Running from Depression

20170117_151236It was very sudden this time.

Suddenly, like an eclipse, gloom descended and the birds stopped chirping.

I shouldn’t have been surprised I suppose.  The end of a long-awaited holiday, dark January days, lots of travel, the death of my Step Father.  I should have expected the black dog’s appearance.

But these days I know what I have to do.  I reach for my trainers, and run.

I’ve learned that I can outrun depression, especially if I get a head start.





I am not sure why running works.

I guess there’s the obvious physical effects – endorphines and the like.  But it feels more than that.

Running feels like an assertion of my values over my emotions.  I never want to run, but I run.  If that sounds easy, it isn’t.  When I’m running the battle can feel quite elemental, like I’m in a fight for the direction of my soul.  But if I can hang in there running starts to reconnect me with a version of me that I like, or at least find harder to hate.

This experience exactly mimics the latest research, which shows that committing to valued actions reduces suffering, but not the other way round.

In his seminal book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’, Haruki Murakami says:

“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”

I think that’s true, even though my inner voice often says FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP AND EAT CAKE!

But to have a thought and not be pushed around by it….running helps me know where to draw the line.  Over time my sense of self becomes defined less by what I think, and more by what I do.

It’s not just thoughts though. I also experience emotions more strongly when I run.  Today I found myself choking up mid-run to Time to Say Goodbye.

I felt a bit stupid, but it occurred to me that running is the only time I allow myself to properly feel my emotions.

Maybe this is the difference?

When I started to get depressed in my 30s, I really would run from my feelings.  But not by running – more often it was alcohol.

Today I run, but running doesn’t feel like running away from anything.  It’s more like running towards my emotions.  And even when sadness shows up – big gulps of it – I keep running towards them, like old friends greeting each other at a train station.

In this context sadness almost begins to feel like joy.  A kind of reconnection with the best part of me.

The depression gains no traction.

It is just me, running in a forest, taking care of the person who sometimes hates himself.


10 thoughts on “Running from Depression

  1. I’ve always been inspired by you Rob, for many reasons: your work, your generous support/encouragement, but your willingness to share this stuff is your most significant contribution to my life and practice. As Brene Brown says “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” And I’m also reminded of James Altucher who said: “I never hit publish unless I’m afraid of what people will think of me”. Not saying you were scared to publish, but I would have been! Thank you

  2. Thank you Corinne, Alan and Margo.

    Margo, I am not always scared to post but you are right, with this particular post I was. I pressed publish with very little conviction and a lot of fear. But in the back of my mind was a vague sense that this was probably a values move. So publish it was.

    Thank you all again.

  3. Thank you for sharing your sorrow and your beautiful journey towards your emotions. Somehow, you bring Gibran piece “Of Joy and Sorrow” to my mind:

    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    For me, one of the most important things I have learned from ACT and our wonderful community, is to embrace it all — the hellos, the goodbyes, the roses, the thorns, the sunshine and the dark clouds. It’s only in the embracing of it all that I am honed and weathered into a pot worthy of holding life — my own and those of the others who trust me with their pain. In a way, your beautiful expression of running seems to me like running into bliss–or the fullness of being.

    I love you very much. Hugs, Donna

  4. Thanks for sharing your moving post, Rob, and I am so sorry for your loss. I really resonated with and was inspired by your sentence ‘Over time my sense of self becomes defined less by what I think, and more by what I do.’ I will make this my theme for the year! Thank you again all good wishes fiona

  5. Donna, Russ, Fiona I want you to know that each of your comments moved me and touched me so much. Thank you for taking the time to write, it really means a lot.

    and I hope to see you soon!

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