“If you allow for it, the darkness is always right there waiting for you.”
As far back as I can remember, the lingering shadow of depression has followed. Some of us came into this world with that shadow attached just as the edge of who we are. Those that did not, find it difficult to comprehend.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed the classic signs of the shadows reminding me that darkness is always only few bad decisions away. It is a feeling accompanied by angst, angst that for me can only be managed through running. Am I worried? No! Let me tell you why.
When I discovered running in my early 20s, for the first time, I had a tool that actually beat back the darkness of the beast always ready and waiting for me to just give up. Giving up has never been an option in my opinion. Thus, “pushing through” was another trait I also came into this world with. Running requires “pushing through” in the same way; if you are going to make it to the end of your long run, or cross that finish line, you know the only way is to look in the direction of your goal and persist, no matter how much it hurts and how much you want to give up.
Running has become my battle-axe against brief dips in homeostasis. However, that does not mean running allows for me to relax. Pushing through often means just getting stated each day, lacing up, and pressing start on my Garmin.
When I was young, I went through a “pain junky” phase. I believed that if I embraced the darkness, then it could not have power over me. I think philosophically, although somewhat beatnik in nature, that makes sense. But for me it rarely resulted in improvement. In fact, I know now that embracing the darkness is no different from giving yourself over to it. It’s giving up.
At 44 years old, I now understand that the shadows creep back in now and again in an effort to usher in something much more sinister. Ignoring it gives it power. Inviting it in gives it power. So what am I left with? Now, I simply look the darkness directly, acknowledge that it is there, and push through to the glimmer of light on the other side of it. That light is always there. It can’t be avoided. But it can be reminded that in the end game, it truly has no real power.
There is a massive community of runners that understands the powerful magic that pounding pavement brings. Running provides that altered state away from the self obsessed nature of depression. Difficult periods for me are short-lived as a result. It is a matter of pushing through, acknowledging that the shadows are there, and building a community of family and friends that understand what you are up to. It is a form of excellence and inner drive to be defined by our accomplishments and finish lines, and nothing more.