Thursday, October 6, 2016

A journey of a thousand miles (or maybe just one). On running and life.

I wrote this a couple months back. I wrote it mainly as a way to process my thoughts and feelings and life (because writing helps me do that). I wrote it mainly for myself. I shared it with my husband after I wrote it, but other than that it has just been for me . . . until now. Lately I have felt that I should share it, even though it is vulnerable and hard and I don't really want to do it.

It may be what someone else needs. It may be what the Lord uses to encourage someone else during a tough time. It may be what makes someone feel a little less alone or sad or isolated, or a timely reminder that they are not the only one who is struggling. For me, personally, things have turned around a bit now that the seasons have shifted from summer to fall (summer is always, always hard for me). I still have some stuff to work through and to work on, but I'm in a better place than I was when this was written.

So here you go. My heart ::

5 years ago I couldn't run for more than 30 seconds at a time without thinking I might die. Little by little by little that changed. In 2013 I ran a half marathon. I was a "Runner". It took me a long time to embrace that I was legit and could own my title of "Runner", but I finally got there. These days I'm much closer to the person I was in 2011 than the person I was in 2013, as far as running goes.

Probably a little more than a year ago now, something shifted in me. I started becoming more anxious than I had ever been before. I started feeling "off", not like myself and struggled to do normal, everyday things that I had never even given a second thought to before. I had a few hard life and relationship situations that took a significant toll on me. A couple times I tried being brave and authentic about one particular struggle and the authenticity backfired on me and seemed to make things worse. Since it was a pretty big deal for me to work up the courage to do that in the first place, that set me back. I didn't feel alive inside at all. At some point in there I'm pretty certain I crossed the line into depression. One Sunday, earlier this summer, I couldn't even go to church with my family because I, literally, could not stop crying (and church is one of my very favorite things!). A few months before all this, I had stopped running. I would try, sometimes, but I couldn't do it. Mentally. Physically. It just didn't work any more! I have some pretty significant physical pain (hip, knee, foot, hand, wrist -- not all at the same time, thankfully, but it was always something . . . or a few somethings). I don't know if the pain brought on the depression or if the depression lead to physical pain. I went to PT for a while, but it wasn't helping and was costing a lot, so I quit. I have also had a few panic attacks over the past year or so. If you haven't ever experienced one, those things are horrible! So painful and scary. I really think that it is one of those things that you can't understand without having experienced it for yourself. All of that weighed on me and sucked the life out of me.

If someone were to ask me today if I was a runner, I wouldn't know how to answer them. I own running shoes and technical running clothes, and running-related gadgets, but that is not what makes someone a runner. It's been hard to adjust to this stage: something that had, at one point, been a big part of who I was no longer fit. I can't agree to a group run with friends because I would never be able to keep up with them anymore (even thought I know they would never leave me behind). Since I also struggle to admit all of this to anyone, my running friends probably just thought I was blowing them off or didn't want to run with them. But I don't know any of that for sure, since I never opened up to tell them what was really going on.

The other day I ran a solid mile without stopping. That was huge! Even though not that long ago I could run 10, even 15 miles, this one solid mile seemed even more significant somehow. It was a solid 3+ minutes per miles slower than I used to run, but I ran the whole time without stopping. I still have a long way to go and I don't love (or even like) running like I used to, but I think that getting back "in the saddle" is something that I need to do if I want to get better. Both as a runner and as a person that I would actually like to be.

Things that make me feel alive are being outside, my family, creating things, meaningful music, good books, making note of the (seemingly) small blessings in each day, authentic relationships, writing, encouraging others, hanging my clothes out to dry, reading a good book -- and I wasn't doing enough of any of those things. Often, I couldn't muster up what it took to get off the couch, which makes it hard to create much or spend time outdoors or be with others or do any of those things.

I think legitimately admitting to the struggles is a good place to start to get better. I have been reading things lately that have been helpful with different aspects of my struggles. I know that I am not alone in this. I should get off the couch more often. I should go outside more. I should make more stuff. I should probably get on some drugs.

Writing helps me to process my thoughts. But getting things out on paper (even if only for myself) takes vulnerability that is scary. Until you say it out loud or write it down, it is easier to pretend that it's not real. Or that it's just a "rough patch" or a "tough season", rather than an actual ongoing problem that needs addressing. Here's to the first step of putting it out there!

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