Monday, April 15, 2013

Getting out of my own way

I have a confession to make. I've been a little depressed lately.

Part of it is from a fear of change. In January, I ran the ING Miami Half Marathon, right in the middle of the biggest exam of my life... a 3 day/72 hour exam which spanned a week, and that would determine whether I was eligible for the next phase of my schooling, which consists of writing my doctoral dissertation.

This was a huge step, and a huge process. But also signified huge change.

I submitted my exam, and then as process dictates, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I waited for approximately 6 weeks. And during that 6 weeks, the tension and anticipation got to me.

The truth is... I don't handle waiting well. I don't handle surprises. I don't handle anticipation. I don't handle change.

And there is this build-up of excitement about getting those results. I thought about how awesome it was going to be to finally be done. And I got excited about celebrating with my friends and family. And I thought about how accomplished I would feel knowing I had passed.

And then when I got the results and learned that I had passed, I got none of those things. Or at least the feelings I got didn't live up to the unrealistic expectations that I had set on the situation.

And I was left feeling kind of... blah.

But that's not all. I also set unrealistic expectations on my relationships with others.

If I think about it honestly... lately, my relationships have been getting me down. I have to be clear that it isn't *all* of my relationships that are getting me down, and really I don't blame the other people. Really, this is more an issue of me, and what I need out of relationships. It is about what I am getting and what I am not getting.

Because lately, I have become acutely aware that I am a perpetual giver.

I always seem to find myself in relationships with people who need more than me, therefore they take more than me. So I give, and they take. And most of the time, that works fairly well... And that is not to say that there is anything wrong with either them (or me), just that we have very different roles in our relationship. And flipping those roles just doesn't work.

So in the end, I give and give and give of myself to other people, frequently at the detriment of myself. And over time, because I care for others without caring for myself, when I get depressed or down, I just don't have the energy left over to give to myself...

And I certainly can't turn to the people who have proven time and time again to be takers.

Because in the past, when I did turn to them, I was left being told that they can't give to me, because they needed everything that they have for themselves. And that's ok. People *need* to focus on themselves. But, on the other hand, I need to be able to focus on me too.

So there is this imbalance. And my unrealistic expectations of having a balance of relationship roles leaves me feeling let down. And incredibly abandoned.

Abandonment being one of my greatest fears. There. I said it.

Most people who know me know that I have an irrational fear of vampires, but most don't realize that even worse than that is my fear of abandonment. Even just saying it out loud... or articulating it through my fingertips as I am doing now is enough to get my stomach churning, and start my eyes threatening with waterworks.

My normal coping strategy when I get depressed or stressed would include doing something physical.

At one point that was to do things like dance. Then for years I was involved in martial arts, so that would help. Now a good coping strategy appears to be running.

And that's not some off the wall I feel better so it must be true kind of statement.

Research has shown that running increases endorphins which can have motivational benefits, can also boost your serotonin activity,  and can also increase dopamine. All of these things can help to keep depression at bay.

Which I believe may be one of the reasons that I became so actively involved in running since the start of the year (perhaps I was becoming "addicted" to the positive feelings I was getting after running and how it was helping me to cope with the increased stress and depression I was feeling).

But I think this also may be part of the reason that I have been depressed lately. If you go to my blog and search for the tag "injury," you will see almost a dozen posts about this mysterious arch and ankle pain I have been having. Yes, I saw a doctor. Yes, I got a second opinion. And while he suggested that I cut back on the running during the week, he said I should be able to finish out the season with the races that I had already scheduled. But that meant foot exercises during the week. And no running until the swelling went down between long runs. So whereas I had been running 3-4 days a week for approx 3-5 miles at a time, I was now limited to a 13.1 mile run on the weekend every other week and maybe getting in a single 5 mile run in the week between.

Not great for my training. And not great for my mind. I was depressed and needing the dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. I was injured and had to sit long periods of time with my feet elevated. Which meant that I had great big periods of time to think about running, but very little running was actually done.

And after feeling like garbage for almost a month, I went back to the doctor and promptly explained that I have no natural ways to combat the depression right now, and I really could use a short round of antidepressants to boost the serotonin levels and pick myself back up.

He agreed, and I started them that night.

And they started to work.

6 days later, when my feet felt good enough that I could try an easy 5 mile run, I put my shoes on and went out the door.

This time, things were different. What I had really been missing by not being able to go for these quick and easy training runs was the opportunity to get into my own head and be one with my thoughts. While yes, the serotonin, endorphins and dopamine are good... what I really missed was that time on my own, thinking about whatever issues seemed to be bothering me. During races, I don't get that opportunity because I am surrounded by other people and constantly distracted. In a training run, I can just let go, and BE.

As I ran, I thought about my recent let downs, and my fear of change, and my unrealistic expectations on relationships, and I realized that I wouldn't be let down by relationships or by change if I had a new best friend. Then I started thinking about how when I recently ended a friendship, Ray's response was that it was the other person's loss because they lost the best (and most loyal) friend they would ever have. And it made me think, when would I ever have the "most loyal best friend"? When would it be my turn?

Then all of a sudden, it was like clouds parted and rays of sunshine shone brightly on me. I could feel every muscle working as each foot pounded the pavement (without pain!). There might as well have been unicorns and puppies dancing in my path, I KNOW there were definitely butterflies... And it all became clear.

I got fat because I wasn't a good friend to myself. I got sick because I wasn't a good friend to myself. I take care of everyone else, but I don't take care of myself. But I was putting my foot down. No more putting other people first all the time at the detriment of myself.

From this moment forward, I would have the most loyal best friend and it would be my turn.

Because from that moment on, I would be loyal to myself. Because if I can't be a good friend to myself, who will?

And so I said it didn't matter what kind of pacing goal I had for that training run. And if that meant that I finished in 1 hour, that would be great. If it took me an hour and 15, or even 2 hours, so be it. Because I was building a new, lifelong relationship with my new best friend.

I got home both rejuvenated and exhausted.

And learned that I had set a new 5 mile PR.


  1. I'm proud you are your own bff now! I wish I could do that, but I'm just not likable enough (lol). But even so, you will always be my Tuesday soul mate even when you don't have Tuesdays anymore.

    1. you certainly are likable enough HW-Soulmate! shut yo mouf.
      We'll always have Tuesdays.

  2. I love this post...very inspirational!