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!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chance encounter

Something cool happened today. I was out shopping when I ran into a nurse from my local inpatient mental health unit. Even though I had just come from the gym and was wearing sweats and a baseball hat, she could hardly believe her eyes. Over and over again she said things like, "You look so good! Wow, you look really good!" I laughed. That was really nice to hear.

It was great to see someone, in my normal everyday life, who has never seen me outside an inpatient mental health unit. I told her I just look like my normal self, but she, of course, has never seen me in my "normal" state. She's only seen me in the depths of despair. And even though I'm always a little better when I leave an inpatient stint, I'm never back to normal. So it was really satisfying to see her today. It reinforced how well I'm feeling and doing.

Other than that, I don't have anything new to report. I'm continuing to feel well and continuing to move forward. My life has been free of drama and distress. That's always a good thing. I really am just putting one foot in front of the other, working, exercising, and taking care of my daily routine. Life is good. Living with, rather than suffering from depression is a very nice place to be.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Living the life

Not much to report from here. I'm living life on life's terms at the moment. Fortunately, life's terms aren't too dramatic or difficult to deal with right now. I've continued to work 4-5 days per week, rather than my usual 3, in an effort to recoup some of the funds lost to my 4 month hiatus from work. It's tiring, and I've fallen behind on some household chores, but so far I've been able to keep up with my exercise, which is most important for my mental health.

Speaking of exercise, I tried to run again a few days ago. It was maybe a little better than the last time I tried, but my left leg still won't fully support me or cooperate. It's still weaker and less stable than my right leg. I'm a little more hopeful it will recover fully, but the progress is so, so slow, and the improvement so, so minuscule, it's hard to hang onto that hope. The road back is going to be very long. I'm trying to be patient.

Despite my patience being tested, my mood remains good. I'm so grateful. I worked with someone today who was very negative. Every other thought, even thoughts which began positively, somehow ended up blatantly negative. It was tiring. And sad. I'm so thankful I have a different perspective. It's easy to find the negative. But why focus on it? Life is so short. Energy is so precious. I can't imagine wasting it like that. So I don't. I know negative. I've lived negative. I'm grateful I don't find it necessary to stay there. Life on life's terms takes energy enough. Seek the positive, my friends.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feeling nostalgic

Sipping my coffee, sitting in my sweats, wiping sleep from my eyes, I'm awaiting the televised start of today's New York City Marathon. I'll watch the entire broadcast, amazed at the grace, skill, and prowess of the elite runners, but more so intrigued by the effort, will, and stories of those, like me, in the middle of the pack. I'm feeling nostalgic... and a little sad.

One year ago, I was there. In the dark morning hours I boarded the bus from New York's Central Library to Staten Island with 50-60 other excited souls. I milled around the Athletes Village, with 50,000 other runners, alternately waiting in line for a portable toilet, fetching myself something to eat and drink, chatting with other anxious runners, and resting on the ground. And finally, I was there, in my starting corral with 20,000 hopping, stretching, whooping runners, waiting for the starting line to come into view. And when it did, tears streamed down my face. I had made it.

It was one year ago when I streamed across that iconic starting line in Staten Island. Three hours, 51 minutes later, I joyously raced across the even more iconic finish line in Central Park, tired, spent, and oh, so proud. I couldn't contain my wide smile and tears.

Last year on this day, I made that triumphant return to marathoning. It was my first marathon in over 2 years, a lifetime in my annals of running. The Achilles tear that took a year and a half to heal was behind me, and I was so, so happy. I saw nothing but more triumphant running, which I no longer took for granted, in front of me. It was a good day.

As I sit here today, despite the scary possibility I won't, I am feeling a bit more hopeful that I will one day repeat this experience. And if possible, it may be even more emotionally charged. I will go back to New York. Somehow, some way, some day, I will again stream across that starting line, whooping with joy, and race across that finish line with my fists in the air. It will be the culmination of a long, long road. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

17 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I was feeling a little off. Before I knew it I was suffering with low energy, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty motivating. Things that mattered didn't matter as much anymore. I was sad, and empty, and low.

There was no reason for my feelings. My life, after all, was quite good. I was in a long-term relationship. We were doing well, each with a full time, financially secure job. We had just purchased a new home and had two cars and two motorcycles in the garage. We enjoyed traveling, running, and socializing with friends. And I was happily training my new puppy. Life was good. Why didn't I feel good?

Well, as we all now know, November, 2000, was the beginning of this odyssey with depression. I recognized it quickly, as I had had depression as a teenager, but I remember feeling incredulous and confused. I had been fine for so many years! First I tried to rationalize it away. Life was so good there was no reason to feel bad. When that didn't work I tried to wish it away. Please God, no, no, no! And when that didn't work, I sought help.

It sounds so cliche, but these last 17 years truly have been a journey. I spent many of the early years angry and resentful. After all, this illness cost me my spouse, my job, my financial security, my house, and my friends. Despite treatment, my life as I knew it no longer existed. I further lost myself by drinking to excess and quickly became an alcoholic. That didn't help.

Almost 12 years ago, I got sober. That did help. Slowly I changed. I created a new life. I still had horrible depression, but maybe I began to accept it more and fight it less. My attitude shifted.  I worked my recovery program and found a spiritual life I hadn't known or trusted before. I finally became a more active participant in my own healthcare.

I'm so fortunate to have been referred, early on, to the psychiatrist I still see today. I don't think I'd have survived without her. Over the years I've also been connected with many other skilled, compassionate, treatment professionals, including a wonderful social worker, who assisted me with everything for at least 10 years, and the nurses of my local mental health inpatient unit, who are simply amazing. I've participated in multiple mental health treatment programs, volunteered as a speaker for my local NAMI organization, and done my best to be open and honest about living with depression.

It hasn't been easy. I don't think living with any chronic condition is. Mine is not a journey I'd wish on anyone else, and I wouldn't volunteer to do it all over again. However, I truly believe I am a better person today due to my experience with depression and alcoholism.

I feel humble and grateful today. Those are two fulfilling emotions I never comprehended before. I am a kinder, gentler, more compassionate person. I feel good about that. For whatever reason, I move through this world today with an ease I never had prior to life with depression.

Perhaps my expectations are less. Life, and the people in it, owe me nothing. I understand that today. I am responsible. To myself and those around me, I am responsible to be the best me I can be. I work hard for what I have, physically, spiritually, and materially. And I'm totally okay with that.

I pray everyday to be relieved of depression. Life certainly would be simpler without it. But would it be better? I don't know. I think it might be, but I'm not sure I would be. Hang in there, my friends.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

That time of year

I'm just back from what very likely may be my last ElliptiGo ride of this year. I hope not, but it's that time of year here. The cold weather swooped in, and we had our first taste of snow on Friday. It's been cold and windy and gray since then, including today, but I just had to get outside for some good, old fashioned, lung searing exercise anyway. So I did.

It was 30 degrees, gray and windy when I set out. Dressed in multiple layers, including a hat, mittens and neck gaiter, I did okay, except for my toes. Should have thought more about my toes. One layer of wool socks and airy running shoes just didn't do the trick. After an hour and forty minutes, 21.1 miles, I couldn't feel my toes. They were red and icy. Oops. I recovered just fine, but if I do get to ride again, I'll remember my toes.

That's about the biggest drama I've had recently, my icy toes, and I hope it stays that way. I'm still feeling well. I must look and sound well, too, as I keep getting unsolicited, excited comments from friends and acquaintances. "You look great!" "You sound great!" "You must be feeling well!" As I've mentioned here in the past, I think I need a video of myself when I'm in the midst of a depression relapse. Clearly, there is a huge difference in how I present myself. It would be interesting to see.

I have a fairly busy week ahead. I'll be working 5 of the next 7 days. I'll need to work hard to get my exercise in, get to at least one meeting, and maybe even socialize a bit. Busy is okay. I just need to be hyper-vigilant about keeping my life in balance, which is ultra important if I want to keep those unsolicited comments coming my way. Carry on, my friends.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Life is good

I'm happy to report things are going well here. As a result, I don't have much to report. Work has been a bit stressful, as we have some challenging patients right now, but I've been managing. I'm still paying for the extra hours, and extra stress, with increased fatigue, but I feel like I'm managing that fairly well, too.

I'm working hard to fit in my exercise. I now have a routine of a few exercises, focused on increasing my core and leg strength, which I do daily. They only take about 5-10 minutes to do, but it's still difficult to motivate myself to begin them after a long day at work. So far, I've been able to motivate, and I know that's going to help me in the long run.

I'm still running on the Alter-G treadmill. I'm up to running for 40 minutes, but I'm a little frustrated I've not been able to decrease the level of assistance I get from the treadmill. I'm running at 55% of my body weight. If I try to increase that percentage, which decreases the buoyancy provided by the treadmill, my left leg doesn't tolerate it. That's frustrating.

The left leg weakness is still there, but I think maybe, just maybe, my leg is getting stronger. It's hard to tell, but I think I'm seeing a few signs that my strength is improving. It's going to be long, long road back. But as long as I keep moving in the direction of getting all the way back, I'm hopeful.

Hope is a good thing. I like hope. When I'm suffering with low mood, my hope disappears. That's a horrible place to be. I'm so happy to report I'm not there now. I still feel well. Life is good.

Friday, October 20, 2017

As expected

Phew! Just as expected, I'm really tired. I just woke up from a well deserved nap following a long week at work. As I delineated in my last post, working a full-time schedule, five consecutive days, is tough for me. Unfortunately, things were made tougher this week because we were very busy. We had many more patients than usual, and some of them were quite difficult. I'm exhausted.

