You will be as surprised as I was.
After weeks of saying I was going to get back to the gym, I went today. I had thought about going every day since I got home from the hospital. In fact, I even went once during the first week I was home. And then nothing.
If this was a movie, it would be a dark black background with crickets chirping. The cricket sounds would get louder and louder. Then there would be a flash of light, the cricket sounds would end and as the light comes up, you would hear my sneakers hitting the rubber surface of the treadmill.
It turns out the only thing that kept me from the gym was me.
I may have had a little help from the depression. It is really getting mad at me for not paying much attention to it. I can tell it is trying to win me over in subtle ways. Keeping me from getting back to the gym was one of those ways.
Depression had me doing the all or nothing thinking when it came to the gym. Because I had been going a minimum of four times a week, depression and I agreed that there was no point in going just one time. If I couldn’t commit to a minimum of four times a week, I should not even think about it.
All I had to do was to challenge that unhelpful thought.
Once I asked a better question, I was no longer in my own way. I was free to think about the gym in a more constructive manner. I could go once and get my feet wet. Then, I could go again, then again until I was back to my four plus a week visit schedule.
This is a much better plan, without the all or nothing component.
Setting a goal of getting to the gym once a week worked. And now I feel empowered to make the decision about going again. I believe that I will. The spell has been broken and depression has lost another round to me, the challenger. I am chipping away at its grasp, curbing its impulsive, destructive tendencies.
Getting back to the gym was one of the last major hurdles I had set in my own path of recovery. The endorphins generated by the physical exercise are going to reinforce the work I am doing to learn better-coping skills, better self-care regimens and better awareness of my triggers.
I have fought back against self-care.
Maybe that’s one of the key reasons it took me this long to address going to the gym. I am still working on my daily plan. In a recent post, I listed 10 things I am doing. Since that post, I added soaking in the hot tub, and now, going to the gym.
The term self-care is really what has me annoyed. If it was “taking care of yourself” I would be on-board without thinking. When you lead with “Self” it seems to be all about you, and that is something I am still learning. Of course, depression has been instrumental in keeping me from practicing any form of “taking care of yourself” (self-care).
I grew up believing it was better to give than to receive.
This ideology easily translated into deferring my needs to take care of the needs of others. The first time I was exposed to a different way of thinking was flying from the east coast to California in 1969. I was 13 years old.
The flight attendant was in the aisle talking about flight safety. She discussed the use of seatbelts and how we could not smoke when the no smoking sign was lit. And then she talked about the air masks that would drop from the overhead bins in the event of an emergency.
“Be sure to place your mask securely in place before helping others with their mask.”
That was one of the first times in my 13 years on this earth that I remember hearing it was OK to do something for yourself. This made a huge impact and created a significant conflict in my brain. How could I justify that against the backdrop of doing unto others?
The easy answer is if you don’t take care of your own mask first, you may pass out before you can help others. But depression has its own ideas and self-care isn’t really one of them. Stirring up the maximum indecision, or better, denial and secrecy is what depression enjoys.
If you must decide whether to put your own mask on or help someone else first, you are wasting the resources available. And you are giving depression the foot in the door to create a calamity.
In the end, it is not what you call it, “self-care” or “caring for yourself,” but that you do it that counts. Acting keeps your chances alive and often keeps you alive.
Getting back to the gym wasn’t about self-care or taking care of myself.
Well, maybe it was. But the key to getting back into the gym today was to realize that my own unhelpful thinking had prevented my seeing a way to get to the gym. Now that I have gone, I feel confident that I will continue. Recognizing the ways depression can build barriers to what is really going on is a great skill to have.
I have a 12:30 client call booked for l tomorrow but can fit in the gym earlier in the morning. I am ready to get those positive endorphins umping again. I had 60 visits in by the third week of April. I have missed 8 weeks. I can still make 200 visits for the year, but I will need 5.3846153846 visits a week to make that goal. I only need 1.358 visits per week to hit 100 for the year.
My gym gives out 100, 200, and 300 visit T-shirts in January. I had my heart set on a 200-visit shirt, but now it’s more about the exercise. In January of next year, whatever shirt I get, I will wear proudly.