RADjournals: scott payonk

Where to begin… I have two friends: Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Depression: a state of feeling sad : low spirits : melancholy specifically : a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Anxiety and Depression have been my best friends for years. One may say, “How can you call the your best friends”. Well they aren’t always easily rid of and they are always there for you… when you don’t want them. 

I’ve dealt with these disorders for a very long time. They haven’t been the easiest to manage. My friends were pretty dormant for years, then came November of 2017. I found myself in the middle of a divorce and not really knowing how to handle the situation and the new life I was living. Trying to stay strong for my two kids was not easy. Many days I would have a smile on my face and when they went to bed, I turned into a sobbing mess. I felt like everything was against me and had no idea how everything was going to shake out. 

When my “friends” came to visit, it usually involved a real non-healthy lifestyle that consisted of bad eating habits, excessive weight gain, and withdrawal from anything to do with anyone close to me. Needless to say, I needed to make a change. 

To help with this, I started biking in the summer of 2018. Here and there, nothing consistent. It brought temporary relief, but nothing solid. That winter I slipped back into hanging out with my dear friends Anxiety and Depression again. 

I had to be better. Not just for me, but for my son and daughter. What was I teaching them by hiding what was actually going on in my life and how I felt? They could tell I was struggling and it wasn’t fair to them. 

These two friends of mine impacted my social life, work and anything else that was important in my life… 

In the summer of 2019, I was still biking, more consistently now, but it just seemed like it was taking forever to get through the rides and I didn’t feel like it was helping as much as I would have liked it too. This is where the running comes in. 

A close friend of mine told me to try running. I laughed at first. The last time I had “run” was in middle school cross country. Against what I thought was my better judgement at the time, I started with mile. Every other day I would trot out around the town where I live, hating every minute of it. 

After a month or so, I was building distance and wasn’t hating running as much. This wasn’t the important part though. During this time, my mental state started to change. I’ll never forget the moment where it all clicked. It was a pretty nasty hot and humid day in PA. I had just finished a three mile run, one of the farthest distances that I had attempted at the time, and the realization hit me that if I could “suffer” through those three miles, Anxiety and Depression could be dealt with as well. 

On top of running, I also joined a gym to help supplement my running and get stronger. 

Running wasn’t the only thing that helped me with having a better relationship with my “friends”… therapy was another outlet. I bought in and really started to work on myself. It was hard work, but it helped me realize that things can be ok. Sure there are road bumps and hardships, but therapy gave me those strategies to help deal with situations as they came about. 

One of those strategies, was/is running. In August of 2019 I signed up for my first race. A 5K close to where I live. It gave me something to work towards and keep me focused. The day of the race came and I was nervous. Anxiety was chilling with me at the start line, but when the gun went off it was like something snapped and I forgot about everything! All the troubles, the worries and stressors going on in my life. It is amazing how an activity such as running can do that for you. 

The best moment was crossing the finish line and seeing my kids standing there, waiting for me and telling me they were proud of me. That really made me realize that this running journey is well worth it. 

Anxiety and Depression still come to hang out from time to time, but now I have better strategies to tell them “I don’t want to hang out”. Some instances are harder than others, but it is doable. They will always be my friends and won’t ever really leave me alone, but now I know how to deal with them more effectively and appropriately.  

Since that first race, I’ve run two half marathons, various race distances, and many 5Ks. Running truly helped save my life and make me the person I am today. Now I help others find the love of running by coaching. I don't know what I would do without running. If you can put your mind to it and put the work in, anything is possible. A close friend of mine once said to me, “It’s your story, don’t let anyone write it for you. Keep writing”. Every day I use that mantra. Some days I need to say it more than others. 

If you have these two friends, or even just one of them, just know they can be dealt with. Reach out, ask for help, and always be RAD. Remember, It’s your story, don’t let anyone write it for you. Keep writing. Don't quit, keep fighting, and always be RAD. 





3 Responses

Marina Danker
Marina Danker

October 07, 2021

Wonderful post. I lost interest in everything a few years ago when I was dealing with a breakup and started running to deal with the emotional pain and my life has changed for the better and I haven’t looked back since. As a healthcare provider, mental health education is so important. When you take care of yourself, you can give your best self to others. Running helps me recharge for my busy, stressful days at work. Thanks for sharing friend!

Shelley Dunn
Shelley Dunn

August 08, 2021

Fantastically honest! I wish I could say that I didn’t have these 2 friend but unfortunately I do too. Thank you so much for sharing your story in a very relatable way! All the best to you :)

Nicole
Nicole

August 08, 2021

This is a great, well written, inspiring story!

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