I am a diagnosed clinical depressive. I am not shy about this. I was diagnosed when I was in college by the therapist I was seeing through my university, who after a questionnaire, immediately referred me to the psychiatrist on campus for further evaluation. Depression is something I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager, and although I originally dismissed it as overwhelming teenage angst, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how detrimental depression has been in my life and in my relationships, not only with other people, but especially with myself. My depression often hits me after huge highs or events. For example, every year, after my birthday, I am depressed. When depression hits, it is hard for me to find motivation and it’s even harder for me to believe in myself. This week was one of those weeks.
It’s so easy to feel like a failure when you’re on a mission to be come healthier. There is this stigma that if you make a mistake or if you miss a workout, you have failed yourself or the people who will inevitably ask how your weight loss journey is going or how your training is shaping up. These people mean well, I’m sure, but there is a creeping guilt when you look someone in the face and express to them that you’ve had a rough, off week; there is the same guilt if you’re just trying to enjoy a beer and someone scrutinizes your fucking choices.
Often times, if you’re following people on Facebook or Instagram or whatever who are on the same journey as you, you only see their perfection; you are privy to their healthy meals, their intense workouts, and their feelings of euphoria as they continuously shed pounds. What we don’t often see, and this can be extended to many aspects of life viewed through social media, is the fucking struggle. You don’t see the tears as someone is defeated and has to stop half-way through a hard workout. You don’t see the “bad decisions” people made throughout the week when they chose a food that wasn’t necessarily the best choice. You don’t see the look on someone’s face as they step on the scale, after a week of hard work, only to be let down by a static number. But, there is a struggle, at least for me and that struggle is often exacerbated by depression.
On Tuesday of this week, I had a particularly frustrating run.I pushed this run from Monday to Tuesday because I just did not want to leave my house after work. But, Tuesday afternoon, I put my shit on and got outside. I felt slow, my energy was low, I had to stop to walk multiple times, and I didn’t run nearly as far as I wanted to, or planned. I got home afterward and just couldn’t figure out why it was so hard or felt so terrible. I’m sure the humidity played a part, but I just couldn’t find the fire in me that I had a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t want go to soccer, but I went anyway. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I normally do. From Tuesday on, I slid down and down and down.
My eating habits were shit. I ate at restaurants for lunch every single day this week. I barely drank my protein shakes. I didn’t exercise on Wednesday or Thursday. I worked more this week than normal. I spent too much money. I slept more than 9 hours almost every night. I picked fights with Rob to satisfy some need to understand and justify why I felt so fucking sad. Eventually, I just accepted that I was depressed. I felt my feelings. I walked through them. I examined them. I let them be.
Then, Friday happened. Friday was one of the best things that could have happened for me. I needed to get a long run in. My goal was 4.5 miles and since I ran 5 miles a couple of weeks ago, I figured it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought it would be. It was hard finding the motivation to do it because I was still struggling with feelings of sadness and inadequacy. But, I put my running clothes on and fucking did it. I upped my intervals from 10/1 to 15/1, so I was running 15 minutes and walking 1 minute. My goal was to do that three times and I would be around 4.5 miles. But, at the end of my third and final set, a runner’s high I haven’t felt in a long time kicked in. I hit my fucking stride. I felt good. I felt strong. So, I did another 15 minutes and at the end of that 15, I kept running for another 6. I ran 6.3 miles or 10.1km in 1:08. I felt like I was on top of the world. I stood outside of my apartment and cried because I was so fucking proud of myself, which is a fleeting feeling– I rarely feel proud of anything I do. But, I felt proud on Friday night. I pushed myself. I found my strength and kept fucking going, even when I didn’t want to keep going and I succeeded.
So, this week has been a week of learning and feelings for me.
This week, two of my good friends left Korea. This is the shittiest part of expatriate life; the friends you make, while they are lifelong friendships, will eventually move on to the next place, whether that be another city, another country, or back home. It’s been rough, but it’s important to remember that I, too, will be leaving this country soon to start my next adventures. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for how much it was going to hurt to say goodbye.
I learned that your sweat can actually smell like ammonia! Basically, from what I understand, if your body does not have enough carbohydrates to keep up with the energy demands, your body will turn to other energy sources, including protein. Your organs can’t handle the excess ammonia, so it pushes it out via sweat glands. SCIENCE!
I also learned that it’s really cool to have a friend who is an Occupational Therapist who can teach you how to tape your foot to relieve plantar fasciitis pain. It’s actually just really cool to have friends from all walks of life who can offer support and advice on numerous, troubling topics. I am very thankful.
But, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned this week: even if my progress is slow, it is still progress. I am still moving forward, even if there are are setbacks, even if I am depressed, even if I eat cake (which I am doing as I write this). The picture on the right was taken on Christmas Eve, 2015. The picture on the left was taken a little over 8 months later on Friday, August 26. Since December, I have made HUGE strides, not only in my physical fitness but in my emotional well-being as well. It is important to remember that. Most days, my progress feels so small and subtle. But, it is STILL there. My goals sometimes feel far away, but I have lost 27.5 pounds, or 12.5kgs. In December, I couldn’t run for 5 minutes and I ran 6 miles on Friday night. Progress cannot be judged only by side-by-side portraits. I feel better. I AM better. I make better choices. I can do this. My only real enemy is me.
So, for the rest of the night, I am going to watch Sherlock with my partner, who is amazing, and finish eating this piece of carrot cake. Because I can.
Tomorrow, it’s back on the grind. Run. Eat well. Be kind. Some days, I don’t feel like the same person anymore and that’s okay. It’s okay to change and to grow and to slough off the layers of bullshit that have accumulated on our skin for years. I have no desire to return who who I used to be and I think, after many years, I have finally found the right exfoliant.
Keep sloughin’, y’all.