Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

This crazy life

Life is crazy!

In my last post I could barely manage my day at work because of my low mood. My mood has been slowly getting better, but it has been so poor that I've not even been living at home. I've been staying with friends (in lieu of going into the hospital). I've been lower and more dark over the past 2-3 weeks than I'd been in the past two years.

Previous to my mood difficulties, I told you about basically losing my job due to a lack of patients. Our agency had not been able to garner enough business to keep two physical therapists occupied. Because of that, I went out and interviewed for two new jobs.

Then life turned on it's head! On Monday, I worked 12 hours because we were swamped with new patients! On Tuesday, I was offered both jobs for which I had interviewed. Yesterday, I was perhaps busier than I had ever been at my current job, again because we'd suddenly been inundated with more patients than we could handle. My mood has taken a back seat to necessity. While still struggling, I've really not had time to deal with it. Life is crazy!

It just goes to show...you might think you are headed in one direction. You may not even be able to see another possible direction. You may think you are doomed, down, or even knocked out. But God has a sense of humor, I think, or at least a sense of irony! Just when you've determined life is particularly unfair, something turns around. Or, as is my case, everything, at once, turns on its head! I'm hanging on for the ride.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Working

It's Sunday, and I'm at work. I'm working at my supplemental job, which is inpatient orthopedic physical therapy. My day will not be over soon enough. I don't have particularly difficult patients, but I'm having a difficult time. I don't know how to explain it. It's an old, familiar feeling, and I don't like it.

I feel overwhelmed, even though there's nothing overwhelming taking place. I've had to step into a stairwell multiple times today to catch my breath and/or say a prayer. I like the stairwells. They are gray, solitary, concrete structures with little color nor variation; perfect for an overwhelmed physical therapist.

I don't like being so easily overwhelmed. This feeling takes me back to when I first transitioned off disability and returned to work. At that time, I was constantly stepping into stairwells, sometimes to cry, or settling myself in a dark, quiet, hospital corner for a break.

Over the years, I've gotten my confidence back. Feeling overwhelmed has lessened. I've been able to work like a "normal" person. But today, it's back. I'm anxious, overwhelmed, and filled with dread. I really want to go home and go straight to bed. Curled up with the covers over my head seems the only safe place right now. And I hate that.

I hate feeling like I'm going to go to pieces at any moment. I hate the dread. Not sure I have the energy to put a smile on my face or intelligence in my voice, I dread approaching each patient. I hate that, too. This is all quite exhausting and without sense. I'm tired. I'm overwhelmed. I just want to go home. But I've got patients waiting to see me, so off I go.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Back to work

I'm going back to work today. I took two days off while attempting to climb out of this black hole in which I've been consumed. Actually, I took the time off at the suggestion of my doc. She told me Monday to take a medical leave, or so I thought, but then yesterday she told me she thought work would be helpful. I thought I was doing the right thing. Turns out I wasn't. At times like these, I don't have a clue what the right thing is or isn't. So I'm going back to work.

I'm going back to work today, and I'm scared to death. I feel anxious and numb at the same time. I don't know what I have to give to my patients, and they need me to give them something. I can't be a zombie, but I feel like a zombie. My chest hurts. There is a familiar ache deep within my soul. Will I burst into tears when my first patient opens her door? Seems like a definite possibility. But I pray that doesn't happen.

I'm going back to work today, and I don't feel ready. But then again, how will I ever know if I am ready? Will I ever feel ready? I don't feel ready right now. But as my friend Bill pointed out yesterday, I do have a history of pulling it together despite my health. And that's what I'm banking on, I guess, that I'll pull another rabbit out of my hat and get done what needs to be done. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Ask me at the end of the day. I'm hoping to make it at least that far.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I heard...

I had an appointment today. This is what I heard.

a. This is normal.
b. You wanted special treatment.
c. You aren't working hard enough.
d. You aren't socializing enough.
e. You aren't doing enough.
f. You aren't pushing yourself enough.
g. You aren't using your skills.
h. You should be doing more.

