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!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

8 years


Yesterday, December 28th, I officially hit 8 years of sober living. I haven't found it necessary to take a drink of alcohol since December 28, 2005. That, my friends, is a miracle! And I am profoundly grateful today. Despite all the pain this journey has sometimes entailed, I wouldn't give up my sobriety to change a moment of it. I am humbled by the assistance, guidance, and love I have received over these past eight years by my friends in recovery. I would not be sober, nor alive, today without the people around me or my recovery program. Living in the moment, one day at a time, and taking the next right action are all recovery principals which guide me through my days, whether they be good days filled with friends and love or bad days consumed by depression and isolation. By using the principals I've learned in sobriety I've stayed alive and functional. I'd be dead today had I not gotten sober. It's that simple. I pray for those still out there, still suffering, and hope they, too, find a way to a much better life. Eight years... I'm humbled. Wow.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Uneasy

When you've been in and out of the hospital five times in less than 90 days, and experienced depths of despair never before thought possible, and when previous successful treatments failed to relieve the pain, what do you do when you wake up feeling low, lethargic, and unmotivated? Of course, I am the person who's been in and out of the hospital, experienced the despair, and went through the failed treatments. And I am the one who woke up this morning with that uneasy feeling of a do-over right around the corner. What to do? What to do?

It's difficult not to be frightened by the slightest dip in my mood right now. It's difficult to ignore that uneasy feeling. You know the one, that feeling in the pit of your stomach that some thing's just a bit off. It's the same feeling you've had many times before, right before a crash. I tried to explain that feeling to my friend and my doctor's nurse today, but if you've dealt with depression, I'm betting no explanation is necessary. I'm trying not to put too much stock in the feelings, acknowledge them and move on, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.

I awoke feeling low. Low is okay. I can deal with low without much thought or concern. But low combined with the lethargy, fatigue, and lack of motivation to do anything other than pull the covers over my head? That, my friends, is a different story. I'd like to know how you deal with it? I'm just coming out of this dark, soul-sucking, hopeless abyss. The last thing I want to feel now is how I'm feeling today.

Likely my feelings today mean nothing. Healing is not linear. I know that. It's likely just another day in my recovery process, and that's what I'm hanging onto right now. I've acknowledged the feelings. I've noted the dread surrounding the feelings. I took the next right action anyway. I went to my appointment, ran my errand, and even accomplished my scheduled run. None of it came easily. Each task required a conscious decision and an effort not normally necessary for such tasks. I'm glad I pushed through, but I pray tomorrow I won't have to.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Still Going

It's been one week since I stepped out of the inpatient mental health unit after my most recent 10-day stay. It was the end of my fifth admission since September 30th, 2013. So far it doesn't look like I'll be going back anytime soon. Of course, as soon as I typed that sentence, my heart skipped a beat. Obviously recent history is not on my side, but so far I'm doing okay.

I've been keeping busy with exercise, running, AA meetings, errands and chores. I'm taking my meds and keeping all of my appointments. I've also continued to stay overnight with my friend Wendy as needed, which has been most nights. And like I said, so far it's been enough. I've maintained my mood, my energy level has been okay, and my thoughts have not been distressing. Busy has been good for me.

In other news, it's the holidays, which I know can be very difficult for many with mental illness. I was a little worried myself, but I finalized some plans tonight so I'll be around others for at least a part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I didn't want to be alone. Usually I'm okay being alone, but I didn't want to push my luck right now. On top of Christmas, I also had a birthday a few days ago, and my sobriety anniversary is between Christmas and New Year's Day. It's a busy time with a lot of loaded "holidays" for me, but I'm still going.

I think I'm still going because I'm endeavoring to take only one moment at a time. I'm doing my best to take the next right action. When I'm tired, I nap. When I'm hungry, I eat, and I'm trying to eat well. When I'm lonely, I search out someone with whom to connect. And when my mood or emotions feel iffy, I talk to someone. I'm trying to stay focused on the things I can control and not worry about everything else. It's been hard not to get frightened when I've felt sad, for example, but by acknowledging the sadness and the fright, I've been able to keep moving forward.

