Sometimes I truly believe I am wired for struggle as the renowned Author Brene Brown says. It’s as we’re magnetized to one another. When I struggle with depression and anxiety, many things seem impossible or out of reach. After many years of therapy, I have come to accept that this undoubtedly equates to worthiness. I’ve mastered the art of intellectualizing it and darn it, I even teach classes on these very topics; yet I don’t seem to accept that not everything is meant for me.
Remember running the mile in high school gym class? I never played a sport in my life. I was not “them.” The closest I got to playing sports was in junior high when I broke my nose talking to my girlfriend in the outfield when I was too distracted to interrupt our conversation. Listen, it was a juicy one. I loathed gym class when we had to run a mile. I was always the skinniest and the most weight I carried came out of my mouth. I couldn’t make it down a lane, let alone a lap. I would do anything to miss that portion of gym class. I would beg and plead with my mother to write a note. One year, I even persuaded her to have the doctor dismiss me from the class. I hated running and it hated me.
Then there were those runners. You know, the ones who finished a mile in less than 8 minutes and even did a “rest lap” after. I despised them. They were what I wished I was and I disliked them for it. Then, there was this time during my undergrad when I had convinced myself that I was vegan as much as I was an Olympian athlete. I signed up for a gym membership and had convinced myself that I was going to take on the chore of running. You know, to get healthy and all that crap. Turns out, when I signed up for what I thought was a free 30-day membership; the gym had it’s own motive to sentence me to fitness for the next year when I received a notice in the mail that my account was delinquent. Didn’t they know it was just a trial run?
I went on to other interests and dabbled in that for awhile. I tried out for the Apollo Theater, took a hip-hop class and did what I knew I would likely succeed in. Yet, every time I saw someone running, it always irked me. Then, I moved to a new area where they would coordinate the largest 15K in the Northeast and there they were. Runners, everywhere like rats in a subway station in NYC. To make matters worse, I married a runner. There he was running this 5K and that 15K and suddenly I began to feel pretty boring.
So it was the summer of 2012 when I went to get my sneakers “fitted” and coordinated a date at the nearby high school track. There I went and there I stopped. I couldn’t even make it a ¼ mile without feeling as if I was going to choke out an infant. Who does this, I thought? People say this is fun, relaxing and wait? You get a runner’s high with it too!? I don’t know what possessed me to keep at it. Truth be told, it was probably because it was the only time I was out of the house. Every week, something started to happen. I saw progress. One lap wasn’t as difficult as the week before and it wasn’t long before I finished my first mile. With persistence I didn’t know I physically had, one mile became four. I signed up for every 5K I could find out of pure disbelief that I, in fact, could be a runner. You know, like them.
Then, I got pregnant. I was running a different kind of marathon, but I remember doubting if I would ever return to the track again. I could hardly go to the bathroom alone so how was I going to find time to get to the track with what would soon become three children?
I was wrong. Within 3 months of having my youngest son, I took the single running stroller and returned to that track again. I remember feeling my insides jiggle (literally) but I was determined to keep going. From that point on, I didn’t stop and before I knew it, I was back up to 4 miles. 4 miles turned into 7 and I was getting up at 4 a.m. every day to run. So there I was ready to run my first 6K.
Then life happened. I either couldn’t muster up the energy to wake up at 4 a.m. or the daily responsibilities of motherhood took priority. I was beginning to accept defeat because it chases me. Then, there were times when I struggled to get up and out of bed. I couldn’t explain why because I was in the best physical shape of my life. Depression and anxiety don’t care if you are in the best physical shape. It comes when it wants to. There were a few weeks in between where I just couldn’t get myself out there to run. It would have been easier to just give up and give in.
But, I didn’t. Two weeks before the race, I woke up every day and ran. I was slower and the mornings were against me, but I did it. I didn’t want to let my family down, but most importantly I didn’t want to let myself down. The perfectionist in me had to remind myself that the finishing time didn’t matter. I couldn’t quit. It’s just like when I get up every day and in those silent moments when the only refuge I have is the thoughts that imprison me and the grief that swallows me, I have to keep going.
The morning of the race felt like the mornings when I was in junior high. I wanted to lie back in bed and just stay there. I wanted someone to write me a doctor’s note. Besides, it would have been more convenient on the whole family who had to wake up early, pack up and travel an hour, but I got up. When the horn went off at the starting line, there I went. I have learned that when the description on the registration form reads “rolling hills,” they’re not just referring to the scenery. There were a couple of times I wanted to stop, walk or quit. I even remember seeing this gentleman who passed me and thought, “I wonder if he would let me leap on his back to the finish line?”
Then, I thought about how far I had come. I was where I never envisioned I would be. Whether I finished in the time I set out for myself or not, I was there. I showed up. I was doing it. Me.
When I crossed the finish line, my husband and three children were waiting for me. They were proudly cheering and corralling at my legs. When I looked up, there was a trophy that read “You’re always #1 to us.” I did it. I finished and didn’t quit. I accomplished what I thought wasn’t within reach. That is what living with depression and anxiety is like. A constant mental race. It’s a daily battle for me and always will be. For in that moment, I had won and proved that my mind will forever remain my biggest roadblock to accomplishing that to which I believe is impossible.
Oh and two things. The trophy is still sitting on our shelf where I think it would make a fine Christmas ornament. Lastly, I’d like to know when that runner’s high kicks in?
In love & truth,