it’s harder to cry when you’re running

*WARNING: Heavy, touchy-feely stuff ahead. If you’re just hoping for a laugh, click here or here.

Well, I couldn’t start your week with a post about DEPRESSION, so I decided to wait until Tuesday. It’s a good thing, too, because I’m feeling better anyway. Several people have asked me about this depression-thing since I’ve mentioned it a few times lately, so I will try to clarify.

For those of you who might think depression is just a bunch of hoo-ha or is an example of “White People Problems,” well…the thing is…I get it. When I’m not depressed, I think those things, too. Then, when I am depressed, or even come close, I think, Oh, shit. I forgot this is REAL.

Interesting observation: The people who have either been through depression themselves or been around me when I’m depressed have asked: “Is it coming?” The people who don’t have personal experience with it ask, “Are you sure you’re not just a little down?”

The answer to both of these is: “I don’t know.” First of all, past experience shows me that I don’t really know I’m in a depression until I’m out of it. Second of all, past experience shows me that “a little down” sometimes leads to “can’t get out of bed” and this is what makes me more terrified than other people of feeling “a little down.”

There are all sorts of suspected causes and treatments and preventative measures for depression. I’m interested in learning about them when I’m well. When I’m depressed, I’m only interested in getting better. Either that, or dying. I’m not being sarcastic or lighthearted. While I’ve never considered or attempted suicide, I have thought, many times, “I might be the first person who has died from despair and that would be OK.”

This post would be way too long if I wrote everything I have to say about depression, so I’ll just say this: I have both genetic and environmental factors that contribute to depression. I experienced depression a good ten years before I understood what it was. Being pregnant and having the twins made it significantly worse, yet, ironically, gave me a tangible reason to get better. I firmly believe in a mind-body connection and understand the resistance many people have to medication. I also believe that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Right now I’m taking a small dose of an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant drug (a serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor for those of you who understand this) and working with a therapist on “self-care,” which means sleeping, exercising, meditating, eating, etc…. The sorts of things that seem to come automatically and easily to some people that become debilitating for me when I’m all fucked up. (Pardon me, Mr. and Mrs. W, for the lack of a better description.)

Here is a post I began last week, that I couldn’t finish. For whatever reason, I have woken up the last two days with peace, clarity, and energy and can finish it now.

4-11-12

Katie,

I was hoping I’d feel better by now, but I don’t. Not really. I’m hesitant to say I have sunk, but I do feel like I’m sinking. It makes blogging scarier than usual because I feel like my old companion, Depression, has been rough on our friendship in the past. Depression is rough on all my relationships in such cruel, paradoxical ways. It makes me irritable and then the people I love, who normally don’t irritate me, do. It makes me negative and tells me no one wants to listen to my negativity. I get angry or, more passively, feel anger, which isn’t so normal for me. All of this—the irritability, negativity, and anger—cause me to isolate myself and then I feel dropped (to use a cycling term) and alone. It’s a vicious cycle that gets hard to break.

So far, blogging has been part of my “practice,” in the same way running, meditation, and yoga have. I love the idea that meditation is just practice; it takes the pressure off from feeling like you fail if you aren’t getting it right. I practice mediation on a regular basis when things are going well so that the routine feels familiar and safe when things aren’t going so well. I think this is probably why runners are often so methodical and sometimes called “obsessive” about their sport. It’s the same for most people, I think, about whatever their rituals of choice are. It’s so comforting to slip into a state of mind that feels like home. When I went through training to be a flight attendant, one of my instructors told us, if we begin to melt down in times of stress, to stop and brush our teeth. It’s a ritual that has become so automatic, we sometimes do it without even thinking. When the mind is stressed, it needs this sort of automatic, soothing, repetitive motion to bring it a sense of calm. (One time, back when I was single, I got super-stoned at a friend’s house and grabbed the nearest toothbrush. I went to town on my teeth, which helped, but my friend’s roommate, the owner of the toothbrush, was pissed.)

Anyway. So far, blogging has been practice. But when we started this, I knew a time might come when it would be harder to share my thoughts with you and our readers. Most of the time, I feel like I could write all day. But sometimes, the words are slower to come or feel like they aren’t there at all. I promised myself, even during those times, I would try—keep practicing—as hard as I could to be honest and real.

I’ve been going to weekly sessions with my therapist. She mentioned recently that we may want to give the bi-polar diagnosis another look. I said that it’s possible I’m on the spectrum, but I want to be on as little medication as possible. I’ve cut way back on anti-anxiety meds, and am hoping to cut back on my anti-depressants altogether. We came to a mutual agreement that I should have time to re-establish my “self-care,” which has gone by the wayside with the move.

So I pretty much forced myself to the gym at the Y this morning, to get in a run. Outdoors is almost always better for me, but the treadmill lets me put Sola in childcare and work up a sweat. It seemed harder than usual to get there this morning. I didn’t like the way someone had parked their minivan in a “compact car” space. It felt like a slap in the face of humanity. The regular worker at the child center was gone and her sub seemed harsh to me. I didn’t like that she was focused on making a child who is new say “please.” By the time the Russian woman at the towel counter gave me a hard time for asking for two towels, I was ready to burst into tears. I saw my reflection rushing past the mirrored weight room. The woman I saw looked tired. Sad. Unattractive—no—ugly.

