Jen A. Miller posted a beautiful and inspiring article on the New York Times Well Blog today entitled Running as Therapy. As I read the piece over my morning oatmeal, I felt connected to Jen's experience with running through tough times. Jen writes, "while pounding out miles in the pouring rain, I was grateful that it was raining so no one could see me cry." I, too, have craved rainy runs to bring out serious emotions. After my brother died in 2008, running helped heal a huge void in my soul and I give it credit for helping to bring me out of a serious episode of depression that soon followed.
But as the eloquent article came to a close, I couldn't help but think that running is only part of the reason I climbed out of depression. No matter how many miles I ran in the few years after my brother's death, I could not work through my grief and subsequent depression. So I sought professional counseling which would end up changing my life.
I attended weekly hour-long therapy sessions for nearly three years. I talked through issues with my therapist that quietly bubbled under the surface, that didn't necessarily come up while I was on a long run. Running certainly had it's place in helping me through the toughest time of my life, but I would be lying if I said it was completely responsible for curing my ills.
This led me to consider a larger issue that has often bothered me in the last five years. Psychotherapy, defined by Mirriam-Webster's as "the treatment of mental or emotional illness by talking about problems rather than by using medicine or drugs" still seems to have a stigma associated with it. Therapy is not something we talk about in public. It is often brushed under the rug, like some shameful secret. The healing power of talking through serious issues should not be discarded like a crumb accidentally dropped on the floor.
I often tell friends who are going through serious grief, breakups, or similar stressful situations to seek professional counseling. It is not an insult to advise someone to go to therapy, but rather, a means to show you care about them. We need to move away from associating therapy with its negative connotations of the past towards a new positive perspective. By going to therapy, we are actively working to make ourselves better and stronger people, just as runners do when training for a race.
I understand Jen's article was completely related to her own experience, and I cannot judge her for dismissing psychotherapy in favor for a more active form of treatment. She is one of the lucky ones who did not need to spend extra time and money talking about her problems to get through them. My point is, sometimes, exercise is just not enough. Sometimes, some of us need an objective outsider to help us realize that things are going to get better and that we are not broken.
Nowadays, I know that running is enough to keep me happy, and I feel like the best version of myself when I am running regularly. But I also know that someday, there may be a time that I need to go back to therapy. And that's okay.
For the link to the original article, click here.