Ouch.
It may not be what was meant, but that's what I heard.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting

Two days ago, my treatment team decided it was time to go to the hospital. I'm not there. Long story short, there were no psych beds available in the local hospital. Actually, there were no beds available in the entire state of Minnesota. How crazy is that? Can you imagine a cancer patient needing to be hospitalized and being told, "Sorry, no bed for you." I could get into a long, political discussion about why there are so few psych beds available, but I just don't have the energy for it. It's yet another example of how mental illness is not treated on par with other illnesses. Let's leave it at that.

So for the past three days, I've been staying with my friends, Bill and Cindy. They've graciously taken me in and agreed to keep track of me. They are my safety net for now, and it is a relief to be here. My MD has taken me off work, so I can take my meds as needed without fear of them making me too sleepy to treat my patients. I don't have to cook. And I have someone to sit with when things feel particularly dark. It's not the hospital, but it's safer than being home alone.

At home alone, my safety was becoming an issue. As is typical, when my mood grew darker, my thoughts grew more frightening. I am not suicidal. Let me repeat that, I am not suicidal. But part of my darkness includes violent, scary thoughts. And fighting violent, scary thoughts for days and days became exhausting. Some of the violent, scary thoughts began to look more appealing. If I gave up fighting the thoughts, I could finally give up...get a break...rest. I guess it's sort of a passive suicidal state. I had no plans to kill myself, but I wasn't sure how long I could have kept fighting. Hence, the hospital recommendation.

At this point, there are still no hospital beds available. I'm in the land of limbo. My thinking has been slightly better since arriving here, but after spending two hours alone at home today it was clear nothing had changed. I came back feeling bruised and battered, and I immediately fell asleep. I'm doing the best I can, yet I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I feel stuck. I want to be working. I want to take Puck to the vet. I want to follow through on my commitments. But I haven't been able to do those things, and I'm not sure when I should start testing the waters. Limbo. I hate this illness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Holding

Life is moving forward for everyone, it seems, but me. I am stuck in a holding pattern. I've been able to do little over the past several days. My mood remains quite low, and my thoughts quite dark. I've been in constant contact with either my sponsor, my social worker, my psychologist or my doctor. They've each lent a hand. I've talked with my sponsor almost daily, and we've gone to a couple of AA meetings together. My doctor adjusted my meds. That seems to have helped the thinking just a bit. My social worker came and sat with me on a particularly dark and scary afternoon. That was helpful. And my psychologist has reassured me more than once over the phone. But mostly, I've spent my time curled up and covered up on my sofa with Puck lying at my feet.  

I've got friends offering to take me into their homes. I haven't gone, not out of stubbornness or self-pity, but because I'd have to put on that slight smile and be minimally sociable, even though they know I feel like crap. That prospect is overwhelming, so I've stayed at home. At least here I can just be. I am in familiar surroundings with no expectations. That's about all I can handle for now. I can't cook. I can't clean. I don't want to talk on the phone. I can barely shower. Sleep, right now, seems my only respite.

I'm holding on. That's all I can do. I'm working with the people with whom I need to work. I'm grateful to have trustworthy people who are willing to work with me, too. Together, we will get through. I know that. But for now, I'm just holding on.

Friday, March 18, 2011

humbled.

The last post was very difficult for me to write. I guess I felt an obligation to stay positive even though life was difficult. To feel so poorly, and to write about it so honestly, was quite frightening. After submitting my last post, I fretted about it all day. I seriously contemplated removing it.

That post still makes me nervous. Here's the thing, I don't want to feel so bad. I don't want anyone to know I feel so bad. And I don't want to discourage those who land on my site looking for encouragement. As difficult as it was to write, and as nerve wracking as it's been to have it posted, I've gone against my fears, and left the post in place for all to see.

I certainly don't know the impact of that post on most of you. It scared the hell out of me, but maybe it was no big deal to many of you. Maybe some poor soul came and left because they couldn't relate. Maybe some of my friends freaked out at the level of my dysfunction. I don't know how it read to most of you. But some of you were kind enough to comment, and your comments literally brought me to my knees.

I've been surprised by the number of you who've written to say my blog has made a difference in your life. I am so grateful you took the time to let me know, especially as I struggle through this low, dark place. And I am incredibly, gratefully, humbled by those comments. I can't believe it. To hear that I've made a difference, or inspired, or simply connected with someone outside this little screen is absolutely overwhelming to me. I can't thank you readers enough. You humble me with your honesty and graciousness. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where do the tears go?

