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This week we celebrate Sad Runner’s First Birthday. This little piece of the Internet is officially one-year-old. It was fitting, I felt, that the day of the actual birthday I was on the couch tearing up from suicidal thoughts. A humbling reminder that, though I’ve come so far this past 365 days, I’m still just a breath away from the pain I’ve come to know all too well.
Sad Runner is not an easy site to publish. It requires a lot of time focusing on the thoughts and emotions that I just assume forget. It also keeps me from hiding for too long. From the thousands of followers on Twitter to my Facebook friends, and our growing number of Sad Runner community members, more people than ever now know of my battle. That’s difficult to wrap my head around.
In my ambition to spread the word that people are not alone in their mental illness, I’ve overlooked the fact that my own mental illness craves anonymity. So sitting here, knowing the stats on how many readers visit the site, and how raw I frequently am, it’s hard not to want to crawl back into a hole and forget that I tried to build something here.
Still, intent to be an optimist, I’m focused on the positives from the last year and what this little website has come to mean to me.
Sad Runner challenges me to keep going in my fight. I’m not allowed to give up because so many are watching and cheering for me to survive. I can’t go off to hide and die because so many are aware of my struggle and they keep an eye on me.
The site requires that I continue to get better. You may not know this if you’re not publishing content online regularly, but it’s hard to get eyeballs to your stuff. If I want to keep the site growing and keep helping others, then I have to have the energy, the determination, and the tenacity to grind it out every day. The demand for my energy has become a motivating factor. I pray and work and fight my depression all with an eye toward getting better, so I can do a better job for this site and for you the reader. I can’t fall back down the hill for too long because Sad Runner, and the people I’m trying to help, need me to keep going.
This site also forces me to reach out to more people. I’m not a people person. I’m a born introvert with severe social anxiety so being an outgoing, charismatic people lover is just not me. But this site forces me to think of others and reach out to others. People message me and share their stories, and I have to deal with that. It forces me to grow outward which is something my illness has crippled in the past.
I’m challenged to keep going even on the days I don’t want to. I mentioned earlier that I was on the couch in a suicidal lump, yet writing and working on Sad Runner was still on my task list, and I was motivated to keep going despite the pain. Why? Because of you, the reader. You matter so much to me. Encouraging you through your difficult times and helping you understand your friends’ pain is important. So this site keeps me going, some days quite reluctantly, but it keeps me going nonetheless.
When others reach out to me or share what I write, I’m motivated. It encourages me beyond words to know that others find positivity through the pain in my life. It means that things are not going to waste. My hurt is not for nothing.
I’ve had old friends from high school reach out to me this year. I spend most of my time on Facebook embarrassed. I picture every ‘friend’ on my account rolling their eyes or judging me for my problems as if I want attention for this. But I know that’s just a lie my brain is telling me because the notes I get are quite the opposite. They’ve thanked me for my honesty and for spreading the word about depression and anxiety. They’ve shared their stories of struggle and how the site is helping them get through their pain. People are responding as I hoped they would. They are finding hope and encouragement in their illness.
This year I’ve heard from distant family members on all sides who have shared their stories of struggle with mental illness. These are members of our family who never let on that they were hurting, but because I started writing about it, they felt comfortable to share it with us.
And, as if that wasn’t encouraging enough if that didn’t motivate me to keep writing, there are the emails I get from people of all ages. Men and women from Michigan and Florida, even in the UK, who are inspired to keep fighting and not to give up. I tear up with almost every email as my heart breaks for so many of you. But you’re fighting, you keep moving forward despite your pain.
This site is for you. The fighters among us who dig your feet in the dirt and refuse to lose any more ground to the illness. That pumps me up beyond words.
I’ve been incredibly honest on this site. As a result, Sad Runner has become a tool I’ve been able to use in my daily life. The posts here help my loved ones better understand what it is like to deal with depression and anxiety. It helps them give me a hand because they finally see a small glimpse of what it is like to deal with this condition.
Sad Runner has never been a site for me just to vent about my depression and anxiety. I have a difficult time with some depression blogs. They just talk about the pain with no eye toward getting better. It seems like they heap more negativity on top of an already negative situation. They’re just stirring the pot at some point. Sad Runner has been about taking action and finding positivity despite the crap heaped on us by our illness.
