Sharing my story of depression and how running helps
A few weeks ago I thought I’d reach out to the Still I Run community to see if anyone wanted to share their story of mental health and running. Jason was someone that answered the call. When reading over his story for the first time, I couldn’t believe how much I related to his story. Yes, our stories are very different, but at the same time, so much the same. I have a feeling that no matter what your experience with mental health is, you’ll relate to Jason’s story as well. #YoureNotAlone
I realized recently I’ve been dealing with social anxiety since I was a child. Back in grade school, 3rd grade maybe even 4th, I peed my pants in class because I was too afraid to get up and ask the teacher to go to the bathroom. It was quiet-work time and asking the teacher to go would have required me to walk across the classroom. I didn’t want to walk in front of the class to do that. Even simple tasks like helping to hold a poster in front of class terrified me. Luckily, I benefited from having a small high school class and I got to know my classmates so it made situations not as bad. Once high school was over and I had to meet new people in college, it was terrible. I met basically one person that I talked to in college.
It’s gotten progressively worse the last couple years. At the gym, there are numerous exercises I won’t do because of the fear of being judged. Walking around the place I feel so awkward and anxious about people watching me. This social anxiety has gotten to the point where I struggle talking to friends more often than I should, especially in groups of friends. I don’t speak up even when I have something good to say or even an answer to a question. And forget about talking to girls. I just physically can’t do that. There are so many other things I miss out on and don’t do because of this anxiety. It has led to many depression-filled nights.
I’ve been dealing with depression for almost a year now. I always thought I had at least slight depression, but this last year has been bad. It almost coincides with when I stopped running a lot. I didn’t do the Wineglass Marathon last year because of injury and I was really bummed about it. It wasn’t only the injury that sidelined me though. I also didn’t train well for it. I was quite discouraged so my running fell way off.
When Things Started to Get Bad
Towards the end of October, my dog, Boba, got sick. The vet couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong, but he said he had Lyme disease and probably some sort of kidney disease. It didn’t look good. I slept on the floor with my dog after that. All the while I had to keep reassuring my son, Tate, he was gonna be okay even when I didn’t believe it myself.
On October 26th, a week and a half after the first visit, I had to put my dog down. I left the house with Boba that morning, but I could tell things weren’t good. I called the vet and that’s when he told me there was nothing more they could do. It was the hardest decision I think I’ve ever had to make. It crushed me. I left the vets office at 8:55 a.m. and had an appointment with a customer at 9 a.m. I broke down in front of them. It was the crappiest I ever felt.
During this time, the election was going on. All the hate that was involved in the 2016 election really got to me. Everything that Trump was doing saddened me. Then, as we know, he won. This rocked me as well and crushed me to my core. Not because of the win-loss aspect, but because my fundamental belief was basically shattered. I cried. All the hatred going on after he won just made me cry.
At the time I felt I was just sad because of what happened with Boba. I was definitely sad because of that, but this time it was different. Not only was I sad, but I’d lost the will and want to do anything. Things I used to love to do just didn’t interest me anymore. I didn’t run like I used to. I stopped reading comics. Going out was a chore. It took everything I had in me to even do housework. I just wanted to sit and do nothing because I felt so empty inside. I was numb. In November I got a puppy because I thought that would help with everything. Nope. It did not. It made things worse because it added more stress and frustration into my life and because of it I became angry.
I was quick to anger about a lot of things. At home I got angry at anything that required me to do anything except for sit or lay down. I got angry at Tate way too often. I couldn’t control it though. I’d yell at him over the stupidest shit. I would get mad, not at him per se, but just mad whenever he asked me to make him food. If he asked me to do anything, I got mad.
Losing the Will to Care
I stopped caring about work. Being at work was tough because I had to hide the depression. Add to that I’m an introvert with social anxiety that deals with customers most of the day, and you can see how tough my days were. My diet went to shit as well. Usually I eat healthy, but that all stopped. I ate like crap and didn’t care. I had so many Christmas cookies. (Like so many) The more I ate like crap, the worse I felt. Not only did the diet change, but I also began drinking.
I started drinking to help cope with everything. Some days it helped, some days it made things worse. I drank basically every night (and some days) of the week. Needless to say, there were far too many mornings I went to work hungover. I turned to beer as a way to ease everything in my head and my feels. It got to be a problem.
I wouldn’t say I was an alcoholic, but I did have a problem with alcohol. I drove drunk many times. A couple nights I was surprised I made it home, to be honest. I just didn’t care what happened. If I got in an accident, if I got pulled over, if I went to jail…. I just didn’t care. I know it’s awful drove drunk. At the time though, I felt like getting in an accident or going to jail couldn’t be worse than the way I felt.
