Updated: Oct 11, 2018
I was working at a wonderful job, finishing my counseling internship and working on my book “Make it to Midnight.” During this time, I was also training for the Savage Race. The Savage Race is a 7 mile running race punctuated with 25 “Ninja Warrior” style obstacles. This was quite a daunting task to undertake for a 46-year-old man in “decent” shape. At this time, I had been running quite a bit and was able to run 1 mile in just under 9 minutes. Not too shabby I thought.
I competed in the race and while I did not set any records or win any awards, I was able to conquer 23 of the 25 obstacles and finish with my head held high and I earned the free beer at the end of the race and the shirt that said “Finisher.” On that day I was in the best shape of my life. For me that was the pinnacle of my achievement.
I had major reconstructive surgery on my throat and sinuses to correct a sleep apnea issue. The very gifted surgeon removed my tonsils, adenoids, uvula and other parts I evidently did not need. He completely reconstructed my sinus cavity and removed some extraneous material from my nose. He took cartilage from my ear and constructed a “breathe right” strip and surgically implanted it across the bridge of my nose.
After having my surgery, I was getting more than double the oxygen I had been getting before. I stepped on the treadmill and easily ran 1 mile in under 8 minutes. At the end of the 8 minutes I was not exhausted like I usually had been, I had plenty of gas in the tank so I ran another mile…then another. My whole life I thought I was weak and a loser because I could not keep up with many of the other kids in sports. I could play sports and run but I never excelled at them. It was not because I was weak, it turns out that it was because I could not breathe! I was eagerly anticipating the next year’s race.
This is how many people treat anxiety and depression. We are built how we are built. I was built with obstructions on my throat and sinuses. I was also built with a predisposition to anxiety and depression. We may have a predisposition to depression or anxiety like I had a predisposition to become tired easily due to lack of oxygen. That does not mean we are weak, that means that there are things we cannot do.
Prior to the surgery it was pointless for me to set the treadmill for an 8-minute mile because I could not achieve that. Just like it was pointless for me to accept a job that would exacerbate my anxiety. I was not weak, I just knew my limitations and trying to “force myself” to exceed those would be abusive to myself.
I was training for the next Savage Race with a lot of excitement. I was going to easily beat my time from the previous year because I could finally breathe as well as, if not better than anyone else in the race. I was stoked! Then, on September 16 I was in a car accident. I received a concussion, 2 herniated disks and a detached retina. I was beyond bummed. I was unable to work out or run or lift weights. As one would imagine I quickly went from being in shape to developing a round shape.
Here I had two choices, accept that I was unable to work out and participate in the race or try to force myself and by extension abuse myself and try to enter the race with a herniated disk and a detached retina. If that sounds silly to you, then ask yourself how many times you were exhausted yourself but kept pushing through? I did it for years to my own peril. I do realize that quitting is not an option for most people, but maybe dialing down the speed of the treadmill is.
I was finally able to get on a treadmill again. I clocked a 12-minute mile and I was not entirely proud of that but I had a goal to get back to 8 minutes. After having not been on a treadmill in 9 months I knew there was no point in setting the treadmill to 8 minutes because I would have failed. This is the point of this long diatribe. The first step for me to becoming free of anxiety and depression is realizing that my decision in the morning have ramifications in the evening. If I accept a job that will put too much stress on me then I should not be surprised when I end up in a psychiatrist’s office. If I were to surround myself with people who either are drama or attract drama, I should not be surprised if they take more than they give. If in my desire to help others, I take on too many tasks and end up at the crossroads of taking care of me and disappointing my friends I have no one but myself to blame.
I know for me I can set the treadmill at 3.5 mph and walk indefinitely. I can set the treadmill at 6.0 mph and run 2 miles or I can set the treadmill for 7.5 and run an 8-minute mile…but at the end of that mile I have nothing left. What life decisions are you making that are speeding up your treadmill and exhausting you? What people are around you that you are carrying while you run? Would they carry you if the roles were reversed?
October 2, 2018
I was able to get my mile under 9 minutes. Tonight I have 2 choices, I can either be disappointed that I was unable to achieve my previous goal of an 8-minute mile or I can be ecstatic that after the wreck I am able to run, after the surgery I am able to breathe, and after some hard work I have brought my mile down from 12 minutes to under 9. I think I’m going to go with the latter and enjoy a beer to my success.