passive range of motion and massage to his knee twice per day. He's not very fond of me touching his leg, but he trusts I won't hurt him and allows me to do it, which is nice. This is definitely a time where I feel more of a two-way bond with him. He's counting on me to keep him safe and comfortable. When he's well, he'd go with pretty much anyone without looking back!

I did observe the surgery yesterday, and as soon as the vet clinic locates their camera's cable, I will download pictures for all to see. It was really interesting, and I was less anxious being in the room with him where I could see he was still breathing! Seeing surgery has also helped me already with his rehab. Since I know exactly where and how much was cut, poked, stretched, etc...I have a much better feel for where to massage and how much pressure I can apply externally. So I am very glad I decided to observe.

I think these first few weeks are going to be very long. Total recovery time is going to be 8 weeks, most likely. But my boy is a trooper. I'm glad he's home. I know he'll get through this. The jury has yet to decide if I'll make it or not...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Puck's okay.

But it's very late, and I'm very tired, and I miss my boy...so I'll fill you all in tomorrow. Thanks for the donations, thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Opposite to Emotion

Often when feeling low, I look for humorous things to read, watch or listen to. It's a very useful skill called Opposite to Emotion Action which I learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Ironically, it was this skill that led me to sign up for the half-marathon I ran this past weekend. And if Puck hadn't ruptured his ACL, you likely would have already read an entire post about this skill, post half-marathon, and in recognition of the end of Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month, which I'd been planning to write.
I didn't go out looking for humor tonight, but boy did I find it!! Thanks to http://adsquefty.com/for highlighting this YouTube video on his blog, which is where I found it and now share it with you! It's called, An Engineer's Guide to Cats.
ENJOY!

Roughin' it...

It's been a rough few days around here. Puck is pretty uncomfortable. Puck's mom is pretty uncomfortable. Unlike Puck, I can't deal with it by lying flat on the floor and whimpering. Well, actually, I could. I did. It didn't help. Puck's probably thinking the same thing right now. After hours of lying there whimpering, Puck still can't walk when he arises. When I arise, I still feel sad and overwhelmed, and amazingly none of the overwhelming offenders were tamed while I lied there whimpering.
I dislike being overwhelmed. I dislike my house being in total disarray. I dislike my lawn being the tallest and ugliest on the block. I dislike facing a project knowing I do not have the energy to even begin it. I dislike seeing my boy in pain. I dislike worrying. I dislike missing scheduled running days because there is too much exhausting chaos whipping about my life. I dislike whining...
And I am whining...
I know.

I also know I am lucky to have a home. I am lucky to have enough "stuff" in my life to even allow for chaos. I am lucky to have a nurturing relationship with a pet. I am lucky to have a strong heart, working muscles, and a willingness and desire to run. I am lucky to have the opportunity to continue competing in a sport which I love. I am lucky to have supportive friends, family and professionals surrounding me. For all of these things, I am incredibly grateful. I am sad and overwhelmed, and I very much dislike my current state of affairs. But I need to keep reminding myself that things could be a lot worse. This is nothing! And I am grateful for that.

My therapist encouraged me to focus on my accomplishments this week, rather than beat myself up for all I am not getting done. It's a great idea. Following through with the idea...that's the piece I forget.
I'll try harder to remember it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Asking for Help--another thing I suck at.


My boy ruptured his ACL and possibly tore his medial meniscus (cartilage) beyond repair. The ACL is totally repairable, but if my vet has to remove the meniscus, Puck will have bone-on-bone contact for the rest of his days in that knee--not a good prospect for a runner. Surgery, to the tune of $2,000.00 is Thursday. I hate asking for help. I suck at asking for help. I wrote an entire post about this very subject earlier today... but with the thousands of dollars of flood-damage repairs I have recently begun undertaking in my home, this was poor timing to say the least. I've set up a donation link. If you are inclined and able to help defray the cost of getting my soulmate and running partner back on all four feet, I will be eternally and humbly grateful.
Thank you so much, and please keep Puck in your prayers on Thursday.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Week Eleven Round-Up

What a strange week. Ran great and easy Tuesday and Wednesday, but then attacked by fatigue mid-run on Thursday, which reduced me to a long, light-headed walk home. Fretting about miles after incapacitating fatigue and no run on Friday. Volunteered at a kids race Saturday and decided to sign up for the Sunday half-marathon because I knew there was no other way I would get my scheduled 12-miler done. Expected nothing. Planned to use it as a glorified training run, and it was; but I was able to race by the end! Felt good. Recovered well. Seem to be right where I need to be to achieve my goal time in a few weeks.
But now, incapacitated again... my dog, my boy, my buddy...blew-out his ACL (knee) today, and I am blaming myself. I am so, so sad. And I don't feel like doing anything. But, I need to get back on the roads tomorrow--solo...
Here is the summary of my strange Week Eleven of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Training Program:

