The Marathon of My Life

I wrote one of those feel good #throwbackthursdays this morning on reminding ourselves we can do hard things by remembering the impossible things we’ve done. A true testament to all the therapy and life coaching and healing and work I have put in these last 4 years.

But it also carried that flair of “everything just magically got better after this slight set back/low point.” So, I’m calling bullshit on myself and going to elaborate a little more.

These images, as powerful and inspiring as they may seem, are reminders of deep pain. I see a woman running herself into the ground. I see hurt that can’t be masked long enough by the joy of accomplishment. I see how thin she has become. I am worried for her. And I should be.

The night before this race I had a major break down. I had just found out my kids insurance hadn’t been renewed. I now know all these years later that this happens at renewal time for Medicaid ALL the effing time, because those DFCS offices are understaffed and underfunded. Take a moment and feel the scary agony of being in that situation right around the holidays every single year, maybe next time vote like that matters to you. 

I digress.

Then, in that moment of time before the longest race I had ever run, it didn’t matter. It was simply my excuse to release my anxiety out into the universe, or more accurately, my family. My kids weren’t sleeping, we weren’t at home. Which meant a Jessica-tantrum of epic proportions. 

The entire trip was for ME. For my 34th birthday I had chosen a destination race to complete on Kiawah Island, SC. My first marathon was going to be flat and beautiful. I had trained hard and was making amazing progress, up until 19 miles. I had enjoyed one of my best runs yet, an easy 18 miles, in my hometown of Macon the week before. Then I met my running buddy at a yoga class. That’s when the downfall began. I overdid a one legged stance on tired legs. I listened to some one else tell me to hold it past the burning point, really bad coaching advice by the way. My next long run I realized that I had a bad leg strain. Like not able to walk on it level of pain. I was crushed. Marv helped me trouble shoot, treat, and get me to the marathon. But it wasn’t what I had expected. I walked the last 5k of my big race in immense pain and shame.

I had failed. Or so I told myself. I allowed myself a moment or two of real joy before slamming the defeat on top of my own head. My own worst enemy and all. 

I ate and slept and got ready for the celebratory dinner I had promised myself the night before and all through the race. A burger with a choice beer. Something dark and yummy. Something to numb. I had been good these last few weeks, not drinking so as not to exacerbate inflammation or hinder recovery. I am a neuroscientist with an exercise physiology degree, I knew how bad alcohol was for me for training. 

I had been good, dammit. I had earned this. The universe had other plans.

All of the restaurants were slammed, it’s a small town. With 2 littles in tow and verging on hangry, I broke. Just enough for me to start realizing that my problems went deeper than a silly leg strain.

We survived the trip. I don’t know what my husband experienced, but I still carry a little bit of guilt for how I behaved. Selfish, whiny, angry, and just not nice. As bad as I thought that was, the next few months would prove far worse. My drinking picked up notably, my frustration at not being able to run peaked. I was lost. If I couldn’t run, I couldn’t balance out my drinking. My relationship with myself and my partner became volatile. As my drinking increased, my anger and codependent tendencies did as well. This set off his triggers to that type of behavior, something neither of us were aware of until it got bad enough. All the demons we had shoved under the rug, and some we didn’t even know about, began to emerge. Shit was getting bad.

That spring, possibly having had enough, Marv shipped me off for a weekend workshop. A reprieve from mothering and surviving our life of building a new business together and living on next to nothing, a common theme for us over the next few years. And that is when my healing began. Many of you know the rest of the story, Women-only MoVNat cert in May, sobriety in July, etc.

4 years later, and here I am. Not running any marathons. Softer and calmer. I smile more, and it reaches way deep in my belly somewhere. Moments of accomplishment aren’t accompanied by shame or guilt. I allow myself to feel all those feelings, even when they feel like too much. I don’t run or drink or whatever to numb.

And ya know what?

I’m more proud of that woman now than I ever was then.

What’s next?

Oh, ya know, I have no idea. Honestly, it’s kind of nice not knowing.

This year alone has proven more complicated than whatever I thought was horribly challenging then, and yet, I can honestly say that I am more okay now than ever before. We may be living on a prayer and the kindnesses of friends and family, but I know it will all work out.

Because no matter what happens next, I’ll be ready.

I have done impossible things before and done far more than survive, I have thrived.


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