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, May 29, 2016

Missing memories

It's hard to believe, but my 30th high school reunion is coming up this summer. 30 years! Talking with a friend the other day, we were chuckling about how, 30 years ago, we thought people our current age were so terribly old. And now here I am, 48 years old, 30 years removed from those high school days. It's hard to believe.

I have yet to decide if I'm going to attend my reunion. Despite being a good student, an athlete, and having had a steady boyfriend, I never felt like I fit in during high school. I wouldn't say I was popular, but I wasn't unpopular either. I just felt like I didn't fit. This was especially true after the age of 15, my sophomore year of high school, which is when my first bout with depression began.

That bout with depression may have something to do with my indecisiveness regarding attending the reunion as well. As an adult, it has become apparent when my depression symptoms are bad, I have difficulty forming new memories. Whether it's the result of depression or not, the fact is I don't remember a lot of my high school years.

I have a general, fuzzy overview of high school, but specific memories are lacking. I worry I'll look like a lost puppy while reminiscing with friends at the reunion. I have a fear of feeling left out...
um... not fitting in, 30 years later! (Okay, that was difficult to admit.) Of course, this is reinforced on Facebook when old classmates make references to past events I can't recall. I hate that.

Depression plays a roll in another piece of this puzzle. When I went off to college, I packed all of my yearbooks, photos, awards, etc... in boxes and stored them in my mom and former stepfather's garage. They divorced shortly thereafter, and my mom moved out, but my brothers and I continued to maintain contact with my former stepfather. He's still in our lives today.

Fast forward multiple years. I am now in the throes of my adult depression. My former stepfather announces he's selling his home and asks my brothers and I to remove our stuff from his garage. He also, apparently, told us he would throw out anything we left behind.

I never retrieved my boxes. I don't know why. I don't remember. I probably couldn't pull myself together to make the 4.5 hour journey. And my former stepfather threw out all of my high school yearbooks, photos, awards, etc... Everything from my childhood and teenage years...gone.

If I had some reference points, like yearbook photos, I'm certain I'd have some concrete high school memories. I'm also certain I'd feel a lot more connected to my past and be much less worried about attending my reunion. I don't want to look, or feel, like a lost puppy. It sucks not being able to remember.

To make matters worse, it's not only high school memories which have disappeared. Depression has stripped many of my adult memories, too, whether due to the side effects of ECT treatment or simply because of the illness itself. It doesn't matter, the memories are gone either way, and I end up feeling lost in space. It's disconcerting.

Disconcerting is often my reality. The missing memories are unlikely to return. I have so little, internally or externally, connecting me to what's gone on before, I truly must live each moment for that moment. Sometimes that's okay, but with this reunion coming up, I wish I was a bit more tethered.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A little flat

Things are going fairly well here lately. Life is stable. I'm feeling okay. I'd like to feel better than okay, but that's not yet my reality. I'm definitely still feeling better and functioning better than last month, but I think I'm a little flat. I feel dulled, if that makes any sense.

It's probably hyper-critical of me to be complaining about feeling flat. And I don't mean to complain. I am grateful last month's 3-4 week depression dip was arrested when it was. I am doing well, especially when compared to that time. I guess I'm just not back to 100% yet, and I've been hanging out here for about 3 weeks now.

My mood is good, but not great. My energy is improved, but not normal. I'm getting things done, but not everything. I'm functioning at work, but I could be doing better. I've put in the work, scaled the rock face, and I'm approaching the summit. I'm hanging on the precipice, but I can't quite boost myself up the last few feet. It's there. I can see it. But it's out of reach. I'm just shy of feeling normal.

It's strange feeling this way. I don't remember having this issue in the past. Flat. And again, I feel a little ashamed to even mention it. I know things could be so, so much worse! I'm talking with my doctor, we're tinkering with my meds, and I'm continuing to put one foot in front of the other. I'm moving forward.

