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!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Little of this, little of that...

Thank God it's the last day of January. This is not my favorite month of the year. This year has been exceptionally tough almost entirely due to the extreme weather we've been experiencing. At least the days are getting longer. Unfortunately the cold and snow have kept us locked up inside and unable to enjoy most days. It's been a long month.

This last day of January is an anniversary of sorts. It was 29 years ago today, when I was a junior in high school, that I nearly ended my life with a serious suicide attempt. For some reason, this day usually stands out on the calendar, as it is today. I had severe, untreated, largely ignored depression as a teenager. It began around age 15. By the time I reached 17, I was completely tapped out.

My suicide attempt was classic. I planned it for weeks. I gave things away and said goodbye in various, unrecognized ways. I played what I planned to be my final high school basketball game. Lastly, I finished all of my final exams, acing every one. I was ready to be done. Obviously, I didn't get my wish, and I am here today to remember the anniversary instead. I have a variety of jumbled, mixed up feelings about this day and that event. They are too jumbled and mixed up to even explain. So I'll just note the day. It is, after all, part of my story.

My mood has fluctuated over the past week. I was doing well, so well that my doctor and I reduced one of my meds. It's the med primarily responsible for my weight gain. With all I've been physically doing and how I've been eating, I should not be gaining weight, but I am. I am now close to the heaviest I have ever been. Most of my clothes do not fit, and running is more difficult than it needs to be. It's very frustrating. Fortunately, after only a few days at the slightly lower dose of the "fat med," I felt physically better. I had two demanding runs that felt easier, too. That was nice.

Unfortunately, earlier this week my mood took a dive, and I suffered through a couple of long, low days. It was difficult and frightening, and my doctor rescinded her order. So today I'm back up to the original dose of the fat med. I'm frustrated again, especially since my mood is better today.

My mood actually began improving yesterday. I went to an extra AA meeting last night, and that was helpful, too. Of course, I don't want to take the higher dose of the fat med, but I try my best not to play doctor, so I'll probably comply. I understand my psychiatrist's cautiousness. Neither of us wants me to go through what I just went through again. I'm praying my mood gets a little more stable in the next few days and weeks so we can discuss lowering the fat med once again.

That's the story for today, my friends. The sun is shining on my little world, camouflaging the fact that it's nearly 10 below zero outside. I'm scheduled to run 16 miles tomorrow, so I hope the temperature rises! I'm glad it's only the weather which is one of my big concerns today. Simple. Life is life right now, and I'll take it. Carry on!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Run with an Olympian

Our group pre-run. 


Post-run with friend Gwen (left) and Olympian, Carrie Tollefson.


I had a wonderful opportunity yesterday morning. I got to run 7 miles with an Olympian. After speaking at our track club's banquet on Saturday night, Carrie Tollefson, Minnesotan and 2004 Olympian in the 1500 meters, joined a large group of us for our Sunday morning run. It was cold but sunny. The pace was a bit fast, not surprisingly, but I can even say I ran in front of an Olympian for a short (very short) period of time! Seriously, it was a great opportunity. Carrie inspired us Saturday evening with her message to, "Get after it!" Matching her actions to her words, we all enjoyed her company Sunday morning. She was a humble, humorous, personable woman. She and her husband would fit perfectly into our local running community. (Consider that your invitation, Carrie!)

Not only was it nice to hear, and meet, and run with an Olympian, it was nice for me to get out and socialize. Saturday night was the first time I had seen most of my running friends since August or September, prior to this last depression episode. And Sunday's group run was my first group run post depression episode as well. When I fell behind the group halfway through the run, I had to remind myself it was okay. My thoughts tried to go negative on me. The pace was one I could have easily maintained last fall. But, as I reminded myself, I am still healing and recovering. I know I will soon find that pace easy once again, as long as I keep working. And I have no plans to stop working.

