The last time I tried to run 18 miles was January 2016. I came up with some horrible back and forth route, and when I got out of the car that morning I realized I didn’t want to run. At all. And if I did run, I would hate every step.
Hating every step of 18 miles would almost certainly lead to hating running. Inexorably. And I can’t afford to hate running.
So, I didn’t. I went home and drank coffee, after emailing the marathon I was training for and asking to drop back to the half. In fact, I emailed them before I even left the parking lot. I felt great that day, like I was recognizing what I needed to do to take care of myself in the long run (yeah, avoid the long run in support of the long run…whatever).
I haven’t attempted 18 since then. In fact, I’d not gone beyond 13.1 until a few weeks ago when I ran 14. And the 16 last week. And then 18 today. It felt a little magical. Reclaiming something I had to give up in order to…survive is really over-the-top here, but it’s all I can think to say.
I ran 3 marathons last year (2015), along with 5 or 6 half marathons. I ate horribly, cross-trained worse, so by the time that 18-miler came, I had absolutely nothing left.
A year (almost) later, I found it again. Not that this was the greatest long run ever. It wasn’t. Decidedly wasn’t, as it happens. I had to walk (way more than I wanted to) because my legs were so stiff from sitting on the floor all day yesterday in front of what passes as my desk at home. I had to more or less trick myself into completing 18 by forcing myself to run 6 miles out (so that I had to run 12 at the very least) and then running a 1 mile out and back from there 3 times. Because I could pack it in at any point and still have more than 12.
I can’t begin to say how much today’s run is reflective of my life in general, particularly the having to effectively lie to myself to get something done (like the laundry I am presently ignoring…). That need to engage in cognitive dissonance (because, you know, I do know that I am lying. I do have that much together). That’s why the last 18–the one that didn’t happen–was so remarkable. I got honest for a moment. I didn’t just run (sorry) headlong into whatever. And, in fact, I didn’t run more races that I planned to run than ones I actually ran this year.
I’d call it recovery, but I did 18 today, so that seems a touch off.
So, next week is 20. The last time I did 20 was during the Long Beach Marathon in 90+ degree weather. It was wretched. I listened to “So Far Away” on repeat for miles, practically sobbing (except I was too dehydrated for tears) in both exhaustion and something in the lyrics that just kept beating me up (and keeping me moving):
Sleep tight I’m not afraid (not afraid)
The ones that we love are here with me
Lay away a place for me (place for me)
‘Cause as soon as I’m done I’ll be on my way
To live eternally–Avenged Sevenfold, “So Far Away”
It was the penultimate line, in particular. Possibly because I was just not sure I’d make it to the end (I did. couldn’t cry then either).
Today, I listened to The Stage on repeat, and “Angels” in particular (well, “Sunny Disposition” got several repeats as well. It’s the horns. Love the horns. Okay, and the voice.). They’ve gotten me through every race since 2010. Really grateful that they are still creating. Really grateful for each and every step I took today, even the ones I needed to lie to myself to take. And especially the ones that only happened because I got lost in their music.
The title comes from (no surprise here) a song–“Angels” by Avenged Sevenfold. The song is–for me–hypnotic.
TL;DR: Imposter syndrome in a depression sauce and served with sides of well-turned guilt and seasoned need to make it all better for you.
The title might just be a little too on the nose for this year. I’ve not experienced depression of this magnitude in a long time (4 years, to be specific), and while I can point to some situations (DD*’s sickness and death, yes, SEK’s sickness and death, the fucking election, etc.) that either precipitated the onset or would have shin-kicked me anyway, the fact is that it’s not just situational. The darkness found me–I’m not sure it had to look all that hard–and it is so very, very dark.
It’s not December 2012 bad (ohpleaseno), but bad. People are noticing. People who should not be noticing, are. They are even starting to ask. They are concerned that I’ve lost my sparkle.
I, personally, am surprised to hear I had one.
We’ll say little of the complete strangers who stop me to tell me it will be ok. I seem to be wearing the darkness, rather than just stewing over it. And man does that ever make me feel guilty.
I got honest about it over the summer. I said out loud that the weather was crushing my spirit. I thought being honest about it would be the right thing to do, but I was perhaps not honest enough. Or honest to the right people. I’m not even sure at this point. During the summer (or lack thereof–the fog, oh the fog is killing me<–drama queen), when I realized things were dark again, I tried to do what I am supposed to do. Sort of.
"Supposed to do" turned into taking an online course about classical music. I admit that it is possible I missed the details on this self care thing.
I’ve so much I want to write, but I don’t know how to get the words on the page. They are rattling about my head in their muddled masses and just not dropping.
There are words that never found my lips/There are words I’d soon forget/Thought the trick was never to look back/But it seems I’ve lost my grip, I slip/The faster we run now, the closer the gun now/And somehow all the bullets bear my name.
I should be happy. It’s the job I wanted. It’s the place I have been trying to return to for 37 years. It’s where, I think, I am supposed to be. Good things have happened since summer. Really good, awe-inspiring things. A hand, a smile, a work of art I never expected.
The weight of the darkness keeps coming back each time I think I’ve shaken it off. Even when I don’t look back. I have it better than most. Way better. I have people dear to me who have been cut much closer to the bone this year than I have a right to pretend to. I’m used to feeling like an imposter in my professional life (and boy howdy do I ever right now), but I can’t recall feeling it so clearly in my personal life before.
Took the road but should have chased the stars/ Now I’ve lost my own way home/Had a photo of the time we shared/But I burned it long ago…
I even, this is fun, feel an imposter in writing about depression. Other people have it worse. Suck it up. But I feel so lost right now. And forget chasing stars. Those words right above speak so loudly to me (earworm loud, but if I use DD’s recommended song, I’ll just be on the floor for the following hour), but I have absolutely no idea why, and I don’t think it is a matter of #thatvoice alone. I’m sure my head will reveal all at some point (it always does and often quite rudely), but I’m just living with the words in my head for right now.
I realizing in typing this out that the darkness is both metaphor and reality. This year has been a bastard of a year weather-wise here. Cold and dark were the hallmarks of summer, and fall hasn’t exactly decided to act much different, though recently it has brought rain in to shake things up a bit. So, literally dark (and, yes, I know what SAD is and that I am fairly strongly affected by it. Like, pretty sure Seattle would kill me strongly affected, and this place is certainly trying to make sure I don’t imagine otherwise), or at least darker than my brain/body want.
And then there is that other darkness.
No, no. Not her.
The metaphorical one that creates real, physical pain. And real, visible darkness, which is apparently even visible to others right now. In the end, at least tonight, I think that is what is bothering me most. Not only visible, but troubling to them. I hate that. I hate that I can’t fix me so that I can fix it, and I hate that this is my first impulse: make them feel better! Everything is okay!
So, now what?
*I think I remember why I called her “DD” in these pages, but it was well before I knew some of her story that I know now, and, yeah, it makes me smile. And, no, I’m not telling, but, damn.