My Mental Race

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.

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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.

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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?

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In love & truth,

Grace

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