(Digital Version Below):
This is part 3 of a series titled: The Journey Back to Ultra. These writings have been kept in their first draft form to enable more authentic conversation.
I’ve been trying to process whether this desire to run long distances comes from my authentic self or if it is an apparition (or maybe the word is manifestation) of my mental illnesses.
It’s been an ongoing joke with ultra marathoners that we are running from our past. Most of the people that know us also realize that to some degree we are all bat-shit crazy. But recently, I came face to face with official looking papers from some doctors that said I, indeed, suffer from two forms of chemical imbalances that could very much govern and rule the activities and hobbies that I believe I have chosen for myself.
As was shown in my ADHD test, I was a model candidate for the A, D, and the other D. Apparently, raising five kids Will boot the “H” right out of somebody.
This diagnosis was no surprise to me or anyone else around me. Going to the doctor for this was more of a ritual for the medication, like the coroner showing up to confirm a headless body has, indeed, coded.
It was the second diagnosis, albeit a soft guest from a doctor with a guest star role, It started to put a clear perspective on answering the question of why I do the things I do and how I do them intensively, and then stop. The dark-haired, confident, middle-aged doctor on the telemed screen suggested that I suffered from Bipolar type II.
Bipolar type II causes people to go from soft interest to tunnel vision obsession in a matter of days. And it also forces extreme, grandiose thinking of its victims through sheer energy levels. Then, after the host of this disease has signed up for super long races, made goals of writing 2,000 words a day, and quit their job to pursue a life of writing and travels with a nomadic, peyote-smoking ultra-commune, The person with Bipolar II begins to crash. The desire to train everyday like David Goggins snorting the white powder fades; word counts dwindle until they hit zero; and the traveling ultra-squad leaves you at mile three of their thousand-mile journey into Appalachia. But it doesn’t stop there, Sweet Jesus.
The sufferer then faces a drop below normal into a deep depression for failing at the goals assigned to himself during Mania. Then a blanket of grief befalls them for spending so much money on the obsession of the week. Then the cherry of past failures and disappointments is placed on top of the whipped cream of those around you pressuring and cheering you on to keep going. I then lay swaddled and this heap of self-imposed shame for a while, losing my gains, keeping my head above water, and then losing hope and all the joys that come with it. All while, at least in my case, being easily distracted, fighting to concentrate on the mundane chores and expectations of life like shaving and deodorant.
So, I still face the challenge of deciding whether I want to recover my ability to run long distances. I am also facing a trial period of adjusting to my medications. And then somewhere in that, I must decide on whether to sign up for the Red Rock canyon 50k in Las Vegas for November 2022.
There is no easy way to distinguish what I really want, and what the mania craves. There’s also no clear plan on how to train, seeing as the cyclical behavior of my disorder allows me to only stick to a training plan for a week or less before changing said plans, or giving up all together every for 3 weeks (Only to start back 2-3 weeks later).
This isn’t going to be easy. With meds, maybe it will be easier than it could have been.
But in the words of one of my favorite songs (“This Year” by the Mountain Goats)
“I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.”