I hope you are all able to keep moving forward through these next few days, too. I wish you all the peace, serenity, and happiness we each deserve during these holidays and into the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Busy Business

I have discovered that when one is away from home for 10+ days, there were a lot of things awaiting completion once I returned home. I've been a bit overwhelmed with the amount of items on my to-do list. Just opening my mail required half of an afternoon! And some of it is still sitting on my counter waiting to be filed or addressed. It seems every task results in two or three additional tasks. The more items I cross off my list, the more items I add! Yikes! I'm not sure I'll ever catch up.

It may sound like it, but I'm not complaining. I may be overwhelmed, but I'm overwhelmed at home! And that is an improvement. So far I'm doing fairly well. I've been spending my days at home, running errands, completing paperwork, paying bills, and running! My late evenings and overnights are still being spent 20 minutes away at my friend Wendy's home. It's a lot of traveling back and forth for Jet and I, but it is still the safest option, and I think being around others, especially at night, helps maintain my mood. It is what it is, and so far it's working.

I mentioned running. I ran the last 3 days in a row, and I have a long run, 10 miles, on my schedule for tomorrow. I'm officially in my first week of training for the Boston Marathon. My runs of 5, 4, and 3 miles have all been tough with 10 extra pounds on my frame, so I'm not sure what to expect tomorrow. I think I'll run two 5 mile loops just in case I'm not yet up to the task of ten. It may not be easy or pretty, but I'm happy to be out on the road. I'll try to be patient.

That's all for now, friends. I've got this to-do list staring at me. Thank you all for the support I received from you over these last three months. It's hard to believe I felt that bad for that long, but I'm hopeful the worst is past. That's all I can do, right? Keep the faith. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will hopefully be better days.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rumination

It is the middle of the night. I awoke around 3:30 AM, and it is now 4:35 AM. I've been ruminating. Ruminating, in case you were unaware, is not conducive to sleep. Even Jet is looking at me with tired eyes, not bothering to get up, wondering what the hell I'm doing. I'm ruminating. Writing, I hope, will be the cure.

I got out of the hospital yesterday morning. It was snowing beautiful, fluffy snow, as it had been all morning. I went home briefly, tried to start my snowblower, but despite long distance help from my step-father via texted photos and phone calls, I had no luck. I pulled the snowblower back in the garage and ran off to my AA meeting instead. I thought a little wisdom and serenity time couldn't hurt so soon after discharge. It didn't.

Returning home, and after multiple attempts to start the snow blower, my friend Taylor arrived and started it for me. I now know the trick. Shouldn't be a problem from here on out. Taylor had arrived to return my mail. He kept an eye on my house and collected my mail over the last 10 days. It took me a few days, mail undoubtedly piling up in my mailbox and house appearing very empty, but I finally called Taylor from the hospital and asked for his assistance. He seemed genuinely pleased to be asked and took care of things for me. As a result, I didn't have to worry about my house while I was in the hospital. I guess that's what friends do for each other, huh?

I'm at my friend Wendy's house right now. After clearing the snow from my driveway and sidewalks, unpacking from my hospital stay, and organizing a few overdue projects in my house, I came here last evening to spend the night. Wendy and her family took good care of Jet while I was gone, and he and I had a delightful reunion. We took a cold, snowy walk under the full moon together, in order to release some of his excitement, and I didn't mind one bit. It was also nice to be back in Wendy's home with her active family. Normalcy felt good.

I've got some busy days ahead. I will have an 1.5 hour intake in a few hours for the outpatient mood disorders program I referred to a couple days ago. If the intake goes well, I will be beginning an eight hour per day, two week, intensive outpatient program at some point in the near future. That should keep me very busy, and structured, for awhile. The structure will be good, although I am a bit concerned about it being too much. I hope I can keep up with the rest of my life while participating.

That pretty much covers my rumination for now. I'm going to try to get a little bit of sleep before dawn. I need sleep or I don't function terribly well. It's nice to be here, typing from a bedroom rather than from an inpatient psychiatry unit. I'm going to do my best to make this recent admission my last admission and get back to my life. As usual, I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Moving Forward

Things are looking up. I am cautiously optimistic. I even feel hopeful today. I am feeling better. My brain is still ill, but it seems to be healing. My mood is good. My energy has maintained at a reasonable level. And my broken brain is sending fewer ill thoughts out to bang around inside my skull. Things are looking up.

