Depression - Alaska Style

I have battled depression for years. I have no formal diagnosis but having access to screening tests, I am too aware of where I would rank on a PHQ-9 scale. 


Moving back to Alaska provides its own set of challenges. As a kid I never noticed the change in light. Who had time to think of such things when Sarah McLaughlin was on the radio and my plan to bust out of Kenai, Alaska needed my full attention?


Living in Montana, California and Oregon showed me that waking with the sun could be a new and less varied pleasure. Now I am back in the Land of the Midnight Sun and the Midday Dusk. At first I kept wondering why it took me longer to drag my carcass out of bed. Then I realized that the idea of going out for a jog in the nearly pitch dark was not so appealing. 


California was fantastic but I spent little time outside. I like my wilderness as human free as possible. Call me old fashioned. Also as a pale girl from the North “it was too damn hot” to quote Cole Porter. Now living in Anchorage it is a goal to be outside as much I can. I don’t expect nature to be nice. I don’t require a perfect 75 degrees to run. I like rain and some adverse conditions. It makes me feel like a Nike add and less like a middle aged woman panting in compression leggings. But the dark and the rain was a bit much. 


What is a girl with a medical degree to do?


And does it really matter if I go outside or move my body?


Who cares?


My parents care, my patients care, my coworkers care, my husband cares and, above all, my future 85 year-old-self cares. 


Jogging by West Chester Lagoon is the best Wellbutrin on the planet. There is a visible difference in my mood. I am kinder to myself and the people around me. My patients get better attention and my husband gets a wife who, regardless of the reality, likes herself in jeans. And liking yourself in your favorite jeans leads to places that my husband likes to go. 


I am now heading to the gym for half the week. Huffing on a treadmill is not as cool as panting in the forest but regardless, I smile on the way out the door of the Captain Cook Athletic Club. 


It is to easy to say there is no time. But time is all we really have and one body to stand in - or as the case is, to jog in.


- Dr. O'Connell

Abby Laing