Despite the extra hours and days, I tried to keep up with my other routines this week, but regular exercise, good sleep, and decent nutrition were a struggle. I guess I did okay, not stellar, but okay. I would have liked a bit more sleep, and my household chores suffered, but I did get in some exercise.

I attempted to run again on Tuesday. It was frustrating and disappointing. I again tried to run for three minutes and take one minute walk breaks. My left leg just wouldn't cooperate. My gait was sloppy and slow. I didn't have enough muscular strength to fully stabilize my hip, knee or ankle when weight bearing on my left leg. My left foot eventually went numb. I wished so sincerely for a different outcome, but it wasn't to be. I arrived home forlorn.

I'm trying to fight it, but my desperation with not being able to run is growing. With each passing non-running week, I feel it more and more. Right now I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is still so far to go, and I can't tell anymore if I'm making even a bit of progress. My poor run on Tuesday stole a lot of hope. The possibility of never being able to run again is more and more real. I don't like that.

I think it will be quite awhile before I attempt to run outside again. I'll stick to the Alter-G treadmill for now. I'm looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine, a full weekend off, and more free time next week. I'll still look to work extra hours and earn some extra money, but I think I'll avoid working five consecutive days for awhile. And now, I think I'll curl up with a warm blanket and watch TV until slumber settles in. Carry on, my friends.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Necessarily busy

"Be careful," my friend said, "that's a lot of work." I had just relayed to her how incredibly busy I'd been this week. I worked 5 of the last 7 days, and I'm working tomorrow, too. I usually work 3 days per week. My friend, Wendy, knows I don't tolerate working more than part time for very long. In the past, lots of hours have led to depression relapses. It sucks, but working part time is one of the compromises I've had to make as a result of this illness.

I appreciated my friend's quick concern. She cares. That's nice. But I hate that I have to be so vigilant when I work what, for most people, is just a normal work week. After having this Sunday off, I'll be working Monday through Friday next week, too. And I need to do that. I need to work. As of October 1st, I was only one month away from exhausting every spare penny I had just to pay my bills. I won't feel comfortable or safe unless I replenish that money as soon as possible.

Fortunately, we're very busy, so I've got plenty of opportunity to work. I'm doing what I need to do to take care of myself, at least financially. Yes, I'm tired. No, I'm not getting as much exercise as I'd like. Yes, I'm spending more time solo. No, I'm not eating as well as I'd like. Those are all very important pieces to maintaining my mental health. I know. But feeling financially secure is just as important. I know that, too.

So I'll keep being vigilant about how I'm tolerating my increased work load. I'm not going to put myself in jeopardy of creating a depression relapse. I am paying attention. Actually, right now I'm celebrating, just a bit, that I'm able to do what I'm currently doing. I'll keep working on fitting in the other important pieces, and I'll back off the work hours when needed. I'm willing to do what's needed to find that balance.

Balance. It's vital to my mental health stability. I'm hoping I can figure out a way to work as much as I can, while I have the opportunity to do so, while still finding time for the socialization, exercise, healthy food, and sleep I need. I suppose that's the goal of everyone, chronic illness or not.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ketamine Success

I am officially finished with my Ketamine clinical trial. I had my seventh and final infusion on Thursday. I'm extremely pleased to report the Ketamine worked. I feel almost back to normal. I'm working, exercising, smiling, laughing, and have some energy again. I'm so relieved to be past another severe depression episode.

This makes me two for two in alternative depression treatments. This Spring successful treatment with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation led to resolution of one of the worst, if not the worst, depression relapses I've ever experienced. Now I've had success with Ketamine, too. I'm really lucky to have had access to both of these cutting edge treatments. And isn't it too bad they aren't readily available to more people suffering with severe depression. Hopefully, my participation in this Ketamine trial will lead to more widespread use.

There may be some movement for me on the running front as well. Over the last week, I ran a couple of times on the Alter-G (gravity eliminating) treadmill at 50% of my body weight. Eliminating 50% of my body weight allowed me to run for 10-15 minutes at a time with fairly decent form despite continued leg weakness and foot drop. That was kind of exciting.

Not one to settle, or practice patience, I took it one step further tonight. I ran a few minutes at a time outside. It wasn't terribly pretty, but I just had to try once again. My stride is significantly altered secondary to the foot drop, and it wasn't easy. I do think I'm getting a little stronger. That's hopeful. Unfortunately there is still an awful long way to go if I'm ever to run again as I used to run. I'm trying to stay hopeful, nonetheless.

That's all I've got today. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stigma on my mind

I'm not sure what to say. I was going to update you regarding the jerk who is still copying every word of my blog, but in light of the recent events, I'm not sure that's worthy of complaint. Las Vegas. I'm at a loss for words. There is no way to explain or excuse one person savagely mowing down hundreds of innocent people with an automatic weapon. No way.

Unfortunately, the spotlight has turned to the he-must-have-been-crazy argument. I cringed when I listened to the radio on my way to work yesterday morning, as they discussed the "likelihood" that this individual was mentally ill. So far there is no evidence he was, but mental illness is easily speculated and blamed. It makes me uncomfortable. The reality is the vast majority of people with mental illness are not at all violent. That's a fact, but that fact seems to get lost after tragic, senseless, otherwise inexplicable events.

I understand the need to explain the unexplainable. Perhaps this person did have an undiagnosed mental illness, but the spite and venom with which mental illness is discussed disturbs me. Rather than spurring on a call to action, such as better, more accessible treatment for people with mental illness, these events seem to further the stigmatization instead. That sucks.

Having said all of that, I admit, I don't have any answers to this dilemma. None of us can control what others do. I'm glad I'm open about my own battle with mental illness. I believe my coworkers, running buddies, and friends now have a better picture of what a person with mental illness looks like. And maybe that changes the conversations in their homes and offices just a bit. I don't know. What I do know is in instances such as this, my behavior is the only thing I can control.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Defeating Stigma

With dangerous healthcare bills in the news, which continue to be initiated in Congress and which would be devastating to those of us with mental illness, I've been thinking a lot about stigma lately. Stigmatizing treatment, including getting fired from my healthcare job while receiving inpatient treatment for depression, is one of the main reasons I began this blog. It's the reason I am open and vocal about having a mental illness. I like to think my speaking out and blogging have both educated others and confronted stigma at least a bit.

Some of you may remember this sign, which I created. I wore it at The New York City Marathon and plan to continue wearing it at future marathons.


Well, I found an organization which shares my mission. It works to defeat the stigma associated with mental illness and uses running to do it! How perfect is that? It's called Defeat the Stigma Project. Here's the front and back of my new tank top, which is available on their website, and which I'm happy to report has been showing up on the shoulders of some local runners lately.



If you are a runner, especially a runner with mental illness, consider being out and loud. It's the only way to educate those around us, to improve our treatment, and to keep battling the stigma we face, whether it be from home or the halls of Congress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A little progress

I'm making some progress both mentally and physically, I think. I just came in from a 3 mile walk with Jet. During our walk, I jogged (I hate the J-word, but that's what it was) a bit to see how my left leg was faring. After walking a little over a mile, I jogged slowly and gently for one tenth of a mile. Later I jogged two tenths of a mile twice. It was slow and tentative, but it was kind of like running.

Because of my weak ankle, I was unable to land on my left heel, so I felt like I was tiptoeing rather than fully running. I also had cramping in my hamstrings and calves, likely as a result of them compensating for my weak hip and quads. Nonetheless, I believe I jogged better today than the last time I tried a few weeks ago. It felt a little easier, and my leg felt a tiny bit stronger.

Unfortunately, any gains I've made have been so small it's hard to tell if my leg is actually stronger or not. That's why I wanted to try running a bit tonight. I'm feeling a little encouraged by the results. But I'm being cautiously hopeful.

I have to be cautious, as nerve injuries are different and difficult. Unlike other injuries which have kept me from running in the past, injuries which I knew would heal with the right treatment, time, and exercises; this injury has no such guarantees. With a nerve injury, my progress can stop at any time regardless of how much work I do or how much time passes. That's the scary reality of having an injured nerve. I'm praying I'm still making some gains. But only time will tell.

Mentally I think I'm also making some progress. I had my fifth Ketamine infusion on Thursday. My mood hadn't been great all week, but I felt better after the infusion. That was a relief. And I'm still feeling lighter today. I'm grateful. I have two more infusions left before my participation in the study will be complete. I'm praying for continued improvement. I'd really like to walk away from my last infusion, just under two weeks from now, feeling confident and back to normal. That would be truly wonderful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possible Plagiarism

This morning I discovered somebody has been copying my blog posts en masse. Actually, I discovered it last week, but it really became clear this morning. I have some tools connected to my blog which tell me when my content is being copied. It also tells me which posts are being copied. A few weeks ago, somebody copied all of January, 2008. Then a few days later, somebody copied all of February, 2008. This morning I discovered they are now working on March, 2008. I assume it is the same person because in each case he or she accessed my content through a server in Indonesia. That's what I know so far.

Those of you who've been reading for awhile know I've been through this in the past. That's why I now have the detection tools in place. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact person or site which is doing the copying. But I'm working on it! My concern is the mad-copier, since he or she is likely in Indonesia, may be re-posting my material in another language. There are plagiarism detector tools on the Web, but I'm not sure if any of them have the capability to check for plagiarism in which the language has been changed. And if this person is not re-posting my material on their own blog, what the heck are they doing with it? I'm irritated and concerned.