I'll try to quit worrying about feeling flat. Focusing forward and remembering to maintain an attitude of gratitude is what I think I need to do now. After all, I have many blessings in my life today. I'm glad to be functioning well, and I'm happy my mood has rebounded. Feeling okay is better than not okay any day of the week. I'll keep taking the actions I can take. Hopefully the rest will follow.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I want to help

I have a friend with depression and anxiety. She's a good friend, a wise friend, and a generous friend. She gives freely of her time to assist others in whatever way she can. She's helped me out multiple times. She always provides emotional support when I'm low. All I have to do is ask.

Unfortunately, my helpful friend has trouble asking for help for herself. A few days ago I realized my friend needs help. She's struggling. Through tears, she finally let out some of what's been going on lately. I was surprised. Apparently she's been struggling for awhile, but I didn't know.

I couldn't know what my friend was going through. We haven't seen each other lately, as we've both been busy, and she didn't mention it. When I saw her a few days ago, I had an inkling something wasn't quite right. It wasn't, and by the time she let it out, she was really hurting. I felt so bad for her. I did what I could in that moment. I hugged her and let her cry.

My friend and I are similar in many ways. She doesn't like to cry anymore than I do. I'm not even sure she liked being hugged, but it felt like the right thing to do. And like my friend, I often think I should be able to fix things, like my mood, by myself. Sometimes I wait too long to ask for help. My friend waited too long, too, in my humble opinion.

I want to help my friend. I want to hold her and tell her it will be okay. I want to help her clean her house, take her dogs for a walk, or cook her a meal. But like me, my friend can be fiercely independent, and it's tough sometimes to get in. That frustrates me. She's hurting, and I want to fix it.

I did ask her how I could help. I spent time with her last evening at a local event, but I could do so much more. I could do more if my friend would allow it. She doesn't have to go through this alone. I don't want her to struggle alone, but I guess I can't help unless she requests it. Right?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Humbled again

I was notified yesterday by the website Healthline.com that they have chosen my little blog as one of their 17 best for 2016. I've been similarly honored previously, but it always amazes me when it happens. Of course I hope people who find my blog enjoy it and even gain new information or perspective from it, but when I compare my small effort to some of the other depression blogs out there, I rarely feel I measure up. For example, most of them have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages! I guess I'm a bit behind in the whole social media realm. I'm lucky I can figure out how to add pictures to my own blog posts. Nevertheless, I am extremely honored and grateful for the Healthline.com recognition. If you are here for the first time, welcome to Depression Marathon. Enjoy your visit. And a big thank you, to my regular readers and Healthline.com, for your continued support.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Change...not a fan

I am a lucky woman. I believe I have the best treatment team around. When my depression sucks me under, my team of expert providers (and a few incredible friends) keep me afloat until I once again can swim. They are incredible at what they do. I count on and trust each of them.

One of those experts is my social worker, SM. She and I were connected more than 12 years ago. Since that time, she's been a crucial cog in the wheel. She's helped me connect with other providers, navigate the non-user-friendly Social Security Disability system, find unknown resources, listened, advised, and listened some more. I don't know what I would do without her.

Unfortunately, I'm going to find out exactly what I'm going to do without her. My social worker is leaving. She told me a few days ago she's taking another job. My heart sank. Did I mention I hate change? Initially I panicked. Then I got really sad. Then I panicked. Then I got really sad, again. This was big, big unwelcome news. And this will be a huge unwelcome change.

I don't like change. I like my pleasantly boring, stable life. I feel safe with my current treatment team. I knew someday this would happen. But I always figured I would be the one leaving, you know, like after I got better and didn't need the help? My social worker leaving just wasn't in my plans.

Thankfully, SM knows me so well she gave me a month to digest the news, but as of early June, she will be done. We talked for two hours on Wednesday, our last meeting together. We decided to close my case rather than SM assigning me a new social worker. I don't have the energy to get to know a new person. I'm not a fan of letting just anyone into the nitty-gritty details of my life, and I'm even less enthusiastic about feeling vulnerable with someone I barely know. So I'm going forward with one less team member.