I have a routine on the treadmill at the Y. I walk a half-mile at 4.0 mph before settling into a 5k run. I’m not a fast runner: I start at a 6.0 mph pace (about a 10-minute mile) and vary the pace, going up or down when I feel like it. Today, when I got up to 6.0 mph, I still felt like I could cry at any moment. I decided that I would increase the speed by .2 mph (I’m an even-number person, unless I’m hanging pictures) until I didn’t feel like crying. I went to 6.2. I settled in for a bit. I felt like crying. I went to 6.4. I settled in for a bit. I still felt like crying. I kept going, pausing at each increase for a minute or so, until I reached 7.4 mph.

By then, my legs and lungs and arms and mind felt like they were wild and on fire and could tear down the Palo Alto YMCA board by board.

And I didn’t feel like crying.

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25 thoughts on “it’s harder to cry when you’re running

  1. Maria, A friend of mine struggles with depression: She like you is very creative. She loves this quote…. ( I don’t know the author) “Depression is often the KEY that unlocks creativity”…. a lot of really talented, creative people are in your boat….I know it sucks, but it sometimes comes with the territory……..

  2. Keep running girl! It sounds like you are doing everything you can, and all I can say that might be of any comfort to you is that I love your writing (both of you ladies) Your journey, struggle, and honesty about it will probably help many today just from this post.

    • I made a pact with myself to be straightforward about my struggle on this blog with hope that even one person might not feel alone. Thanks for the encouragement. I look forward to your posts everyday. 🙂

  3. I might say this wrong (don’t you love when comments start with that?) but I wouldn’t say depression has been rough on our friendship. It just outed some arguments that might have stayed under the surface for awhile if you hadn’t been depressed. Either way, I think suffering through the tougher stuff of life has made our friendship stronger– not weaker. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I also wanted to tell you that I’ve seen you become better and better able to handle the depression with grace, strength, and a sort of kick-his-ass-Sea-Bass-ness that I admire.

  4. I love your depression posts, which sounds sadistic, but I promise it isn’t. I love them because they make me feel like I’m not “the only one.” I have never sought medical consultation or help for what I suspect might be depression in myself, but this year – in January, actually – is the closest I’ve ever gotten. I hemmed and hawed for a while, and by the time I was done making up excuses or saying, “I’ll just wait a bit longer,” things had gotten better. But your posts are so encouraging to me. And maybe next time it comes around I’ll have the courage to make that appointment. Thanks, as always, for your honesty.

    • That does sound a little sadistic, now that you mention it. 🙂 I’m glad things got better. Please let me know in the future, now that we are virtual friends. The hardest, cruelest thing is that when you need help most, you are often unable to get it by yourself

  5. I love your depression posts as well. I appreciate your authenticity and appreciate that your visits to the dark places require you to be so. I love that depression doesn’t allow us to fake anything. I read a book that gave me my first opportunity toward respecting our mental illness. Have you read it? http://www.amazon.com/An-Unquiet-Mind-Memoir-Madness/dp/0679763309. I also love this: (it reminds me to thank God for sporadic episodes of mental health)

    The Orange
    Wendy Cope

    At lunchtime I bought a huge orange–
    The size of it made us all laugh.
    I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave–
    They got quarters and I had a half.

    And that orange, it made me so happy,
    As ordinary things often do
    Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
    This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

    The rest of the day was quite easy.
    I did all the jobs on my list
    And enjoyed them and had some time over.
    I love you. I’m glad I exist.

    Source: Good Poems and selected by Garrison Keillor

    • CB, where have you been!?!? I figured I’d offended you at some point…So glad to see your comment.

      The book looks excellent. I will check it out. I’ve only been able to get through “Darkness Visible” so far. I usually don’t want to read about depression when I’m depressed and when I’m not, I’m still hesitant, as I’m afraid it could influence what I write too strongly.

      Anyway, thanks also for the poem. I love Garrison Keillor. It also reminded me of a poem from the opposite end of the spectrum. Not to be more of a downer than I already am right now, but I find this description breath-taking and awe-inspiring, still:

      Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
      Amiri Baraka

      Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
      The ground opens up and envelopes me
      Each time I go out to walk the dog.
      Or the broad edged silly music the wind
      Makes when I run for a bus…

      Things have come to that.

      And now, each night I count the stars.
      And each night I get the same number.
      And when they will not come to be counted,
      I count the holes they leave.

      Nobody sings anymore.

      And then last night I tiptoed up
      To my daughter’s room and heard her
      Talking to someone, and when I opened
      The door, there was no one there…
      Only she on her knees, peeking into

      Her own clasped hands

      source: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/baraka/onlinepoems.htm

  6. I’ve been hiding. Someone commented on the last post I made and it allowed it to hurt my feelers. I put my big-girl panties on and came back to play. Thanks for the poem. I like most that it offers two characters. Sometimes I am the one, sometimes the other, sometimes both.

