Running for my Mental Health

A few weeks ago the Facebook craze of the moment was posting a photo from 2009 alongside  a current photo from 2019. I bought in and did some digging through 2009.

Awaiting me were lots of pictures of me in a cross country uniform. A photo of me competing in a local road race, chasing down a stranger at the finish. And lots of photos of me with my community of runners, my team.

2009 is sort of a blur for me. I don’t think I realized how depressed and anxious I was until I finally moved away from home. At that time in my teen years, I was struggling tremendously with relationships with my dad and my boyfriend. My unhealthy relationship with my dad was feeding into an unhealthy teen relationship soaked with co-dependence and control. I was constantly grounded, butting heads with my alcoholic stepmother and living with my equally as depressed mother.

Running was there for me. Running didn’t gaslight me. Running was safe.

Me running in 2009 in a cross country race

Me running in 2009 in a cross country race

All of these emotions came flooding back to me as I read through Facebook posts and looked at the images of me running.

I then searched for a recent photo I wanted to post and again, I found myself running in road races and participating in online Facebook chats about curing my tendinitis. I realized at this point in my life, ten years later, there were more similarities than just running.

Throughout the last six months of my life, issues have re-risen with my dad and our relationship is currently nonexistent (Luckily, I married a guy with a heart of gold and great conflict resolution skills, so no more boyfriend troubles.), but running is still there. And my community... it’s there too.

My day to day life is much healthier than it was ten years ago. I am no longer depressed or as anxious, but my safe home away from home seemed to crumble beneath me as my family headed into courtrooms in Cleveland, Tennessee and my dream job was denied to me based on my belief that LGBT marriages are equal to my marriage.

I felt lost and confused. What’s my next move? And where do I belong? Running was there.

For the last 11 weeks, I have put all of my energy into training for a half marathon (happening this Sunday). It gets me out of bed. It takes my mind off the whirlwind of emotions happening with my father around the holidays and my cherished birthday. I walk out my front door and Lexi, my running partner, is there stretching across the street waiting to make these next six miles our bitch.

Me and my running buddy, Lexi after a 10K.

Me and my running buddy, Lexi after a 10K.

Not only has running become an outlet of positive and negative energy, but it clears my mind and makes me feel powerful. I think in high school I desperately wanted control of my life, my decisions, and my reality. I did not choose to be a part of an incredibly dysfunctional family, but I did choose to run 10 miles on Northern Loop on a Wednesday. Or at the very least, I showed up and Coach Clark made the choice for me.

Now that I do have control over my decisions, my home environment, and my community - I am definitely a more stable and better functioning woman (thank you therapy and my Mississippi community), I still show up and I run.

I run because I remind myself I am powerful.

I run because I need the space to move.

I run because I have to.


Written by Mallory Lehenbauer

Mallory is a founder and the Editrix in Chief of Writing Home Society. Her personal work and blog can be found at beingmallorykatherine.com