Week Eleven: May 19-25, 2008
Ran: 5 days
Miles: 37.4
Long Run: 13.1 miles (race)
Speed: 10 x 1:00 intervals hard with 1:00 recovery
Swam: 1/2 mile+
Found Money: $0.07

Here's to a week of joyful miles, lighter legs, and sunny days!
And if you are so inclined, please say a prayer for Puck, my dog. Hopefully, he'll be able to have surgery tomorrow. Come to think of it, say one for me, too, please...
Thanks.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

can't be bothered...

nope.
not today.
can't be bothered.
can't be bothered
to
do
much
of
anything
today.
nope.
not today.
can't be bothered


wish
i
could

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dead tired


I wish my illness would provide me some sort of schedule. I mean is it too much to ask to be pre-appropriated an official date for these days? Is this going to be a weekly thing, a monthly thing, every third Thursday, what? It would be nice to have a schedule. I should say, I would like to be able to clear my schedule! If I had some advanced notice, I could make sure not to plan any other activities on these dead days.
But, no. Instead, I get today where anything which is scheduled is in certain jeopardy. I guess it is too much to ask for an appointment. It would be so much easier to power down if I knew I had nothing in the way, nothing to be missed or fucked-up because of the unpredictability of this wily illness. I could just listen to my body and go with the flow...if depression had an appointment.
Without an appointment, it's attacks rarely make sense. Like today, there was no warning. No clues. And then boom--I could hardly move. It doesn't make any sense! Like a tornado whipping out of the sky on a clear blue day, I went from easily running 10.5 miles (Wednesday) to gasping for breath coming up the stairs (today). I feel heavy, tired and old. A little warning of what was coming would have been nice.
I'm not suggesting a tornado siren or a TV news alert. A simple heads-up like, "I'll be by Friday to make you glassy-eyed tired, short of breath, short-tempered, heavy, achy, confused, and distressed. Don't make any plans," would do. But that would be too polite and sane for this cruel and insane illness.
My job now is to go with the flow, I guess. Fighting just increases the fatigue. Pushing through it only prolongs the exhaustion. As frustrating and maddening as it is, I've learned I need to listen to this debilitated body and go with the flow. To keep the physical fatigue and debility from advancing to mental fatigue and debility is now my number one goal. After all, dead tired is better than dead.
(image c/o Brenda Kato)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I suck at meditation!

Meditation is a suggested tool in my program of recovery. It sounds like a fabulous idea. So I listen intently for instruction. In meetings I hear people chat about “hitting their knees” every morning and every night. I have flashbacks to the movie, A Christmas Story, and entertain a sudden urge to dress in a bunny...
more at The Second Road

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Living death or Purposeful life?

Are you sleepwalking through life? Is your first thought in the morning your dream of going back to bed that night—to get through the day as quickly and painlessly as possible, in order to escape back into the realm of dreams that night, and forget your life as much as possible? This is a living death. Going through the motions. This is a life that is void of purpose.
from:What is Your Purpose?

Does this sound familiar? This was my life when depression was kicking my ass. I couldn't find any purpose as long as my symptoms were knocking me flat. I couldn't see any reason for the excruciating pain--often still can't when I am in the middle of it--and that led me to see suicide as the only way out. I didn't succeed. I remained among the living dead for a long, long time.

My depression has not released me. I am not yet free. But I believe one reason I am now often able to withstand the ferocious attacks is because I have discovered a purpose. This blog. In a way, I'm now able to use depression's own crippling strikes to strike it right back. Writing has always been an effective escape for me, but now I have you; reading, commenting, and hopefully finding comfort in the very pain that transforms my keyboard. You are not alone, and I am not alone. I have a purpose, and by offering connection, humor, or support to you, I receive support, too. How cool is that?!

Recognizing our true purpose—what really drives us—can allow us to make dramatic changes in our lives. Determining what one’s purpose is and vowing to pursue it to the fullest can lead to a true renaissance in our personal and professional endeavors.
from:What is Your Purpose?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The buying of the food.

There aren't too many things in this world which I truly hate. After all, if I dislike something, I generally avoid it or remove it from my life. But to every rule, there seems to be an exception. In this case, it is an unavoidable, despicable exception. It is grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping! I hate it!

I hate everything about grocery shopping, from the time it wastes to the money I'm forced to spend to the artificial environment which sucks me in. I hate grocery shopping. I hate the bright white fluorescent lighting. I hate the miles of aisles with their millions of intermingled colors, shapes, and sizes! After a couple of minutes everything looks the same! Every aisle seems eerily similar to the one before. Have I been down this aisle already or not? Did I come from the left or the right? Where's the front of the store? Where am I??? I hate driving that damn rickety cart around the corners while looking up to survey the aisle's overhead sign. No matter how many times I've been there, I still look like a tourist on the subway in New York! I hate grocery shopping!

