Work Out to Calm Depression
I had written the following piece in a journal I was keeping about my depression following a very difficult day I had with my son who has autism. He had a major meltdown in a public library and I remember feeling so frustrated and depressed. I went to the gym later that day in order to attempt to get rid of some of my negative energy. When I am feeling depressed I want nothing more than to be invisible. I try to hide my emotions the best way I can. But on that particular day my sadness was so great that a stranger took notice of my mood. It became apparent to me that my sadness is often visible to others despite my best intentions to hide my depression from the world.
Here is my journal entry from that day:
I was feeling a cacophony of feelings which wanted to erupt all at once. Mostly I was feeling angry. And I thought what a better place to be than at the gym where I could expel all this negative energy.
While doing sit-ups I imagined myself a great dragon with magnificent fire breathing capabilities. I would spew my fiery rage upon all things and people before me. If anyone dared to even raise an eyebrow in my direction they would receive an imaginary blast of scorching heat which would fry the eyebrows right off their face. I finished my set of sit ups and glumly walked over to one of the weight machines.
Of course while in this mood, someone had to come up and talk to me.
Why is it when you look your most inhospitable someone always wants to approach you?
It was one of the scary muscle bound guys who live at the gym. I instinctively tried to pull myself inward as to make myself smaller and even invisible. It didn't' work. I thought, "Oh no he is going to tell me I am doing something wrong on the machine and I am just going to have to tell him off." I was on guard and very defensive.
He smiled as he approached me and asked something surprising, "Do you take vitamins?" I was feeling shell shocked from my recent ordeal with my son and because I was so caught up in my head. The premise of someone breaking into my shell was almost too much for me. I muttered, "No...Actually I do not." He then proceeded to tell me that he could tell that I didn't take vitamins because I came in so "droopy." I really wanted to tell him to buzz off but something in his manner displayed that he was genuine. He had noticed my sluggish movements and wanted to help.
So I listened.
It was awkward no doubt. I assured him that I would try vitamins, and eat my protein and drink more water.
Finally he left to go onto some other machines and I was left alone to ponder what had been said to me. I began to wonder if my moods were so very external as to have some stranger approach me thinking I am in dire need of vitamins. Sure...vitamins! And other pills too! Bring 'em on!
He found me again and told me that he had noticed that each time I do come into the gym...that I seem lifeless...my head is always bent down and that I do not smile much. Then he asked me "Are you having a rough time?" All of a sudden the emotions that I so wanted to suppress inside came bubbling to the surface in the form of a few tears. They swelled in the corners of my eyes threatening to spill out. I wouldn't let them.
I asked him softly, "Am I that visible?"
He told me that yes...my sadness was very visible.
I had no idea.
It made me feel exposed and weak but also grateful. It was the truth. What is so bad about the truth?
I want to be strong and I seem to always go with the default definition that strength is hiding your vulnerabilities. But in that moment, I felt a release, and a freedom, and even strength to say out loud to a stranger that yes I was struggling. Yes I am sad. Yes I feel pain.
Here I thought I was doing such a bang up job of pretending all was well.
Sometimes you need a mirror to see the truth.
Before I left the gym, he reminded me to drink lots of water and to take my vitamins.
He turned around once more and paused
"And one thing more...take it one day at a time okay?"
I nodded briefly, and walked outside to the bright technicolor sea of blue.