I was never a particularly happy kid. That's not to say I was miserable all the time or I 'didn't have a childhood'. I had a childhood, but it was complicated. Many of the most vivid memories from my childhood are not entirely pleasant.
By the time I reached middle school, I felt uncomfortable most of the time. Some of this can be attributed to adolescence and the awkwardness that all of us experience during this phase. But, it was more than just garden variety adolescence induced awkwardness.
I was markedly anxious most of the time. I didn't feel comfortable around people. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I isolated myself.
Accompanying the aforementioned was a heaviness, a darkness that seemed to follow me everywhere. Everything was difficult. Everything was challenging. Everything was out of focus. I couldn't concentrate.
These feelings waxed and waned throughout my first year of high school. But, my sophomore year would prove to be revelatory.
I stumbled onto a way to find comfort in my own skin, escape the nagging anxiety, and quiet the wheels in my head from turning constantly. I discovered running.
All it took was a few miles for the wheels to grind to a halt. The anxiety would dissipate, if not disappear entirely. My own skin suddenly felt comfortable.
Running became a stabilizing force in my life. I became a good runner. But, I wasn't necessarily running to become a faster, better runner. I was doing it to stave off the darkness.
Years later when I was in college, the darkness returned with a vengeance. Anxiety, discomfort, dark thoughts about the end of the world, and more than a few fleeting thoughts about me not being around marked its return.
In trying to find my way back to the light, it occurred to me that I hadn't been running much. The natural anti-depressant that had been helping me for so long to keep the darkness at bay was largely absent.
The darkness has returned several times since the battle I had with it in college. Most visitations have occurred during periods in which I wasn't running much, if at all.
It's become clear that running is one of the most powerful weapons in my arsenal for fighting it. Without it, it's an uphill battle.
This is not say that I have not found myself battling the darkness mightily even when I have been running regularly. But, there's little question I am a stronger, tougher warrior when I run.
The darkness is less daunting and less threatening when I run. It's bark and bite are less intimidating. So, I run because it keeps the darkness at bay.