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!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Working, running, coughing

It's hard to believe it's been a week since I last wrote here. Sorry about that. It's been an up and down week, disappointing at times and encouraging at others. Unfortunately my mood has not changed much. That's been tough, challenging, and disappointing. To make matters more complicated, I've been sick with a flu-like, upper respiratory illness for the last 4 days, and it's really knocked me flat at times. Nevertheless I have been a bit more active over the past week. That has been encouraging.

I'm getting back into work. I've worked every other day for around 3 hours. Today, I was actually busy for 5.5 hours, which is the most I've worked since getting discharged from the hospital a couple of weeks ago. The low mood combined with the respiratory illness made working that long a little more difficult than I would have liked. That was frustrating, but I think I would have handled it better if I hadn't been sick, too. I'm definitely not back into full form yet, but it is nice to be working a few hours again.

I've also been running a few more miles recently, although I did miss a couple of days entirely due to my illness. I shortened my long run from the scheduled 16 miles to 12 miles on Sunday, but even 12 was probably a couple of miles too far. I took Monday off to recover and came back Tuesday with a surprisingly good 9 miler. I planned to run today, but the combination of longer than planned work hours, cruddy lungs, and rain convinced me to nap instead. I sure hope to get past this upper respiratory illness soon. It was tough enough motivating to run when just combating my low mood. I really didn't need another obstacle.

Like I said, I'm disappointed my mood is still quite low. My mom has been here with me for two weeks, but she's on her way home tomorrow. It's been nice having her here, but I am looking forward to having my tiny house back to myself. My mom has cooked up a storm and filled my freezer with good food while she's been here. I'm not sure what to expect from my mood once she leaves. I do know one thing, though, I won't have to worry about cooking. I'm grateful my mom was willing and able to come stay with me. Hopefully, I'll continue to feel and function better and better after she leaves.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Validation vs Invalidation

Perhaps I'm being too sensitive. Perhaps I'm reading too much into innocuous words and statements. I don't know. You tell me. Over the last couple of weeks I've had doctors, nurses, therapists, friends and coworkers ask questions of me which I have found offensive and invalidating. Each time I responded kindly in the moment, but the questions stuck with me and later led to negative feelings. I found myself mulling them over and wondering, "Would that question have been posed if I had breast cancer?" And I think the answer is no.

Within just the last couple of days, after I detailed how severe this recent depression episode has been, how isolated and detached I've been feeling, and how extremely low my mood has been, a few of the immediate comments were, "Are you working?" "Are you running?" "What fun things are you doing for yourself?" The implication, I believe, is clear. Are these people not implying that I'd feel better if I was working, running, getting out of the house, doing something fun, etc...? In other words, my low mood is at least partly my own doing.

Am I wrong to find these questions and comments offensive and invalidating? I don't think the people who posed these questions did so to overtly blame me for my symptoms, but I do think these types of statements are another manifestation of the stigma surrounding mental illness. The inability to work, exercise, socialize or find fun in normal activities aren't seen as symptoms of my illness but rather as character defects. If I just did this, that, or the other, I'd feel better. But not being able to do this, that, or the other is the result of my illness, not the cause of it!

If I told you I was having low energy, found it difficult to get out of my house, and/or wasn't socializing because of my breast cancer symptoms, would you ask the same questions? I don't think so. I think the more immediate response would be something along the lines of, "I'm sorry things are so hard right now," or "I wish you felt better," and/or "What can I do to help?" These comments and questions validate the person's experience rather than question it or try to fix it.

This severe and lengthy depression episode has me feeling tired and battle weary, so perhaps I'm being too sensitive. But I've felt invalidated over and over again, even by professionals who should know better, during the past couple of weeks. If curing depression was as simple as getting out of the house and going for a run, I certainly wouldn't struggle with depression! I don't think people realize how invalidating these comments and questions are. Am I right?

If I am right, I'm not sure what to do about it. I usually don't have the awareness or energy in the moment to politely educate the offending person. And educating someone after the fact is rarely helpful or effective. But I'm tired of feeling as if I'm somehow to blame for what's happening to me. Depression is to blame, and I don't have depression because I'm lazy, or antisocial, or uneducated. My brain is sick. That's why I have depression. I'm no different than the person with a sick pancreas who has diabetes. We both have biological, treatable illnesses. Why can't people get that?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Despair

I'm still struggling. My mood remains very low. I attended my 12-step meeting yesterday morning, but I ended up feeling alone in a crowd. I hate that feeling. It's so painful. I began to cry and couldn't stop, so I left early. Sitting in my vehicle after I left I cried for a long, long time. I felt utter despair.

