On Saturday I went out for a jog in the woods by myself and it was not scary at all! I haven’t done many trail runs lately because they’ve been really difficult to plan as I’m never confident I’m going to feel like moving on the weekend mornings. It’s such an emotional struggle to be up and dealing with responsibilities during the week that I’ve been nervous about planning runs and then bailing on people last minute. So, this weekend I did my morning stuff, ran a few errands, AND THEN HEADED OUT INTO THE WOODS ALONE! I’ve done that a few times, but only on specific trails on the top of the mountain where I’m the most familiar. But Saturday I spent some time in the woods near my house and I guess the proximity to my home made me feel secure, as did the TONS of people I saw on the trails as well. I always feel better knowing someone will find me if I fall and crack my head on a rock.
Either way it was 5 miles of awesomeness. I did a lot of fast walking which was fine as I’m getting my trail legs back after so long without regular exposure. I took a million selfies, and one video on a secret swing in the woods.
A method I’ve had recently that I think has helped me make good decisions for my mind and body, is to think of MYSELF as a person I am connected with who is working very hard a lot of the times to take care of herself. Like, thinking of MYSELF in the third person, almost. It has been especially important around saying Goodbye to Sweetie. This has been so very hard and grieving a pet is so very tricky because only certain people get it, so you have to kinda bottle a lot of it up for public consumption which is very tricky and emotionally taxing.
Throughout the entire time I’ve wanted to do many of the things that are instinctive NEGATIVE coping mechanisms, especially when I’m depressed:
A) Avoid people
B) Binge eat
C) Drink too much beer
But I’ve been trying to look at MYSELF and think about how hard MYSELF has been working on trying to keep from drowning and how – Just Maybe – she deserves better than those type of coping instincts.
NOW, I can NOT use this trick as a whole wide-scope of time and life perspective, I can ONLY use it for single moments and decisions. For example, the night Sweetie took a bad turn I almost canceled a run with a friend, and I almost skipped going over to another friends house for book club. I mean, I SERIOUSLY WANTED TO SKIP BOTH because I wanted to be alone in my misery and I wanted to binge eat and drink a lot of beer while crying over my dying dog.
But in each of those moments I just quietly thought about how hard MYSELF has been working and focusing and how she deserved time with friends to talk about what she was going through because all of these people love her and would want to help her.
AND IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT SHE NEEDED.
Like I said, this does not work in big picture perspectives for me. I can’t just sit here and say, “I’m going to treat MYSELF better because I know she deserves it!” and BAM! It’s true. No. Because the pull to stay in the darkness is so strong that it’s too overwhelming to think of it as one BIG LIFE CHANGE. But, when I’m faced with these individual decisions, it’s easier to just take it one step at a time for MYSELF. The MYSELF that has been trying round after round of medication, and is on therapist number 3, and is journaling and drawing and meditating and eating SO VERY HEALTHY with the new vegan meal delivery service. I mean, she’s working her ass off over here to trying to find the light in the darkness, if I can help her out by keeping plans with friends instead of canceling them, or by avoiding the candy bowl or the donut box, then I should try.
Another small step I took yesterday was I planned a Sunday run for my trail group A WHOLE WEEK IN ADVANCE. I haven’t done that at all this trail season, it’s been so hard to get going for that group most weekends. I think because it’s often a mix of people I don’t know very well and it’s hard to face strangers as a “leader” when you feel so lost and dark. But my weekend in the woods was SO WONDERFUL I decided that the power of the trees and the trails for my spirit was worth more than any negativity I may suffer from the exhaustion of being around strangers.
I also signed up to volunteer two shifts for a small race this weekend. I’ve not volunteered at races in awhile because I’ve put on 45lbs and we’ve all been in groups where people discuss other people’s weight gain (I’m ashamed a version of myself has been in those conversations in the past) and I just didn’t want to subject myself to that exposure. BUT! This is a small race and it was in need of volunteers so my desire to help the community outweighed (NO PUN INTENDED) my desire to avoid facing humans. And, one of the shifts is just me standing by myself point to people which way to go. NO TALKING NEEDED! STANDING AND POINTING is the PERFECT job me when I’m crippled under the weight anxiety and depression! POINT AND CHEER ON RUNNERS! That’s my favorite thing to do!
The vegan meal delivery service we’ve been using has been worth the cost if for NO other reason that there’s constantly a voice in my head saying You are paying a lot of money to eat really well and to give your body the vitamins and fuel it wants and needs: DO NOT WASTE THAT. Every time I think about going for the candy bowl I remember the $10 lunch of roasted vegetables and lime vinaigrette I just inhaled. Not only did I pay extra to have that made fresh for me and delivered to my house, BUT I MADE MY BODY HAPPY BY EATING IT. Why jeopardize that?
See, if you’re like me and you are seriously addicted to less-than-ideal crutches to cope with anything: stress, depression, exhaustion, grief…then all of your non-waking moments are consumed with thinking about it. If you drink to silence the voices of sadness, if you eat to cope with the darkness, if you starve yourself to give yourself a feeling of control when you’re overwhelmed, if you hide out from the world to cope with anxiety, if your instincts when you are feeling down are NOT healthy, then you know how exhausting one single day can be. For me, just breaking the habit to crack a beer the SECOND I got home drained me of my will to do anything else. THAT WAS A TOUGH HABIT TO BREAK. I avoided a box of donuts this weekend that just yelled at me from the counter for HOURS and when they were finally gone it was like I could breathe again. It’s EXHAUSTING to fight the demons who are steering you to make the decisions you know will make you feel shittier.
So the baby steps are about taking it one small moment and decision at a time. And for right now? That’s not too overwhelming. When I think about the 45lbs gained and the money spent on beer (because I AM A BEER SNOB) then I’m so disappointed with myself. So, instead I look forward at one moment and try to find what is best for me IN THAT MOMENT. And if I make the less-than-ideal decision (like this weekend having TWO pints of beer at a watch party when I really only should have had one) I just let it happen and try not to let it guide me to give up the rest of the day. Moment by moment so I don’t get so overwhelmed.
I stood in a very cold creek yesterday on my jaunt through the woods. A WEEKDAY TRAIL RUN! It was awesome! But, when I felt how cold the water was I almost jumped right out again. Except that I really wanted a selfie in the creek and I knew my trail shoes and socks would be quick to drain and my feet would feel warm again as soon as I got back moving. So, I toughed it out and the creek started feeling nice on my feet and the cold shocked some thrill into my body and I thought about the moment as a metaphor for my mental health.
Sometimes, my instinct to respond to any given hurdle is bad: eat all the donuts, cancel the plans, drink the beer. But if I just let that instinct wash past me I can enjoy the moment with friends, or without donut-glazed guilt, or the haze of alcohol. My instincts aren’t the best when my mental health is suffering and if I can remember that and to push past those initial responses – I can find some Zen moments waiting for me in the flowing waters of my favorite Spring.