This is not an easy thing to open up about, nor is it a subject I broach lightly. Please know that I do not write this in seeking pity or sympathy, but more to bring light to something that many deal with in hopes that my story can bring clarity to at least one.
As a person who works in mental health, I have an unique view of depression and anxiety. I understand what it is and how it affects a person's brain, affecting mood. This knowledge makes having a depression and anxiety disorder myself even more difficult. It is not something I discuss with people, I chose to manage it on my own, in my way. I have suffered from these disorders since childhood and it wasn't until I began running that I found a healthy way to cope. Without fail, running is the most successful way I have found to help me deal with the symptoms of these, and for more than one reason
Depression and anxiety are both major things that can have great impact on quality of life, and when combined can have very serious negative consequences. For me it is like sinking into a dark hole where the world around me is dark and grey and I have no energy, no drive, and no desire to do things or be around people. And with the rise of social media, it makes it more difficult as you get onto your sites and see either other people's fun lives as portrayed by social media, or the utter darkness of people as they attack each other over difference of opinions and views. I also have a harder time as I took a journey this summer in which I found true joy and happiness, in a way that I have never experienced before. So I know what it is and how it is supposed to feel.
I try very hard when I find myself sinking into that hole to find the positive and seek to be around people, but it doesn't always happen. This is where running comes in. In running I find the chance to disconnect from the extremes of social media, clear my mind of the situations and environments that are affecting me, get the chemical rise of hormones that I need, and provide me the chance to be around people in a positive encounter. It gives me a chance to remember that there are positive things in this world and that there are good people who genuinely care about each other and me.
Recently I have been in a dark place. It began when I decided to take a month off of running to heal from a high mileage couple of years. My body needed to heal properly. At the same time I started back to work and was presented with very difficult situations and kiddo's. I felt myself sliding and knew I needed to try to find something to help myself. Unfortunately, that meant sliding back into bad coping strategies which I in turn felt guilty about. It was a vicious cycle that I knew was no good. So, I started back into running. It was a hard start back as between my travels and time off I was kind of out of the loop and used to being alone. It was hard to push through and be with people. Of course this coincided with the worst election in my own personal history, so of course most talk centered around the awful things being presented to us. But I pushed through and tried to find light in all that was happening.
I felt like I was climbing out of that dark hole slowly but surely. Then shit hit the fan all at once. Work went from bad to worse and I went from having a job that I loved to absolutely despising what I did, and wanting nothing more than to quit. I loved my team, but the emotional strain of what I was doing day to day had finally taken it's toll. Then I found my dog locked into a hot bathroom, meaning someone from my property management company had entered my apartment without consent and locked up my dog. They of course denied all responsibility, even though this is the second time I have been able to prove they have done such a thing. On top of that my work community was rocked to the core by a senseless murder of one of our policemen, which heavily affected us all. Then to finish this delight of awfulness, a man I thought could have great potential to be someone in my life didn't work out to be that way. I was in the bottom of the hole, the darkest I have been in a very long time. I was crying every day, sad to my very core and unable to make myself feel better using any of the strategies that I give to others or know how to use myself.
So I made it a point to meet up with friends to run. I found myself struggling to get through the miles and crying at the end of my run. But, I knew that it had helped just a little. So I went out and did it again . It didn't make everything better, but I was able to work through a few of the things. I had enough clarity to know that there were things in my list that I could control and I could quit let controlling me. And because of that clarity I have been able to start to look at my life and start finding the positives again and making plans to create more.
Is running the all out cure for these things? No, it is not. But, it does give the me ability to shift that chemical imbalance and create positive time and interactions for myself. So, I will continue to get out and run, doing it again tomorrow and the day after. Moving ahead and pulling myself out of this dark place. I know I will always have to work through this, but with the help of running, and the running community I know I will always be able to work through it.
So if you suffer from depression or anxiety, try going for some runs. Can't run, join a zumba class, a kickboxing club, or even a dance class. The exercise will help you not only get a rise in dopamine and serotonin, but will create positive situations and peer interactions.
When people ask me why I run so much, I often respond with "I like it" or "It is just what I do". Both of those things are true, I love running and it is a part of my life. But I also do it to manage my own depression and anxiety.