I'm feeling so low. Yet I cannot cry. Where do the tears go? They've apparently disappeared with the rest of my soul into the deep darkness, which has yet to abate. In fact, I'm darker and the darkness is deeper. I'm feeling sad, so sad. I've reached a point where I feel tearful, without energy, and alone all the time. I'm numb, yet I hurt. It's a deep, dark ache in the middle of my soul. My heart feels heavy, like a leaden weight in the middle of my chest. It doesn't beat. It just hangs there--heavy and low. I'm numb, yet I hurt. I'm so numb I can't even cry. Though my body wants to stream it all away, no tears will come. Where do the tears go?

Tears seem insufficient anyway. I crave oblivion. Drinking, drugs, food, sleep...name your poison, anything to drive out the pain. I crave whatever will take me there, and it's a scary place to be. Oblivion seems the only way.

It's been quite awhile since I've felt this way. Scared. Craving oblivion. It's harder and harder to hang onto the temporary nature of pain. They say it will pass. They are not here, within, experiencing the despair. The light at the end of the tunnel has grown frightfully dim.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's getting a little better

Life moves on whether I feel good or not. Yesterday, despite still feeling low, I got up early to run. Unfortunately, my body did not agree with that decision. Neither, it turns out, did the weather. But I pushed out the door, which is when I realized my legs were totally dead. I felt like I was running on water-logged, dead tree stumps instead of human legs. The weather, too, was rudely awakening. Of course it was cold, but the real killer was the wind. It was gusting up to 50 mph! My heart sank at both of these developments. I was planning to run 5 miles with Puck alone before joining the track club for another 15 miles. Unfortunately that didn't seem likely given the circumstances.

I spent the first three miles of my run contemplating my planned 20-miler. After three miles, I decided my legs felt too dead and the wind was too cold and fierce to attempt 20 miles. I ran 8 miles instead. I don't know how. I was shooting for five, but once I decided not to join the track club, I wanted to get as far as I could before giving up.

After quitting, I filled my stomach, rehydrated, and relaxed with my feet up. I went to my usual AA meeting, which I would have missed had I done the whole 20 miles. Upon returning home, I ate some more and took a nap. I was praying the wind would die, but it didn't, so I stopped waiting. At one o'clock I felt well enough to try again. I headed out to finish my run.

The afternoon weather was equally as brutal as the morning crap. My legs felt better, but overall I was still tired. While running, I decided I'd shoot for a total of 18 miles. Then I downgraded that decision to 16 miles. Around 12 miles, some rough footing forced me to walk for awhile. That rest break must have served me well, because I ran past 18 miles and made it to 19 before finally calling it quits. I was whipped.

I think the trauma of losing my job, combined with the recent slide into depression, physically wore me down over the course of last week. Like most of you, I woke up tired today (and missing one hour of sleep). I had to work (at my second job), and maybe that was good. My brain and my mood behaved while I was working. Focusing on others always helps. I swam after work, but once in the pool I felt as dead as I did yesterday morning. I stayed about 20 minutes. At least I did something before coming home to collapse.

I've rested now. I'm trying to relax. I'm anticipating feeling discontent, perhaps a little angry, when I return to work tomorrow morning. My boss will be gone, so that will make it easier. I will be professional, as usual, but I'm anticipating a lot of mixed emotions, nonetheless. I'm hoping my energy won't be sapped. It's only 5 weeks to Boston. I need all the energy I can get!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Low

It's been a rough week around here. I was already sliding a bit when I got the news Monday about my job. That sent me into an immediate tailspin which shook my faith in recovery. For three days, I was so low I barely moved. Accomplishing anything was a monumental feat. It's been one of those root-rattling depressive episodes, and I've been feeling totally unhinged.

Feeling low, unhinged, crazy...I hate it. These episodes rudely remind me of my illness. I have a chronic condition of mind and body, and it can be debilitating. It has been debilitating. And I hate the reminder. But today is a new day, and so far, I feel a tiny bit better. Yet I don't know what to expect. Yesterday began better, too, but eventually the darkness enveloped me again. It was tough.

