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!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Those thoughts

Intrusive thoughts. I've written about them here before. They are strange, usually violent, often scary, sometimes shocking thoughts which occupy space in my brain out of the blue. These thoughts are a symptom of my depression and usually occur when my mood is low and things aren't going so hot. But my mood is good right now. Nevertheless, I've been having intrusive thoughts for the last 48 hours. It's been a little disconcerting.

When the thoughts began I, of course, tried to figure out what was going on. I was having random suicidal thoughts, but I'm not suicidal. It was very strange. I spent a day trying to ignore the thoughts, carry on with my routine, and at the same time figure out why I was having the thoughts. One possibility finally came through.

Today is an anniversary, of sorts. On January 30th, 1985, at the age of 17, I attempted to end my life. It was a serious suicide attempt; the culmination of a 2+ year battle with severe, debilitating depression. Thankfully, despite months of planning, I didn't succeed in ending my life. In fact, the suicide attempt actually led to me finally getting the help I so desperately needed. After being released from the hospital I was sent to an adolescent mental health unit for 2 months. My journey to healing began there.

Perhaps the recent intrusive suicidal thoughts were meant to remind me of this 32 year old life event. But for what purpose? January 30th, 1985, is not a date I wish to forget, nor is it a date I go out of my way to remember. Sometimes I've remembered this anniversary. Sometimes I haven't. I guess this year was my time to remember.

Remembering January 30th; it's a day which reminds me of an extremely painful, lonely time in my life. But when I reflect upon this anniversary, I'm also reminded things got better. I got better. Eventually I healed, and I went on to live my life. I think that's where I'll keep my focus today. Living. Life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Obligated

Today is one of those days I feel like I should write here. It's been almost a week since I last wrote, and I feel an obligation to update my blog. Unfortunately, I don't have much to say.

Things are going well. I'm working, running, and taking care of my house, although that's still last on my priority list. There's nothing new or interesting to say, which doesn't make for compelling reading. I'm sorry about that. But I guess this is part of living with depression, too. Normalcy. My symptoms remain at bay. I'm not too high nor too low. I'm okay. I'm living.

This is what I mean when I say I'm living with, rather than suffering from depression. I still have depression, but it doesn't have me. I know it's there, but depression is not controlling my life right now. I am. And I'm grateful for that.

I realize I'm in the midst of a lengthy streak of feeling okay. When I have these streaks of wellness, I sometimes feel bad when it comes to this blog. I worry I don't have much to offer you, my readers. But maybe continuing to live well, feel well, and move forward is actually helpful, too? I don't know. But that's all I've got today. I'm well. I'm just well.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Adventure Obsession

My bucket list has been calling. After crossing off skydiving this past Fall, I've been thinking about my next adventure. Over the past 2 to 3 weeks I've been spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing over two of the destinations on my bucket list. I've been spending hours upon hours drooling over various adventures to both Antarctica and Mount Everest base camp. Both places have fascinated me for years.

Ironically, I could run a marathon in each location, which is how my recent obsessive research began. After the New York City Marathon I was perusing a marathon website when I came across the Antarctica Marathon. I watched a video. That did it. I was on board. It's more than just going and running a marathon, though. It's a two week journey which includes hiking, kayaking, and close encounters with penguins. It looks amazing! They are currently booked through 2019, which is fine, as it will certainly take me at least that long to save the funds.

I'd actually really like to work on Antarctica for a season. Many years ago, I met a woman who worked down there twice, including one entire year, and she had nothing but positive things to say about the experience. I've been researching how to get hired, but there are no positions for physical therapists (too bad), and I've yet to find anything else for which I am qualified. Even the dishwasher positions require a food service certification. I guess I should have been a researcher or marine biologist! I haven't given up searching, yet, though.

As for Mount Everest, I've been fascinated with the top of the world since Jon Krakauer wrote about the ill-fated 1996 expedition for Outside Magazine. His article later became the book, Into Thin Air, and then became the basis for the movie, Everest. I'm pretty sure I've read every Everest book, seen every documentary and television series, attended every lecture within 100 miles, and even met some of the characters from the 1996 expedition. I can't wait until I can walk in the shadow of that mountain and briefly live among the people of Nepal.