That despair was just a continuation of the despair I communicated to my friend, Wendy, via text message, as I laid in bed late the previous night. In that message, I communicated feeling as if I was in solitary confinement. Depression, I think, creates this feeling of alone-ness. Whether lying alone in bed or sitting in the midst of a room full of boisterous people, the isolation I feel right now is excruciating.

Utter despair combined with utter isolation, it's easy to see how depression can kill. Suicide is not a topic I broach very often in this blog. It's not an option. Yet it's easy, at times like these, to contemplate the meaning behind this pain and isolation. I admit, in my despair my brain gravitates toward thoughts of life and death. And I believe I have a greater understanding of why some with depression find it difficult, in the midst of this despair, to justify staying alive.

This is a cruel illness. I know I've gained perspective and opportunity as a result of battling depression, but at this moment in time, it's pretty tough to feel anything but cruelty and despair. I'm doing my best, dear readers, to hang on tight, to put one foot in front of the other, and to take the next right action. It would be easier to stop, but forward is the only way to go.

Moving forward is difficult, and I wish the path was clearer, but I guess this is my path right now. I don't have to like it, and I don't, but I'll keep doing my best to walk through it. It will get better. It always does. It feels impossible, but I have to remember that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pain

Despite returning to work for two short days, and despite getting back on the road to run a couple of times, I'm struggling. I'm having a really difficult time accepting just how low I'm feeling. I am so, so low, I hurt. I physically hurt. I woke up twice last night in physical pain, but there's nothing physically wrong with me right now. I'm just that low. My depression is now manifesting itself in physical pain. I can hardly stand it.

The physical pain is new. I don't recall my depression ever manifesting that way before. I'm tearful, too. Tears, also, are not my normal. But I've been having a difficult time holding them back lately. I'm crying a lot. This episode does not seem to be letting up at all. I'm not sure what else I can do. And doing anything is getting more and more difficult as my energy and motivation are in the toilet. I'm feeling crushed and overwhelmed.

I did make one decision this morning. I called my mother. She lives in another state. I asked her to come visit, to stay with me for awhile. I'm sure she was shocked I asked. She knows things must be pretty rough if I'm to the point of asking her for help. She agreed to come. She's going to arrive tomorrow night and stay for two weeks. She'll probably drive me nuts at some point, but I'm going to be my most patient self because I do need the help. I'm relieved she's coming.

I'm most relieved because I think her being here will take some pressure off my friends. I'm feeling really guilty. I'm worried my friends are getting worn out and I'm becoming a burden. I don't want to be a burden. I like my friendships to be equal parts give and take, but I'm worried I don't have a lot to give right now. I find myself pulling back from friends more and more, which is exactly the opposite of what I need, but like I said, I don't want to be a burdensome friend. It's yet one more difficulty of having such a low mood.

Depression sucks. I'm tired and worn out. I'm tearful and in pain. Basic, everyday functioning is slow and difficult. I'm running out of ideas. I don't know what else to do. This illness is pulling me toward stopping and giving up. It's kicking me when I'm down, and there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it. I'm getting kicked. Thoughts and prayers greatly appreciated.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Home Again

I'm officially home again. I left the hospital around 10:00 this morning. Fortunately, my house was still intact and standing. It's still a bit strange being home, though. The house feels empty even with Jet and I in place. I need groceries and gas, but I have no funds to spend. I'm hoping to head back to work for at least half a day on Monday. I need to get the funds flowing again.

I'm looking forward to settling back into my routine at home. I'm looking forward to buying groceries and paying the bills. I'm really looking forward to getting back to my regular running and exercise routine. Jet and I ran 5 miles this afternoon. That was my first run in more than one week. I hate when I take time away like that. It's always so tough starting up again, but I just had no desire to run on a treadmill in the hospital. My next race isn't until Memorial Day weekend, so I should be okay despite my time off.

I'm a little anxious about being home. I think I'm feeling better. I think I'm on the mend. I'm hoping everything goes smoothly as I return to work and my normal routine. Ultimately, I'll just have to wait and see. So far, I'm happy to be home. I'm happy to be reunited with Jet. And I think I'll be really happy to sleep in my own bed tonight!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Progress

I am nearing the end of my second hospital stay. My mood is improving. It's not perfect, but it is better than it was. The current plan is for one more ECT treatment on Friday, and then I will go home Saturday. I miss Jet so, so much! I can't wait to see him and to get back into our routine.

I am especially looking forward to getting outside and at least walking, hopefully running, with Jet. Despite the fact that there are two treadmills and a stationary bike on this unit, I have not been able to motivate to do more than 10 minutes of biking, once. I have no desire to do any more than that. I need to get back outside.