And simply reading the sign doesn't solve the puzzle. I still need to figure out the classification system used by each particular store! I hate trying to decipher that! Are there rules? Perhaps a referee would be helpful. Are raisins snacks, fruits, or baking supplies? I think they are snacks at The Cub and baking supplies at Hyvee, or is it the other way around? And what about Target? Where do they stock the raisins? One store puts popcorn (the old-fashioned kernels) in the fresh fruit area, another in back with the chips, and another doesn't carry it at all! Sometimes, I specifically need popcorn! UGH! Like Charlie Brown with the football, invariably I end up at the store without popcorn in stock! Walmart, I think...or is it Target? Maybe it's Walmart which doesn't have the raisins I like...Oh, and don't get me started on brand names! God forbid I find a particular brand I like! Once, I spent about 6 months trying to determine where it was I bought those razors I liked so much! To this day, I still do not know. I hate grocery shopping!

Money is the other issue. I hate grocery shopping because it costs so much money! Even if my intention is moderation, those food-stuffed, overly bright, artificial warehouses mesmerize and hypnotize me once I step through their doors. I'll go in for milk and bread, and I'll vow to only spend a few dollars and 10 minutes--that's it, 10 minutes maximum, inside the store. But it's no use. Ninety minutes later I'll walk out a glassy-eyed pauper, two shopping carts in tow, wondering what day it is. If you'll dare to approach my disheveled frame, you'll likely hear me mumbling, "...only 10 minutes...10 minutes...only 10 minutes in the store..." as I wander aimlessly searching for my car. I hate grocery shopping.

I hate grocery shopping because grocery stores are conspirators! Grocery shopping is a conspiracy! It's not enough that we have to eat. We have no choice but to spend our hard-earned money on their food, but that's not enough. Somehow, these stores get us to spend our money on so much more--more food, more trinkets, more books, more magazines, more coffee, more, more, more...until we leave penniless and powerless.
But like good, active alcoholics, we'll be back. We can't stay away. We'll be back for more...
I hate grocery shopping!

Monday, May 19, 2008

I would not have been invited.

The month of May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. Borderline Personality Disorder is a treatable, curable condition. Recovery requires a willingness to let go of old thoughts and behaviors and a commitment to work hard learning and practicing new ones. Read more of my thoughts about BPD, compassion, and recovery here:
This is the link to my most recent post at The Second Road.

Week Ten Round-Up

With my mood dive at the beginning of the week, I apparently had a big brain cramp! As a result, I totally forgot I ran 5 miles on Monday. All I remembered was I only managed 3 miles on Tuesday, so I really pushed to get all my weekend miles run despite being dead tired yesterday. Well, no wonder I was tired! By the end of my long run last night, I had logged 49.3 miles! I'm not sure I've ever run that many miles in a week. Ooops! Here is the rest of Week Ten of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Training Program.

Week Ten: 5/12/08 - 5/18/08
Ran: 7 days
Miles: 49.3
Long Run: 11.6 miles
Speedwork: 8 x 2:00 intervals/1:00 recovery. 4 miles @ tempo pace.
Found Money: $0.13

Into the pool today. Gotta give the legs a break. Good week. Getting closer to race day! Only 5 weeks left now.
Have a great week everybody!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Every Minute

There is a new website in our mental health world which has the potential to do big, big things. It is called everyminute.org. Here is a sample of their mission. It is taken directly off their home page where there is also a declaration you can sign to support mental illness research.

Every minute, a suicide is attempted.
Today 1,500 Americans will attempt to take their own lives(
1). Most will have mental health or addiction issues. Many will have both(2). One out of four adults is affected by a mental health disorder(3). Odds are that most of us have friends or family becoming more desperate with every tick of the clock. There is a way to stop the ticking. Research. We can defeat mental illness by employing the scientific mind to find individual treatment plans. But the funding is inadequate for an issue that affects every one of us, the 57 million(4) directly or the rest of us through
our family and friends. We must declare our concern. Together, we can stop the clock.


Please check out this new site and pass it on if it suits you. Thanks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

I saw you today.

I saw you today, and Marissa you were looking fine! Stretching out those quads along the path prior to your run, it was nice of you to wave and say hi. I saw you today, PJ or Graybeard or whatever it is you are calling yourself today. I've seen you out a lot over the past few weeks! I figured you were a visitor. I heard the twang in your voice when you asked, "Which one is the Mayo Building?" Hope you're enjoying our smog-free, humidity-free bike paths. Keep walking like that, and you'll need to trade those 34's for a pair of 30's! I saw you today, beartwinsmom, playing with those boys. Must have been a school function, huh? There were a lot of kids out in that park! Looked like you were enjoying the moment, though! I envy you. Didn't I see you at a soccer game the other night, too? I saw you today, Shiv. I'm always a little leery of a bunch of young dudes hanging together, but then you waved hello. Thanks. What were you doing? Just soaking up some sun? It was a beautiful day to be outside. Hope you enjoyed it! I saw you today, BPD. Good for you for getting out and moving around. I know that isn't always easy, so I really felt glad to see you across the road. Keep it up! I saw you today, untreatable. You probably missed me, as you were coming out of the busy government center at the time. I hope you didn't have to spend too much time inside today. Maybe you were just getting your license renewed? We'll have to have lunch when you've got the time. I saw you today.
...and you, and you, and you...


