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.