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!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our Food Shelves Need Us Now

"I don't know where my next meal will come from," the office manager said. She hadn't eaten in two days. He said, "I'm a lawyer. My wife is a lawyer. We used to donate to this food shelf. Now I must swallow my pride. We need help."

I understand these comments. I remember that pride. Never in a million years did I... Read More

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day, Everyone!

Sitting here stuffed with stuffing…and turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy and pie, I thought I’d wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day was as uneventful and peaceful as mine. I worked at the hospital for 5.5 hours prior to attending a sober get-together with many friends. The food and the company were exquisite. I had some very interesting and fun patients today, too, so it’s been a good day. (Although I could have used a longer nap!)

Today’s events remind me; I am so grateful for my sobriety and for my sober “family.” I know many people with mental illness and/or addiction issues are separated from their families by choice or necessity, and holidays can be very difficult. I am separated by choice today. I suppose I could have called the brother who rudely insulted and belittled me more than a year ago and asked him what he was doing. I suppose I could have called my other brothers and done the same. But I didn’t.

Instead of obligatory invitations or half-heartedly visiting, I chose to keep my life simple today. I chose to give the gift of time by volunteering to work. I chose to spend the day with people I care about and who graciously care about me. I chose the rewarding path of recovery today. Sure, it would have been nice to see my out-of-state mom and step-dad, but other than those two people, I couldn’t have spent this holiday with nicer, more sincere people than the friends with whom I chose to celebrate.

I didn’t have that option prior to recovery. Mental illness, even recovery from mental illness, does not come with an instant community. While those of us suffering from brain disorders can share our experiences individually, we do not have the advantage of multiple weekly gatherings in rooms filled with healthy, happy, and grateful people. So today, with all the sincerity I can muster, I can honestly say I am genuinely, truly grateful to be a recovered alcoholic.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Official--I'm Employed

As you know, I made a decision a couple weeks ago to look for a regularly scheduled, part-time, physical therapist position, otherwise known as "a JOB." While I've been working as an on-call PT for several years, I have not felt well enough to resume a regularly scheduled job until recently. (Of course, recently I've also not been doing so hot, but I'm sure some of those symptoms were triggered by this decision and the risk it entailed.) Well, last week, I was hired. As of December 1, 2008, I will be gainfully employed and eligible to drop disability! Hooray!

This is a big deal. I've come full circle in exactly eight years. My illness began in November, 2000, leading me quickly to disability. Hopefully November of 2008 will be the beginning of the end of the disability portion of this saga. I don't expect the illness to go away. I'm hoping to live with it at a higher level than I've been able to these past eight years. In the future, I hope my story will include November, 2008, as the time when fuller functioning returned. I guess I'll have to wait to see if that will be the case.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm back--for now.

It's been a long, tough, week. I apologize for stepping away from this blog and my TSR blog. I simply have had no desire to write. That happens sometimes when I'm feeling particularly hopeless, distracted, or overwhelmed. Feeling little to no control over the intrusive thoughts I've been having has left me little to no motivation to share anything with anyone--readers, callers, visitors...anyone.
I prefer to write when I feel I have something to offer. I don't like focusing on the negative. If I've written about it (hopelessness, intrusive thoughts, discouragement) and it continues, I feel no need to rehash or restate the dilemma. I'd rather focus on facts--what's wrong and what can be done, or what I've tried to do to make it better. While I've taken steps this week to improve my situation, feeling I have little worthwhile to offer right now continues. Sometimes, I just need to battle things through by myself.

I haven't felt like writing, but I have done some artwork. I finished the following painting last night. It's called Chaos Burning. They say a picture is worth a thousand words...that sounds about right.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the thoughts of my depression

Warning: if vulgar language makes you blush, or you don't approve of a lady who swears, tough shit! You may choose to discontinue reading now.

