content warning: suicidal ideation
First I don’t want to get out of bed at all–again, and I lay there for a long while, willing my breath to slow. Eventually I get my running clothes on, make it to the track and struggle through my workout; 8 1 km repeats at threshold pace. Long speedwork takes focus, and my brain is spinning with anxiety. I keep doing the work to bring myself back–kindly, gently. I try running with my shirt on, shirt off, I walk some of the recovery time. My easiest repeat happens when I catch sight of an immense red tailed hawk seeming too large for his causal perch on the chain link fence, watching me. Laughing, I greet the creature with gratitude and my pacing is on point for that kilometer.
Running my final repeat, I’m a mess. I’m running faster than I need to, but it feels like if I slow down I won’t be able to finish. I’m getting hammered by sudden intense grief over all the things I’ve lost. Alone on the track I scream out my rage and anguish and run. Another wave of anxiety, and I scream again. Tears and snot pour down my face; I take a single swipe with my gloved hand and keep going, crying out my bitter heartbreak and torment and fear and then gasping the next breath in. I fly and scream and pull with my arms while Garmin makes the “too fast” sound and I continue, relentless.
I finish the repeat and remember how a group of kind strangers gently set me back on this path–and how it wasn’t just the marathon they talked me out of giving up on.
I wept and wept that day, curled in a ball on the couch at the guest house where I was staying. I wept with grief and the pain of abandonment. In my immense torment I returned to the browser tabs I’d opened earlier. I told no one that I was spending time on hopeless nights researching the most reliable way to asphyxiate myself with inert gasses. I’d even gotten a book with detailed instructions meant for the terminally ill. I rationalized how I was not lying when my therapist asked if I had a plan–after all, I hadn’t bought the equipment yet.
I cry some more, remembering how scared and hopeless I felt. Some part of me still wanted to keep going, which is why I reached out to strangers with my feelings about the marathon instead of shopping for scuba regulators. I didn’t just snap out of it, but when all those runners lifted me up with their hope I stopped planning my suicide and started planning my marathon. I told myself if it still hurt this much in late April, I’d figure it out then.
When I got the message from John saying he’d like to get me a coach I sobbed over this new friend’s generous support–and then I closed those browser tabs. When I read at the top of my training plan how my coach Brendon wanted me to aim for the pace I ran in New York, I burst into tears again. I felt hope and joy and relief –and purpose. Something lit up in me that had been buried under grief all winter.
Since the breakup I’d been so afraid of who else I might lose that often when I needed to talk to someone, I instead wrote feverishly. My feelings were so frightening and intense, I compulsively and continuously filled one notebook after another sorting through them. When I decided to live, I developed two new writing practices–and the processing slowed as I came back into trusting people.
I’d had two friends in one week suggest I try a gratitude journal. Even though I’d done it before and understood why it was a good idea, I still balked at the suggestion as something that was too absurdly, monstrously difficult. I decided to listen to my friends–and to do it on Facebook so I’d be accountable for it. Every morning I speak in detail about at least three things I am grateful for.
Kevin gave me this beautiful journal for my birthday. It was leather bound with thick paper. Of course at the time I was writing about how much healing I was finding in our relationship, so it seemed intended to be filled with love. I finished the previous notebook when we were breaking up, and I didn’t feel right about pouring my pain into that lovely gift; I tucked it away. I finally got it out and on the first night of the new year I started writing myself a nightly love letter.
As I cool down, I am patient with my sluggishness. I am gentle with myself. I feel, underneath my still present heartbreak a growing well of my own resilience. I notice gratitude for the people who didn’t know how their kind words might save a stranger’s life. Gratitude for the track, the fresh air, and a body that can run all bubble up alongside an appreciation for my own valiant effort. There has been a change growing inside me since I decided to run Boston after all; my intuition feels stronger, my spark of hope brighter. With incrementally increasing regularity I address myself as I might speak to an anxious student attempting to arm balance; gently, kindly, with great love and encouragement, “Hey, breathe and try again; I see that you can do it. I’m right here.”