Half-Marathon: Complete.

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I am officially halfway through my marathon training. I did a half marathon last week, and this week I was able to take my long run down a notch and do 10 miles. I never thought I’d be a long distance runner, but it has been so beneficial. It improves my mood, gives my husband and me something to talk about, and makes me feel more confident about my body. It is strange to exercise so much that you have to eat mid-workout, though! I’ve logged 145 miles on my feet since I started training, and I’ve logged 29.1 hours of running!! I wore out my old shoes and got to buy my first nice pair of running shoes! My husband asked me what my goal time was for the marathon and my response was, “I just want to finish before they pack up and go home.” That’s the six-hour mark. My average pace for long runs is a 12 minute mile (which is really slow, but it’s a pace I’m comfortable with right now), so if I can keep it up, that gives me a finishing time of a little less than 5.5 hours… that means I cannot spare any walking time during the marathon!

It appears that I have turned a corner in my healing. I still freeze and curl into a ball, but it does not last hours. I still have uncontrollable screaming and crying fits, but it does not last as long and is less intense. I still have nightmares and flashbacks, but I am managing them more effectively. I am smiling. My husband’s and my fighting has leveled out. My son’s anxiety has begun to level out, and he’s becoming more talkative (as he sees I’m stable, he has come out his anxiety shell a little bit).

I still have days where I’m so frustrated when I leave for a run, that I stop midway and collapse in tears. But that is healthy. I am allowing myself to feel. I am allowing myself to cry, to express emotion. I know that when I am done crying, I will pick myself up and finish my run.

I have hope.

Week 9 Complete

 

 

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My Marathon To Mental Health

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I seem to have this notion that once I’ve completed this marathon, my PTSD symptoms will disappear (or be very manageable) and my marriage and parenting will be on track. It seems like quite an unrealistic notion, as running does not improve marriages or parenting, and while it is a healthy outlet, it will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis. However great I feel after running, I still have to walk back in the door to a needy family; I will still have severe attachment issues; I will still be triggered by the little things.

If my problems will not magically disappear, what will be the benefits?

Faith: There is no way I will be able to complete this training or the race without God giving me energy and stamina. My daughter is nearly nine months old and is still waking several times a night, and my PTSD symptoms have wreaked havoc on my body. I also feel like my mind has been clearer and as a result, I’ve been able to do more devotions over the past month. I have not self-harmed since I’ve been running.

Fitness: Before last month, I had not run farther than 4.5 miles, and honestly I had no desire for more! That particular mud run (in 2012) was 95 degrees, I had taken 2 ibuprofen so I could run through a knee injury, and then I was given a 5-Hour Energy drink (and I rarely have caffeine!); by the middle of the race I was dizzy and I very nearly threw up at the top of the 20 foot wall! However, each time I go out now, it seems I am improving my distance and my pace. My biggest goals are 1- not be the last person to cross the finish line (or be in the top two-thirds), and 2- put a 26.2 sticker on the back of my car!

Nutrition: It is very hard to run any distance when you’ve eaten a giant buffalo chicken cheesesteak or an enormous burrito (with queso) from Moe’s. My husband and I are slowly working to improve our diets so that our bodies can manage our respective training programs (because my husband is also doing the marathon).

Marriage: My husband and I finally have something in common! We have something to talk about, besides the kids, that we both care about equally. That’s big! We’ve been married nearly five years and my conversation falls short on the topic of sports, much like his conversation falls short with psychology.

All of the above will contribute to improving my mental health; I am already seeing the mental benefits of exercise and am looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in September. If I can conquer a marathon, I feel conquering my past will be cake… or I’ll be too distracted to be bothered by it! While I know this endeavor will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis, it is a big step towards healing (well, 26.2 miles worth of steps, plus 18 weeks of training, towards healing!).

Photo credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com/vector-clipart/marathon.html

“You should just run a marathon…”

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Those words passively exited my husband’s mouth the other day on our way to dinner. I had just run 7.31 miles, my farthest distance ever, and was pretty proud of myself. I have been sort-of training for a half marathon and thinking that it was possible for me to run 13.1 miles… Not 26.2 miles!

I looked up various things, such as how often to drink water and how to improve my pace, and I found a great marathon training program for novice runners! I have to start at week 5 to be on pace for the marathon date, but that’s round-about where I am anyway.

I have 4 weeks to decide whether I’m going to register. If I make it through the next 4 Saturdays of running, with my longest distance being 13.1 miles, and I’m still smiling, I think I’ll register!

Photo Credit: http://alexloves.com/2013/04/10-tips-for-beginning-runners/

Fixing Our Form

Yesterday when I was running, I saw my shadow and realized I quite resemble Phoebe when I run. Embarrassing. So today, I fixed my form. By fixing my form alone, I shaved off 25 seconds per mile from my pace!

In regard to healing from our trauma, maybe all we need is to adjust our form. Pull our elbows in, straighten our backs, and lengthen our strides. Do the coping skills our therapists tell us, choose to make changes that will lead to a recovery. Open our mouths and move our limbs when our brains say our bodies should be frozen. Eat healthy foods to nourish our bodies.

Some days I do not want to make the effort. Change is hard. But it took almost no effort for me to fix my running form. My breathing was nearly the same and my bad knee doesn’t hurt like it usually does! Maybe, just maybe it doesn’t take much effort to start making healthy strides towards healing. And if we make the smallest of changes, perhaps we will see that all of a sudden our bum knee isn’t bum anymore; our breathing is regulated; and we have reached the finish line without realizing.

And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1

Photo credit: hungryrunnergirl.com

Run Your Race

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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

Making a Choice

schedule2I am actively making a choice to turn my potentially bad day into a good day. I am saying to myself, “I can put a movie on for my son and be perfectly okay with it because I’ve written bad days into my routine. However, since I have a choice, I am going to push through and do what needs to be done.” I’m taking a breather to come up with an action plan and coping skills to help me manage today. Today I have to say goodbye to my therapist. Plus, work has been quite stressful the past few weeks and I’m finally starting to process it today. Anyway, today my family needs me. Instead of shutting down and choosing self-loathing, I colored my completed tasks to red in order to have a visual of what all I need to complete (and to see how much I’ve completed even through my spiral). I wrote my to-do list at the bottom, but really the only thing that *needs* to get done are the race bibs. I have to write 200 names, ages, and sexes on 200 bibs for tomorrow’s race.

Regarding my chosen coping skills for the day, I have found that if I ground myself with all my senses, it tends to work wonders. Therefore, I bought a pack of Jolly Ranchers to use. Silly putty really grounds me too.

Disclaimer: I am actually quite unorganized, despite posting my schedule for the past two days!! It is very unlike me to follow through with a routine like this. We’ll see how long it lasts, but it seems to be working right now.