I'm Addicted to My Anti-Depressant
Waiting for the start of my first 5K felt like standing around before the methadone clinic opened. If the extent of my experience with methadone clinics is limited to the memory of one scene in the movie Sid and Nancy, that didn't make my jonesing for a hit of a run any less urgent.
I felt jittery and surly. I longed to get moving. A few too many cheery race volunteers hugged coffee cups and boomed out happy good morning conversation in the church courtyard where we waited. I hunched over on a folding chair next to a table loaded with plastic water bottles and studiously ignored the woman who wasn't sure how to ask me for her seat back.
My mind worked in miserable circles: "Why do they ask us to be here at 7:15 when the race starts at eight? I could still be sleeping right now. I should just grab a map and start running. These volunteer people are way too happy. WHY ARE THEY KEEPING ME FROM MY RUN?"
The saner part of my brain was telling me that I would really enjoy the excitement of the starting gun and the communal feel of running in a pack. I listened to that part of my brain and ten minutes later, we were on the move. Twenty minutes after that, the padding in my old running shoes was threatening to give up the ghost and my running bra was refusing to cooperate. Threads of spit involuntarily blew out of my mouth with each ragged breath. Didn't matter. I was in heaven. I felt on top of the world.
I've become a bit of an exercise junkie.
It started last summer when I began exercising every day. I had always felt better on days I worked out, so why not feel better every day? I started taking daily walks, and when that pace no longer got me the endorphins I craved, I added a few blocks of jogging. Other days I rode the bike at the gym or swam laps. When a yoga class I took was too gentle, I'd do some cardio later in the day. What began as an effort eventually became a practice, then a habit, then turned into a serious need.
I'm not making light of those battling serious physical addictions nor those taking medication for chronic depression. But what doctor writes "30 minutes cardio 5 X week" on the prescription form before scribbling yet another selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor?
And don't we all have addictions of a sort? Those little habits that give us a zing when we anticipate them and a buzz when our craving is fulfilled. The daily cup of joe, the check of your email in-box, the quick purchase, that fun online game, a favorite show. Harmless, right?
Perhaps stay at home moms are even more susceptible to our little helpers, both benign and harmful, because children thrive on routine. A mind-numbingly monotonous routine for a caregiver can be comforting for the child. What do we have to look forward to but the me-time, the little break?
I'm ambivalent being an addict. There are plenty of happy side effects. I finally lost the baby weight; my insomnia and back pain went away. My patience has lengthened like my stretches. Now I can sit and play endless games of Go Fish with my five year old without my mind wandering to all the other things I have to do. The playground has become a pleasure. My moods have lightened from deep indigo to a color closer to that of a clear blue sky. I really enjoyed this winter rather than enduring it, thanks to a set of ingenious chains giving me traction on the snow.
I'm not so worried about what my addiction is doing my body; it's what it's doing to the rest of my life. Priorities have shifted. I've traded reading novels for reading Women's Health magazine. I'm writing less. "I've traded the life of the mind for the life of the body," I told my writer friend. She nodded with understanding and handed me a rough draft of her new book.
The questions remain. What happens on the day I can't do it? And there must come a day when I won't have time to get my heartrate up. My child could get sick; my husband's work schedule will shift into overdrive; the sitter will need to cancel.
How does this phase of my life end? With a broken toe? A hinky knee? A new time-consuming habit? What happens next?