The last couple of years have been challenging, to say the least. I can’t think of many people who can look back on 2020 to now and say, “Oh yeah, no hard times at all, definitely all good.” Besides a global pandemic that completely uprooted most of our lives, many folks, me included, had other struggles and tragedies.
I have dealt with depression since my teen years. The events of 2020 and 2021, both global and personal, had a tremendous effect on my mental health. I may have had a diagnosis of depression when I was younger, but recent providers did not include that in my medical records. Although it was most likely for insurance reasons that I wasn’t diagnosed, in my mind, it was because I wasn’t sick enough, sad enough, or bad enough to deserve that diagnosis.
Not having a diagnosis meant not having medication for treatment, and I wasn’t exactly sure I needed medication anyway. For me, running, journaling, socializing, and talk therapy had worked to keep the ugly beast of depression at bay. This was all fine and dandy until 2020 arrived and some of those tried-and-true defenses against depression were taken away. While I could still run on my own, keep a journal, and my therapist had transitioned to virtual appointments before the pandemic even happened, the socialization factor was significantly impacted. At first, I actually enjoyed running solo. My husband started to join me on his bike for my runs, which was a really nice way for us to spend time together, both doing something we loved. After a while, though, I started to miss the companionship of my running friends and the excitement of getting together for races. It started to look like that may never happen again.
As I mentioned, I had some personal disasters happen in 2020. A windstorm knocked trees down in our yard, leading to unexpected expenses. Our area experienced flooding not long after that, and although we were fortunate enough to not have any damage to our home, it disrupted our “normal lives” for a while and affected others around us. My husband and my dad were both hospitalized multiple times that year, culminating in surgeries for both of them. My dad’s surgery went fine without any complications, but my husband wasn’t so fortunate. Sitting in the waiting room and then being called into a consultation room to hear that my husband had to be taken back into surgery because his blood pressure and heart rate dropped and couldn’t be brought back up was the tipping point for me. I just didn’t realize it until a few months later.
In February of 2021, I reached my breaking point. Luckily, my coworkers were extremely intuitive and supportive, and they encouraged me to seek medical help for my depression. I started on Zoloft in March 2021 and haven’t looked back since. I am grateful for finally having a diagnosis and medical management of that diagnosis. I am not sure where I would be right now without it.
As many folks with depression and other mental health issues know, treatment involves many tools in a toolbox. Not everyone needs or benefits from the same tools, such as medication, physical activity, socialization, meditation, prayer, counseling, etc. Most people, though, need multiple tools in that toolbox. I was absolutely benefitting from adding medication to mine, but I was still struggling with a couple of missing parts: running and socialization.
I slowly started to get back into running with others as 2021 continued on. More and more races were being held in person again, with or without new guidelines for COVID-19 precautions. While the vaccine is not 100% protection against getting sick, it did provide me with more confidence in group activities like races, concerts, and visiting theme parks. I trained for and ran two of my favorite races for the first time since 2019: The Crim and Detroit Marathon. I was very proud of my performance at both races.
Something I haven’t mentioned, but anyone who knows me or has followed my blog for a length of time will know, is that I am still dealing with a tremendously huge loss. My mom died unexpectedly in April 2021. The grief I deal with daily may ebb and flow, but believe me, it is always enormous. Grief has overtaken different aspects of my life at different times. One area that it seems to affect the most that has not changed much at all in the last almost 18 months is my eating habits.
As a registered dietitian who strongly believes in body neutrality and health at every size, I have struggled with speaking about the changes in my body that have happened as a result of all that happened from March 2020 to April of 2021. One thing that I have told my patients and need to also tell myself is that it is okay to believe in those things (body neutrality and health at every size) and want to change. Instead of looking at my body size and how that has changed, I try to focus more on my habits and how they have changed, and how I think a healthier version would look. It is hard not to use things like measurements when thinking about this because those are concrete ideas. That being said, I’ll just be perfectly frank about how my body has changed. Since my mom died, I could care less about food, and that has led me to choose the most convenient options for eating. Being a registered dietitian, I know that convenient choices can also be healthy choices, but I’m being honest here and my choices have not been healthy ones. This change in my eating, combined with less physical activity than what was normal for me, dealing with grief, and possibly even adding in the anti-depressant medication has resulted in a significant weight gain over the last year.
I find myself vacillating between wanting to focus on a weight loss goal and wanting to focus on just making healthier eating choices without looking at what size I wear or what the scale says. Overall health is the biggest reason I want to make changes, especially because of my family’s history of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Another motivator, though, is how this weight change has affected my running. My goal right now isn’t to get back to where I was. I don’t want to push myself, reaching for breaking personal records that I reached several years and many pounds ago. I don’t know if I will ever be that runner again, and I am okay with that. I do, however, want to consider where I am now as my “new baseline”.
I was inspired to approach my running stats this way by a friend of mine that also experienced setbacks. This person, like me, was setting new personal bests left and right. They were a far faster and more experienced runner than I was. Life changed for them in ways that I don’t entirely know the extent of, but what I could see was that they went from running long distances and breaking personal records to walking. Since I am not a close friend of this person, I only see what they post on social media, and it is so motivational to me. They are always celebrating their new accomplishments. Their recent race recap was what inspired this post, because they mentioned how their time had improved. I decided that I needed to create my own motivation, and to do that I needed to accept that I have a new baseline.
Going forward, I plan to recognize each race distance that I run at my own pace as a new baseline or personal record. I’m not going to go and delete my page of previous PRs, because those are still important to me. Right now, I just need a fresh start. I want to see what I am capable of in the body that I am in now, what I can achieve after going through some of the most difficult times in my life so far. It is time for a new baseline and a new set of PRs to work towards.