Black dogs, running and the kindness of strangers

My black puppy can drive and it has just run me over with a truck. It’s sitting there all smug looking down on me ‘ha, you thought you were ok, didn’t you? You thought you were back on track and coping, didn’t you? You actually thought you were in control and slowly moving in the right direction, didn’t you? Didn’t you? Wrong!’ Depression’s a bitch – a small, black, fat labrador bitch in my case. At least the pup is female today, I’m not sure it always is – she’s got that icey voice, like fingernails on a chalkboard. She got me.

Yesterday was awful. I sat on the sofa for hours staring at my computer screen with tears streaming down my face. No real reason. I felt like I physically couldn’t move off the sofa, like there was an invisible cage holding me there. I tried to cheer myself up by looking at stuff for our January holiday, mapping out Disney itineraries and looking at the runDisney site to try and get excited about our adventure. I just cried more. Kath dragged me out to go see our sheep. I walked the mile there and the mile back putting one foot in front of the other. I watched our sheep, I smiled, I giggled at the ewe lambs getting all tangled trying to get to the  food but I didn’t really feel like I was there.

I went to bed, I slept a bit, I was awake a lot and then I couldn’t get up. I did eventually and sat on the sofa with my laptop. The f-ing bitch got me good and proper this time. I realised I was crying again. I opened my emails and closed them again – couldn’t face them. I opened the virtual learning environment to provide feedback on some work for my students – I stared at a few submissions but didn’t know what to say. My thoughts turned to running. ‘I could go for a run, that might help me feel better’ I thought. ‘hahahaha – funny. You CAN’T run’ came the instant reply from the puppy. I brought up the runDisney site and started searching for information on how to pull out of the race. ‘Good Girl!’ said the pup ‘Best not embarrass yourself’.

I sat for a bit and then did two things I didn’t think I’d do – I agreed to speak to a doctor. The last time I spoke to a doctor about mental health issues, the issue of exercise was raised and I mentioned running (this must have been not long after my friend Rachel died and we had started training for our first half marathon in 2012) I was told that I was far too heavy for running. That message has been repeated by every doctor I have seen since.They all say lose weight first. Anyway, I have an appointment for Monday. The second thing I did was post on a closed Facebook Group geared towards the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend training. I joined the group a while ago and I have found it really helpful to connect with others going through similar training programmes and having the same goals in mind. I suddenly thought that as I cannot expect much support for my running from the docs on Monday, other people in that group might have some suggestions as to how to put the puppy back in its place. I thought they might help me run through this episode of depression, they might keep me going and help me get to the start line. They might help me not quit.

I wasn’t expecting much but within minutes I had several wonderful responses, all of them telling me not to give up and all of them telling me to find another, more supportive doctor (I’d love to but they don’t seem to exist round here – is it NHS policy that anyone slightly overweight is told not to run anything above 5km?) and all of them telling me I can do this thing. The responses keep coming and they are all wonderful and it is hard to explain just how much they help. One person said she wished she could pick me up off the sofa and take me on the run she was about to start  – such a lovely gesture; another reminded me of the value of small goals and those two together made something click: I had already achieved goal one – get out of bed. Go me! Goal 2 was also within reach – goal 2 was just to get dressed in my running gear. I did that too. Then I faltered a little and went back to the sofa.

Kath was coming up to her lunch break so I told her I wanted to run. She had suggested that earlier but I’d just shaken my head and cried. We had agreed we would try and go see our sheep during her lunch break. I WANTED TO RUN. I just needed help actually leaving the house. We walked to the sheep. It didn’t feel like a fast walk, it was steady and it was roughly 17 minutes per mile I think so we probably could walk at 16 minutes which is runDisney minimum pace. I didn’t want the pressure of the garmin, I just wanted to be, so we just took my little stopwatch to have an idea of time generally. We stopped at the sheep and fed them all. All in all that took 27 minutes. Then we set off on our run. We usually run/walk following Galloway and have been doing 2 mins runs with 30 sec walks quite successfully for a bit recently. Today though we were just going to run/walk by feel. Once I got going I didn’t want to walk. Well I did, but not. The effort sort of felt real. It felt good to be running continuously at a pace that wasn’t fast but was just fast enough to make it feel hard, to make me wonder if I could sustain it for much longer, to make me focus on sustaining it and keeping going. We ran our loop without walking in 31 minutes 10 seconds and for that 31 minutes 10 seconds the fog in my brain lifted a bit. I felt a bit more like me. It took another 15 minutes to walk home (uphill) so we were actally out for nearly an hour 15 minutes.

I want to say thank you to all those people who took the time to post in response to my plea for help in the facebook group. It was the early posts that helped me make it out the door today and all the posts are amazing and supportive.I don’t know these people but we are all working towards the same challenge. There is a real sense of community there somehow that I wasn’t really expecting. I’m part of something and somehow, for my addled brain that is really important right now. We all have the same ultimate aim – crossing the marathon finish line vaguely in one piece on the 10th January 2016. We all have our demons, battles or puppies to contend with along the way and we will all help each other, through the next few weeks and during the challenge.

So yes, I am struggling, really struggling but I had a choice today – I could have done what I usually do, taken a deep breath, plastered a smile on my face and got on with the job by hiding under the duvet while insisting that I am fine or I could have asked for help to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I chose the latter. I may be suffering from a particularly nasty round of depression but I am determined to run through it and that determination comes from the kindness shown by a group of people who know nothing about me other than that I will run Disney in January and that I will cross the finish line

Thank you

3 thoughts on “Black dogs, running and the kindness of strangers

  1. I, for one, am so proud of you. I work as a mental health therapist and you did something big by reaching out. Days of struggle will happen but pushing through turns them into victories for yourself. You are amazing and you WILL be able to do whatever you set your mind to. Doctors don’t always know what they’re talking about either. I run with two really crappy knees and my horrible family doc tells me I won’t be able to run for long. What he doesn’t realize is running gave me a reason to work on strengthening my knees so they get better, not worse. Find a doc that listens to you. I hope very much that your doc Monday is more helpful and supportive. In the mean time, just remember you are amazing and you have the strength to push through the bad days! Keep your chin up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do hope you manage to see a more supportive dr on Monday- it seems totally pathetic for them to tell you to loose weight but not to do running, I mean how are you supposed to lose weight without doing exercise!! Stupid stupid! Hopefully you’ll get to see someone with more sense this time! I’m so glad the virtual running community helped you, it’s great to connect with people who have the same goals as you! Hope the black dog goes back in it’s hole soon x

    Liked by 1 person

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