I realized on my run today that I do see you guys all over the place. Since I only know you through cyberspace, I can create your live avatar in whatever physical form embodies your attributes--the attributes I associate with you. Something about the way that woman looked and waved hello today made me think of Marissa! Heck, it could have been Marissa! So, to me, *poof* I just ran past Marissa. Once I realized what I had been unconsciously doing (for days!) it actually got quite fun! From now on I'll be looking for all of you when I am out! Neat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My depression is...

In my experience, depression has been a constantly changing foe. Unlike today, where fatigue is my constant companion, I do not recall this physical heaviness earlier in my journey. Whereas I used to stay awake with racing thoughts, now I require one, sometimes two naps plus my full complement of nightly sleep just to stay upright. Early in this journey, the depth of my despair was more constant and severe. I could not cry. Not a tear...for years, not a tear... It sounds cliched, but I experienced the reality, and the depth of that suffering was excruciating. My tears flow now, and my mood is generally less desperate, but also less stable. Overall, I'm pretty stable (forgive me, now I must run around my house knocking on every wood surface I can find!), but what's changed is how quickly my mood can change. Lightning fast...over the course of a few hours sunshine can turn to covers-over-my-head paralysis. Fortunately, I've been at this awhile, and my coping skills have improved with the years. I no longer feel the need to explain or figure out every dip and dive. "It's part of my illness," is good enough and waiting it out has gotten a bit easier. But, I've also developed some new symptoms over the past 1-2 years. When my symptoms are bad, I sometimes think my radio is playing in the other room or that someone is watching my house. How fun! A little paranoia to keep me on my toes! And my memory absolutely sucks! Cognitive function is what I feel I have lost the most. And again, as my symptoms worsen so too does my memory, concentration and distractability. I've gone from a woman who used to carry half the phonebook in her head to a woman who can't carry on a conversation because she has nothing to talk about. Even if I saw a movie last week, I couldn't tell you about it today. I love World War II history and have probably seen every movie/documentary about the Holocaust that has ever been produced, but don't expect That I can intelligently discuss it with you. I can't. I know I am fascinated and interested in it, but I can't tell you why! I can't talk about the battles, the dates, the political leaders. It just won't stay in my brain, and that's been as a direct result of this illness and my treatment for it. Instead, I battled with irritability, poor judgement, irrational decision making, and a brain that often wouldn't shut off. The more constant fatigue and increased need for sleep began midway through this trip. In fact, it has been my most constant, stable symptom over the past several years. Tired. Just tired. However, my mood was also so low many years ago that I could not even cry. It sounds so cliched, but it was and still can be an incredible depth to experience. No tears, ever, for a long, long time. Depression now causes me a lot of cognitive challenges

What is depression, anyway?

Last week I posed a simple question, "Do you refer to yourself as depressed?" While a few people answered the question, the actual topic discussion continues through today on my site as well as others. I attempted to explain my reasons behind the question in the following two posts. This is one of my "soap box" issues (see here if you'd like a hint at one of my other sudsy talking, er...shouting points). That is, depressed is a feeling. Depression is an illness. For this reason, I never refer to myself as depressed.

Depression is an illness that screws up my brain, but it does not preclude happiness. In other words, I don't have to be depressed (feeling) to experience depression (illness). I can experience happiness and still have depression, just as my neighbor can experience increased energy due to improved blood counts and still have cancer. Cancer is a broad category of illness. There are certain shared characteristics which define an illness as cancer, but it is unlikely that any two cancers are exactly the same in symptomotology or in patient experience. So, too, it is with depression. Depression is a broad category of illness. There is commonality between each of us, but we are not all afflicted with identical symptoms, and our individual experiences may widely vary.

That got me thinking. Perhaps it is time to define depression--the illness. According to the DSM-IV, there are 15 separate diagnosis codes (i.e. diagnoses) for depression, from Depression NOS (not otherwise specified) up to Major Depressive Disorder, Severe, Recurrent with Psychotic Features. To qualify for the depression label a person must either have a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a 2 week period. The mood change cannot be caused by chemical abuse (i.e. alcohol) or a medical condition. And the person's functioning must be impaired as a direct result of the change in their mood. In addition, there are nine specific criteria an MD will look at when diagnosing unipolar depression. I learned a patient will receive the diagnosis of Major Depression if 7 of those 9 criteria are met. Sources on the web simply state "a majority" of the criteria must fit. PsychCentral has a nice summary of depression here, and AllPsych Online succinctly describes depression here.

