The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Be honest: there are probably a few lies you’ve told yourself but don’t want to admit to. Today I’m going to come clean about two of the lies I’ve told myself in the 5 months since the NYC Marathon: 1) I wasn’t injured and 2) I don’t really want to run anymore anyway.

If you’re a regular reader, you know all about my lack of motivation after the NYC Marathon. A lot of that had to do with this injury that I didn’t want to admit to. After my post-marathon runs turned into pain fests just a few miles in, I took time off. Shortly after the New Year, I lost my job and my motivation to run. I tried to run every other week only to have that leg flare up, and soon I was in pain even when I didn’t run; shooting spikes of fire radiated from my butt to my knee while I sat on the couch or drove to the store.

I started working again in mid-March, around the same time I attempted to push through the pain for a 6 mile run to prep for my upcoming half marathon at the end of April. It was a terrible run and I had to walk last 3 miles. The resulting pain was the worst it had ever been, and left me unable to walk for a day and a half (and limping for 4 more days). That’s when I realized Truth #1: I really WAS injured.

So about 3 weeks ago I went back to my chiropractor. And he’s helping. S-L-O-W-L-Y. The work we’re doing is painful and can only be done in little bursts every few days. I’m not allowed to even try running. All the forced downtime has me frustrated. I feel weaker than I have in years. I’ve gained more weight than I care to admit. I officially dropped out of the NJ Half Marathon in April.

As a result, I’ve spent much less time on social media. So much so that I’ve lost more than 400 followers on Instagram in the last four months. Apparently, a girl who muddled her way through 26.2 miles in a pathetic 6+ hours back in November isn’t as interesting when she has to stop running and fight her way through injury, weight gain and depression. Such is life.

But not spending hours running or scrolling through my social media feeds has helped me spot those lies, along with a few other things.

One: before the marathon, I spent WAY too much time on social media. A wholly unhealthy amount of time. Many hours a week. I’d be at dinner and found myself scrolling “just a little more”, and paying attention to the real flesh and blood people in the room just a little less.

Additionally, I realized that I’ve been coping with this injury by creating lie number two: convincing myself that I don’t really enjoy running anyway.

With an injury that has no defined finish line and seems to keep coming back, I found myself – in classic depressive fashion – isolating myself from the usual injured runner banter. I stopped interacting with runner friends. I got complacent. I said meh, running isn’t all that great anyway. Which led to I’m not that great at running anyway, and ultimately, I just won’t bother with running anyway. 

I had actually convinced myself that I didn’t really like running that much after all.

Because resignation is easier than treatment and rebuilding.

Giving up is easier than doing one-legged squats to build up those glutes.

Quitting is easier than fighting through another round of soft tissue work where the doctor and the nurse each take a part of me and bend and twist and dig.

And it’s a hell of a lot easier than the work I’m going to have to do to get back into the shape I was just a half a year ago.

But yesterday, something changed. Over the weekend I traveled to Boston to cheer on my sister-in-law Meredith as she took on the Boston Marathon (and CRUSHED IT!) and spent a few hours in the hotel gym on Sunday doing squats and leg lifts and crunches and push ups and planks and swimming. Then on Monday I walked. Tuesday I was sore, but by Wednesday, I felt strong again.

Not “I can run a marathon” strong, but I didn’t wince on the stairs. My core felt tight instead of weak. I drove home from work with the windows down and realized – I can’t wait to run again. The idea popped into my head completely unbidden for the first time in months. And I smiled.

Because I know I’ll run again. It’s going to take time, and I’m going to need to do a LOT of work to get back even a fraction of the strength I lost. But I’m willing to put that work in, because I don’t want to feel weak and soft and injured anymore. I’m ready to feel strong again. I’m ready to be a runner again.

How NOT to Train for a Half Marathon

When we last hung out, I mentioned getting ready to buckle down for the NJ Half Marathon in April. At the time, I was a little concerned because life took a hard left and I went right to compensate, and training ended up going out the window. But I had high hopes.

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*how I pictured myself come race day with all the training I was going to do in the coming weeks*

Well, that didn’t happen. Things haven’t gotten much better in terms of fitting my training in, but now it’s for a super great reason: I started a new full time gig last week and am *loving it* in big capital, bold, italic letters.

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that’s my happy dance, in case you didn’t know

But all the learning and growing I’ve been doing from 9-5 has left me with just enough energy (mental AND physical) at the end of the day to crawl into pajamas, help cook and clean the kitchen up, pack my lunch for the next day and repeat the process.

