This post is going to get a little deep and while I am nervous about putting this out in the public, it is worth it to me if even one person can relate to my struggles.

When I was about 14 years old, I discovered the things that long distance running can do for your body and mind. All I needed was a pair of running shoes and I could leave my house for hours exploring the streets - getting faster and stronger every time I left my house. I loved making my running routes longer and longer and longer. I found it fascinating what my body was able to do. I would rarely ever go a day without running. People I barely knew would say “I always see you running!” and I didn’t question them - I ran more than I did much of anything else.

The mere act of running literally made me so happy. If I was in a bad mood, I would go on a run and I’d instantly feel better. I can remember getting in typical 15-year-old fights with my family and they would tell me to go for a run. They knew that I would come back happier. I was kind of addicted. I do often look back and wonder if I was disordered but I also think I just really freaking loved it. And maybe it’s not so black and white.

After high school, I wasn’t getting the same runner’s high that I used to get. Instead, it gave me crippling anxiety to even think about going on a run. Being alone with my thoughts scared the crap out of me, so I wouldn’t go, and the fear snowballed into something that felt like a black hole of scary - even on the perfect, sunniest day.

Without the release of running, my anxiety got worse and worse. In May of 2017, I ran my first half marathon. I did so poorly because during my training, I wouldn’t run half the time when I was supposed to. My mind would trick me and my thoughts scared me way too much. I still completed the half marathon which I am really proud of, but it didn’t feel good and the training didn’t either.

After the half marathon, I had a breakdown. I knew I couldn’t live with such fear anymore and so I finally started to see a therapist regularly. I put this off for so long and while I want to regret waiting, it happened how it happened and I am so grateful for the peace that I have found and still continue to find.

I remember about a year ago telling my therapist how I was too scared to go on a run because I didn’t want to be alone without any distractions. Today, right now, I lay here writing this with endorphins flowing and a little sweat dripping from my distance run and it was so. much. fun. I wake up excited to run, hoping for perfect running weather.

I write this because we all have our demons and while they might not be rational, they are so real. If someone told 15 year old me that at 20, I would be too afraid to be alone with my thoughts on a distance run, I would’ve laughed. I know that’s cliche but its so true. And to get to my point, our minds are so powerful and we must take care of them. If I never started consistent therapy, I know I would still be in that same rut and I would be missing out on an activity that has always made me feel the most alive.

I think the stigma around mental health and therapists has seriously subsided, but I also think that when it comes to ourselves, we can tend to think we’re not the type of people who need therapy. I always thought that. I remember thinking, I’ve been through hard times, but not hard enough for therapy. I wish I could shake my past self! However, if you’re reading this and you are struggling, whether its something big or small, it’s real because its in your head, so address it! Get the help that you need because the only thing you will lose is nothing and you will gain everything you lost.

Thank you for reading!

Rebecca Tolan