Why is this person doing this? Obviously, they have some goal in mind, as they are copying every post from the very beginning of my blog. Why are they copying my thoughts, feelings, and words en masse? I don't know yet, but I am working to find out. If any of you have experience with this, or are an internet savant, or know what steps I should take next, please let me know. Maybe together we can find the offender and put a stop to whatever it is he or she is planning to do with my material.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm okay

In case you've been wondering, I'm okay. I'm not great. I'm not back to where I'd like to be yet. I wish I wasn't still struggling with periods of low mood and intrusive thoughts. But I'm back to work, exercising more aggressively, and overall feeling better. I really shouldn't be complaining, but I have to admit I was hoping to feel more than okay at this point in time.

Perhaps my expectations are the problem. I'm just back from my third, half-day of work. I expected my return to work would bring with it feelings of purposefulness, hopefulness, and happiness. Instead, I felt, well, okay. In fact, I struggled with a lower mood before and after work each day. I wanted to love my work again. I wanted to feel helpful, and grateful, and have a purpose again. Unfortunately, I experienced that telltale sign of depression, lack of enjoyment, instead.

It's hard not to put too much emphasis on any dip in my mood as I come out of this depression relapse. I still feel like I'm coming out of it, but I find such periods of feeling low frustrating and scary. I have to battle to keep my low feelings from building on themselves. Otherwise, I feel more sad about feelings of sadness and more hopeless about feelings of hopelessness. And that really sucks! I know because I've not always been successful in my battle.

Fortunately, I think the Ketamine treatment is helping me fight. I had my fourth of seven Ketamine infusions yesterday. I felt almost immediate relief following the infusion. Despite getting a migraine headache side effect, the mood relief lasted through the evening. So even though I'm complaining about feeling okay today, overall I'm much improved as compared to when I began treatment a couple of weeks ago. I'm so, so grateful for that. And I expect continued relief with continued treatment. I'm looking forward to that.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Good news and...

The good news is I'm feeling better, and I'm back home. I got out of the hospital Friday just before noon. And that was as a direct result of the positive reaction I had following my second infusion of Ketamine on Thursday. My mood was much improved after both the second and third, which took place yesterday, Ketamine infusions. I continue to feel better today.

Unfortunately, with good there is, at least on this occasion, bad news as well. I spoke with my back surgeon's nurse just after returning home Friday. Tomorrow marks 12 weeks since my back surgery, 16 weeks since the original injury. I got the clearance to go back to work part time beginning tomorrow. During our discussion, however, I informed the nurse my left leg is still weak. Her reaction was not positive.

I could tell by the immediate pause and change in voice tone the nurse, my surgeon's right hand woman, was concerned I continued to have significant leg weakness. I listened intently as she informed me of the typical progression of recovery. Basically, very few patients, in their experience, continue to see improvement after 12 weeks. Most of the strength gains that will be made are made within the first 12 weeks following surgery. I was devastated.

I tried to maintain my composure after this news, but it was futile. I ended up in tears. It's still hard for me to think about, but there is a very real possibility I won't be able to run again. I know, because I've tried. My leg is too weak. I couldn't run yesterday. I can't run today. And if my leg strength does not improve beyond where I'm at today, there will be no tomorrow. I will not be able to run in the future.

It's hard to imagine not running again. It's so hard I can't even type those words without hopelessness creeping in and tears welling up. I don't know what I would do. I should know one way or the other, whether I will run again or not, by Christmas, which will be six months post op. I was hoping to run a marathon by Christmas.

I'm choosing to believe I will be one of the outliers. After all, I was extremely fit prior to the disc rupturing, and perhaps I'm a bit younger than most of their patients. But then I think about how little my strength has progressed over the last month, and it's difficult to hold onto that belief. But I have to keep believing and hope I'm one of the outliers.

So far this news has not had a crushing effect on my mood, but it hasn't helped either. I'm trying to move forward and stay in the moment. I don't want to allow hopelessness to resettle. I can only do so much. I can only control what I can control. I will continue doing my exercises, walking, and riding my ElliptiGo. I'll focus on getting back to work and keep saying my prayers. Those are the best options I have right now. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

No miracle yet

I began participation in the clinical drug trial today. I had my first Ketamine infusion. It took almost 3 hours by the time all was said and done, and I was exhausted afterward. Fortunately, I had very few side effects during the infusion. I got a little spacey feeling, my blood pressure went up a bit, and my lips went numb. All are normal side effects. It could have been much worse. Nausea and even hallucinations are two of the other of a myriad of possibilities. I am grateful I tolerated it with such ho-hum effects, but unfortunately, I didn't have any big, miraculous shifts in my mood either.

I did feel mildly more relaxed and slightly less hopeless immediately following the infusion, but within 90 minutes the tears, hopelessness, and intrusive suicidal thoughts had reemerged. I'm doing my best not to panic, but I am feeling discouraged. That's the unfortunate price of hope.

The study coordinators still believe I am an ideal candidate for a favorable result, and they warned me I may not get relief until after the second or even the third infusion. The second infusion will be done on Thursday. The third is scheduled for next Monday, hopefully as an outpatient. If my symptoms do remit, I will then have one infusion per week for the following four weeks. I do hope I qualify for those four follow-up infusions.

Hope is still difficult though. And scary. I don't want to be disappointed again. I want relief.

I want relief from this illness. I want my life back. I want to return to me. At this point working, running, and living functionally and independently in my home seem a long way away. I want to get back to living with rather than suffering from depression. Suffering is just too painful. If you pray, please keep 'em coming, my friends.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hospital again

I saw my therapist yesterday. When she offered to drive me directly to the hospital, herself, I knew she meant business. But that's what I needed. Depression had muddled my thinking so completely, there was no way I could have, or would have, made such a decision on my own. And my thoughts were as dark as they'd ever been, so she was right to be concerned. I guess I was concerned on some intellectual level, but mostly I didn't care. I couldn't muster the energy to care what was happening to me anymore, and my thinking was leading me down a very dark road with a very abrupt end. As much as I hate it, I guess I need to be here right now.

Unfortunately, TMS is an outpatient procedure, so I'm unable to continue my TMS treatments while hospitalized. But all is not lost. There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel. Mayo Clinic is in the midst of a research study involving Ketamine. The inpatient doctor recommended it, and I qualified to participate. I signed the consent forms today. I will be getting Ketamine infusions, up to seven of them if the results warrant, beginning next week.

I do have a little hope the Ketamine will work. From what I've read, previous small studies have been promising. And if it works, it's supposed to take effect quickly. That would be a great result! I hope I am one of the people who responds well to it. Any relief will be greatly appreciated at this point.

Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to be here awhile. I already desperately miss Jet and being able to go outside. Of course, I'd much rather be home, but home probably isn't the safest option right now. I'm not looking forward to being an inpatient for the long, holiday weekend ahead. Bad timing. I have to wait until Tuesday to begin the Ketamine treatment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hope...or not

Sometimes I have difficulty writing here. I want so badly to be a voice of hope for all of us who struggle with this damn illness, severe and persistent depression. But sometimes my hope is limited. And sometimes it's nonexistent. Well, we're approaching nonexistence, my friends. Life, right now, is hard.

My mood has continued to decline since I left the hospital 8 days ago. It's getting quite painful, devastatingly painful. The financial stress of my back injury/surgery/recovery is mounting, which has certainly not helped my mood. But my mood... My mood is so low. I'm really struggling.

I'm tearful and slow and hurting. Thoughts of suicide (which I rarely write about here) are ever present. No, I don't think it's a good solution, but the thoughts are relentless, nonetheless. The thoughts don't help my mood either. I'm not finding much to help my mood right now.

Despite the pain, I'm doing what I can. I'm still walking, riding, and doing my exercises. I've kept up with my household chores for the most part. I even worked for just over an hour yesterday. That's not going to pay my mortgage, but it was better than nothing, and it got me out of my house. I'm going to my TMS appointments. Trying to hold onto the slimmest of hope that TMS will work its magic again. But when? When?!! Soon, I hope. I hope...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home

I'm back in my house, with Jet, and feeling... well, okay.

I left the hospital Monday morning, and the rest of Monday went well. Jet and I walked through the solar eclipse, which was pretty cool. The moon covered 85% of the sun here. I didn't have any special glasses, but the light coming through the trees along our route made the sidewalks and streets fill with hundreds of various sized crescent moons. It was an unexpected surprise. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, laundering the hospital off myself and my clothing, and buying groceries. (What was I eating prior to hospitalization?? My cupboards were bare.) It felt really good to feel human again.

Unfortunately, those good feelings didn't last. The darkness and heaviness began settling back in early yesterday. It was weird. It seemed I could feel it creeping through my body one part at a time. Slowly I got heavier and slower and lower. I was baffled and discouraged. But I fought.

I fought the creeping depression by writing thank you notes to several people I needed to acknowledge. I walked with Jet. I tried to focus on my posture, the sun, and the air rather than on my frustration with the continued weakness in my left hip, knee and ankle, which made completing the 3-mile walk tiresome. Afterward, I went back to Mayo Clinic to restart Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments.

My first TMS treatment went well. The process wiped me out, so I took a long nap afterward, but I at least felt hopeful that I was actively doing something to combat this debilitating illness. The rest of the day was more encouraging. I actually cooked something for dinner, watched my favorite baseball team (Go Twins!) beat Chicago, and spent some snuggle time with Jet. He's been sticking close to my side since we were reunited yesterday, which is just fine with me. Normalcy. I kind of like it.