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I don’t even have time for guac or rose 😦

Not to mention we got hit with yet ANOTHER snow storm last week that incapacitated the area for a few days.

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god do I miss summer.

While being burnt out from a rewarding new job that I love is an awesome problem to have, it still has me slightly fearful of what April 29th will bring.

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at the very least, I’m confident that the race course won’t be on FIRE. but I may be carrying pizzas all 13.1 miles.

Once my chances for a fully fleshed out 10-week training program went out the window, my interim plan was simple: run 3x a week M-F then run long on Sunday. But in the last 2 weeks or so, that hasn’t happened either. I didn’t hit my long run goals last weekend, which means that this weekend won’t happen either, and so on and so forth.

So we improvise. Basically, my newest plan is to just wing it, within reason. The last time I ran for about an hour I managed to get 5 miles in and felt like I could have kept going by starting super slow and working my way up, so negative splitting is the plan. This weekend I’m aiming for 6-7 miles (or 90 minutes, whatever comes first), walking as much as I need to get to the time goal. And I’ll continue to do a few additional miles/15-minute increments every weekend until race day.

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crawling, if necessary.

Beyond that? We’ll see what happens. I already know that race day is not going to be about speed or time. Those 13.1 miles will be the final exam after weeks of lessons in how not to train for a half marathon. But sometimes, life takes a turn and you’ve got to roll with it. And while things are 110% on the upswing for me at the moment, 13.1 miles is a tall order in the next 4 weeks. But I DO know I can finish, and that’s all I want to do.

Listen: you know the drill here. I run, I’m [mostly] happy, and I keep it real. Just like I did with my first marathon fail or my struggles with depression and anxiety, I’m not going to ignore or lie about these experiences I’m going through. I think it’s important that someone who may be struggling in a similar way sees that they’re not alone. If you’re in a running slump, remember – it’s not a competition. Running will be there when you’re ready to run again. I’m not worried about running again – things are balancing out more and more every day, and I find myself looking forward to my runs, which is better than nothing.

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Beyond April 29th, I’m looking forward to other races at less taxing distances where I can work my way back into fighting shape and enter the second half of 2018 stronger than I was when I started it. Because the best thing about going back to zero? When you start again, you’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Race-cations and Anxiety

Truth time: at both the Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side Challenge weekends, I had some anxiety issues.

At the Light Side races, I suffered a pretty nasty panic attack in the middle of Downtown Disney after finishing the 10K and hanging out with friends at the We Run Social meetup. I had to sit by a fountain and calm myself for 15 minutes before sitting down for dinner. I didn’t talk about it in my recaps because after it happened, I leveled off and the rest of the weekend went off without a hitch.

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I was still sniffling when I took this picture.

But then just last month, between the 10K and Dark Side Half marathon, I started feeling kind of burnt out and stretched thin. While I didn’t have a full on panic attack, things were a little bleak as I made it to the start line:

I remember filming this video as we walked to the start area, and as soon as I posted it I realized – oh no, that’s not my usually happy bubbly pre-race thing! I should delete it! But I knew it was important to share the truth, and it stayed up. And that’s why I’m writing today.

In the documentary about her and her mother that came out after their passing, Bright Lights, Carrie Fisher has a manic moment towards the end of the film and says:

“You know what would be so cool? To get to the end of my personality. And just like, lay in the sun…. I’m sick of myself.”

When I saw the film for the first time and heard Carrie say those words, I burst into tears: finally, someone had said it. At last, someone was able to put into words the feelings I’ve had for years about myself when I get anxious or depressed or have an episode. And of all people to do it, Carrie Fisher. Of course.

My anxiety levels tend to get higher when I travel, even if it’s a fun trip. And when I have a big race on the horizon,  my levels spike too. So a big race-cation is basically asking for trouble. Through trial and error I’ve learned that I need even more quiet time when this happens, and quiet time in Disney during a race weekend is hard to come by.

By the time I toed the start that morning, I was tired of running, tired of Disney, and tired of myself. Just like Carrie. But I managed to run my way through it – literally – and come out the other side, just like I have every other time. It’s painful, and it’s not easy, but there you have it.

Just like I always say when talking about these things, remember: this is only my personal experience. Whatever you’re going through, take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone goes through the same things, but I wanted to share for folks who might experience similar issues and show them that they’re not alone.