But then again, you can find those technical descriptions just about everywhere! I think we learn more from listening to each other. I invite you all to share your personal depression definitions here. Leave them as comments, and maybe, with permission, I will post some of them, too. As we get more and more descriptions, we may see how variable this singularly defined experience (depression = depressed) actually is.

I'll include my experience.
Tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New day, one difference

That's ironic.
I'm sitting here contemplating how the passage of time is all we need to heal sometimes, and "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper comes on the radio. (Hello, God! How are you today? Thanks for the "subtle" cue--of course, if you hadn't "subtly" hit me over the head, I never would have noticed! But you already knew that...)
As I was saying, despite my mood still being unexpectedly low after yesterday's crash, today is a more functional day. My skin fits today. I am less overwhelmed and have more energy. Whereas yesterday I couldn't make it to two planned evening meetings nor out the door for my scheduled run, today I've already done some work and completed yesterday's tough run. Sure, I'd prefer my mood hover somewhere above the toilet bowl rim, but I'll gratefully accept the NON-paralysis and the functionality!
And wait for the passage of more time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Intense dislike for myself...

Do you ever have one of those days where it almost hurts to be inside your outsides?
Where your skin feels like it's one size too small, and the seams are rubbing in all the wrong places, and you just know there are blisters forming in very inconvenient places, but there's nothing you can do about it?
And that makes it even more frustrating and annoying.

Do you ever have one of those days where every word you speak is just shy of conveying the point you are trying to make?
Where the descriptive terms you need have not yet been created, or you can't locate them in your cluttered mind, or even if you can, nobody seems to understand what you're trying to say?
And you're sure what you want to say is not worth hearing anyway, because every word out of your mouth makes you cringe with disgust and self-loathing.

Do you ever have one of those days where you want to shred your constricting, ugly skin and strangle your whiny, irritating voice?
Where you want to run and hide from the ugliness that is you because one more moment of that you is going to make you puke, or scream,
or homicidal...

Do you ever have one of those days?
Or even one of those moments?
I did. I do.
Last night. And it is continuing today. Ick.
ICK!

I guess all I can do now is pray.
God, help me get away from me! I can't stand me much longer! Help me get away from me before I make myself puke!
Not very poetic, but I'm not feeling very poetic right now, and I think it gets the point across.
Don't you?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Week Nine Round-Up

A good week! One which started with tired legs and ended with quickly recovered legs! I love when that happens. Unfortunately, Puck has some sore hips and will be unable to partner with me for the next 10 days or so...I hate it when he hurts! So I had to do my 12-miler alone. I now understand the loneliness of the long distance runner. Get well soon, my boy! Here is a summary of week nine of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Training Program.

Week Nine: 5/5/08 - 5/11/08
Ran: 6 days
Miles: 41.5
Long Run: 12.1 miles
Speedwork: 4 miles at tempo pace in middle of 10-miler
Found Money: $0.05--tough week in the dropped change department. Apparently, the gas prices are making those clinking coins worth bending over for these days!

Happy with my mileage and with my quick recovery times during latter half of week. Hope to add a little light strength work this week, as I've been slacking on the sit-ups and push-ups! Also start speedwork this week! Yippee! I like running fast!
Have a great week, everyone!
Get outside!

The Second Road

I have now posted twice over on The Second Road. If you'd like to check out my posts over there but don't know where to look, I'm under the heading blogs, and then click on Building the Road. Working on getting my profile up over there, too. I'll keep you updated as to the progress. Thanks for all the support, everyone!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

depression and dementia linked...that's just GREAT!

Here's a real cheerful (sarcasm!) ditty I found recently. Dr. David Cannon, a licensed clinical psychologist from Clemson, found that stress and depression can mimic dementia. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? We get a biological double whammy; not just sad, but sad, stupid and confused! I'm not surprised. I've posted several times about my cognitive difficulties which seem to correlate with the severity of my depression symptoms. I also feel I have permanent cognitive loss as a result of my depression and/or its treatment, ECT specifically. So I'm not terribly surprised, but I don't feel happy or proud to have someone prove my suspicion was correct. My depression makes me stupid. What a bonus!

I've included the interesting article summary below, but I wanted to point out one detail that smacked me upside the head. Long-term depression, studies found, is linked to the size of a person's hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain responsible for memory, and the hippocampus is the first part damaged by Alzheimer's according to this article. Yikes! The article then refers to Multi-infarct Syndrome--basically a series of tiny strokes within your brain--suggesting it's link to both depression and dementia due to the vascular damage to the hippocampus. My paternal grandmother had Multi-infarct Syndrome, eventually dying from it after many, many years of heartbreaking Alzheimer's-like illness. Boy, I am feeling warmer and fuzzier by the minute!