I have a few chores on my to-do list today prior to my second TMS treatment this afternoon. I'm hoping to find the energy to get on my ElliptiGo this morning. I miss running so much. I so desire the chance to expand my lungs, challenge myself, and feel that good, totally explainable, physical pain on a regular basis again. I can only get those things on my ElliptiGo right now, so I need to get out there and ride.

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, I'm hopeful getting back to my normal activities and TMS will bring me back to a purposeful life. That's the plan, anyway. Carry on, my friends.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Improvement

It was so relieving to write the title to this post I may erase it and write it over and over again. I am still in the hospital, but I feel better. The first couple of days here were tough. I spent the first day and a half in tears, barely speaking, and probably moving even less. Prior to my admission I was struggling so hard just to stay semi-functional and safe. Once securely here I think I relaxed, and all the pain came pouring out. Apparently I needed those tears, because things got better from there.

It was probably early yesterday when I first began noticing an uptick in my mood. Now I feel a bit lighter. I'm not so slow, less quiet, and have a little energy again. Today I even laughed. I know this because one of my nurses was so surprised she pointed it out immediately! It's a relief to feel less pain.

The plan is to go home on Monday, which will allow me to begin outpatient Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments Tuesday. After my last experience with TMS, I'm feeling very hopeful TMS will give me my life back. It's a commitment, Monday through Friday for 4-6 weeks, but it's definitely worth it.

I'll be very happy to get out of here and back home. This is a safe place, a healing place, and I certainly needed to come in, but it's not home. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also anxious about going home, but with my improved mood and TMS plan, I think I'll be fine. I miss my freedom and routine, getting outside to exercise, and most importantly, I miss Jet. He's happy as a clam with his dog-sitter, which is great, but I can't wait to be reunited with him.

I want to thank all of you, my readers, over these last 3-4 weeks. You hung in there with me while watching what can only be described as a devastating, slow motion train wreck. Your comments, especially to some of those painful posts, really helped. This is such an isolating illness. I always feel better when someone tells me they can relate to something I've written. I'm lucky to have such a wide net of support, locally, nationally, and perhaps even internationally. Thank you, my friends.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Patient Again

I'm back in the hospital. The plan is to stay here and stabilize, get some of my intrusive thoughts settled, and then go home before I start Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments early next week. I hate being locked up in here again, especially so soon after my last significant depression episode. Intellectually I know I'd be doing well if not for my back injury, surgery, and recovery limitations. But that doesn't seem to help me feel less disappointed to require hospitalization again. Fortunately I have very smart friends to remind me I'm sick. This is an illness, and sometimes I need more intensive help. As she drove me to the front door, my friend Heidi reminded me, if I had a cancer relapse I'd go to the hospital without question or fight. She's right. I need to quit fighting the cure and fight the illness instead. I guess this is my time to do just that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dear YOUniverse

I think you can have no idea what it’s like. How can you? Unless you’ve sat in this chair, early on a Sunday, or Monday, or Tuesday morning, you cannot know what it’s like. To wake up feeling a sliver of hope that today will bring something different. Something new. Coffee, toast, dog fed, but then it settles in. Just that quick. That sliver of hope is now a sharpened knife stabbing you in the chest with heavy, halting, excruciating glory. That sliver was a tease. Those brief moments, they are just a tease.

Already, I can hardly move. Do you have any idea how it feels to actually feel the weight of your own heart? Like a bowling ball settling low in my chest. I’m not sure how long I can support it. These are the times your encouragement rings hollow. Don't get me wrong, I need and want the encouragement, but at these times... And I know what to do. So easy, the suggestions are. So simple. Why can’t I just do one of them? Just do it! One of them, do any one of them! Do something to combat this! But depression is a cruel bully.

Depression is a cruel, taunting bully. “Ha, ha. You thought you were better, but you’re not. Here I am, already, so early in the morning. You haven’t even finished your coffee, and I’ve already got you surrounded. You can feel me closing in, can’t you? I feel best when you find breathing a chore. You think you can read your e-mail? You think that magazine might be an option? Sit outside and take in the morning? No way. I won’t allow it. Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you what, if you can lift the weight from your shoulders, unwrap the heavy layers of that leaden cloak, and somehow still support the sinking heart so low in your chest, go ahead. Give it your best shot. But you don’t deserve the attention span or energy for such things. And if you think I’m letting you go; if you think I’m allowing you to get off the mat… Ha. That’s a good one. Keep dreaming. Oh, sorry, I took your dreams a long time ago, too, didn’t I? I guess that settles it then. I'm here to stay.”

I think you can have no idea what it’s like to feel so dark, and heavy, and so very alone so early on what looks to be a beautiful day. To have hope squashed almost before the sun comes up and face living hours and hours of another day, with constant cruel bullying in my ear and at my side... I just wish you knew what it was like.

I’m not a bad person. I’m not lazy. I’m doing what I can, but right now what I can do is so very little, it seems as if I’m not even trying. And maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough, but depression steals effort, too. I am trying, but I'm not sure what else to do. And I feel unable to do just about anything. It’s winning. I’m losing. It's here to stay.

Maybe tomorrow... Maybe tomorrow will be different?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anger

Anger is not a four letter word. But nobody likes it when I'm angry. I've been angry, at times really angry, over these last few weeks. I've been angry at depression; angry at what it takes from me, angry at how much it limits what I can think, feel and do, and yes, angry at the unfairness of it all. Unfairness is not a place I usually go, but what can I say? I'm human.

I'm human but not superhuman. Sometimes I get angry. I want to punch, kick, fight, and scream. I say bad words and call depression unkind names. I think it makes perfect sense to be angry. I don't think it's bad or taboo, yet anger makes many people very uncomfortable. With the exception of my therapist, who usually says something kind like, "I get that," most people change the subject or try to talk me out of my anger. Why?

Doesn't anger make sense to you? Wouldn't you be angry, too, if your life was periodically hijacked by an out of control, physically and mentally life-sucking illness which changes the very nature of who you are? Isn't it unkind to lose, through no fault of your own, that for which you've so diligently worked? Wouldn't it piss you off, just a bit, to suddenly be unable to work, to earn a living, and to watch your finances shrink? All of that time, effort, and education for what? This? This is not what I worked so hard to get, and that angers me.

Wouldn't you find it maddening to have your brain hijacked by unforgiving, dark thoughts, too scary to share, to feel isolated and alone, to have extreme difficulty socializing? Of course I'm angry! And for you to respond to my anger with fear, which is usually followed by suggestions beginning with, "Well, if you just did 'xyz' you'd feel better," is not helpful. That would be nice, but that's not how depression works.

Depression doesn't make sense. Half the time I don't understand it, so I don't expect you to understand it either. That's not what I'm asking. Depression is a frustrating conglomeration of symptoms which often change from one day to the next. It's messy, and ugly, and demanding, and scary. I think it makes perfect sense to be angry.

Sometimes it even feels good to be angry. Anger requires emotional energy, something depression rarely lets me have. Anger is not a four letter word. It's a normal human emotion to having something, in this case life as I knew it, stolen from me.

Don't let my anger frighten you. Please. And don't try to talk me out of it either. Be honest. Try, "I get that," or even, "I don't get it, but you can tell me anyway." I'd rather that than useless, feel good suggestions which may placate you but leave me feeling discounted and alienated. Let me talk about it. It's okay if I'm angry. I wish it didn't distress people so much.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thief

Depression steals.

Moments. Days.
Months. Years.

Joy. Peace.
Serenity.

Energy. Fitness.
Movement.

Motivation. Satisfaction.
Appreciation. Meaning.

Memory.
Intelligence.
Clear thinking.

Sleep. Appetite.
Emotions.

Smiles. Laughter.
Family. Friends.

Color.
Beauty.
Light.
Air.

Spirit.
Gratitude.
Grace.

Goals. Drive.
Competence.

Work. Socialization.

Care. Self care.
Physical well-being.

Confidence.
Self esteem.

Freedom. Choice.

Hope and Purpose.

Purpose.
and.
Hope.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Liar and the Fake

"This is hard." Those were three of the very few words I was able to utter to my psychiatrist a couple of days ago. I saw her first thing in the morning. I was slow, and quiet, and tearful. I felt so heavy it was difficult to move. Literally. It took maximum effort just to look her in the eyes. Depression, right now, is very hard.

Yet, despite the heaviness and tears, and despite the lethargy and hopelessness, I somehow showered, got dressed, drove 30 minutes, and went in to work just a few hours after my appointment. I'm only allowed to complete overdue paperwork, so I was there just a couple of hours and mostly interacted with a computer, but how did I do that? I felt like a liar and a fake.

As if watching myself from across the room, I wondered, "Who is that woman?" It was strange. Who was that woman interacting with coworkers, cordially, certainly not effervescently, but still a world away from how I'd been feeling and functioning otherwise. It was strange but necessary.

There is a time and place for everything, and I don't think work is the appropriate place to fall apart or weep on shoulders. I'm not looking for sympathy. But sometimes I'm able to pull off an outward appearance which is so dichotomous to what's actually going on, it's quite amazing. And I don't know how I pull it off. And is pulling it off a good thing? I don't know.