How about you: have you ever experienced anxiety while traveling or in the lead up to a big race? How do you cope? 

I’m an Altra Ambassador!

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, this technically isn’t *news*, but I had to share here because it’s that exciting: I’ve been named a 2017 Altra Ambassador!

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I’ve been a fan of Altra since I discovered them last year before the Runner’s World Half & Festival. In the weeks leading up to race weekend, I experienced a nasty plantar fasciitis flare up combined with a Morton’s neuroma that made the last 7 miles of the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half marathon 7 miles of excruciating pain. But within 10 minutes of switching to Altra’s, the numbness and pain was relieved – and I haven’t looked back since.

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I wrote a love story (er, product review) about the Paradigms if you want more technical info on these shoes, but suffice it to say I’m a total convert. Case in point: I lived in them during my Star Wars Rebel Challenge weekend. I raced in a different pair of Paradigms both days, then switched into the super-cute Tokalas for walking around the park and non-running fun:

It’s a huge honor to be in this group – these folks are super dedicated, thrill-seeking, ultra running athletes to their very cores, and just seeing what they’ve done with Altra inspires me to be the best I can be every day.

If you have any questions about what makes Altra so special, feel free to ask – I’m always happy to share the love!

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.

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Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.

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but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.

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Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.


At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.

 

Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.

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My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama ❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.

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Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!

Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

Make Stuff Happen

I’ll write a full post about last night’s 2nd acupuncture appointment this weekend, but long story short: it was another home run. We started treatment on my knees and while the affects aren’t as immediately as apparent there, he did continue to work on my anxiety and over-eating pressure points, and those two areas of my life still feel like they’re in perfect harmony for the first time in more than a year. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to keeping it up throughout this winter, especially now that we’re about to be hit with a snowstorm that will keep me in my house (where the junk food is) for the next 48+ hours.

After my appointment I went to bed at my normal time and slept so soundly that I didn’t open my eyes again until they popped open at 5:45 all on their own. It was like a switch was flipped and I went from “OFF” to “ON” and I was ready for anything. So I decided that instead of rolling over and fighting to get back to sleep for one more measly hour, I’d go to the gym for one last run before the snow keeps me in the house for the next 48-72 hours.

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Evidently only about 6 other people had the same idea. Nutjobs.

I wasn’t going out for any records with these miles – while not technically junk miles, they were more of a test to see how my knees would fare after their first acupuncture treatment. My doc had warned me that they might still be tender but harmless, so I wanted to see for myself what that meant.

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The earlier the workout, the louder my tights get.

As it turns out, I barely felt a difference at all – at least I experienced no NEGATIVE side effects. I hopped right on my favorite corner treadmill, turned on my tunes (the same random rockin’ playlist from the Joe K 10K) and after only about 3 minutes of warming up, I broke into a smooth 11:32/mile pace and stayed there for 2 solid miles. Not bad!

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The extra time was that silly warm up – I need to remember to stop and re-start to get accurate times on the treadmill!

I could have kept going. I even had about another 10-15 minutes, enough for another mile, but I just couldn’t help myself – the sunrise was too inviting, and I decided to do something different and shake up my routine.

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Could you stare at that and not want to go out and breathe it in??

I hopped in my car, pulled out of the gym and into the park’s parking lot (they’re right next to each other) and drove right to the edge. I parked, walked out to the beach, and just breathed in the frozen air while the sun rose before me.

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It was super cold – about 18 degrees – but I couldn’t help myself. I stood there like a fool for those full extra 10 minutes, smiling the whole time. It felt so good.

It hit me then that I never would have seen this – never would have felt this peace, gotten this fresh air – if I hadn’t gotten up out of bed and moved. I was so tempted to roll back over and sleep another hour. But that’s not what this whole thing is about, is it?

Too often we complain about not having time to make stuff happen. We’re “too” everything. Too tired, too busy… But after riding an emotional roller coaster for the past few months, I’ve realized that the only way to make shit happen is to make it happen YOURSELF.

No one is going to walk up to you with a free hour and tell you to do whatever you want. You need to make the time. Sure, you’re not going to feel like climbing out of bed an hour early. But once in a while, if you push yourself to do something that’s not on the schedule or that takes you off your usual course – even for 10 minutes – you just might surprise yourself.

My First Acupuncture Session

After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??

I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.

Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?

Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.

So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!

But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??

It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!

He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.

Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.

I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.

I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!

So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.

And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.

I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.

Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.

So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!

Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!

