Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Running was a huge part of my identity growing up. I did my first triathlon when I was in 6th grade and immediately became hooked on the feeling of pushing myself to complete physical exhaustion. The first triathlon I did I threw up after the swimming portion and it did not even phase me, I just ran outside and did the next part of the leg. There was something so empowering about my body showing physical symptoms of burnout but then still being able to keep going. I felt invincible and like nothing could stop me.
I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment every time one of my toenails would fall off from running too much. Once again, my body was giving out before my willpower was. Whenever things got too overwhelming or too real, I would put my running shoes on and just run out my backdoor to the mountains behind my house. There were different periods of times where people would put out warnings for mountain lions or moose that they had seen while out there. People would get stressed and tell me I should not be back there by myself, but I did not care. I was invincible, remember? I would just put my headphones in on full blast and sing my lungs out as I ran so that nothing would dare cross my path.
The better shape I was in the more I would have to push myself before I would get to the point of throwing up and eventually my body was in too good of shape to have that be a symptom of pushing myself physically. I would sprint up and down trappers loop road, which was a pretty steep incline, but stopped feeling that as well. So I would go longer distances until my body would literally give out and I could not walk anymore. The only time I remember staying home from church growing up was when I blew my hip out trying to run 15 miles.
During my freshman year of college, my roommates and I were friends with a group of guys that all lived together. One time I was over at their house and they were asking me questions and getting mad at me for something my roommates did. I felt so sick and stressed about it that I literally turned around and started running to get out of their apartment. The door was locked and I was too overwhelmed to figure out how to unlock it and so I just buried my face in my hands and pressed myself against the corner of the wall until I could calm down. I turned around and told them I was sorry and that it was all my fault and that I would never let it happen again just so that I could get out of there quicker. Even though it was completely not my fault and my roommates were the ones who had upset them.
This experience stuck out to me because this was during a conflict unit in my communications class, and I realized this instance perfectly highlights my conflict style. I run from all conflict (both with myself and others) until I am literally backed in a corner and then I accommodate everyone so that I can just slip out once everyone is feeling better about themselves.
I stopped physically running after my mission when I pulled my Achilles tendon and my doctor told me it would fall off if I did not stop running. Not only was this the point that I had literally ran myself to the ground, but it was also the point in my life where I had emotionally ran myself into the ground as well. I was just completely physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. For the first time in my life, I could not motivate myself to get out of bed by telling myself how horrible of a person I was. The areas of my life that used to allow me to run from my feelings and emotions were too exhausting for me. Instead of obsessively studying I was barely even turning in my assignments on time. I started missing classes and lying to my professors about why I was not there. I had pulled my emotional Achilles tendon, and I am still recovering from that.
However, I started having *periods of time* where I would have more energy, creativity, and motivation. I would think that I was *better* and start “running” again like crazy. I would work insane hours, join volunteer groups, pick my nephew up from daycare, take my roommate’s dogs for walks, paint pictures, start exercising, write blog posts, start an Etsy shop, etc. I felt like I was going absolutely crazy, but I also could not stop. It felt good again to be obsessively consuming my life with tasks and I would vow to myself that this time I would not crash, this time I could maintain it.
But these time periods would always end pretty horribly. I would go on a late-night sprint down the street and then collapse on the grass in front of a church and lay there for who knows how long until I could find the energy to walk back home. Those late-night sprints turned into late-night walks that ended with me curling up in a ball and hyperventilating behind a football stadium or driving down the freeway in the middle of the night at excessive speeds and then calling my mom to come pick me up off some random exit after having a panic attack in my car. Without fail, I was always reminded of what it was like to push myself to a complete breaking point. After reaching my breaking point, I would have to try to cancel all of the commitments I had just made. And then once again, showering, taking my contacts out, getting out of bed, etc. became the hugest chores. I would start skipping my classes again and barely make homework deadlines. It even got to the point where I would collapse on my bed after work and be too tired to take my shoes off or even turn off the light. I would just fall asleep with the lights on and basically stay like that until my next shift at work.
Each time I would have one of these *up periods* they would get scarier and scarier. I would sleep less and less and start feeling more like an insane person than a creative or productive person. The running started getting more frantic. It had gotten to the point where one of my roommates started noticing that my light would always be on when she would leave for work at 6 a.m. She started checking on me and would open my door to find me painting some weird picture on my floor, and that is when it would hit me that I had somehow managed to stay up all night again. I am completely not exaggerating when I say on at least 3 different occasions I would start masturbating right before bedtime and then it would somehow turn into 6 hours straight, which I am now aware is definitely not normal. My *periods of creativity* had turned into *periods of insanity*.
In January I got diagnosed with bipolar 2 and was put on some medication that has significantly helped. I think that my symptoms have turned from a person who has completely lost their mind to someone who is simply emotionally unstable.
Sometimes when I talk to people about how I am feeling a lot better overall but still really struggle, they usually say something along the lines of, “Well no one is always feeling good” or “You probably just have to accept that you will be dealing with some form of depression/anxiety the rest of your life.” I am sure people are trying to be comforting, but it is honestly just really depressing to me. I have zero desire to accept that I am going to be living a life of running and crashing and then running and crashing over and over again. At some point, I am going to just crash and never get back up.
Even though I am medicated now, I still have a problem with pushing myself too hard and then crashing once I am not able to maintain that pace anymore. I usually do not even realize that I had been running until the crash happens. I want SO badly to be okay, and apparently, my ideal image of mental stability is a person who is able to be productive every second of every day. I used to beat myself up for not being able to maintain this pace and am working on accepting that I need to simplify my life.
I really just do not know how to deal with hard emotions other than running from them and pretending they do not exist. So. I am going to be working on that. I think I am getting better at not running all the time and feeling things along the way, but quite frankly the pace is painfully slow. And I hate slow.
In a way, it feels like I have PTSD from my bipolar symptoms. If I have a hard time getting out of bed I start to panic because I am afraid that maybe my meds are not working anymore. What if I am entering another depressive state? The thought is so terrifying that a lot of times it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I become so anxious about being depressed that it becomes debilitating. On the flip side, I also get really nervous any time I start to have more motivation. A lot of times my manic states started out just being really motivated and slowly turned into frantic craziness. Sometimes I would not even realize how bad I was until I would look back once I had snapped out of it.
Ok wow, I was not planning on this turning into my story of getting diagnosed with Bipolar 2. I usually have an idea of where I want my blog posts to go but then they usually take a drastic turn once I start writing.
Also, everyone deals with hard emotions differently. My tactic was numbing things out by excessive productivity, but everyone has different numbing techniques. Not to make everything about horoscopes, but the way I tend to deal with my problems is a very stereotypical Capricorn method of avoidance. I think it is important to notice your own personal tactics of avoidance and the best way to address and work through them because we are all different. The same idea but different methods.