Despite the darkness, at least yesterday I was able to push through a bit. In the morning, my psychiatrist and I set a goal of accomplishing just two things during the day. I went one better and accomplished three.

It may seem bizarre, but one of the things I accomplished was getting out for a run. It was a priority. I barely got off the sofa on Wednesday. I needed to get out, and I needed to get Puck out, too. So we made it. Yes, it took the life out of me temporarily, but ultimately I think it helped. It was a major accomplishment.

That accomplishment set up the next. Before I crashed after my run, I made some phone calls. There were two promising job opportunities out there. I called about both. I sent resumes to both. I'm interviewing for one of the opportunities next week and will likely interview for the other job before the end of the month. I'm not sure I could have accomplished making those connections if I hadn't gone for my run. I'm grateful I was able to get out the door.

I'm praying today for energy despite feeling so low. I have accomplishments yet to achieve. I have two patients, possibly three, to see. I'm hoping for two. I'd like to get on my bike for a short, indoor ride. My legs are sore from yesterday's effort. And I'll call my sponsor to check in. That's what I'm hoping for today.

It's good for me to have a plan. I've always been motivated by goals. But I'm also aware my body, my brain, my illness may not allow for all I'd like to achieve. I'll try to be okay with that, too. But please, God, grant me a reprieve from feeling so low. I've got more plans to make and more goals to achieve. I hope.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sometimes life isn't fair

If you are a regular reader, you're probably a little surprised. I typically don't lead off with a downer like "sometimes life isn't fair," but I had to go with it today. Actually, I planned to go with it yesterday, but I couldn't muster the energy to revisit the situation. And without further ado, here is the situation. Yesterday, I basically lost my job.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from my boss. She informed me that all patients from this moment forward would be assigned to my co-worker, the full-time physical therapist. I didn't do anything wrong. My boss says she doesn't want to lose me. She'd like me to stay with the company, but until we get our patient census up, the full-timer will be getting all of the patients. For me, no patients means no hours which means no money. So I didn't get fired or laid off, but I won't be getting any patients to work with until my full-time co-worker raises her productivity to that which is expected of a full-time employee.

We are still a new agency in this area, and we've been working hard to get our name out there. But we've been struggling to get enough patients to keep us all busy. A full-time employee is expected to have 25 visits per week. Last week she had 11, and I had 6 visits. Since the full-timer also gets benefits, the company doesn't want to pay her, and provide her benefits, for working less than full-time. They'd rather not pay me at all.

Apparently it doesn't matter that I've got more seniority than the full-time therapist. It doesn't matter that I've never called in sick or missed a scheduled visit. It doesn't matter that I've been searching out and bringing in many new referrals. It doesn't matter that I was hired early in the company's local history and was the only P.T. on staff for several months. In a just, perfect world it all would matter, but sometimes life is not fair.

The phone call with my boss ended with me in tears. She felt bad, but had no other choice. The business people who made the decision, she said, looked only at the numbers. I love my job. I like my company. I love my co-workers, and I like and respect my boss. I don't want to work someplace else. But I now have no other choice. Sometimes life is not fair.

I'm sad. I'm hurt. I'm scared. I know I will get through this, but in the meantime it sucks. It just sucks. I've already been living paycheck to paycheck, so I can't afford to waste any time. As soon as I finish this post, I'll be updating my resume and moving forward. I don't want to do it, but I will. There is no other way to go.

One foot in front of the other.
One foot in front of the other.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Run and sleep

Up early today to run 4.5 miles with Puck. It was cold and dark, but he smiled the whole way! I love looking down and seeing him trot along. So happy... After dropping him at home I drove to the track club meeting place to finish my long run. Despite the chill and the wind, it was a very large crowd of runners today. There must have been 40-50 of us there. Covered head to toe, we were quite a spectacle of glowing jackets and high tech gear once we hit the road. It was nice to be surrounded with like minded souls on such a crisp day.

Unfortunately, the whole body fatigue of two days ago seemed to have settled in my legs this morning. I was shooting for 15-18 miles, but by mile 10 I wasn't sure I'd make it. I took full advantages of our volunteer water stops, downed some Gatorade, bananas and gummy bears, and I pushed onward. I kept up a breathy chatter with whomever sidled up to me, and before I knew it we were done. My final tally was 16.5 miles. Not bad.

