Tuesday, 21 February 2012

5K to Couch

I got very 'self-help' about my resolutions and goals this year.

I made a vision board and hung it in my kitchen/office.

But I'm not great at follow-through or being inspired so mostly I just appreciate the look of the thing and continue making that third cup of coffee or breaking off that fourth piece of chocolate.

Take last week for instance.

Friday was a perfect running day. No rain or wind, medium temperature, nothing on the agenda but some cocktails with the girls in the evening.

I knew it was a perfect running day. I had been telling myself all week that I would go for a run on Friday. Then Friday morning came, I slept in. And when I finally got around to the point in my morning where I should have gone for a run. I had a mild, very mild, panic attack and gave in to the lure of the couch duvet and my boxset of Fraggle Rock.

For the next few hours I berated myself about not going out for that run. I convinced myself I had a sore throat and my knee hurt*. I did have a sore throat but it was just dry and my knee had been sore for weeks but it doesn't hurt when I run. I knew I would feel better once I got back.

But I stayed on the couch.

I reminded myself of the weekend before when I was inexplicably mad at the world and a half hour on the treadmill with the Beastie Boys blaring in my ear made everything better.

But I stayed on the couch.

I would like to tell you this story has a happy ending. It doesn't. I never went for the run. Even after a week of despairing about my loss of fitness and the return of cellulite and pounchy knees, I didn't go for the run.

So I didn't go for the run. So what? I hear you say. You go the next day. A battle lost is not the war.

But I don't.

I have these internal battles every day about almost every task I set myself. This is why depression is exhausting.

Of course I have my days where I do get through the list of tasks and it isn't a struggle. I do go for the run and sit down and write and take care of those phone calls and do the dishes and laundry, etc.

Those days are not consecutive and are still behind the 'other' days in the overall tally. Only slightly behind. This is progress. This is what I have to focus on, the progress.

I don't think I am relapsing. I am cutting myself some slack due to the soul-sucking-ness that is the London winter. I think I am out of the worst of it. I have been for awhile. But it's not gone. It may never be completely gone. Days like Friday remind me all to clearly that it can be a slippery slope.

Just like my physical fitness, my mental fitness is something that requires work everyday. Mindful work.

You can't expect to stay fit when you stop running and start eating bigger portions and dessert every night. You can't expect to keep the dark at bay if you don't keep the light burning.

It's the stoking of the fire I find so difficult. I can get excited about a task or a goal. What I find difficult is the extended excitement, attention and effort necessary to maintain or even reach goals.

I'm not telling you this in search of advice. I have my list of strategies and exercises which help me through the hardest bits. I know I have a history of accomplishing tasks that seem monumental, but this doesn't mean much to me when I'm at my darkest.

So when it gets too much, when the littlest goals seem to require effort I just don't care to do, I have to find something I can care to do. Usually it's something simple. Putting on some music and treating myself to a magazine and a hot chocolate in a new location in the house. This little effort doesn't seem like a chore. In fact, it feels like a cheeky reward. But the important part is that it is breaking a pattern, even slightly, and that helps.

Friday, I didn't go for the run. I did, however, eventually get in the shower and even sat down and did some writing. When I headed out to meet the girls, I was feeling better.

Was it the inspiration board? Maybe.

Whatever it was, I count it a success. I didn't go for the run, but I did win a battle with the bigger beast. That is worth adding to the 'productive days' column on the tally board.

*I did head out for a run on Sunday.  Good time, good distance, bad knee.  I hobbled for the next two days.  I guess it wasn't as BS an excuse as I thought.  

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