Fitness and Depression

Let’s talk real talk. We all hear about it. A lot of us have experienced it. But we often don’t talk about.

Depression

It’s real and it affects about 1 in 10 Americans. In fact according MHA 1 in 5 Americans suffer with some sort of mental health disorder. It’s a very real medical condition and if you have ever experienced it you know it’s power. Now I believe in God and I believe in his faithfulness, but I also believe in sin and suffering. And there are seasons that our faith is not strong enough and no matter how much we believe in God’s faithfulness, we still struggle and we still fail to keep our heads up.

People may ask how one functions as an athlete and battles with depression. How do you even get out the door?

We know depression is debilitating, people struggle with sleep, lack of motivation, loss to do the things you love, often loss of appetite, sadness, fatigue, exhaustion, and so much more. So how do you fight these symptoms? How do you get out the door to run 80+ miles a week?

Let me tell you a couple of things. Even now that I have learned how to manage my depression there are still seasons when it hits harder and I struggle more with it. I am a big believer in preventative care and don’t love the idea of pharmaceuticals, but I also believe they can be necessary. That being said, right now I’m on medication for it. I don’t love it, but I know it has to be treated that way, at least for now. However, I also prioritize my health above a lot. Getting out the door isn’t just a reason to be a better runner, I get out the door because I feel better. Running and working out is my biggest stress relief. My husband will attest to this. 9.5 times out of 10 when I am antsy and stressed all I need to go do is go for a run or do a quick workout and I feel better. There is a big reason why therapists, counselors, and doctors all ask depressed or anxious patients if they workout regularly. It works. For me, getting out the door is a reminder that I’m going to feel better, function better, feel more like me, and respond better to other people. It’s an all around win. Don’t get me wrong though, depression can often want to keep me in bed and in the seasons when it’s been at its worst it has kept me there. But I can choose to fight back. Depression is real, but it doesn’t have to win.

On the flip side, it can take a toll on your body. I will admit, when it gets bad, I get tired and fatigue hits hard. It can make running and working out a drag and my body will feel weak. That’s when I know I have to prioritize sleep and nutrition. If I let everything slip, my body will not make it through the heavy loads of training. There’s a lot of discipline that sets in, but again, it’s not an obligatory discipline, it’s a fight for a better quality of life. It’s fight for me to be fully me. It also requires a lot of grace. Honestly, I think that’s been the biggest game changer for me. It’s accepting my imperfections and allowing my training, diet, and life to be full of grace. I don’t strive for perfection, but I listen to my body. When I feel I need more to eat or a treat, I do it. When a long run gets too challenging, I cut it short. When my body craps out on a speed day, it’s okay, I change it up. When I need a nap, I take it. I have limits and my body is not going to always work perfectly, I’ve embraced that and man has it rocked my world and my training. Those long runs go from an 8:45 pace to a 7:35 pace. Those 8 400s then go to 16. It’s crazy to see how showing myself and body grace, I actually end up feeling and performing better. The way of perfection always ends up adding more stress and escalates my depression, when I allow myself to mess up a lot of the weight is off and I actually feel better.

Everyday is a challenge. Everyday I have to choose to fight. Some days depression wins, but many days God gives me hope. I cling to what I know is true, not what the world wants me to believe. I am worthy of love and I will fight for every person to know they are too.

Running, LifestyleJo Butler