Yesterday I participated in a half marathon in Saint Louis, an unprecedented experience for me.You can read about it here . It was one of the experiences that can only be described as wonderful and awful at the same time. Throughout the weeks of training, and again during yesterday's run, I have pondered, on many occasions, the question "why am I doing this?' I know also that there are many others who wonder the same thing. The question does not have a simple answer but there is, indeed an answer.
I have always enjoyed running, or rather, the feeling I get from running. I don't think that any runner really and truly enjoys the actual act of running, especially distance running. For years I have been an off an on runner, running when time and circumstances allowed. During the years that I was bringing up small children, I wasn't able to run much. But when Laynee died, I suddenly found myself with extra time on my hands. Time that I did not want, time that I had no idea how to fill.
As expected after the death of a child, depression seemed to be constantly trying to suck the life out of me. My doctor suggested anti depressants, which I tried, and they helped to an extent but I didn't like the way that the pills made me feel. I was terrified of the prospect of becoming dependent on medications. Because of my profession, I have come to learn that medications are widely misused. It is so easy for people to just pop a pill. I see countless patients who are on cholesterol meds and/or anti depressants. While I absolutely believe that some of these patients truly need the prescribed meds (my intent is not to shed a negative light on medication) I know also that proper diet and exercise would go a long way in helping many of our patients to feel better. Reality is that, in today's society, people like instant results and taking a pill is easier than exercising.
Depression creates a vicious cycle and I recognized this cycle in myself. After Laynee's death I didn't want to do anything. Too often I would find myself sitting, doing nothing, staring into space. The less I did, the less I wanted to do and the less I did, the deeper the depression......an ugly, vicious cycle. One that needed to be broken. I took the meds for a while but they made me feel disconnected and tired. I tried different meds but they gave me a complete "I don't care attitude." I didn't like the way I felt. And so it is that I decided to get off my rear end and get serious about exercise. A few walks and a run here and there were not enough to battle the degree of depression that Laynee's death was causing. During the winter of 2010-2011, I did a 13 week, intense exercise program called P90X. I was committed to this program and I did complete it but I can't say that I enjoyed it. Then, in early spring of last year, I committed to run in the first Tremont to Peoria St Jude run. I started increasing the length and frequency of my runs. The St Jude Run in August was a beautifully motivating experience, in addition to being for the cause of beautiful children fighting a beastly disease. The running made me feel so much better physically, emotionally and spiritually. It causes me to crave better, healthier foods, it clears my mind and helps me to sleep less fitfully at night. I suppose that I could be accused of using running as a form of "self medicating" and that's okay, I'll take that accusation. After completing the run, I began to notice that it was easy to skip out on running from time to time. Without the motivation of something to strive for, I became a "fair weather runner". Around the time of Laynee's birthday this year, I felt the depression starting to creep back in. The holiday's, her birthday, and the winter weather seem take their toll on me. I am a purpose driven person. I needed something to strive for, something to force me to get out and run. I began to entertain thoughts of running a half marathon.
I was used to running 3,4 or 5 miles but 13???? That was some serious mileage and I had no idea how to train for it. Sitting at one of Jamee's track meets with her former high school coach, I told him what I wanted to do and a couple of days later an email appeared in my inbox. It contained a half marathon training program and said, in essence "I've done my part, now you do your's," which was to say, "get out there and run." So I did.
Yesterday's half marathon was likely one of the most physically difficult things that I have ever done in my life. Running and it's many challenges closely parallel life. I will share more on this later but for now, I leave you with a challenge. If you struggle with depression, get up and do something. Commit to something that's hard. I know that you don't want to but do it anyway.
CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.