While I'm glad I was able to work, to defy this illness for a couple of hours, it didn't necessarily feel good. It felt strange. I felt disconnected from myself. I felt like a liar and a fake. And it absolutely zapped my precious energy. When I left, by the time I got from my building into my vehicle, I was tearful and spent. The aftermath of performing above and beyond how I was feeling was exhaustion. I collapsed when I got home.

Today my energy continues to be low, my mood lower. But I did defy depression again today. Somehow I actually got out of my house and rode my ElliptiGo. I figured, "Why not?" With no impact, I was able to strengthen my legs and expand my lungs for the first time in 11 weeks. And you know what? It was hard. It was very hard. And dammit, I didn't care.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Touched

He said, "You need a change of luck," and he reached into his wallet and pulled out this four leaf clover.


I was surprised and touched by my friend Jim's gesture. I was having dinner with Jim and his wife, my friend, Mary. I had never even seen a four leaf clover prior to Jim setting this one on the table in front of me. Apparently, and Mary proved this with a series of photos of his previous finds, Jim has quite a knack for finding four and five leaf clovers. I carefully set the clover in my wallet and thanked him sincerely. I sure hope it changes my current course. I know one thing. It certainly can't hurt.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Getting away

I had to get out of town. Depression has been kicking my ass! From anger to tears, hopelessness to frustration, and finally to complete and utter despair, I haven't been able to escape. My mood is so low. My thoughts so dark... I didn't want to go back into the hospital, and that seemed to be everybody's number one suggestion, so instead I packed up and left.

I traveled north to my home area, the North Shore of Lake Superior. Last night Jet and I camped in a state park where we roasted hot dogs with my parents and hiked the trails. My back hurts, and Jet's exhausted, but it was worth it nonetheless. I'll be spending another couple of days up here soaking in everything I love about this place as well as visiting family and old friends. I'm hoping for a geographical cure.

So far the change in scenery, while not perfect, has provided some relief. Unfortunately, the problem with a geographical cure is wherever I go, there I am. So there is still hopelessness, and darkness, and despair. The unwelcome thoughts continue creeping around the edges despite my efforts. But some relief is better than no relief. Today I'm at least able to breathe. I'm thankful for that.

Depression has been kicking my ass. Right now I'm doing my best to kick back.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

F-You Depression

This is one of those posts I hate to write. For better or worse, I pride myself on being a fighter, maybe even a role model, for someone out there battling this fucking illness. But I haven't been fighting lately. Despite my recent vow to battle, I have fallen far short. For the last several days, the battle has been taken to me rather than the other way around. And I'm losing, big time.

Despite knowing better, I've spent the better part of recent days isolating myself, sleeping whenever I could for as long as I could, eating junk, and stomping around my house in anger. This is not typical of me, and it's concerning, yet I don't care! Anger is the rule of the day.

I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to see anyone. I don't want to do anything. And I certainly don't want anyone pointing out what I should be doing. I know what I should be doing, but I'm not. Or more accurately, I know what I should be doing, and I'm not.

Maybe I'm tired of doing what I should be doing yet still feeling smothered by depression's life-sucking force. Maybe I'm giving depression a big, fat middle finger. Maybe that's what this is, "Fuck you, depression!" I'm tired of behaving perfectly for your sake.

Maybe I just want to be normal for awhile. And I'm fairly certain normal people don't always eat perfectly, exercise regularly, sleep on schedule, and feel honky dory! I bet normal people even shut off their phones once in awhile, and when they do, it isn't a symptom! I'm tired of symptoms.

That's the problem. Symptoms. This illness requires vigilance to keep my symptoms at bay. I don't necessarily have the luxury of the "normal behavior" of my friends. And that makes me angry. I want that luxury, too. I don't want to have to care about life's every detail. But depression demands I care. It demands I care. And I hate it for that.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fight it

"Fight it," my friend exclaimed. I had just told her how I was feeling. Nobody, especially my close friends, wants to see me slide into the abyss once again. It's too dark. The road back is too steep and so distant. Certainly I'm not at all interested in visiting that space again, but I fear it's on the way. "Fight it," I scream to myself! Fight it! Simple. But is that all there is to it?

Those of us who know, know. It's certainly not as simple as that. In the best of times, it's not as simple as that. That's the myth. Fight and depression will relent. Peace, serenity and happiness will reign. That's the cruel, believable myth. And that's in the best of times. But that's not depression.

In depression's advantageous times, times like this, of injury or illness, when everything I typically use to cope, everything which brings me joy, and meaning, and purpose; battling depression is definitely not as simple as, "Fight it!" When removed from my joyful, meaningful, and purposeful activities, fighting is an uphill battle on a peg leg with one arm tied behind my back. It doesn't work. I flail, and fall flat, and suffocate in the mud.

Yesterday was rough. In my analysis, I realized this injury has disconnected me from everything I hold dear. My coping mechanisms, my life, are so distant they feel lost. I'm spending many, many hours alone. I've been disconnected from the very things which not only allow me to battle depression, but also allow me to be me. Working. Running. Biking. Hiking. Playing. Traveling. And taking care of my responsibilities. I'm on my own, which normally would be fine, but there's only so much (or in this case so little) I can do on my own right now. It's no wonder I've been sinking.

My friend's words keep ringing in my ears. "Fight it!" No, it's not that simple, but maybe I can do more than I've been doing. Maybe I've been too willing to wallow in what I can't do rather than what I can. I'm not a fan of self-pity. If depression is going to take me down, and I'm not saying it will, I at least need to battle. No matter my infirmities. I've got to fight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

4 Weeks Post-op

It's been 4 weeks since my surgery to remove the extruded portion of my L4 disc, 8 weeks since the original injury, and I'm trying my best to deal with a very slow recovery. Yesterday was a really tough day. After attempting to increase my level of activity just a bit, I again ended up in fairly significant pain. I saw my surgeon's physician assistant, and she assured me I'm doing as expected. She kept saying, "It takes time." Patience is not one of my virtues, I guess. I really expected to be further along the road to recovery by now, and I certainly didn't expect to continue having so much pain.

Pain is discouraging and frustrating, but I did get some good news yesterday. The physician assistant cleared me to begin walking for exercise, as my pain allows. She also cleared me to begin gentle physical therapy strengthening exercises. I still can't work, as I continue to have significant lifting restrictions, but I'm happy to be cleared for increased activity. I just hope my pain will decrease and allow me to do what she's now granted permission to do.

On another front, my date went well. It was fun. Beautiful evening, great stadium, and our team won with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. We'll see where things go from here. We may just continue to be friends, I think, but one can never have too many friends. I'm proud of myself for pushing through my fears and going out at all. Fear gets me nowhere. Courage, on the other hand, can lead to great things. And I think we all deserve great things.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Confidence

It's a big day. I have a date. A what, you ask? Yes, I have a date. Believe me, I'm just as surprised as anyone. An acquaintance I've known for years called me out of the blue a few days ago. He asked me out. We're going to dinner and a baseball game tonight. I'm excited, and flattered, and scared to death!

My crisis of confidence began as soon as I hung up the phone with Mister (obviously, not his real name). His call pushed so many fraidy-cat buttons for me. To name a few: I'm not a girly, girl. I have short hair. I don't wear make-up. I don't polish my nails. I don't even own a dress. I had a hard time even finding something sort of appealing to wear. If I'm not in my work clothes, I'm in running gear or sweats. Which begs the question, what does he see in me? Don't men like all of those things?

I know some men don't necessarily care about girly-ness, but the bigger fear dating brings out in me is one in which you all may identify. Depression. I've been thinking about it a lot over these last three days. I feel defective. Depression makes me feel defective. On some level I know I'm not, but that isn't necessarily going to be the opinion of everyone. Deep down, I guess I still struggle with feeling defective because of my mental illness.

I've been battling the defective thoughts and trying to convince myself I'm actually okay for 3 days now. I've been reminding myself Mister wouldn't have asked me out if he didn't want to spend time with me. And he's certainly seen me in running clothes and a baseball hat more than once over these last several years. But that deep feeling persists. It's discouraging. And somehow I feel like I, of all people, a blogger and speaker attempting to wipe out the stigma of depression, I shouldn't feel this way. And that thought does nothing to quell my fears, no matter how rational or irrational they may be.

So my worry thoughts continue, but I'm trudging through and going on a date tonight despite myself. It's my first date since D and I broke up over 2 years ago. I'm going to say a prayer before I leave, do my best to stay in the moment while I'm out, and above all enjoy myself. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Healing?

I feel better. No, I don't. I'm healing. I'm not healing. My pain is improved. I'm in more pain. I'm moving better. No, moving hurts. And so it goes. Over the last 7 days I've yo-yo'd back and forth from feeling like I'm on the path to recovery to feeling like recovery from my back surgery is yet a long way off. It's been a bit frustrating to say the least.

One step forward, two steps back. That's how I began the week. On the heels of feeling better, I had a pretty big setback in my level of back pain. I began taking my pain pill again, and things slowly improved. As things improved I increased my level of activity. As I got more active my pain increased. By midweek I was really discouraged. Discouragement is not good for me.

Increased discouragement caused my mood to crumble. For a few days I had two things to battle, a painful back and a poor mood. I'm happy to report I got out of my house and socialized at least once each of the past three days, and that has helped my mood. I'm so grateful I have friends who sensed I needed to get out and offered me opportunities to do so. I do feel better.

