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!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Seasonal family reunion

My parents, who go south for the winter, are back in Minnesota for the summer. My mom is in my kitchen right now making one of her specialties, spaghetti, which is fabulous despite the fact we don't have a stitch of Italian in us! I love when she cooks for me. She always makes a ton so I can freeze the leftovers! In fact, I think I still have one container of spaghetti sauce in my freezer from last Fall!

It's nice to see my mom and stepfather again. They leave Minnesota and go south in late October, so it's been awhile. They'll be around here for a few days, or weeks, and then go further north where they will settle for the summer. I'm hoping to head up there to fish with them as often as possible over the next few months. I love fishing.

As for the rest of my life, I don't think there's anything new to report. Despite looking forward to it, I had a tough 20-miler on Saturday. My legs and lungs handled the distance nicely, but I suffered from significant GI distress, which turned my three hour run into a four hour and five minute ordeal. I had to make multiple bathroom stops, which was frustrating, but I was happy with how the rest of my body felt. I've begun taking some probiotics. Hopefully they will help keep the GI distress under control from now on.

Work is going very well. I was just telling my stepfather that I've been honored to work with several WWII veterans recently. Some of them were true war heroes. I'm always thrilled when one of them willingly shares a bit of his story. I've been enjoying working with them.

My mood is still holding steady. I feel good. I've felt so steady, dare I say so normal, for so long now, I sometimes find myself thinking, "Maybe this is it. Maybe it's over. Maybe after 12 years the depression has taken its ball and gone home alone." Maybe. Wouldn't that be amazing? Sure, it would, but I don't spend much time with those thoughts. I smile and let them pass. It is what it is today, and that's all I've got. And all I have to worry about. Now.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sun and Run!

The sun came out from behind the Winter today. Finally. It's been Winter around here for far too many months now! It's late April, yet it's been cold and gray and snowing. And it's been gray and snowing and cold. And on and on and on... It's been just a bit demoralizing.

Running outside, not once since November without maximum coverage of all four limbs, has been challenging. But here I sit, reclined in my chair, sun shining on my face, fresh air breezing through my open windows, hydrating for my 20-mile run tomorrow morning. I'm actually worried about getting out early so I don't wilt in this new-found heat! I'm even going to get to wear shorts!

I'm actually anxious to do my first 20-miler tomorrow morning. The change in the weather will just make it more relaxing and fun. Since beginning the iron supplementation a few weeks ago, my running has gotten so much easier. I've been able to do speed work, tempo runs, and long runs without muscle cramps or breathlessness. Feeling like I'm putting in a hard but appropriately tiring effort sure makes running more enjoyable.

At this point, you might be thinking, "This chick is strange! How can running a 20-mile training run be enjoyable?" Well, I have several friends and coworkers who would agree with you. Running provides me with so many positives, it's difficult not to enjoy it. Just breathing fresh air and soaking in some sun for three hours is a huge motivator to keep moving forward with a smile on my face. Sure I'll be tired afterward, but the endorphin buzz will keep that from being a lasting memory. Maybe I am strange, but I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stronger

My legs were protesting just a bit during my 10-mile run this morning. I'm currently in the middle of my heaviest weeks of marathon training. I'm also in the 8th week of my kettlebell and suspension training class. We are working especially hard in that class. We've learned all the moves, so our instructor has us lifting and moving non-stop for the entire 45 minutes now. I came home last night feeling like a wet noodle. I have my last level one class tomorrow night, and then we have one week off prior to beginning 8 weeks of level two classes.

The heavier training is definitely paying off in more ways than one. When running, I've noticed I can conquer hills with less effort than I required previously. The weight training has apparently helped my shape, or at least D thought so. I received more than one compliment from him when he visited this past weekend. That was nice. The training schedule and classes are tough, but I do appreciate the benefits.

Gaining toughness, whether through lifting weights or by increasing mileage, will improve my running speed and efficiency. This weekend I will run my first of three scheduled 20-milers prior to my marathon. I'm not too worried about it, as the 19-miler, with a 12.4 mile race in the middle of it, went well last Saturday. I do think my legs will continue to be tired, however. That's the way it is at this point in a marathon training cycle. It's the usual fatigue. Getting through it means getting stronger.

