Hi, Still I Run Community! I’m Brett Rein, an endurance athlete currently residing in Durango, Colorado. I’m training for Bigfoot 200, a 206.5 mile, point-to-point foot race. The course has about 98,000 feet of elevation change through the remote Cascade Mountains in Washington. I am running Bigfoot to create conversations about mental health and furthermore, to help put an end to the negative stigma attached to mental illness. Here is the overall gist of my project: I would like to share people’s stories surrounding mental health anonymously on social media to create a network of support and connection while having meaningful, real conversations about life.
Finding Still I Run
In doing this, I searched on the good old Google to see what else was out there which led me to Sasha and Still I Run. I reached out to Sasha about working together on this and she asked me to share my story on her site. I’ve written more versions than I care to share which kind of got me to thinking about storytelling and the purpose of this project. On any given day, I can tell the same story in a way that is completely different in tone and style than the day before based on where I’m at that day. If I’m feeling happy or excited, that comes out in my tone. If I’m feeling depressed or anxious or alone, that can also come out in my tone. We are all the authors of our own stories and the tones they are written in. Are we victims, are we heroes? Are we positive or negative or flowery or straight-forward? We are all the authors and that is a choice we get to make every day, along with how we speak about mental health.
Mental illness hit close to home while I was growing up and had a profound impact in shaping the person I am today. Because of that, I always felt different from everyone else. I had to be the smiley person to make sure everyone thought I was happy all of the time. I felt like I had to be “perfect” and still deal with that inner-self critic who tells me “I’m not good enough” or “I’m worthless”. This brings about a lot of anxiety, especially when it comes to food and my training. I train with a massive chip (boulder) on my shoulder and that has been especially true training for Bigfoot.
Last year, I was a high school health and wellness teacher and was teaching three classes of Sex Ed when the movie 13 Reasons Why came out. Reactions from parents, other teachers, counselors, and students were pretty polarized and I found that concerning. To me, the show created an opportunity to have real conversations about some really tough topics. That scared many of the adults involved which made me feel angry. The school allowed me to speak about the show with my students and use it to open up a dialogue about mental health and other topics displayed in the show. Students were extremely receptive and grateful they had adults to speak to about these topics. When I’d tell outside people what I was doing, I would get mixed reactions. People are scared of what they don’t understand and put judgment on those differences.
The Power of Storytelling
We need to have these conversations to educate people. Hiding from them isn’t good enough. Every time we hide behind a smile, we miss an opportunity to connect and validate truth. I will share my story with this race in the hopes that you all will do the same. If you would like to share your story for my project Miles From Ordinary Storytellers, please email me at MFOstorytellers@gmail.com. I’ll respectfully share your stories with my networks! Let’s get this conversation going so we can finally be free from stigma. It is okay to not be okay!