In hindsight, it started after the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon. I mildly hurt my ankle not a week or two after, and went three weeks without running because my coursework got so heavy. It took a long time for me to recognize that I was depressed. After all, there was nothing for me to be depressed about. I have an amazing family, amazing friends, I was doing well in school, I was heading to Paris and really, life was exactly as I had always wanted it to be. Not two months before I would actually have moments where I took a deep breath and thought: My life is perfect.
I started out just being anti-social. I didn't feel like going out or doing much of anything. Then I started sleeping more and just stopped caring about nearly everything: what I ate, what I did with my time, keeping in touch with friends and family, my grades, my goals. I read a lot. I just figured I was burnt out from the tough semester.
Going abroad was the worst thing at the moment. I figured I would be happy once I got to Paris, started traveling, and had fun, European adventures. Instead these expectations made it worse and I ran away from all my friends and family. On one hand, I loved the time I spent there. A lot of it was really wonderful. I made good friends, did awesome things, and had some really great highs.
The lows were devastating. Once, I didn't leave my bed for an entire week. I didn't want to get up, I didn't want to think, I didn't want to do anything. Sometimes I would just walk around the city mindlessly for hours. It was beautiful and wonderful, but I was sad and couldn't figure out why. I couldn't admit it to myself that I could be depressed and so I ignored it.
I didn't take up running again after the marathon. I did it sparingly. My diet in Paris was the best and the worst at the same time. In one aspect, I finally felt free from all the body image issues I've had in the past, since--as I noted--I was apathetic about everything. My motto was that if I didn't gain five pounds when living in Paris, I clearly did something wrong. The food was delicious. However, I did gain about five pounds, I had dessert everyday. I ate more pastries and croissants than I can imagine. I discovered my love for red meat, went back to all white-flour based carbs, ate vegetables sparingly and drank a lot.
When I realized something was wrong with me and it was clearly not any outside force, I looked at these habits. Before going on any medication, I wanted to fix it myself by taking care of my body again. If it was chemical, I knew all about the miracle of endorphins. That summer, I would do spinning class Monday through Thursday with a friend. We kept each other accountable because we drove into work together. I started running and eating healthy again. The pounds slowly crept off through the summer, but I still didn't feel like myself. I had my energy back, but I hated my job and I was in Buffalo, away from all my closest friends.
People told me to go see a therapist and get on the miracle meds they were on. But honestly, I'm about the most open person on the planet. I have no secrets or filter to my mouth. If a stranger on the street asked for my life story, I would tell it all in detail. There was nothing wrong in my life to discuss. I was bent on the idea that it was chemical and I could fix it on my own.
When I finally started talking to my friends about it, almost all of them admitted to realizing something was wrong that last semester at GW. My senior year was filled with up and downs. I don't think I had a straight month of feeling well. My "ups" were usually prompted by new shoes. I added some new things to my life. I tried to go out, but I was still so tired and completely unmotivated. Its hard to get into a running routine again when you're apathetic about everything in life. Slowly, the good stretches got longer.
It was the beginning of June, a month into MCM training, when I was on a morning run, and started thinking about what I want to be doing with my life, when my ambitions were career-wise, traveling again, and getting involved in DC. Then, it hit me. I was ambitious again. This was the last aspect to the depression I had yet to overcome. Then it really hit me, I couldn't remember my last low. Mid-run, I stopped and started crying because I could just feel that it was finally over.
Its September now. I live alone, and still meet friends whenever I can, because I want to. I've started taking on a whole bunch of new activities. I feel like myself again for the first time since November 2007, which feels better than you can even imagine. I didn't cave and start taking medication, I just started taking care of myself. Running does more for me than I probably even realize. I'm apparently addicted to the endorphins from running, and that's ok with me. Now that I know what running does for me, I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. And when the next low comes, I know how to take care of it.
That's my sappy story, and one lesson fully learned.
Now, I need to get over being such a shopaholic. The only way running helps is that it takes up time I could be spending shopping.