Running Saved Me From Myself.
When Insomnia Hits.
2020 had such a good ring to it. Those double 20’s looked so symmetrical and dashing, inviting all to a promising year. Then the clock struck 12 and pandora’s box was unleashed.
Covid-19 metastasized and brought the world to a stand still. Along with the countless deaths, crashing economies and chaos, an epidemic of loneliness proliferated, triggering addictions and mental health disorders.
I wanted to ask 2020 if it had anything more in store, but then kept silent fearing it would reply back.
For me personally, it wasn’t Covid-19 that jolted my world. It was the aftermath of my brother’s death.
The first few months I was numb to the pain. All my energy was devoted to easing my parent’s suffering. Once they left, grief found me and forced me to pay attention to it. The realization of what had happened hit me hard.
He was never coming back.
With that realization came heightened anxiety. Death was now incredibly real to me, not something I heard on the news or something that happened to others. All I could think was “Who would die next?”
Apart from the anxiety there was overwhelming anger in me. I was mad at the whole world, even at my dead brother. I hated effortlessly, believing I was completely justified.
All along I didn’t realize that the hate was like an acid corroding me from the inside. That heavy pot of anxiety, anger, hate and pain stewing in me, turned me into an insomniac.
I slept like a baby… waking up every 2 hours. My chatty brain would start spinning out all worst case scenarios. I would spend the rest of the night unsuccessfully trying to preempt them.
Tossing and turning became the new norm for me every night. I would get scared just seeing the pillow knowing that another restless night would be ahead. I was averaging just 2–3 hours of sleep a night.
Good sleep is underrated.
Without it the body is unable to repair, recuperate the losses of the previous day and get ready for another day. Lack of sleep takes a serious toll on our mental and physical health. It can even lead to death.
I once went 7 days without sleeping. It’s like I was up all night with a newborn, except that the cute baby was an ugly wound up ball of nerves.
The lack of sleep had a disastrous effect on my mood. Apart from being exhausted, I was so irritable and grouchy. I was snapping at my kids all the time.
I couldn’t focus on anything to the point where I felt almost drunk. I would start a task and then stop midway. Even simple tasks seemed too overwhelming for me to get done.
My fibromyalgia and migraines started flaring up. I began having digestive issues also. I was in a downward spiral. At my lowest point I understood why people turned to drugs or alcohol. When you are running out of hope, you just want something to numb the pain.
I knew I had to do something about it. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to a therapist on a webcam or taking sleeping meds. I decided to try running and see if it helped.
I started slow in the beginning, alternating walking and running together. As soon as the kid’s breakfast was done, I would head out. I made sure to put on upbeat music and not the sad songs I had been listening to for the past months.
The combination of that music with running gave me a high which I had never felt before. It was the dopamine hit I needed to nudge me out of my melancholy.
My arthritic stiff muscles relaxed and I felt free as a bird. Being alone with my thoughts in nature was also a great stress reliever. Best of all I could almost feel my brother running along with me in the wind.
Every day I would look up at the sky and call out to him. “Come on Tony, join me!”
I would come back home out of breath and sore, but feel revitalized. The feeling that I had accomplished something early in the morning was like a coin in my mental health piggy bank. It set into motion other positive behaviors.
Neuroscientists claim that running changes our brain and affects how we think and what we feel. Science confirms that running every day for 30 minutes is enough to reap amazing brain benefits.
My mental fog slowly cleared. I was able to get more stuff done and make mini goals. I set the date for a certification exam which I had been putting off and began preparation.
My sleep also improved. After months of poor sleep, I was finally tired enough to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. What a gift that was!
Each time I ran, my thumping heart reminded me that I was alive. With each heart beat it implored me to use my life for good, for growth and not waste it on negativity. I made a conscious decision to Marie Kondo all the negative emotions cluttering my life.
I did not turn into Mother Teresa, but for the first time in a long time I felt peace. The burden of hate which I had been carrying was no longer weighing me down.
Running gave me back my life in innumerable ways. A 30 minute run was just 2% of a day but it’s rewards lasted 24 hours. Who knew breaking out in a sweat would heal me?
If you want to get high, get high the right way. Get high on life!