It will be okay. That's what everyone, friends and professionals, have said. I will be okay. Of course I will. I'll get through this, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. In fact, I don't like it. Selfishly, I wish SM wasn't going anywhere. I'll miss her kindness, professionalism, work ethic, compassion, and expertise. She has been an amazing social worker but an even more incredible human being. Thank you, SM. I'll miss you.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Moments

I had the rare opportunity last night to share my recovery and recovery community with my parents. I invited my mom and stepfather to present me with my celebratory cake in honor of 10 years of sobriety at an event we call cake night. My sobriety anniversary was actually 4+ months ago, on December 28, 2015, but my parents were in Florida at that time. With ten miraculous, sober years under my belt, I thought it was time I invited my mom and stepfather to participate in this nice event.

Cake night happens the first Saturday of each month. It is a time for families and friends to come together in celebration and gratitude, and most importantly a time for the alcoholic to say thanks to those who've supported him or her. It's a really poignant, laughter-filled, energetic event.

We celebrated 14 different anniversaries and 124 total years of sobriety last night. The place was packed! When it was my turn, my mom and stepfather stepped to the lectern and said a few words about me, and then I got up and said a few words about my journey with alcohol, the miracle of sobriety, and thanked my parents for being in my life today.

I wrote about the miracle of my sobriety here in December. The close relationship I have with my parents, especially my mom, is probably the biggest miracle of all. My mom was a very young woman when she had all four of her children, my 3 brothers and I. Perhaps she was overwhelmed. She admits today she struggled as a mother. Both she and my father were loud and violent.

My mom left my father when I was just 12 years old. Continued violence in my life as well as resentment toward my mother for "abandoning" us turned me into an angry teenager, and then an angry teenager with severe, suicidal depression. To this day I remember vividly the moment I told her I hated her. Looking back, it makes me cringe.

Through my adult years, until I got sober, my mom and I had a decent relationship, but I always kept her at an arm's length. I certainly didn't let her close enough to offer help when I needed it. I didn't allow her to see me vulnerable. And if she sensed vulnerability and tried to assist, I shut the door in her face even harder.

That's why last night presented a rare opportunity. Though my mom has experienced the full, ugly brunt of my depression, she didn't witness my drinking or my slide into alcoholism. She wasn't living near me, and I was a solo drinker anyway. Nevertheless, my mom did experience the alcoholic personality traits I eluded to above, the arrogance, belligerence, and selfishness. As long as I continued my active alcoholism, she never had a chance. I would never have allowed her to be a full participant in my life. We would have always danced an arm's length apart.

Last night we danced cheek to cheek. In ten years our relationship has improved tremendously. My mom hasn't changed. I have. She always remained loving and supportive, even as I rejected her, but now I let her in. I learned how to be a daughter in recovery. What a gift! It was a rare moment for my mom, stepfather and I last night, and it only occurred because of my sobriety. It's good for me to remember that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Return

In what I hope will be the first step in a long, strong, fast, and injury-free return to competitive running, I got on a treadmill today. It was an Alter-G Treadmill, and I ran at 10 minute pace for 20 minutes. An Alter-G allows for running without the full, punishing effects of gravity. With each footfall today, I hit the treadmill with only 40% of my total body weight. It was pretty neat to essentially weigh 60% less than I actually do. I felt like I was floating at mid-stride. And my Achilles did not hurt!

Reducing the impact on my Achilles 60% will hopefully allow me to return to running without re-injury. I'm encouraged. It's several hours later, and I do not have any increased soreness. I'm hoping to run 2-3 times per week, slowly building time at 40% weight bearing before advancing to 50%, and then 60%, and so on. It may be a long process, but I'm so, so ready to get back to my running life, I'm willing to be patient.

Even though it felt strange to be so light on my feet, I was happy and relieved to be back running today. I reveled in every moment and every movement. From my heels hitting the treadmill, to my arms swinging at my sides, to my lungs rhythmically expanding and contracting, the familiar movements felt wonderful. I almost couldn't believe it.

It's been one year and eight days since I originally tore my right Achilles. I've missed being a runner. I've missed the challenge, the satisfaction, the socialization, and the competition. I've missed quality time spent with my dog, Jet. I've missed part of me. A chunk of my identity has been absent for more than a year. I'm anxious to get it back. Today, hopefully, was the initial step in the process of reclaiming the complete me.



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