Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's been a while...

My last blog post was in January. I stopped writing when things got too busy... and when things got too busy, I also stopped running on a regular basis. I hit the road or the treadmill maybe once or twice a week - that was it.

It was a rough spring. I've always had sporadic issues with depression and anxiety, but earlier this year they ramped up to a whole new level. I felt like I was drowning, like I couldn't breathe. I was tired all the time. I was lonely. At times, I felt nearly suicidal. The only thing that seemed to mitigate the symptoms was school, so I'd go in early in the morning, work nonstop until 5 or 6, and then drive home. My symptoms seemed to worsen in the evenings, on weekends, and whenever I had a break. Not ideal for the mother of a preschooler (and definitely not ideal for the preschooler). I did my best, but it was like trudging through taffy.

I saw a therapist every week. Therapy helped me work through some painful experiences and negative self-perceptions, but it was hard work. Sometimes I'd leave feeling much worse than when I walked in. Still, I slowly improved. I gained some valuable tools for coping with tough emotions. I learned to remind myself that "I won't always feel this bad. It will get better." A few weeks ago I decided I was ready to venture out again sans therapist. At my last session, I asked him to identify one thing that he thought would really, truly help me manage my moods. I thought he might recommend yoga, or meditation, or medication.

Instead, "Run. Run often. When you talk about running, it's clear that it's a positive thing for you. And enter races - compete. It'll give you something to shoot for and something other than school to focus on."

And so for the past 3 weeks I have been running nearly every day. I've tracked my feelings and my moods, and while the anxiety and sadness still crop up, they've lost their oomph and their edge. I feel better about myself and more confident around others. Challenges, obstacles, and criticism seem less daunting somehow. When I received some (what I felt were) unfair comments on a recent homework assignment, I didn't go home and cry the whole evening as I would have in the past. I felt disgruntled, and I thought, "That sucks. That's uncalled for," but then I went on with my day. It was just a blip. It was a small drop in the huge ocean of experience, a drop that became increasingly diluted until I forgot about it entirely.

In the past, I've always run for fitness or to work off extra calories. But now I want to run for my mental health. Like I said, I've always struggled with roller coaster moods and emotions, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of feeling lousy. And I don't want to go through what I went through this past spring. It was just too scary. If running 5-6 days a week will give me a brighter outlook on life, then that's what I'm going to do.

So I'm going to start writing here again and logging my miles (still mostly on the treadmill), but I'm going to change my focus a bit. It's less about the distance and exercise now, and more about managing my emotional well-being. I want to see if I can tame my moods simply through exercise and healthy living.

I'm also planning to enter more races, as my therapist suggested. I recently ran a 6K, and this Saturday I'll be running in a 5K. I like short races. They don't require a ton of training, but with some effort I'm pretty sure I can improve my times. And I do enjoy being around other runners, feeling their energy, and moving together towards a common goal.

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