By Dr. David Cannon April 23, 2008 - 12:00 a.m. EST
Depression in older individuals may often appear to be cognitive impairment and distinguishing between the two can be difficult. Further clouding the issue is the fact that the two conditions can often occur together.
Depression and the early stages of dementia often have similar symptoms. These include impaired concentration, loss of interest in things, an inability to experience pleasure, irritability and a loss of energy and motivation.
Depression that mimics cognitive decline in older individuals is often referred to as pseudodementia. While distinguishing between the two is challenging, there are differences that can help in making the distinction.
People suffering from genuine cognitive decline generally show more signs of short-term memory loss and disorientation. And, they are less likely to complain about pain, diminished appetite, insomnia and feelings of sadness and guilt than individuals whose major problem is depression.
There does appear to be a relationship between dementia and depression. Roughly a third of Alzheimer’s patients develop major depression, especially in the early stages of the disease.
Since depression is more common in older people who have a family history of dementia, it’s possible that there is a genetic link between the two disorders. Or, depression may simply be an early sign of cognitive deterioration. It is hardly surprising from a practical standpoint that a person sensing the loss of their intellectual abilities would become depressed — even before seeking professional help.
Interestingly, some studies have found a relationship between lifetime
depression and the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible
for memory and the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s.
The fascinating implication here is that depression may damage the hippocampus by stimulating the release of stress hormones — the same mechanism by which it is thought to damage the heart. Once again, emerging evidence appears to suggest a profound link between mental and physical health.
In certain cases, intellectual impairment and depression may have a common underlying cause. What is sometimes referred to as vascular depression may be a sign of the condition known as multi-infarct dementia. In these cases, a series of mini strokes may produce both the depression and the loss of cognitive abilities.
Stroke is regarded to a large degree as a “lifestyle disease.” Thus, the careful management of your daily habits can significantly reduce your risk not only of stroke and other cardiovascular disorders, but of intellectual impairment as well.
Clearly, it is important to deal promptly with difficulties such as stress and depression since, in addition to impairing your general quality of life, they can seriously impact your physical well-being.
I don't know about you, but I'm never going to let my Nintendo Brain Age game get dusty again!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A professional blogger?

As a person with a chronic, life-altering and disabling illness, my secondary goal when I created this educational, supportive blog was to hopefully also develop a home-based revenue source. Being unable to perform my chosen profession on a regular, even part-time basis--despite still paying off the remaining $20,000+ of my original $60,000+ in student loans--I wanted to develop a home-based vocation. Seven years of disability, food shelves, sacrifices and loss have taught me I need a job that I can work vigorously when I feel well, and one that will provide residual income when my symptoms impede my function.
Additionally, I have been writing since early junior high. Growing up in a f'ed up family and suffering through teenage depression/suicidality, writing has always been my outlet. In junior high, I wanted to be a journalist. I took every writing class I could throughout high school and college. I've always wanted to write a book. The combination of these circumstances, likes, dislikes, wants and needs culminated in the creation of this blog.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because a couple of weeks ago, this blog led to the realization of some of these dreams and a start on my secondary goal. As a result of this blog, I was invited to join an up-and-coming recovery website called The Second Road. As of today, I am a professional blogger over at thesecondroad.org. I will be posting over there 2-3 times per week. I will still be posting here as close to daily as possible. I hope you will all take a moment to check out The Second Road, especially if you have any interest in addiction and recovery.

I never dreamed I would get an opportunity like this, especially this soon. I am humbled and grateful. (and scared, of course!) Thank you, all of you who regularly visit and especially those of you who comment here. I appreciate your support and feedback more than you will ever know!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More on--I am not depressed.

I started this blog on January 8, 2008, with a poem, called I have depression. If you've read it, you probably noticed the lines, I am not depressed. I have depression. Sound familiar? One of the problems with the perception and acceptance of depression as a biological, treatable illness, as well as the stigma surrounding this illness stems from the word itself. Depression. It is a common, everyday word with common, everyday usage and meaning. Or is it?

From Merriam-Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
depressed adj (1789): 1: low in spirits: SAD; specif: affected by psychological depression...

depression n (14c):...2: an act of depressing or state of being depressed: as a: a depressing down: LOWERING b (1) : a state of feeling sad: DEJECTION (2) : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked esp. by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies c (1) : a reduction in activity, amount, quality or force (2) : a lowering of vitality or functional activity...

I have been speaking publicly about depression for at least 5 years. One of the main points of every single talk I give is this:

Depressed is a feeling.
Depression is an illness.

Despite making that point a thousand times, this is actually the first time I've looked it up! Phew! Webster's confirms it! Depression is a noun. It is a state of being. Depressed is an adjective. It describes the state of being. In other words, it is a feeling, and therein lies the problem.

