Running and depression: Trying to find the perfect balance

Even with medically managed depression and the endorphins from ultra-marathon training, Jennifer still struggles to find balance.

Photo by Jennoit via Flickr.

If I were to describe my anxiety and depression, I would call it a hum. It is constantly humming, just below the surface of my day-to-day activities. Those who say that mental health is all in your head don’t live with what feels like an anvil sitting on your chest constantly — and those are the good days. Depression is as physical as it is mental. It takes a lot of work — for me it’s medication and hard physical activity — to keep myself level. I’ve been happily medicated in some form for 16 years. 
Side note: I’d never consider going off medication. Only once was I completely unmedicated — when my OB/GYN suggested I go off of drugs in the final trimester of my first pregnancy since the particular medication I was on hadn’t been proved safe for prenatal depression. It was a disaster. Within days I lost all interest in hygeine, food, sleep and life in general. Thankfully we found a baby-safe alternative and I’ve been on varying doses of Celexa for six years now.
Most of those 16 years I’ve been a runner, swimmer or cyclist — sometimes all at once. But it’s running that has been the activity that most grounds me. And now that I have kilometres of trails surrounding me, I feel like I’ve truly found where my running heart belongs. 
And you’d think that the more that I run, especially with the high mileage I’m logging with ultra running training, that my depression would just be quiet and go away. I’d settle for quiet.
Here’s the crazy thing — it’s louder. As soon as I stop running, my brain is already craving the next run. For example, the day after my first back-to-back weekend long runs, I fell into a miserable slump. I turned to my Facebook and Twitter friends and found out I wasn’t alone. With a few tweaks to my diet and sleep (more of both), I’m finding that recovering from long endurance runs is easier. That said, ultra running training, overall at this stage in my life, is far more demanding than I thought it would be. With each run, not only am I trying to find the perfect balance of speed and distance, but also how much time my brain and family can tolerate my time on the trails. When it came to running, I never knew there could be too much of a good thing.
Your turn: Do you ever find that too much running (or anything) is hard to balance? What do you do to bring your life back into balance?

Photo by Jennoit via Flickr.

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