This weekend I ran a half marathon in Fargo. For those who have known me for the last 8 years or so running has been an integral part of my life. It is who I am. A runner.
I discovered running at a point in my life where I didn’t know what my mental illnesses were. It quickly became an outlet for me and a sort of therapy. It made me feel better; happier. It gave me a short vacation from life, and my bad feelings. That runner’s high is powerful and it gave me the illusion that I was doing better. But really it was just another way to cover up the fact that I wasn’t dealing with my shit.
I started running longer and longer distances, spending more and more time out on the road and in the woods. More and more time escaping life. I found that my stubbornness and ability to persevere made me an excellent ultra runner. So I decided to start running and training for stupid long distances. I moved from marathons on to 50Ks and eventually 50 milers. All the while in the back of my head wondering if this had become an addiction.
You see addiction runs rampant in my family. I have felt those feelings since I was a teen and have always avoided any situation that made me feel them but with running I figured “I could be doing worse things”. At least I wasn’t drinking every night or doing drugs. This was a “healthy” addiction.
But then my body started to fall apart. I had a string of injuries and was sidelined from running for months. I was inconsolable at first and then so angry and then just depressed. I didn’t know how to cope without my outlet. This was the beginning of the spiral of the last two or three years for me. Eventually after an incredibly long injury that wouldn’t go away the doctors figured it is just arthritis. And it is moving through my body pretty fast. It started in one foot. Moved to my opposite hip and I’m pretty sure I have it in an ankle now. Running is no longer the joyful outlet that it once was.
Now I’m a pretty smart person but I never connected the dots between my childhood trauma, and recognized my depression and anxiety for what they were. I have dealt with them low key for most of my life but I just figured everyone has ups and downs and nervous ticks and fears and troubles, mine are just a little worse than everyone else’s. I was taught to just buck up and deal. Plus I was never taught to take care of myself. Just everyone else. So when my depression got so bad I was thinking about ending my life I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I figured anyone so badly damaged wouldn’t really be missed anyways; I wasn’t worth it. Fortunately I have good people in my life.
They convinced me to seek help. I started with therapy and it helped. I figured out where all my issues were coming from. That they had been there for so long and I had just been ignoring them. Making them worse and worse. I also figured out that people who had childhoods like mine shared these issues. It was a whole community. And that I could work through these things. Eventually I figured out that therapy wasn’t enough and there was also something a little off in my brain and I decided to go on meds after another massive bout of depression that left me considering suicide more than I ever had before. Those meds saved my life. I cannot oversell how much they save my life. But they did another thing too.
Slowly I lost the desire to run so much. I didn’t feel the need or the pull to go out on the road or in the woods for hours at a time. To “run away from my problems”. It was weird. But it was also convenient since my body had mostly given up on the distance running thing. I found out later that the med I was prescribed is also prescribed sometimes as a stop-smoking med. So it clearly helps with addiction. It was then that I finally realized over all these years I was addicted to this thing and that it had honestly just been covering up all of the problems I should have been dealing with all along. It helped in the grieving process of “losing” running because I realized I didn’t need it anymore. Not the way I had before. I was learning healthy coping mechanisms. I was dealing with the root of the problems and finding real solutions.
At Fargo this weekend I had hopes that I could run a decent race so I went out at the pace I wanted but at around three miles my body started falling apart. I decided I could keep pushing and be in a ton of pain and maybe make it a few more miles and have to limp it in or drop or I could just enjoy the morning. I chose the latter. I high fived lots of kids, I thanked all the volunteers. I talked to lots of cool people as I ran and I smiled the whole time. Even at mile 11 when my ankle was screaming and I thought I would have to walk it in I still smiled because it was beautiful outside and I was surrounded by so many awesome people who were doing amazing things and I was so proud of them. It was 2 hours and 20 minutes of joy.
I ran my worst race this weekend but it was so fun. And it was therapeutic in helping me let some more shit go. Even though my time for PRs and awesome races may be over I can still be a part of this community that helped me through so many tough times in my life when it was what I needed. Running can’t be what it used to be for me. And that is so okay. I have learned new ways to deal with those scary, dark things in my life. But I can still be a part of this community. I can go out and run when I feel like it. I can take more pictures. I can notice the beauty more. I can talk to people and give them advice because I know so much about running and have so much experience. I may not run fast or far again and that is okay. It just is.
Running served me well when I needed it and now I am ready to move on to this next chapter. I have been doing that a lot lately. And frankly it feels good. And healthy. And so much better. And it makes me happy.
I hope you can find your happy. I hope you can realize that you are worth it. You deserve happiness. And if you need someone to talk to and don’t have anyone know that I am here. Reach out. Because nobody should feel alone in the darkness. There may be nothing I can do but I am a really good listener.
Love to you guys. The unconditional kind ❤