After the run, I decided to join a bunch of runners for brunch. I had pancakes. It was fun. Runners can be quite a zany crowd, especially after freezing their buns running for 2.5-3 hours! I'm glad I went. That's not something in which I typically participate, but I decided to stretch my boundaries just a bit.

Unfortunately, the combination of pancakes and 16.5 chilly miles made me very, very tired. It's been another long day of snoozing. Besides one load of laundry, writing this post is the only thing I've accomplished since returning home 7 hours ago. I'm tired, not quite as sleepy as the other day, but definitely tired.

Along with the fatigue, I'm a little worried about my thinking. It's a little off. I don't know exactly how to explain it. But trust me, it's off. My mind is bouncing around and racing a little. I've had lots of using thoughts. I had a drinking dream so real the other night, I thought I had relapsed. That really sucked! I was so relieved when I realized I was still sober. But my brain is a bit off, and I'm worried about that.

Hopefully, the fatigue and the thinking will each self-correct. I have spoken to my sponsor, and I plan to see her at an AA event tonight. I hope that helps. I think I just need to get out of myself for a little while. Maybe I've been spending too much time alone. Solitude lends itself to stir-craziness when my brain's operating like this. My head is best visited only with a chaperone! I'll be surrounded by chaperones at the AA event tonight, which is all the more reason I need to go. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The F-word

If there is such a thing as Delayed Onset Fatigue, stemming from a completed marathon almost two weeks past, I think I've got it. Today has been a tough, tough day. I have struggled with fatigue all week, but today I really bonked. After sleeping 8+ hours overnight, I went back to bed shortly after getting up and slept another two hours. Somehow I dragged myself out for my tempo run before showering and going back to bed. And I slept again. When I awoke, around 1:30 PM, I managed to get in a brief grocery shopping trip. I wasn't gone 60 minutes before I started to feel like I was about to drop. I made it home and drop is exactly what I did. It's four hours later, and I just got up. I'm hoping to finish this post before I fall asleep again.

Phew! I hate feeling this fatigued (the F-word). I'm so glad I had the day off. If I'd had to work today, I would have been in trouble. I'm not sure why this fatigue has set in so deeply. I feel tired, worn out, flat, and heavy. It got so bad today, I could barely tolerate the length of my shower. It was exhausting and exasperating! I was really distressed about it for awhile. Thankfully, I let go of that distress. It wasn't doing me any good. It only made things worse. And I'm feeling a little more hopeful now. After all, tomorrow is a new day, and eventually this has to pass. Right? God, I hope so.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not much to say...

I'm feeling ambivalent about writing today. And that's probably not the best opening line with which to attract your attention. Let me explain. I'm feeling ambivalent about writing because I don't feel like I have much to offer about what is currently happening. I'm caught wanting to do more than just report what's happening. I feel an obligation, as the writer of this blog, to find or create some meaning out of the recent events. And I guess I'm not feeling able to do that on this day. So here goes the reporting...

There have been two deaths in the past few days which have hit close to home. Last night I attended the service for a local man--a political figure--who was a member of my church. He died suddenly last week. While I wouldn't say he and I were friends, his wife and I are more acquainted, I did enjoy and respect this man. He was a talented stained glass artist. He was a political activist who stood up for the little man, including those of us with mental illness, and his wacky, dry sense of humor was second to none. His presence will be missed in our church and in this community.

I thought about this man and his family all night and into this morning. He and his wife were soul mates, still deeply in love 44 years later. So tragic... And then I signed into Facebook this morning and discovered a pillar of our AA community lost his wife yesterday afternoon. This man is beloved in our local AA crowd, and while his wife has been sick, I don't think her death was necessarily expected. Similar to the couple from my church, this man and his wife also shared a deep, abiding love and friendship.

Ironically, one day after losing his wife, this man celebrated his 49th year of sobriety at our AA meeting tonight. Wow. When he accepted his 49 year medallion there wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was intense. I so, so respect this man, too. I will be offering condolences at the exact same funeral home again tomorrow night.

And that's all I've got. Is there a take home message in two close-to-home deaths, each of which separated one soul mate from the other, from two well-respected families within a week? I don't know. It is what it is. Life. And death. I don't know what else to say.



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