Battle Weary, But Still Running
“If you don’t want to talk about it, you need to write on it. One way or another you have to get it out.” Despite my professional appearance (I had arrived from work to this particular appointment), my posture spoke of my perceived defeat. The proverbial white-knuckling of my own sanity over the past few weeks was undeniable as I slouched on the oversized couch, head down, staring at my hands which held several Kleenex I used to wipe away the tears that carried down my cheeks, the mascara and eyeliner I had so carefully applied that morning. My feet, elegantly clad in four inch heather gray pumps, restlessly twitched as I fought the urge to get up and walk out, leaving my therapist to sit alone in the quiet room.
Years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was put on medication to control it, however after almost six years on the meds, I requested to be weaned off. Not because they weren’t doing their job, they were. But rather, because I didn’t want to be dependent on meds, I wanted to know that I could stand on my own even in the darkest of nights. The doctor agreed to wean me off on the condition that I remained in therapy to learn how to live without pharmaceutical intervention. It was rough at first, but eventually I got the hang of it, because I was given the tools to navigate through rough spots. Five years later, I keep that appointment with the therapist every week without fail.
This past fall, without notice (because depression is not courteous and does not call ahead to make a reservation), I walked through a dark time of depression. It jumped on my back and did not let go. One month turned into two, turned into three. And in the middle of the second month, my therapist had begun to give me weekly assignments, things to focus on, designed to keep me moving forward physically and mentally. One week the goal was to eat more than 1,000 calories a day, the next week, I was to reach out to a friend and have lunch and talk about anything except for my depression. My therapist was creative and strategic. But that particular evening, she was asking me to do what I could not. Better yet, what I refused to do. She wanted me to give life to that which I had been fighting. I had to acknowledge the depression and in a way, memorialize it in writing.
I continued to stare at my hands, not saying a word, not wanting to answer her. She too sat quietly, knowing she would win the war of silence eventually. Softly, barely above a whisper, head still down, eyes focused on my hands, I told her I didn’t want to write about any of this, because to put it to paper would be admitting my struggle. It would (in my opinion) give the depression life and a ticket to rule my life. One of my trembling hands touched my face with an already damp tissue, catching the fresh tears as they fell.
“Even on your worst days training or racing, you are always honest with your coach about what happened, how you felt and how you coped or adjusted correct? Your honesty with him helps him help you become a stronger athlete. Writing on it will help you be honest with yourself strengthening your resolve to continue forward”
From me, a slight nod of agreement, without lifting my eyes to meet hers.
“You are not giving life to what’s eating you, you are giving voice to the terrified person inside you. You are saying to the depression, ‘I know you’re winning right now, but I’m not going to shrink back, I’m not going to quit.’ You’re standing your ground, acknowledging it’s existence, while denying it’s offensive to dominate you. You are pointing your finger at it and asserting, ‘I WILL prevail’.”
“…run with your heart…” I softly muttered as I dropped another used Kleenex in the trashcan at my feet.
“What did you say?”
Breathing in and slowly exhaling, head still down, I explained, “in my email signature line it says: ‘when your legs give out run with your heart.’”
“EXACTLY!” She threw both hands in the air in a bit of a victory gesture.
It’s been a few weeks since that discussion, and I have “written on it” and while things are not back to 100%, they are much MUCH better, and most importantly, I continue to move forward.
Battle weary and still a bit tender from the melee, I begin the new year unlike most. I’m not looking back at 2016 itemizing my accomplishments or bemoaning my shortcomings. Nor am I making lists of soon-to-be-broken promises/resolutions to myself. Nope, I am simply greeting the New Year grateful that the storm has begun to abate and on the other side, I’m still running.