I went for a run today. I was completely alone for all but a few people, and I realized just how much healing is like running. You are on a desolate trail all alone, and no matter how much you want company, there is often nobody around to encourage you or hold your hand (though we do at times get to run with support of all shapes and sizes along the way). Sometimes you pass people who are doing their own training. Some can run faster and longer, and have stronger leg muscles than you; some are happily riding their bikes enjoying the scenery while you fight to breathe; some are being pushed in a wheelchair; some are running at your speed but are going in the opposite direction; and yet others are stopped to rest on the side.
I ran for a good distance, and kept pushing myself because I wanted to reach a distance I could measure when I got home to map my course. I ran for 30 minutes before I turned around, and alternated between walking and running the rest of the way. While I walked, I focused on breathing in the crisp air, and I noticed things along the road that I did not see while running… squiggles in the dirt from a recent snake, patches of purple flowers, intricate spider webs. I had been planning on sprinting the last 1/4 mile but was so busy in my head that I missed my landmark! In the same way, when I am stuck in my head, I am missing everything around me; my daughter’s rapid milestones, my son maturing into boyhood, and my husband’s frustrated pleas for his wife’s attention.
While I was running, a beautiful butterfly came flying towards my head and I had to duck to miss it. It reminded me of how often beautiful moments are right in my face and I duck into the next room and hide, intentionally missing them while my heart aches. I watched the river run swiftly beneath me on the bridge and it made me feel vulnerable, much like the rapids in my life; however, there was a sense of safety in knowing I was above these rapids on the bridge. I often feel like the piece of trash that’s washed ashore, but know that in reality I am safe on the bridge… even if the waves crash into me every now and then, there is solid ground beneath my feet and a tall fence on either side to keep me safe from falling into the deep water below.
There were some moments on my run that I ran and some where I walked, but I never stopped moving. And even if I had, eventually I would have had to start again if I wanted to make it home. Sometimes we are too weak to fight, and we must rest. Sometimes we are weak-ish and cannot fight our hardest, but we walk through the motions. And sometimes we are so exhausted that we cannot move. But there is an important pattern that I have noticed in everyone who battles a mental diagnosis (notice I never call it a mental illness; it’s just a diagnosis). We have bad days when the sun is dehydrating our bodies and we wish there was water at the side of the road. We have bad days when we collapse onto the path in frustration and exhaustion. And there are days we finish our run in tears. But we always finish. It’s okay to sprint, run, jog, walk, or even crawl. It’s even okay to sit and take a break, or walk backwards, or throw fits… or cry, or ask someone to carry you, or limp across the finish line. What is important is that each of us will cross that finish line, and we must keep fighting to make it there. We must believe it will be okay; we must believe there IS a finish line; and we must believe that once we cross it we will feel exhaustion, relief, elation, and a sense of accomplishment.
I’d like to suggest that each day we cross a finish line. And if we’ve crossed it bloody and bruised from the run, we have still crossed that finish line because we are still alive. We are still fighting. And if we continue to cross that finish line, each day we go without giving up, we are getting stronger and stronger. One day we will be able to run without gasping for air or fighting to stay upright. Keep fighting.
Run in such a way that you may win. – 1 Corinthians 9:24