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, September 27, 2014

Yo-Yo Etta

What an unstable little world I've been living in lately. My mood has been on an up and down journey as of late. While I'm still feeling better overall, as I noted in my last post, I've suffered through some awful lows this week. As usual, there's been no rhyme or reason to it. One afternoon I crashed after having a relatively good day. I woke up one morning near tears but felt a bit better by the evening. One night I barely slept because I felt so low, but by morning I was okay. It's weird. It's uncomfortable, and I don't like it much.

During the lows, I've had to work really hard to keep my frustration in check. Those of you who walk in my shoes know how difficult it is to not fear the worst when the bottom hits. I've been trying to focus my energy on the good times, putting one foot in front of the other during the low times, and doing what I can no matter my fickle mood. It's been a challenge.

Today has been a good day. I ran my last long run prior to the upcoming Chicago Marathon. I ran 16 miles, which was really important, as I missed two scheduled runs this week when I couldn't garner enough energy to get out the door. Those were low days. I was so pleased with myself after running, I treated myself to a Dairy Queen Blizzard, which I didn't need, but it was oh, so delicious. I spent the rest of my day running errands, napping, and watching football. It was, as I said, a good day.

I'm grateful for my good day. And I'm hoping my fortune continues and the ups outnumber the downs in the days to come. Whatever comes my way, I'm committed to ride it out. I'm tired of fighting the lows, but the alternative, giving in to them, is not a palatable idea either. So I might as well continue to fight. Eventually, I'm going to beat this damn illness. I hope.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Improved

I'm on my fourth cup of coffee already today, and it's just after noon. I've been very busy this week, and I guess it's finally caught up with me today. I'm tired. But I'm doing well. My mood has been slowly improving since last weekend.

The time of my last post, 3:00 Sunday morning, seems to have been a turning point. My direction changed. The downward, dark spiral stopped and light began to reenter my life. I've been on a slow, upward trajectory ever since.

The light reentering has been such a relief. A relief, yes, that's been my primary reaction. I'm so grateful I'm no longer in free fall. The improved mood allowed me to take care of my business this week. And I've been busy.

As my mood improved, I noticed a little more energy. That allowed me to work an extra day and earn some extra money, which I'll need when I'm unable to work after my hip surgery next month. I'm going to try to get some extra hours each week until my surgery. I don't have any benefits, so no vacation time, or pay, after my surgery, although I will likely miss at least a couple of weeks of work.

The extra energy also came in handy when it came to training. After missing a week of training because of my mood and bronchitis it was nice to get all of my runs in this week. I even did a little speed work. That really wore me out, but it was great to run fast again.

I still have to run today. I have 12 miles on the schedule. Unfortunately, I woke up woefully tired this morning. I'm now finishing my fourth cup of coffee, and I've already taken a one hour nap. Perhaps by the time I finish my mound of laundry I'll have generated enough steam to get out the door.

I'm sure I'll get my run in somehow, but regardless I'm happy to feel the light again. I hate this illness. I hate the ups and downs which always seem to surprise. But I'm so relieved to be on an upward rather than downward trajectory today. I'll take it, fatigue and all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fortune at the End of the Road

There is a popular song right now with a line I find particularly poignant. In February Seven, The Avett Brothers sing, "There's no fortune at the end of a road that has no end." That line is the reason I am sitting up, now, in the middle of the night composing this post.

I ran 20 miles yesterday. I ran for three hours and three minutes. How was I able to do that when feeling so low? I was able to do it because there was an end to the road.

Running long distances, like 20 miles or a marathon, can be quite uncomfortable, often painful, and always a ton of work. But I can do it because there's a fortune at the end of the road. I can endure the pain and discomfort because I know I will feel better in a matter of hours or minutes.

With my depression, the road, for the past 13+ years, has had no end. I've had multiple relapses, treatments, and hospitalizations. I've always known each relapse was going to be temporary, and that often helped me endure. But this time, my thinking has been different. I have been focused on the relapses rather than the recoveries. I've been negatively focused on the endless road, and there is no fortune at the end of a road without an end.

I think I set myself up for failure when I left the hospital last December. I really felt like I had turned a corner. That relapse was so painful, so difficult, so debilitating, and yet I survived. I know I didn't expect to feel so low again so soon. I figured I must have earned at least a few years worth of relapse-free illness. To be so low again, within months, not years, of getting well has really taken a toll on my thinking.

