Whoa, super serious title for this post! I plan on doing several posts on how “Running has helped me “ because running really has been a constant in my life for the past 13 years and a lot has happened in 13 years! A terrible break-up, a fresh start, marriage, surgery, military moves, deployments, the birth of two children, the loss of family members and friends, good times, bad times….you know- life stuff.
I will say that just even typing the title of this post was very difficult. Clearly, it’s a hard topic to share, but for me personally, I have never been open about my depression. My amazing husband and my amazing sister are really the only ones aware of my long history with depression. To all of my friends out there, old and new, I know you will be surprised to hear that I suffer from depression. Most people, especially co-workers and aquantainces describe me as funny, super outgoing and often times even…..bubbly?! I am all of those things and especially in recent years, I am all of those things most of the time.
So before I begin, here is what depression looks like:
Or sometimes, like this:
In the first picture, I am living in beautiful San Diego before kids, the second picture is shortly after having Super D, and the last picture is after having 2 kiddos. Depression really goes like this: crying all of the time in private, finding ways to hide your crying, barely talking to the people you love, zero interest in leaving the house, and immense pressure to appear happy when you do leave the house. Depression is strange because you can look so happy.
It’s really hard to pin point when my depression began, but it was during my mid-late teen years. Even at the time, I remember thinking that it must be hormones, teen stuff, going off to college stuff, but as it persisted into my 20’s there was no denying that it was depression and not bouts of sadness on a “normal” scale. I became a hermit and even struggled with insomnia. My college roommate had a lot going on in her life as well, but I think she noticed that she didn’t see me for days at a time or that I slept all day long because I would be up for 24-48 hours straight. I didn’t know how to deal with it and so like many people, I suffered in silence. That is definitely a time I wish my older self could tell my younger self, “you will be ok!”
For me, depression comes and goes typically for a few months at a time. One of the things so difficult to explain to people is that there isn’t always a reason depression sets in. I can’t always point to an event and blame it for my depression and I always wanted to blame something or someone. Then there are times when the cause of the depression is evident; like when I was 25 years old and went through a terrible break up after a couple of really bad relationship years beforehand. I picked up all I had in Virginia and moved to Texas with my dog. I was hopeful, excited, and then severely depressed. Here is where running comes in. After a few months of being holed up in my apartment, I made myself start getting out of the house by walking in the Texas heat. After a couple of weeks of walking, I started with a bit of running and walking. I slowly started running more and actually liking it. From there, I never turned back….for too long.
Running didn’t solve all of my problems, but it helped me feel good about myself and gave me a reason to leave my house. I needed to get out of bed. I needed to get off the couch. I needed sunlight. I still dealt with depression on a regular basis and there were times when no amount of running helped me at all and I tried my best to hide it from everyone.
Fast forward a few years and I went through another severe bout of depression after being told I would never have children. I went through 2 surgeries within a matter of months and Dan was training for his first 7 month deployment. In case you are wondering what that is all about, I wrote about it briefly here.
I was fully expecting post-partum depression with Super D (our first child), but it didn’t happen and I was so thankful! Another example that you don’t always know when depression will hit. It took me a while to get back into exercising or running after having Super D and then one day, I just went for a walk and I started regaining my fitness levels from the very beginning. I took it slow and I wasn’t too discouraged about the feeling of “starting all over”. I was happy to move. A few months later, I ran a 5k with a couple of friends and this picture is truly a depiction of happiness and pride.
Seven years ago, Dan took that photo with Super D in the stroller beside him and I’m pretty sure he was more excited than I was because he saw a genuine smile on my face.
A year and a half after this picture was taken, we moved to New Jersey with a newborn baby (Si-Guy), and just when I thought I had my depression figured out, I was hit in the face with post-partum depression. How could I have post-partum depression?! I went through pregnancy and the birth of Super D without Dan since he was deployed and I was FINE. Dan was home the entire pregnancy with Si-Guy, in the delivery room and had time off when we got out of the hospital. I was blind sided because I thought post-partum depression could not happen to me. My depression made ALL of us struggle. We were in a new state without friends or family, Dan had very demanding obligations, and I was a depressed mom doing my best to care for a toddler and a newborn. I will be for real… more than a year after Si-Guy’s birth, I was still in the depths of despair and I finally recognized that my depression actually started at the beginning of the pregnancy and continued post-partum. Dan is a saint. I wondered if I would ever be myself. I truly wondered if this was the time I could not bounce back no mater how many other good fortunes I had in my life. Something clicked for me and I knew I had to make a change happen and so I went for a walk. I repeated my process of caring for myself and running. Si-Guy is now 6 years old and I am happy to say that my bouts of depression have gotten further apart and through my past experiences, I have learned what I can do to help myself so I don’t have to repeat the lengthy process over and over. I can see when I need help much sooner now.
I could go on and on with so many examples, but I will end with the one above because it marks the time I realized how running helps me battle my depression. I use the word “battle” with purpose because it is an ongoing struggle that I fight. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but over the past 7 years, I have been winning so much more.
Please know, this is my story and I know so many others suffer differently. Look forward to the time when you can tell your younger self, “you will be ok”!