So, good for me! I got out, socialized, ran, and battled the negative demon thoughts. All of this despite not feeling my best. It shows me I can take the next right actions even when I don't feel like it. Ultimately, those actions led to my mood improving over the past couple of days. Who knows, maybe taking those actions even stopped a slide. Today is a better day, and I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Don't feel like it

I don't feel like reading my book. I don't feel like watching TV. I don't feel like listening to my usual weekend programs on NPR. I didn't feel like exercising, but I did lift some weights. I don't feel like writing this blog post. Besides sleeping, I don't feel like doing much of anything. I'm concerned.

Disinterest in my normal activities is a concerning sign for me. My mood today feels sickeningly familiar, and disinterest is often the precursor to a slide. Of course, right now I am hyper vigilant when it comes to signs of a potential slide. I dread the thought of going backwards. I don't think I could handle it again.

I've written about this before. It is so difficult, I think, to avoid panicking when we have these lower than normal days. Perhaps this is just a normal day with a normal dip in my mood and a normal dip in my interest in activities. Perhaps I'm just bored. I hope so. But how do we know? I certainly don't want to wait to find out.

I'm trying to battle rather than wait. I am using some of the tools I just learned in my mood disorder program. I used a tool called Opposite Action when I went to the gym to lift some weights despite wanting to stay inside and slumber. I did go to my meeting this morning, and I will go to my track club banquet tonight. I've let my friend, Wendy, and my doctor know what's happening. I am scared, but I pray taking the next right action and continuing to move forward will keep this damn, dreaded illness at bay. Please.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Transitioning

I'm transitioning back to my "normal" life today. Yesterday was the last day of my two week mood disorder program at Mayo Clinic. It was a good program. I liked it. It helped. I was very lucky. My fellow group members and I meshed quickly and easily. There was a high level of trust, disclosure and support between us. With the assistance of our excellent group leaders, we did an enormous amount of work with each other. It was a very good experience.

That being said, I am happy to be home, sitting with my feet up, sipping my coffee this morning. I am getting prepared to run, in the morning hours, as I usually do. My running was definitely affected by the 8-hour per day programming over the past two weeks. Besides not being able to run in the morning, as I typically would have done, the mood program was mentally and physically exhausting.
By the time I returned home in the late afternoon, going for a run was difficult. I am proud I was able to stick to my running schedule, but I am looking forward to some easier, more comfortable runs now that I will be more rested.

Things are generally going well. My parents are here visiting right now, as my step-father's granddaughter is getting married. They are not thrilled with the below zero temperatures, as they spend the winter in the warm, southern U.S. I am not thrilled with my mother chattering in my ear as I try to write this, so if this post is a bit disjointed, blame my mom! I'm kidding. I am glad they are here. It's nice to see them in the middle of the winter, as I usually don't see them for many months between Fall and Spring. They are pretty happy to see me doing so well.

Well, it's time to run. It's cold and snowing, so it looks like I may be forced indoors onto the "dreadmill." It takes a lot to force me indoors, but today that's probably where I'll be. Regardless, it will be nice to be back on my normal schedule. That alone should make for a good run and a good day. Have a great day, my friends!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Running struggles

As I write this, I'm sitting with my feet up recovering in my recliner. For the second Saturday in a row, I had an awful long run. Last Saturday I had an awful 13-miler, and today my 14-miler sucked. This is not a development with which I am pleased! Of course, the weather here is not helping matters. It's been either very cold, as it was last Saturday, or very snowy, as it was today. But the weather is certainly not the whole story. I continue to be physically and mentally drained from the long days in my mood disorder treatment program. I'm betting that, and the fact that I'm still carrying extra weight, might also have something to do with struggling to complete each of my last two long runs.

