The older I get, the easier it’s getting for me to admit to myself (and to others) that I have a natural propensity towards depression. In one form or another, it’s been a battle for me for the past 20+ years of my life. I could blame it on my hypothyroidism, my ability to stuff enormous amounts of emotions into the depths of my being, or my generally realistic pessimistic way of looking at things. Whatever the cause, I’ve been on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications in the past. It’s been a number of years since I’ve felt the need to be on Zoloft, but the last couple of weeks I haven’t exactly been a ray of sunshine to be around. Just ask my wife. This past weekend was especially bad.
A couple of weeks ago, I stopped training for my fall marathon & half-marathon. Hence the lack of “Marathon Training Week X of 18” updates. The simplest explanation is that the incessant Texas summer heat killed my desire to run. I didn’t mind my 30 minute lunch break runs in 100+ degree heat, but doing my long runs when the temperatures were in the 80s at the start, and well into the 90s when I finished was just too much for me. Speedwork and tempos? They just weren’t happening. I wasn’t enjoying myself, and my motivation to keep slogging through the miles dropped off a cliff somewhere. So I just stopped. I know I can finish a marathon, but my training for a sub-3 hour marathon was going so poorly, I knew that there was no chance I’d be ready to attempt that goal by mid-November. So I decided to postpone training, and aim for a February marathon instead.
Shortly after that, I began to get more and more frustrated with myself. It seemed like so many people I know (through blogs) were completing Ironman’s, or running ultras, or just plain kicking ass in life. Except me. And while I loved reading the race reports, it also just reminded me of the things that I’m not doing that I’d like to be. I felt (and still feel) like it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything badass. Tomorrow will be the two-year mark since I crossed the finish line of my 100-mile race. What have I done since then? Jack shit. Ok, I know that’s not true – among other things, I packed up and moved to a new state to start a new job, hand-nailed in 1200 square feet of hardwood floors with my wife, made solid strides towards conquering my fear of water, and podiumed at my first triathlon. Those things are great, but they’re not defining moments in my life. Not in the same way crossing the finish line of a 100 mile race was.
Take those feelings of a stagnant life, and combine them with a rough week or two at work, and I was definitely not in a happy state. Add in a pretty frustrating/disappointing weekend, culminating with not being able to compete in the cycling race due to a bike shop error (long story for a later post), I had an epiphany:
Running is my anti-depressant.
I don’t get runner’s high (I’m not sure I ever have). I don’t always enjoy running. The first six or seven miles of the vast majority of my runs suck – although it usually gets better after that, assuming I actually am running more than six miles at once. But there’s something about running that keeps my depressive-tendencies at bay (the obvious explanation would be that it’s the endorphins). To my wife, this wasn’t something that she didn’t already know. She’s seen the same effect pretty much every time I’ve stopped running. The start of my recent downward spiral coincided exactly with when I stopped running. News flash to me. Not to Natasha.
And so today, I decided to get back on an anti-depressant. Four miles during my lunch break. It didn’t cure everything and suddenly make feel like my life is full of sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows, but neither did the first Zoloft I popped during previous bouts of depression. But it’s a start. And this time my anti-depressant doesn’t come with a six-page list of side effects.