Runners often say that running is our drug of choice. This activity provides many things, but first and foremost it is mood altering and personality enhancing. Yet sometimes even a "good" run has no affect and brings no relief.
I struggled for years with self-image. I have an overactive imagination and tend to read into situations and see things that do not exist. There was even a time I sought professional help and chemical relief. That's what a crap job with no support from management will do for you.
Thankfully running has given me something no doctor or prescription could ever provide. Time to myself not in darkness and self-loathing but time in sunshine and self-development and the company of people who see the good in me and support me no matter the "issues" I am dealing with in my life.
That's why this past week was so difficult.
One thing I noticed as I have dealt with bouts of depression over the past seven years is that there is no trigger. No moment or event that sparks the slide. I just know that its coming and feel the world tilt beneath me. My world has been pretty level for some time now. But not so much in the last two weeks.
Two weekends ago I was feeling really dark. No reason other than the usually stresses in life. Money. The approaching holidays. Kids' schedules and fitting work into the cracks. The only thing going well had been my running. Then I developed a pain in my heel which required a visit to the doctor. I don't like to mix running and doctors, but this one was cool and runs and did not preach. The relief was immediate and my spirits was up.
I have made some solid friendships outside of running recently. These folks are online buddies and are separated by miles and will probably never meet me in person, but already they feel like family. And the best part is sharing aspects of life that need an unfiltered, unobtrusive, nonjudgmental view of a situation. No agenda. Just questions and answers and hopes that things get better.
Each friend is having relationship issues and I tried to be the sounding board and ask the questions that each needed to ask. Maybe hearing the questions and answers out load out provide a different perspective. I know that my own thoughts sound different once they pass my ears.
Being a father put their issues in a perspective I had not anticipated. Boys can handle themselves. This is a man's world, as James Brown once sang. But girls are different. Tell them they "can't" and either they believe or take the challenge and try to prove the world wrong. As the father of two girls I choose to tell them they can. I told my oldest to set her own path. Do what she wants in the world. Make her own labels in life. Do not become what somebody wants her to be if that label prevents her from being herself.
But this is getting off the point of the post I guess. I've not adjusted well to the recent cold. I ran a few nights after the kids went to bed. The second night was awful. My pace was fine, but the dark and cold and clothing I had to wear created a crushing claustrophobic effect that sunk me into the most depressive state I've felt in years. Not suicidal, but it doesn't have to be that bad to be bad.
I unloaded on dailymile.com. I wasn't looking for too much sympathy (ok, maybe I was). It seemed a good play to turn because other outlets are like speaking with a stone wall. My wife knew I wasn't right and we talked a little about it. But I think I needed to hear the support of other runners. She helped my through the worst of my depression, present for the breakdown in sunday school (that was such a bad day) and is my smile when I feel nothing.
I got tons of advice. Don't know why. I got tons of support. Can't imagine why. Read tons of kind words and even a few harsh yet necessary words. Message received. I knew I had to get out of the dark, literally and figuratively, and find my sunshine.
Before I took that next run I saw a dailymile challenge called "One Mile For Miranda". She was little girl, not sure of the age, who died this week. A challenge was created to run a single mile in her memory. You know about me and dedicating runs to others.
I set out in the middle of the day. I was still cold, but not so cold as the previous night. The sky of clear and the wind was slight. And I set a fast pace. I thought again of my friends and their issues. I thought of my family and our issues. I kept coming back to my form and how I was feeling physically and emotionally and could feel the break coming.
I realized in this run that mental illness in less extreme cases is like jumping with a bungee cord. Stretch it too tight and the cord snaps and you don't walk away. Hang on and stay loose and just maybe the you'll get a bounce back and return to vantage point where you started. Just get back up.
My GPS chirps at each completed mile. As I returned home Mr. Garmin told me I had one mile to go. And my thoughts returned to Miranda. A little girl I'll never know and would have never heard of were it not for dailymile. As if by a "higher power" my legs went of a pace reserved for speed work. I knew I was running hard and found an unbridled joy in taking flight with this newest angel. And with a half mile left in the run I nearly broke down and sobbed. There was a convulsive spasm in my chest. The kind you get in some great tragedy in life. But I was not sad. I was happy. And for no real reason. I'm not given to pray or church these days, but I do get the power of shared human experience. Maybe sharing in the passing of Miranda's life kicked my brain into thinking I am not in such a bad place. Doesn't work for everyone, but it may have worked for me.
Not really sure what the thread to this post is. Probably just random thoughts and a deeper view into my brain that most of you could do without. But I also like to thing that a glimpse into my mind will tell someone they are not alone, not so different from other people. Whether you care to share or not, know I'm with you in the struggle.
Dailymile asked this week what its members would do if the website crashed. I know I would still run. I would still run with local folks. I would still "talk" with running friends I have outside dailymile. But something would be lost. I like to think the Mirandas' of the world need places like dailymile. To work their magic on people like me.
Live for today. Run for tomorrow.