I hate when running is difficult. I especially hate it when I'm actively training for something, as I am now. It's hard for me not to think ahead and worry about The Boston Marathon. I have lots of worry thoughts about not enjoying the experience, struggling to finish, or worse, not finishing at all. The thoughts are silly at this early stage, so I'm trying to ignore them and stay positive. Nonetheless, I really hate when running is difficult. However, I am also aware if I am able to use an entire post to complain of my struggles running, things are going pretty darn good. And for that, I am quite grateful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking Good!

In my travels throughout the psychology/psychiatry building today, I separately ran into three prior treatment providers; a psychiatrist, a clinical nurse specialist, and a nurse. All three treated me at one time or another when I was an inpatient. Two of them were involved in my most recent hospitalization. It was nice to bump into each of them.

It's always nice, I think, to bump into previous treatment providers when I'm more like my normal, healthy self. Why is that? I think it's nice for me to be able to relate to them on a more even level. I'm no longer the very ill patient. I'm just another person, and I find it satisfying when they see me as I am, not as the vulnerable sick person I am when I'm experiencing severe depression.

The nicest thing about bumping into each of them today was that they each told me I was, "looking good!" They all thought I looked healthy and energetic. That was so nice to hear. These people have seen what I look like when I'm not well. It was somehow validating that they recognized, and verbalized, that I looked good, especially since I did look good today. I looked healthy.

I looked healthy because I have been feeling better. My mood is improving, and I think it shows physically. I've even occasionally been wearing work clothes, rather than just jeans or sweats, to my mood disorder treatment program. That is a sign I'm feeling better. When I'm ill, I don't care how I look or what I wear. It's nice to be getting some of my character back.

I'm halfway through my mood disorder treatment program. It's obviously been helpful, as I just noted. Feeling better is such a relief. I'm not back totally, but I'm getting closer to uncovering the real me once again. It will be a grand day when this depression episode is a long past memory. I'm happy to be moving in that direction.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tired. Just tired.

This may be a short post, as I am totally wiped out. My first three days of the mood disorder program, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, were great but long. Mentally, I was whipped going into the weekend. Well, all of that sitting must have ruined me physically, too, as my 13 mile run yesterday was absolutely brutal. It was going so poorly, and I was feeling so fatigued, I probably should have cut it short, but of course I didn't. I spent the rest of the day barely moving. I did get a couple of chores done. Then my friend, Wendy, was kind enough to have me over for dinner. It was nice to spend some time with her before collapsing in bed.

Unfortunately, my fatigue has continued today. I was scheduled to run 5 or 6 miles, but that was unrealistic with how tired I felt. Instead, I shoveled what little snow remained on the driveway and sidewalk, rested, watched some football, took Jet around the block, and did little else. I'm hoping to recoup before I start with the mood disorder program again tomorrow. I think another good night of sleep will do wonders. Until then, I've got more resting to accomplish.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hmmm... Go Figure!

I'm humbled and honored once again!
 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Carrying on

I apologize for the delay in posting. Things have been very busy in the etta-sphere lately. I had my employee holiday party Saturday night and an outing with a friend on Sunday night (on one of the coldest nights on record!). Add several scattered appointments over the last couple days, some running and weight lifting, and keeping up with friends, and you've got a fairly decent picture of my life lately. I've been busy.

The employee party Saturday was extremely fun! I work with a wonderful group of people. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a bit concerned about crashing after the party, but I'm happy to report I didn't. I was so tired after all the conversation, game playing, and laughter I went straight to bed when I got home. I didn't really have time for my mood to crash before I fell asleep. I guess that's one way to prevent a crash.

My running is getting a little easier. I've dropped a few of the pounds I gained during this last depression episode, which has certainly helped. Neither my legs nor my lungs are anywhere near ready to handle high mileage yet, but I've felt less muscle fatigue, and I've breathed easier during my recent runs. That's encouraging. I've got 13 miles scheduled for this weekend, so we'll see if that trend continues.

