This winter, I stood on the riverbed across from my house and listed all the reasons to put my own health first. To say yes to myself. To let go of grief. To work on my depression. The river was low, and I could walk across areas once covered by water. My two German Shepherd mutt-dogs ran up ahead and I lazily listed all the things I could see now without the river in the way. Rock, stick, small stick, large tree root, animal prints. With my muddy boots at the new water’s edge, I switched to my other list. Say yes to healing: because I want to feel good, because I want to jump like a kid, because I want more.
When I wake up some mornings, there’s a large black dog on my chest. It’s not one of my German Shepherd mutt-dogs. A friend once described depression as similar to the feeling of suffocating. As if a big black dog was sitting on your chest and you can’t get up. Sometimes, the dog looks okay, a friendly type. Then, other days the dog appears vicious. The chasing-biting-I’m-gonna-get-ya kind.
That dog-on-the-chest feeling hangs out with such words as grief, depression, and anxiety. They’re a ramshackle pack of assholes, complete with symptoms that have names and make sense and some that don’t.
In my daily life, I am a writer. My mentor once said that to do the work you have to keep your ass in the chair. Write – even on the days when the writing is crap. On the riverbed that day, I realized it’s similar. I have to get out of the bed for me. It’s not that simple. There’s a list in my head. Getting out of bed is code for enjoy, push, and practice kindness. Enjoy life. Push my comfort zone. Kindness – for the black dog. The animal is still there some mornings. This plan isn’t a pill, or an instant fix.
Each morning, I make friends with that black dog. Franz. That’s his name. I have a plan, a list of steps. Take Franz to the river, for a walk, to acupuncture, to yoga, to see friends. There’s a plan, a list. I wish I had looked into Franz’s eyes years ago and made this list. But, Franz is the kind of dog that says: it’s okay, you’re not late. Today is a good day to start.
I’m six months into this new relationship with Franz. There’s a momentum – pet Franz, get up, eat, get The Kid off to school, do some work, walk the (real) dogs, yoga, write, and all those other things on the list. Things are getting easier between Franz and I. He growls sometimes, and sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. Or, the health issues return. But, Franz and I are a work-in-progress, and we’re happy with that.
I realized recently (about two weeks ago) that I had lost my joy of running, that I didn’t want to run, that I didn’t want to get out of bed. And, before you all just say “get it done!” or “just do it!” know that I’ve said those things to myself too. And those kind of comments really just fucking piss off someone dealing with depression. But, I do my best – I get out of bed, make coffee, write, do school work, look for paid work.
And, I think about running.
But I don’t run. You see, I am tired of winter. Tired of the snow. Tired of running on snowy trails. It’s February and I want my dirt trails back.
So this is my honest – “this is what is going on, peeps” blog for today. I am getting out of bed. I am making coffee.
And, oh, this one: I’m still swimming.
I am hitting the pool at least three times a week and getting in laps. This is my current motto: movement is movement. And when depression rears it ugly head…movement in any form is useful, necessary, and helpful.
I got sad awhile back when I was sick and my run streak ended (with over 40-plus days on continuous running)…and then I pulled up my big girl panties and got in the pool. Swimming makes me happy when the snowy trails are no longer making me joyful.
A summer kid at heart, I’m focused on my overall fitness level in order to complete my goal: run 25km. The best way for me to do that right now is swimming as it at least gets me moving. But I look forward to when the trails are clear and I can get my running shoes back on…and work on that running streak!
The next blog post on March 17 (moving to monthly training blogs for the couch to 25km) will include self-care tips and a yoga routine for those days when training also needs to involve more than running miles.