I’ve been deleted and rewriting this post for a long time but I decided I’d just come right out with it: I suffer from depression that I usually manage pretty well. The last four months, however, have been particularly hard. This isn’t to say that I haven’t had some really bright spots during this time. But it is to say that even though I can recognize these times, most of the last few months have been spent in a fog. An unhappy and very dense fog.
A lot of people write or talk about how running is free therapy. While I’m not adverse to this line of thinking — running can in a lot of ways be very mentally therapeutic — I’ve personally experienced that this is a dangerous way for me to think about running. Back in 2014 when I was finally diagnosed with chronic depression and began treatment, I almost couldn’t believe it. I run, I thought. That’s supposed to be enough therapy.
It’s not. For me, it is just not enough.
Instead, my enthusiasm for or my lack of interest in running is sort of a canary in a coal mine for me and my depression. When I’m not able to muster the excitement for my literal favorite activity, when putting on my running shoes is akin to my ripping off my skin piece by piece, when the finish line of my next race seems literally impossible — I know I’m in deep and I need to get some help.
That’s why, even though I’ve been training for and very excited about my next marathon, I’ve been less than consistent. My depression was able to waft in and steal my joy for the cycle. Zap me of my energy and motivation. Help me say mean things to myself about my abilities and commitment to my goals. I’m still able to train, sort of. But the running isn’t making me feel better necessarily. It’s just a symptom that things are on the upswing.
OK, so what? I wanted to share for two reasons: First mental health issues are real. If you or someone you know is feeling depressed I cannot urge you strongly enough to seek professional, clinical help. Also, mental health issues are prevalent and underrepresented. In this age of social media, everything always looks really smiley and happy (of which I’m totally guilty. I’m not one to post my puss face or a picture of my third helping of ice cream with #depressedAF. Not my style but also I recognize not that helpful) and it’s OK if for you right now it’s just not. You’re not alone, ever. Second, it’s OK if you are a runner suffering from depression and you don’t feel exorcised by your running. You don’t have to. I don’t. Some people do. You do you, boo. And get some help if you’re feeling down.
I’ll end with this. I’m feeling better. I’m lucky to have a great network, awesome doctors, good health care, rad family. My training is starting to get back on track. Things are looking up. And I hope that if you’re not feeling as hopeful as I am right now, you know that I’ve been there and if you do what you need to do you’ll be on the upswing soon, too.