Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 16 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, February 23, 2017

ECT Update

I'm encouraged today. After only two ECT treatments, my mood and thinking have both improved. I have another treatment scheduled for tomorrow, and I'm hoping to discharge home Saturday. I'm already really antsy to get out of here. I miss Jet. I miss running. I miss my living room. After returning home, I'll likely have 2-3 outpatient ECT treatments next week, which will put me back at work the following Monday.

I'm anxious to get back to work as well. With no time off benefits, I'm not sure how I'm going to pay my bills in a couple of weeks, as there is absolutely no money coming in right now. As I was explaining to one of the nurses last night; I don't receive any employment benefits because I don't work full time, and I don't work full time because my depression worsens every time I increase my hours, and I need to work full time in order to receive benefits for the times when my depression worsens and takes me out of work. It's a vicious cycle I've been stuck in for years.

That cycle is not going to change in the next couple of days, however, so I'm trying to have faith things will work out as they should. What else can I do? I'm grateful and relieved to be feeling a little better. I'm glad to be nearing the end of my stay here. This is a healing place, but I miss my home.

Monday, February 20, 2017

An odyssey

Long story short, I'm in the hospital. Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple. Getting here was quite an odyssey. By Friday evening it became apparent things weren't getting better, only worse. I had just missed my third day in a row of work. I tried to run but failed miserably, and my thoughts were dark, dark, dark. After some convincing a close friend brought me to my local emergency room. The ER docs wanted to admit me to the hospital, but all of the psych beds were occupied. I spent the night in the emergency room while the doctors decided the best course of action.

The course of action which was recommended, and which I found completely unappealing, was a transfer via ambulance to another pysch unit 40 minutes away. The doctor assured me I would spend the night there and transfer back to my local facility as soon as a bed became available the following day. So I went.

Perhaps I'm spoiled. My local psych unit is a healing place with very caring nursing staff and humane, not punitive, rules. It is a place where effective treatment occurs. The unit I was transferred to felt more like a prison, and I was one of the prisoners.

After my unnecessary ambulance ride I arrived at the small, unfamiliar facility Saturday afternoon.Upon arrival I was asked to remove all of my clothing and was given green scrubs to wear instead. It turns out all of the patients are required to wear green scrubs in this unit. For what possible reason I still cannot fathom. Feeling like a prisoner had begun.

The feeling was not shortlived. After being shown to my room, a nurse came in with my empty backpack and purse in one hand and piles of my belongings in the other. I couldn't believe the staff had gone through all of my clothing, money, and belongings in my absence! Again, maybe I've been spoiled, but my local facility wouldn't think of checking through my belongings without me present, especially my wallet, money and credit cards! I was horrified.

I was too tired and low to put up a fuss. I spent the rest of Saturday crying and sleeping. I couldn't wait to see the doctor Sunday morning in order to initiate the transfer back to my local facility. Unfortunately, the doctor who visited with me Sunday morning claimed to know nothing of such a plan. It wasn't in any of the notes or orders, she said, and besides my local psych unit was full. She seemed a little too pleased to inform me I would be staying with them for at least the next several days. I was angry, and disconsolate, and powerless to do anything about it.

I don't know what happened but a few hours later the same doctor returned and said she "found" my local doctor's note, but I was still going to have to stay because there were at least 3 other patients waiting for beds ahead of me. Again, I'm not sure what changed, but just a few hours later, I was transferred, via ambulance,from my little prison back to my local facility.

This morning I began ECT. It was a tough day, as the treatment left me with a wicked headache, but I'm now feeling better and settling in. I'm grateful to have access to such professional, compassionate care here. I'll certainly never take it for granted again.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tired of talking

I don't want to talk about it anymore. Talking is becoming more harmful than good.

