Friday, October 27, 2006

Why I've Been Conspicuously Absent...


My family has a history of depression, and I've been swallowed whole by it. 5 years ago I started training for tri, I stopped drinking altogether (although I didn't drink much), and I started taking antidepressants - all in a last ditch effort to get up off the lowest point of my rock bottom and live again. Meds and tri saved my life. I am so thankful.

So now I know that it's a full blown disease. I don't come out of it in the spring like I used to. I will likely be on meds for the rest of my life. Which is finally ok with me because there is no alternative. But this fall has come with such an incredibly high level of stress that my meds aren't cutting it. It's all I can do to drag myself to swimming twice a week and the rest of my training has fallen apart. And less training just means less serotonin, fewer endorphins, feelings of worthlessness and even less motivation to do the things I know I need to do to feel ok. It's a vicious cycle. I'm only thankful that I can recognize it now.

This is the third fall since starting on meds that I've experienced this downward spiral toward December 21st...two years ago we upped my meds and that helped a little. But now I'm forced to explore a pharmacological overhaul in the desperate hope that there's another balance of meds that will keep me from this pattern of descent into my own personal hell. I'm terrified that nothing will help. That I will sit and cry at my desk every day because there is no other way I can be. That I will push the people that love me away because the self loathing I feel when I feel like this is too great for ME to endure - so how can I expect THEM to endure it? I've gotten so sensitive to the physiological changes my body goes thru with this that I can tell almost to the hour when I need to go in search of a donut to send that surge of sugar to my brain to make the pain stop. Let me tell's KILLING my girlish figure...which just makes me feel worse.

One of the positive things about growing up in a dysfunctional family that KNEW it was dysfunctional is that there was all kinds of 12-step philosophy going on all around me. And people were always in different phases of their I got to see it all. I guess you could argue that exposing your kids to the messes of life early on is irresponsible...but I think at the very least it made me aware... and one coping strategy that I've used to endure my depression has proven helpful - at least to keep me breathing in and out, putting one foot in front of the other... "ACT AS IF." Basically, pretend or 'act' as if the thing you most want, most need, is true...and it will become true...or more true anyway. So if you're unhappy and you want to be happy...ACT happy even if you don't feel that way. Chances are, you'll feel better. It's not about denying the's just about putting it aside long enough to PRETEND you're happy in hopes of surviving and getting thru those moments of profound sadness...until you stop hurting so intensely.

I need Triathlete Girl back. She's hiding deep inside me and I want her back because she makes me feel better. Registration for Timberman 70.3 opens on Wednesday, Nov. 1st and I'm going to sign up on that day. And I'm going to try and ACT like Triathlete Girl in hopes that she'll show her face just enough each week to get me past December 21st - the day it will start to get light again - and get me to the starting line next August. Because if I don't pretend that she's here, she won't be. And I'll continue to shrivel. If I can't get myself out of bed in the morning, Triathlete Girl will have to do it for me. She wants me to be well.

These things I know:
I cannot live this far north any longer. This will be my last winter in the cold and dark.

I need to change my medication. I HATE that I'm dependent on it to be myself. But there's no other way. If I had diabetes, I'd take insulin. Period.

I have to reach out to my friends and family, and to stay as busy as possible. Being alone for extended time is not good for me right now - no matter how much it feels like the right thing to do. Isolation will only make things feel worse.

I have to do everything I can for myself to be well - I need to eat the right things, sleep enough but not too much, exercise and be nice to myself. It all adds up and I need to work it from all directions or there's no hope.

These things I know. In my head. I know them. I'm writing them here so that every day that I don't feel them and every day that I want to avoid them, I can be reminded of them. It's easy to know. It's not easy to do. Triathlete Girl is going to have to get me out of bed to do them. I'm counting on her.

A close friend asked me yesterday how this feels - this profound sadness. I said, "You know the little round guy on the Zoloft commercials?" "Ah, got it," she said. Yeah, that little round guy makes me cry right now. A stupid little cartoon round thing with a frown and sad eyes. I have to change my world because this, this is not living.

Dooce wrote about depression yesterday...and I'm going to shamelessly scoop her link to Chris Rose's story about his own depression following Hurricane Katrina. This is what it's like kids. To a T. If you suffer from depression, read this story because it will help you feel less will give you hope. If you're lucky enough to have missed out on the depression genes, read this story because it will help you understand those around you who are suffering...especially as winter descends upon us.

