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.

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.