I sent a note to my psychiatrist yesterday, a note which included the deplorable thoughts running through my fucked up brain. It scared her. And now I feel bad. I didn't mean to scare her. That was not at all my intent! But I guess my thoughts are scary. I guess living with these deplorable thoughts desensitizes me to how despicable and abnormal they actually are. Rereading what I wrote today, it makes sense to me that she may have been alarmed, but I didn't mean to alarm her. I am not a fan of crying wolf. That's not my style. I was just trying to get the thoughts out of my head. She's read and heard many of my violent, deplorable thoughts before. I'm embarrassed to say it never crossed my mind these particular thoughts would alarm her so. But they did. And now I feel so bad. So sorry. And so worried I will lose this safe haven for my monstrous thoughts. Monstrous thoughts in my head are infinitely more powerful than monstrous thoughts written and read.

Phone calls and text messages this morning are annoying me. Am I okay? No. I'm not. But I don't want to talk about it anymore. I don't want to scare you, alarm you, or force you to run the other way. I don't want the police summoned. I don't need an ambulance. I need something, yes, but I don't want any of it right now. I want to scream, "Leave me alone!" But I also know alone is no good either. Now I'm afraid. But I'm less afraid of the thoughts with which my brain is bombarding me than I am of communicating those thoughts aloud to you.

Where does that leave me?
Annoyed. Scared. And tired of talking. That's where.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Outside vs Inside

I worked yesterday. It was a good day. And that's why it was strange from the moment I walked through the door. I watched with fascination as I interacted cheerfully and effortlessly with my coworkers. I marveled at how professionally I treated my patients, all the while smiling and joking. I was efficient and completed all my tasks despite my exhaustion during my 8 1/2 hour day. Who was that physical therapist? Certainly that couldn't have been me. But it was.

One day later, as I struggle with intrusive thoughts and low mood, I continue to be confused by yesterday's performance. The dichotomy between how I looked on the outside and how I felt on the inside was striking. Amazing, really. And it doesn't make sense. It didn't make sense to me in the moment yesterday, and it still doesn't make sense today. I don't get it.

I guess I'm glad I was able to pull it off. My convincing performance allowed me to perform my duties, earn money, and be a contributing member of our team. But here's the really strange part. I wasn't faking. I didn't feel like I was working hard to put on a "good face." The good face just was. I felt empty and low internally, but there was no sign of it externally. How is that possible?

When I got home after work my mood plummeted quickly. It wasn't until that point when my outside matched my inside. It was a long night. And it's been a long day. I can't stop wondering about the weirdness of yesterday. Like I said, I'm glad I was able to work, but I don't feel good about how strikingly my outside appearance differed from how I felt internally. It's disconcerting, confusing and weird. I guess I wish I felt the way I appeared. But I don't.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

just words

hopeless.
that's too easy.

purposeless
pointless
meaningless and
futile.
maybe better descriptors.
maybe.

despairing
dispirited
demoralized and
disconsolate.

heavy
mechanical and
burdened.

just words
lots of words,
but none worthy
of the experience.

depression.
it's more than words.

words don't work.
i wish they did.

depression.
so cliche,
but
if you've not been
you cannot know.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Irony

I believe this is what they call irony. In my last post I reflected on my good mood despite some intrusive thoughts. Just prior to that I wrote about gratitude, specifically my gratitude for a very long streak of feeling well. After all, I'm coming up on two years since my last significant depression relapse. Until...

Last week's annoying, intrusive thoughts made way for more frequent and more scary intrusive thoughts. By Thursday the thoughts were interfering with my functioning. By Saturday they were paralyzing, and they dragged my mood into the gutter. Today I find myself marveling at the speed with which things can change. What happened?

For two days, I did little to nothing at all. Sleep was the only thing that relieved my misery. Yesterday, I asked a friend to sit with me for a bit, and her visit helped get me out the door for a run. It was an ugly, painful slog, but at least I was outside. This morning a friend met me at the gym for a 45 minute class. I took the class, and I'm thankful I did, but since then more sleep.

I'm hurting right now. Everything looks dark and bleak, but I know that's the depression having its way. I feel rudderless, purposeless, robotic, and hopeless. It's amazing how quickly things changed. This illness continues to surprise me. I'm hoping and praying this is a short blip in my long streak of feeling well. And I'm praying this is as low as I go.

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.



.