Oh, honey — I can feel the disappointment and anger you feel at yourself, weighing you down like an anchor. The silent accusation of “you let yourself go!” and “how can you go from marathoner to someone who can barely run a mile without walking?” And you know what? Those regrets, those recriminations — they don’t serve you. They serve no purpose other than to drag yourself down.
In October of 2011 you ran a 4:09 marathon. And that was awesome, right? It took a lot of work and you were rightfully proud of your accomplishment. But remember the life you had outside of running? You hid from people, you curled up and cried, sad for no apparent reason. You knew you had friends, but your heart wouldn’t believe. You took your heart’s word as gospel, sure that no one cared, except perhaps the dogs who relied on you for food and walks.
What you didn’t understand yet, was that depression was covering you like a cloak. And you know what else you didn’t understand? That depression is a liar. A damned, bastard liar.
You allowed yourself to spiral downward, becoming even more reclusive and unhappy. Food became your best friend; the cookies didn’t care that you were an awful person and they always helped make you feel fulfilled — or at least filled — in a way that you could find through no other avenue.
You spent a year like this — a deeper, darker version of the personality that you’ve always carried around inside — but then in the fall of 2012 you finally reached for a lifeline and started seeing a therapist. And then, just a bit later, your therapist (who wasn’t really a good fit, but was a nice person) started insisting that you think about trying antidepressants. “How can it be worse?” she said. And you had no good answer, only excuses.
It felt like giving up; like admitting that you were utterly broken instead of just someone who needed some sort of attitude adjustment. You resisted for awhile, but then — finally — you couldn’t escape the truth of this simple saying: do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got. And what you had always gotten was depression of some sort — therapy revealed that depression had been a shadow following you throughout most of your life, sometimes disappearing for awhile, other times covering you so completely that you could barely see.
So, with more than a belly full of anxiety, you started on antidepressants. And it felt like they weren’t doing much, really. It wasn’t like you took them and immediately became happy and healed. But over time, your subconscious started nudging you a little bit … “hey … you didn’t cry at all this past week” … or “look at that … you initiated plans with friends” …. “what do you know, it seems that maybe things are getting ever-so-slightly better.”
And that was the beginning of more than two years of doing the tough work of sorting out your emotions. It certainly wasn’t easy — as closed off as you were to other people, your soul was just as closed off to yourself, but once the meds kicked in the debilitating fog of depression was no longer there, whispering in your ear, and that made the difference. No, life wasn’t immediately awesome, but at least you were dealing with facts and truths and doing what had to be done to challenge the insidious habits and opinions that depression caused you to form about yourself.
Whether you meant to do it or everything else was all that you could handle, those two years had very little exercise and a lot of emotional eating. And, ironically, in its own way, this was probably for the best. Before you had buried your feelings in sweat and muscle aches and working hard enough to blot out any sort of thoughts, but now — now, you had to face all this shit head on. You always thought exercise was the cure, but in fact, it was just another method you used to cover up the disaster that your head and heart were in.
So – yes – you’ve gained forty pounds. Yes, you can no longer run like you used to. Yes, you have an honest-to-goodness belly. But you know what? Those things don’t matter. Even if you were a hundred pounds heavier, you’d still be a great person, one worthy of love and affection. And what did you get in exchange for those forty pounds? Self-awareness by the bushel and a never-ending supply of mindfulness — two things that are worth more than their weight in cookies.
Not only that, but you have a much better idea of what makes you tick and why you are the way you are. One big step — you acknowledged your depression. Accepted that there’s just something about your brain chemistry that doesn’t run quite right. And that it’s okay and taking medication to control it doesn’t make you less than or not enough. It just means that you’re smart enough to recognize when you need help — no one gets through this life without some sort of assistance.
Laura, you should be damn proud of yourself. Look at all the work you’ve done! Look at all the progress you’ve made! Gaining pounds is nothing when weighed against your successes. You’ve put yourself in a position to go after both physical and mental happiness, which isn’t somewhere you’ve ever been before. You know how much you like to sweat — you’re now in a place where exercise can be used for growth instead of repressing feelings — so, find your passion, whether it be running or mountain biking or something entirely different. You’re not back at square one — you’re simply at the start of a new and different game.
Now go out there and let go and LIVE. Enjoy life and wring every drop of joy out of it. Whether that includes getting back into shape or settling down into a life of reading and writing, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is a happy and healthy body and soul, and an appreciation for every blessing in your life. Because you’ve got a lot of them and remember — you deserve them.
PS – Next week I’ll be back to my snarky, normal self AND I’ll be giving away stuff! Yes – FREE STUFF!!