The current plan is to leave the hospital on Monday. I feel well enough to leave today, but the treatment team did not want me to leave on a weekend. Leaving on Monday means there are five full days in front of me where hospitals, clinics, and other services are open with professionals working in case I have a need. That makes sense, and I agree it is a safer, more clinically sound decision than leaving on a weekend would have been. I am looking forward to going home Monday.

Unfortunately, I will be going home, and that is about it. I attempted to get into a daily, outpatient, intensive mood program, but I was unable to do so. Instead, I will have to fill my days with AA meetings, running, occasional outpatient appointments, getting together with friends, blogging, and I'm not sure what else. I am a little nervous about the lack of structure, but I am optimistic things will work out. I have a very thorough safety plan in place, and I feel better now than I have since September. I'm relieved.

Again, I will mention how fortunate I am to have so many caring people surrounding me. I will leave some of them here, amazing and compassionate nurses on this unit, but they have helped instill in me the confidence to move forward. I will spend the evenings and overnights with my friend, Wendy. I won't be home alone during what has been my most vulnerable time. I have appointments set up with my psychiatrist, my therapist, my social worker, and a new med-managing nurse. We put the med-managing nurse in place so I won't have any of my extra medications in my possession. I will only have a one week supply of meds at home. It's part of my safety plan. I think I'm ready to go.

I'm moving forward, and I feel good about that. I pray I will not falter once outside the walls of this inpatient unit. I pray I will hang onto the gains I've made, and my mood will remain at a functional, even healthy, happy level. I'm doing everything I'm being asked to do in hopes of success. I'm so relieved to be feeling better and heading home. Forward. It's a nice direction in which to be heading.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gratitude Today

While I am still in the hospital receiving more assistance with this episode of depression, I wanted to use this post to focus on my gratitude. I am grateful for my doctor. I am feeling a little more hopeful because the new medication my intelligent and compassionate psychiatrist added last week seems to be doing the trick. My thinking has mellowed. Perhaps my broken brain is beginning to be bandaged.

I am grateful for my social worker who is nothing short of amazing. She assisted me with a very important appointment yesterday, an event I never could have undertaken myself. And she does that for me routinely! I seriously don't know how I would get by without her.

I am grateful for the nursing staff on this mental health unit. They, without a thought, continue to be so helpful and empathetic, it often amazes me. No matter my mood; sad, cranky, irritable, or filled with despair, they have kind words to offer, plans for improvement, and a gentleness that encourages me no matter how discouraged I may be. They make a difficult job look easy.

I am grateful for my friends, especially my friend, Wendy, who is also nothing short of amazing. Despite my faulty Minnesota attitude of, "I can do this by myself, thank you very much," she has continued to assist me, even when I haven't made assisting me very easy. Wendy has helped me with everything from emergency room visits to housing. She is currently taking care of my dog, Jet, who can be a handful to say the least. All of my friends, even my co-workers, have offered non-judgemental and heartfelt support. I am fortunate to be surrounded by such individuals.

Finally, I want to thank all of you. Again. Without your readership, comments, and now donations (14 donations from all over the world), I don't know that I'd still be willing or motivated to keep moving forward. You may not believe this, but you guys do keep me going. I am humbled by your continued support. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Today, I choose to focus on gratitude. I have plenty of problems on which I could choose to focus, but I find my heart filled with hope and peace by focusing on what I have instead. I am one lucky woman. Many in this world have hardships far beyond anything I've ever faced. I have a nasty, chronic, challenging illness, but I have so much more than that. Gratitude today. That's where I'm at. Thank you, God. Thank you, everyone.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Readmitted

I am back within the confines of my local mental health hospital. I was re-hospitalized yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, though my mood seems somewhat improved, and I've even had a bit more energy to expend, my thinking is off the rails. My brain is broken.

I don't have a lot more to report today. To say I am discouraged is a massive understatement. I am so discouraged and depleted right now. I know this episode has to eventually pass. I know it can't last forever. But the depths of and length of this bout of depression has been beyond anything I've experienced in the past. I am praying for resolution. I am praying to hang on until I am returned from the abyss and able to resume my life once again. Keep moving forward with me, my friends. And thank you for your continued support.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Asking for Help

Why is it so difficult to ask for help? I know I am not the only one who finds the prospect of asking others for assistance distasteful. In fact, I grew up in a region of the country, among a nationality of people, who are known for, "No, no, I'm okay. Everything is fine." Meanwhile the barn is burning down behind them. (Anyone out there listen to Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion? He's not making up that attitude!) The point is, asking others for help is not one of my strengths.

