Running with Mental Illness
I don’t ever shy away from the fact that I suffer from mental illness, but that doesn’t mean that I always reach out for help. It’s part of the disease, you feel paranoid, you feel like you’re a bother, and if you’re an athlete you think you’re tougher than this. So let’s get really personal…
I am officially diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and panic disorder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.” I was abused as a child and witnessed a lot of violence. Symptoms can fall into four categories and they vary from person to person. There are intrusive thoughts aka flashbacks, avoidance which is trying to avoid those triggers by any means necessary, alterations in mood and cognitions (I’m a bad kid, I was wearing the wrong outfit Etc.), alterations in reactivity which is reckless behavior, outburst or having extreme situational awareness. I suffer from all these things, just because the abuse is over doesn’t mean it’s over. Most people think you can just toughen up and move on, tell them they are stupid and not helpful.
Exercise has been researched and proven to help with mental illness, now mind you I am not saying that you can run off severe depression, you need professional help but it can be a part of your treatment. But also, it is very hard to just get out and exercise when you feel like your world is on fire. It also doesn’t have to be running a marathon, it can be any movement but you’re probably wondering why I went off on this topic? Cause I spent weeks training for a half marathon, felt great, finished well, and had a plan for recovery after the race only to be hit with a wall of sadness, most runners refer to this as the runner’s blues. Some runners feel lost, have no motivation, feel sad, and are anti-social.
I had my plan, I was going to stretch, foam roll, and walk every day for a week. I found that on my walks I would start to cry for what seemed like no reason, it was just the lack of endorphins or some other chemical change. Guys, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to reach out for help, I am the worst at that, I always think I’m being a bother, but also people see me as this positive ideal, that doesn’t mean I don’t need to reach out or have people remember to reach out to me. If you have a friend who has mental health issues, reach out, you may be the reason they go on.
I kept with my plan and cried less, am I well? I’m never going to get completely better but I have some control and meds lots of meds that help me. Most importantly I want to let you know there is no shame in recognizing that you need help and you are loved but also remind me I’m loved too we all need it.