Depression is NOT an obstacle

Over the past 2 years, since we opened the doors at Muffins to Marathons, I have often times sat back and wondered about a few things.  What benefit(s) are we bringing to people?  How are we helping?  Can we continue to make a difference in the lives of others?  Two years may not seem like a very long time and in the scope of things it is not.  However, I have to say that in the two years since Muffins was started, I have had the honor of being associated with some of the most fantastic, genuine, caring and truly inspirational people in the world.  Tonight is one of those nights that I have sit back and I don’t ask what we are doing to help others, I am sitting back and being very reflective and thankful for what others are bringing to me.  Several months ago, we received an online registration for one of our events.  Not to sound crass, but I didn’t think much of it at the time other than I need to ensure that I get all the documentation done, ensure that this person is going to be ready to go for the first race.  Little did I realize what was about to happen.  As I have (and most of you who are a part of our team) gotten to know this person, let’s call her Jane we have all realized just how inspirational a person can be.  Jane is always positive, always upbeat, always has a kind word to day.  Did I mention that Jane has Clinical Depression.  Jane has struggles getting out of bed in the morning, let alone getting out and completing a race.  I approached Jane about a month ago and asked her to share her story (after I had learned a little more about her) and she finally agreed.  What I am going to share with you right now is 100% inspiration!  It is heart!  It is dedication!  It is story that often times is painful to read, yet knowing who Jane is, I read this and I will post this knowing that Jane is going to be alright.  In fact, better than alright.  When you read this, please think about your own life and your own struggles.  We all have them, some greater than others.  What are you doing to make a difference in your own life?

Jane, I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly say something to you.  You have commented several times about how much our races, our motivation continues to push you.  I have to say that after getting to know you, and hearing your story, YOU are the one who motivates us.  I know that this was a hard blog post to write, I know that you had to really dig deep to find the courage to broadcast your story out to the masses.  I want you to know from me to you, that I am so thankful that you are a part of our team and that you will continue to thrive and succeed.  Here is Jane’s story….

After letting Jim know how much his Virtual races, motivational notes, etc., meant to me, he invited me to be a guest blogger, perhaps in hope that I may help someone as he in turn has helped me.

I have a disease that requires daily prescription medication and the onset was well over 30 years ago.  It’s not visible to you when you see me and some of my closest and longest term friends do not know of it or its full extent.

Rarely have I said it aloud, never mind to a vast number of people in a blog.   It took me a long time before I would even check the box on the list of questions asked at a Dr.’s office.  I suffer from clinical depression, a chemical imbalance in the brain.

I clearly remember the onset of this disease.  It had always been there, it just hadn’t quite surfaced.  I was 21 years old when my mother died at the age of 43 from breast cancer after a five year battle.  I know how I handled it, I didn’t………I still see myself lying on the couch, months later, saying to my father, “Dad, I need help”.  That was my first time seeing someone professionally.  It was NOT diagnosed by the therapist as depression, after all, my mother had died, why wouldn’t I need help, why wouldn’t I feel sad?

My primary care physician was the first to diagnose me as clinically depressed and prescribed medication.  I did not accept this right out and sought a second opinion.  It was suggested that I seek my second opinion from a psychiatrist (even I have a stigmatism with that one).   After ONE session, I was told, “you appear to be the perfect candidate for medication and I recommend it”.  WOW…….That was 20 years ago.

In the beginning, I fully believed taking medication would be short term.  After all, I have a good life, why couldn’t I just be happy.  My husband has always been loving and supportive, and we have three beautiful healthy children.  I have a great career, a job that I love and really minor health issues.  Someone once asked me “Why can’t you just change how you think?”  Well wouldn’t that be nice????  There is a commercial (for depression medication) that I believe portrays it so clearly; an overbearing sense of hopelessness that not only causes mental duress but physical pain.  It hurts you and it hurt’s the people around you.   You can want desperately to feel better, but you just can’t…..

