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, October 31, 2009

A good 10K

With a temp of 35 degrees and wind gusting up to 30 mph, running my planned 10K this morning was suddenly not very appealing. Of course my leg hurt, and I'm still having my morose mood moments, too. Taken all together, it would have been much easier to stay in bed.

However, I needed to run if I wanted any chance of placing in my track club's grand prix series. Today's race was the last chance to earn points. At the start of the day, there were three of us within three points of each other at the top of our age group. I knew both of those women would run, so being the competitive spirit that I am, I got out of bed and ran, too.

Competition is funny. I love it and hate it. It's not like I felt overly stressed, yet I had thoughts of quitting even before the gun went off. Perhaps my fear of failing is stronger than my joy of competing or winning. That's likely. And that's why I felt it was important for me to stay, to run, to race...to conquer that stupid fear!

I really have nothing to be afraid of. There's no contentious rivalry between any of us. I love and enjoy the other women with whom I compete. You might even call us friends. In fact, after the race we hung out, laughed and socialized for a couple hours! It was really nice.

The race, on the other hand, was less than nice. It was cold and hard. The wind really took it's toll. As one of my fellow racer's noted, the wind was another competitor today. We really had to fight against it. The course was also hilly, with the largest and longest hills coming right at the end and into the wind. Not nice. Despite those challenges, I raced well.

I wanted to go out fast, and I did. I ran a 7:05 first mile and hung around a 7:20 pace through mile four. Miles 5 and 6, like I said, were either uphill, directly into the wind, or both. My split times pointedly reflect that fact. Mile five took me 7:54, and I ran an 8:02 sixth mile while exerting the same effort it took to run 7:20 earlier! I finished in 46:57, fifth overall and second in my age group. I felt really good about my effort and about conquering my fear. In the end, as usual, I'm glad I went.

Only two weeks until marathon day...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faith Without Works is Dead

It was originally coined by Bill W. in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Faith without works is dead. A strange sentence conveying a simple concept; take action.

No matter how strongly I believe in AA's primary concept, that my higher power can do for me what I cannot do for myself, if I don't take action I will go nowhere. Similarly, no matter how much I believe that my current state of depression will pass, if I do nothing I am dead.

Faith without works is dead. I have faith that this current dive into morasity will eventually pass. After nearly 9 years of battling, I've at least learned that. It will pass. All of the previous black holes have spit me out. All of the previous morose seas have lifted me ashore. I may not know how long it will take, but it will pass. I will survive. I have faith in that.

I will survive, but only if I take part in my recovery. Faith without works means I cannot sit on my ass and wait. I have to keep moving forward, no matter how hard moving may currently feel. I can pray. Praying is helpful. But prayer alone may mean longer misery than I care to swallow. Action feels better. By taking action, I feel some control over what otherwise feels uncontrollable--my depression. I am a participant, rather than a spectator, in my own recovery.

So today I took some action. Despite the moroseness, heaviness and despair, I put one foot in front of the other and moved. I went to my appointments. I made my phone calls. I did laps in the pool, and I took in a meeting. I didn't feel like doing any of those things. I wanted to stay in bed. I wanted to wait. After all, I know this will eventually pass. But faith without works is dead. I'd rather participate than wait, no matter how difficult that sometimes seems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Look out for that cliff...


Damn, I didn't see this coming.

I've fallen off a cliff into the sea of morosity.
It is a very dark, scary place to be.
And I cannot find my life jacket.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

blah

With a title like that, I'm amazed you're reading this sentence. But blah is how I've been feeling. I don't want to do much of anything, which explains why I haven't written in a few days. I think the gray weather is really getting to me. We did have some sun yesterday, but otherwise nothing but gray. Gray is exhausting.

I did run this weekend--21 miles yesterday and 6 more today. I should be proud of that, especially since I am nursing another injury which kept me off the road 4 days this week. I have some tendinitis in my right shin area. It hurts, but not enough that I wasn't able to push through it yesterday and today. Of course I may not be able to walk tomorrow. Kidding...I'll be fine.

