Keep the black dog in it's kennel.

  • Thursday, August 23, 2012
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I'm sitting in my garden in the cool of the evening. The sun has gone down leaving the sky grey and smudged. My thoughts are unstructured and swirling - and I'm pleased to discover, relaxed.
There  was a time five or six years ago when I would sit out here and brood. "Who the hell am I, and how do I chart a course out of the void?" would be the endless angry question as I grappled with classic mid life drift. I wrestled demons out here, the deepest depression and the dislocation of rootlessness. I cut myself with razorblades to feel better.
I don't think I've answered the identity question fully but I no longer worry about it. I have by running and osmosis reached a place of peace.
Running and rehabilitation came at the same time for me. I had started to run/ walk/ run around the time my wife picked me up from my place of work, broken and unable to function and drove me straight to the doctor. I haven't needed the doctor or medication for some years now but I have run a lot of miles!
And I've always felt that running and being fit help keep the black dog in it's kennel.
All this leads to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal  
This study by the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry posits that exercise does not make any tangible difference when it comes to beating the blue funk.
Over a twelve month period two groups of patients aged between 18-69 were assessed. One group had physical intervention or exercise, the other did not.
The conclusion, in the words of the BMJ - " The addition of a facilitated physical activity intervention to usual care did not improve depression outcome or reduce use of antidepressants compared with usual care alone.
Far be it for me, a layman, to question such a scientific study, and yet...I am better for my running. Much better. I don't think it's all in the mind either. Running gives me purpose and a positivity, I feel better about myself because I'm fit. My self image is much stronger. I get a lot of self identity from being a runner. There is focus, structure and discipline. I am mentally much stronger too. It all helps.
I no longer run simply to keep depression at bay. I've come to love the sheer freedom and exuberance it brings. It is joie de vivre, the joy of living. Of life.

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