Unfortunately for me, despite my distaste for needing assistance from others, I am now in a position where I need help. Despite my best efforts, this depression episode has me in a precarious financial position. My financial reality is grim. My first hospital admission was September 30, 2013. I have not worked one hour since then. Unfortunately, as of November 1st, both my accrued vacation time and my employer-provided disability benefit were exhausted. In other words, I no longer receive a paycheck. I have been without an income for five weeks, and that is not going to change any time soon.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a very proud woman. I value taking care of myself financially. I have an almost perfect credit score, do not use credit cards, and have rarely, if ever, been late paying a bill. Unfortunately, I do have debt. My house, my vehicle, student loans, healthcare loans, Jet's surgery loan, as well as normal household bills keep me on my toes. Fortunately, I do have a small amount of money saved. Rather than use it for the new garage siding for which it was intended, I am now using it to pay my monthly bills. Soon, my pride will be tested, as all of my financial accounts hit zero.

Since it looks like I may not be returning to work soon, my social worker and I have begun the 3-4 month process of applying for social security disability. Whether or not I will be approved is any body's guess. I am trying to remain calm, to stay in today, but my stress as I look into the future has begun to climb. And this is why and where I need to ask for help.

Despite my value of financial independence, I have placed a donation link on my blog today. The link will take you to PayPal, and a donation in any amount can be made. If you are interested in helping out, I will humbly accept your good will. I will use the donations to pay my bills. That's it. Every dollar received will go toward keeping me in my house with the heat on and the lights glowing,  supplying groceries to eat, and paying my healthcare bills. I will be seeking deferments of my loans, but most of my bills simply must be paid, or I will lose what I've worked so hard to gain.

Placing a donation link on my blog was an extremely difficult decision to make, and I likely would not have done it without significant encouragement from those closest to me. But now it's done, and as I said, should you choose to use it, I will graciously and humbly accept your assistance during this difficult time. I thank all of you for taking time out of your day to read, comment on, and support me through my little blog. My gratitude is enormous.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Filling the Hole

Yesterday was a strange day. I awoke feeling low, but I went to my AA meeting anyway. Perhaps that was a mistake, as I felt incredibly alone in that room full of people. On top of that, I had a discussion focused on how I used to use alcohol to fill the emptiness I used to feel, and how sobriety filled that hole, only to realize, as I walked out of the building, that I felt familiarly empty. I felt an aching hole in my heart, and I entered my vehicle in tears.

I drove home, even though I knew it was probably going to be very difficult, and perhaps unsafe, to be alone. A better decision would have been to turn right instead of left and drive to my friend Wendy's house. Alas, I made the decision to return home, and it was tough. The ache inside did not abate. There was a hole in my heart.

That incessant ache, usually a knock-out punch whenever I feel it, yesterday got me moving instead. I found a music station on my DirectTV, called Reality Bites, which appropriately plays some head-banging, angry music. I could not have turned it up much louder! With that as my background, I set about to clean my house. It hadn't been really cleaned since I first entered the hospital almost 8 weeks ago. And I got it done.

I thought I would take a nap after cleaning for 3 hours, but the combination of beautiful, sunny weather and heart-pounding music motivated me to put on my running clothes rather than my bed clothes. I was tired, my mood was low, my motivation to actually run even lower, but out the door I went anyway.

I ran. After 1.2 miles, my legs were complaining, and I wanted to stop. I kept going instead. Negative depression-related thoughts randomly bounced around my sick brain, but I kept running. Labored breathing and breathlessness made me want to give up. I'm not used to breathlessness. But I kept running instead. At 4 miles, I had the option of turning for home, about 1.5 miles away, or continuing around a small lake. Initially, I turned toward home, but I changed my mind and ran around the lake instead. Tired, breathless, and pleased, I arrived home with 8.25 miles under my belt.

Like I said, it was a strange day, filled with wildly divergent feelings and a variety of distracting activities, and I did end up driving to my friend Wendy's home after my run, as my brain quickly resumed it's sickness, but in the end, that aching, empty, hole was filled. I'm grateful for that.



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