How Running, in Part, Saved My Life

Sorry to bring the room down, but it’s time to step back a bit and address some serious issues in light of recent news of the tragic passing of Robin Williams.

Depression was not a stranger to me, but much like Dexter, it was a Dark Passenger. It’s actually been a part of my life for a very long time, and I know all too well how enticing Its grip can be, how it can lull you into your own private world of complete hopelessness and despair, and how everything around you seems gray, miserable, and without meaning. I have dealt with it since I was a teenager, and even when I was married and the world around me couldn’t have been rosier, I still felt this sense of sadness and despondency that I couldn’t quite shake. It was very easy to just stare at a wall for hours and feel nothing. Think about suicide. Think about nothing else BUT suicide. Feel totally useless and no good to anyone. The world would never miss me if I checked out. What’s the point of living? What’s the point of anything? Depression really had a grip on me and I never thought I would be free from It. Even with an amazing and loving husband and family, good friends, and a lot in life to be thankful for, I still felt this hollow nothingness inside me that couldn’t be filled. I would shed tears for no reason, and felt like the flood of sadness could never cease. It was like Depression was winning, and It oftentimes seemed to have the upper hand.

Years ago I decided to take up running.  All it took was a song while walking on the treadmill at the gym, Iggy Pop’s “Little Know It All”. I can’t say why, but it just made me want to burst into a run and keep going, and I assure you I  was never, ever a runner before this. That feeling, that explosion of energy, was euphoric, it lifted something inside me that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I kept up with it. Running definitely wasn’t easy at first, and it was one of those things that I needed to get INTO to appreciate, but once I got into it, and once I really devoted myself to it…I honestly feel like it changed me. I felt different… lighter… happier. Running became my sanctuary, the trails were like a church and being alone on the trails was like conversing with nature and connecting with unseen, greater things that I didn’t understand. It molded me into someone stronger after years of self-hatred, anxiety, sadness and self-doubt.  I felt joy again! I could laugh again, and provide laughter for others. Running was something that I feel helped to save my life. Not only running, but obviously the love, patience and support from my husband, family and friends who knew of my struggles. But thank goodness these things convened into one bright, shining force that drove away the darkness, much like a Harry Potter’s Patronus.

When people struggle with depression, it’s something that you can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. I know how it feels to be surrounded by love and positivity, yet feel completely sad, dejected and alone at the same time. I totally know how it feels to be loved…and to not love and accept myself. I feel to love oneself is truly one of the final steps in being freed from the bonds of depression.But it’s easier said than done, and oftentimes can’t be done alone.

I can only hope that Williams’ tragic passing will raise more awareness about depression and suicide, and get people the help they need. We can no longer gloss over depression and act as if people are just “sad” or “weak” when they are struggling so desperately, drowning in a sea of despair . Depression is very real, very crippling, and very deadly. And if you don’t understand that, and think of it as pure weakness that people “can’t get over it” and move on with their lives, then you really need to do some soul-searching. You really need to think long and hard about the kind of person you are, and the kind of compassion you are lacking. It’s not as simple as a light switch that you can turn off and on. I know this. It a hard road to overcome.

If you suffer from depression, please seek help in any way you can. Help can be found in a variety of ways, and not every means of treating depression is the same for every individual. Depression is not something to be ashamed of, and it’s not something you in which you should hide.  If you know someone with depression, or have a sense that someone you love could be struggling with it, reach out to them. Let them know their value to you, let them know you care. Listen. Learn. Love. And most of all, be patient. It’s not an easy thing to conquer and the walls don’t come down in a day.

It takes a lot of strength to pull oneself out of the grip of depression, and while I sometimes still find It looming dangerously at my back, I simply do what I can to outrun it. In this way, in part, running saved me and allowed me to live my life again. Most importantly it helped me learn to love myself, something that I struggled with for decades.  That in itself I look back upon as miraculous.

Be well.

And lastly, thank you, Robin Williams, for providing a lifetime of laughter to so many. You will not be forgotten, but remembered with fondness, laughter, and smiles.  You will be missed.