My doctor and I talked a lot about my thinking and how it may contribute to my depression the other day. Actually, as is the case when I'm feeling very low, she did most of the talking. I sat there feeling scolded for thinking negatively, though I know that was not her intent. I think her point was just what I said. During this relapse, my thinking has gotten pretty negative.

This is a subject about which I am particularly sensitive. In fact, I've done an entire post on negative thinking actually being a symptom, not a cause, of depression. But the stigma out there among many "normies" is simple, change our thinking, think happier thoughts, and our depression will be relieved. It's not that simple, but that doesn't mean it's not entirely true.

When feeling well, I work on thinking positively, on not sweating small things, and on being compassionate and humble. The combination of years of cognitive therapy and twelve step work have led me to a simpler, happier life. This simpler life has been due to a change in my approach to the world, which is to say a change in my thinking. For example, gratitude was a foreign concept to me years ago. Now gratitude and humility are a huge part of my life and my being.

However, over the past couple of weeks gratitude has been thrown out the window. I haven't been holding onto what's good in my life. Instead, I've seen only gloom and doom on the horizon. Even if this relapse is going to be temporary, as it certainly will be, instead of recovery I have been focused on the endless road of relapses ahead.

Reflecting on my recent thoughts highlights that focus. I couldn't believe I was going through another relapse. I couldn't imagine I deserved to feel so low again. Why me? Why again? Why now? Suicide felt like the only option, as I knew (actually a thought) I couldn't go through the depths of despair all over again, and I knew (thought) that this relapse would only be followed by another, and another, and another. No matter the work I have done. What was the point? These negative thoughts certainly have not, as my doctor pointed out, helped me get through this relapse, and may, in fact, be prolonging it instead.

The solution is simple, which is not to say easy. I've got to work on my thinking. I've got to refocus my energy. I've got to focus on the fortune at the end of this road, this temporary road I am currently on. I've got to endure the discomfort and the pain. After all, it may only be hours, even minutes, until this road ends. I can't predict the path ahead. I don't know anything for sure. I can only live, and run, in today.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

alone

This is a very lonely illness. Just one more thing to hate about depression.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

darkness

I am a woman of few words today. Just checking in... darkness has descended. My thoughts are bleak and feelings dark. I have slipped into the black hole that is depression. The world swirls around me. I cannot connect. I cannot step in. I cannot stop the free fall. Kicking and screaming have long since left me. I have not the energy for that. Instead, I fall without fight. It's dark. Very, very dark.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sickness and Sickness

This has been a particularly long, tough week. Mentally and physically, things aren't going well. My lungs still aren't cleared up enough to allow me to run. I've been compensating with a bit of weight lifting and some long walks with Jet, but that's about it. That's been tough on my mood.

My mood has been as complicated as my lungs. I've been so, so low, that my MD increased one of my medications. Unfortunately, it appears that increase has caused akathisia, which is this unrelenting restlessness where you feel like you are crawling out of your skin all the time. It's very uncomfortable.

So what to do? Well, we decreased the offending med slightly, which ironically had begun to improve my mood, in order to get rid of the nasty akathisia, but that puts me at risk of another decline in my mood. The fun never ends.

The combination of poor physical health combined with poor mental health, and now anxiety, has really taken a toll on my ability to work. I've managed very few hours over the past week. I made it in to work today, but my anxiety/akathisia was so intense, I could barely breathe, much less think, and I left after only 45 minutes. I spent the rest of the day paralyzed on the sofa, restless, feeling like I needed to move, yet unable to do so. It's been a long day.

I'm supposed to work tomorrow, and I'm very concerned about that. Mornings have been exceptionally tough to get going. Once I get to work, I'm usually okay. Today was the exception. But getting my heavy, low mood out the door has been a challenge. Hopefully tomorrow will begin a little brighter.

I'm also feeling more and more pressure to get back to training. I've missed a 20-miler and one whole week of training, right in the middle of my marathon training program. This is not a recipe for success. I'm hoping to get back out on the road this weekend, probably Sunday, and hoping I can manage more than just a few miles, too. The Chicago Marathon is only a five weeks away.

The bottom line, however, is I am exhausted and frustrated with the current state of things, mentally and physically. I feel like a yo-yo. One day things are improving, the next I have a brand new debilitating symptom. One day I feel some energy and hope, the next day I can't force my body to move. Today, I wanted to curl up and disappear. I'm tired. Stability, I hope, has to return soon.



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