I know I'm going to be disappointed in how much fitness I have certainly lost over the last 2-3 weeks. Hopefully, it won't take too terribly long to regain what I've let go. I've already decided I won't be running the Oklahoma City Marathon in late April, which I had tentatively entered into my schedule a few weeks ago. The next marathon on the list will now be Memorial Day weekend.

I'm anxious to get back to work, too. I spoke with my boss today, and despite an e-mail from my company to the contrary, she assured me they were not looking to replace me. That was a relief, although it was still a little baffling and concerning that my company was advertising my position. I know I shouldn't rush back to work, but financially speaking I really have no choice. I need to restart the income as soon as possible. I hope I'm ready to go when I leave here.

Thank you all, again, for your wonderfully supportive and encouraging comments during this difficult time. I am so lucky to have an audience with each of you, my loyal readers. I don't take that for granted. I'll never be able to balance the scales, but I'll do my best to offer each of you just a sliver of the hope you offer me. Carry on, my friends!

Monday, March 6, 2017

still so low

It's hard to imagine feeling much lower than I do right now. I just survived the longest weekend I've endured in quite some time, and today didn't get much better. I don't know how otherwise to explain it. I'm just low. I'm tearful, tired, and unmotivated. I can't shake my lethargy and gloom.

I'm not sure being cooped up in the hospital is helping, as I think I'd at least be able to get out for a short walk if I was home. But all my friends and my doctor think the hospital is where I need to be right now. They're probably right. I don't like it, but it's safe.

I tried biking gently last night, but I only survived 15 minutes. My energy is as low as my mood. I began a new medication last night which is intended to augment the ECT. I hope it works. I'm not sure how much deeper I can sink. I'm getting nervous.

I'm getting anxious about how long this depression relapse is going to last. I'm worried about my job, especially. I don't know that my current position is at all guaranteed. Being a non-benefited employee, I don't believe my employer is under any obligation to hold my position. I know they are scrambling to find someone to fulfill my duties. Hopefully, I'll have a job to return to when I start feeling better.

I feel awful about leaving my coworkers short-handed and scrambling. I work in rural communities, and it's difficult to find coverage. I called my boss to check in today, but she wasn't available, and she never returned my call. I'm not sure that's a good sign!

Of course, everyday I miss work is another day of missed earnings. That's beginning to get more and more stressful, too. I'm really not sure how I'm going to pay my bills. I had hoped to be feeling better and back to earning a living by now. Instead, it looks like it will be quite some time before I collect another paycheck.

And there you have it... my many tales of woe. This is a tough one. I pray something changes soon. I would give my right arm to feel just a tiny bit of improvement. I appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement. I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other as best I can.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Back inside

I readmitted myself to the hospital last night. I'm disappointed beyond belief to be back here, to need to be back here, but it's what I needed to do. I was having trouble with the basics of taking care of myself, and people around me were getting worried. So here I am. Bored. Lethargic. And tired. But safe.

I don't know how long I'll stay inpatient. I don't yet have a plan other than I will continue with ECT on Monday. This has been a tough episode. Seems like it's got to start changing course soon. I don't want to be here too long. I'd really like to get back to running, and I already miss Jet. But none of that will matter if I don't start feeling better soon.

Thank you all so much for your supportive comments over these last several days. Your thoughts and words really do make a difference. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Friday, March 3, 2017

It just hurts

For as long as I've had depression, that's 16+ years, this illness still has the power to amaze. I can't imagine hurting much more than I hurt right now. I can't imagine suffering more hopelessness, emptiness, desperation or despair. I'm barely muddling through each day with a foggy brain and sluggish body. Everyday tasks are now monumental chores. I feel isolated and alone. My world is awash in shades of gray. Gray is hard. Gray is unforgiving. Gray hurts.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

so low

I just returned home from my second outpatient ECT treatment. I was struggling with sadness and feeling low prior to the treatment, but now my sadness is overwhelming. I feel as if someone has died, and I believe that someone is me. I've died. I feel dead. I'm overwhelmed with hopelessness, sadness and confusion. I can't make sense of the world anymore. Why would God want someone to suffer so? What is the meaning behind these incredible feelings? Why? Why? Why?

Why is not a question I normally pose. But I guess my desperation is showing through. When I try to move I feel as if I'm wading through quick sand. When I attempt to think I feel as if the gears are gummed up and sticky. Visually, lines that should be thin are thick, surfaces that should be smooth are rough. Everything is slow. Everything is slow.

I am so low sitting here hurts. I'm having trouble piecing my thoughts together. I don't understand what's happening. There is a vacancy within which won't let me go. And I just want it to quit.



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