Nice to see you again, Mr. Depression... and THEN...

About 2 weeks ago, things started to change ever so slightly.

[Disclaimer: I thought about NOT posting, since I don't want to be looked at as the "bi-polar" woman at work, when I coach, etc. But, wouldn't that be contributing to the silence that surrounds mental health? My goal is to help "Break the Stigma" around mental health, to be able to talk openly about it here and with others, and not be ashamed of what I've been given.]

First, if you haven't already read it, here is the background information to my mental health journey.

Depression sneaks in

Much like a creep that sneaks into your home and leaves certain things slightly awry... but never too out of place to arouse suspicion...

Friday morning I ran from our house to Nathan's office. 16.5 miles. Instead of being exuberant about logging my longest run since being back with Jerry, I found myself hating it. I also blamed Nathan for having to do this today instead of when it was originally scheduled (Saturday).

We needed to go car shopping at some point during the weekend, and since Nathan is off early on Fridays and Greta is still in school, Friday is a perfect time to get things done together. By running to his office, we saved a trip to Northfield AND I could knock out my long run of the week. Score! My legs were tired, though, having logged a double of 14 miles with two hard miles the day before. Doing my long run Saturday would have been ideal, but Nathan was going to be at a ski race - which means I'm pushing Greta during my run. Long run + pushing = bad idea.

So, long run on Friday it was.

MADE IT!
I stopped to take a picture of this snowman in route. Doesn't it look like they built it with a saggy top? Hmm.

Then we traveled north to look at vehicles. I wasn't my usual self and started to have more negative thoughts. I was quiet as I trudged behind him from place to place. I just wanted him to find a car.  Nathan knew I wasn't having a great time.

This was another day spent doing something other than fun, I thought. Further, this is one of our last Fridays together for a while since the next few will be taken up by ski races. UGGG. I hate the ski season!

Just find a car, Nathan, I silently pleaded. I didn't care what kind or even that we got a great deal. Just find a car.
We did end up finding a great vehicle (and a great deal!) - see our '15 Subaru Outback!
Saturday was a good day, interestingly. Nate left for his ski race and planned to do a mini ski camp until about 1:00, home around 2.

I pushed Greta for our 9 mile run. Paces were slow - 8:45-9:15. My theory is that the chariot runs a lot slower in winter months. We were back home by 10:45.... just enough time to get to the YMCA, I thought! We quickly packed everything up and rushed over there. Child watch was until 12, so I got in a 40 minute lifting session. Then we played at Open Gym, which she loved, and in the pool, which she didn't. It was so fun to have mother-daughter time!

Starting her young. Have to snag that basketball scholarship, you know.
She's telling me a really, really long story about the other kids playing basketball.
I love this peanut!
Nate and I discussed plans for Sunday, as he had the second day of his ski camp in the morning. He hadn't officially planned on going, but because I was feeling good after Greta and my fun Saturday and the camp is fun/good for Nathan, we decided he should go.

The ski season is long and intense with a lot of weekend races, sometimes entire weekends away, and Wednesday evenings are spent at practice in the Cities. Nathan and I know I've broken down in the past because of all of it. So, we talk about how I'm doing with his skiing/time away and Nathan makes racing and training decisions from there.

But then Saturday in bed I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun if he came to church instead? There is the annual meeting, which might be fun!"

Suddenly you catch a glimpse of something zip around a corner of your house... your suspicions are confirmed... there IS someone in the house with you!

Mr. Depression begins to say things to me:

He wants to ski, Nichole. Just make it through the day/week. You don't want to be the reason he is slow, out of shape, or not racing well.

It will another time at the church without him. Just like it always is every Wednesday night (when we enjoy Bistro while Nathan goes to Vakava practice). Just like it was 2 weeks ago for Sunday service (when he raced).

He is choosing skiing over hanging out with the family.

Just go through the motions. Look like you're okay. He supports your running, you need to support his skiing.

Tears begin to well.

