The sad news of Robin Williams' passing by suicide has caused me to reflect on my own dark past. I often share my story of overcoming diabetes with running, but I haven't shared the entire story. Running also helped me overcome numerous emotional and psychological hurdles. Throughout high school, college, and after, I struggled with: depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and was even told that I was probably Bipolar Type 2. I used be on a lot of medications: Celexa, Effexor, Trazodone, Seroquel, Ambien, and Xanax. I had suicidal thoughts and panic attacks almost daily; I often felt like there was nothing to live for. Jake often got to hear me utter phrases like, "Well, you better say your goodbye now, because I'm going to kill myself." Or he'd see me sticking safety pins in the skin of my hands and arms. It absolutely breaks my heart to remember all of the horrible things I used to say and do when I was depressed.
I remember being ashamed of being depressed. As much as I tried to be happy, no matter how many pills I took, or how much I smiled, I couldn't force myself to get better. My junior year of high school was when I recognized something was wrong, I wrote a letter about my suicidal feelings and gave it to a teacher I trusted. Later that day, I was in the assistant principal's office. She called my mom to let her know that they were worried about me. I could hear the whole conversation. My mom said, "I thought you were calling me to tell me she was pregnant, but not this..." She was more ashamed of me saying I was depressed, than she was of thinking I was pregnant. She couldn't understand why someone who "had everything she wanted" could be depressed. I won't go into the details of the situations that caused me so much stress and grief; going down memory lane isn't something I'd like to do.
My mom took me to a counselor who had my mom and me sit in a room while she asked me things like: "Are you pregnant?" "Are you hiding something from your mom?" It was extremely awkward, I barely spoke since I felt pressured and uncomfortable. Since I didn't get the help I needed, my behavior escalated. I am deeply regretful of things I did to myself and others. After I graduated high school, I figured that college would free me from the things causing me distress. BUT... by then, the damage was done and I had already established bad coping skills and negative habits. I started to see a counselor who suggested that I try a biofeedback monitor. It helped me learn how use deep breathing to calm down my anxiety, but it was always a quick fix and as soon as I would calm down, I'd be anxious again.
After college, I had appointments with a psychologist on a bi-weekly basis. My stressful job kept pushing me to the edge. When I got pregnant with my daughter, Sara, I had to stop all of the medications I was on because they were unsafe for a fetus. I took up yoga and other activities in an attempt to remain cool, calm, and collected as much as possible. After Sara was born in 2010, I didn't want to go back on my medications, so I didn't. Slowly but surely, the anxiety attacks and depression came back. In 2012, I started running. I started finding that running helped me clear my mind. It was my "me" time, even if I was running with others. If I was in a bad mood, I'd finish running feeling relaxed. When I run, I'm focusing on my body, I'm in touch with my senses, I'm free to think about anything, I am free from stress, responsibility, expectations... free from all of the bad things that happen to good people, free from the all the negativity in the world.
When people say that running is cheaper than therapy, they aren't kidding! I'm free to think, vent, process, analyze, cope, and move on. I can't say that running alone has helped me; I've worked extremely hard to make a lot of changes in my life, habits, and communication skills. Dealing with depression and anxiety isn't easy for anyone involved. Thankfully, I've had a loving partner that helped me get through my darkest days. No matter how much I pushed back, he was ALWAYS there for me. He never gave up on me. Now I've got two beautiful, wonderful children that have given me a purpose. Seeing the world through their eyes reminds me how much fun and happiness is possible.
Running helps me release stress, it's a piece of the puzzle that helps me fight depression. It's very sad that the loss of Robin has resulted in so much controversy around depression and suicide. However, it has created an avenue for people to have an open dialogue about this difficult topic. I truly hope that those suffering with depression will see this as an opportunity to seek out the help that they need.