I feel better mentally, and as I sit here right now my back pain is also improved. It's tolerable. It's not gone, but I'm again weaning off the pain pills without ill effect. That's encouraging. I'm trying to be a good patient. I'm trying to be patient. I've increased my activity but not a lot. I'm taking it more slowly than I did previously. It's still tough, mentally and physically, to have so little to do, but this too shall pass, right? This is temporary, I have to remember that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Boredom

I confess. I'm not being a good patient. I'm so damn bored, I can't help it! It's just me, and Jet, and four walls for 90% of every day. It feels like my house is closing in on me. I try to find reasons to go out, but when you're not allowed to do anything and have no money to spend there aren't a lot of places to go. I'm really having a difficult time with all of this excess time. So I confess, I've been a bad girl.

I've been a bad girl, and unfortunately I think I'm paying for it. I began doing exercises for my weak left leg last week. Those went well, no ill effects, so I added some gentle peddling on my stationary recumbent bike. Just 10 minutes, gently, and that went well, too. I was walking half a block several times per day, as instructed, so I added a few sessions on the Alter-G, anti-gravity treadmill. I walked at only 40-45% of my body weight, not too strenuous, and that felt really good. I was actually able to walk, to stretch my legs, for 20 whole minutes! I think that was fine, but the back strengthening exercises I added a couple of days ago, I think those were ill advised. That's where I might have overdone it.

Don't tell my surgeon, but I think those back exercises have caused an increase in my left low back pain. I wasn't having any back pain, just left leg and foot pain, prior to the exercises. Now my back hurts again. I think I overdid it. I spoke with the surgeon's nurse today regarding another issue, and she reiterated my movement restrictions. She said something like, "The doctor doesn't want you to do anything more than short walks.Your back muscles, the area around your spine, and the nerve all need time to heal." Oops. Bad patient.

I guess the surgeon does know best. It seems I've set myself back a bit. So despite being bored out of my mind, I guess I'll sit on my duff for 95% of the next few days. Ugh! At least The Tour de France is on television, and I love to watch Le Tour, but that only covers me for a few hours. I should try to read a book, but I'm just not into it. It's strange, I know. I love to write, but I'm not a big book reader. Short attention span, I guess. Tomorrow I've got vacuuming and picking up dog doo to look forward to, and truthfully, I'm probably not allowed to do either of those activities either. But some things have to be done. I promise, doc, I won't do anything else! Really. I don't want to set myself back any further. Boredom, I guess, is here to stay.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learning has occurred

It's not very often I find myself glad to be wrong, but this is one of those cases. The pain I wrote about in my last post has gotten better. I followed the instructions of the surgical nurse I spoke with on Friday. I took my pain pill as prescribed for three days, and what do you know? My pain progressively decreased. I'm relieved. I'm glad I was wrong, and better yet, I'm happy to report I even learned something from this experience.

It's always good when learning occurs at my advanced age. (Insert smiley face emoji here.) Like me, my mother was dubious as to the nurse's simple instructions. She couldn't believe that's "all they were going to do." As I tried to calm my mother's concern, I said something aloud which I had never thought about previously. It went something like this, "Well mom, even though this pain is unique to me, it's probably not unique to them. They've probably heard this hundreds, if not thousands of times, and they know from experience my pain will get better if I just do what they recommend." As I said it, I felt a knocking upside my head. Wow, I thought, that was really profound.

The knocking upside my head occurred because I realized I've been in the surgical nurse's shoes hundreds, if not thousands, of times with my own patients. The complaints of my patients, which maybe I dismiss without enough compassion, are unique to them. For example, even though I've seen thousands of total knee replacements, and I know exactly the various pains my patients may experience, my patients don't have that knowledge. I know which of their pains is normal, and I know that pain will improve if they do as I recommend. I see their entire course of recovery, and I know how the story ends. They don't. I need to remember that when I return to work.

I need to remember what I just taught myself. I think I do a pretty good job of empathetically communicating with my patients, but there's always room for improvement. When I return to work I need to be kind, reassure my patients, and be careful not to come off as dismissive. I don't want my patients to feel like I did on Friday. I don't want them to feel dismissed when they express concern over a symptom, unique to them, which I've heard many times before. Reassurance is important. From now on I will do my best to provide more than just instructions. I will work to reassure my patients, too. Whether suffering from pain, illness or depression, isn't that what we all crave?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pain

It's been a rough couple of days here. My back appears to be healing, at least in the area of L4 where the surgery was performed, however I now have increased pain a few vertebrae below L4. It is significant pain, too. It hurts just to the left of approximately S1, the uppermost vertebra of the sacrum. It's been difficult to find a comfortable position, and the pain is waking me several times a night. I called my surgeon's office yesterday. The nurse I spoke with assured me it was likely pain related to my surgery and encouraged me to be more consistent with taking my pain medication. I hope she's correct, but I fear she isn't.

I'm pretty sure this pain is not related to my surgery. I think it's part of the original injury but at a different vertebral level. I complained about this pain a few days prior to my surgery, which is when it first presented itself, and was told it was likely referred pain from my L4 injury. I was hopeful they were correct then, too, but I don't think they are. This pain feels different and acts differently.

Despite my concerns, I did as told yesterday. I took my pain pill every four hours as prescribed. It didn't seem to make a difference. Now it's the weekend, and I hurt. I'm doing what I can to relieve the pain and remain as active as possible, within the limits of my post-operative restrictions, of course. I'm taking my pain med regularly, icing my back, walking half a block, and strengthening my left leg as best I can. I really hope this pain subsides, as my surgical team assures me it will, but I remain dubious. I'm already anticipating I'll be on the phone with them first thing Monday morning. I just hope they listen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Recovering

I'm home and recovering from my back surgery. My surgery on Monday went very well. The surgeon was able to remove a larger than expected L4 disc fragment, which had already calcified, without having to cut through the vertebra. So I still have all of my vertebral bone intact. Usually the surgeon needs to cut a small window in the vertebra in order to reach the disc fragment, but my disc fragment had extruded so far laterally, he was able to get at it without having to cut through the bone. I think that's a good thing.

I woke up in the recovery room relieved. I was able to wiggle all my toes. Paralysis, though only a 1% risk, was possible. I was in pain, but the pain was almost all in my back rather than in my left leg, so that was a good thing, too. As I sit here right now, my left leg is pain free and the numbness and tingling I had prior to surgery is almost gone. I'm thrilled.

My strength, too, is returning. My left quads and hip seem to be back to nearly full function. They are less weak than they were prior to surgery. I continue to have foot drop, but I knew the foot drop would likely take several weeks to resolve. I'm hopeful that's the case, and anxious to regain that strength. Foot drop is now the only thing between me and eventually running again.

I have a ton of movement and lifting restrictions for the next 12 weeks. That's going to be tough, but I'm going to do my best to be a good patient. I've already gained 3 pounds, and things that used to be muscular, like my tummy, have gotten soft. As a runner, that's really difficult to deal with. I guess I'll just have to quit looking in the mirror for a few months.

The only exercise I'm allowed right now is taking very short walks multiple times per day. Sounds easy, but so far, it hasn't been. I get really tired and really stiff after walking just half a block. Jet, too, is going a bit nuts. I feel really bad, as there's nothing I can do to relieve his boredom. I can't even take him on my short walks. If he pulled suddenly, I'd be screwed. I guess we're both going to be soft, heavy and stir crazy by the time I heal.

It's going to be a long road, but at least I'm on my way to healing now. I'm moving in the right direction, and there is an end in sight. That's way better than what was happening over the past 4 weeks. I'm grateful for that, and I'm looking forward to eventually getting back to my life. Despite everything, my life is good. And I'm hopeful it will only get better from here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Surgery scheduled

The saga of my back will continue for another 12+ weeks. I am scheduled for back surgery on Wednesday, June 21st. Recovery and restrictions after surgery will last at least 12 weeks. The surgery will be a minimally invasive procedure to remove the extruded piece of disc currently displacing my L4 nerve root. There are lots of risks, of course, but they each occur 1% or less of the time, and the chance of never regaining my ankle flexion is high if I don't have the surgery. I can't run with foot drop. There is a chance I will not regain my ankle flexion even with the surgery, but surgery is the best option to make me a runner again. I can't imagine my life without running, so the decision was actually pretty simple.

I'm anxious, of course, about the surgery. I'm trying to keep the negative thoughts at bay. The thoughts of waking up in even more pain or paralyzed are the worst, but I push them aside, as I must, or I wouldn't be able to move. Even with no surgical complications, it will likely be a long time before I find out if I'll be able to run again. It's going to be a long road of re-strengthening what is now a very weak left leg. I've already lost so much.

Thinking about what I've lost, and what could have been saved if my MRI had been read correctly, and if I had been listened to by my inpatient treatment providers; it's of no use to me now. I sent a letter to the radiologist explaining the negative trickle down effect his erroneous reading has had on me and my care. I honestly answered all of the questions on the hospital satisfaction survey I received. I don't expect an apology. I don't need one. I did what I could. Now I have to work on letting go of my resentments. Now I have to face and deal with what I can control in today alone. So that's what I'm trying to do. Let go. Move forward. And pray for the best outcome possible.

UPDATE: Surgery moved up to Monday, June 19th. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Spine Consult

It's hard to believe I've been dealing with this painful back injury for three solid weeks now. I'm beginning my fourth week without work tomorrow. I've been humbled by friends and coworkers who have mowed my lawn and arrived at my door with groceries and gift cards for gas. I'm so grateful for their generosity. I'll have to use my savings to pay the bills for as long as I can, but not having to worry about gas and groceries makes my life incredibly less stressful. At least I can go about my day to day activities without worrying about how much money is in my wallet.