It is scary how twisted Mr. Depression's suggestions are. I normally LOVE heading to church alone with Greta! The congregation is great, and she really enjoys hanging out in the nursery! In general I love being independent while Nathan is away. Plus, the rational side of me knew that it was just a morning away; he would be home by about 1:00.

We love going to church together!

This is after this week's Bistro night at Bethel. She ate twice her weight in Shepard's Pie - and THEN ate a PB&J sandwich. Growth spurt coming!

Clearly the excitement of the meal and the nursery completely wore her out!
Sunday morning I loaded Greta into the stroller. We got about 3/4 of a mile down the road, and the pit of my stomach began to ache. I felt so empty. I began to cry. I felt like nothing: nothing mattered, not even life.

How did this happen? Depression had moved in altogether. 

I held back tears during the sermon, then packed up Greta for the ride home. Nate called a couple of miles in. I told him I just wanted to RUN. Long. I don't know how far. Run away from my pain, my brain, and this nothingness feeling.

No, I didn't want to run. I stopped pushing the stroller and started to sob.

Nate showed up 5 minutes later, loaded up the Chariot into the car, and brought both of us home.

I can absolutely see why I began to self-medicate with alcohol last year. Depression like this is awful.

I took my second 3 hour nap of the weekend that afternoon. When I'm struggling with depression, I can't sleep long enough.

Reading with mom is awesome!

I tried very hard not to let Greta see the very depressed side of me.
Monday I went to work, per usual. I forced myself to function at the level I normally do, but it was difficult and took a lot of energy. I met up with Craig for my 10x400m workout at noon. I'm glad I was meeting him, otherwise I would have struggled to get out the door.

I explained where I was currently at and Craig patiently listened. I fought back tears before the last repeat. I don't know why.

Then as we parted ways, I asked him to keep an eye on me. He left me by saying, "You have so much going for you!". I started to sob. He is right. I do! The rational part of my brain knows that and is so in love with all I do, the people I am surrounded by, my family, my job, my coaching, the list is endless! But depression clouds all of that. It's so hard to describe. If you've ever been there, you'll know what I mean.

I have SO much going for me - like this beautiful peanut!
Monday night I decided to double up on my antidepressant (sertraline, generic for Zoloft). Maybe that would help.

Tuesday I woke up at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. I went down stairs and unloaded the dishwasher, started laundry, organized the closet under the stairs (after trying to find paperwork - and becoming frustrated that things were haphazardly thrown all over), and entered a ton of information into Turbo Tax (YAY, taxes! ... yes, I'm serious... I love doing taxes!).


Nathan came down and gave me a quizzical look. "Are you okay?" he asked.

I was, I assured him. I was just very productive and motivated.

I knew this was not "normal" - not with how low I had been over the weekend. I was at a fairly "normal" place now. Maybe a little higher than normal - perhaps? I didn't know. I typically function at a very high level, moving from one thing right to the next, right to scheming other projects, etc. If not for the 4:30 wake up time, I would probably think of this as normal.

[The only other time I haven't needed sleep is the first few days of my manic episode week]

During my run Tuesday at noon I decided to run home and take a pregnancy test. The ONLY other times I've been like this have been after big hormone swings due to pregnancy/breastfeeding. Hmmm....

It was negative :) So much for that theory!

Wednesday I woke at 5:30. I cleaned out another closet.

And computer work. Lots of computer work.
I called my psychiatrist when the clinic opened. He suggested getting in to get my lithium levels re-tested.

The last time we tested I was at .6; the recommended range is .8-1.2. Because I wasn't showing bi-polar symptoms, we were okay with .6 and left my dosage lower than normal.

The doctor thought the antidepressant may have flipped something in me to trigger a hypomanic state. What's that? Hypomania literally means "under mania" or "less than mania". It's a state of elevated mood where the individual is very creative, productive, energetic and/or excited. It's not a harmful state, but it can lead to risky or harmful behaviors.

