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  • Writer's pictureA.S. Morris

Running.....past stigmas.

Every October is the #baltimorerunningfestival. This year the official race is virtual, ya know, #covid. However, a pandemic isn't going to end the fun so the whole festival is virtual. This year I will be running with a few thousand of my closest Baltimoreans while in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I signed up for the 26.2 mile challenge. A challenge to complete a marathon worth of miles between October 1 - October 17 ( original race day). While running 26.2 in one clip would most definitely kill me, I can handle a minimum of 2 miles a day.

In my younger days I was an extremely avid runner. I would say its how I kept from punching people. I've been high strung for quite some time. While I am still youngish....I am trying to get back into running. Legitimate running. This is not due to wanting to punch anyone. I promise. It wouldn't be true Amy fashion if I didn't plan this out. So, I make my official start back into races and fun runs with my hometowns running festival. I'll even earn myself the coveted crab medal. The point of this post isn't to announce my launch into lifestyle blogging. I'm not cool or trendy and not "uncool" enough to be cool. This festival also culminates my approaching year one. Six weeks to go.

In true me fashion I will end my race on October 15th. Might as well make it poetic. I will spend that day on a long solo run ( dear weather, consider this my rsvp) and cross that line into year two. It would be pretty cool if #waterfordcrystal made balls that drop for such an occasion. However, there will be no ticker tape parade or bell ringing ceremony. It will simply be October 15th, day 365. I'd say this is a more important news years day however i'm real psyched to say good bye to 2020. Guess I get two new years days this year. Perhaps i'll add some sequins to my running attire that day.

Many people run races for charity or to raise awareness. Perhaps that is what my running career with morph into once I am not longer concerned about dying on the route. Would the more races I run help me with raising awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health? In many races you will find sherpas. A close friend, family member, or total stranger who partners with you to help guide you through the race. People use them for various reason. In many races they are regarded as elite experts. Companies even make sherpa specific hats. So the racing world has figured out the benefit of having a sherpa and its widely accepted/encouraged usage. My therapist isn't walking around town with a specific hat.

My career has definitely taught me how to separate myself from my feelings. When you've seen what I've seen and heard what I've heard, it becomes a survival instinct of sorts. Unfortunately that repetitive behavior becomes your reality. As my therapist says I overachieved myself into the psych ward and a out of state treatment program. I am a work in progress when it comes to admitting I have feelings. Working on learning you can be strong and soft. Apparently strong and bitchy isn't my only option. This week I had to talk it out with someone that made me angry and hurt my feelings. My instinct was just to brush the situation off and likely be bitchy for a couple of days. We chatted, resolved things, and we're good. This is major progress for me. I didn't just stuff the feelings down. I owned up to them. I even chatted with another friend about it first because I wasn't sure if this was how feelings worked. They assured me I wasn't back on the crazy train.

This week the same friend who informed me I wasn't acting crazy told me I look good. Not in the you look fantastic over zoom sense. This was the you finally look at peace even told me I don't look stuck in my head. If you have ever spent more than 37 seconds with me you know my face gives everything away. It was a pretty nice compliment. They asked me why. I'm slightly concerned they thought my response would qualify for the next episode of Dateline.

Quite the opposite. We made some family decisions this week. Decisions that took a lot of pressure off. The biggest one being that we are homeschooling our son. With the school system up in the air and his special needs we decided to do what was best for him. He needs a year of peace and routine. He needs a year where his therapies are part of his education. He is only 7, he needs a year of what normal means to him. I feel really good about our path. His therapy squad is also completely onboard with this plan. Fingers crossed his medicaid is approved in September and he can start intensive ABA therapy. Again a village of sherpas.... Those we have shared this plan with respond with awesome and that's great and good for him.

You don't get that with depression and anxiety. You get concerned glances, don't want to bother, we know you have too much on your plate, its not my place to tell you how to handle things. As a society we tend to want to all be fixers, problem solvers, solution oriented people. Yet when mental health challenges arise everyone becomes a deer in headlights, including the one battling. My blog is public and shared on social media. I am friends with colleagues on my various social media accounts. They all know my skeletons now. I had zero fear when I went public with my story. Prior to my holiday up north I wouldn't have dared to tell a soul at work. My job comes with high stress, emotion, and demand. I didn't need anyone thinking I can't handle all the things. However, now I battle constantly with myself that I need to prove to everyone I'm back and better than ever. Logically, I know this is ridiculous. I also struggle with accepting that some individuals, no matter how much progress I make or how much I grow, will always be waiting for me to trip up again. That's a little harder to move past. Its 2020, I have a mental health disease, I didn't cause COVID. I am also getting better, unfortunately I don't have lab values to prove it.

Most people wait 8-10 years to seek help for mental health due to stigma. That is two presidencies, a decade, a new census, 87 different iOs. A lot can happen in that amount of time. As someone who decided to overachieve her suicide, depression, and anxiety, I highly suggest an alternative path. I also know its easier said than done.

This will always be a stigma free zone. Many of you have shared private messages with me on your stories and struggles. Thank you for finding me to be a safe space.

Be a part of ending the stigma; has a great campaign focusing on just that.

"Courage starts by showing up and letting ourselves be seen."

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