I didn’t start this site for me. There were three primary reasons the site began.
It sickens me when I think of some kid dealing with depression by himself. My heart hurts for those who feel ashamed or weird because of their condition. For someone to feel ashamed of their depression in a world where this illness runs rampant is nothing short of unacceptable. How stupid do we have to be as a society to shun a group that is hardly on the fringe?
No person should ever feel ashamed of their mental illness. That’s the first point of this site. This website is me standing up and saying, ‘I have it and by the way, there’s a bunch of other people like us too. So don’t feel alone because you’re not.’
Furthermore, I’m tired of people thinking that depression and anxiety sufferers are weak. That stigma is a big sore spot for me. Some of the strongest people I know are depression fighters. So if you’re reading this and you think it’s makes you, or someone you know weak, cut that crap out right now.
We’re tough. And I’m here to prove it. This site is me dropping the mic each week on people who think it makes us wusses. Next time you see me in real life, come up to me, tell me you think my depression makes me weak. We fight battles on fronts you can’t imagine so you and your little opinion won’t take more than a moment to squash. So bring it. That’s the kind of fire that burns underneath these pages. It’s more than just words and code. There’s an indigence here, toward stigma and toward mental illness itself. No opinion and no illness will hold us back.
The second reason I started Sad Runner was to inspire people to keep going despite their illness. Suicide is the end of the road for a few of us. But for many, we’re stuck in this limbo world. This purgatory between the life we want to live and our depression life. We don’t kill ourselves, but we don’t live either. I want to stop that.
Depression induced complacency and laziness runs rampant. As a people, we have no energy because we spend our entire day fighting our inner self. So it makes sense that we think we can’t do the things we want to do. So we stay in bed too late, we watch too much television, we self-medicate with food and drinks that only make our depression worse.
I’m trying to put an end to this. I don’t have any fewer dreams or goals in my life. I just have this crappy condition that I have to carry with me while I pursue those goals. But I still should pursue them. My illness may slow me down, but I can still get to the finish line in my own time. But I can’t give up. I have to keep going.
That’s why the slogan of Sad Runner is ‘keep moving forward.’ It’s a reminder to keep going even if it gets ugly and uncomfortable and things don’t look like we want them to, that’s fine let’s just keep moving forward.
I’m on a mission to prove to myself and others that people with depression and anxiety can not only survive it, but they can thrive despite it.
The last reason I started Sad Runner was for friends and family of people who suffer from depression and anxiety. People aren’t comfortable talking about their depression and anxiety. Some days it’s because it hurts too much. Other days it’s because they are afraid you will judge them. Regardless, people aren’t talking to their friends about mental illness. So I thought I would do it for them.
In my life, I desperately wanted my friends to understand what I was going through. I felt weird and alone, and I needed others to know about my world. But I’m shy and, besides, who’s gonna call all their friends over for a night and say, ‘Alright, for the next three hours we’re going to talk about my suicidal ideation and all the things you’re afraid will happen to me.’ Nobody does that. But I knew I wasn’t the only one with that problem.
So that’s the third reason Sad Runner exists. I want this site to become a place people can point their friends to and say, ‘Go there, they’ll tell you what I’m going through, what it’s like, and how you can care for me.’
Over a year ago, I started writing some short posts about what it was like to deal with depression. I was still very much stretching my legs, and I never showed what I wrote to anybody formally. They just sat here.
Then, this time, last year, I wrote a post about my Veganversary. Understandably proud of it, I shared that post on Facebook, and that’s when people became aware of Sad Runner. They started reading those other posts I had written about depression, and that’s how things kicked off.
After that, I committed to writing a bit more but not with the consistency I would like. My depression was still getting in the way of my writing and my ability to communicate. Plus, who has time to write about being suicidal when they’re too busy going to the doctor and trying to fight those feelings?
Still the site made a lot of progress this year.
