Working out is awesome. I mean, really awesome. Now, now now, don't start with the nay saying-yes, you. I hear you piping up about how working out is only fun for super fit, cute chics who also love eating celery sticks and think the low-fat popcorn is a special treat. But seriously, it's not like that. Let me tell you why.
I've always considered myself in a sort of in-between category as far as weight goes. I've always been active in sports and I've taken up running since I graduated high school 7 years ago (whoa, starting to feel old). I've pretty much always been trying to lose 5 or 10 pounds, like lots of women. In other words, I don't have the super model, 1% body type. But I've never struggled with my weight as far as being morbidly obese or it being a health concern, etc. I probably never will. I lucked out with good genes in that arena. Where I didn't luck out? The mental health department. I've got a bunch of crazies in my family as far back as you can go (and I say that with love- wouldn't trade 'em for anything). But seriously. Suicide, depression, bipolar; you name it, it's in my family. And severe cases too. Needless to say, I'm always on the lookout for depression symptoms.
I've been lucky enough to sort of dodge the bullet and never struggle with clinical depression, while most of my immediate family has at some point. However, after my second child was born last August, I got a small glimpse of what that world must be like.
Looking back now, I realize I was clearly suffering from some post-partum depression. Nothing major, but I was definitely not myself. There were moments when I should have been overwhelmed with joy, but instead I just wanted to cry. More often than the crying emotion, I really wanted to smack someone. Particularly my husband. And if you know him or have ever even met him, you'd know that you had to be a little crazy to be annoyed at him at all. He's the nicest, most easy going, easiest person to get along with that I've ever known. That's when I knew something might be a little off. I mean, he'd say the wrong thing and I kinda wanted to smack him with the frying pan. Then maybe myself. I uttered many curse words under my breath that I know my parents would be ashamed of me for even thinking. I felt so overwhelmed with my kids that I couldn't just enjoy the small moments in those first few weeks and months. I've always been an emotional eater, and things got bad for a little while there. One day I actually ate almost an entire cake (Gideon's birthday cake, actually. . .) while Gideon was at work. And not just any cake-the kind filled with sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce, topped with whipped cream and heath bars. Yeah. When he came home to one small piece left that I had mustered the self control to save for him, I broke down sobbing, mumbling something about being a fat pig between slobbery bursts of tears.
Yep. It was a great time, those first few weeks after giving birth. Thank you, hormones. Needless to say, I started talking with Gideon about solutions to my not so pleasant demeanor. Now remember my background with depression; I know the drill with this stuff. I've got a whole network of people who know all of the mental health professionals that are top rated in the country, know all the best medications for specific issues, all the herbal supplements, etc. But . . .
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We both decided that what I needed first and foremost was some "me" time. My favorite "me" time? Running. I love it. It's always been my de-stressor. In high school I actually fractured my foot after a 6 mile run prompted by some boy drama. Totally worth it. Anyways, I got a membership to a gym and started running a few times a week.
And let me tell you, wow. I had forgotten the emotional benefits of those natural endorphins. For any of you who don't know, when you exercise, your body naturally produces "feel good" endorphins. You can google the topic and find out all the specific info and terms that I can't remember, but it's awesome. This term also has another nickname, the "runner's high." These endorphins aren't just a silly little wives tale. Getting back into the workout mode seriously changed my life after my son was born. I came home a totally different person after my workouts. Partly from having some alone time out of the house, but mostly from the exercise. I swear by it. Gideon noticed a change in my mood almost immediately, and would always offer to watch the kids so I could go run. If I missed more than a day, he'd kindly suggest I go to the gym. He liked me so much better when I had worked out (got him to admit it)
Eventually my hormones leveled off and I felt myself again, but exercising got me through that hard phase when I was so out of whack. I really actually believe that my exercise regime was the catalyst for my hormones to get back into gear, and for me to start feeling myself again.
I want to tell every mother out there, every person struggling with depression or who is just having a bad day, to get moving and see how much better you can feel. And you don't have to run. It can be anything. My knees started giving me a lot of trouble, so I alternate running with a Jillian Michaels DVD that uses small weights and mixes strength training with cardio. It's 20 minutes long, but it changes my whole day around. That's what prompted this whole post. Feeling homesick and a little depressed, I probably ate my weight in Hershey's Kisses today (I told you, emotional eater. That's another post for another day). But after I put the little one to bed, I got on my tennis shoes and busted out some Jillian (which, by the way, Finn loves and does the entire DVD with me. It's to die for cute). And low and behold, the world was a brighter place, my kids were cuter, my husband funnier, my apartment almost bigger. I may not ever be the perfect weight or have a six pack, but I always love the most important results from working out: a much happier me. :)
**Disclaimer: I realize that for a lot of people, a good workout just doesn't cut it. In lots of cases, nothing takes care of depression like some good ol' fashioned pills. I'm all for that. I'm not one of those people who thinks you can pray yourself better from depression or just run off the stress and then you won't be sad any more. Not at all. But there are a lot of people like me, who start thinking, "maybe I'm depressed?" So before seeking out pills, try getting active and put away the chocolate (speaking from personal experience here). You might just change your life in a way you never thought possible.