Getting stronger. That's what my training is all about. I enjoy the process. The journey to race day is fun for me. I appreciate training's benefits but working hard and accomplishing the smaller daily goals really satisfies me. In this case, I relish the journey at least as much if not more than the destination.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A good day for a run

After the capture of the second Boston Marathon bomber late last night, which was such a relief, the morning here dawned bright and crisp. The sun was high and bright for the first time in at least a week. D and I laced up our shoes for an early morning race. Actually, I laced up my shoes really early and got five miles in before our 20 kilometer (12.4 mile) race. I had a 19-miler scheduled, so I ran a couple miles with Jet, a few more by myself, then D and I ran the race, and then I finished with another couple miles. The picture below was taken just before mile 12 of the race, my 17th mile of the day.


It was a glorious day. All around, runners at the race, myself included, and runners around the city throughout the day, were decked out in Boston Marathon gear. The mood was celebratory at every turn. Just the way it should be, the way it usually is, when one is running or racing. It was so nice. Again, it was a relief.

To be able to share such a wonderful, celebratory day with D was icing on the cake. After the race, we went out for lunch at one of our favorite cafes. A nap, a movie (42--two thumbs up!), and an Italian dinner rounded out our day. Back home now, we are being entertained by Jet's never-ending, comedic antics. It's good to be together laughing and relaxing.

When he leaves tomorrow, it will be too soon. But I'm not complaining. It was a great day to share with someone special. It was a great day for a run, some fun, a little laughter and a bit of love.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Two good legs

I ran 9 miles this morning. I symbolically donned my bright racing flats in honor of all those who participated in Boston yesterday. Running this morning was my way of waving an angry, stoic middle finger in the bomber's face. It felt good. It felt right. I was proud to be one of thousands of good people putting foot to pavement today in honor of the victims in Boston.

Thoughts of Boston, and especially pictures of the victims, continuously streamed through my brain as I ran. One victim in particular stuck out. His name is Jeff Bauman, Jr., and you've likely seen his photo more than once. He is the young man in the wheelchair, holding his left thigh, accompanied by a man in a cowboy hat. Both of Mr. Bauman's legs are missing, traumatically amputated just below his knees. It's a horrific photo, one you'd expect to see from a war zone, not from the sidelines of a marathon.

At last count Boston surgeons have performed 13 amputations as a result of the bombs' piercing trauma. This is what I can't stop thinking about. Mr. Bauman, and as many as one dozen others, will never again be able to do what I did this morning, easily and efficiently run down the street on two intact legs. I can't imagine how I would feel waking up to one, or both, of my legs missing. What would I do if I was one of those innocent people? How would I react? I'm not sure I could handle it. 

My heart aches for these victims. I feel so sad for the lost lives and for the friends and families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I cannot imagine. Lives were instantaneously torn apart and will never be the same again. As I ran this morning, I took stock of my good fortune. I ran with pride. I ran with gratitude. I was outside easily doing something I love to do in a body which is perfectly suited to do it. I'm so lucky.

I send my prayers to Mr. Bauman and all those injured or affected by this cowardly act. I pray that the physical and emotional pain of each victim be relieved. I pray that their prosthetics fit perfectly, and that they quickly learn to stand tall within them. Relearning to walk with prosthetics is not a simple process, but I sincerely hope God smiles down upon them and allows them that freedom as quickly as possible. And if running is in the future plans of any of the amputees, I will be honored to share the road with them.

Monday, April 15, 2013

WHY??

I could fill this first paragraph with a stream of obscenities so profane it would curl your toenails. I am so angry! Why? Why does someone feel the need to blow people up? Why mar a beautiful, peaceful, celebratory event like The Boston Marathon? Does it fill an ego with pride to permanently alter the lives of others? To blow off the limbs of innocent spectators? What sense does that make? To kill an 8-year-old child? A child whose only sin was watching a race, perhaps even watching a parent, participate in one of running's greatest events? Why?

I first saw the horrendous footage from Boston as I was working with a patient in his apartment. It was all I could do to remain focused. The pictures literally took my breath away. I almost threw up. While I'm not in Boston this year, I have many friends who ran today. My mind immediately went to them. Fortunately, Facebook recently confirmed they are all okay.