You’re the Best

First off: I didn’t realize that yesterday’s post would start a chain reaction of warm wishes and personal story sharing that totally turned my day – hell, my MONTH – around.

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Thank you all so much for your comments, emails, texts, Facebook posts, etc – each new note brought a smile to my face (and yeah, some tears too, because I’m still a little weepy). You guys are really the best out there. The fitness community is so much like a family, and it’s so comforting to know that when things get dark, just throwing a tiny lifeline of a blog post out there into the ether will sound the alarm and bring me a world of sunshine.

To answer your next question: I AM feeling a bit better, every hour and every day. Thank you! The old saying to “fake it till you make it” is my unofficial mantra these days, and it’s working. It’s good being back at work where my brain is busy and doesn’t have time to focus on negative thoughts. I’m trying not to numb myself in front of the TV and pushing myself to do little tasks like clean out my home office and reorganize photos. I went swimming and did yoga last night to keep my  body moving, and it felt GREAT.

But when I tried to run again yesterday, it was extremely slow going – while I felt like I was pushing at full intensity, I was only going about 13:00/mile, which was soul-crushing to see. So I’m instead focusing on getting my blood pumping in other ways, any way I can manage. What this will do to my performance in this weekend’s race, I’m not sure. I’ll try to run today and tomorrow, even a mile. But come Saturday morning, I aim simply to finish. Those Central Park hills are unforgiving, and everything is an effort when I feel like this. I set some big goals when I signed up for this race a few months ago, but when life gets in the way and puts a roadblock there, you’ve got to adapt and overcome any way you can!

So thank you all once again for your kind words, for sharing your stories, and your heartwarming support. It really means the world to me to have you with me on this crazy ride!

Climbing Out of a Black Hole

I try to keep things 100% real here, but it’s hard when things get tough. I mean, the title of my blog has “happy” in it. If I’m not happy, what am I? But this is my blog after all, so here goes:

When I started this fitness journey back in 2004, I was more than 100 lbs heavier & suffered from crippling anxiety, OCD, and depression. My hands would crack and bleed from over-washing and some days I couldn’t even leave my dorm. With 5 years of exercise, therapy, medication, and a healthier diet, I managed to find my way out of that hole. And even though I managed to wean off the OCD medicine (and haven’t had an episode in years), I will occasionally fall back into that hole.

Which is where I’m at right now.

For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been in an emotionally bad place. The best way I can describe it is like I’ve been watching a movie of my life. Some days it takes a huge effort just to get out of bed. A few days, I slept 18+ hours and have had no motivation to do anything. One day my husband had to physically pull me out of the car to take a walk at the park, and all I wanted to do was cry the whole two miles. At holiday gatherings I found myself fighting back tears while watching everyone else laugh. I’d put on a happy face to go for a run or to a movie, and then fall right back into staring at the TV or a blank wall, trying not to cry.

Some more well-adjusted folks might read that and think “What a head case!” Hell, I even think that sometimes – I’ve had a perfectly happy holiday season, I have family and friends that love me, a great job, a roof over my head… what the hell could I possibly be so depressed about? And when I think that, I get even more upset, and it spirals from there. Those of you who’ve experienced depression or anxiety know what I’m talking about, and it sucks.

What brought it on? Is it just the Holiday Blues? The lack of structure being off from work for so long? The unhealthy food and abundance of wine? All three? Who knows. And it’s hard to even put into words exactly what goes through my head when I’m in the middle of it. But I’m lucky: my friends and family have all been nothing but supportive. And to be honest, today is one of my first good days. Coming back to work, monitoring my diet, and forcing myself to be physically active are all helping, but it takes time. I’m pretty sure I’m bouncing back slowly, but there’s always a fear that it’ll creep back up and paralyze me again.

I don’t have a specific purpose for writing this post, to be honest. Part of me needed to write it to clear my head, but it’s also for anyone who has gone through – or is going through – something similar. If you’re in the middle of it, know you’re not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel. The sun will come out. It always does. And don’t be ashamed to talk about it or seek help. Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and sometimes all you need to do to break the cycle is talk to someone else, even if it hurts.

I also hope that anyone lucky enough to have never experienced depression or anxiety realizes it’s not trivial. With physical illness, you experience symptoms that others can see; runny nose, broken bones. But with mental illness, the symptoms are hidden. So be kind to others. Even if they’re smiling and seem happy on the outside, you never know what kind of battle they’re fighting on the inside.