Just came from seeing my doc. I saw her two days earlier than planned secondary to the "lovely" thoughts I've been having lately. I don't want to get into the gory details, and trust me they are gory, but I did ask my doc, "Why?" Why do I have these fucked-up thoughts? They make me feel fucked-up. They are disgusting, shameful, and distressing. They make me feel like a bad person. (Brain: "Normal people don't think like this!" Me: "Oh shut the fuck up!") After noting that my deteriorating language might be a sign of how poorly I'm feeling, my doc noted that these thoughts are not new for me. When I've felt poorly in the past, she reminded me, my thoughts have been similarly distressing. Intrusive thoughts have been part of my personal symptoms.

I guess she's correct, after all she has notes while I have only my swiss cheese memory on which to rely. However, I remember a time when depression, for me, meant sadness, despair, hopelessness...you know, all the typical, well-known qualities we love about this fabulous condition. But, she's right, over the past couple years it seems my distorted thinking has been a reliably clear indicator of the deteriorating condition of my fucked-up condition.

I've written previously about the diagnosis criteria for depression. It includes all of the expected language regarding sadness, loss of interest, and lack of pleasure. However, upon inspection you'll notice these criteria lack any mention of fucked-up thinking. Nevertheless, depression can rule a person's thinking. For whatever reason, I am one of the unfortunate souls who can attest to this fact. And right now, it's really pissing me off!

These thoughts are sucking the life out of me. I hate them. I don't understand where they come from. I don't understand why they occur. My scientific brain wants to know the inner workings of my fucked-up brain. Why does my fucked-up brain hurl these bloody daggers from unconsciousness into the dark light of my consciousness? How does that happen? What is the reason? There must be a reason! Figuring out the reason would surely blunt the intrusion, wouldn't it?

No, of course it wouldn't. The intrusive thoughts are not so simply quelled. I know that. For that reason, sometimes I just need to rant. I need to flail angrily at this insane illness which robs my integrity, my sensibility, and my stability. For NO FUCKING REASON...

The great tumor of depression is consuming my brain again, and I'm really, really pissed off! I can't slice it out. I can't radiate it to smithereens. I can't even touch it! But I can feel it. I know it's there. My only recourse is continuing to move forward, one foot, one moment at a time, stopping occasionally to hold on, regain my balance, and perhaps to scream.

Monday, November 17, 2008

life moves on

this morning
it occurs to me.
no matter how i feel
no matter what i think
no matter if i want
life moves forward.

with or without me
life moves on.

whether i agree
or not.
whether i desire
or not.
whether i advance
or not.
life, it continues.

it does not inquire.
it does not linger.
it does not wait.
life scrambles on.
impervious.
oblivious.
impetuous.
life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the thoughts are following me

The brain-fuck continues.
I slept almost all day yesterday. Even when I tried to wake up it proved very difficult. Made it out to a coffee date with a friend for about one hour but was back asleep soon after returning home despite planning to watch a football game. I woke up in my chair as the final two minutes ticked away. Right now, I couldn't even tell you who played.
I made it to my morning AA meeting today, but I was bothered by negative, intruding thoughts throughout. I went swimming after the meeting, which was a minor miracle, as I really wanted to come home and go back to bed. Swimming went well, but I couldn't believe the intrusive thoughts followed me right underwater! Horrible, disgusting thoughts...I usually can't think of anything but my swimming form and lap count while in the pool, so I was very disturbed. Horrible thoughts. I don't get it. I don't get it.
The rest of the day has been filled with restlessness. Tried to watch some football again today, but was unable to focus on or care about the game. That's atypical. I'm uncomfortable at home, but it's painful to be out, too. I know, because I just went to the mall to poke around--something I never do, but I didn't know where else to go or what to do. There was an event at my church tonight, but the thought of hanging around with people I knew was even more dreadful than anonymously walking around the mall. I feel like people can see right through me. Vacant. Unfortunately, I also feel caged in my house. The options seem limited. I don't know what to do.
I'm uncomfortable. I'm scared. I don't like feeling like this. I don't want to keep having fucked-up thoughts out of the blue. This is depression having its way with me. I'm trying to remember it will pass...
It will pass...right? God, I wish it would pass soon...now...