The bomb at the finish line blew at 4:09:43. Someone researched this. That's a fairly average finishing time, thus insuring maximum impact. Boylston Street, which is the last half mile of the race, is also likely packed with more spectators in closer proximity to each other than anywhere else on the course. I've been on that street. I've run across that finish line. In fact, last year I believe I crossed that finish line around 4:10. That could have been me in the middle of those horrifying pictures.

I'm safe. It appears my friends and their families are safe. For that, I'm grateful. There are at least two families who will never see their loved one again. Multiple spectators, whose limbs were literally torn off by the blast, will never have the same life again. A beautiful, historical, celebration was turned into a grizzly slaughterhouse. Why? What is the point? Senseless. Absolutely senseless.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Halfway Half

I'm about halfway through my 18-week Grandmas Marathon training plan. My schedule called for a half marathon race this weekend, so I found the only one I could and ran it. The race was 2.5 hours from my home in a small Wisconsin town. I drove over with Jet last night after work in preparation for the early morning start today.

It was a nice, small town event benefiting the local veterans' memorial, so there were many vets in attendance. I shook as many hands as I could, thanking each vet for his service to our country. The older ones always look so surprised when I do that! I love our veterans, and I'm honored to work with them in my profession.

I haven't raced since The Dallas Marathon in early December, and I didn't taper at all for this event, so I wasn't sure what to expect today. To get the most accurate picture of my fitness I decided to run purely by feel. I did not look at my watch, and thankfully there were no clocks on the course, for the entire race. I had no idea what pace I was running, which kept me from freaking out about running too fast or too slow. I just ran.

Our weird weather continues, so I awoke to snow and 30 degrees. A cold wind was blowing, and as I soon discovered, the course was quite hilly. Conditions were not ideal. The wind was in our faces for the first 6.5 miles. Thankfully, it was only intermittently directed right at us from there to the finish.

The hills were tough. There were two back to back, long, steep hills between 4 and 6 miles. They were really long and really steep. I refused to walk them, though many runners did. They hurt! After 6 miles the hills leveled out a bit, and there were long stretches of flat country road. Unfortunately, that niceness ended just before mile eleven. It's just cruel to put a hill at mile 11 of a half marathon if you ask me! It was also a little sadistic to put the finish line on top of a long, gradual incline, but that they did. I guess it did make crossing the finish line that much more relieving.

I finally eyeballed my watch as I turned it off at the finish. I was very pleasantly surprised! I ran a 1:42:25, which is a 7:50 average per mile. I placed first in my age division, which was also a nice surprise. Running by feel turned out to be a good decision. I was more relaxed out on the course and spent less time in my head. I pushed myself to the max, but I wasn't fretting about it like I would have if I had known my quicker-than-I-thought-I-could-run pace. It was a good day, and now it's time for a well-deserved nap!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Parallels

A new, old book is about to be re-released. It is called Running and Being by Dr. George Sheehan. Originally released in 1978, it spent many months on The New York Times Best Seller List. While I never read it, I was only in third grade at the time, I have recently read about it. Runner's World  magazine editor, David Willey, opened the May, 2013, issue with a story about the book's re-release. From that piece, I was particularly appreciative of the following quote:

"Running made me free. It rid me of concern for the opinion of others. Dispensed me from rules and regulations imposed from outside. Running let me start from scratch. It stripped off those layers of programmed activity and thinking. Developed new priorities about eating and sleeping and what to do with leisure time. Running changed my attitude about work and play. About whom I really liked and who really liked me. Running let me see my twenty-four-hour day in a new light and my lifestyle from a different point of view, from the inside instead of out." ---Dr. George Sheehan

Wow. That is a great quote! It's brilliant, accurate, and poignant. The quote struck me, hard, and it struck me because it rings doubly true for me. Without a doubt, running has given me the gifts Dr. Sheehan highlights. But perhaps more remarkable is that these gifts have also been delivered as a result of my dual illnesses, depression and alcoholism.

Now I know I'm repeating a familiar mantra here. In fact, I just wrote about this a few posts ago. I apologize. But the parallels between what I've learned and experienced through running, and what I've learned and experienced as a result of illness have never hit me so clearly. In fact, I'm not sure I ever realized it before.

