Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman
Monday, 20 February 2012
Exercise in health and dishealth
Here are some statements from Captain Obvious (me):
1. Just because you exercise, does not mean you are healthy
2. Though I may be in relatively good shape physically, no one reading this blog should look at me as a model of good psychiatric health.
The other day, I received an email from a Russian woman living in Israel who thanked me for the inspiration to keep running while pregnant. She had what sounded like a healthy and happy pregnancy experience followed by a home birth of her beautiful baby boy. The boy's name means "lion of God" in Hebrew. Anyone know what that name is? I hope other women in Israel have been inspired by her. And if anyone reading this blog wants a good resource for how to use your mind to overcome the pain of childbirth, I can put you in touch with her.
I have been happy to be able to reassure women that exercise in pregnancy is healthy. And that women have better pregnancies and babies have better outcomes because of it. But I also owe it to the readers of this blog to point out that, heck, I am not someone who is to be modelled when it comes to exercise habits! I exercise to stay sane and thus exercise way too much, when I have the time, and rarely train right. But yeah, you can run 6 marathons while pregnant, enjoy it and know it isn't dangerous.
I'm getting to the point. Don't worry. I have shown this post to SR and my sister already and it is a big deal for me to come out with this.
I have many times alluded to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and that is something I am comfortable with because I have come to terms with it and actually have greatly improved my symptoms simply by becoming educated about the condition. And the fact that I have battled with anorexia has also come up often. It is an enemy I know well and will most likely fight it my entire life (my current BMI of 17.3 does not speak to my condition being under control).
But during approximately the entire month of January, I was even further from normal. It seems many of you could detect it despite my not writing about it directly. I didn't know how to write about it, because I didn't know what it was. Though, looking back, the words "crazy", "depressed" "lonely" and "manic" all came up.
It has happened four times now. A period of about a month where I can't sleep; I am restless, short-tempered, obnoxious to be around and riddled with anxiety and guilt which cycle viciously inside of me. I had told SR when we started dating now 5 years ago that I had just had a manic episode (that one worked out well because I was on trauma surgery and when I walked home from work I could sit in SR's back yard and dream about knocking on his door in the middle of the night). But I hadn't had one since. And I didn't even know that's what it was until it was over (despite being confronted by more than one immediate family member about getting psychiatric help - and I wanted it desperately). And then sometime around last Thursday (10 days ago), it started to end. And I was somehow breathing more normally and thinking clearly.
It is such a gift to be calm again. I am ashamed to go into details about our trip to Mammoth Lakes and that is why I didn't write much about it at the time. As my sister, who was along, described, the dark circles under my eyes just kept getting darker. I would wake up hours before everyone and sit there with my coffee, shaking and with tears in my crazy eyes waiting for everyone to wake up, for someone to say they would watch the kids while I went for a run. I only got myself to ski one run (skiing was just too relaxing for me, I guess). I was so focused on running every available minute of babysitting time. I even stayed up nearly all night one night while SR watched the kids and I ran on icy mountain trails in the moonlight. I didn't want the rest of my family knowing that I needed to run nearly a marathon the same night that I had run a marathon during the day...
And what on earth? I have no idea now how I ran a 3:14 marathon on the treadmill two days after running a 20 mile PR on the treadmill and then two days later running a 20 mile tempo again. I would lay awake in bed envisioning running an actual marathon and I thought if someone simply showed me a starting line, I could finish in less than 3 hours. As of today, I have absolutely no clue how I could have thought that. Many of you probably thought I was lying about those running times, but I wasn't.
And the shear stupidity of buying plane tickets to run a marathon in New Orleans without my family! What was I thinking? I remember not being able to tell SR that I bought them, feeling like a thief in the night. Well, I'm not going. I wasted a ton of money and I regret it enormously. (We are now running a 5k together that weekend in La Crosse to raise money for the Special Olympics). How could I forget my love of trails, local races and running with my husband?
Ok. I could easily write a novel about the now four manic and two or three depressed episodes (the depressed episodes are not as clearly delineated for me as the manic ones) I have had, but I think you all know enough to get my point.
I do realize that writing this is not a great strategic career move. And it doesn't make me appear to have things under control. But I am okay with that. I often wonder if the mental health of ultra runners is a bit of a neglected topic. Rather than going into tons of details right now, I would just like to open things up for discussion. Whatever comes into your head is okay.
I am in such a good mood these days that I can take any sort of accusations. Bring them on. Just having my "old self" back again is something that makes me incredibly thankful. I can't help thinking of the meaning of the name Mattias, "gift of God".
No, I am not saying I am suddenly "normal", I am only saying, I feel good in my skin once again.
After taking two days of running just 1 mile. Not 1 times 10, just 1, I was ready for some good running again. Here I am after a 21 miler, modeling my new compression tubes fron Compressport, which I am testing for Ultrarun.com. I really like them. (sorry, but I don't think I look like a woman with a BMI of 17.3 Or do I also have body dysmorphic disorder?). Oh, and now you know our address. Or at least the number :).
The running song of the day was inspired by my favorite moment at the Grammy awards (I really knew I wasn't manic anymore when I sat down and watched almost the entire thing with Christian and El Guapo):
The Beach Boys, clearly older than they used to be, walk out on stage and begin playing "Good Vibrations", the cameras almost seems to avoid Brian Wilson but then focus in on his empty, sort of stone-crazy, eyes. Everyone at home must have shifted uncomforably. But out of him comes the most beautiful "I. I love the colorful clothes you wear.." and the world breathed a happy sigh of relief.
Here is an HD recording from the early days:
There are so many things I could say about this amazing song, but I'll keep it to
2. perfect bridge
3. fun running song