Friday, November 14, 2008

playing dead

this morning I just want to curl up on the floor and play dead. the load of the past few weeks has apparently come down hard on my head. all day yesterday brought headaches and screwed-up thinking, which i topped off with a couple pints of ice cream--that was helpful (pure sarcasm, in case you were confused)!
i just saw my doc, and now i'm feeling hopeless. isn't that weird? supposed to feel better after seeing the shrink, but sometimes, when i'm feeling particularly unnerved to begin with, i feel worse rather than better after seeing her. it's NOT because of anything she did or said, absolutely NOT. i think it's me realizing i only have me once i've left her office. she has no magic pill to make all the thoughts, anxiety, and behaviors go away. talking with her helps, but once i've left the office, i'm the only one i've got. i've either got to get through this or not. i've got to sit with my discomfort, my worry, my fears, and my thoughts, or not. and that sucks. it's uncomfortable, disconcerting, and distressing.

my brain is taunting, "no, no, no...it's useless. all those plans you've been working on, all those happy thoughts you've had...see, it's useless! this is the real you. you can't do any of that! this is what happens when you try to live a 'normal' life--you can't, because we always come back. actually, we never left. we've been here all along. it's fun to let you build yourself up while we wait to knock you back down. yeh, we've been stifling our giggles watching you 'grow.' had a few laughs at your expense.
you think you can escape from us, from this? HA! we'll move things when you're not looking, turn on radios that aren't there, and cue destructive thoughts in your brain until you're willing to bleed to kill us. that's how it is. that's how it's always been. so go on, get back in bed. don't you think it's time to rest?"


time to rest...if only i could. rest would require me lying down with me. more opportunity for my cruel brain to tie me in knots, question reality, and weigh me down. but escaping doesn't offer much hope either. i'm stuck with myself. right now, there is no more uncomfortable place to be. no wonder i feel sad, hopeless, and alone. depression has the edge...again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cooking for Thanksgiving--an expert's view

If you love to cook like I love to cook, I've secured some timely and thoughtful advice from Maxine, Hostess-extraordinaire! Take note:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

intrusive thoughts II

just now.
It happened Just
now.
poured Out one
but suddenly
Wanted them All.
then there they were.
All.
in My hand.
so Small
so powerful.
So dangerous.
I didn't do it,
but the Thought
It was there.
Suddenly.
out of the blue
Disturbing
distressing
Confusing.
Disturbing.

scary.
what if?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moderately off

I'm feeling kind of sad today. I don't know why. Nothing special happened. In fact, I even got to see my therapist, as she had a cancellation which allowed me time I otherwise wouldn't have had until next week. Yet, I don't think I even mentioned feeling sad to her. I don't think I talked about much of anything. It's like my brain went blank once I sat down in her office. Stupid...or weird, I'm not sure which.

There's still a lot going on in my life. I'm having some financial stress, which I hate. I'm filling out applications, interviewing, and trying to figure out how much I will be able to work if offered a position. As I wrote last week, I don't want to take on too much, as just having a regularly scheduled job will be a big, big change. I don't want to fail. I don't want the depression symptoms to worsen. It's scary.

My parents left today. They are full-time RV'ers heading south for the winter. I guess that could explain some of the sadness. My mom and I have had a strained relationship since she left when I was twelve. In fact, I hadn't lived within an hour of my mom since she left in the 1970's! That is until she and my step-dad moved into an RV park a couple miles away in early September.

Fortunately, the combo of depression and alcoholism forced me to mature in the last few years. It was actually nice to have her so close, although I think I've probably gained 5 pounds from eating out and, well, just eating. I don't really cook meals. She does. You know, like a salad, a meat, a potato, and a veggie? That's an extremely rare occurrence when I'm taking care of myself! I'll miss them.

I'm trying to deal with not being able to run by swimming, lifting, biking, etc., each of which involves going to the gym. Going to the gym requires planning. Running doesn't require much planning. In a moment, I could throw on my shoes and skip out the door. It seems going to the gym is a two hour event no matter what I do. I'm happy with my swimming. Swam another mile today. However, my leg doesn't seem to be improving. Today, I had pain picking up the pace to cross the street. That wasn't a hopeful sign.

