Beating the holiday and seasonal blues - By Kristen Garzone, Mother Runner & Athlete
This blog is based on an interview of Kristen Garzone by Jude Jacob Kayton.
Thank you to Kristen for opening up to us about her journey with anxiety and postpartum depression, following the birth of her daughter.
Kristen has been a FRÉ ambassador since October 2017
7 X Marathon Runner!
I suffered from depression and anxiety and was diagnosed when I was 21, though there were signs of it before. Like many of us, my anxiety increases around the holiday and post-holiday period. As much as we look forward to Christmas and New Year’s, the holidays are a time of year that is meant to be exciting but ends up in a build-up of stress, and if you feel sadness all the time, when there is pressure to be happy life is all that much harder. On the other hand, I really like having that “clean slate” with the New Year and starting over.
2017 was one of my hardest years; I lost my dear friend Kristin to postpartum depression and suffered from PPD myself following the birth of my daughter Ellie.
You can read more about my journey on the bumpy road of motherhood here. As the year came to a close I decided 2018 would be the best yet, but at the very start of the year my daughter was diagnosed and hospitalized with croup. Seasonal affective disorder also played a big part to play in the increased levels of anxiety and depression I felt during and after the holidays. It’s always dark in the winter, so if I go for a run in the morning - it’s dark, and by the time I finish my workday, it’s dark again.
Run the mile you’re in: in a race or in life
For me, running and specifically running through motherhood has been a light in the darkness. You can read more about my races as a Mother Runner here. Running brings me clarity and a feeling of accomplishment that really sets a precedent for the whole day.
Running on my own was great, but community has been a wonderful place to bare my soul and somewhere to escape to even on the roughest days. Because of this, I joined the Volee Running Club, and now run across the country and frequently go to meetups to connect and run with amazing people. I’m happy to run those extra few miles. Another thing that’s important - I use this time to disconnect from everything overwhelming and I make sure not to bring my phone.
Don’t hide, talk about it
Even though it’s 2019 and awareness around mental health issues has drastically improved, there’s still a stigma against medication. People often think its the easy way out or a cop-out since mental illness is not physical and is so often invisible. The truth is it’s so important to get the help, therapy and medical care needed when you suffer from depression. There is no shame in finding what works for you; we are all different and you need to find the best way to cope.
I’ve learned that a lot of people feel that mental illness is a deep dark secret that they have to hide and that they’ll do anything to put on a front and make everything look perfect. Now I tell people: don’t hide. Talking about mental illness openly is a way to feel better and spread light to those around you who are also suffering in silence.
Owning your vulnerability
Ever since I started opening up about my journey with depression I’ve been getting stories and questions from people across the world. Today even celebrities open up about their struggles and this is important because we think of them with perfect lives, and knowing that they too struggle and are human (just like the rest of us) is so important.
I believe the more people talk the closer we get to ending depression altogether. Social media has a big role to play in this. I love social media but it’s all too easy to put up perfect smiling photos when the reality of life is far from that. I was guilty of this when struggling through PPD, and once I opened up friends would tell me looking at my photos, they’d had no idea.
It’s harder but more powerful to own your vulnerabilities in life and on social media. When you do this way no one can belittle you. The people I love most are wholeheartedly themselves: a little rough around the edges and fully themselves. Mental illness cannot take away who you are, and even the worst days are just days and not the whole of your life. Today my friends on IG are talking about their struggles, and it’s a conversation that is catching and spreading like wildfire.