I'm hoping for a quicker resolution to my back injury after seeing a spine specialist on Friday. During her exam there was no denying my pain, left leg weakness, loss of sensation, and loss of reflexes. She referred me to a surgeon. I see him this Wednesday.

Surgery is the likely option now, as my symptoms have continued to worsen. If the surgeon agrees, I'm going to push for surgery before the end of the week. Each passing day brings greater and greater apprehension for me. I can hardly control the worry thoughts. The longer this goes, and the weaker my leg gets, the less likely I am to have a full recovery after surgery.

A full recovery would mean the return of all of my leg strength. At this point it's possible that won't happen, even after they surgically relieve the pressure on my L4 nerve root. If I don't regain my leg strength, I would either not be able to run as I wish, or not be able to run at all. That thought scares me out of my mind. If I had the choice I would rather lose my home than lose the ability to run. A roof over my head can be replaced. The peace, serenity, joy, and drive I get from running can't.

That pretty much says it all. I'm scared, really scared, and anxious to get this thing fixed. I'm dealing with the pain. I'm doing my best to combat the inevitable progression of the weakness. And I'm continuing to attend to my responsibilities as well as I can. I'll let you know how it all goes. And if you're into prayers, I'm take them.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Patient advocate

I discovered one thing as a result of my recent back injury. If I didn't advocate, and advocate strongly, for myself, nobody else would have, and my care would suffer. I don't want to get into all the specifics here. I already delineated how inaccurate my hospital discharge summary and MRI reports were in a previous post. Unfortunately, most of my follow-up appointments were preceded by the treatment providers reading those inaccurate reports. I ended up one step in the hole prior to the provider even saying hello. They approached me thinking they already knew my story, and in a few cases actually tried to make my symptoms match what they read rather than looking at me objectively. I felt very fortunate to be a physical therapist, as I knew what the treatment provider should have been looking at. As a result, I had to advocate, and advocate strongly, for myself.

The trick to being my own advocate, I'm learning, is gentle, factual, and very politically correct pressure. I spent the weekend reviewing my available records (thank God for online medical records), and composing written messages to 3 different providers. As a result I got one specialist appointment moved up a week, got some paperwork I needed for my employer completed, and had one procedure considered which was previously deemed unnecessary. Oh, and prior to the weekend, through a series of messages and phone calls, I got my MRI report amended so it now accurately describes my injury. It was an exhausting, tense process, but it was worth it.

I'm relieved. I'm really glad I took the initiative to be my own advocate. I'm glad I have knowledge of the human body and of neurological testing. And I'm grateful I have just enough communication skills to effectively communicate with each provider, presenting my case without offending or angering any of them. (Interestingly, this is exactly the kind of energy and impetus I do not have during a depression relapse.) I feel like my treatment plan is now thorough and heading in the right direction.

As a patient, I rely on my caregivers to be skilled, thorough, and nonjudgmental. I feel for patients who do not have access to some of the knowledge and resources I had during this process. How do they assure effective treatment for themselves? As a healthcare provider, I'm frustrated by the presumptions, incomplete examinations, and mistakes I experienced throughout this process. I understand how some of that happens, but it happened entirely too often during my hospitalization and follow-up appointments. That is disheartening.

I guess the lesson is we all have to be patient advocates. We have to be patient patients yet be unafraid to speak up, gently but decisively, when we feel more needs to be done. If we don't stand up for ourselves, who will? Lesson learned.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pain is exhausting

I wish I had something more positive to write about today, but unfortunately I'm still in pain. There has been no resolution to my back issues. My left leg remains so weak I am unable to walk without increased pain and a significant limp. I am using crutches for any distance beyond my kitchen to living room. I am on pain medications, which as a sober person makes me quite nervous, but they are necessary for the pain I am experiencing. I continue to have difficulty finding positions which are comfortable, and even if I find one, it only remains comfortable for a short time. Sleep occurs a couple of hours at a time, and I am generally exhausted. Pain, it turns out, is exhausting.

My life has not only been interrupted, it's been entirely halted. I can't work. I can't run. I can hardly get dressed. Movement is painful. Not moving is painful. I'm confined to my home 23 hours a day. I need help with most of my household chores, but so far I've resisted asking. I hate asking for help, but I know I'm eventually going to have to relent. One of my coworkers did mow my lawn a few days ago, which was a relief. I was grateful he offered. Jet is bored and restless, as he also went from running 40 miles per week to zero, but there's not a thing I can do about it. I feel unproductive and useless.

Needless to say, my mood is getting worse and worse. I'm trying hard to stay hopeful, but with each passing day I feel that hope slipping away. I'm certainly worried this issue is going to lead to a depression relapse, but I haven't given up fighting yet. I'm working with my employer to find something I can do to help out, even if just for an hour or two. I'm beginning physical therapy today. And I've walked on the Alter-G (gravity-eliminating) treadmill, at only 40% of my body weight and for only 20-25 minutes, twice in the last several days. It wasn't much, but at least I got to move. I've fought through a lot over the past couple of years. I guess this is just one more battle I have to conquer. I'm scared, anxious and incredulous, but I'm still fighting.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Disappointment and Anger

I'm home from the hospital. My back is only slightly better. I now have numbness, tingling and weakness in my left leg, which necessitates walking with a cane around the house and crutches for anything of any distance. I am now two days away from missing my marathon, and more importantly, 3 days from missing skydiving with my brother, niece and nephew--an outing which was my idea and which I arranged. I'm so disappointed I don't even think I'll be able to go watch them jump. I can run more marathons, but missing my niece, nephew and brother's first skydive is an opportunity I'll never have again. That fact has had me in tears more than once today.

My last day in the hospital was quite challenging. Throughout the day it became very clear I was being treated differently based on my mental health diagnoses. I had concerns about going home as nothing had been resolved, but I was being treated like I was attention seeking. My practical concerns and physical complaints were dismissed. I had a nurse practitioner argue with me over my MRI results, results she insisted were benign but according to a specialist I had just seen actually were far from benign. And as I was leaving, members of my inpatient treatment team flat out refused to write up a referral for outpatient physical therapy. No reason. They stated I had to get a referral from my primary doctor instead, which is bullshit. I get patients everyday from Mayo Clinic who are referred to me by their inpatient doctors and providers. What benefit she got out of refusing to write up a referral I can't imagine.

As far as my MRI, I learned there are many ways to interpret an MRI depending on which slides you look at, and only the real specialists understand how to properly read them. After my MRI, the initial radiologist read it as "benign." Then it was read as "basically benign" with a small disc bulge at L5 (that's the fifth lumbar vertebra) by the physical medicine doctor, but since my numbness, tingling, weakness, and reflex changes all corresponded to an injury at L4, that didn't really make any sense. Nevertheless, he ordered an epidural injection to L5. I was game for anything that might help but frustrated the images did not match my symptoms, and nobody seemed to care.

Fortunately, when I arrived later in the neuroradiology department for my injection, the neuroradiology consultant correctly read my MRI as having a large "disc extrusion" at the level of L4 (picture a really full zit popping at full force and squirting its contents into the space where the L4 nerve root exits the spinal canal) and a smaller "disc protrusion" (a full zit which has not yet popped) at L5. She showed me the pictures. The extrusion and protrusion were clear as day, and more importantly, both findings were fully supported and corroborated by my physical symptoms.

The fabulous neuroradiologist attempted 3 times to inject corticosteroid medication into my L4 space, but she couldn't get the injections to work, so she attempted an injection at L5, which did work. My pain lessened (an L5 symptom), but my leg numbness, tingling and weakness (which are all correlated with L4) has, as expected, gotten worse.

It's been a rough couple of days. My mood has certainly taken a big hit. And I'm still fuming at the way I was treated as my inpatient doctors found less and less evidence, at least in their eyes, of anything actually being physically wrong. (Therefore, it must just be the mentally ill chick seeking attention and making things up, right?) Last but not least, my discharge summary doesn't open with a statement about my excruciating pain, which was the reason I was hospitalized. Instead it highlights my mental health diagnoses, first and foremost, before eventually mentioning I had acute back pain. Recurrent depression belongs in my past medical history, for sure, but it had nothing to do with my back pain, and it certainly did not need to be highlighted in the first sentence of my discharge summary.

The stigma of mental illness follows us everywhere. Anyone who thinks it doesn't impact our care for a variety of conditions is either clueless or blind. It's stigma! It sucks! And it really pisses me off!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Unbelievable

Well...file this one under, "You're not going to believe this." Or, "You've got to be kidding me!" I am in the hospital. No, not that hospital. I am on a medical floor of my local hospital. The pulled muscle I wrote about in my last post developed into something much bigger and not better a couple of nights ago.

Just after midnight Sunday morning, I awoke from sleeping due to a small coughing fit. Since the coughing hurt my back, in the area of the pulled muscle, I tried to brace myself. Unfortunately, when I coughed just a few seconds later I felt immediate and tremendous pain in my left low back. The pain was so intense I collapsed on my bed and cried out in agony. I laid there barely breathing for several minutes as my back seared with pain.

Since I live alone, I got scared. I was in so much pain I wasn't sure I would be able to get out of bed and retrieve my phone in the next room. Eventually, with Herculean effort, I did get out of bed. I grabbed my phone, an ice pack and 2 Aleve, but I barely made it back to my bed. I was nauseous and sweating and lightheaded. That's when I got really scared. I almost passed out. No matter what I did or how I positioned myself, the pain was unrelenting.

