How Nike saved my life: battling with mental health one shoe lace at a time.

While everyone around me share their enthusiasm of nearly ending the school year, a part of me, or at least what was left of me, was becoming more and more disconnected with the rest of the world and my intuition.

At face value, nothing in my life indicated that something terribly wrong was happening inside my mind. My first year of college  was full of many successes, from landing an assistant position for the director of Hispanic initiative at DePaul, study abroad in Miami and meeting new people, it seemed like people all around me were happier for my accomplishments than I was for myself.

I felt extremely anxious all the time and my relationship with my family and friends was crumbling because if it. There was weeks on end when I wouldn’t speak to anyone and I even went weeks without speaking to my mother. Getting out of bed was torturous. My body always ached and if it wasn’t that,  I recall many times when I had to cry myself out of bed. Because of this, I began to miss school a lot and instead I would sleep for hours on end. My eating habits were also as bad.

To many, staying in, watching movies and ordering pizza was an indulgence that occasionally happens. But for me this was an everyday/weekend thing. I began to take up comfort eating as a way to cope with how I was feeling. My poor heath meant I had gained weight and the fatigue negatively contributed to my low self esteem. And if it wasn’t binge eating it’s was the exassive drinking.

I had developed a drinking problem in high school that had carried onto my first year of college. Because it was socially acceptable amongst my friends and peers, I found a way to cope with many of my mental issues by escaping into certain substances.

But my vices began to get the best of me. Although feeling at my worst, I knew something had to change quickly. It was during one of my casual conversations with my grandmother that I was reminded of the importance my life decisions had on others. Not only was I living to make a difference for myself but to prove to the many women in my life that there was more to the legacy we carried. I wanted to be someone, regardless of what it was, that made my family proud to say that I had accomplish it. And with the faith in me, I knew there was something great destine in my future. A brighter future where dark days didn’t exist.
So I decided to pay a visit to my college’s counseling office. There I began to have biweekly visits with a therapist who helped me get through these isolated times. I will admit, it took a lot for me to continue on with my visits, and mainly because my pride inhibited me to do so. This was all very new to me. Although being proactive about my physical health was something my parents raised me to do, it’s not likely in my family to take much importance to care for mental health. But I also didn’t want to live a life where I lived day by day off a substance to cope with how I felt.

After a couple of sessions my therapist began to ask me about my interest and it was hard to remember what they were. It had been a long time since I had truly dedicated myself to doing something I purely enjoyed. I then began to mention my love for writing and how exercising always helped keep me proactive. So he had recommended that I began writing in a journal how I felt and to write questions for myself that I could then answer during the sessions when we met.

Then he mentioned that I began putting on my running shoes, but not actually run. In confusion I ask what kind of help would that do, and he simply suggested that I take baby steps into getting into the routine of welcoming positive habits into my life in replacement of my vices. He recommended that running would be an effective way to stay proactive and a great way to de-stress my mind.
“Put on your shoes and just tie up the laces. See how you feel with your shoes on one day and then just take them off. The next day try walking around in your shoes and then see if your confident enough to take a walk outside in them. And once you feel ready to run, just do it,” he said with a smile.
I didn’t think much of his suggestion but I began to notice that putting on the shoes would make me want to go for a stroll around my block. Within a couple weeks I began to run. First down ten blocks and back home. Then I decided to run a mile, and soon enough I began pushing myself more to see how far I would go.
Running connected me with myself again, and it was a great time for me to connect with God. Many times during my runs I would pray that every ounce of sweat that I dripped would carry the negativity that clustered my mind.
It wasn’t an easy journey either. There were time when I would relapse and stay in for a week straight. But journaling helped relieve my mind and when I felt the courage to step outside for a run, I reminded myself that every ounce of sweat that I dripped only meant I was ridding myself from all my demons.
Til this day I run at least everyday. Running helped me breaks through my mental health sigmas. But don’t let my story be a definite way of working through your own experience. I believe that by staying true to what makes you happy, without it harming your life or the life of others, mentally and physically you will be able to overcome any endeavor. So go out there and find your passion, even the slightest change to your everyday routine can be a positive contribution to a happier note. And if you can’t find one, take a moment to stroll around a park or even your neighborhood block. Remind yourself of how beautiful it is to be alive.

In honor of world suicide prevention day day, if you know of anyone going through a hard time and or if you need someone to talk to please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Remember that you are strong and you always have been. Stay golden, have a blessed day ✨