Working My Recovery Every. Single. Day.

Even though it’s been several years since I have had a depressive “episode” (that’s the term doctors have given it, though I associate “episodes” with sitcoms like The Office or Seinfeld—rather ironic, right?), that doesn’t mean I am out of the woods. There is no cure for mental illness and I know that I am vulnerable to more episodes, especially after the initial breakdown. Therefore, I have to work my recovery every day. Mornings tend to be the roughest. I still struggle to get out of bed and begin the day. I used to rise at 5:30 am like clockwork for my teaching job, but those days are gone. It’s pointless to think about what I used to do, because I am not able to juggle all the things I once did (god knows I’ve tried). I’ve accepted that teaching full-time at a public high school is not a part of my new reality (though I fought that notion for YEARS and ended up in the hospital again and again).

Anyway, this summer my daughter is in a playground program so she is gone from 9-12 and yesterday I found myself sucked into the couch watching reruns on ID Discovery Channel until it was time to pick her up. As I started to berate myself for not going to the gym like I planned and for just lying around rather than getting ready for my stepson’s graduation party on Sat., I remembered what my therapist said about “being gentle with myself”–an approach that does not come naturally to me. At all. So I stopped and chose to be gentle with myself.  I reminded myself that the day wasn’t over. Sure, I  missed the gym class, but It was nice outside and I COULD take a short walk. And just because I didn’t make it to the gym this time, there was still tomorrow.

So instead of continuing to lie around, I forced myself to get dressed, put on one of my favorite Spotify playlists, and take a walk. I’m not going to lie and say it was all rainbows and unicorns, but I can say I felt much better than if I had stayed on the couch.  I also noticed I was a bit more productive with the rest of my day.

FLASH FORWARD to this morning.  Again I found myself resisting the gym (I do not have the discipline to work out at home so I gave up that battle long ago—not gonna happen).  Naturally, I first thought of all the reasons to skip the gym (and most likely return to that godforsaken couch):

  1. I would be late to class, which was always embarrassing.
  2. The best weights, mats, etc. would be taken.
  3. It would be crowded and I detest crowds. 9 am is a popular workout time.
  4. I wasn’t even dressed yet. Did I even wash any of my workout clothes?
  5. I am overweight so exercising is hard for me. I am 5’ 3’’ and weigh 180, which I never imagined would happen, but here I am. 180.
  6. I probably can’t even do half the exercises anyway. See #4
  7. Most of the people in the class are trim and fit, which makes me feel worse.
  8. You get the idea……

Then I reminded myself that I didn’t go yesterday and how that made me feel about myself. So I dressed (incidentally, there was plenty of workout clothes because you actually have to wear them in order for them to be dirty) and left for the gym in a pretty foul mood (Be gentle, Deep breaths.)

Turns out I was late to a full class, but I was there so I figured I might as well go in. I found a spot in the back corner (thank god for those) and retrieved my equipment—a bar, two sets of weights, a step, blocks that go under the step to raise it more (seems overly ambitious), and a mat. Needless to say, setting up was a workout in itself! In fact, I was already sweating, though one side effect of my medication is excessive sweating so, to be honest, it doesn’t take much. People comment on my profuse sweating all the time, (which is actually rather rude, but whatever.)

Once I positioned all my accoutrement,  I jumped into the routine –well, begrudgingly moved is more accurate. Every time those negative thoughts entered my head (and they did!), I reframed them. To illustrate this, here is a script between the two parts of my brain, which I will call GOOD and BAD for now.

BAD: Why are these people so fit? Like they even need to come to the gym. (snort)

GOOD:  They are fit, BECAUSE they come to the gym. You can be fit, too.

BAD:  My weights are clearly lighter than everyone else’s.

GOOD:  So what? Everyone starts somewhere. You don’t want to overdo it and hurt yourself like last time.

BAD:  That instructor doesn’t even care about her class. She just uses it to get in her own work out. It’s all so fast like we already know what we’re supposed to do. And where are the modifications, for crying out loud?

GOOD: This must be her passion. I’m just glad I know how to adjust my expectations and modify these exercises–

BAD: Or I’d never walk again.

GOOD: Oh come now, that’s unlikely. You’re catastrophizing.

BAD:  How do these tiny women lift such heavy weights?! Why aren’t they sweating?!

GOOD: Stop comparing yourself to others. It just brings you down. They’ve probably been lifting weights for a long time and you just started. The fact that you are sweating is a good sign; it’s a natural consequence of exercising.

BAD: I will never be that fit.

GOOD:  First, “never” is an absolute; you don’t know that. If you exercised regularly, you might be. Each time you come you get stronger. Give yourself credit for coming, even though you didn’t want to. That’s a huge step.

BAD: Well, I guess it’s better than nothing.

And so it goes.  Well, I have rambled long enough for now (and even enjoyed it) so I will bid you all farewell and leave you with this:


So, what first step will you take today?

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