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L;ght and Mental Health Month

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Coincidence that May—my birthday month—is also Mental Health Month?

I prefer to believe not.

And earlier this May, when I turned 44, I gave myself a present that I wouldn't have thought possible six months ago—or six years ago.

What did I give myself—or put under my skin?

L;ght.

Partly inspired by the Project Semicolon; partly inspired by the fact that the semicolon is my truly favorite, favorite, favorite punctuation mark; partly inspired by the fact that I wanted to remind myself that no matter how dark things may seem at this exact moment, the sun will always rise again tomorrow.

L;ght.

About eight months ago, I changed my meds. For nearly nine years, I stayed on the exact same anti-depressant prescription I went on when my son (now 10) was one year old. Although we moved and I changed doctors more than once, I kept the same thing mostly out of fear: if I changed it, and I felt worse, I wasn't sure what I would do.

A trusted mentor finally convinced me to see a psychiatrist—something else I feared, since I was sure my (mild to moderate) depression didn't need more than my primary care doc could handle—and we worked together to find a better solution.

I can't tell you how light I feel. I can't believe this is how "normal" people feel all the time. I went back to the psychiatrist a few months after adjusting things, and I shared that sentiment. "Is this how I was supposed to feel all along?" I can't really remember her exact answer, but I do remember her saying that once the depression wanes and you start to feel balanced, a grieving period for what you have lost is entirely possible and normal.

I lived for nine years thinking that the best that I could hope for was to feel not so dreary on a good day. I lived under muddy water for nearly a decade, not seeing anything clearly and wondering when I would finally just run out of breath. I can't believe I did that to myself. So I grieved for all aspects of those hard years--and then I got just naturally over it.

Because I am so glad I am still here. With my head out of the water, my eyes clear, and my lungs full. If it took a nine-year journey to get to this point, so be it. Sometimes I seriously have to pinch myself that I am able to have perspective on how awful I felt, and how not normal that was.

I also grieved the 50K this weekend that I did not start. I got up at 5:15 am on Saturday, race day, to put on my #BAMNR shirt, ride my bike—conveniently, when I put my arms in my bike's aerobars, all I see is l:ight—shed a few tears, and send my pals running Superior good vibes.

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Typical Girls on the Run group picture. Kinda chaotic, like our practices were.

Then I got on with my weekend and didn't mourn the 50K, something I am not sure I would've be able to do even a year ago. I genuinely enjoyed myself. I went the Girls on the Run final 5K, which I would've missed had I been doing an ultra. I wore my pink Tough Girl Tutu and my big clompy boot and worked harder cheering than I would've if I had run.

And today, the day I would've been flying home with 50K of satisfaction, I rototilled like a mother on a small piece of our backyard. Ever since I've had kids, I've wanted my own garden. But I never had the energy to even know where to start.

My mom met me this morning, and gave me some beginner guidance. It's not going to be anything fancy, or high maintenance (is that a gardening oxymoron?), anything that will wow any landscapers. (In fact, it's going to be this pre-planned garden from High Country Gardens. Yay for easy choices and pollinators!)

My garden is just going a place that I've created and nurtured, where flowers grow year after year, no matter how long the winter or how cloudy the sky.

P.S. Obviously, the right meds are just part of the solution. While I feel more balanced, I still need to be uber diligent about self care, including eight+ hours of sleep nightly; less sugar; healthy, nutrient-dense foods; my (sputtering) meditation practice; regular sweat even when I can't run, and a few minutes of gratitude before my work day starts.

P.S. #2 If you need help finding a mental health specialist, here are some helpful tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

48 responses to “L;ght and Mental Health Month

  1. Dimity: I have been following the AMR website for a long time and I am always so amazed at your courage and transparency about how running helps you with your challenges with depression. I began running because I have such a tendency towards anxiety, and severe mental illness affects my immediate family. I wanted a way to cope with the worry, the sadness, the stress. I love to hear you share your reasons for running and I am so glad that you are finding more strength through your courage and willingness to try different treatment options. So many people will say depression is just something with which you “have to pull yourself up from your bootstraps.” The reality is that when one is depressed, there are not even bootstraps to hold onto. Thank you, Thank you, for being honest, vulnerable and courageous for all of us in this community! And I LOVE the tattoo! Virtual hugs!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you! I am finally seeing my doctor this afternoon to get help in dealing with my depression.

  3. A million times & over again, thank you for your raw honesty on a topic that is not widely discussed. Your openness came on a day my spirit also needed a reminder; the beat goes on. Keep truckin’ Mother Runner!