I'm worried about losing my fitness. I'm worried about gaining weight (even without my mom cooking). I need to strengthen my hip. I'm worried I won't be willing or able to strengthen it enough. I need to rest my leg. I'm worried it won't be healed even after resting it. And I just want to RUN! No worries...just RUN! Perhaps I wouldn't be feeling restless and sad if I could run into the night right now. That's the other thing swimming, lifting, and biking can't do for me, combat that restlessness. I can only combat those feelings, it seems, by hitting the streets.

Speaking of hitting the streets, I've done a poor job keeping up with walking Puck. The days have been gray and cold. I've walked him a few times, and he is getting better, but I feel like a bad mom when I don't walk him. I'm trying to make up for it by playing tug and ball with him in the house, but I really need to be more diligent with the walks. Poor guy, he must be soooo bored! Sorry, Buddy! I'll do better.

I'm feeling a little sad today. I'm feeling a little restless, too. A bit overwhelmed as well... My thinking is also slightly, 'er moderately off. Not good...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Closet--a love story.

He mentioned his life partner died a year ago. That caught her attention. It was her first clue. She assisted him as he limped into the hallway with his new walker. Purposefully she asked, "How long were you and your partner together?" It was only a slight variation from the routine question she usually asked. After all, most of her patients were elderly Midwesterners, and relationship longevity seemed to be their most common denominator.

She loved interacting with these long-term couples. The enduring love between them was endearingly transparent. Coming from a splintered family, a couple of foster homes, and her own dissolved relationship, this endearing love and commitment both touched and amazed her. She cherished their stories of first dates, old cars, tough times, successful kids, conquered challenges, fulfilled dreams, and world travels. Fifty, fifty-five, and sixty were common answers to her question, but 62 years was the longest relationship she had encountered thus far.
"Fifty-three years," he said. "Pancreatic cancer, we only had six weeks..." his voice trailed off.
The therapist refocused his attention on the task at hand, which was learning to walk with his new hip. He was tall, fit and appeared younger than his 77 years.
He continued, "I didn't think I would make it. I still miss..." And then he said it, the pronoun the therapist hoped he'd feel free to share. It was the reason she followed his lead and used the term partner rather than wife.
"...him," he said. "I still miss him terribly, but I have to move on, right? That's why I'm here. I wanted to get this done and move on."
"I'm so sorry," responded the therapist. "Of course you miss him. Fifty three years...That's wonderful!"
"Yes, it was, " he replied.

The therapist felt sad, not only for his loss but for the cautiousness he assumed when he revealed his love and loss. Fifty three years and he still took care before mentioning the person with whom he shared his entire adult life. Even one year after his partner's death, he felt her out before he let the therapist in. He had no idea she could feel his losses--the loss of his partner and his freedom--as if they were her own. As his therapist she couldn't reveal her background or history. He may have assumed, but the truth was likely more complicated than he figured. She couldn't share her deep understanding of his cautiousness or fear. She was like him. She was, but now she wasn't. It was confusing even to her. At least, she thought, her patient realized she was a safe person with whom he could share. She was glad for that.

When she treated him again, the patient shared more about his life. He was an artist, a lawyer, and a concert pianist. His partner practiced healthcare with some of the best. They met in the Army 55 years ago.
"The Army," she exclaimed! "That must have been tough!"
They knowingly chuckled together, and with a sly smile he simply said, "Yes." As they continued walking he proudly filled in the details of their life together. The therapist was thrilled to listen and learn. Finally, self-consciously, he said, "I have a picture of him...if you'd like to see it."
"Oh, yes, I'd love to see him," she enthusiastically replied.

Back in his room she set the heavy briefcase beside him on the bed. She watched as he removed an object encased in bubble-wrap. She couldn't help but feel sad. It was a framed 5x7 of him and his partner. Two older, smartly dressed, smiling gentlemen stood arm in arm in front of one of the patient's paintings.
He apologized for the effects of aging and then said, "That was on his 72nd birthday. I wish I had known. That was the last picture we ever had taken. He didn't make it to seventy three."
Looking up from the picture she said, "I think you both look great. It's a really nice picture. I'm glad you've got it." She handed the frame back, and he removed a tattered picture from his wallet.
Smiling broadly he said, "This is what he looked like when we met." The therapist eyed the black and white photo. It was a picture of a handsome, young, army man.
"I can see what you saw in him," she remarked. "He's quite handsome!"
He smiled the smile of a sophomore in love. "I've carried that picture for 55 years."
"Wow," was all she mustered in response.

