I. Exercising My Demons:
Recently, a few people—some I know quite well, some I’ve never met—commented (here or via email or in person) on the honesty of this blog. Hearing that gave me pause, because while I think I know what they mean, I also know that nothing on the page before you is entirely straight up.
It’s edited—thoroughly read and reviewed—even after it’s posted. I think about how the words sound, not so much to impress you, but to make sure I’m happy with their rhythm and weight. That kind of thing.
I guess what I’m saying is, this isn’t me talking—this is me looking at what I have to say, observing it from the other side of the dashboard, just like you.
And while it’s not always honest, it’s at least always cathartic. Even if I don’t say exactly what I’m feeling (to protect the final wisps of anonymity I tell myself I have), I at least tap on the keyboard until I feel a shift, feel cleaner, like I’ve exorcised the demons.
Of course, writing doesn’t always work. As calming as can be, it can also rile me up more from time to time, lock me into a spiral of negative descent. And when that happens, I think of M and the dinner party.
Well, the quiet moments after the dinner party, to be more accurate. Our guests long gone, we were sitting at the table savoring the last of our wine while Brad started on the dishes and Arnie and Red hoovered smashed brownie crumbs, snuffling around like truffle pigs.
I don’t remember how it came up, but M proffered that nothing, in his opinion, beats exercise at quelling feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.
Normally I’d counter with lines from Lexapro and Effexor ads (“mental illness is still an illness,” that sort of thing), but this fellow, M, is human honey—healthy and sweet and golden and good—so when he shared his theory on exercise as a panacea for angst, I listened.
And I thought about it.
And years later, when I’m all jacked up on self-inflicted pain and writing isn’t helping, I think of M and the dinner party, and I take Arnie and Red for a walk or a run, or I go to the gym or skiing or swimming or to a yoga class or to Crossfit.
I move. And just moving—shaking and stretching and jumping and getting fatigued—snaps everything back into place, restores my perspective.
It works—exercising my demons.
II. Here’s Your F%*cking Honesty:
So, is exercise enough? If I make a conscious effort to track my mental wellness (checking in with myself, keeping an emotions journal, being honest about what I’m feeling and why I might be feeling that way), can I stop spending hundreds of dollars on my anti-depressant? Lord knows I loathe those wine-colored pills—they taste awful, and I don’t like being dependent on them, especially when I’m not sure they’re completely effective.
So readers, in the name of unveiled honesty, that’s where I am today. I’d like to be drug free. I’d like to be less numb and more engaged. I’d like to be as social as I used to, to gather my friends around me frequently instead of being so withdrawn.
But I’m afraid to go it alone, because I’ve been medicating for over a decade. I don’t know what to expect, whether I’ll even be able to get out of bed, let alone out the door for a self-improvement run. It’s scary to step into the street when you can’t see what’s coming.