This is not a post about running. Or jogging. This is not about health; at least it’s not about exercise. It is about health in a different way, I guess. It’s about emotional health.
A Universal Need
There is a poem that I love. When I hear it, it always makes me feel introspective, no matter what mood I start out with. Here is a part of it (written by Emma Lou Thayne):
Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul.
Where when my aching grows,
Where when I languish,
Where in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand, to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only one.
This poem was set to music and is a hymn that is sung by choirs, in churches, and by gospel artists (music by Joleen G. Meredith; you can listen to a version of it here if it interests you). There is a strong religious meaning in the words of this poem, and that’s important to me, but I’m not going to talk about that part of it.
Whether we are religious or not, a person of faith or not, the feelings expressed in these stanzas are universally applicable: we all feel like this occasionally. There are days (or weeks, or months, or years) when we end up in what seems like a cave or a pit, isolated from everything good and happy, and we wonder if there is anyone or anything that can reach us. There are times when we all feel trapped and we want to escape but can’t find the way. It is then when we ask the question: “where can I run?”
Sad vs. Depressed
Where can you run? What can you do? Who can understand? It is hardest to run when the pain, the sadness, or the depression is right inside of us. I have felt it before, that stinging feeling in your chest that just drives down inside of you and seems to carve everything out until you feel helpless and empty. That’s usually when we feel completely and utterly alone, too. The causes of such feelings are myriad, and unique to each of us. My life difficulties, my worries, my sadness probably come from different places than yours. But we all have our own sources. It’s inevitable.
Perhaps there is a day that reminds you of a loved one that has passed on. Perhaps you feel disconnected from your peers, and feel friendless or shunned. Perhaps you have made choices or decisions that have isolated you from former friends who now won’t associate with you anymore. Perhaps you have been the victim of abuse, or humiliation, or violence. Perhaps you feel trapped by your life circumstances, or by choices made by others that confine you to a certain place in life. Perhaps you have a clinical or medical condition that causes depression. And there are many other reasons and circumstances beyond my capability to list or comprehend.
I don’t suffer from all of those things, but I do from some.
What is my point in all of this? It’s not to bring you down. Not at all. This topic has been on my mind for a long time, and I feel that writing about it might not only help me, but possibly someone else that reads it as well. No matter what you do, there are some situations that just don’t have a quick fix, either, so this isn’t one of those “never be sad again” posts. Sadness is good, it’s part of who we are. I believe that. I also believe that depression and despair are not good, although they are also a part of who we are. They can be devastating to ourselves and those we care about.
So here’s what I would say to you, all of you, everyone that is ever feeling down, either just a little bit “under the weather” or who is way, way down in the bottom of that well: don’t give up. You are not alone, not in an absolute sense. Every single person you have ever seen or met has felt something of what you are feeling now. Make that thought a starting point.
Where to go for help
Where can we run? Run to positivity; run to goodness; run to happy things. Avoid negativity; avoid being negative and listening to negativity. Give up criticizing others; there are times when you can just let things go, no matter what. Find happy things, things that make you happy, things that make you joyful, and fill your days with those things. To me, doing those things will bring strength and fill that emptiness that is trying to take over.
Listen to the music you love, the music that just makes your heart soar. Listen to it lying in a field looking up at the sky, or staring out the window at the rain, or while you walk through a park or a forest. Find a peaceful place when you need peace in your heart. Find a joyful thing when you are lacking joy. Doing that probably won’t change everything that’s wrong over night, but it will help; it will make a difference. Eventually, it might make all the difference.
A loose translation of one of my favorite quotes from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: “Many great achievements are accomplished through small battles.” That applies, I believe.
One note here, if you have clinical depression or another medical condition, get professional help and don’t be ashamed in doing it. You can’t just smile your way out of everything.
This is already far too long and probably no one is reading this final thought. But I’m writing this for me as much as anyone. Take some time and look for people around you that might be in that pit, feeling alone. Take a moment and reach out to them, be their “quiet hand to calm [their] anguish.” We’ve all been there, and we can find ways to help each other out, as well.