Take Control

By Kayla Wood

Life can get ahead of you sometimes. And when it does, you have to fight to take back control. 

As someone living with manic depressive disorder, I have to fight to take control a lot, especially when I feel myself slipping into either a manic or depressive state. Over the past few weeks, I could feel myself losing control and my mood shifting. Instead of letting it happen, I decided to do something about it. I decided to start running again. 

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with exercise and healthy eating because I thought my physical appearance was something I could control when everything else seemed overwhelming and out of my hands. In the past, I’ve used diet and exercise as a way to feel in control. But it was never truly healthy. I would use the elliptical for over an hour and then do weight training—low weight, high reps for burning fat rather than gaining muscle— for a few more hours. I’d spend anywhere from three to five hours at the gym after eating under 800 calories in a day. My goal was never to be fit and healthy, but rather to be thin and feel in control of my body. 

Then, in college, I had a group of friends that got into working out and eating healthy starting our second semester freshman year. I started going to the gym with them, usually four or five times a week, for about an hour to an hour and a half per day. Going with them meant I couldn’t punish myself for several hours and lose sight of why I was there. So instead of pushing myself to just lose as much weight as possible, I decided to try running, even though I’d never been good at it. I quickly found out I love the peace of mind it gave me. I could forget everything when I was focusing on making it to the next mile. By the end of the semester, I was able to run five miles without stopping. I signed myself up for a 5K at the end of the semester, then a 10K that summer. I felt so accomplished and proud of myself for finishing those races, and I set a goal to run the Flying Pig marathon my senior year of college. 

Unfortunately, my graduation fell on the same weekend as the Pig last year, so I didn’t meet that goal and I got discouraged. I stopped running regularly for several months after graduation. I don’t think I ran more than three miles straight from April to November of 2019, and then only ran a 10K because my brother wanted me to do the Thanksgiving Day Race with him. Up until last week, that was the last time I had run. I hadn’t set foot in the gym for over two months, even though I knew running helps me feel in control of my life, but in a good way. When I’m running, I’m not doing it to lose weight. I’m not doing it to try to be the thinnest I can be. I’m doing it to feel free and powerful like I can set my mind to something and make it happen. 

So last week when I could feel myself losing control and slipping into the darkness, instead of laying in my bed and watching bad reality TV like I wanted to, I got up and went to the gym. I ran as far as I could without it hurting. I did weight training, but with as much as I could lift to build strength instead of burning fat. And it felt so great. I felt in control. And I went home afterward and ate dinner. I didn’t restrict or punish myself or feel like I’d ruined everything I’d just done at the gym. 

Since last week, I’ve been to the gym four times. I even went when I was out of town visiting my boyfriend. I’m back up to comfortably running four miles straight, and I’ve decided to run a half marathon in April. I’m taking back control of my mind, and the best way I know how to do that is to run.