I’m most proud that I was able to launch the Sad Runner Devotional for Depression. I was hitting a wall in my own quiet time and couldn’t find any good daily devotionals that spoke to my struggles with mental illness. So I decided to write my own. When I found hope from it, I knew I needed to share it with others. Inspired by the daily email format of Rick Warren’s Daily Hope devotional, I challenged myself to produce one for Sad Runner.
After a lot of hard work, the devotional launched, and people now like it and get a lot out of the study. I’m so excited each week when I look and see that more people sign up. I know they are getting hope and encouragement to get through their struggles.
If you haven’t tried out the devotional yet, go here and sign up. Even if you don’t have depression, it just may help you through a dark period of your life. And, if you know someone who could use some extra encouragement, send them over to the devotional page and get them to sign up. That’s what it’s there for, to help other people.
I closed out the year with the Sad Runner Streak. I ran a minimum of a mile a day for 37 straight days from Thanksgiving to New Year. I did it to keep my depression from stealing my sport of running from me. I wanted to show myself and others that you can still get out there and get things done despite your illness. It was tough to achieve. I went through weeks of depression and anxiety, but I still got it done.
Along the way, the streak motivated others online to start their own streaks, to set their mental illnesses aside, and to go live their lives.
Year 2 at Sad Runner has me psyched. I can’t share too much of it because I’m still talking to people and setting things up. Plus, to continue being transparent, who knows if I will pull any of it off. My depression and anxiety are grinding at me, and I just don’t want to promote anything I’m not going to produce. But please stick around because this site is only going to get better and better.
In January, the official Sad Runner Facebook page launched. It’s growing slowly, and I’m still learning what everyone wants to see on the page. But I’m excited about it. My hope is that it becomes an encouraging community of people all working to overcome their mental illness.
We aren’t alone in our struggles. Our friends aren’t the only ones with depression and anxiety. That’s what Sad Runner proves and that’s what I’m hoping the Facebook page fosters. I want people to be able to go there for positivity and motivation to get through what they are battling. The three goals for the site are the same three goals for the Facebook page.
If you haven’t yet, please go like the Facebook page. I’ll try my best to make the content as deserving of your newsfeed as possible.
If you like the mission of Sad Runner and what we’re trying to do with this community, helping us is simple.
The more people who know about Sad Runner, the more people will know they aren’t alone in their illness. It’s that simple. It’s more than just web traffic and post likes to me. I know that many of the people who visit this site need encouragement and hope to get through their struggles.
Sharing Sad Runner helps us all spread the word that this is not something to be ashamed of and that we can thrive despite it. Sharing something from the site, whether it’s a post or the devotional or the Facebook page or my Twitter account, anything is a huge help. It’s a gift to me because it’s the highest compliment you can give a writer but it serves the deeper purpose of helping others through their pain.
After a year of this, I have plenty of people to thank. My friends and family are at the top of the list. They encourage me daily to keep going despite all this crap. They support Sad Runner and the mission and, if it wasn’t for their encouragement, I might not still be writing.
Of course, I have to thank my incredible wife. I could easily write another 3,000 words on how awesome that woman is. I’ll spare your eyeballs from the extra words but just know that I’m alive regularly because God put her in my life. She’s a fearless warrior who fights to slay as many of my demons as I do. From day one Kristen and I have always been a ‘ride or die’ kind of couple. We’ll roll through the fires of hell side by side until we take our last breath. That’s just who we are. It’s going to take a lot more than the circumstances we currently face to break us. We only get stronger. It’s the benefit of having a faith infused relationship built on an ‘us vs. the world’ foundation. ‘We got God, and we got each other, so #%@$ the rest.’
I couldn’t continue to grow this website without her so she deserves as much gratitude as I can give her.
Lastly, I thank you. It’s a lot of work for me to find readers. You have an infinite demand for your time and energy. You could be reading anything else or watching a cat video like I know you sometimes do. Reading long posts about depression and anxiety aren’t always at the top of everyone’s list. But you’re here, and you’re part of this community. I’m beyond grateful for you. I value each visit you make to the site and every second you spend here. So thank you, my dear reader.
Thanks for indulging me as I took a look back over this past year and what Sad Runner means to me. I’m already looking forward to next year’s post as we look back over the second year.
Thanks again for reading.