Depression Marathon Blog

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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!

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, 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.



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