My doctor also suggested going down to my normal dose of antidepressants. If I moved closer to a manic state, I was to stop the antidepressants altogether. If things got really bad, Nathan needed to bring me into the U of MN's psych ward again.

I let both Nathan and Craig know to keep a very close eye on me. Nathan loaded the hospital's information in his phone.

*Sigh*
Squealing with happiness in my office after Wednesday's Bistro night. She then ran into my colleague's office, and tried to recycle herself. Too funny to look down from AC's computer to see just two little legs sticking out of the bin! Ha!
Thursday I woke at 5:30 again. This time I tackled our bathroom closet and drawers. I organized everything and got rid of the VERY EXPIRED medication and contact solution, random toiletries and hair stuff I've had forever but never used.

I stood back and admired my work. Such a great feeling when things are clean and organized!


Later that night Nathan stepped into the shower and exclaimed, "Wow! That's a lot of shampoo and conditioner samples!".
Okaaaayyy... guess we're using up little bottles for the next year!
Hahaha. I explained that I had tackled the bathroom this morning. He commented that it was sort of nice to have someone in a hypomanic state every so often. Hahahaha, I guess it is :).

[I LOVE using up containers! I don't know why, but I take great satisfaction in it. Anyone else with me?]

Secretly, I didn't want to come out of this state. Again, it wasn't too different from my normal. I just didn't need much sleep (you can get so much done!), and I had a lot of energy to be moving from task to task to task all day without needing a break. I wanted to keep taking a double dose of my antidepressants....

I've read that it's common for bipolar individuals to go off of their medications for exactly this exact reason. There's definitely allure in the "high". If not for the risk of low-lows and the risk of psych-ward-worthy hallucinations, I'd choose this "high" as well!

Friday I seem to be more normal today. I slept until 8 when Greta got up, and was still tired.

Bi-polar disorder, you are no match for me & my support team! 

It has been incredibly interesting to watch all of this happen to me. It has been the first time since my diagnosis that I've said, "Yep, I'm definitely bi-polar!". I knew I was diagnosed earlier because of my post-partum depression and then manic psychotic episodes, but other than that, had not seen anything bi-polar about me.

I was hoping that bi-polar would have been just a one time thing, but it looks like it truly is something I need to always be aware of and manage. I am waiting to hear back on my lithium levels, and will see my psychiatrist on Tuesday to discuss any changes to my medications.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to "Break the Stigma" around mental health! Love you all!

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!

8 comments:

  1. Love YOU! Steven's college roommate was bi-polar and often wasn't on medication, so we both have done a lot of walking through it with someone. Thank you for continuing to be open about your journey!!

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  2. I am with you on feeling satisfaction having everything clean and in its place. . .and using up bottles! Ha! I was wondering why I got emails from you so early in the morning. I hope and pray things even out for you.

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  3. Coach, you more than coach us how to train and run, you teach us about things we may never know if someone wasn't open like you are. Thank you. Gosh...the roller coaster continues. Stay strong and keep Mr D at bay. We love you. You are an inspiration. Don't forget that!!! I want to run as fast as you on your slow days!!!!

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  4. Oh my dear Nichole, my heart just breaks to hear you going through all of this. I am so proud of you for being so aware of what is happening and fighting. We definately need to find a quilting class that will fill some ski time. Love you!💜

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  5. Oh my dear Nichole, my heart just breaks to hear you going through all of this. I am so proud of you for being so aware of what is happening and fighting. We definately need to find a quilting class that will fill some ski time. Love you!💜

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  6. Your sharing this with the skiing/running community is a brave action. I have a son with an ED and some mental health issues including some issues with depression. I have seen little glimpses of what you describe in this post. I think being open about this is one small step toward de-stigmatizing mental health issues and helping people understand that this sort of thing happens to people, LOTS of people that they probably know, and it shouldn't be kept in the closet. Thank you for being generous with sharing your experiences.

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