The biggest news is that I began my two week, intensive, outpatient, mood disorder treatment program today. It was a looong day! The program runs 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM with 50 minute groups and 10 minute breaks throughout the day. I'm a napper. I need a lot of sleep. I knew going in that staying alert throughout the day would be tough, and it was! My hope is that it will get easier as my body adapts to the new schedule. If I don't adapt, it's going to be a long two weeks!

Despite the long day, however, I was impressed with the program. I think I will learn some new skills to manage this chronic, life-altering condition so many of us share. I have struggled lately with feelings that the depression was winning our battle, but today gave me some hope that I will stand atop the mountain in the end. And that's what I wish for all of you, too. Hope. Carry on, friends.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Another Party

I'm headed to another party tonight. It's a party with co-workers, who I haven't spent much if any time with over the past three months, but I'm still looking forward to it. Of course, if you read my last post, you'll also understand why I'm a bit anxious. I'm concerned about a crash similar to that which I experienced after the New Year's Eve parties. But that concern is not keeping me home.

Speaking of my last post, I wasn't sure anyone would understand it, so I was surprised and relieved to hear from so many of you who totally understood! I'm sorry many of us have experienced the mood crash following a happy, social event, yet it was a relief to know I wasn't weird or alone. Thank you for your comments relating similar experiences. Even if it doesn't make a lot of sense, the crash is obviously not that unusual. We are not alone.

I've been doing better since late New Year's Day. I've slowly climbed out of the crash zone. In fact, I ran 20 miles in the last three days, including a 10-miler this morning, outside, prior to the deep freeze we are apparently about to experience. The running is still more difficult than I would like it to be. It is clear I am still slowly rebuilding, and still carrying extra pounds, but it is getting easier bit by bit. I'm grateful for that.

I've not much more to report today. I'll let you know how the party, and the party aftermath, goes. I'm expecting it to be a lot of fun. I work with a very fun group of people. It will be nice to see them outside the office. Stay warm out there, my friends. And keep putting one foot in front of the other. After all, forward is the only way to go.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Outside vs. Inside

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all rang in the start of 2014 with happiness, serenity and peace. I was actually invited to three different parties. I attended two of them, and then I rang in the New Year at my friend Wendy's house with Wendy, her pre-teen children, their friends, and wine glasses filled with grape juice. It was a very nice evening all the way around.

It was great, and unusual, to have the energy to get dressed up and get out of the house. I was so happy to see running friends I hadn't seen for a very long time and to meet new people through other friends. After all, I've been in and out of the hospital or cooped up at home since mid-September. Being out with others, while totally normal, was quite a unique experience for me.

I felt good while out. I smiled and laughed and participated in conversations. I ate too much, drank too much diet soda, and laughed some more. For the most part, I felt a part of, rather than apart from the crowd. I truly enjoyed myself.

The fact that I found my experiences at both parties so enjoyable made what happened afterward so confusing. I ended the night sitting on the edge of the bed sobbing. Wendy comforted me, as I was overwhelmed with sadness. I also felt angry at this illness. I remember saying, "It's never going to let me go." But coming on the heals of such a fun evening, the sadness and hopelessness was very confusing.

The low mood, lethargy, and hopelessness has unfortunately carried over into today. I'm not sure why this began last night, or why I'm feeling this way now. My best guess has to do with the huge gap between my outside presentation and my internal struggle. I think the dichotomy between how I presented myself to others last night and how I still feel internally is gigantic. Later, sitting quietly and reviewing my evening, I think realizing that difference between my outside and my inside just plain hurt.

I realized I could pull it off for awhile. I could be the person I used to be. I could socialize, be humorous, and present myself confidently. But I am not yet back to being that person. Being out last night highlighted that fact. And that makes me sad.

My brain feels so fragile right now. Even joyful events and feelings seem to take their toll. I accomplished nothing today. I'm hoping to bounce back soon. And I am not letting the sadness take away from the fun I did experience last night. Being out was way better than sitting home. I'm still glad I went.



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