Tea and Ice Cream Day
None of us is invincible. Between work and family, self-care, health-care, and the drama of being alive, sometimes there just isn’t enough of a person to go around. That’s a reality for everyone –and it’s not necessarily pathologic. As a person with depression, it helps to remember that sometimes bad days happen, even without mental illness.
For the most part, my depression is managed with medication, meditation, and exercise, but some days are still rough. Today was one of those days. I didn’t want to get out of bed after waking up; too effortful. An hour of avoidance, and finally some forward momentum. I got out of bed. I ate breakfast. I went back to bed. It’s like listening to Pandora, but the computer keeps buffering, until you get frustrated and hit reload; a lot of work for a fragmented song. On days like today routines move me forward, but I’m so, so tired that it’s easy to give up. I zone out for a bit, take a nap, and start all over.
In addition to the breakfast routine, I also took 2 showers in a row, separated by a small zone-out and a nap — essentially enough time for my hair to dry. Showers are warm and relaxing, and something I can enjoy on autopilot, which is why I redid that step when I was ready to start moving again. I brush my teeth after I shower, so I brushed my teeth again as well. On days like these, the high-achiever in me just drowns in apathy, although its judge-y voice is still loud and clear. Unnerving thoughts of death and sadness also lurk closer to the surface.
These episodes usually follow an interval of hypomania, where I run ambitiously, work long hours at the hospital, and still have energy left over for entrepreneurial pursuits. Being familiar with the DSM V, I’m betting a cyclothymia diagnosis could apply. If I wanted it. Which I don’t.
I accept these ebbs and flows as my personal tidal rhythms. I’ve arranged my work schedule into 10- and12- hr. shifts in exchange for scheduled ‘off days’ each week – just in case. I try keep moving forward, albeit at a slower pace and repeating steps if I get derailed. It’s hard not to judge myself. At the same time, I’ve arranged my whole life to accommodate this pulsating rhythm. Everything from financial budgeting and deciding not to have kids jibes with this gift to myself of space for mental health.
I called this post “tea and ice cream day” because I’m fairly rigorous about eating healthy meals at regular times, except on days like today, when I struggle. I had white buttered toast, and ice cream for breakfast, twice. I guess the second time could be called lunch, except I’d woken up all over again, and it was more brunchtime than lunchtime, but is it brunch if you already had breakfast? On days –like today—when I’m not working, I drink lots of tea, but today required buckets of it. When moving forward feels like wading through a molasses waterfall, the sugar-fat-caffeine combo creates the reassuring specter of energy.
I’m posting about personal mental health issues because a) they are always more common than we’re led to believe, and b) they inform my coaching style in a big way. It is my role to help you train smarter, not necessarily harder. I challenge my clients, as adults, to explore their own limits for running and training. A training plan that you devise will always feel less oppressive than one imposed by someone else. I will never tell you point-blank that the way to success is by running (any #) days a week. If you cannot eat, sleep, and condition for the mileage you run, it will never make you faster.
As your coach, it’s my business to help you explore and expand your limits intelligently. I will acknowledge your outside obligations, and accommodate your priorities. My goal is to devise plans and workouts where everything you do moves you towards your goals, and nothing is extraneous or redundant. We are none of us elite athletes; shortcuts are necessary, and ‘off’ days reality.