The Everest trek I'm looking into is much less expensive than going to Antarctica, but it will still require years of saving. I think I'll skip the marathon option in Nepal, as I don't think running a race which begins above 19,000 feet makes much sense for someone living in the flat, farming land of Minnesota. Nevertheless, I will make it there, on foot, someday.

Having these adventures to look forward to keeps me going. It keeps me motivated. Many people say they're going to do this or going to do that, but they never do it. I don't want to be one of those people. I'm not wealthy, but that doesn't mean I can't go where I wish to go. If I don't have the dream, I'll never have the reality. Besides, the dream is half the fun! And meeting the goal will make me ecstatic!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Heavy heart

Today I write with a heavy heart. One of my high school classmates had a heart attack last week. He was on a treadmill in his employer's fitness center when he collapsed. Heroic efforts from two coworkers restarted his heart before he was transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, what seemed like a hopeful outcome early turned into a grim reality later. Tough decisions had to be made. And yesterday, shortly after he was removed from life support, John passed away peacefully. Though my heart is heavy, I am grateful John's family made the decision to donate his organs. I think that's exactly what he would have wanted.

I watched the journey of John's final days from afar via Caring Bridge and Facebook. It was sad and heart wrenching. Although I hadn't seen him since college, John was one of my group of high school friends. He was a nice, kindhearted teenager. And apparently, he grew up to be a nice, hard working, kindhearted guy. His Caring Bridge site was lovingly updated by his girlfriend, who he planned to marry, and with whom he was about to build a home to house their blended family. She wrote about it all, as she struggled to comprehend this traumatic event.

His girlfriend's post detailing their future plans was especially poignant. I frequently write about living in the moment. It's something I believe in strongly. I'm not perfect at it, but it's always the goal. John's girlfriend ended her future plans post with an admonishment to all. Do it today, she said, as you never know what tomorrow will bring. Amen.

As I ran 12.5 miles with Jet yesterday, John was in my thoughts almost every step. The shock, trauma and grief expressed by those close to him was all too familiar. Those feelings...I've been there.

Thirty four years ago, my 14-year-old stepsister (I was 15) went for a bike ride after dinner. Within hours my father and stepmother were in the very same hospital as John, faced with the very same decisions John's family had to make. In a freak accident, my stepsister was hit by a large truck. She was in nearly perfect condition, except for her head. She died, after being removed from life support, the next day. All of her organs and countless tissues were donated.

John's funeral service will be this Friday, January 20th. My stepsister, Pam, had she survived, would be turning 48 years old this Friday, January 20th. So many similarities to John's story; the shock and grief of sudden loss, the decision to remove life support, the organ donation, and finally the timing of his funeral on her birthday, have me in a very reflective mood. Joyful moments, long forgotten, have come roaring back.

I am remembering both Pam and John today. I am reflecting on how my life changed direction after I dealt (somewhat poorly) with Pam's sudden death. From his girlfriend's writing, it is clear her life will dramatically turn as a result of John's death. So many plans unrealized, yet life moves on. I remember how strange that felt in the moment. As my life moves on, in honor of both Pam and John, today I recommit to continue living right now. I know life offers no guarantees. I need to remember to say it now, do it now, and be what I want to be...now.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I hate being sick!

My coworker awoke Monday morning with a sore throat, muscle aches, and congestion. She came to work for a couple of hours, which is exactly what I would have done because we are so, so busy, but she did go home before lunch. Apparently that was too late. I'm sick. And I hate being sick!

I felt it coming on as I was leaving work yesterday. Now I have a sore throat, muscle aches and congestion, too. My coworker, who never misses a day, has been out of work 3 days in a row. But unlike my coworker, who as a full time employee has benefits like sick time, I can't afford to miss 3 days of work. As a part time employee, I do not have the same benefits. So besides feeling awful, I'm stressed about the potential of missed income.

I'm pretty sure getting stressed about something that may happen won't help me feel any better today. So I'm trying to focus on the things I can actually control in the here and now. I have cancelled all of my scheduled appointments and activities for the day. I started taking a zinc-based product, which in the past has helped me avoid serious illness, but right now I feel like crud.

