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, March 15, 2018

4 by 3 Metaphor

Five. That's how many times the cycle instructor had us ride for 4 very hard minutes followed by 3 minutes of recovery last night. That I made it to the class was a monumental effort. But I got there. Then I found out what Mr. Instructor had in store. You'd think I would have hopped off the bike and headed to the door, but I chose to stay. Challenged. I've been feeling so heavy and slow and low lately, what did I have to lose? Even if I just sat there and spun the peddles around, it would have been more than I had done in days.

So I stayed and peddled, and when Mr. Instructor said, "Go," I peddled really hard for 4 minutes. After the first interval I was certain I could maybe do one more, but that would be it. But during that first 3 minute recovery period, I regained my strength, and pondered the potential of finishing up to three. Each successive interval was beyond difficult. Each 3 minute recovery period less and less restorative. I had to recommit myself to start each time my 3 minutes were up. Intervals 4 and 5 stretched my legs and lungs beyond what I thought possible. I took the last interval one minute at a time. Just like I do in a marathon, I thought to myself, I can do anything for 2 more minutes, and then one more minute, and then 30 seconds, and then I finished.

I finished, wrung out and totally whipped, but totally satisfied. I could barely catch my breath, which by that point was quite audible (thank God for loud studio music), but I didn't implode. I knew I'd feel better soon. I'd recover. And recover I did. I accomplished something I doubted I could do.

Overcoming pain, discomfort, and doubt seems like an exceptional metaphor for my depression. Like every 4 minute interval, each one more challenging than the last, I'm reminded my depression symptoms are temporary, too. I don't have a nice little console counting down the minutes of each depression episode like I did on the bike, but in the past my depression symptoms have always passed.

I don't feel good right now. I'm tired, distracted, low and slow. I doubt my ability to make it through. But then again, I made it through those incredibly difficult intervals last night, so maybe, just maybe I'll be able to hang on through this.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Perhaps this post is related to my last post. I wrote about two professional athletes who revealed their struggles with mental illness. Unlike their cases, however, all of my coworkers and friends know I have depression. I feel it's important to put my illness out there alongside other stigma-free, socially acceptable illnesses. I appreciate coworkers questions and support when depression relapses take me out of work or put me in the hospital. Unfortunately, for my occasional day to day struggles, I'm still invisible. This became painfully obvious to me over the past couple of days.

I didn't want to go to work yesterday or today. Not only did I not want to go, getting there felt nearly impossible. For 3 days, getting anywhere has been impossible. But I showed up and worked. I struggled through minute by minute. I was distracted and inefficient and distant, but I did my job. It sucked. And nobody knew.

Unlike the occasional cold, or flu, or squabble with a spouse, moments where commiseration with coworkers is expected, feeling low, distracted, or cranky due to depression doesn't feel the same. I don't think my coworkers want to know those nitty-gritty details. What's more, I don't think I want them to know how often I feel very, very off. Once a week or once a month, it's too much. And what are they supposed to say? Everyone can relate to feeling crappy due to a cold, but feeling detached due to depression...not so much.

So I guess it is my choice to remain invisible during these short, difficult stints, but that doesn't make it any easier. Besides feeling distracted and detached, which made my interactions with my patients quite challenging and paperwork nearly impossible, I felt heavy and tired and weak yesterday. I wasn't creative. I wasn't lighthearted. I wasn't patient. These are qualities on which I pride myself. The day was a slow slog which lasted forever, and I didn't feel good about my performance.

Perhaps it would have been nice if my coworkers had known I wasn't feeling well, but then again maybe I would have felt too vulnerable. It's hard to say. I guess I chose acting stoic and professional over feeling vulnerable, but that wasn't simple. It was hard. And I felt invisible. And invisible hurts.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Overwhelmingly postive

In recent weeks, two professional basketball players opened up about their struggles with mental illness. One player revealed he suffers from an anxiety disorder, one which led to a panic attack which hospitalized him in the midst of a game. The other player detailed some of the gory details of his depression, details like struggling to get out of bed and/or spending most of the day in bed without energy to face the day.

While I don't have an anxiety disorder, I certainly related to the player with depression. And like many across the sports world, I applaud these players for letting this piece of their overall health come to light. Each player, after all, stated the response he's gotten to his revelation has been overwhelmingly positive. How nice for them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very pleased these two players have come out of the proverbial closet. Shedding any light on mental illness is extremely important, especially when the light is revealed by men of tremendous privilege, adoration, skill and wealth. Maybe these two instances will wake people up to the fact that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, can get sick.

Wouldn't it be nice if those of us without multi-million dollar contracts got the same loving, hero-worshiping treatment when we revealed our own mental struggles? Wouldn't it be great if us working stiffs also had access to on demand services, top notch medication management, and employer accommodations? Twitter feeds filled with congratulations for our bravery, rather than avoidance of our weakness, would also be welcome. Wouldn't that be nice?

One day... Maybe one day when each of us reveals we, too, have a mental illness, our revelation won't require anxious hand wringing, carefully worded downplaying of the seriousness of our condition, loss of financial security, and uncomfortable social isolation. Wouldn't that be nice? I pray the recent professional player revelations will push the door open to such "overwhelmingly positive" acceptance just a bit further. Every little bit helps.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Fear inducing thoughts

I've written about this here in the past, and I don't really want to write about it again, but it's happening so here I go. I've been having negative, scary thoughts again. This happens to me from time to time. I've asked my psychiatrist about it, and she tells me it's just one of the symptoms of my depression. That doesn't really appease me, but I guess it's one more thing I'll have to accept.

Acceptance doesn't mean I have to like them, though, does it? I don't like them at all. Random thoughts of horrible things happening to Jet (my dog), or my friends, or even my doctor? I don't understand it. They are scary, and detailed, and sometimes quite vivid. At times I am able to recognize the thought immediately and distract myself. But sometimes I find myself immersed in one before I realize what's going on. Before I can extract myself and the scary feelings the thought provokes. That's when I get a bit distressed.

What concerns me most is I'm feeling well right now. My mood is generally good. I can understand struggling with negative thoughts when my mood sucks, but that's not the case right now. So I don't get it. It doesn't make sense. Why do these thoughts crop up, and why now? They make me feel off kilter and scared. Does anyone else experience thoughts like this? If so, I'd love to hear what you think.