“It’s happening again. I recognize the signs. Heaviness. Over-sleeping. Ignoring to-do lists. Empty stares. Not caring about anything or anyone. And yet, smiling at everyone I see. Asking how people are. Being overly kind, just because. And then… nothing.”
Depression isn’t always just being sad. In fact, clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is when a person has a depressed mood, chronic fatigue, impaired concentration, insomnia or hypersomnia and other symptoms every day for more than 2 weeks and is not caused by a loss, death of a loved one, or a medical condition (such as a thyroid disorder). May is mental health awareness month and I want to highlight depression, as it is a strange bedfellow for me.
“I know all the right words and I know what to do and I know I have to fight to keep the darkness away. But I’ve got no fight left. I have fought most of my life to keep this away. Sometimes it grabs hold of me for a short time, a few days, a few weeks. Sometimes it won’t let go for years. The fight is draining. Depression likes me. It wants to be right with me, close. I pretend for as long as I can that I am fine. But I’m not.”
Depression affects people of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2020 the percentage of people with major depressive disorder was around 9% of adults 18 and up in the US. In a year and a half, that number has more than tripled to around 32.8% in early 2022. The time to talk about mental health is well past due and we truly need to end the stigma. Many people, especially men, will suffer alone because they don’t understand depression and they do not know about treatments.
Treatment includes talking with your physician, counseling, exercise and possibly medication. Exercise works. (see last month’s blog post.) Running is my exercise of choice. A good dose of endorphins are released when I run, and even though depression tells me to stay in bed, I have to tell myself I will feel better if I get out and run. The running community also helps me fight depression. There’s something about running with a group that helps me to disconnect from myself for a little while. I loosen up not only physically, but I am able to share some of my thoughts with other runners.
Exercise helps, but by itself, it is often not enough to treat clinical depression. Finding a counselor is another great option for treatment. A good counselor will help you separate your feelings and the truth of a situation that you might not see. Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to counseling. And even worse, many insurance plans do not cover counseling. I am an ambassador for a group called Bigger Than The Trail. This organization uses trail running as a platform to advocate for mental health. This group comes alongside an individual with an opportunity to take the first steps, or continue in your journey, to find ways to manage your mental health. BTTT will provide 3 free months of services from Betterhelp, an online counseling service. Online counseling is not for everyone, but for a person who needs financial help or is hesitant to go to counseling, Betterhelp can be a great option.
Running parallels my fight with depression. It’s raw and brings me to the end of myself. Running teaches me that I can overcome and fight for the finish line. Training many months for a race reminds me that I can show up every day and put in the work. I am stronger than I thought. I will press on towards the goal and I will not grow weary in doing good. I will forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead. I will run with endurance the race marked out for me.
Bigger Than The Trail is having their annual Block Party this May to raise funds that help provide free counseling. You can register for the virtual run and join me for a run at the Rick Klein Trails on May 21st at 8am!