He returned the tattered black and white to his wallet. Then, gently, he re-folded the bubble-wrap around the 5x7 frame. Closing the wallet, he stacked it atop the re-wrapped frame and placed them both inside the heavy briefcase. He closed the case, latched the latch, and locked the lock. His love, pride, and grief emanated as he handed the case back to the therapist.
"Thank you," she humbly murmured.
"Thank you," he replied, "for taking an interest and letting me share that with you."
For a moment they clasped hands. She felt honored and sad as she placed the briefcase, which encased the love and loss of his still-cautious life, back inside the closet.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

random thoughts on a gray day

I'm having a slug day. It's cold, grayer than gray outside, and sleeting, snowing, or raining most of the time. I made it to my AA meeting this morning and went out to breakfast, as we often do, with 10-12 women after the meeting. Came home stuffed with some fine blueberry pancakes intending to go workout. Intentions don't count for much. I've been sitting in my chair snacking and watching football, crime shows, and football ever since. (Had to turn the Minnesota game off. They were getting whipped!) I could be at the gym, exercising, while watching football, crime shows, and football. I could be walking Puck. He got his staples out yesterday and needs to be walked twice per day. I could be writing for my blogs (Oh, I guess I am doing that at least.). I could be raking piles of leaves in my yard. They are wet, but I almost prefer them wet. They don't fly away, and they're easier to bag. (Bummer, Alabama just fumbled the ball at the goal line. It went out of bounds. LSU gets the ball at the 20.) I could be sending out more resumes and following up with potential employers. I heard some bad feedback from a former employee of one potential employer, one that I've interviewed with. Another PT I know just quit working for the same office. Doesn't make me feel too warm and fuzzy about them as employers. (Bummer, LSU just threw an interception deep in their own end.) I could be looking into personal trainer classes. I took a continuing education class 2 days ago which made me question why the hell I haven't pursued becoming a personal trainer yet. (Touchdown, Alabama.) I've always wanted to be a personal trainer. It is a perfect fit for me! But, like many things I've always wanted to do, I've been too chicken to pursue it! God forbid I actually do something I'm good at and passionate about! It seems like the more I want to do something, the more afraid I am to do it. How stupid is that?? It's that fear of failure again. I have less fear about things I'm less passionate about, so I do those things instead. Dumb. I've always thought I'd be a good coach, too, especially a running coach, but...NO! Too scary. Pathetic. (Beautiful pass, beautiful catch--LSU scores.) Thankfully, the functional exercise class I took from a very intelligent, energetic personal trainer may have pushed me forward. You guys can keep me honest on this one, okay? (Oooooh, Alabama fumbled the kick-off. LSU recovered on Alabama's 30) I need to look online to check into available personal training classes to become licensed. I need to make a call to see about funding. (Thirty yard TD run. LSU leads.) It's time to "just do it." Speaking of just doing it--I'll go workout at halftime. I promise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Looking for a job

Depression disabled me. I was unable to work, even unable to care for myself at times. Things have been getting a little better, and a little better, and a little better over the last several months. I haven't been in the hospital for over one year, the longest freedom tenure since this odyssey began eight years ago. Yes, eight years now. Eight years ago this month, November 2000, my new, uninvited life began. It's been a long road.

But now, I am looking at going back to work. I have been working on-call for years, but I'm talking about going back to a regularly scheduled, part-time position. Fortunately, physical therapists are in high demand. Unfortunately, most healthcare organizations no longer hire part-time employees. It's too expensive to provide part-timers with benefits, I guess. That's not the point, however. The point is, I'm looking at going back to work, and this is big deal!

It's big, and it's frightening. I've had a few phone interviews already, and I have an interview with a local PT office tomorrow. It sounds like they may be open to part-time employment, although I don't know if that would include benefits. I'd certainly like health benefits. I'm sure many of you understand when I say living with a chronic illness, without benefits, is also scary.

