Practice. Run. Accept. Repeat.

Here are the facts of my life in no particular order; I am a Mother, I teach and practice yoga, I am a runner, I am divorced, and I suffer from depression. Ok, I lied.  Those totally were in order beginning with the things I like most about myself, ending with the things I like the least about myself.
 In light of recent events, namely the suicide of Robin Williams and a few brave public admissions by friends of mine about their own struggles with depression, I decided to share my story as well - on the off chance that it might make someone else feel less alone if they too happen to be living with depression.   
I was in high school the first time that my Mother told me she thought I might have a problem with depression.  I honestly do not remember the exact circumstance surrounding  this proclamation.  I presume that it had something to do with me not wanting to go to school.  Ever.  Like for real, ever.  Never, NEVER, EVER. 
Long story short, she took me to the Doctor and told him that she thought I was depressed and he prescribed my very first anti-depressant and sent me on my way.  I did not take this diagnosis well at all.  As a matter of fact, I refused to take the anti depressant the next day, called my Mother every horrible combination of curse words I could think of and threatened to throw the bowl of cereal that I was currently eating through our very large picture window in our living room if she didn’t drop it right then and there.   So she did, she dropped it. 
 Fast forward a few years to college and the death of my Father
from cancer in the midst of what should have been carefree college days.  Guess what?  I didn’t want to go to school after he died, AGAIN.  Like, for real, I never wanted to go back to college. I wanted to stay home and do nothing.
 My Mom let me do nothing for awhile.  Then she brought up the big “D” word again.  This time, being  years older, just a smidge wiser and more in touch with my emotions in general, I decided I would try it, so I took the blasted anti-depressant.  My Mother was happy.  I was not. 
 It went like this for years and years and years.  I would take the anti-depressant for awhile, decide it was doing absolutely nothing for me and then stop.   Soon after my Mother or my boyfriend or my husband would tell me I was abnormally depressed and that I better try the medication again.  So I would.  I would always stop though, because it just never seemed like it was helping.  (FYI, I do take an anti-depressant now, so I am NOT poo-pooing anti-depressants at all.)
 Fast forward to just a couple of years ago, I have two young children, I am divorcing  and life is about to CHANGE BIG TIME. 
 A little back story first.  I have been a runner since high school.  It is one of my greatest passions in life.  Before I knew what moving meditation was, I knew that there was something about putting on my running shoes that somehow saved my life a little bit every single day. 
 Throughout my on again/off again dalliances with anti-depressants, I always ran and I always knew for certain that it helped me through what I was starting to realize was a fact about myself.  I suffer  from depression. 
 Anyway, divorce imminent, I trained for my second full marathon, Cincinnati’s Flying Pig.  Training goes GREAT.  So great in fact that I think I might have a shot at qualifying for Boston.  Ok, I am getting a divorce, but I might qualify for Boston, how cool?!  Well, around mile 5 of the marathon my left foot started feeling not so hot, but I kept going.  By mile 13, I limped off the course with an acute tear to my left plantar fascia. Dashed hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon and, worse than that, the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to run for the next 8-10 weeks. 

What the am I going to do without running??? How am I going to cope?  FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 In the sacred text of yogis, the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna proclaims that one comes to yoga in his life only by having practiced it in a previous life, and is pulled toward it against one’s will, as toward a magnet. That running injury was my magnet, plain and simple.  My brain started spinning the second the weight of that injury set in, I needed to find a temporary replacement for running and fast. 
As soon as the really sharp pain from the injury went away, I signed up for my first spinning class and my first yoga class.  I did not like the spinning class one bit.  NOT ONE BIT.  NOPE.  But guess what?  I FREAKING LOVED the yoga class!!!  So, I started going every chance I got.  Anytime my soon-to-be-ex husband could watch our boys, I went to a yoga class. Things started happening.  I came up with what my family and friends thought was a completely hair-brained idea.  I was going to become a Yoga Instructor.  I googled yoga schools in Cincinnati searching for upcoming training programs that I might be able to afford and that would work with my mommy Llfe.  I spent a lot of time looking at the pictures online of the instructors who would possibly become MY instructor. 
One of them just spoke to me in a way that the others did not.  I emailed the woman.  I met with her.  She scared the shit out of me.  I gave her all of my money and my journey started.  I spent the entire length of my training feeling like I was unworthy of being there, but I kept at it and I graduated.  Then, she hired me and I started teaching. 
All the while, going through the ugliest, most depressing period of my life, the end of my marriage.  Needless to say, I was majorly f-ing depressed.  But, and that is one hell of a big BUT, something else was happening, something really good.  I was started to see and understand my depression in a whole new light.  I was meditating daily and clearing my head and it was actually HELPING.  Hallelujah!!! 
This was the piece of the puzzle that had been missing.  All I had ever been given before in terms of help for my depression was a pill to take.  That was it.  It wasn’t enough.
From the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 1.2 - yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ, translated: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. 
I finally had a way to calm my mind down.  FINALLY.  I began to understand that I could control some of what was going on.  That I could sit in silence or practice in moving meditation and make the fog of my depression go away.  That I could be in a time of total and utter confusion, with so many questions and so few answers and that I could be OK with it.  I could be calm in the midst of total chaos.  That I could choose to focus on the good stuff in my life.  That I could choose to let go of the things that I could not control.  I could let my breath slow down, let my thoughts slow down and find CLARITY.  It was total and complete LIBERATION from the prison of my own mind. 

I would say it was dumb luck that I stumbled upon the teacher that I did, the training that I did.  (Training that focused as much on the spiritual aspect of the practice as it did on the physical.)  But I don’t believe it.  It was not dumb luck, it was a MIRACLE and at a time when I needed one badly.  
 I am not cured.  I am not saying that at all.  But, here is what I do know, what works for me.  I have to move my body every single day.  I have to go for a run every day.  I have to do yoga every day and begrudgingly, I have to take an anti-depressant every day. I have tried just the running and the yoga and it is not enough.  It has to be all three.  I have to make the choice to take care of my mental health every single day.  For my beloved children, and for myself. 
There are days when it is really hard to do all of that, sometimes because I just don’t have enough time,
sometimes because I am so depressed that my body feels like dead weight and to even get myself to sit up in bed and put my feet on the floor, while my children are calling for breakfast,  seems like it will take more than I have to give. But on those days,  I have one other life line that is an absolute must and is why I decided to share all of this with you.
I have a friend who has the exact same problem.  She is my life line.  I can text her on the days when I think I might not be able to sit up in bed and tell her about all of the darkness and she will text me right back and say she is feeling dark too or just that she loves me and that is EVERYTHING.  She does not judge me.  She just loves me.  And I do the same for her and that helps me too.  Every single time that I can help her feel better, I feel better.  Every single time I get to teach a yoga class and help people find some peace, I feel better.  If I didn’t have her, if I didn’t know that there were other people like me, I’m not sure there would be enough running and yoga on certain days. 
So, that is why I am sharing.  It has helped me immeasurably to know that there are other people like me. 

Through my yoga practice, I have come to the realization that we are all more alike than we realize.  That if you have something to give of yourself that might help others, then you should give it and give it with your whole heart, free of expectation of anything in return.

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