Running from Anxiety

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Yesterday, I ran an 8 mile progression run as part of my Boston Marathon training.  It was a windy ass day, but not too cold, so I headed out in shorts ready to get this thing done.  I started slow, I ran a 9:02, 8:59, 8:38, 8:23 and 8:11.  By that point I was feeling pretty good, but knew I wanted my last 3 miles to be epic.  At 5.25 miles I actually stopped at the local grocery store, Safeway, to pick up my prescriptions.  This was planned ahead of time, as I had worn my AltraSpire running backpack without the reservoir in it.  Went to the pharmacy, had the tech wrap everything up nicely, and plopped it in my bag.  I headed out to get the rest of the run finished.  Everything was packed nicely, but you could still hear the steady and constant shaking of the pill bottles, almost like maracas.  I ran mile 6 in 8:10, and that is when I wanted to turn it up a notch for the final 2 miles.  As the pills acted as a metronome, I pounded down South Parkside Drive and 10th Ave with all I could.  I don’t think anything could have broken my focus.  I hit mile 7 in 7:29.  I wanted to make mile 8 something special.  Hitting STOP on my watch as I hit that final mile, I saw my split was 7:24.  My progression run was a huge success!

After my stop at Safeway, I was initially bothered by the sound of the pills in my bag.  I thought it was going to drive me nuts.  But then I started thinking about those pills and how they aren’t a nuisance that should be driving me crazy.  I have been taking Escitalopram (Cipralex) and Clonazepam since 2010.  My mother, my husband and some close friends and family have been aware of this, but not a lot of others.  It is important to talk about, and on #BellLetsTalk day I figured today would be a good time to talk about it.

Escitalopram and Clonazepam are both drugs used to help with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.  I take my cipralex daily for help with anxiety, and I take the Clonazepam as needed.  I call this one my “emergency pill.”  The reason why I was put on these medications by my family doctor was due to many compounding reasons.  I have always been a bit high-strung and anxious, even if it didn’t seem like that during my high school years back in Wisconsin.  I had good marks and was involved and on the outside, very well put together.  But then, take into account my father died in 2004….I graduated university in 2007…I moved to a new country in 2008….I didn’t have a full-time job yet in 2010…I wasn’t in a great place, as I didn’t know how to handle with a lot of the stressors around me.

In early 2010 I went and started trying to talk to a counselor about the issues I had dealing with my dad’s death.  I have mentioned before in this blog that I think during my university years I kind of went through a denial stage that the whole thing happened, and just put on a tough face to hide the emotions that I had inside.  The counselor helped a bit, but we parted ways as I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with his philosophy.  With having no full-time teaching contract going into the summer of 2010, planning my December wedding, and then still having yet to fully deal with my dad’s untimely death from a few years before that, I knew I needed to talk to my doctor about options to help.

I was prescribed the two medications and have taking my daily one religiously since then.  After about a month, I could tell it was helping calm me.  I think one of the first times I took my ‘emergency pill’ was in November 2010 when I lost my passport at the Toronto airport and basically went into a ballistic crying spell.  By the time I got into the hold zone at security to try and find out if they could locate it, I had calmed down dramatically.

Since first starting the medications, I decided to try seeing a counsellor again about my issues with my dad’s passing.  I also, in 2013, started this very blog.  While the blog started as a way to remember my dad (and fundraise for heart disease research in his memory) as I trained for and ran in the 2014 Dopey Challenge during Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, it was also a coping mechanism.  The blog, the counselling, the medication….and the running….has all helped me become more of the person I want to be.

After finishing the Dopey Challenge, I could have very well ended this blog.  I used this blog to help bring awareness to my fundraising efforts.  But I realized that this blog really helped me as a person.  And after doing the Dopey Challenge, that was when I first realized that if I focused on just training for and running a full marathon I could maybe, JUST MAYBE, qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I trained for Calgary Marathon in 2014, and missed the qualifying time.  I was frustrated, mad and didn’t want to go through the training again.  But then I signed up for Edmonton, which would be in August of that same year.  Same year, same results.  I only bested my time by about a minute, and was still over 10 minutes away from the max qualifying time for my age group.  Maybe I should throw in the towel….but after thought and consideration, I registered for the 2015 Vancouver Marathon.  I regained my focus, and put my energy into following a new training plan made specifically for me.  Registering for many local races and seeing how my times were dropping were powerful and motivating; it kept me pushing.  While I had stopped seeing the counsellor by this time, running truly had become my therapy.

And if you’ve read my blog, you now know that in Vancouver I did succeed-I qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon running 20 minutes faster than my previous best marathon time, and beating my qualifying standard by just over 10 minutes.  Running had allowed me to do something I love, all while going through every possible emotion.  It pushes me to the limit, it makes me question what is possible…and it allows me time to reflect and become at peace with what is going on around me.  Running hasn’t solved everything, but it sure has helped me along the way, and without running I am not sure where I would be right now.

So, yes.  I am someone, like many, who takes a prescription daily to help deal with daily life.  I also take high doses of endorphins whenever possible, because that along with the adrenaline that racing produces has helped me heal, slowly but surely.  This isn’t something to be ashamed about, so I wanted to share it today.  You now know a little bit more about my crazy, imperfectly perfect life.

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