Warning: Might be Triggering and is quite a long read.
If you’ve read my About Me page, you would know how and when I started running. However, something not a lot of people know about is one of the underlying reasons as to why I stuck with running. This post has actually been in my drafts folder for over a month as I sat around mulling over it. I haven’t share this with 90% of the people I know but after a lot of pondering, I think I feel ready to share.
Over the 21 years I’ve been alive, I’ve been diagnosed with a handful of things. Luckily, I was not diagnosed as crazy but you might as well have when you added everything up. However, that’s a whole different can of worms and today I want to share this instead: back in 2010, I was diagnosed with depression.
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines depression as…
Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood—the way a person feels. Mood impacts the way people think about themselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around them. This is more than a ‘bad day’ or ‘feeling blue.’ Without supports like treatment, depression can last for a long time.
Signs of depression include feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, guilty, or anxious a lot of the time. Some feel irritable or angry. People lose interest in things they used to enjoy and may withdraw from others. Depression can make it hard to focus on tasks and remember information. It can be hard to concentrate, learn new things, or make decisions. Depression can change the way people eat and sleep, and many people experience physical health problems.
Age and sex can also impact how people experience depression. Males often experience anger or irritability rather than sadness, which can make depression harder for others to see. Young people and older adults may experience lasting changes in mood that are mistakenly dismissed as a normal part of growing up or of aging.
I felt that I had been struggling with depression for a while but was not diagnosed until after my mother’s death when it got worse. I felt like it was a huge step for me, seeking help, but there were people around me that belittled my depression and there was still a stigma attached to it in my family. After seeking help, I was placed on anti-depressants. At first, seemed to work, I was able to get myself out of bed in the mornings, I stopped waking up every day at 3am, I started going back to my classes, I started seeing my friends again, and I was feeling a bit happier. Unfortunately, my family doctor wasn’t doing that great of a job monitoring me (I was very good at hiding that I was unhappy for a long time from him so he didn’t think much of it…we have a complex relationship) and the side effects of the medication was getting to me. I started feeling worse and worse, until one day, I did something I shouldn’t have done, I let the side effects get to me, I’m slightly embarrassed about my actions but at the same time, I feel like I shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed.
So what does all this have to do with running? Well after spending the night at the hospital and practically failing my exam the next day (year 1 psych. midterm #1, 52%, I ended up dropping to course), I made the decision to stop taking the medication. I stopped speaking to my family doctor about it and he’s never brought it up. I also stopped seeing the school psychiatrist but that was a combination of a bunch of factors. So now on my own, I had to figure out my next steps. Will I fall back into old ways without my medication? Yes, I was scared of what the future held for me but at the same time, I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life after what happened.
I ended up having a chat with an old friend about how I was feeling unhappy without giving him too much detail of what was going on. He was very understanding and invited me out on a run (because that’s what runners do). We used to run together weekly when I was younger so I thought why not? I was determined to move on with my life and do something, anything, to get back on track – plus I had put on the freshmen 15 and I felt that running would be a good way for me to get rid of it. So I started making time for running. I switch to part-time status for my semester to work and to take care of myself and my mental well being. I ran almost everyday and I was starting to feel better. The adrenaline I got at the end of every run was addicting and it made me feel alive. I was happy. Running made me happy again.
Over the years, I do occasionally slip up because I am human and it happens. However, I found that running has been instrumental in keeping my mind in the place I want it to be. I usually take breaks in the winter season and I found that that is when my slip ups happen the most so last winter, I ran right through it, and guess what, a decrease in slip ups!
So there we have it. It’s all off my chest now. Welcome to my crazy life :)
(Disclaimer, just because the medication didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’m not a doctor and this is just my personal story)
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