As I noted in previous posts, I knew the process of recovery, especially from alcohol, had freed me. The tools of my sobriety, tools which were humbling and challenging to learn, and the lessons of a twelve year journey with depression, "Dispensed me from rules and regulations imposed from outside," and "let me start from scratch." For example, who says a seemingly healthy, single adult has to work full-time? The "layers of programmed activity and thinking" were stripped from me, and my "attitude about work and play" was changed.

Likewise, sobriety and especially depression, "Developed new priorities about eating and sleeping and what to do with leisure time." Can you say take a nap? I also now have the freedom of knowing, "whom I really like and who really likes me." Friends and family are important, but those who rob me of precious energy must be, and have been, let go.

As Dr. Sheehan noted, running, and I would add sobriety and depression, "let me see my twenty-four-hour day in a new light and my lifestyle from a different point of view, from the inside instead of out." I no longer take life, or my well-being, for granted. Viewing life from the inside out allows me to set my own priorities, worry little about the energy-draining drama of others, take the next right action, and conduct myself with integrity and grace.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Improved

I have good news. My energy level is improving! As I noted here in previous posts, I have a recent history of significant fatigue, and I have been suffering mightily during my runs, even struggling to complete most of my long runs. A couple of weeks ago, my doctor ordered blood tests, and we discovered my ferritin level was low.

Ferritin is a protein found inside cells that stores iron. The amount of ferritin in your blood (serum ferritin level) is directly related to the amount of iron stored in your body. Without iron, the blood cannot carry oxygen effectively, and you become fatigued easily. That was exactly my experience. I couldn't figure out why, as a trained marathoner, I was becoming breathless while climbing one flight of stairs. And I was getting really worried about my running. It was consistently difficult!

The discovery of the low ferritin level was actually a relief. My symptoms made sense, and it meant I wasn't just an aging runner hitting the wall. I began taking an iron supplement about 10 days ago. In my online research, I discovered it could take many months, anywhere from 3 to 12, to restore my iron levels in the bone marrow. I also read some running forums. Many runners reported it took several months for their energy and running to get back on track, too. That concerned me, but at least I knew it was a fixable problem.

Well, my running is getting easier already! I had a class all day today, and I'm working tomorrow, so I did my long run this past Thursday. I went 17.25 miles, and I felt good! I finished easily! I recovered well. I was thrilled! What a difference ten days make! I certainly hope this is the beginning of the recovery of my energy and my running performance. I'm planning a fast 8-miler after work tomorrow. That will be another good test, I think.

I'm so grateful my doctor believed what I was telling her and ordered those blood tests. I'm so glad something so easily fixable was the cause of my symptoms. And I'm really excited to be feeling more energized already. I was prepared to wait the 3 to 12 months for resolution, but I gladly welcome these early signs of improvement! I sure hope it continues.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Life is Strange. Life is Good.

Sometimes it is the mistakes and misfortunes of others which remind us how good our life currently is. Whether it's the relapse of a fellow alcoholic, or as I found out today, potential bone cancer in a friend's 7-year-old canine companion, observing others work through their difficulties nudges me into an attitude of gratitude. Life is weird that way.

Life lessons come from strange and unexpected places sometimes. As long as I remain open and willing to learn, the Big Book of AA promises, "We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us." That promise has certainly been realized in my life. I am grateful for that.

Observing others, and reflecting on these past 10-12 years, highlights how much opportunity to grow I've been given. And I have grown...boy, have I grown! Oddly enough, and I've spoken about this before, much of my growth has come as a direct result of having depression and being an alcoholic. I'm grateful for the growth.

Of course I had opportunities to grow earlier in life, pre-depression and pre-alcoholism, but apparently I was too thick to notice. I know I was unwilling to learn! Perhaps I needed the stronger motivation, and I certainly received it. I never thought I'd be grateful to be an alcoholic or to have depression, but the misfortunes of others remind me things could be worse.

In the past, things have been worse for me, too. But today I have a good life, and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for my journey through depression and alcoholism.

I've received many gifts as a result of these illnesses. I've crossed paths with and come to know many wonderful people. I've reestablished loving relationships with family, especially my mother. I've regained my competitive running. I've learned the tools to deal with "situations which used to baffle" me. I've raised a loving canine companion and despite his painful loss, I'm in the process of raising another. I've developed a relationship with a caring man. And I've returned to working in a profession I love. I have food on my table and heat in my house. Life is good. Thanks for the reminders, God.



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