Running and Depression: A Vent

Before I start I should state a disclaimer: I do not have a diagnosis of depression. This post is not about me having depression. This post is mainly about how others see depression. I am no depression expert. I am just the partner of someone who does have this diagnosis and have seen first hand what it can do to someone’s health and well being.

A few days ago I came across a couple of tweets, the first of which I’m sure was coming from a good place:

‘Running is a great cure for depression, you can’t run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time’.

Another tweeter replied with:

‘If only depression was as simple as feeling sorry for yourself’.

I very nearly jumped into the conversation but I decided not to, it’s a topic for me that needs much more discussion than just a few tweets. However I’ve been mulling things over and I just needed to projectile vomit them onto this blog.

Firstly: if only it really was that easy. Two years ago when my significant other had basically decided he was done with this life, if only it had been that easy, that I just tell him to go for a run. He could have walked in from a few laps of the park saying ‘hey I’m all better now’. I would have dragged him out marathon training with me. If that was the ‘cure’ that the first tweeter was talking about then why isn’t everyone with depression doing it? Well it’s not that simple. Exercise can be an adjunct to the therapies for depression but it will never be a cure.

Secondly, to say that someone with depression just needs to go for a little jog to feel ‘less sorry for themselves’ completely undermines the condition. If someone is in physical pain from a chronic condition we don’t tell them to go for a run and get over it do we? Again exercise is an adjunct but we never expect exercise to completely reverse Type 1 diabetes or cure a tumour. No, because physical pain seems more acceptable and plausible to people than emotional pain. Emotional pain and mental anguish seem far harder for us to fully acknowledge. People are embarrassed by it and turn away from it. It is taboo to admit that you don’t want to be alive any more. Imagine that, at your lowest ebb, people telling you that you just need to ‘get moving and do some exercise’. Believe it or not, when I didn’t understand the condition as I do now, I tried to persuade him to do some exercise because I had read that it helps symptoms. Not when you’re down the rabbit hole though. No way.

Thirdly, I myself got a bit sick of the ‘he’s just a bit down’ and ‘what has he got to feel sorry for himself’ attitudes from people surprisingly close to us. Now, if I feel a bit frazzled from the day’s events then yes, possibly, a run might shift the clouded feeling I get. I get back from a run and I’m pretty much over it. But I don’t have depression. Depression isn’t something you can stick a patch on and expect it to be a bit better in the morning. The fact that some people insist on telling those with depression that they just feel ‘a bit down’ completely invalidates what they’re experiencing. People with depression need to feel safe to voice what they are going through, be heard, acknowledged and then tools and therapies decided on to manage it.

As the wife of a man who fell to some real depths I cannot imagine what people with depression have to suffer. I myself used running as a bit of a crutch to help me cope when it got tough so to this day I probably have quite a strong emotional connection to running. It’s why I miss it so much when I can’t do it. But no amount of running will cure depression. It will help manage it alongside medication and counselling, but please don’t tell the wife of someone with depression that you could cure my husband by taking him for a run. Just don’t.

20 thoughts on “Running and Depression: A Vent

  1. Laura

    An amazing post. The people who say those things don’t understand depression and while I understand where they are coming from, it can be hurtful for people struggling with it or know those who have. It would be lovely if it were that easy as bringing them on a run or sending them a pair of running shoes!

  2. cindysleepspinresearch

    100% in agreement. I have depression and have for more than half my life. if curing it was as easy as running, I would have started it years ago. There is such a stigma still surrounding depression and anxiety. Since being in the UK I have had such a hard time getting appropriate medicine for myself because the doctors are too worried about prescribing medication that I had been taking for several years that made a world of difference in my life. Running helps, but I can’t always just go out for a run, you know?

    Thank you for sharing, and I hope that there are many more happy days for you and your husband.

    1. kat_rocket Post author

      Thank you Cindy. It can’t be easy coming over here and having such a dramatic change to your treatment! We need to fight this stigma! Much love to you x

  3. Dave

    Running really does help me and my depression but it’s not a cure all. Sometimes the depression is too thick to run through. I wish it was a cure. This is a great post, insightful to the reality of depression. Thank you!

    1. kat_rocket Post author

      No problem Dave. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s good to hear the experiences of others. Important to keep talking and no stigma!

  4. Lesley Boniface (lilbeeloo67)

    Ooo you just made shivers run through me – glad you didn’t jump into the conversation this morning! An apology for offense has been made. Rather than offend it touched a nerve! A well written vent 🙂 Hope 2014 is a better year for you both x

      1. Lesley Boniface (lilbeeloo67)

        My tweet back was a bit of a knee jerk reaction – I’m not good in the mornings as my OH will vouch! I know people are well meaning and the trouble with Twitter (and FB) is that things can be taken the wrong way very easily!

      2. kat_rocket Post author

        I can be very much on the touchy side. When Gary Speed died someone put ‘why did he kill himself, he had everything to live for’. I replied that depression means sufferers often feel the opposite and in fact feel they are worthless or a burden, that is what my OH experienced anyway.

  5. tomsprints

    As a runner who struggles with depression, can I say thanks to you for writing this blog. I’ve blogged my story (look up Blog From A Faster Master). What you’ve helped do is reinforce that depression affects normal people, who do normal things, and want to carry on doing them. Thank you.

  6. Ben

    This is an interesting one, I always say that running helps my mental health, but that’s not the same as ‘curing’ depression. It’s an awful sickness where you don’t look ‘ill’ and therefore people don’t understand it unless they’ve experienced it.

    1. kat_rocket Post author

      I agree Ben. Running helps my own mental health and I can be a bugger to live with if I can’t get out running. However like you say depression is a completely different thing. As someone on twitter did point out to me, maybe the issue is with education and that ‘depression’ is a blanket term that people use when they feel a bit down rather than referring to actual clinical depression. More talk and education definitely needed!

  7. scratchtype1

    After I post this, I need to click on the follow button as well. It’s always a pleasure to find a blog with some depth to it and more than just spilling outs of workout plans and results, more than just somewhat shallow motivational cliches.

    I’m someone who has wrestled with that nearly indefinable darkness most of my life. There is no simple answer, there just isn’t. I’ve slowly learned coping skills to keep me from going too deep into the shadows, and I’m also lucky enough at this point to know that running can help me. Running doesn’t make it magically disappear and doesn’t mean that I don’t still have to do work in other ways to stay functional. But it helps, the act of moving, to not be stuck, to tickle the nerves from all the way down in my feet and up into the brain, it lets me know that I am alive and perhaps more than just alive.

    I suppose it’s a topic I’ve been dancing around some a great deal over the past 7 months or so as I finally returned to running. Did I start running again to feel better or was it because I felt better that I began to run again? Maybe it is some of both, it’s hard to say sometimes where exactly and how one makes entry into a feedback loop.

    Anyhow, thank you for what you wrote here. It’s appreciated.

    1. kathleen Post author

      No problem at all, so glad it connected with you. And thank you for commenting and for following the blog. Always appreciated.


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