I kind of enjoy the interviews. They don't scare me. I've found a new, relaxed attitude during the interviews I've already done. With what I've gone through these past eight years, my perspective has obviously changed. I'm not perfect, but neither are they. They are either going to like me or not. I'm either going to think the position or employer will be a good fit or not. I'm not desperate. I know I can live on very little income. I've been doing it for at least 6 of the last 8 years! I also know if I accept a position which isn't right, I'll set myself up for failure. I don't want to fail. Failure scares me!

The possibility of failure is frightening. When I worry about failing, my thoughts race. What if I get in over my head? What if I can't tolerate even part-time employment? What if I can't manage the stress of a new job, new co-workers, new patients, more responsibility, and more scheduled time? What if that stress increases my fatigue? What if that fatigue keeps me from doing the other activities which keep me stable? What if losing my balance and stability leads to increased depression symptoms? What if a depression relapse disables me again and keeps me from working? Whew!! Thinking is frightening.

Therefore, I'm trying not to think. There is a lot of uncertainty ahead. I hate uncertainty. I have no idea what is, or is not, going to happen. Clearly, thinking about all of the negative possibilities does not help! I'm trying to stay in the moment. I'm trying to live one moment at a time. I cannot allow myself to think ahead, although that is a very difficult thing not to do. However, if I allow the negative projection to take hold, I'll likely end up paralyzed, desperate, and discontent. I'm trying not to think.

This is a time for trust and faith. I'm not so great at either of those. I have to trust everything will work out as it should, that I'll be able to handle whatever is ahead. Thinking about it or predicting the future does not help. But trusting things will work out, and trusting I'll be taken care of is very, very difficult. I can't think about that either.

Perhaps, as our new President-elect stated last night, "this is a defining moment..." for me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

an update

It's been a long time since I've missed writing two days in a row. I think this may be the first time I've ever missed three, but life has been busy, busy, busy. Here are the highlights, lowlights, and a little of the in between.

I ran 8 miles of the marathon course on Sunday. My leg held up okay after a week of swimming and rest. My friend who missed qualifying for Boston, by 12 seconds, 4 weeks ago qualified Sunday with 58 seconds to spare! It was nice to be there on an almost perfect day. Being at the race, supporting my friends, and focusing on somebody other than me, me, me helped me feel better about not running. I made the right decision. It would have been painful and ugly if I had attempted the distance on my bum leg.

Speaking of my bum leg, I finally saw the orthopedic doctor today. My x-rays were negative, no stress fracture. That was the good news. The doctor believed I had a "stress reaction," which is the precursor to a fracture and apparently just as painful. That was the bad news, because she doesn't want me to run--AT ALL--for the next three weeks! (I can hear all of you fellow runners gasping!) For the next three weeks, she wants me to walk only! YUCK! I hate walking! After three weeks, she thinks it will be okay to begin a walk-run program. She laid out a FOUR MONTH plan for my return to running! I tried to smile and stay calm, but my brain was screaming, "I don't think sooooooo!!!"

This is the point at which that damn twelve step program I follow starts tugging at my shirt tail. "Whoa...slow down," it says. "Remember me? Remember? Living life on life's terms, remember that one? How about willingness? What about listening to others who may, as unlikely as it may seem, know more than you? How about not trying to control everything?" That damn twelve step program... Well, we'll see. I'll keep swimming for the next couple of weeks, but I can't imagine I won't attempt to run just a bit as well. But I'll try to be good.

It is a tad ironic, perhaps cosmic, that the doc wants me to begin a walking program at the same time Puck will need to begin a walking program. I told you, I hate walking. I love my dog, but I hate walking. I was dreading having to walk Puck a couple times a day, but now I'm going to be forced to walk myself! Hmmm...there's that damn twelve step program again...my Higher Power taking control, intervening for my own good, despite myself! Puck gets his lamp-shade collar off and staples out on Friday. I guess he and I will begin hobbling down the street together on Saturday. Isn't recovery sweet? Ugh!



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