Most of those nights while on my way home, I would cry my eyes out. Many nights (and sober days) I struggled with the thought of just letting go of the wheel going 70 mph on the highway to see what would happen. Or just yanking the wheel hard to the right. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to feel something. I wanted to hurt. My head was telling me this is what I deserved. I wanted to not have the constant internal struggle of every day having to hide the way I felt. It was draining. I wanted to not have the constant feeling of hopelessness, loneliness, and sadness. I knew at the time these thoughts and actions of mine were no good, but no matter how I tried, I could not get myself to care.
Sleep became the thing I looked forward to during the day because it was the one thing I could do and just not feel. It was my escape. There were a lot of nights I was in bed at 8 or earlier. I just didn’t want to be awake. Some nights I’d get home from work and basically be on the verge of tears because I wanted to go to bed. I had to stay up though because our puppy needed time out of the crate. I would stand outside with the dog in the 20-degree weather without a coat on, or just a light sweatshirt because just I wanted to feel something, anything. It didn’t work. The freezing cold did nothing to me.
When the Depression Came to a Head
Finally, I decided to seek help because of two things that happened. The first happened was at the end of December, the day Carrie Fisher died. I cried at work when I found out about her death. Someone close to me called me “dumb” for not seeking help because I was crying about it. I got really angry and really sad all at once. I ended up drinking a lot that night and I remember punching my fridge. What I don’t remember fully from that night is how exactly I made it to bed.
The second thing that really pushed me to get help happened around the same time as all this. I had gotten mad and yelled at Tate over something stupid again. Something he shouldn’t have been yelled at for. After I yelled at him, he asked me why I always yelled at him and why I was always so angry. That really hit me. After that and some talking to my brother-in-law, I decided to see a therapist.
I met with a therapist in January. It didn’t help me much. I’m not saying therapy doesn’t help. It’s just that the therapist I saw was not the right one for me. You need to find the right one. I felt like the one I had didn’t care about what I was saying. The first thing she said to me was that I could go on meds. That turned me off. I was already nervous about talking, so the topic of medication made me close up. She told me she thought I had depression. She gave me few suggestions to help me get on the right track. I did try the suggestions, but I still felt discouraged and didn’t go back or try a new therapist. Everything continued on as it had been for months.
Finally Looking Up
After a while some things finally things came along that helped me improve. Talking was one of them. I talked to my brother-in-law quite a bit, especially when days were really bad. While he is not a therapist, he was the right person for me to talk to. Talking to someone, therapist or not, CAN help.
The biggest thing that helped was though running. I was asked by a couple people if I was doing the St. Patty’s Day run in town. I decided to do it, which meant I needed to get out and run. Getting out and running started to make me feel better. Not a lot really, but there was finally hope of maybe being okay. The St. Patty’s day run went really well! I was super happy with the run, and it gave me some motivation. Having a goal and something I could achieve helped me out a lot.
That feeling led me to look into more races. I had a whole schedule set up with races I wanted to do. That schedule made me get out and run even more. It is so very true what they say about exercise and running and improving your overall health, wellness, and spirits. Slowly this improved the way I was feeling.
I found a group on Facebook called Still I Run. It’s a group of runners for mental health awareness. Seeing how many people were involved with that, and their message was kind of inspiring to see. It really helped me out. The main thing it helped me with was helping me get to the point to where I could open up about this. Talking to someone and just opening up about what your issues are helps so much. I give so many thanks to the Still I Run group. I also thank my brother-in-law for all his help with talking to me and letting me open up to him. Also, to my sister for her support as well. This year I’ve completed three half marathons AND and PR’d in all 3. I’ve done a couple of 10k’s and of course am training for the Wineglass marathon.
Holding Up The Wall
Depression is nothing to take lightly. It’s no joke. It’s been a constant battle for me.for a year. Every day I used to wake up (some days still do) and put on the mask – the mask of “Everything is normal and I’m fine.” Underneath that, I struggled. It was a constant battle to keep the charade up that everything is fine. It’s exhausting.
I compare it to trying to hold a wall up. The wall is the normal self you put out for people to see. On one side there is an army (depression) trying to push and knock down that wall. All the while you’re on the other side, by yourself, trying with everything you got to hold that wall up. People only see you and not the force trying to knock you down. Many days I had no fight in me and the wall would fall. It is a constant fight. If anyone is dealing with depression please get help.
If you know someone with depression, talk to them. Help them get the help they need. It’s been a long road, but I am doing better now. I still have days, sometimes many in a row, where depression really takes over. I’m dealing with it though and I’m doing okay now.
Still I Run
I got this tattoo recently. The tattoo is a symbol that came from Still I Run. I got it because of how much that community has helped and encouraged me. The tattoo represents so much. I also got it so that when times do get bad, I’m reminded there’s a community of runners with and for mental health issues. It’s a reminder that even when the depression takes over, I have something to look forward to. I have my next run to look forward to.