I’m just going to put this here: I am not contagious. I wouldn’t want anyone to “catch” depression. I am quirky and squirrelly. A beautiful blend of introvert and extrovert. We don’t say “I’m physically ill/incapable” when someone has a disease or disability. Person first. We identify the person first as having that disease or disability. I am a badass runner living with depression and anxiety. I am not mentally ill.
I have always been an athlete. But I hated running. Not sprinting. Sprinting never felt like running. I loved feeling like I could fly, but long distance running? I hated it with a passion. I consider, even to this day, anything over a half mile long distance running. I never thought that this completely exhausting sport would become a therapy of choice. Now, today, I train for and race distances from 5Ks to half-marathons. Oh, and my big 2019 goal? Crushing 26.2. What. The. F&*k?! Here We Go My name is Patty and I live with depression and its annoying little sibling, anxiety. I call them my squirrels. It might make sense in a little bit if it doesn’t already. My brain is quite frequently all over the place. Concentration? Nope. Sitting still? Forget it. Staying busy and always moving. BINGO! I handle everything with humor (hi, I’m the person that will laugh at you when you fall and hurt yourself and find a way that it could have been worse). Everything. I try to find the lighter side of things because I hate the dark.
Coming to Terms
With hindsight always being 20/20, I can say that my mental health journey really started when I was a freshman in high school. I knew I was wired differently than my friends and classmates but accepted it for the most part. I had learned to wear a mask and assure anyone I came in contact with that I was OK. I got really freaking good at it. Anxiety over the possibility of falling out of a theme park ride? I’m OK. Tired all the time (from the facade I was putting on)? I’m OK, I just need more sleep. Suicidal ideation? I’m OK. I. Was. Not. OK. And I didn’t want to admit it. I even made it through a wicked case of postpartum depression and I just wanted to bury it all. I lived inside the confines of my brain until my daughter was just about 2. I finally went to see my doctor after my daughter woke up hysterically crying one night. She thrashed her head back and hit me pretty hard. That resulted in me completely melting down, releasing rage and anger that I had built up. I thought I had a handle on my mental wellbeing. I told everyone I was OK, remember? Nope. The anger and rage that manifested were released on my mom the next day. Fun fact: I have a master’s degree in health psychology. I was very well aware I was depressive and anxious, but it was harder than hell to openly admit it and seek help. I was 29. It was 15 years of “I’m OK.” Mom still likes to remind me that my education should have told me I was depressed. It did, Mom. Stop throwing it at me.
Running for My Life
I initially turned to running as a way to get and stay in shape 10 years ago. Once I was super pregnant and became a mom, running was unfortunately shoved to the side and didn’t re-enter my life regularly until 2015. Running is my time to process, decompress, and turn down the volume of the static-filled TV inside my head. I can be free. FREE. Oh, what a feeling it is. I am a better wife, mother, friend, coworker… I am better. Not perfect and I don’t want to be. My daily routine of taking Fluoxetine with coffee is just as normal as taking a multivitamin. It is OK to take medication if you need it. IT IS OK. I can’t stress that enough. Running has brought me to Still I Run and an entire community from all walks of life who are among some of the most supportive and embracing people I’ve ever encountered. Because of SIR, I have become more open about my journey and quirks with depression and anxiety. I have shared my story and started to normalize the conversation in my community. Progress – one step at a time. Running has shown me that even through my quirks, I am strong. I’m a warrior. Though my armor may get heavy, I will always cross my finish line.
I’m super excited about my major running goals for 2019. I am part of a 7-person relay team representing Still I Run at the end of April (Seneca 7). I am also running my first (and only) full marathon in October (Wineglass Marathon). I’m not going to lie – the mental portion of the training and race itself is terrifying. I could be inside my own head for-ev-er. OK, not really, but seriously… how do you entertain yourself for that long? Tips are welcome! I am still learning to let some people inside my head. I’ve come up with pretty creative ways to make my squirrels relatable to people who aren’t wired like me. Like us. If you’re reading this and are having your own mental health struggles – it’s OK to ask for help. You’re stronger than you will ever know, Warrior. If you’re reading this as a mental health ally. Thank you. Thank you for normalizing the conversation; for supporting loved ones who are working through their own quirks and journeys. We’re not always easy to deal with and you’re so strong for sticking by us. Until next time… Run ‘til you fly!