I don't like feeling like crud because it feels too similar to some of my depression symptoms, and that makes me nervous. That's another reason to really try to take care of this today. In the past I have had episodes of depression arise out of physical illness, and the longer the physical illness lasts, the more likely the depression.

It seems everything which occurs in my life comes back to depression, either avoiding it or treating it. I wonder if that's similar for people with other chronic illnesses, like diabetes or MS? Hmm...interesting question. Anyway, that's all I have for now. I don't want to, but I better crawl back into bed. I've been up for a couple of hours, and I'm already exhausted. Damn.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lazy, but good

Despite continued laziness at home, which I'm still letting go rather than worrying about, I had a good week this week. Work went well. We are still incredibly busy, and we have some challenging patients on our caseload, but we also have some delightful, interesting patients, too. I work with good people. We work hard, keep the needs of our patients first, enjoy our patients and each other, and laugh quite a bit. I feel lucky to work with such good people. It certainly makes going in to work on these very busy days a lot easier.

It's been cold and icy this week, so running has been a bit of a challenge. It didn't even make it above 0 degrees Fahrenheit around here for several days. Making things worse, it rained right before the temperature dropped, so all roads, sidewalks and trails are still covered in ice. I hate the dreadmill, but I was forced to run inside twice this week.

Jet and I just came in from an icy run. It was 2 degrees with a brisk wind, and the footing was often treacherous, but I was happy to be outside. Worried about Jet's feet, I brought him home halfway through my 10-miler. We tried to run outside yesterday, which was a few degrees colder with an even stronger wind, but when Jet got cold feet I cut it short and finished my run at the gym. Despite the challenging conditions, I managed to run 4 days for a total of 35+ miles. I'm happy with that.

The highlight of my week was picking up my 11 year sobriety medallion. Although my anniversary was December 28th, I didn't have the opportunity to get to my meeting and pick up my medallion until Tuesday. It's important for me to pick up my medallion, as it allows me both to be an example for the newly sober alcoholic and to thank the others in the room (i.e. everyone) who have helped me along the way. I couldn't get sober alone. It took a village. I'm grateful to have found my village.

I'm also grateful my mood is good, my house is warm, my Achilles allows me to run, and my coworkers are fun professionals. Things could be worse. I've got nothing to complain about today.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tired or lazy?

I've got a bit of a conundrum. I'm feeling really lazy and unmotivated to do anything...except work and run. And if I didn't have to work, that list might be reduced to just running. My motivation for everything else, the basics of everyday life like errands, chores, eating, and socializing, has completely vanished. At least I'm running, I guess.

When I returned from Little Rock the week before Christmas I wasn't motivated to do anything. I chalked it up to fatigue from the combination of running a marathon and 24+ hours of driving in dicey weather. Of course I returned to work right away, but it took almost one week to get back to running. Since Christmas I've been running well and working when scheduled, but otherwise... nothing.

When I'm not working or running, I'm quite sedentary. I don't want to do anything. In fact, I barely want to move. It's a little weird. My mood seems good. Work is fun and fulfilling. And I'm pleased with my running, both the miles I'm accumulating and the pace at which I'm running them. Maybe when the college football bowl season comes to an end, and I have less reason to sit on my butt in front of the television every single day, my motivation to take care of myself and my house will return. I don't know. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

It would be nice to get my motivation for day to day life back. As it is, I'm forcing myself to do the bare minimum to get from one day to the next. I'm eating a lot of take out, cereal and PB & J. That's made it easier to keep up with the few dishes I've dirtied. I finally did my laundry because I ran out of work clothes. But my floors, bathroom, and empty cabinets definitely need attention. I keep telling myself I need to vacuum, clean, and go shopping, but I don't. I nap, watch TV, or go to bed instead.

I guess I'm tired? Or lazy? Or is this a sign my mood is about to take a dip? Like I said, it's weird. I have enough energy at work. I have enough motivation and energy to run, even on a really cold day like today, but I just can't seem to care about anything else. I'm a little concerned, but I'm more perplexed and annoyed than anything else. I guess I should stop trying to figure it out. It will pass, just as everything does. I have to remember that. Until it does, well, perhaps I'll take a nap.



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