So I don't have much to say today. Blah does not lend itself to verbosity, and I don't want to turn everyone off with my whining anyway. I'm not a big fan of whining. This too shall pass...right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The serotonin dilemma

This is a post I wrote last year, but it's so appropriate right now I thought I'd re-run it.

Conversation With My Brain.

Today I learned more than I wanted or needed to know about the female menstrual cycle. "What does that have to do with you," you ask? I'm getting to that. It seems you and at least one female Hormone share a particular affinity for a crucial neurotransmitter.

You know the Hormone family, don't you? Sure you do! They're okay one-on-one or even in small groups, but once a month they invite all of those loud relatives from god-knows-where and party like there's no tomorrow! Yes, see, I knew you'd heard them before! In fact, didn't they just leave a few days ago? My God! Seems like they were on an extended stay this month, didn't it? They really wear me out with all that revelry!

So much activity stresses me out, you know. I get headaches, and backaches, and downright irritable. Hard to be a good neighbor with all that going on. Anyway, what was I saying, Brain? Oh yes, you and that female Hormone...

Well, I know how much you value your serotonin, Brain. But it's actually my serotonin, remember? You're just supposed to be caring for it. Yes, yes, I know you care for it! But...you know how they say if you love something you should set it free? Yup, you're supposed to let it go! That's what the saying means. Setting it free is part of caring for it.

If you care, you'll set my serotonin free, Brain. No, I am not implying you are selfish! Yes, I realize you are working on letting go, and I appreciate that. I know you've even let go of a smidgen extra serotonin recently, and that's just great! But we've got to get to a point of regular letting go, routine letting go. Remember, sharing is caring!

I know. I know. You're worried. If you let it go, serotonin may be up-and-taken from you. But don't you realize how sad I feel when you hang on so tight? In fact, when you hoard my serotonin, sometimes I feel just like I did last week when the Hormones were in town--irritable, sad, heavy, and slow. I feel just like I did...

WAIT A MINUTE! That's it!
Of course! That makes perfect sense!!

What?

Oh, sorry, Brain. I was having one of those light-bulb moments. (Hey, aren't you supposed to be in on those?)

As I was saying, Brain, you and this Hormone-chick seem to share a particular affinity for my serotonin! So it makes perfect sense, when she's here rockin' out with the rest of her clan, I feel like crap! And it makes perfect sense, when you selfishly "care for" my serotonin, I also feel like crap! AND here's the kicker, if Progesterone Hormone (that's her name, I guess) happens to be visiting at the same time as you happen to be hoarding my serotonin, I feel like DOUBLE-TRIPLE-CRAP!! So what do you think of that, le Brain? Well?

What am I going to do about it? No, you're right, I really can't expect the Progesterone bunch won't come. I could ask, but I'm sure they'll show up anyway. It's gotten to the point where I can almost feel them coming. Once a month, just like clockwork, Miss Progesterone and her entire rowdy clan roll in! And I heard they arrive even more pronounced in their middle years, although maybe with less regularity. Hmmm... Doesn't seem right. They shouldn't be allowed to interfere with my life so much! They must get old and tired sometime, don't you think? Perhaps then they'll stay home.

But what about you, Brain? You've got to shape up! Let my serotonin go! I'm not going to put up with your BS anymore. Yes, I did call you selfish. I'm sorry about that, but if the shoe fits... It's time for you to grow up, to see the bigger picture. It's not all about you!

What about me, Brain? Don't you see? When you hang onto my serotonin, I feel sad and tired. But when you let go, I feel better. And if I feel better, I can stimulate you with a lot more interesting stuff! See? It's a win-win situation! So, whadaya say? Will you let my serotonin go? Please, Brain, let my serotonin go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over trained?

One of the symptoms of over training is a drop in previously attainable times. Today, I could barely meet my 800 meter interval time goals, and I only cranked out 6 versus the 8 repeats which were scheduled. I'm tired. Another symptom of over training is needing more sleep, or feeling less refreshed after a normal amount of sleep. Yup, I've got both of those signs, too. But then again, I often have those sleep symptoms--I have depression! However, this does seem different. My legs, my lungs, my brain...I'm tired everywhere.

