Many of you know I’ve never been a runner but most of you also probably don’t know one of the main reasons why I run is how I am choosing to take control of my battles with depression.
This summer I want to reclaim running. I strayed away from running for many years for fear that the negative thoughts would be triggered. Thoughts like I was too slow, too fat, too tired, or thoughts that I just wasn’t made to run. But since i’ve started running, nothing beats the sound of my feet pounding on the pavement, the sun hitting my face, the wind flying by me, the blissful exhaustion after a good run, and that feeling I get when I hit that next mile or even half mile. I want to reclaim running as a celebration of strength now that I’m in a better place, rather than an act of destruction that sought to destroy my self-esteem by not trying and being discouraged by others. This period of my life I’ve decided is about challenging myself and reclaiming the world as my own. Running is about me and beating my own expectations I set for myself. Over the past few days I feel compelled to speak up about my journey with depression and how running has been slowly helping me to heal in the process.
For those of you new to my life, I have long struggled with depression since I was probably a young teen. I wasn’t diagnosed with severe depression until I was 21 and since then I’ve been quite open about my struggles with some debilitating cycles of depression and anxiety which you can find running through my blog. For many people, i’m often seen as the glass half full, happy-go-lucky, motivated, ambitious, intelligent, and smiling young woman always willing to lend a hand to those around me and always pushing to through obstacles. So for some it’s probably surprising that I have a “dark side” and have at times struggled to cope with my illness.
It’s not something i’m ashamed or shy to talk about and in fact being open about my own struggles has allowed me to not only take control of my own life but also help others open up about their own battles. We’re all warriors and it’s always been my mission to help facilitate the conversation about mental health. Inching my way to become a future health professional, I want to help me, I crave the ability to see people reach their full potential. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but yet it seems whenever people open up about their struggles with illness’ such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar or schizophrenia people are so quick to judge and label. Not everyone is okay with living like an open wound though and being so open about thing. But the thing about this is that i’m honest. I’m not going to hide who I am. I’m not rotting. Being open has allowed others to give me advice on how to heal without scarring badly and allow me to share what i’ve learned in hopes that I too can help someone else because I know what’s it’s like to be afraid of your own mind. I know what it’s like to feel empty, unmotivated, constantly tired, and sad. I know what it’s like to lose 35 lbs in 3 months and have no explanation for it and not be able to stomach food. I know what it’s like to not leave your bed for days.
I grew up in a household where mental health was never discussed. Opening up to my mom about my depression was incredibly difficult to explain. It’s not simply the mentality of “just be happy”. In Asian cultures, mental illness is simply not recognized as being a legitimate illness. Seeking help was probably one of the most frightening things I have ever had to do. But in time i’ve started to learn what has worked for me and what hasn’t. Having severe depression one of the first things I was prescribed was anti-depressants, which largely over the years boosted my mood to a sub-normal standard in which I felt unmotivated, unable to eat, dull, lethargic, and unable to concentrate. I spent months crippled by this and while talk therapies did help, it always felt like something was missing out of my life.
A few weeks ago, I had the thoughts that I needed to try something new. I picked up running. I’ve never been the best long distance or fastest runner but that first day, I just picked up and ran with no goal in mind aside from just wanting to sweat it out and ran 2km without stopping.
For me, life is all about setting those small goals to propel yourself forward, my goal will be to run in my first 10k in the fall. For years I told myself I wasn’t good enough to run, so instead I would convince myself that I was too busy/ chubby/ slow/ tired and a million other excuses to avoid doing it and what hurt me the most were the people that would doubt my ability to do it. The comments of “oh, you wouldn’t like it” or “you wouldn’t be able to keep up with me” or even “you’re not fit enough to do it” would eat away at me and discourage me from even trying.
I think one of the most rewarding parts of running has been my ability to motivate myself, to push through obstacles, and to reach those little milestones. When I get in my true zone, nothing matters. How my body looks doesn’t matter. How badly my heart hurt doesn’t matter. How tired I am doesn’t matter. How fast I go doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I keep going and keeping pushing through the voices telling me to slow down or stop just because. I don’t run for other people, I run for me.
Running is so beautifully simple and freeing. When I run, there are no to-do lists, no deadlines, so stress, no drama, no phone calls or texts. I can think and process through anything that’s been on my mind. Or I can turn my mind off and let the rhythm of my breath and my feet carry me or focus on the music and pushing through the run. When I run, I am safe. Nobody can bother me or hurt me when I run. The weight of the world is lifted, just for that time being. And I find joy in that. In that ability to be by myself for that time and to show my self the care and attention that I sometimes often forgot to give myself being locked in the school mind set and working part-time. Bu now when I run, there is freedom, even for that sliver of my day. There is freedom from all of life’s stresses. The only things that exist are me, the roads, and my perseverance.
Being a nursing student i’ve learned self-care is the most important care. I need to show my body and mind some love before I can care for others. It’s not always easy though, nursing school is incredibly draining on the mind, body, and takes a toll on my emotional well-being. But a healthy mind is important and in order to do well I need to put me first and take care of my own needs.
Since i’ve started running I everyday I now tell myself, “I can do this” and deep down I know I can and I never want my depression to allow me to miss another day of living ever again. I look forward to waking up and staying determined to be the best version of myself. Running outside is now my favorite part of my day and something I look forward to and crave doing.
What i’ve learned so far about running is that there is no size requirement to be a runner. All you need is a determined heart and a good pair of kicks.