Everybody on the planet has been depressed! Just as everybody's been happy, sad, angry, or frustrated, all of our family and friends have been depressed. Therefore, our well-meaning (usually) family and friends think they know what it is we are experiencing! A person without a cancer history wouldn't think to comfort a friend with cancer by saying, "Well, when I had cancer, all I did was..." because she never had cancer, and she understands she has no idea what the cancer patient is experiencing! However, that same person, assumes he can comfort his friend with depression because he's been depressed before. Hell, everybody's been depressed at some point in time, right?

Right. Almost everyone has experienced feeling depressed. When I ask students if they've ever uttered the words, "Ugh, I'm so depressed today," every hand in the classroom goes up. When I follow that question with, "Yup, me too, but I'm not depressed today," I get self-satisfying quizzical looks. Then I say, "But I still have depression today." After that statement, usually 1 or 2 light bulbs flicker in the eyeballs before me. By the end of my talk, I make sure all of the light bulbs are aglow. Depressed is a feeling. Depression is an illness--a biological, treatable, mental illness, which unfortunately shares its nomenclature with a very common feeling.

I never say, "I am depressed." When I talk about my illness, I talk about my symptoms. I talk about how I am feeling about my symptoms. I talk about my mood. I talk about my thinking. I tell my doctors about my eating, sleeping, fatigue, exercise, concentration, aches and pains. I never say, "I am depressed." I am not depressed. I have depression.

And by the way, depression sucks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I am not depressed.

I am not depressed.
I am not depressed.
I am not depressed.

Lance Armstrong was not cancer.
Lance Armstrong was not cancered.
He had cancer.

My grandmother was not diabetes.
She had diabetes.

My parent is not heart disease.
He has heart disease.

My colleague is not multiple sclerosis.
He has multiple sclerosis.

My dog is not arthritis.
He has arthritis.

I am not depressed.
I have depression.

I
have
depression.

Big, BIG difference.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

question-

Do you refer to yourself as "depressed?"

Simple question. What's your answer?
My answer forthcoming...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Week Eight Round-Up

Hard to believe it's been 8 full weeks already! As I stated in the post about my first race, which was Saturday, I am definitely feeling stronger. I think the hill work has made a big difference in my leg strength. I hate hills, so I usually skimp on hill work, but I've followed the plan this time. My race time was still slow, for me, and that was a bit disappointing. But my weight and my heart-rate are also still quite high. One is the side effect of cookie dough and ice cream, the other must be a medication side effect, for I have no other ideas or explanations. Frustrating. Here is the summary of week eight of The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Training Program.

Ran: 5 days
Miles: 35.2
Long Run: 11.1 miles (9.3 of those miles were racing miles)
Speed: 15K race
Hills: 5 x 60 seconds each (Tuesday) and 4 x 88 seconds each (Wednesday)
Swam: 1/2 mile +
Found Money: $0.46

A pretty good week. Took an extra day off and just swam prior to the race, so mileage could have been higher. I'd like to hit at least 40 miles this week. Sounds like a goal...

Have a safe, sunny week everyone!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Finally a race

I finally put my training to the test today. I ran a 15K race. I didn't want to do it (see Fear here), because when I ran this race last year it was shockingly difficult, and I was shockingly slow. And like today, last year this race was the first of my season. Unfortunately, last year's distressing effort and disappointing result foretold the effort and result of each successive race last season.

Today, I FEARed another excruciating effort and slow, slow time. What would that mean? What would I do? God, I would be so disappointed! Last year I hadn't trained nearly this much or this hard, so I could rationalize the poor result. But if that happens today? After all this consistent training? What would I do? What would that mean? blah, blah, fear, fear, fear, blah, blah, blah, fear, fear... You get the idea.

It's impossible to explain, but last year I was basically out of breath from the gun. That wouldn't have been a big deal except my watch told me my pace was a good minute slower PER MILE than I was used to running. I was running behind runners I had never run behind, and eventually I finished behind them, too! It was truly alarming. It only got more alarming with each successive race, as the result proved to be no fluke. Something was wrong! I was sure of it. Unfortunately, nothing was wrong. (lol! Only a runner could write such a ridiculous statement!) Despite numerous medical tests, I was incredibly normal. I was also incredibly slow (for me).

Today, I raced despite my FEAR of being slow, feeling bad, or facing disappointment. It was cold, rainy and windy--not exactly perfect running conditions. On the 9.3 mile out-and-back course, I decided to go out conservatively and then kick it up after the turnaround if I was able. I was not winded from the gun. My legs felt strong. I immediately knew I was in much better condition than last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see my splits in the high 7 minute to low 8 minute range. I felt more confident. This was going to be waaay better than last year, I thought. I was even able to speed up after the turnaround, as I had hoped, dropping a few women who were hanging a bit too close.

