Hello…Okay I know. I guess my” final farewell” to this blog wasn’t completely final. I had an itch to write, so here I am.
After a couple years of constant ups and downs I think I finally got things mostly figured out. I have hashimoto’s disease (thyroiditis) and I deal with depression. I have the right doctors and the right meds, I feel blessed.
This summer (well it was still summer on Monday when I started this post…) has been the best of my life. My body is in balance and I feel happy. I feel on track in every aspect of my life. It has felt amazing to wake up every morning from a truly good nights sleep and to feel excited to exercise. “Feeling” and “Good Sleep” are a sign that depression is being managed well. Most nights have been that good. Most mornings were that good. Lesson learned: by being willing to get help, my illness can be VERY manageable.
At the start of the summer I decided to set a goal to run the Bear Lake Brawl triathlon in August. I signed up and started training.
Sometimes during a morning run I would think back to the last time I raced. Three years ago, summer of 2008. I had just signed up for the LOTOJA bike race (bike race from Logan UT to Jackson Hole WY). Ever since I did my first century ride in 2003, competing in LOTOJA was a dream of mine, LOTOJA was something I REALLY wanted to do.
Earlier that spring 2008, I had started having panic attacks and bouts of depression. I hadn’t sought out help mostly because I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. The anxiety was getting worse and was starting to control my life. I had to quit my job, I was afraid to leave my house, I fought with my husband daily because neither of us knew why I couldn’t just snap out of it. I felt like a monster, like I was losing my mind. It felt like my brain wasn’t working right. I could hardly function, how in the world was I supposed to do a 200 mile bike race when I could hardly get out of bed. I dreaded the race and wished that I could break my leg or something so I’d have an excuse to get out of it. I was too ashamed to admit that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want others to know how bad I was struggling. I didn’t want to admit to myself that something serious was going on.
September 8th, 2008, LOTOJA race day, I felt sick. I was weak mentally and emotionally. I was overwhelmed and embarrassed about how little I had trained.
I felt discouraged while other riders passed me. I felt unprepared. Most of all I felt extremely frustrated that my anxiety was controlling my life. As I biked, I kept going over this one thought over and over in my head, I just couldn’t understand what had changed. Why had my brain all of the sudden freaked out? Why did I feel this constant nagging of despair?
At 8:30pm it got dark and I wasn’t able to even finish. It felt more like a day of defeat than it did a day of accomplishment. My dream was ruined and on the way home I cried and cried. My perspective on life narrowed. Negative thoughts poured down and drowned out my mind.
( LOTOJA 2008)
HOWEVER, I’m happy to say that after LOTOJA I began to gain some understanding into what I was dealing with. Did that make things better? Yes. But it would be 2 1/2 more years of treatment and diagnosis, and hell basically before I would consider racing again. Here’s the happy part.
Fast forward to this summer. August 27th, 2011. Bear Lake Brawl triathlon day. I honestly was so excited. It was such a different feeling to that of how I felt the day of LOTOJA. I was super anxious but it was because I knew I could well. I was happy anxious. I’d been timing myself and knew that there was a chance I could place in at least the top 20. That was my goal. I was prepared, I felt on top of the world and the race hadn’t even started.
THREE… TWO…. ONE…. GO!!!!
The whole race I just couldn’t stop smiling. I felt so good. I felt full of energy and motivation. I felt empowered. I felt prepared. I felt grateful that because I was able to get things figured out, I had the energy to train and be prepared. I could feel all the systems of my body working together. I knew my thyroid function and brain function were normal and active. I don’t really have the right words to explain what that felt like. To feel my body working. My mind to be clear. I felt like I had my old self back again. I felt like me. I was doing a triathlon and I was having fun. I felt confident and like I could do anything.
Near the end of the race I started to cry. I just couldn’t help it. It had only been a year before that I had reached my very lowest point ever and now here I was doing a triathlon. I ended up in 8th place, I accomplished my goal of the top 20.
(Bear Lake Brawl, 2011)
Nobody does a “Race for the cure” for mental illness. It’s a shame I think, since so many suffer with it. But this race was my race for the cure. It was me saying to myself and others out there we can beat this.
To me, “beating” a mental illness is really enjoying the ups and being prepared for the downs. It means accepting and learning about symptoms and treatment and following through with it. It isn’t like chemo where you go through treatment and then they take a picture and say oh, we can see the cancer is gone, you’re cured, you’ve beat it! It’s a thing that has to constantly be managed. For some, they find a therapist and a medication and they’re good for a few years. In my case, I’ve had to change things up several times to stay on top of it. Staying on top of it, for me, this is “beating” it.