Perhaps I'm a bit over trained. This is not good. I have my last long run this weekend--22 miles. It's normal to be tired at this stage of training. I'm in the midst of the highest mileage week. But my slower times, I think, are sending me a message. I'm over trained.

I am considering cutting out tomorrow's scheduled run. That's hard for me to even consider, but I'm trying to be smart. Trying to be smart--that's why I cut my run short today, too. I hate having to be smart. I'd rather just run. I'll let you know if tomorrow leaves me brilliant or fatigued.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The sun and the sponsor

The sun is shining, and we've had two beautiful days in a row. Puck and I ran 15 miles yesterday and 8 today. My legs and body are constantly tired, but that's pretty normal for this stage of the training game. Only four more weeks to marathon day!

I found a new sponsor. For those of you following along, you remember my sponsor relapsed a few weeks ago. It's been a tough few weeks filled with all kinds of conflicting emotions surrounding this issue. I finally did chat with my old sponsor on the phone. I let her know I was angry. She understood that. I told her I found a new sponsor. She thought that was a good idea, too. Things are okay, I guess.

Well, I thought they were okay until I met with my new sponsor yesterday. She had me do an 'anger inventory' about the situation. I found out I'm still a work in progress on this issue. As she put it, "being angry is normal, but as alcoholics we cannot afford to hold onto anger and resentment. If we do, we die." It's true. If I hang onto the resentment, I'd likely end up miserable. If I'm miserable, I'll likely drink. If I drink, I will eventually die. So I'm still working on my anger inventory.

One of the things I've learned in AA is that expectations are just premeditated resentments. I had expectations that my sponsor would never drink, and that she'd be my sponsor forever. When she drank, both of those expectations were shattered, and I quickly resented what she had done to my life. (Can you say selfish? What about what she'd done to her own life??) Ultimately, this has been and continues to be a lesson for me. As usual, accepting life on life's terms, rather than trying to control the world around me, frees me from my resentment and is helping me move on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phantom radio returns

I don't think I've ever written about this before. It's not something I even like to admit. But it's back, and that discourages me. I wonder if any of you have experienced something similar. Maybe your commiseration will encourage me.

Occasionally, I have a phantom radio in my head. That is, I hear a radio playing in another room, but in actuality there is no radio playing anywhere. Sometimes the radio plays music, but most of the time, it's just noise. I awoke in the middle of the night a couple nights ago. I couldn't get back to sleep, and soon I realized the radio was "on." It hasn't been on since then, but I'm concerned.

I'm concerned because this "psychotic feature" typically only presents itself when I am deep in the black hole of depression. That's not the case right now. My mood has been fairly good, even normal, since August.

My mood has been good, so why is this symptom cropping up right now? Perhaps, as my psychiatrist suggested, the flood of memories I absorbed during my recent trip had something to do with it. Could be. I hope that's all it was. I'd rather the radio stayed off.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One mile at a time

Another very gray, cold, rainy day around here. Running is tough in this kind of junk. Actually, I'm finding accomplishing anything to be a chore. What I wouldn't do to see a ray of sunshine right now! But alas, only gray and rain outside my door.

I had to run a 10 mile speed workout today, part of which included 4 by 1 mile at 7:40 per mile. My energy has been particularly low--gray, just like the weather. In fact, I got dressed to go running this morning and then went back to bed, in my running clothes, for another two hours! I finally forced myself out of bed and out the door.

Soaked and cold, I dropped Puck at home after my two mile warm-up. He's too old for speed workouts now. It was everything I could do just to go back out the door. Not only was the weather crummy, it was one of those days where my running reflected my mood. Rather than smooth and flowing, I felt like I was fighting myself with every step. I was barely a half mile into my first repeat when I contemplated giving up.

I didn't give up. My mind went to work instead. I thought, "I can do anything for one mile," and I pushed on. Sucking wind, and still battling to find my form, I gratefully finished mile one. I thought about quitting then, but I figured I could probably struggle through one more. I made a deal with myself to only run two repeats instead of four.

