B is for Bike

BA couple weeks ago, my doctor told me to get some exercise. Not because I’m overweight. Not because I have high blood pressure or heart disease. No, he scolded me because after listening to me go on for twenty minutes about how depressed I had been over the past few months, he asked the three-word question I had hoped to dodge.

“Are you exercising?”

A year ago, I would have proudly told him I had just gotten my purple belt in Taekwondo. I would have told him that I was working out regularly. A few short years ago, I would have told him how I was training for and ran a marathon.

But sitting in my doctor’s office that day, I answered with a guilty shrug, “No.”

One of the problems with depression—at least for me—is that it can suck the energy, motivation, and vitality out of life. I think everyone has seen the articles and research about how much exercising helps with depression. I found myself in a  circular situation. I wasn’t exercising because I was depressed. I was staying depressed because I wasn’t exercising.

The doctor boosted my anti-depressants along with strict orders to exercise, even if it is just walking. He must have seen through my less-than-enthusiastic “okays” and “sure, I’ll do thats”; he scheduled me to see him again in six weeks. He warned me he was going to ask the same question and I better have a better answer.

I’m a wimp. I don’t like to be scolded.

I thought about what I could do for exercise, besides walking… I’m sure you see where this is going since the title of this post is “B is for Bike.”

Now, I’ve been very vocal about how much I dislike cycling. Running was my love and even though running abused my left foot, I still mourn for that loss.

I’ve done road cycling. I don’t like it. I don’t like traffic and I live in southern California, where it’s almost impossible to avoid people who I’m certain are just waiting for the perfect opportunity to run me off the road.

I do love nature. I especially love being where there are no cars or crowds. So the day after my visit to the doctor, I told my husband that I was going to start mountain biking with him. He was surprised but glad… he’s been bugging me about cycling for almost two years.

He got my dusty, old mountain bike down from its hanging spot in the garage, pumped air into the tires, and checked the brakes. And we went mountain—or trail—biking. It was tough. I am embarrassingly out of shape, but I had fun. We’ve gone a few times since and I actually look forward to putting my body through the work… seeing how far I can push myself.

It is true; exercise really does help with depression. I’ve been happier and mentally healthier than I’ve been in almost a year. I feel like I’m coming back after being checked out for far too long.

And it feels good!

DSC_0364

Through a Mirror Darkly

My First Independently Published Book & Why I Wrote It

Through a Mirror Darkly is a short story I wrote under my pen name a couple months ago. I self-published it last month through Amazon. I wrote it originally for an anthology that was published this month. It has been categorized as a horror story, but it’s more than that.

When I think of horror stories, I think of crazy, knife-carrying clowns with fangs chasing a group of horny teenagers at a deserted camp. Through a Mirror Darkly has a paranormal element to it, but it’s also very loosely based on my own experiences with familial and personal depression.

When I wrote it, I didn’t think it would end up being therapeutic for me, but it was. I never had a chance to say goodbye to my mom when she died. I hadn’t seen her in over 35 years. After my parents separated, she tried to kill herself. I was barely seven when I heard her crying out from the other room. To this day, the memory of finding my mom on the floor, begging for help wrenches my heart.

After that, my dad got custody of my brother, sisters, and me. She was eventually released from the hospital and given visitation rights every other weekend. Despite her therapies and medications, she was not emotionally healthy and tried a few more times to take her own life.

Eventually, she stopped coming to pick us up for our weekends. The last time I saw her, I was nine years old. I never really missed her… maybe because her withdrawal from our lives was so gradual. Maybe it was because I was such a daddy’s girl. The only thing I was ever angry about was having to find her the first time she attempted suicide. More than anything, I hated the pity people would express when they found out I didn’t have a mom.

Looking back, I realize I spent my life in the shadow of my mom’s suicide attempts and depression. I was adamant that I would not be like her. I would never be weak like I thought she must have been. When I had my first child, I was even more resolved that I would be nothing like her. And I was a great mom: attentive, patient, happy, ambitious. For the first time, I resented her for leaving her children because I could not understand how anyone could do that.

Then, I had my second child. I knew something was wrong in my last trimester. I grew depressed, anxious, and obsessed about irrational things. I told nobody and figured it would go away after I got to hold my baby in my arms, but it only got worse. He seemed to cry all the time, he was a horrible nurser, and nobody but me could hold him. At the same time, my three year old demanded my attention.

I sank into a dark place. I found myself resenting my baby. I started having anxiety attacks when he would cry. I remember wondering if I could place him for adoption. I was sure someone would be a better parent to him. I didn’t want to admit I was “weak” like my mom. I spent my life being everything she wasn’t. I spent my life not being what she was.

Around this time, Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with postpartum depression called Down Came the Rain. I do not know where I would be if that book hadn’t ended up in my hands. As I read about her depression, I realized something: this beautiful, intelligent, talented woman was admitting she needed help overcoming her depression.

I decided that was where I would be different from my mom. I would get help before it was too late. I had to be strong enough to admit that I was weak. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I did seek help because of my love for my boys. With the help of antidepressants, I became more like the “old” me again. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, and I still take medication for it.

When I found out my mom passed away a couple years ago, I felt I needed to do something to “release” her… to let her know I finally understood her. I needed to let her know that she had my forgiveness.

My goodbyes to her were put on the back burner, however. The same day I learned of her passing, my dad was undergoing surgery. Complications arose and he almost died. From that time on, his health deteriorated. He almost died several times in the months that followed. Emotionally, I couldn’t focus on my mom’s death. My dad had priority. He died five months ago and I miss him terribly. I always thought my first book would be dedicated to him, but as the story, Through a Mirror Darkly, wrote itself, I realized it was a book for my mom. It was my way to say goodbye, to let her go with my forgiveness.

I’ve always found comfort in writing, and this story was no different. It also brought healing. I believe in the afterlife. I believe she needed to know that she is forgiven. I feel I needed to tell her this for her sake and mine. I hope she has finally found peace and wholeness.

If you are interested in the fictional account of my story, you can get it on Amazon. It’s less than a buck and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free. If you do read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews help independent authors like me. Thank you!51AiuzkwVtL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)