  4. You are #winningatlife and inspiring so many other women to achieve their best. I am wearing a ; today because this blog moved me Beyond the tears. You have so much courage and you are now inspiring other women to do the same. I nominate you for the energy Award of the day. The hamburger. Is it done yet, is it done yet, WELL DONE!!

  5. Atta girl ❤️
    So much to love about this post. You were with us on Saturday, carried your spirit up and down those trails of l;ght. BAMNR’s 4ever.

  6. Thank you, dear Dimitri, for sharing your story. Love and prayers and hugs and l;ght, beautiful lady!

  7. Dim, thank you for your honesty and being real… It is refreshing…we missed you Saturday and look forward to an adventure soon

  8. Dimity, while I haven’t struggled so severely with depression, I know I’ve hit spouts of it after my last two children were born, so I can only imagine how you feel 24/7. I’m so thankful you haven’t let that stop you; you haven’t given in and have sought help.
    I, too, like the semi-colon 😉

  9. tears in my eyes. With a sister and mother in law who have battled mental health struggles for many, many years, thank you for this.

  10. Thank you for sharing. You are certainly not alone and you’ve likely just let several women know today that they are not alone either.

  11. Dimity, I echo the sentiments expressed by those before me. What a brave and strong woman you are to share this with us. When I look at all you have accomplished in the past 9 years – helping create this amazing tribe among many other amazing things – you inspire me to reach higher and truly find my own strong. Thank you.

  12. Oh, Dimity……that tattoo is just beautiful. And you know what? So are you. Thank you for your encouragement and your big, big heart.

  13. Omg! Dimity McD! I have not been listening to the podcast very long but I have burned through a lot of episodes and I would never peg you for someone with depression. But that’s just it, isn’t it. Depression doesn’t care what type of person you are it just hurts. I too am an outgoing, fit, positive, uber functioning member of my community. But I have depression. I have never told anyone, he’ll I just barely told my husband. He’s still trying to wrap his head around it. He doesn’t understand. I have been too ashamed. But you opening up and having courage has given me courage. I too have only been treating with meds by I have been feeling like there could be more for me. After reading your post, I am going to seek a mental health professional. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  14. I can’t tell you how happy I am to read this! I think of you often and wonder (ok worry, sometimes I worry) how you really are. You, like so many women, put on a stoic face and hide your pain from the world. But you also share it and for that I am very grateful. You are a brave, badass woman Dimity and you have helped many, many women by sharing your story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication or several medications to treat depression or any other illness, mental or otherwise. I applaud you for your courage and I am so very happy that you have found a happy place. Many happy DAYS to you friend! 🙂

  15. My son also got the ; tattoo this fall after a failed suicide attempt and subsequent bipolar diagnosis. Though every day is a struggle and he is still trying to find the balance of the correct meds, reading your post makes me hopeful that one day, he too, will find the joy of “normalcy”

  16. Oh friend, it makes me so happy to hear that you’ve found a better, lighter place. You deserve to feel that way. And you rock for being so open about sharing your journey. Virtual hugs your way.

  17. Dimity, it takes an unbelievably strong woman to share your darkness to help bring others into their own light. Thank you for sharing your journey. I know many mother runners will find comfort knowing they are not alone.

  18. thank you for your bravery with this post, Dimity 🙂 so much I can relate to. I switched Meds in November, and (dorky as it is) wrote a note thanking my doctor because I felt like finally I was happier and not going through crazy ups and downs. (I agree it’s not just Meds but finding the right ones help).

  19. This makes me so happy!!! Great post, Dimity. Thank you for always be honest and forthright, you have helped a lot of people become lighter by sharing when it has been dark.

  20. Thank you for sharing. I’m a family practice dr and treat a lot of women with depression- I wholeheartedly agree with the rec to get into psychiatry or change meds with your primary dr if the clouds aren’t lifting. There are so many medications and combinations of medications to try! Thank you for being so open with your struggle – this is such a hidden illness. I am so glad you are feeling well!

  21. Dimity – this brings tears to my eyes. I am so glad you are here and you have your “head out of the water”. You are so brave to share your story <3 <3 (primitive hearts since I'm not on my phone) Sending you all kinds of l;ght!

  22. What a joy to read this post, Dimity. I remember reading your description of your depression in one of your earlier books and crying for the pain you live with. I’ve never suffered from depression so can only imagine the darkness that surrounds one at times. I am so happy you are in the place where you are now. And I can’t help but believe that by you putting this out there, you are going to free so many from the darkness in which they have lived. As for your missing the 50k, I believe you were where you were meant to be this weekend (although it was probably the most beautiful weekend we’ve had in Minnesota for quite some time) 😉 May your days be filled with sunshine and joy.

