Warning: This post is going to get a little deep. And a little long.
I’ve had a rough year…
I had to start seeing a therapist this spring. I felt awful – my absolute lowest. I was exhausted, angry, tightly-wound, worried, unfulfilled and felt so judgmental and hateful toward myself and other people. Physically I felt run-down, and I slept. A lot. Except for when I couldn’t sleep, and then I was a strung-out hot mess.
When this new therapist asked why I was seeking out therapy, my response was that since I can remember, I’ve always felt a low-grade level of dissatisfaction with my life. I’ve had moments of happiness, fun, and joy, but overall I always sink back into an unhappy, unenthused, and disengaged fog. I actually felt like I was living my life in a foggy landscape, with limited visibility in all directions. Even worse, I felt like an inactive participant in my own life… along for the ride, not leading the parade.
I was deeply depressed.
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) as a teenager and told that it’s the most difficult type of anxiety to treat due to the fact that anything can be a trigger. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines GAD as, “… characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things/…/They anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues.” Yes, that’s real for me. I overthink and worry about everything – I’m the Queen of What-if Scenarios. But the thing that I’ve used as a crutch for years was that first therapist telling me it’s the most difficult type of anxiety to treat.
It’s not always as easy as slapping a smile on your face and carrying on. For people who have never experienced anxiety or depression, 1) LUCKY YOU, and 2) it must be very hard to comprehend the paralyzing inability to take control over your own life. I mean… it’s yours… you should be able to steer it in the direction you want. Right?
Not easily so.
Mental health is such a complicated thing. When the worry takes over in my head, it’s very, very hard to be the hero of my story instead of the victim. My anxiety and depression are very real things. They’re like the world’s crappiest roommates. They take up space, they’re messy, they use up your resources, and they don’t give anything back.
This year has been a trifecta of crap. I’ve had serious body image issues since gaining 30 pounds in a very short period of time due to stress. I was in an unfulfilling long-term relationship that in the last few years brought out the absolute worst person in me, which was upsetting and embarrassing. Additionally, I experienced the rapid deterioration of an opportunity that had so much potential, in an environment that can be explained in two words: Psychological Warfare. The latter two definitely fueled the fire for the former – I’m an emotional eater. It was a vicious cycle, and I felt helpless and hopeless. I was stuck in a very dark place.
Maybe these issues would be a cake walk for some people. But I’m not going to diminish how hard this year was for me. Key words: FOR ME. A bad experience, bad day, or bad year is very subjective. Just because I’m not suffering from cancer, dealing with addiction, or handling any number of other awful things doesn’t mean that my issues aren’t just as real or hard. Everyone handles stress differently.
If you’re having a tough time, I want you to remember that your suffering is no less significant than anyone else’s. Suffering is still suffering.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to start fresh on all of the things that I felt were keeping me in that dark place… it has eased the anxiety and depression significantly. Over the last five months I’ve learned to be nicer to myself. I am able to remind myself that I am valuable and I deserve recognition for the value I bring, both personally and professionally. I treat my body better… I WANT to treat my body better. It’s the only one I have!
Setting a goal for running with a finite “due date”, ie: this half marathon, has definitely helped. Running is something that I’ve grown to enjoy (most of the time… now that I have running buddies, it’s much more pleasant than running alone). I crave fresh air and being outdoors. I crave the satisfaction of logging more miles and ticking them off on my training calendar. I want to talk about it all of the time… to the point where I’m pretty sure my friends think I’m a big loser. I’m deliriously PROUD of my progress.
I’ve wanted to be a runner for several years, but it never clicked before. It always seemed so “cool” when someone told me they were a runner. My knee-jerk response was always, “Oh… I don’t have the stamina. I could never be a runner.” But this year I decided I wanted to run Disney, so I registered. Then I registered for the local half marathon just to prove to myself that I won’t die running 13.1 miles. I’ve pushed through my training and proved to myself that I can do more than I thought was possible, which is motivation to keep pushing.
I don’t think I would’ve trained for a half marathon if I were still in that relationship.
I don’t think I would’ve been able to sustain training for a half marathon if I hadn’t lost my job.
The best part about running, and this was totally unexpected, is that I don’t worry when I run. I’m too busy being present in the moment – have my lungs and legs caught up with each other? Are my legs tired? Are my feet heavy? What’s my pace? Wow… that’s faster than normal. Maybe I should slow down. Holy crap, this hill is hard. Holy crap, I made it up that hill without stopping. I’m getting better at this… let’s keep going! Writing this now, because this is the first time I’ve even given this thought, it’s very freeing to realize that the worry-wart takes a backseat when I run. That, alone, is reason enough not to give up running. I feel like I’d be doing myself a disservice.
Today, I feel better than I’ve felt since I can remember.
I was emailing with a friend the other day. I told her that since I can remember, I’ve felt like an inactive participant in my own life. I felt like I’ve been slogging through a really dark fog, with no visibility to where I’m going. Bad choices. Bad jobs. Bad relationships. Bad experiences.
But for the first time, it’s like I’m finally walking in sunlight.
It’s so pleasant. I hope this feeling never goes away.
The worrier in me keeps reminding me that it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows from here, on. But I’m taking it one day at a time.
And if you made it to the end of this post… thank you for your time and your patience.
You only have one life to live. Do yourself a favor, and let go of the things that aren’t lifting you up and helping you be the best version of you. You’ll be glad you did. I promise. And if therapy makes that process easier, don’t be shy… therapy is for the people who are strong enough to realize they need help!