It is a cool morning. I stand outside among the crowd of diversity and compression socks. Some people are busy chatting and some are standing silently focusing on the task ahead. I am one of those who are silent among the chatter. My mind is not so much focused on the task ahead, but instead is pondering the moments that brought me here. Each mile that allowed my presence at this start line was full of thoughts and sometimes tears. I patiently wait for the sound of the announcer’s voice that will tell me my journey is about to begin. Five, four, three, two, one, and BOOM. I breathe in the moment and breathe out the doubt. This is my moment. The crowd engulfs me, but together we are on our own journeys to the finish line.
Recently I was asked by Prevention Magazine to be interviewed for a piece that will be published in the June issue. Initially I was shocked because I did not see this moment coming. Then I found out this piece included a professional photo shoot and I was even more shocked and scared. I am very much an introvert. I love to share my journey with people and help them, but I also like to stay behind the scenes. So this moment terrified me. The piece will be about how running truly is one of the things that saved my life.
As a nurse of 16 years I have seen many times where my past struggles could have taken me. No one ever asks for mental illness to enter his or her home. I certainly did not ask for the moment that brought PTSD and depression into my spirit when I was younger. So many days when I could barely get out of bed or moments where tears were all that I knew. I remember the day that one of my therapists introduced me to running. I would start out those miles around the building holding everything inside and by the end of the session my soul felt like a wave was crashing through it. Every tear and every ounce of pain was being released. My therapist would ask me where I wanted my finish line to be and told them I wanted it to be a finish line of beginnings. What does that mean? It means I wanted that finish line to free my spirit and be like a tree full of branches with each branch beginning a new moment. I wanted to be free of the shame that haunted me. There was shame for having a mental illness, shame for not always being happy, and shame for being afraid to allow people to just see me. When I became pregnant with my daughter I gave up running for many years and I also gained a lot of weight. After my daughter was born I continued to gain weight and my depression/PTSD was out of control. I would look at my daughter and feel guilt for bringing her into my world and worry that she would be broken like me someday.
Then in October of 2007 I lost my father to cancer. It was a moment. I had stopped taking my anti-depressant medication when I was pregnant with my son and remained off of it after he was born in early 2007. I remember one conversation I had with my dad when he was sick he asked me why I gave up on myself. I had so many dreams, but I feared the journey to the finish line. Why? I saw myself as broken and I did not like myself. When my father died I remember sitting with my doctor and asking for a prescription for Prozac just in case I needed it. Why? I was afraid of facing myself. I never touched that prescription. Instead I started running again. I was overweight and each mile hurt, but I kept running. I ran to free my spirit. My foot would hit the ground and an emotion would be allowed in. Pain, shame, anger, happiness, sadness, doubt……..each mile represented one of these. In spirit I could feel the presence of those who loved me beside me as I ran, but it was a journey that I physically took on my own. I knew that to learn to love myself I had to get to this finish line alone. The finish line came and the tree began to grow. The branches have now spread many miles. I proudly tell my dad often that he was right. Each mile I ran allowed me to love who I am and believe in myself. The finish line is always a beginning. Tie those laces and go.