At times I would start to convince myself that I no longer needed medication and attempted going without.  A Dr. finally said it the right way to me, “you will be on this for the rest of your life and it’s no different than someone who has diabetes and must take insulin every day”.  The medication doesn’t make it perfect; I believe it shields me from drowning in negative thoughts.  Medication and exercise combined, however…… well it’s my savior.  Again, the diabetes comparison, insulin alone is not going to work, diet is vital.

In January 2001, my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and given two weeks to two months to live.  She died at the age of 41 on September 5, 2001 (feels like yesterday).

It devastated me.  I stopped working out, gained weight (reaching an all-time high of 200 lbs.) and wallowed in the depression.  I remember my husband asking me “how long are you going to continue to watch the TV Guide channel”.  I was lying in bed day after day staring at the TV without really seeing it.  It’s such a vicious cycle.  I knew exercising worked for my mental health but my mental health was stopping me from starting.

Yes it was one of the hardest times in my life and it required me to dig really deep to find a way, but I turned the TV off, got out of bed and started over again.  Since the passing of my sister, I have run a Ragnar Relay (New Haven to Boston), been a member of a Dragon boat team, taken up Bikram Yoga, completed duathalons, triathlons, obstacle course events and in December 2012 my first virtual race!!  I’ve now done two Virtual 5 k’s, and a Virtual half marathon (my first half ever).  With the click of a finger, I have currently registered for several more Virtual races 5ks, 10ks and another half.  I now do all of these events power walking as I had to give up running in order to save my back and knees.  I miss running L but I’m power walking at a good pace and again I’m not giving up.

Quite honestly, my family genes really do suck.  J   My fathers’ side of the family is hearing impaired.  Attend any family event and it’s loud and every conversation is repeated multiple times.  I have been wearing hearing aides’ since I was 35 years old.  My mothers’ side, well, all cancer.  Since the passing of my sister, they have determined it is genetic and last year I tested positive for the BRCAI gene.

2013 has started off with some pretty big hurdles.  Mid January I had arthroscopy surgery on the knee and have been told I need a knee replacement sooner than later.  A week later, my 23 year old daughter had unexpected surgery to reattach the retina in her eye and it will take a year or longer for vision to return, if in fact it does.   My annual hearing exam this month showed my hearing loss has gone from severe to profound and on Feb 4th a dear friend unexpectedly passed away in her sleep leaving her husband and 3 year old daughter behind.

How easy it would have been to just give in to all of that.  You have to admit that’s a lot of stuff to feel bad about.  Yes I cried, had sleepless nights and at times walked around in what feels like a bubble, my own world.  I’ve been at this long enough that I know how hard I have to fight not to allow myself to be fall down the “rabbit hole”.  Once I go down, it’s hard, hard, hard to pull myself back up and out.

The virtual events saved me as there they were lingering reminders of what I had signed up for.  I committed to 100 miles power walking in the month of February for “Shoot for the Moon” and registered for the Virtual “Love on The Run 5k”.  It most certainly hasn’t been easy but I am half way to my 100 mile goal and two days ago completed the 5k.

I have depression but depression does not define me.  It is not who I am.  How I have been described by family and friends is “honest to a fault” (shouldn’t always say what you’re thinking) “exercise fanatic” (prefer that over couch potato any day); “sensitive” (I cry easily, laugh out loud and wear my emotions on my sleeve); “no sense of direction whatsoever” (the Garmin is my best friend yet more often than not says “recalculating”…); “generous and empathetic” (if I have it and you need it, it’s yours)……all and all not so bad.

A friend recently sent me a note saying that the following made her think of me.  “Endurance – the ability to withstand hardship or adversity.  The ability to sustain a prolonged and stressful effort or activity.  To undergo without giving in. To regard with acceptance and tolerance. To continue in the same state. To remain firm without yielding. To last.”

Along with the definition, was a picture of a runner with the following statement “Stop thinking.  Run until your mind can’t keep up anymore.”   J

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