Nobody passed me the entire second half of the race. Prior to last year, that was something I always strove for and usually achieved. It was very cool to get that personal benchmark back. The last couple miles sucked, but the last couple miles always suck, especially with a cold headwind! My pace was slower than I would have liked, but it felt like a good start to the season. In other words, I expect only improvement. Besides, I ran waaay better than last year! Of that I was sure! It was a tough run, but I felt very good, and satisfied, and proud.

I had no idea what my time was last year. So, in preparation for this post, I looked up my 2007 time. Look carefully, and see what a difference a year makes:

2008: 1:16:39
2007: 1:15:53


Yup, that's right, I actually ran slower this year than last! I was surprised, too.
What's that saying about attitude making all the difference?

Most AMAZING Story!!

Talk about TRUE SPORTSMANSHIP, the POWER of WOMEN, PAYING IT FORWARD, and UNBELIEVABLE CHARACTER!

A few days ago, senior Sara Tucholsky and her Western Oregon University softball team were battling conference foe Central Washington when Sara did something she had never, ever done in her entire career. She hit a home-run--a THREE run home-run!

Perhaps due to the excitement of the moment, Sara missed first base. Unfortunately, as she turned back to tag the bag, she collapsed in pain. Sara had torn up her knee, and though she was able to crawl back to first, she could not continue around the bases. Suddenly, her moment of glory crashed into a painful conundrum for her, her coach, and her team. You see, the rules do not allow a player to be assisted around the bases by teammates, and if her coach had inserted a pinch-runner, the runner would have only been allowed to take over at Sara's current position, first base. Sara's home-run would have been wiped from the books and replaced with a single.

Then, in a moment that should go down in sports lore, Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, asked the umpire if she and her teammates could help Tucholsky. The umpire could not think of any reason or rule against it, and as shocked spectators' eyes filled with tears, Sara's opponents carried her around the bases. They briefly stopped at each base to allow Sara to tag the bag with her good leg and thereby officially record her home run.

The three run homer led Sara's team to a 4-2 victory and knocked Mallory and her Central Washington teammates out of the playoffs. Yet, there were apparently no regrets. "We didn't know that she was a senior, or that this was her first home run," said Liz Wallace, the shortstop who helped Mallory Holtman carry Sara around the base paths. "That makes the story more touching than it was. We just wanted to help her." Holtman said she and Wallace weren't thinking about the playoff spot and didn't consider the gesture something others wouldn't do.

Are you kidding me? I have never seen this in men's sports--sorry guys--and I think Holtman is being quite generous in thinking other athletes, men or women, would replicate this gesture in similar situations. I hope she is right. I think that comment further demonstrates that she is a truly humble and amazing woman. She should be proud. The Central Washington team should be proud. Their coach should be proud. And female athletes everywhere should be beaming! I know I am! What a great story!! Way to go Central Washington Women's Softball Team!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

blogging is serious

when I told people I wanted to start a blog about depression, I often received dubious looks, rolling eyes, and lots of incredulous "why" questions. when I tell people I write a blog about depression, I often get dubious looks, rolling eyes, and lots of incredulous "why" questions.

for the first few months, when I got 1-2 visitors per day, sometimes I wondered "why," too. I knew from my research that the interest and need was out there, but I also knew there were numerous, actually millions, of sites addressing the need. despite my doubts, I persevered and soon began receiving enough visitors that google could actually pick me out of a line-up! and it was google that answered the "why" question.

some of you may not know this, but websites, like mine, are able to track how people find them. it helps us know who our market is and if or how they are getting to us. so, for the last couple months, I have had the privilege and honor to see the search terms used when someone lands on my site.

and it has been heartbreaking.
I didn't anticipate that.

to know why you found me, yet not know if finding my site helped you, supported you, or answered your question has been excruciating at times. too often, I find myself wanting to reach right through my computer to hold your hand, hug you, or just tell you it's going to be okay. I want to know if you are okay, or are you still out there searching?

I want to know. did I help:

you--in China. you landed here after googling: my brain hurts aches depression
I am so sorry. I hope something I wrote made a difference in your day. I am so sorry you hurt. did you find anything here that helped? are you still out there hurting and searching?

you--in the US when you looked for help with: fatigued and weary
I get it. did you find my posts on being so f***ing tired? did it help to know I've been there, too?

you--USA sufferer with: depression intrusive thoughts or
you--with: scary intrusive thinking
within days of my post revealing my own scary thinking, you both found me. I wish I knew if reading my post was relieving for you. I hope so.

you--from far away with the: spiraling down depression
did any of my posts stop your fall? I've been there, too. if I knew you, I'd put out my arms to slow your descent...but a blog doesn't allow that. I hope my words helped.

and finally, all of you--runners from all over the world who've landed here because of: post marathon depression or post Boston Marathon depression or depression after marathon
I'm embarrassed to say this, but I had no idea! I hope the fact that there are a ton of you helps some of you feel less alone. not sure my blog addresses your area of concern, but if you leave me some comments, I'd be happy to start the discussion!

why write a blog about depression?
this is only a sample...



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