Two years after getting sober I hit a mental rock bottom that began to affect my ability to mother my children.
Feeling utterly helpless in a way I had never experienced before it occurred to me that instead of thinking while sitting, I could think while moving.
I had finally submitted to the thoughts, waved the white flag after realizing I couldn’t overpower that which was dominating me for most of my life. I was 35 years old and was losing, hard.
Drowning in a sea of thoughts that I knew were untruths brought me to a moment where one believable concept quietly floated to the surface:
No matter how bad I feel in my head, I have a body that can take action. Action has no thought behind it at all. Moving my body doesn’t require thinking, it requires doing.
The only thing I knew how to do physically was run. And by “run” I mean put sneakers on and try to mimic the movement of running which I had seen other people do.
The week I started running I came across this vintage Nike shirt at Salvation Army.
I committed to running every day no matter what. In the beginning weeks I would sleep in the Nike shirt every night so that in the morning it would be the first thing that I would see in the mirror. I couldn’t think anymore and it was relief to rely on a t shirt to tell me what I needed to do.
20 lbs ago this shirt used to fit me.
Being a mom always comes first. When I started running, in between caring for my girls, I began to grab moments to run everyday. When The Mom Guilt hit about leaving them to run I reminded myself I was utterly useless to everyone if I couldn’t take care of my basic needs.
Running became a basic need. Running became a requirement.
Running became my medication and over time I began to heal.
Mt. Laundry got bigger, the sink’s crowd of dirty dishes hung around longer and the elaborate family meals I prepared and thought were important became simpler.
Everything became simpler.
Through these years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds spent running I remember accountability is the only home base that exists. I remember that when I am suffering physically, being present is the only option. I remember the control I think I have is mirage. I remember that my mental suffering is created by my body chemistry as well as my emotional mindset and although it will never disappear, I make a choice to engage in which I choose to believe.
When I started running I was forced to be with alone with no available distraction and began to befriend myself, a lifelong stranger, or so it turned out.
Nice to meet you, self. We have a lot of miles to go before we get to know each other.
Running is a practice. To go for a run is an act that I can do to keep on-track in my non-running life. My runs are something to recall when the anxious thoughts make their way through my brain every day.
Because of running I have learned to ask for help and lucky me has a family who gladly oblige. Without them I wouldn’t be able to run at all.
It’s not perfect.
I give up a lot to be on my feet. I work odd hours around it. I pass on dating opportunities and social functions to fit training in. I am the sweaty weirdo who shows up to meet friends for dinner and gross-out the table.
I get up at 5:30am every morning.
I have a lot more stinky laundry to do.
I nap a lot.
My body hurts A LOT.
I run-nerd out my social media like it’s my job.
My apartment is a little bit messier. My car smells like a gym locker. I have too many running shoes for a person with one tiny closet. I eat a little lighter on the weeks that I have to purchase running gear.
When her sister starts preschool a day before her first day of Kindergarten, I get to spend a rare few hours alone with my six year old. I ask my oldest daughter what she’d like to do. I list all The Greats: the beach, kids’ museum, the movies, toy shopping etc. and she only says one thing “I want to run with you, mommy”.
So my daughter and I run.
The kid is fast. She stops though to pick up rocks along the way and insist I carry them with me. Inevitably she falls and cries. I scoop her up, hug her, kiss her and tell her that I know it hurts. I show her my boo-boos, scrapes and bruises.
“Sometimes we feel like we are the only ones but all of us walk around with these little boo-boos but we aren’t alone. See?”
We get up and keep moving.
I have been running for 3 years, have run one street marathon, two 50ks and will run a very challenging 50 mile race in the Fall.
In truth I am not a person who signs up for a lot of races. I spend far more time “training” than I do do racing. This is because I don’t run to race, I run to live.
Happy National Run Day!