Naming it

Depression.  Addiction.

There, I’ve given more specific names to this “funk” I’m in.

The specific symptoms that are used to diagnose depression are listed here and many other places.

This “condition” is not new for me.  A few years ago I felt it.  It “went away” then came back last fall.  Now it’s back again.

As I read more about depression, I realize that it’s not like a broken bone or a cold.  Long term, it might go away.  But more likely what I was experiencing was simply the ebb and flow of the condition.  Its effect might lessen at times, but it frequently comes back.  That’s what I’m experiencing now.

And now I realize that my prior approach to dealing with depression was flawed.  I was trying to “get rid” of it, in the same way that I’d get rid of a flu bug or a sinus infection.  That ain’t how this thing works.

No, I realize now that this will be with me for a while.  It’s more like diabetes or asthma.  I need to deal with it on a daily, maybe even hourly basis.  That sucks, but at least I know.

Like depression, addiction can be diagnosed by looking for a specific set of symptoms (this post outlines some).

I’ve always been hesitant to call my problem with eating junk food, particularly sugar, an addiction.

But after my experience over the past couple weeks, I think it just might be that.  My experience with trying to reduce my sugar intake has been enlightening.  Definitely feels like addiction.  I can no longer eat just one small piece of junk food.  Eating just one results in many more to follow.

I suppose you could argue that it’s just a lack of discipline or willpower.  And I probably could resist junk food.  But the effort required convinces me even more that I’ve got some sort of dependency issue with sugar.

The fun part for me is that depression and eating and addiction all work together nicely to form a little vicious cycle.  I feel like crap, so I eat.  That makes me feel worse.  So I eat more.  And so it goes.

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This post is not meant to be a pity party.

Giving a name to these things I’m dealing with is the first step to addressing them.  Now I have a framework for defining the problems so I can deal with them.

I see this as a complex problem solving exercise, and I’m good at that.  I’m good at defining the problem, figuring out the root cause and fixing it.  That’s the way I plan to address this “funk.”  It may be a more complicated problem than I’ve ever had to solve, but I know it’s possible.

Of course, some things will need to change.  As I figure out the mechanisms by which this depression and addiction work within me, I will need to make adjustments to improve my situation.  Running could be one example of that.  For now, I need to eliminate any expectations that I have about a particular race or workout.  Just focus on getting out, and be happy with whatever the result is.  Worrying about whether I am running fast, or whether I’ll be ready to run a PR at Pikes Peak in August just makes things worse by lowering my self-esteem.  So I need to adjust by eliminating the source of worry.

I expect more of those kinds of adjustments going forward.

At the end of the day, I don’t see depression and addiction as insurmountable problems.

I expect to come out of this better than I went in.  With more self-awareness, more emotional strength, more appreciation of all the great things I’ve got in my life.

I know it will be work, hard work.  But the results will be worth it.

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Darkness and Fog

I’m in the middle of a pretty deep fog right now.  The last couple times I felt this bad were in the spring of 2009 and late summer 2011.  I don’t know if I ever made it fully out of those.

It’s a little bit of everything.  A big jumble of emotions, physically feeling like crap, mental distraction.  No interest in running or riding.  Lots of eating.  I just really want to lay around all day and do nothing.  Well, maybe just watch TV.

It just kind of came on.  No real trigger that I can identify.  Last weekend, I decided to completely give up junk food.  I was thinking I might be addicted to it.  So I went off it cold turkey.  I struggled but stayed off it for a couple days, and I started feeling better.  Then on Wednesday I re-introduced some.  Thursday I went into a pretty complete funk, and I’ve been stuck there ever since.

I’m torn between two different paths.  Should I completely ignore these funky feelings and just move on?  Or should I “lean in” to these feelings and just see where it takes me.  There’s a quote that keeps running through my head.  It’s from Sir B. H. Liddell Hart and it goes something like …

“If you wish for peace, understand war”

I just wonder whether the best way for me to really get out of this funk is to really explore it fully.  To “understand” it, recognizing that it’s the opposite of what I want.  I have no idea how to do that.  But I definitely don’t want to keep slipping back in.  So rather than rushing to get myself out of it, should I instead just let it be, just try to figure out what it’s like and what’s making it happen?  It sounds counter-intuitive.  But maybe if I let myself fully experience this darkness, I would eventually decide that I am done with it.

I know that letting the darkness be would be costly in the short term.  I wouldn’t run my best Pikes Peak in August.  I might feel crappy for a little bit longer than I would like.

There are some things I’m not willing to compromise.  First and foremost, my relationships with my wife and kids.  I’m doing everything I can to preserve those, to not let those slip.  I also don’t want to affect my job.

Sometimes I think the whole fitness thing is a major contributor to this funk.  Is it stress from worrying about how I’ll do in August?  Or stress about wanting to lose weight to run faster?  Or the time that I spend working out, which robs me of time to do other things?  Part of me thinks that my job performance would increase if I spent more time on that and less (even no) time on workouts.

But then again sometimes I miss working out so badly that I can’t stand it.

Should I spend some time exploring it?  Like not working out for a week or so and seeing how I feel?  Would I regret it?  What would it feel like?  Would my only concern be that I’m not training for August?

I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do to get out of this funk.  Stay in the moment.  Every moment.  It will be a fight to get out of this funk, no matter how long I stay in it.

I just wonder whether I should be in such a hurry to get out.  Or should I take a look around?