  7. I have been in that darkness. Twice. It is a scary, lonely place. But as you know you will get through it. That your energy and thoughts will begin to shift. Have patience. Watch the change and be grateful for it. Do all the things you’re doing. For me, medication is a part of my self care. Last year was the worst and best year of my life. I flourished the most because I came from such a low place. So glad to have found peace (and the right balance of medication!). I would love to talk more about this by email if you’d like sometime. (My mom is bi polar so I get that too. Ugh.). I think that you writing about it is therapeutic for both you and your readers. I love the visual of you running on that treadmill, chasing the sorrow. You are strong.

  8. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past 8 years, which was enough to give me depression.I developed it at the age of like 24,soon after i got married, and while i was expecting.Afterwards, raising my two kids seemed like an uphill task,with people, friends and family keeping their expectations from me, i felt i couldn’t meet them.It’s also 8 years since i have developed depression.
    I am pretty tactful in facing it now, so i don’t like sharing with people that i am a patient, because through my outlook, words and behavior i would like to be more of a doctor, who tries to heal others, beaming and passing on the message of happiness and comfort around.But i wanna relate to you so that i can help you in some way.

    Some of my personal tips:(Hope they can help you)

    *If you cannot put yourself to sleep, plug in earphones in your ears, listen to some slow, soft soothing music,thinking about something nice with closed eyes.Bang!I am asleep in a jiffy!

    *The trick is doing something else in the meantime.If you’re feeling awful, don’t sit idle, indulge yourself in something which is convenient to do, and which is of your interest.Convenient because i know depression gives you extreme lethargy.Examples:Gardening,a long drive(Without you on the driving seat), watching a comedy movie, dancing, laughing, smiling, holding your kids close to you in your lap, massaging, painting, reading inspirational books, talking with someone you can rely on to listen to you for as long as you want them….

    * Learn to appreciate the fact that there are people almost dying with bundles of diseases to bear, in worst conditions than us, and honoring your condition, because it could have been worse.

    *Drive out energy and define the purpose of coming back to life within your family especially kids.The whole world can come around but they can’t survive if their mother’s sick and cannot fight her condition.They depend on you.They are the reasons for you, to try to get better and emerge victorious against depression,.

    *Try to be more compassionate than you are.Helping and caring for others, feeling their pain, doing goodness gives an inner satisfaction which is unmatched!

    *If you feel like crying, DO!Don’t bottle up your feelings, but after that,try cheering you up.

    *Everyday take a few hours out for YOURSELF.Depression is your mind & body begging you for attention.

    🙂

    • Thanks for your considerate reply. I’m sorry to hear that you have struggled. However, I like to think there is a way to identity oneself as being someone who suffers from depression and still have “tact.” Depression is nothing to be ashamed of and there is a place for being honest and real in your quest to heal others. No one can be strong all the time. I believe the more honest we are with one another about this, the more real we are, and the more this can lead to the compassion you seek to spread.

  9. Your posts about depression have been a huge eye opener for me. Growing up I struggled tremendously with depression. In high school I felt completely invisible, sometimes I still do. I often wondered if I disappeared into space if anyone would even notice, let alone care. I would watch girls like you (popular, beautiful, cheerleaders) and wonder why couldn’t I be one of them? Surely if I was I wouldn’t feel so miserable and alone. Perhaps I would look forward to each new day instead of cutting my arms and wrists just so I would feel something, anything. I never imagined that someone that I thought had it all might be struggling with The Monster of Depression. Thank you for being honest and sharing your feelings. I wish more people would be brave and speak openly about depression, it helps others not feel quite so alone.

    • Oh, L, thank YOU for the encouragement. No one has it all. Depression doesn’t care what you look like or who loves you. I hope you find peace in your journey. If you’ve settled into thinking you can manage or keep going and you’re suffering, it doesn’t have to be that way! But I also know the hardest part is getting help. Let me know if there’s anything I can do. mariapolonchek@gmail.com.

  10. Pingback: Savor It! | Una Vita Bella

  11. Random clicks brought me here. I was really looking for something lighter, but it’s helpful to read my own thoughts in somebody else’s words. Once, I tried to describe to some friends those little things that make me want to cry. They’ve always known me as a funny and aloof person. (Aloof because I just can’t stand subjecting people to me when I’m not feeling right.) There were a variety of reactions that I got, but one stuck with me. I was told, I was being depressing and I should stop being like that. As if it were that easy. Later that night, I cried. I didn’t want to be that person, but didn’t know how to stop being him either. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for sharing, as well. I’m glad the clicks worked out. I try to balance the heavy with light, but…it’s life, I guess.

      That’s one of the worst parts, isn’t it? That you know how you must seem. Excruciating self-awareness. No wonder isolation is a “symptom.” I hope you’ve found peace, Andy.

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