Thanks for checking in... and here's hoping Triathlete Girl returns.


Blogger nancytoby said...

Take good care of yourself!! Moving to the sun is a great idea. Getting out of New England helped me enormously!

Give yourself lots of time, too. Try to be patient with yourself. Brain chemistry can change a lot between the 30s and 40s, I'm convinced.

10:17 AM GMT-5

Blogger Flatman said...

Triathlete Girl...I like it. Maybe you need to change your blog to reflect this super hero inner self. Fully incorprate her into your life. You can become this person. DO IT!!!! :)

(i'm not yelling, i am encouraging.)

10:40 AM GMT-5

Blogger Pixie said...

This post really hit close to home. My family struggles with depression, my dad is bi-polar...and while I've never been diagnosed, I know that I have a small portion of it. In my late teens/early twenties I just stayed self medicated, mostly with alcohol. It's a hard road when your chemically imbalanced so I do empathize greatly with you. Find that balance in your life. Triathlon is a great release and I know you can do it! I am sure moving where there is more sunlight will help, but beware of's just HOT here. :) Chin up!

10:51 AM GMT-5

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've suffered from depression for years, and I take meds (a variety of them) every day. There's no point in beating yourself up about it. Like you said, if you had diabetes, you'd take insulin, no question.

But I think another really useful treatment for me has been cognitive therapy. I'm not clear if you're also in therapy, but it might be a really helpful addition to your meds and physical program.

10:53 AM GMT-5

Blogger Spence said...

Um, yeah. Therapy is my best friend right now. No stranger to the brain work. Thanks for asking...and recommending.

11:01 AM GMT-5

Blogger TriSaraTops said...

Hang in there, Spence. I'm thinking and praying for you.

One of my best friends here is going through a similar struggle right now. It's so hard to treat and explain something that seems so hard to explain. Know that you are a strong woman, and you will get through this. I'm glad you're looking to Triathlete Girl. She'll help you out, and that's good. I say sign up for that race and make a nice little schedule to follow...

7:45 PM GMT-5

Blogger Cliff said...


I hope the tri girl will be back as well. I don' thtink i have depression but i do suffer feeling down a lot of times. The sport really put my life back into perspective.

Congrats on registering for will be fun :)

4:56 PM GMT-5

Blogger MartyTheFool said...

>These things I know:
>I cannot live this far north any longer. This will be my last >winter in the cold and dark.

Funny, Spence, thats what I was gonna suggest. We have PAST the autumnal equinox, and I know EXACTLY how you feel! (I wanna move to NC so bad) Lean on your friends, and GET TO THE GYM. You know it takes some time to 'get up on it'. Get that 'good'cycle going! Come on TRI girl! Come out and play!

the fool

8:26 PM GMT-5

Blogger Scott said...

I'm now convinced we are actually twins separated at birth... lol...

Spence - please e-mail anytime. Next time I'll send my phone # so if you ever need to talk to a friend. My inner athlete (who is apparently on vacation at the moment) is the only thing that has kept me going for years.

7:54 AM GMT-5

Blogger christine said...

You are a brave woman, coming to terms with so kind and patient with yourself...I agree moving towards the sun is a positive step. Take care Spence.

12:47 AM GMT-5

Blogger Bolder said...

come and visit me in Boulder.

it's sunny 300 days a year.

i'll cheer you up!!

3:10 PM GMT-5

Blogger tarheeltri said...

I am forever thankful for joining the Marines straight out of high school for quite a lot of things, but mostly for stationing me in San Diego. Sun can do wonders for you. Though I moved back to Pennsylvania briefly after getting out of the Corps, I have only moved south since. Warm sunny weather rocks! Take care of yourself!

5:23 AM GMT-5

Blogger JC said...

Hang in there, Spence. I think there is something really real about Seasonal Affective Mood Disorder. As it gets darker and darker it gets harder and harder.

Maybe a vacation someplace nice and warm will help. Also consider some light therapy. I know it sounds weird, but it helps me... years of New England (and now NY winters made me look into it as well).

I put mine up a few weeks ago... for me and for my plants that seem to get a bad case of SAD too, so we commiserate this time of year. Anyhoo, it helps alot. I hook it up to a timer and we are all happy. Of course living in the hood, the co-locating girlfriend made me install some bars on the windows now so that no one tries to break in to what looks like our pot-farm, but hey... I can handle bars. =P It helps alot.

But anyway, feel better kiddo.

1:27 PM GMT-5


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