It might not seem like it given the amount of trip reports I’ve posted lately (at least I’ve been blogging!), but I am having serious problems motivating myself to go on hikes. Or runs. Or social events. Or just getting out of bed. I’m feeling incredibly lethargic, unhealthy and down in the dumps. Depression isn’t anything new to me, and I’ve come to realize that it’s probably something I am going to struggle with for the rest of my life, but I really want to be able to manage it at a level where I can take care of myself and my loved ones.
For me, depression comes and goes in waves. This happens to be one of the really low points, and I can’t really see the surf going up anytime soon. I’ve been looking back over the last couple of years to try to make sense of the ebb and flow of it all, and it seems to really be connected to physical activity. I can honestly say that hiking changed (and quite possibly saved) my life.
I just posted some photos of our recent trip to the Space Needle on Flickr, and I was struck by the difference in my appearance now and the last time we went. It was in the spring of 2007, one of the most difficult periods of my life. I remember how uncomfortable I felt in my body and in my life. I had migraines almost every day. I would always stay home while JK went out with our friends. I had no energy. I was deeply unhappy. Apart from the weight loss (it’s not even about the weight loss), I can see how much more confident, content and relaxed I am now. Hiking gave me exercise, sunshine, endorphins, fresh air, a sense of accomplishment, confidence in learning new skills, and a sense of purpose. So I’ve come a long way, but not far enough.
The last time I felt really energetic, confident and carefree over an extended period of time was in late May and June…which also just happens to coincide with a period where I was doing lots of hiking and, more importantly, lots of running on the non-hiking days. I really think this is key – hiking once or twice a week isn’t enough; I have to keep the endorphins going throughout the week.
For the month of September, I will be doing a little (well, for me it’s pretty big) experiment: I will exercise every single day to see how it affects my mental health. I’m trying to disregard the vague notion I have that this whole experiment is embarrassing to talk about, so I’ll be posting updates on the blog. I’ll try to keep the whining at a minimum, but considering the fact that I had to argue with myself for over an hour this morning to get out of bed, there’s bound to be some bitching and moaning when I try to force my carcass off the couch to go running in the rain.
So there you have it. 30 days of exercise, strenuous enough to get that magical rush of endorphins. There are so many changes I want to make in my life, but I think this first little step is the key to unlocking the rest of them. One foot in front of the other.