The second repeat wasn't much prettier than the first. My legs felt like they belonged to someone else, icy rain pelted my face, and my lungs refused to let any more air in. It was ugly. Yet, halfway through the mile, my brain was wheeling and dealing again. I walked through part of the recovery interval and decided one more fast mile couldn't be much worse. So I ran my third repeat directly toward home.

This brain of mine, it doesn't give up too easily. Despite finishing my third mile within spitting distance of my house, I decided to walk/run my recovery interval in the exact opposite direction. And since I was then far away from home, why not run interval number four? Tricky brain!

Interval number four commenced. At that point something intriguing occurred. I began to flow. Whereas running 7:40 on miles 1-3 felt like solo boxing, running 7:24 for interval 4 felt like ballet. Finally, after almost an hour of running my body gave in. I don't know why it happened or how it happened, but happen it did. And I was extremely grateful. Interval number four saved my run.

I was thinking a lot while I was out there battling today. Taking one mile at a time, biting off small chunks of what otherwise would have been an overwhelming whole, parallels my life with depression. It is how I survive. On bad days, gray days, I cannot think beyond today. I cannot think about any part of tomorrow. I must only think about my next moments. I must only focus on one project, chore, or errand at a time. If I don't, I become overwhelmed and nonfunctional really quick. Taking one moment at a time allows me to live with a modicum of grace even when days, or moods, are gray.

I wonder...did I learn that from running? Or is it the other way around?

Monday, October 12, 2009

a long, slow day

long day today. i left work after only a couple hours, as i was feeling head-achy and nauseous again. not sure what's going on. this is exactly how i felt last thursday, but i was fine all weekend. lots of sleep again today. i may have a low temp. don't know. the headache and nauseousness haven't changed all day, but i'm certainly not down and out sick. thank god! it's weird.

as far as my training schedule, i'm glad it's a rest day. i don't think i'd be able to run today. i just feel blah--not really sick enough to stay home, yet not well enough to do anything. you know i hate days like this. it didn't take too long for my mood to go the way of my body--blah, gray, slow, and low.

i don't like this state of being, but i'm trying to be patient. previous experience tells me it will pass. i'm trying to keep that in mind. i'm trying to be resilient. i know it will pass. it's gotta pass. hopefully, just getting my thoughts out, sharing where i am currently at, will begin that process. after all, i've got things to do!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A weekend of memories and feelings


I had to go to a funeral on Friday. The funeral was back in the town in which I spent many tortured years, and therefore I had multiple tortured memories and feelings about returning there.

I moved to this town, at age 13, from my beloved small town after my parents were divorced, and my dad remarried my "wicked" step-mother. And she was wicked in many ways--abusive verbally and physically. She and my abusive father made a lovely pair.

The only positive of moving to this new place, with this new family, was I gained a sister. My step-sister and I became very close. Due to the small size of our home, we had to share a bed. We spent many nights sharing our thoughts and feelings into the wee hours of the mornings. Unfortunately, we spent many other nights listening to our parents complaining about one of us kids or beating the spit out of each other. We developed an us-against-the-world bond, and then she was killed in a freak bike vs. car accident.

My first bout of depression began not long after my step-sister was killed. I spent multiple years battling the now familiar scourge. Unrecognized by my parents as an illness or even a real problem, I leaned on a teacher, she was also my neighbor, for support. Mrs. Hoffman kept me alive for years. She listened. She cared. She recognized and acknowledged my pain. Although I ultimately nearly ended my life, I certainly wouldn't be here today if she had never intervened.

After the funeral on Friday, I stopped in to see Mrs. Hoffman for the first time in years. I needed to tell her she made a difference. I needed to express my gratitude. And while seeing her brought back a lot of memories, I'm so glad I went. It was as if we had never lost touch. We talked for over two hours, and I could have stayed all day. Her home, still next door to my previous home, felt like the safe haven it had been so many years before.