I hated to do it, but I began dialing friends. The first three did not answer. Finally my friend, Joan, wearily said hello. Long story short, she brought me to the emergency room where I stood, sat and laid down in agony for hours while they tried one pain med after another. Multiple doses of Valium, Toradol, Tylenol, and Oxycodone were useless. I couldn't move without getting nauseous and lightheaded. When 2 doses of Fentanyl, the med of last resort, didn't help, they had to admit me to the hospital.

So I've been here for almost 48 hours, and things have not improved much. I'm being medicated around the clock, and that has at least allowed me to uncomfortably lie in bed. I've slept a few hours here and there, but changing positions is excruciating, and walking is nearly impossible. I took my first steps with a walker about an hour ago. I made it 10 feet. That was discouraging to say the least.

I'm currently awaiting an MRI, but that likely won't be done until tomorrow afternoon. Apparently it's a very popular machine. The docs are thinking I may have injured my L5 disc. I actually kind of hope they're right, because at least we'd then have a plan, an epidural injection of corticosteroid to stifle the inflammation. Until then I'll be stuck here in my hospital bed getting more and more restless.

I'm so discouraged. Obviously this means running a marathon in 6 days and jumping out of an airplane with my niece and nephew 7 days from now are out of the question. After all that training and planning... And I was so looking forward to getting back to my regular work schedule now that I'm finished with TMS treatments, but no, instead I'm sitting here earning nothing again. Who gets severely injured coughing in bed?? Unbelievable. I'm so disappointed. Prayers appreciated.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Under the weather

It's been raining for 7 hours. Seven hours. It's cold, wet and gray outside. Unfortunately, it's not much better inside. I'm still feeling under the weather. The virus which began with a sore throat last Sunday has now settled in my chest. I've been trying to rest and take care of myself, but I can't seem to shake the fatigue. With my next marathon only 8 days away, I'm concerned.

In addition to the virus, I had major oral surgery on Thursday. After 3 years my braces are finally off, and I had implant surgery for two missing teeth, the right canine and an upper left molar, about 48 hours ago. I'm not in a lot of pain, but my face is quite swollen. The doc told me to lay low, so that's what I've been doing. Laying low, however, is not great for my mood.

In addition to the virus and the surgery, I also managed to pull a muscle in my back earlier this week. Of the three issues, my back is actually causing the most difficulty. It hurts like hell, and I can hardly move without aggravating it. Dressing, laundry, and even putting on my shoes are painful and challenging. So I'm moving very little.

Fatigue, lying low, and forced rest combined with cold, wet, gray weather, has me feeling a bit off. Worry thoughts have been madly swirling in my head all week. I'm a little anxious about having just finished my last TMS treatment. I'm worried about feeling sore, swollen, and congested one week before a marathon. And I'm concerned about this lingering fatigue affecting everything from my running to my work to my mood.

It's hard not to be worried and scared coming off such a horrendous depression relapse, but I've got to do better. I'm not helping myself by being anxious and impatient. I've got to get out of my head and work on my patience. Everything I'm experiencing is temporary. The congestion will resolve, the swelling will subside, the muscle will heal, and the weather, for sure, will change. It will all happen in its time. I have to remember that. I get in trouble when I want it all to happen right now. Trying to control things I can't control is not good for my mood either. For the rest of today, I think I'll work on acceptance and letting go.

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's complicated

It must be nice. If I didn't have depression, feeling physically ill wouldn't be scary. If I didn't have depression, my sore throat, body aches and malaise would be simple. I'd sleep in, lie around in my pajamas, eat some chicken soup, take a couple of Tylenol, and practice my best napping skills. And that is what I did today, but because I have depression, it wasn't that simple. Simple would have been nice.

Unfortunately, depression seems to complicate everything, even physical illness. I'm sick. But rather than simply taking care of my illness, I spent the day worrying about my mental health. I couldn't stop questioning whether my fatigue and malaise were the result of my physical illness, or if they were the first signs of another depression relapse setting in. I found myself analyzing every little symptom. Over and over again, is this a cold, or is it depression? It was a long, uncomfortable day.

The bottom line is I don't like feeling tired, achy and slow. It's too familiar. And it's too close. The fact that I'm feeling tired, achy and slow during my final week of TMS treatments is also an unfortunate coincidence. That fact only heightens my anxiety and my analysis.

Of course all of my analyzing and questioning was for naught today. I still feel sick, and I'm still uncomfortable with feeling sick. I'm still worried feeling ill, if it isn't a sign of something bigger already on the horizon, may actually trigger something more menacing. It's scary. I don't want to go back there.

Regardless of what I want, I'm not going to change the outcome by worrying and/or analyzing every symptom. This illness is what it is, and it will be what it will be. I do know that. It's just that simple.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Strong, Free

I am strong. I am free. That's my new running mantra. I came up with it 3 weeks ago during my first 20-mile training run. That's right, I said first. I used "I am strong, I am free" again during my second and final 20-mile training run a few days ago. And tonight, during a very strong, very free tempo run, I used it again, and I ran fast!

I am strong. That's self-explanatory. I am free. That's the more important, meaningful half of my mantra. During that first 20-miler I was so thrilled to be running and feeling good, I felt free; free from worry, free from despair, free from fatigue, and free from depression! It was a magical run, a run I couldn't have predicted or completed just a few short weeks earlier.

I had another great 20-miler this past Sunday. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I didn't run the entire week prior. I was resting my sore Achilles, which had flared up again. During the week I got my miles in on my ElliptiGo and bike. Running the second 20-miler was really important to me, though. I felt like I needed to do it in order to build confidence for my upcoming marathons. Again, I was thrilled with the result; a good, solid, not too difficult 20 mile training run. Freedom, once again.

My confidence continues to build. Tonight I ran 6.2 miles at 7:55 pace. That's a good 20 seconds per mile faster than I ran the same workout 4 weeks ago! And it's likely faster than I've run that distance in years! I used my mantra. I felt strong, and I definitely felt free. My mood continues to be good, but the confidence I gain from running these key workouts without too much difficulty is priceless. Running well reinforces that I'm doing well.

I'm so grateful to be feeling free; free to work, free to socialize, free to run, and free to take care of my responsibilities. I begin my final week of TMS treatments on Monday. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about what may happen when the treatments stop, but I'm doing my best to stay in today. I've strung together a nice, long string of good days free of depression. At times I still can't believe it. It was a long way back. I'm trusting the good runs and the good days will continue.

I am strong. And I am free.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

(Not) Unique

It never fails to amaze me. I'm not unique.You'd think I would have learned that by now. I mean I've been writing this blog since 2008. Apparently I'm slow. Nevertheless, after reading your comments in the days following my last post I again discovered I am not unique.

I really was surprised. I thought my feeling of detachment was novel, but it turned out it was only novel for me. Many of you had felt it, too. Thanks for sharing your comments and letting me know.

Over the last 9 years, that's been one of the main benefits of authoring this blog, re-discovering I'm not unique. Depression is such an isolating illness. It pulls me inside out. I disappear into a shell of myself when overwhelmed with its debilitating effects. I feel totally alone, and isolation definitely nurtures that feeling of uniqueness.

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for others with this damn illness, my experiences are not so different from your experiences. You get it. You can relate. Having others understand and relate to what I'm feeling and describing is quite comforting. Even though it constantly surprises me, it's always a good surprise. Thank you.

I'm so fortunate to have this space where I can be surprised when feeling dark and alone. Your comments comforted and carried me many times over these last few months. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me. Sometimes it's good not to be unique.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A look back

As a result of ECT, or perhaps just due to the severity of this depression relapse, I recently discovered I had little recollection of what happened over the past few months. I couldn't answer the frequently posed question, "How did it start?" Fortunately, I have a blog. So I took a look back the other day. Don't worry, this is not going to be a post summarizing in gory detail my recent misery and despair. But it was interesting for me to rediscover how this relapse began and progressed.

It was interesting and strange, actually. I discovered I felt really good, even grateful, just a few days prior to my first post indicating something was wrong. This relapse seemingly began overnight. And the decent into hell was complete within just a few days. Those two things in and of themselves were strange. How does that happen?? But what was more strange was my reaction, or shall I say my lack of reaction, to my own words. It was odd.

I had 10 weeks of posts filled with increasingly desperate hopelessness and despair. The words were sometimes horrifyingly descriptive of an agonizing trek through depression, yet as I read them I felt very oddly detached. The words were just words. I wasn't feeling them at all. That seemed really weird and abnormal. Usually, when I read something with feeling, even something I wrote years ago, I sort of re-experience what my words were attempting to convey. But this time, nothing. And I mean nothing. I may as well have been reading The Declaration of Independence.

Now I'm not necessarily complaining. Perhaps my brain was protecting me. Perhaps it was saving me from re-living any of this hellish episode. But that possibility doesn't make it any less strange. I felt, and still feel, so detached (already) from what just happened. So detached I'm getting frustrated trying to put it into words. I was reading the words in my posts as an outsider looking into a life of which I could not relate. Isn't that weird?

Ironically, the only post that struck me just a bit was the poem I wrote entitled, "Just words." Like every other post I reviewed, I had forgotten I wrote that poem. And if I do say so myself, when I reread it I liked it. (I may even re-post it.) Now is there some meaning behind that irony? Perhaps, but I don't know what it is. Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with all of this, so I'll stop now. I was just really intrigued by feeling so detached from my own words detailing my own very recent past. And I don't really understand why.



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