Depression. It’s such a sad looking word, and we all know what it means: Hopelessness, giving up, desolation, downheartedness, and gloom.
I knew so many people who had felt this way over the years. I knew people who felt this, but they never told me. They struggled alone.
I struggled alone.
Let’s start from the very beginning.
I was a two-sport athlete in high school and was always told that I was “the happiest person to be around”. Three years ago everything was falling into place and going perfectly for the first time ever. I had amazing friends, a loving boyfriend and I was one of the best runners on my team. I was confident, happy and I felt so loved.
Then, my dad lost his job.
I think that was the catalyst for me. I hate change. Change causes me anxiety, frustration, and eventually the idea that it’s all over.
After this, my life “fell apart”, my best friends went to college, my boyfriend broke my heart, the friends I had at home all ended up not being as wonderful as I thought they were. I felt alone.
How I coped
Growing up, if I was sad, I’d eat some ice cream to feel better and I carried that mentality into high school. If I was upset, food would make everything better. I ate whatever I wanted throughout high school because I was usually burning 600 extra calories a day. Then all of a sudden, I went to get my physical and they told me I had gained 15 lbs and this was no freshman 15.
It didn’t make any sense to me; I was still running a ton. I was still running fast, so it only made sense to me that the 15+ lbs was pure muscle.
I was tired. All the time. I slept eight hours a night, would come home from practice, take a nap, wake up, go to work and then back to bed. It became a cycle.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t run my workouts without feeling like I was dying. My heart would feel like it was going to beat out of my chest.
I finished half of a workout and my coach asked me for my heart rate. 220. 220 beats per minute (most people usually can hit a max at 200), he told me I was done.
I was so upset over the benching, I went home and ate everything in sight to cope. I felt better after I had eaten; I knew everything was going to be ok.
I had to cut back my mileage to one that I ran in middle school, and I competed every other week. My team couldn’t see what was wrong with me and no one knew what was wrong with me, I just looked lazy.
No longer was I burning an extra 600 calories a day, I maybe burned 300 if I was lucky.
The issue was that I still ate “like a runner”, I went to our pasta parties and had two full plates of pasta, 4 meatballs, two pieces of garlic bread and a couple brownies for dessert. I would come home from practice and have a snack before dinner, and if my mom wasn’t cooking I would go to Chipotle and eat a burrito with all of the fixings plus a side of chips for good measure, if only I knew how to eat healthy there maybe I could have slowed the weight gain.
Three months later, I was even heavier because I wasn’t running as much as I used to. I was putting on weight and fast. My mom told me my body was changing and that I should consider to start watching what I ate.
So I did, I started counting calories, I stopped eating my friends leftovers and the worst part was that I started to feel guilty for what I ate.
I was counting calories and critiquing the way I looked in the mirror. Not only that but I was skipping more school, I hated running, threatened to quit running forever, and I was always frustrated. That frustration affected my whole life, especially the relationships I had with my coaches, parents and friends.
After skipping school one day, my mom told me I was going to see a psychologist.
What’s Wrong With Me?
That question was spinning through my head as my mom drove me to my psychologist, Jack. “His name is so normal, there’s no way he’s a psychologist” I thought. I was in such a bad mood, all I wanted was to go home, watch Friends and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
In all honesty, I never realized I was depressed until after I was talking to Jack. I didn’t think I was any different than I was the year before, but I was. I ate constantly, I was almost never happy anymore and if I was happy, it was more for other’s benefit or it was a fleeting feeling.
The mixture of thinking I could eat whatever I had wanted, mixed with no longer running and never being happy meant that I ate and slept constantly. I was doing one or the other and no one said anything.
Food was my self harm. I never cut or tried to take pills, I just ate constantly and never thought of the consequences. Throughout high school I became really health conscious, especially as an athlete, but that whole year I never cared. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. When I was full, I ate more, I filled the void where my happiness was with food.
Talking to Jack, my psychologist, made everything so much clearer. He and I discussed all of the issues that I couldn’t with my friends or with my family. He taught me how to be more open to people about my frustration. He helped me to address the underlying roots as to why I hated running, and he helped me to become the person I am today.
I only saw my psychologist for about six weeks, but that six weeks changed me for the better. A year after seeing Jack for the first time, I can say that I am honestly happy with how everything worked out. I don’t feel guilty for what I eat anymore because I know that I shouldn’t, I like the way I look but more importantly I like the way I feel.
I still carry the weight I gained during that time, but I am working hard to get rid of it. I have fallen in love with running again and have met my best friends through the running club that I am apart of, running really is the best way to workout. I watch what I eat and choose to eat healthy; eating salads for lunch a couple of times a week, making sure to get all of my servings of fruits and vegetables in per day, and taking my time when I eat plus I always carry a liter water bottle to make sure I drink a lot of water throughout the day.
I do these things not because I’m determined to be skinny or look a certain way; I do it: to maintain the happiness I have. In the past I let food control me and it was something that only gave me pleasure. Now I see it as something that fuels me and my love for running and being active. I’ve started to crave healthy, good-for-you foods and when I do treat myself, it’s in a smart way – not with a burrito the size of my face with chips on the side.
Depression doesn’t go away overnight, it’s a constant struggle and I have days where I falter in my thoughts about myself. No longer do I turn to food to cope with the thoughts, nor do I turn to self harm, but I turn to the amazing things that I learned from Jack and lean on the friends that I found in college, the ones that are from home and my family no matter where they may be.
It’s an amazing feeling to know that I’m no longer alone. To be able to say “hey, it’s not a bad life, just a hard day,” is reviving. Desolation, worthlessness, hopelessness, are three words that never come to mind when I thinking about myself.