Seeing Mrs. Hoffman, being welcomed back into her home, and thanking her for her life-changing influence on my life; these were all gifts which made being back in this tortured town a treasure rather than a curse.

One marathon down...

...one to go!

Yes, I did it. I ran the whole 26.2 at The Whistlestop Marathon yesterday. It was a good run. I followed my plan and walked for one minute at every mile marker. However, I strayed from my plan when I realized how easy it was to run fast between the walk breaks, which I also did. If I had realized that fact a bit earlier, I may have come close to qualifying for Boston. As it was, I ran 14 of the 26 miles under 9 minutes per mile, and I finished right at 4 hours. Not counting the 3:22 I waited for the porta-potty at mile 10, my running time was closer to 3:57. I'm pretty happy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Feeling a little ill

Uh, oh...I'm not feeling so well. A little achy, a little nauseous, a little flu-ish. Of course I am! I registered to run the Whistlestop Marathon yesterday. You know, the one I was thinking about doing this weekend! Well, now I'm registered, and now I don't feel so hot. Fortunately, I didn't have to work today. I got in a 6.5 mile run--really slow--and since then I've slept, slept and slept some more. I'm on my way back to bed again right now. Hopefully, more sleep will do the trick.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rain, rain go away!

Boy, we've been slammed with rain lately. I spent another run soaking up the sky today. Running is a lot more difficult with this weather. The cold, wet and gray is not good for my mood either. I think it's been one week of dreariness, and I've definitely noticed a corresponding dreariness in my outlook.

Despite the weather, running is going well. My training is right on track, and my knee feels better. That's a huge relief! It's hard to believe I'm coming up on one month to go before the big day. Well, actually there may be a little day this weekend before the big day one month later.

Let me explain. I may run a marathon "training run" this weekend. I know, I know, maybe it's not the smartest idea, but running another 20 miler alone is daunting. A Saturday small-town marathon, on the other hand, is quite inviting. Besides, 102 local runners will be traveling the 3.5 hours to run it, too. I have until Thursday to sign up, and right now I'm leaning toward doing it. Hopefully, it won't be raining!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Twenty miles in the RAIN

It was dark and cold when I began my run just before 7:00 AM. Oh, and it was raining. It wasn't a hard rain, more of a misting, thick rain. Puck and I did a 6 mile loop through the woods. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than watching Puck race freely through the trees. His obvious joy makes me very happy. I figured the rain would subside by the time the sun came up. But as I dropped Puck at home, it only rained harder.

I added some dry mittens over my thin gloves. A warm, dry headband soon followed. It didn't matter. By 10 miles I was soaked. The rain played with me throughout my run. Sometimes it rained hard, other times it threatened to quit. But quit it never did. By mile fourteen, as I turned even further from home, I could only chuckle. Running 20 miles alone was difficult enough. Adding the cold, soaking rain certainly heightened the challenge.

But I am a runner, and I did it. I reached 20 miles one block from home. I finished with cold hands, sloshing shoes, and soaked clothes. I was wet to the bone. I bought ice for my typical post-run ice bath, but I just couldn't do it today. My warm shower and fuzzy sweats were just too inviting. I joined Puck for our after run nap. Nice. I'm proud of myself. It was a good day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In tune with the mood

I met with my psychiatrist today. Not much new to report, although I have noticed a little dip in my mood over the past few days. Actually, I noticed the dip on Monday, in the stairwell, at work, around 1:25 PM. Literally. It literally hit me like that. Uh-oh, I thought, I'm feeling a little low. My discovery was followed by a brief moment of worry, and then I went back to work.

I think it is relatively rare to be so in tune with one's mood that microscopic changes become apparent. Perhaps this is a side effect of having depression. Perhaps the years of struggle have trained my brain to be the microscope, to take note of every little change up or down. Even as I noted my tiny dip Monday, I thought it was strange.

I'm not sure if this microscope effect is good or bad. It's not like I go around worrying about my mood. I don't spend my waking moments taking note of every perturbation. Sometimes, like on Monday, it just hits me--Boom, your mood has changed. Weird. Good? Bad? I don't know. It just is, I guess.



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