  23. Great post, Dimity. I couldn’t be more happy for you and your most recent life triumph. What you did was tremendously difficult, but you did it. Thank you for sharing your journey and your strength, plus your baller tattoo — that totally kicks ass. While I find myself going through a lot of similar ups and downs as you, I also found some more: May birthday (yeah, 46!), and the despair at not being able to do my ultra this year (my ITB is just ridiculous, and it makes no sense to rush it). I need to realize that tomorrow is not so far away, nor is next year. The race will still be there and hopefully so will I – with a much improved body as well as mental strength.

  24. Thanks for sharing Dimity. I am so happy you are in a better place. We have so many stereotypes about what depression is and who suffers from it. Thanks for making me aware of the semicolon project. What a wonderful idea. Thanks also to the ladies, especially Angela Ziller, for sharing. I needed this post today. My young adult son was home for the weekend, but now has returned to his young adult life. We probably won’t see him again until August. I was feeling “depressed”. Thanks for making me realize that I am sad, not depressed and to realize the difference.
    Love and l;ght to you.

  25. Dimity, thank you. Your openness means the world to many of us, and this post is exactly what I needed to hear this morning. And that tattoo is amazing. <3

  26. In December of 2015 I got a semi-colon tattoo on my wrist along with my oldest son who was 17 at the time. It was my Christmas present to him because he suffers from a rare form of OCD, extreme anxiety and depression. The semi-colon was for Aidan a symbol to press on and finish high school despite the great odds he faces, and he did–he graduated on May 8th of this year. It continues to be a symbol to him to “choose” life when at times leaving this world seems easier. Getting the ; tattoo for me represented my commitment to him that I will never give up on him, that I believe in him, and that I will always press on to help him find ways to better manage this illness. Watching him suffer, which is a huge understatement, and living through this experience as a mother which is indescribable, is a challenge like none other that I have faced. Having this little piece of black art on my wrist is so empowering for me, and I feel like it has connected my son and I in a way that helps us every day. The last 1/2 marathon I ran in February I looked at the ; tattoo many times, and during those times when I wanted to quit, he was my inspiration to push on. I truly believe Aidan’s story isn’t finished yet, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him continue to write a new page each and every day. Thank you for sharing your story, Dimity. At times this journey can be a very isolating and lonely one for both the person suffering and for those who love them. The semi-colon project is a wonderful thing!!!

  27. Thank you, dear Dimity for your total trust in us and your honesty. I love everything about this post and wish you much l;ght, love and laughter through your days.

  28. Thank you so much for sharing, Dimity. I’m glad the fog has truly lifted, and that you made the step into making that a reality. I am quite familiar with the road you’ve traveled/are traveling, and I can say that it truly takes a village (and modern chemistry) to keep this mother runner in any semblance of total health. A good psychiatrist is essential for anyone who suffers from chronic depression – they simply know better than regular internists how to tweak mess in order to find the right combination that will work. Yes, they are expensive and rarely do they take insurance. But in my experience they are worth every penny. I wish you continued l;ghtness, Dimity. And, I hope you don’t ever stop sharing your personal journey, as it’s so helpful to so many of us.

  29. Love this and where you are right now (minus that foot thing). I felt your strength and your light this weekend. #bamnr power! xox

  30. Wow! What a powerful post…. I completely get grieving for time that you lost, but as you said, those 9 years are part of what brought you here to this point. Love the tattoo.

  31. Dimity, I am so glad you shared and I’m SO glad you are still here with head above the water. Sending lots of love and light your way. You are an amazing, inspirational woman. I am so grateful for you.

  32. Dimity, thank you so much for your openness about your experience muddling through/struggling with/lightening above depression. My heart celebrates for you the l;ght that you have found. Your post speaks so deeply to me, in part because it resonates with my own experience and the experiences of some of my closest loved ones. Running is a huge part of my mental health self care, and this community that you & Sarah have built adds so much joy to my life. I appreciate that you keep it so real! <3

  33. Diimity, thank you so much for sharing this and for touching so many lives with your own. May the light always be with you.

  34. Oh, Dimity…this is why I love you so! Your honesty in writing about life’s challenges is so refreshing. Reminds me of how new moms always put on a happy face and gush about how wonderful it is. When I didn’t feel the same, I thought I was the problem. Come to find out, what I needed was to find my tribe-the ladies who told the truth! Even though we’ve only met twice, I feel like you are definitely a part of “my” tribe!

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