I figured it was time to do a little journal entry combining the two things that occupy most of my time (at least mentally) – running and depression. Hopefully, it’s not too rambling…
It’s the first of June. Summer starts this month and racing season is really hitting its stride (pardon the pun). Even though objectively I’m aware that this year has been quite successful and I feel as though I have improved in many aspects of my running, I’m still battling feelings of discouragement. One of the more frustrating things when you experience when battling depression is sometimes you’re not sure if low moments are part of the ebb and flow everyone experiences or something else. Another time and energy consuming aspect of depression is how you react to the normal setbacks that every runner experiences at one point or another in their training.
Rather than just being an off day or being due to factors outside of your control, an underwhelming performance is a reflection of your limitations. That negative voice that you work so hard to quiet and ignore gains a little traction and tells you that all of your hard work and training has been a waste of time. Doubt sets in and you wonder if that voice is right.
Tweaks and pains are not just part of training. They are the beginning of that inevitable breakdown that you feared (or knew – just knew!) was coming. Missing a few days of training isn’t rest or recovery – it’s the top of that slippery slope to becoming sedentary again. “Isn’t it just easier to stay in?” you hear that voice ask. “Why not have that junk food? In the big picture, it’s not a big deal.”
As I’m writing this just now, I’m feeling my physiology actually change. Something that takes the things that mean the most to you away first sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? And that’s because it is. I hate that withdrawing from the people that I need the most, avoiding the places that calm me the most and neglecting to do the things that centre me the most are the signs that I am slipping. It makes me angry.
Fortunately, I have a few things really going for me. Since accepting that I, in fact, am dealing with depression it’s been much easier for me to face it down. Pretending that some of the things I was doing and thought processes I experienced were just a fact of life wasn’t very healthy or helpful. Dealing with a mental illness is like dealing with a physical illness. It doesn’t define me and only limits me as much as I allow. Negative thoughts and withdrawal from things I enjoy are immediate red flags and correcting those habits ASAP is sometimes difficult but always important.
I also have an amazing network of support in my life. My wife Stacey has been amazing and is not only understanding of what I’m going through, but also not afraid to call me on my bullshit or point out when I am pulling back from anyone or anything she knows to be important to me. It takes a lot of courage to do that to someone when they are struggling but it’s invaluable to me. Having other supportive people in my life to talk about how I’m feeling or even to just keep pushing me and motivating me to get out the door is also vital.
I know the rest of this year is going to be filled with challenges, accomplishments and setbacks. Part of the deal with surprising yourself is that it doesn’t always mean in a good way. Running and life are fairly unpredictable. Regardless of how well prepared you are, you can never prepare for everything and that’s ok. Experiences aren’t defined by what happens to us, but how we react to them moving forward. Sometimes it takes time to gain that perspective and sometimes we need to be reminded of it.