I started writing a book once. The intention of it was to delineate the breaking point of human spirit. Let me explain.
By most accounts, and by reputable sources, there are many types of depression. But in my mind, you can boil it down two kinds: one is chemical and the other is situational. The first seems lifelong, and rather unfortunately inherited or predisposed to it. I have known many friends who inexplicably feel stamped by this, and strive for decades to even it out and get their heads above ground. They wouldn’t dream of going off meds (most have tried several times). The other seems to slumber dormant and awake violently, not unlike a volcano. Doctors sometimes refer to it as a stress response syndrome. It is fired when a trigger is pulled. The trigger can be many things (example: postpartum depression does not affect people who have not recently had a child). I could be wrong categorizing it like this – it’s just my theory.
What I do know, I’m not eager to share. There isn’t very much that’s admirable or salvageable about situational depression (and that’s what I know for sure). When I first began writing my book, I was on the verge of my first tumble into hell.
At the time, my peers considered me bright and competitive. My friends thought I was funny and spontaneous. Situational depression is a secretive monster. Because it is provoked by something in your life, if you don’t want to reveal that “something,” you also cannot hint that there is a beast feeding off of it. People wouldn’t understand. In that feeling of being misunderstood, I questioned how much was too much. And because I couldn’t be honest about the cause, I had to lie about the effect. I was complicit with the devil.
You don’t tell someone with a broken leg to walk it off. You don’t tell someone lying on the highway to stop bleeding. The body has an obvious breaking point. But where is it for the spirit? And why today did it break, and not tomorrow? When I first started writing my book, it was the first time I felt I was at the end of my rope. I reached desperately beneath me and felt empty space. So I clung on, not for more rope – but for an explanation. How could it end like this. It didn’t make sense. It just hurt. I needed it to make sense before I could let go. I wanted to let go. It hurts to be desperate.
I don’t meant to make running the analogy for my life. Maybe it is anyway. In this case, running solved the mystery question of where was the breaking point of the spirit.
When you’re not a runner, or just starting, running is very hard. Your lungs are on fire and your heart beats too hard and your shoulders ache. Your shins shoot with pain and two minutes seem like twenty. You think scoffingly about people running a half marathon. Those fools.
Then you run a half marathon, and it is incredibly hard. I was lucky enough to pace one last fall, and my favorite finisher was a school principal. It was his first. He was sweating, gurgling, and panting three miles from the finish – he had worked all year for this goal and lost a ton of baggage. We chatted (ok, I told every funny story I knew to keep his mind occupied) but I stuck to his hip and pushed him to the finishing chute before dropping back. He crossed the line with his hands in the air with his wife and baby girl cheering.
I was the same. I never thought I could do a marathon. Never. I don’t know what I thought would happen; it’s not like your legs fall off at mile 16. I just didn’t think it was possible.
But, for whatever reason, I started ‘training’ for one (I didn’t have a plan, a coach, the internet, or other running friends at the time). I just started running further and further. After I ran 13.1, I ran 15. I ran 17. Then 19. And 20. It got more feasible.
Feasible is the key word here, and I’m all about lexicon. Feasible means, “possible to do easily.”
The trick to making something that’s impossible into something that is feasible is practice.
It’s the same with depression, truly. You don’t run “Couch to Marathon” for a reason (everyone knows it’s ‘Couch to 5k’). No, your legs aren’t going to fall off. But you will fail. And it will hurt.
Life isn’t mean to be a struggle from birth date to death date. It isn’t one impossible day after another, even if it feels like it, or is for a season. The training plan is different for each of us. I sometimes feel I’ve been gifted an especially steep one. I know I’m not the only one.
The breaking point of the spirit, like the body, is dependent on training. When it comes to the internals of a person, you better train your ass off. There is a reason Sisyphus was damned to push a rock uphill for eternity.
I’ve pushed that rock. I am pushing that rock. The other day I had to hug my husband and cry a little in the apple aisle at the grocery store because sometimes life is just hard and things are painful. It’s ok. I’m training. My breaking point is so much further away than what I’ve thought, what I’ve felt it was.
This weekend I have a race. A big one. I’ll run two back-to-back marathons on rocky river bluff trails and (hopefully) feel amazing at the finish. The pudgy girl who finished her first local 5k years ago isn’t the same woman who is toeing the Zumbro 50, I can promise you that.