I’ve sort of taken up running, and a couple of weeks ago I started getting really bad pain in my shins. I Googled the symptoms (don’t do this for any symptoms ever, it’s a bad idea) and concluded that I might have fractured both my tibias and that I’d better stop running pronto (or even running at all, heh heh). After a quantity of red tape, I got to see a physiotherapist last week and after yanking my legs around for a bit he assured me that nothing was broken, it was just muscle pain; I could still run.
I could still run, but it might hurt. This was almost a direct analogue of the one piece of advice from my last therapy that really stuck in my head – depression might take away your enjoyment of a thing, or indeed any feelings towards that thing at all, it might sap your motivation to start on that thing and diminish your energy levels when you’re trying to see that thing through, but you can do it anyway. Breaking a leg makes it impossible to run; damaging a muscle doesn’t. Breaking your back makes it impossible to get out of bed – but having depression doesn’t (at least in my case).
Being told by someone who knows what they’re talking about that I can still run, that it’s possible even if it might be the opposite of enjoyable, was as much of a revelation as when I learnt in December that depression does not have to prevent you from doing things. That thought, a bit like Sirius Black’s knowledge of his innocence which the Dementors couldn’t take from him because it wasn’t a happy thought, has stayed with me. I have done a bit less lying in bed – I keep going to work, even on the worst mornings, and I stay my hours even on the bad days, which are as frequent as ever. I did take a break from a couple of things, but I use the time to do other things, not to flop around. Today I’ve scored a major victory by getting home, making muffins (to an unfamiliar recipe), cooking and eating dinner and sitting down to write this, all before the start of the Great British Bake Off.
Sometimes I wonder what the value of this victory is, though. It’s all very well being a functioning member of society who dusts the lounge and puts on a bra to go round the corner to the shops, but going round being functional doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it. Sometimes I do, but sometimes it’s difficult and exhausting and I really really want to just lie on the floor hating myself and not do things any more, maybe forever. But I keep going – it’s almost a habit now, and in a grey logical sort of way I can see that since lying on the floor is something I’ve never enjoyed I’m more likely to feel happy if I do keep doing things I have enjoyed before that if I do that.
But am I fixing the problem, or working round it? Maybe it doesn’t matter. I never seem to get anywhere when I start thinking about that. Back to the running though, that helps. Mostly because I’m not a natural athlete, so it takes all of my concentration to just keep going and there isn’t space left in my head for any of the usual stress. Everything gets left behind. If I can’t lie on the floor for the rest of time, maybe running would be an acceptable alternative. But, as with all things that help in the short term, when I’m not doing it it doesn’t help. Not in a way I can measure and believe, anyway. So I’ve been running away for months now, and I can keep doing it – regularly, if not perpetually – but I’m not sure where it’s getting me.