The cold, icy and snowy weather this week put a wrench in my running routine. I’ve been going happily along, increasing my distance and getting in three runs a week. I’ve been less committed to my strength-training, but I do shoot for two sessions per week. But, if anything slips, it’s usually the strength-training. I just love my runs.
I’m not sure I actually love the act of running. But I love the way I feel after running, and I love the way I feel when I’m running regularly. It is a sanity-booster for me. My mood is positively impacted by being outdoors on a regular basis, and the endorphins of running provide a constant influx of feel-good chemicals. Regular running also makes me more creative. When I get in a zone while I’m running, I write all kinds of stories. Some make it to the page, but others just stay undocumented inside my mind to be penned another day. Either way, it gets my creative juices flowing.
So, when the snow started piling up this week, and the temperatures plunged my running routes into treacherous paths of slippery ice, I wasn’t as excited to head outside. I don’t mind the cold. I can dress for that. It’s the ice that has me spooked. Wednesday I took a walk with Ashok, and I almost slipped about 6 times. I used to train for marathons in the snow and ice when I lived here before, so I’ve been wondering why I’m so afraid now. Today the sun warmed us up to 40 degrees, so I was able to run. I feel much better already.
Even a short break like that can do a number on my mood. This morning I woke up filled with anxiety and was very, very sad. Depression was definitely setting in. I was delighted to see the temperature above freezing when I let Ashok out. I knew I had to run today – no matter the weather. Otherwise, I would be giving in to my depression. With the dark mood, all I wanted to do was stay home, eat chocolate and be sad. That would just lead to an even darker mood tomorrow. I took time to relax, meditate, do a yoga nidra and some deep breathing. I also volunteered at a Christmas party for the migrant workers in the area. I manned the craft table, and those kids were adorable. They lifted my spirits enough to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
I’ve continued to listen to the podcast, “The Hilarious World of Depression,” for stories of comedians and creative folks who suffer from depression. I’m very happy to report that they all have a set of tools that they use to manage their depression. Since most people are silent about their mental illnesses, I never really get to hear other people talk about their experience. It has been comforting to note that their depression never really goes away either. Apparently, if you are prone to it, then you have to learn to manage it with a variety of self-care behaviors and possibly medication and/or therapy. Depression is a gift that keeps on giving, but if you lean into it, you really can live a normal, happy life.
My depression comes and goes. I realized after this week I have to devise a better plan for exercise during the winter in Michigan, or it will be a really dark period. I recognize the numbness that is a marker that I am descending into the pit. Sometimes I am sad, but mostly I just feel numb. I walk through my days with hardly any feeling at all except irritation. And I get clumsy. I’m not paying attention, so I spill things and forget things (like my phone) and pull the lid off the blender while it’s running (like I did today). I used to comfort myself with food, too, but I seem to have gotten much better about that. It just doesn’t work for me anymore.
My toolkit is comprised of:
- Compassion for myself and acceptance that I’m down
- Reaching out to others
- Meditate or do a yoga nidra
- Reduce caffeine and sugar
My toolkit is not exactly like the toolkits of my fellow travelers on the podcast, but they have a list of self-care behaviors that they turn to when they are down. The toolkit is as individual as the sufferer, but the key is to have one and to use it. This podcast is part of a campaign called Make It Okay designed to “make it okay” to talk about mental illness. The website provides information and resources to people who have mental illness and for people who interact with victims of mental illness. If you have been silent because you think it is a weakness to suffer with depression, please check it out. Silence is not the answer.