Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Breaking Free

“Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer.”  Dorothy Rowe


Wow, it’s been 7 months since my last blog post.  So much has happened since then.  I have gone back and forth in my mind about writing this post since it’s so personal, but I believe in my heart that someone needs to read this post.  That by reading this post someone may take that step to get help for themselves.

My name is Sabrina Adams and periodically I suffer from bouts of depression.  There, I have put it out there.  I feel free and terrified all at the same time.  My bouts of depression are usually caused by a traumatic event, but sometimes I become depressed for no apparent reason.  Throughout my adult life I have sought help from therapists and in recent years I have been placed on a low dosage antidepressant. 

When my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on New Year’s Eve 2012, I spiraled into depressive state.  I couldn't believe that my beloved mother would have such a cruel and fatal disease.  I knew this was not one of those instances in which I would be down for about a week and then be back to normal.  I knew I needed help.  I contacted my employer’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and received a referral for a therapist who lived in my area.  I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association and found a support group that met monthly.  Lastly, I met with my then medical doctor and explained to him what was going on with me, and how I thought I needed some sort of antidepressant to help me cope.  He agreed and with some trial and error we found a medication that was suitable for me.

Following my treatment plan and my mom still being able to live on her own, I was able to have a very solid race season in 2013.  Things were good, but things changed in 2014.  The disease began to progress and the changes in my mom became more significant.  To me as the disease progresses, a piece of my mom fades away.  I don’t know when, but a time will come when my mom will completely vanish.

As the Alzheimer’s progressed my depression started to rear its ugly head once again.  I did my best to stay on top of it, but I struggled.  I would only go to the support group every so often because I felt my situation was nowhere as bad as others in my group.  I had allowed my antidepressant medication to run out and my medical doctor had relocated to another state.  I was not in a good place emotionally and here I was trying to train for my first Ironman.  Long story short my training and racing suffered.  I did make the podium a couple of times in the aquabike division, but I did not have a race season as solid as the year before. 

As stated in a previous post I DNF’d at Ironman Mont Tremblant.  Even though I had trained, I should have not attempted that race.  I was not in the right frame of mind to tackle 140.6.  My coach had advised me not to do the race, but I thought I would be able to pull it off.  As soon as I got home from Mont Tremblant, I signed-up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon and the Richmond Marathon.  I completed Patrick Henry and was looking forward to doing the Richmond Marathon in November.

Three weeks before Richmond I fell during a group run and badly sprained my left ankle.  I couldn’t run or bike.  If I swam I had to use a pull buoy.  My longest run had been 18 miles, but I felt that would be enough to get me across the finish line if I had a very conservative run/walk ratio.  The week of the marathon my life turned upside down.  I had to take my mom out of her home and temporarily move her in with my husband, So-So and I. 

Prior to moving my mom, I was already searching for a suitable community to place her.  I had become so frustrated because assisted living with a memory care unit is extremely expensive.  Most of the communities are private pay and do not accept Medicaid.  Medicare does not cover assisted living.  The monthly costs can average from $2,500 to over $6,000+ per month.  I needed to find a safe place for my mom, but time was not on my side. 

It was an eye-opener having my mother live with my family and me.  I really got to see what the Alzheimer’s did to her when she began to sundown.  She would refer to family members that had been deceased for decades.  She would wake up in the middle of the night fully dressed thinking it was time for her to get up and go to work.  She would forget that my husband was my husband, even though she knew his name. 

In spite of not getting a lot of sleep and having a bum ankle, I decided to proceed with doing the marathon.  My coach and I decided I would run a 1:1 and I would just enjoy the experience of completing a marathon.  My awesome friend, Juanita, agreed to run the race with me as she had done for Patrick Henry.  Even though I didn't speak with her much, it was a blessing to have her run with me.  The crowd support at Richmond is great and the route is beautiful!  I finished the race in 6:13:10.  Far from being blazing fast, but I am proud of my accomplishment.  I had fun and the race was a great distraction for me.  I even shared a few tears as I reached the finish line. 

Juanita and I

My mom lived with my family and me for about a month.  At times it was challenging, but it was also a blessing to be able to spend so much time with her.  During the day I took my mom to my mother-in-law’s house.  I am so grateful that my mother-in-law is retired and was so willing to help out.  So-So even did her part.  My mom was an early riser - a 4:30 am early riser.  At night I would set out her clothes and toiletries, leave the TV on and leave a blanket for her in the living room.  When she would get up and go to the living room, So-So would jump on her lap and sit with her until Mr. Adams and got up to get ready for work.  So-So was so kind and patient with my mom.  I love that cat! 

So-So

I finally found a suitable place for my mom that was only 10 minutes away from me.  I figured moving her would put me in a better mental space, but it did not.  I felt so guilty for placing her in an assisted living community.  I felt as if I had failed her as a daughter.  I was not taking care of her like she had taken care of my grandfather who had dementia.  The guilt ate at me.    It also broke my heart to see how some of the residents were just empty shells of themselves, and how that would probably be my mom’s destiny. 

I found it harder and harder to get out of bed to go to work or to train.  I would break down crying for no apparent reason.  All I wanted to do was sleep and eat.  I knew I needed help, but I felt so overwhelmed.  I had allowed things to just build up over the past year.  I had not taken care of myself.  My job was suffering, my training was suffering and most importantly my marriage was suffering.  I was not being the wife my husband needed me to be.  Even though at times I could turn the switch on to function somewhat normal, I was a mess.

Thankfully Mr. Adams took a stand and told me that I was going to get help for myself and get back on track with my mental wellness.  So I did what I knew worked for me.  I got in contact with my therapist and made an appointment with a new medical doctor.  I started seeing my therapist weekly and my new medical doctor agreed that I needed to get back on an antidepressant.

During this time my training was nowhere at the level that it needed to be, but it wasn't non-existent either.  Back in November I had signed-up to take part in the USAT Club Challenge as a member of the Black Triathlete Association.  I love being part of a team and competing against others.  I also continued to meet with the run group that I lead on Saturday mornings.  Lastly I invested in myself as an athlete.  I purchased a used power meter and the new Garmin 920xt.  I knew I wouldn't be in this dark hole forever. 

It’s now May 2015 and I am in such a better place!  I see my therapist as needed and the antidepressant is working.  I will follow-up with my doctor this summer to see if I need to continue with my antidepressant or not.  I have accepted the fact that I did the right thing by placing my mom in an assisted living community where she can receive 24-hour care and is safe.  I relish the moments I spend with my mom because even though she has Alzheimer’s, she is still very high functioning, even though her filter is non-existent.  Ha!  My training is going well and I already have a few road races and triathlons under my belt.  I have also partnered with some great companies (Hammer NutritionDe Soto SportSaris CycleOpsPowerTapRichmond Multisports and Lucky Foot) for this year’s race season.  Lastly, I am back being the competent and supportive wife that Mr. Adams needs.

If you are dealing with depression or any sort of mental illness, please do not be ashamed or embarrassed to get the help you need.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Do not let the stigma of mental illness keep you from being mentally whole.  There is nothing with going to therapy or taking medication.  Many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program in which you can receive a referral for a therapist and several appointments with that therapist at no charge to you.  Life is too short to go through it unhappy and in emotional pain.  Take charge of your mental health…you matter.