Running from it

I can sort of track my recent descent into funkiness as starting around the time I got back from Boston. While there, I went for a run and got a little lost because they don’t know how to lay roads and ended up having to run up a big set of stairs to get to a bridge to get back to our hotel. I’m pretty sure that’s when I tweaked my knee.

As is usually the case, little injuries like that flare into larger ones and after I ran when I got home (ignoring the tweaky knee because I’m stupid), it hurt enough that I had to stop running. I even had a hard time just walking up stairs. Fucker hurt. That led to several weeks of no running at all and that’s when my mental state went from its usual OKness to pretty bad.

The low point was last week and into the start of this one. But in that time, I’ve run five times and gone about 14 miles and my knee hasn’t hurt hardly at all. And each day, I’ve felt better. Yesterday and today (I ran this morning), I feel really good. The stuff I’m dealing with is still back there. Lurking. I can hear it shuffling around in the shadows. But it’s not in front of me. It’s under control.

As I was pondering the affect running was having on me, an article popped up on my Facebook feed from the New York Times called “Homing In on the Source of Runner’s High.”

[E]ndorphins may be unfairly hogging the credit for making workouts enjoyable, according to an enlightening new experiment with animals. The findings suggest that endorphins have little to do with runner’s high. Instead, that euphoric feeling may be the product of a completely different but oddly familiar substance — the body’s own endocannabinoids, the chemicals that, like the cannabinoids in marijuana, lighten mood.

Apparently, endorphins are too big to get through the blood-brain barrier but these homemade cannabinoids aren’t. In lab studies on mice, it seems to make them less anxious.

Huh.

On the other hand, my improvement in mood also coincides with writing two posts about it here and having my first visit with a therapist, so I don’t know if I can attribute the difference entirely to my endocannabinoids production, but it really does feel like running, while not solving my problems, goes a long way towards keeping them manageable. I’m going to start paying a lot more attention to the relationship between my cardio routines and my mood from here on out.

6 thoughts on “Running from it

  1. While anxiety and depression aren’t my struggles, I can say that exercise definitely helps me with my own. I’m not a runner, as you know, but the consistent weight lifting that I’ve been doing for the past three months has helped me immensely. I feel more in control of my moods and tendencies.

    When we went on a trip at the end of August and I couldn’t do my usual workouts, I definitely felt off. Even by Monday mornings after not exercising on the weekends, I can tell a huge difference. I’m glad that you are back to running and that it’s helping in whatever way it can. Hugs to you, my friend 🙂

  2. It’s absolutely helping your mood. It’s been proven up, down, and sideways that exercise is conducive to improving mood and helping ward off or at least temper anxiety and depression. Plus feeling like you’re fit and active and in shape can help with self-confidence and self-esteem which also can help combat those feelings of depression and anxiety.

    Also, with depression a big element that my therapist has stressed with me is structure. If running is a part of your day to day routine losing that normalcy may have had a negative impact just like the loss of the exercise=positive brain chemistry element did and getting back to that normalcy and restoring a piece of your day to day structure could be paying off.

    At any rate, good to hear things are starting to look up a bit. Capitalize on that, hang onto it. It can be tough facing mental illness and it’s easy to back slide at times but best thing you can do is keep talking and keep focusing on all the positives in your life. One exercise my therapist prescribes (and for what it’s worth he’s a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, so CBT comes up as an acronym quite often) is keeping a daily “gratitude journal”.

    Basically, you just do it yourself with a pen and paper, and it only takes a couple of minutes. Somewhere around the end of your day, try listing out maybe five things you’re grateful for in your life, five positives. They can be incredibly small or minor things too, if anything it’s better that they are small details, but just sit and try and think of the good things in your life. It sounds like cheap advice but it really can put you into a better state of mind, you’re basically replacing pessimism with optimism. Which is really what CBT is all about…

  3. It’s good to hear from you and that you’re doing better. I’ve been checking every day, and got a little concerned when you weren’t updating the portfolio. All your groupies are breathing a sigh of relief that you’re on the mend. The issues may hover at the edges; if you can keep them there, you’ll be fine.

  4. I’m glad you are on the mend and getting better. The struggle is a dandy and just takes a lot of time. Running and rowing help me get out of any dark place.

    I think we all miss the happy sex posts that one of the commenters said, but I think I speak for all when I say we are just happy you are getting better. Of course! With Drew being so dark too, it’s a weird feeling.

  5. In the Moody post’s comments (I’ve only read all these last posts just now) there were a few recommendations to go for medication and I was going to comment that before you go there, you might want to try a few other simple things, like Vitamin D (ideally via exposure to natural or artificial sunlight or if need be pills) plus a change of diet (sugar which in our food is much too prevalent appears to have been identified as a cause of depression). I wasn’t going to recommend writing since you already seem to be doing a very decent amount of it.

    It’s kind of funny (or sad, really) that I totally forgot about exercise. It’s the one thing I’ve wanted to start doing for years now and never seem to muster the energy to although there’s widespread agreement that it’s just awesome.

    Mind you, I’m not majorly depressed, I only very rarely suffer from sadness or anxiety and then it tends to be for a good reason. But I often feel emotionally numb and most of the time cannot get myself to do the things that need doing until it’s very nearly or entirely too late.

    I’ve got three friends who suffer from depression, all very different characters and cases, and I don’t mean to say that medication isn’t great. In one of those cases (manic depressive) it’s the only thing that worked out in the end but as far as I’m aware all medications have thoroughly annoying side effects.

    Oh, another thing that I find helps a bit is disrupting my life, doing something I don’t normally do, going some place I wouldn’t normally go, mixing with people I don’t normally mix with. I mean simple things, a meetup.com group, an unfamiliar part of town, a nearby village, or somewhat more extreme, helping some Food for the Poor initiative, visiting a refugee camp, a trip to Africa/India/South America where feasible. It seems to give me a slightly different and fresh perspective on life and often lifts my mood.

    In closing I’d like to say that you come across as such a great guy who’s got down so many things that I don’t it feels surreal to read about you not being happy all around. I hope you will be. Dented perhaps, but happy.

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