I hear it almost every day, “Do you ever stop running?” And to this, my response is always a pretty quick “nope.”
Those who know me know that running is a huge part of who I am, but it goes beyond most people’s basic understanding of my history as a collegiate runner who pursued racing in marathons after graduation. Since the pandemic started, I’ve managed to run three (virtual) marathons while being a full-time grad student and nurse. It’s more than a sport or a stress reliever for me. Running is how I fundamentally function and have been for as long as I can remember. Not only will my body physically run most days (because I choose to), but my heart also feels like it’s running—actually, sprinting—most of the time (not by choice). And my mind most certainly never stops running around as I am a chronic over-thinker. When I reflect on my journey with mental health, I can barely remember a time when I was able to stop running away from my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
You know that phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”? For me, it’s the most relatable, cliché analogy I’ve ever come across. My thought process is as follows: If I’m going to be in this mental health marathon for a while, I might as well do the real thing too. Even if you haven’t actually participated in a marathon before, you’re aware that it’s known as being TOUGH. These races are no joke. Marathons are daunting and they’re often physically and mentally exhausting. But when I persevere through all of the challenges, I’m met with so much empowerment at the finish line. Marathon running is not only how I try and describe my journey through mental illness to others, but it is also what has saved me from ending it all.
When I give people an explanation as to why I run, I begin by saying it is to protect my mental and physical health. My mind races more days than it does rest. Most days, my depression tells me that I am incapable of getting out of bed. And my self-harm and suicidal thoughts tell me I deserve to feel pain. But I have learned that these things are all lies that mental illness has made me believe about the limits of my body.
There have been far too many nights where I felt as though I didn’t have the ability to make it to the morning because the pain was so unbearable; I thought my lungs would collapse from hyperventilating; I thought my heart would stop from how hard and fast it was beating. Do you know what has taught me that I and my body can survive all of these things?
Running a marathon.
Let me be the one to tell you that you are strong enough to get through the unbearable hurt you may be feeling. You are not the only one struggling to take another step or to live another moment. Even when our minds tell us we don’t have control anymore, we do not give up that easily.
When you make it past these dark moments, you will be living proof that you are capable of overcoming hard things. The perseverance you tapped into doesn’t go away when you cross the finish line. These experiences are going to harness one of the most powerful and inexhaustible resources available—resilience.
Resiliency is gained after facing adversity, trauma, and significant sources of stress. If you are running a figurative or literal marathon, please know that you are doing it right. There is no need to sprint through this race of life. Take your time. Every step, as painful as it may be at times, is purposeful. Not only in getting you closer to the finish line, but in strengthening the resiliency that can be used to conquer far greater things in the future.
And remember: If you are tired of constantly running from depression, anxiety, self-harm, or addiction… you deserve to rest. There are people rooting for you in this race whether you’re “winning,” “losing,” or just trying to make it through.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Our Run For It 5k is an event where thousands run, walk, jog, or roll 3.1 miles as a way to declare just how much hope and healing matter to them. Join us on Saturday, May 29, 2021, from wherever you are for TWLOHA’s 9th Annual Run For It 5k. This year’s event will be fully virtual. In addition to moving together, we’re also working to raise $85,000 in support of our mission of presenting hope and connecting people to the help they deserve. You can move and fundraise for your own healing, to honor a loved one gone too soon, or in celebration of your recovery. What will you move for?
Depression has a way of making us feel incredibly isolated. We’re here to remind you of the truth that you are not alone. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].