- Philip Markle
I went exploring through old drawers in my childhood house, and I found this letter I wrote to myself the day after coming out of the closet on Feb, 13, 2004 at age 17. My mom kept it. She had such a difficult time accepting me coming out; even so, she had the wherewithal to keep this letter because she knew it was a big moment in my life.
I am struck by the words I wrote in this – I think it may be one of the wisest things I’ve ever written, and I wrote it 14 years ago.
I’m struck by how I’ve followed this advice in some ways, turned against it in others (my relationship with ‘God’), and forgotten most of it. I remember the feeling of when I wrote this – the day after I came out – of feeling infused for the first time with the power of being whole, with nothing to hide, ‘worts’ and all, without shame and with a sense of humor about it all.
I am at a crossroads right now, where I feel stuck in some negative thought patterns and bitter over my inability to change them after 32 years…and also aware I’m missing out on the gratitude I could feel for how much I’ve grown up from the terrified, 16 year-old kid I was the the day before I came out and wrote this letter.
I’m off to Burning Man for a week of introspection and adventure, and this letter will be my guide:
- Wikimedia Commons
You made such great leaps and bounds on this retreat; it’s heroic and wonderful at the same time. You conquered coming out so bravely, with Jesus at your side and in you, something that was eating you up for many years. And you inspired many others to reflect on their own beliefs and make changes. You forgave yourself, your parents, and others for their shortcomings and are no longer afraid to love “agape” and receive love. You made what will hopefully become the greatest of friendships and gained a confidence in yourself that will help you to deepen your connection with the world around you. You are so loved by God and everyone else. Congratulations!
My relationship with God has completely changed. I see God and Jesus as a light in others and myself, as the random acts of kindness that float about everyday, and as a friend that will talk to me at all times. Life is good! I know that now. I feel empowered to be myself, with all my talents and worts, and share that person recklessly with others.
The road ahead is a difficult one. Never forget to love yourself wholly and to see the sacraments of God’s work everyday. There is a master plan – even in the worst moments, God will be there to support you. Man, that sounds corny, and I’m switching tenses like a madman. Oh well, I can accept these imperfections ????. Remember to not sweat the small stuff, breathe, and laugh at yourself (cause we’re all a little silly). You, with all your talents and gifts and love and genuine kindness for the world, you are an amazing grace. Never fear or be scared by adversity – you proved you will overcome it. Real love means we don’t have to hide what’s inside. Live for others first, unselfishly and daringly – the risk is worth the reward. Hehe, I’m babbling now. Kudos to a great Kairos and a new year.
Philip Markle is the Artistic Director of The Brooklyn Comedy Collective. For more, follow Philip on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Chesapeake Bay Running Club/Flickr
The following is excerpted from “Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Happier” by Scott Douglas, 2018. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. experimentpublishing.com
In any given year, about 20 percent of American adults suffer from depression and/or anxiety. Medication and psychotherapy, the two main treatments in the United States, are powerful aids that have saved and improved countless lives.
There’s growing support for a third treatment-exercise. Official guidelines in some countries outside the US call for exercise to be a first-line treatment for many cases of depression and anxiety. These guidelines reflect an increasing body of clinical evidence that exercise is at least as effective as medication and psychotherapy in reducing symptoms of the two conditions.
On their own, many people have discovered the power of regular running to manage their mental health. They have subjective experience of what research has shown to be true: Regular exercise causes the same structural changes in the brain that are thought to be behind the effectiveness of antidepressant medication, according to Panteleimon Ekkekakis, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. And exercise produces those changes with side effects like improved mood, weight control, and heart health.
- Paul Dobson/Flickr
While any exercise is better than none in managing mental health, many people find running to be uniquely effective. The key to improving your mental health with exercise is consistency-in frequency of workouts and in keeping your heart rate in the moderate-intensity range where the mental-health magic happens. Running doesn’t have the extensive gear and technique barriers of many sports. You can do it pretty much anywhere, pretty much every day of the year. And it’s easy to hit and sustain the right effort level.
On top of those logistical chits in running’s favor, there are aspects of being a runner that reinforce the mental health benefits of exercise. Running is empowering; seeing yourself regularly set and reach goals gives a feeling of capability that can be applied to the rest of your life. Running also often brings a change in thinking-new solutions to old problems seem to materialize out of nowhere after a couple of miles. Add to that how running strengthens social connections and encourages other habits that boost mental health, and you can see why so many people say, “Running is my therapy.”
You don’t need to run marathons or run so fast that you exhaust yourself to get these benefits. Consistency and moderation are the keys to long-term running success. Use the tips below to maximize the powerful mental-health treatment of regular running.
Any run is better than no run when it comes to short-term mood improvement or long-term help with depression and anxiety. But some runs are more effective than others. Here’s some brief guidance on how best to get a post-run boost. Most of these topics are covered in greater detail in chapter 4.
Most studies find significant mood boosts after 30 minutes of running. Improvements in mood tend to last longer after longer runs. But a 20-minute run is much closer to a 90-minute run than it is to not running. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking about duration or distance, such as that a “real” run has to be at least five miles long or it’s not worth doing. The most important step on any day is the first one, the one that gets you out the door. On tough mental days, start your run with a flexible route that you can shorten or lengthen as feels best.
- Jeff Welch/Flickr
Research has found the greatest increase in get-happy brain chemicals following moderate-intensity workouts. In running terms, that’s your basic getting-in-the-miles effort at a conversational pace. But there’s more to mood than brain chemical levels. Pushing yourself through a hard workout provides a needed sense of setting and accomplishing a goal. At the other end of the spectrum, give yourself permission to run as slowly as you want on especially tough mental days. Again, the most important thing about any one run is that it happens.
People usually report better mood improvement (more tranquility, greater reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression) when running in natural settings compared with populated human-made environments. Of course, schedules and geography usually get in the way of regularly running through paradise. Choose visually interesting routes with minimal traffic as often as possible. When time allows, make an effort to run in beautiful settings for an above-and-beyond boost.
- Tom Thai/Flickr
Plan to run whenever you’re most likely to actually run most of the time. Many runners with depression and anxiety especially value morning runs because they set a positive tone and provide an example of success for the rest of the day.
Assuming you have options on whether to run solo or with others, opt for whichever setup feels right for the day. Running by yourself can work best when you need to think through an issue with the help of that special on-the-run clarity. A solo run before or after a hectic day will probably also be more calming. Run with others when you need a break from your internal monologue or would benefit from talking through things with trusted friends. And if you’re struggling to activate, schedule runs with others to increase the chances of getting out the door.
With What Purpose
Regularly mixing up all of the above variables should keep your running more interesting, which will make consistently going for runs more likely, which will mean greater mental-health benefits. Having runs of different length, intensity, and setting within each week also helps free you from the common thinking trap that all your days are the same.
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