Houston, we have a problem! 2017 was going to be my year. My big moment was supposed to happen on January 15, 2017 at the Chevron Houston Marathon. My training was intense. I was even spending hours at the gym after my training run. (2-3 hours most days) I was ready to run a sub 4 marathon and possibly qualify for the Boston Marathon. But it didn’t happen. The humidity got the best of me. (About 95% that day) I was drenched in sweat by mile 1. Half way through I was still on track to run a 3:50 marathon. At mile 16 I completely fell apart. I just couldn’t keep up that pace anymore. The humidity wore me out. I had to walk some to try to cool down. Each mile was slower and slower and as I looked at my watch I saw my big dream slipping away. But I trained for so many months and knew I had to finish no matter what. At mile 22 I saw I had a shot at a PR so I sped up just a little bit. I really fought hard to finish that day. I finished and ended up with a PR too.
After that marathon I fell into a big funk. I’ve heard it is common to slip into the post marathon blues so I didn’t pay much attention to it. And then something happened my first run post marathon recovery. I was running and bam! I not only started crying but hyperventilating too. It wasn’t the first time that had ever happened either. I had a big epiphany that run. My Houston race was symbolic of what had been going on with me for months. Just as my race fell apart on that day in January, I had been falling apart for months too. I sent a text message to my husband, (adult) daughter and best friend. Told them what happened and told them I needed help (as in therapy.) I had been lying to myself for months. My struggle with depression started in the summer of 2016. Sometimes I started crying during a solo run and sometimes I would cry at home but I concealed it from my family by locking myself in the bathroom or bedroom. For whatever reason, my running friends from back then stopped running with me. I just couldn’t cope. I found myself avoiding social media, unfollowing them, and eventually unfriending them. I started feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, like no one wanted to be around me. In my darkest moment, I even started to wonder if anyone would miss me if I were gone. I know now that I was doing everything I could to avoid facing and dealing with these feelings. The training, the hours at the gym, etc. I was basically running away from my problems. In retrospect I am glad that my race in Houston happened the way it did or I don’t think I would have opened my eyes to the dark place I was in.
I started therapy within a week after I reached out to my family and friend. My therapist used Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to treat me. I discovered many things during my months in therapy. When I was a little girl, I almost drowned. My parents were in the midst of a divorce and instead of making sure I was okay, they started arguing and assigning blame to each other. I relived that near drowning in therapy. It was an experience that is difficult for me to describe but my therapist took me to a place I needed to go to in order to heal because I never fully dealt with that trauma. When I was growing up, my mother was not the most loving person. There was a lot of yelling in our house. Nothing I did was good enough. I was constantly criticized by her. When I was a teenager she told me that I had been nothing but a problem to her since the day I was born. That hurt and crushed me. In therapy, I talked about how deeply it affected me when my friends stopped running with me. I learned that the reason I reacted the way that I had was because of how I was treated by my mother. When I feel hurt, criticized or rejected, I walk away. It’s somewhat of a defense mechanism. I learned that for years, I blamed myself for horrible things that happened in the past but were in no way my fault.
I learned that for years I thought I needed to be forgiven for difficult decisions I made in my life but what I truly needed was to forgive myself. I learned that running had pretty much become like an addiction to me and that I just didn’t enjoy it anymore and I lost my love for it. I learned a lot of coping mechanisms to deal with life when it gets hard for me. And perhaps the most beautiful lesson I learned occurred as I walked out of my therapist’s office on my final day of therapy. On a small dry erase board in the waiting room were the handwritten words, “Believe in yourself!!! You are strong.”
Although there have been some bumps in the road since I completed therapy, I’m in a much better place. Running is different for me these days. I’m not a slave to my watch anymore. I have thrown pace out the window. I run when I want to and don’t feel like I have to run anymore. I am actually enjoying running now and run and race for fun. Running with my “runmigas” (running amigas) reminds me that slowing down just means more time for fun. I love that. It’s what my soul and sole need. There are two quotes about running that I see often. “Running is my therapy’ and “Running is cheaper than therapy.” I’m sure I have probably used them in the past myself but nowadays they both make me cringe. There is no doubt that running is therapeutic but running can not and will not fix everything. It is ok to get help if you need it.
Peace, love, and running