[Notes for discussion of depression, suicidal thoughts, and weight gain.]
My name’s Zannah, and I’m extremely well-rounded. (Hee!) I studied general science in college, specializing in biology, and my pet areas of interest are skepticism, health, fighting oppression (with mah CAPE!) and sex-positivity. I am particularly engaged with people who have been sexually assaulted or victims of domestic violence, and I identify as a feminist no matter what bugaboos people pull out to scare me with. In fact, I am fearless.
I am only fearless, because, as you may know, pain is fear leaving the body and I have known pain well and thoroughly. It is an old and dear opponent. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and endometriosis in 2007, after suffering undiagnosed(and unbelieved) for a year. I have chronic severe life-long depression and ADD. (I’m kind of fond of the ADD, actually.) I have a rare brain disease that causes bullshit headaches, plus other fun manifestations. This life, particularly this last year, has been enormously difficult.
Today I did my first yoga practice in at least three years. I also ran, which I had not been putting off quite so long; only two years or so. I made it ten minutes running, which blew my mind. The yoga sequence was possibly the simplest practice I have ever done: knees to chest, cat-cow, child’s pose, seated wide angle pose, corpse pose. It was incredibly emotional. During child’s pose, I could only take long, shuddering breaths, as though I were sobbing, and tell myself that where I was was good.
To understand this, though, you must know that both yoga and running have been very
important to me and huge markers of my well-being. In the last few years, my world has come crashing down and today I may well be at the lowest point in my life so far. Well, maybe yesterday was the lowest point.
I began my yoga-and-running (Roga? Yunning?) when I was 22, when I simultaneously began having symptoms of endometriosis and fibromyalgia, both of which are marked with chronic pain. I discovered a perverse side I didn’t know existed in me, which said, “I’m going to be in pain no matter what I do? Well, fuck it. I might as well be running.” I signed up for a 10K and trained, and although I wasn’t fast, I won- I finished! I also found that I get the runner’s high pretty easily, which is so delightful; it’s like bouncing along on the moon!
I quickly discovered that the doctors were not much help for the fibromyalgia, so I explored other therapies, including yoga. I don’t know if the yoga helped the fibromyalgia, but I found it profoundly enjoyable and mind-clearing. I developed a fairly serious practice, exploring new poses and trying different varieties of yoga within my limited means. I enjoyed the physicality of it, the peace it gave me, and the challenge of designing new practices.
Through all of this, I struggled with chronic depression. I have never not known depression- I was diagnosed when I was nine. I have had my ups and downs, but even when my runs and my practices weren’t mindbogglingly amazing, they left me satisfied in a way that I didn’t get from anything else. Although I had shied away from activities like these before due to my weight- I have consistently been about 230 lb on a 5’8”, medium frame- I found it to be no barrier. These opened doors for me, doors I had not even seen before.
In 2009, I married. I can’t say what it was- I remember doing yoga while my husband sat on the bed and read the next pose out to me- but something twisted in me, and somehow the things I had enjoyed became stressful. I couldn’t find that peace and that physical satisfaction in yoga any more. It was just painful. I couldn’t muster the energy to go running. There was nothing there for me. The marriage had its problems, and ended in 2011.
Since I left my husband, I have known deep grief and severe depression. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, over and over until it becomes ridiculous- and terrifying. It’s a matter of pride for me that I have not harmed myself or attempted suicide, although it did take a few stays in the hospital. I’m deeply grateful for my friends and my family, who have been amazing. Still, when I look into my future it’s hazy. Due to medication and depression I’ve gained 80 pounds, which has precipitated bullshit rare health problems. (And also, I have no clothes to wear!) I have wondered if I’ll ever have
my life back- ever be able to move and enjoy things, ever have energy, ever be reliable and not prone to bursting into tears.
So again I say: Today, I did my first yoga practice in a long time. I also did my first run in a long time. They were challenging, but I met that challenge and it was again deeply satisfying. I feel new hope now; not overall, not that my life is magically better. But it’s not a small hope either. Just knowing that I can do this once more eases a huge concern about my abilities and my connection with my body. I’m not the woman I once was. But that’s okay. I’m here now, and as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Present moment; Wonderful moment.”
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