Dealing with Depression in Your Own Way

I wanted to share a story I wrote for a contest with everyone. The story happened to win, which I am extremely excited about, but even if it hadn’t won, I wanted to share. A couple of years ago I started dealing with depression due to a myriad of things happening in my life. I fought through it with the help of some medication and discovering CrossFit. Unfortunately, again because of a myriad of things, I’m dealing with a slight tinge of depression, but I’m not combating it with medication this time, just going through the motions and doing my best to look forward to better days ahead. Marlise Langenhoven dealt with clinical depression for almost her entire life, but because she discovered horses and the power they have to make everything better, she’s now medication-free and living her life in a more positive light. Is she 100 percent cured? No. But she’s doing everything she’s ever wanted to do now and enjoying life with her family. All thanks to finding the Time To Ride.

Not Your Standard Medication

Depression is like a dark hole, and there are days that you struggle just to see a glimmer of light. For some it can be crippling, but others find a way to fight through. They might do it on their own, with medication, or with the help of angels around them.

For Marlise Langenhoven, her angels just came in the form of horses.   Riding horses has been a lifelong dream for Marlise, but it was unreachable in her early years. Growing up in South Africa, horses and riding were for the more privileged.   Marlise grew up moving around a lot with her family moving to the United States when she was 28 years old. She struggled through abuse as a child and multiple moves until she became an adult and married her husband of 20 years, Mark.

Then came her first child, and the stressors of being a new mom and the new challenges the dynamic change brought about led to her diagnosis of clinical depression.   “I was very depressed, on medications … having a hard time coping with life in general,” Marlise recalls.

Then one day her daughter suggested riding lessons. “When she said that, my heart kind of sunk a little bit because where I come from, riding is a very expensive hobby, and my family couldn’t afford it at all,” she says.  Still, she looked around her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for a place to just take one lesson at the age of 38.

“I can remember the first time I got on and started riding,” she says. “I was just on a lunge line going around in a circle, but I can still remember how it felt to just be on a horse and to do something I have always wanted to do.”

Expecting to only take one lesson, Marlise was hooked from the very first step and continued her lessons, even though she was one of the oldest riders at her first trainer’s farm.

“When it comes to riding as an older adult, it’s very intimidating…at least it was for me,” she says. “You’re surrounded by all these young kids who are much better than you are.”

Ending the Victim Cycle

Marlise found that with every lesson, every little thing that she started getting right during her lessons, as a rider, pushed her to want to do more. She felt accomplished after every ride, no matter how small the gains were.   After about a year, Marlise and her daughter moved on to their current trainer, Lauren Romanelli in College Grove, Tenn. In one of her early lessons, Lauren said something that hit home to Marlise.

“Lauren would say, ‘Stop riding like a victim.’ But I had no idea what she meant,” she says. “I had my shoulders back, my chin was up, and heels down.”

Then it hit Marlise that she needed to let go of all the negativity and early struggles, and just live in the moment.

“Dealing with horses really taught me that I had to deal with my stuff and that I had some unpacking to do, instead of keeping it all boarded up,” she reveals. “I just needed to leave it alone and move on. Go forward.”  Her new life mantra was to no longer look back: “If you want to accomplish anything with riding, you have to move forward. You don’t achieve anything by looking back.”

Moving Forward

Now Marlise and her daughter share a leased horse together. It’s wasn’t long before Marlise was learning about more than just counting strides between jumps, but other horsemanship skills. With each stall she mucked, each hoof picked, each horse groomed and fed, she discovered more of the beauty and the strength that radiated from horses.   “

One of my favorite charges, Chance, would give me big hugs and nibble my back pockets whenever I picked his feet,” she says. “And with every perceived show of affection, or evidence of trust earned, another little piece of me would fall back into place. My time at the barn was the joy of my life.”

Marlise has also learned that life, like jumping, is about making adjustments as best you can as you go. Some days you ace it and other days not so much, but tomorrow, you tack up again, take a deep breath and try all over. It’s enlightened her and given her a new lease on life, a life without any more depression medication or extra weight. While her depression isn’t totally in the rearview mirror, she continues to manage it with exercise, riding, and therapy when needed. She attributes it all to her time spent in the saddle and in the barn, looking up and moving forward.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

“I do think there is something to be said about riding and being around horses. That has really, really helped me,” says Marlise. “For me, at the barn it’s all about being in the moment—you focus on just you and your horse. There’s always something you need to focus on when you’re at the barn, and because you’re focusing on these little things while you’re riding, you shut out everything else going on. For that time, I am not a mother, I am not a wife, I don’t have responsibilities … all I have to worry about is in that barn—me and my horse.

“For that time, I can just be me, I can just be that young girl that has always wanted to ride, but never had that opportunity. For that time I can be living my dream. It’s like the only real selfish time that I have, and I’m really, truly selfish with it—I don’t care about anyone else, I don’t think about anyone else, it’s just me and my horse and riding, and our connection.”

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My 1 Year Anniversary of CrossFit

A couple of weeks ago I realized I was celebrating my first year anniversary of doing CrossFit with Man O’War CrossFit. I can’t believe it’s already been a year! But I started the sport last year when I was forced to take time off from running due to patellar tendonitis, knowing I needed to get stronger in many ways to try to avoid more injuries.

My time with Man O’War CrossFit has been nothing short of awesome. I have to thank my coach, Taylor Johnson, and the community that is MOWCF for helping me get through what was going to be a crazy year.

MOWCF_Logo

I know there are a lot of misconceptions and mixed perceptions about the sport of CrossFit. There have been articles written about rabdo, an athlete disabled by a completely freak accident, and people saying it’s just a fad that will soon fizzle. But I don’t listen to them.

CrossFit is exactly the workout that I’ve been needing. I get bored easily with things, and everyday at the box is something different, something challenging…something fun. Everyday I feel like I’ve accomplished something awesome.

There might have been some negatives along the way. Remember my tussle with the box jumps?

It wasn't pretty and hurt like hell!!

It wasn’t pretty and hurt like hell!!

Well, it was a big day when I tackled the boxes again…and I’m not nervous about them any more.

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And my leg looks better (there might be some permanent scarring, but it’s still fading away):

Almost a year later, the scars are fading away.

Almost a year later, the scars are fading away.

And I’ve had some pretty big milestones: being able to put my name on the leaderboard for the benchmark WODs for Karen (6:09), joining the 200lb Club with my deadlifts, seeing improvements in my other olympic lifts (120lb cleans, 100lb push press), and hitting my first Toes2Bar.

But the other bonus has been my mentality and attitude. Because of CrossFit, I have overcome depression and discovered how strong I can be both physically and mentally. I’ve learned to be my biggest cheerleader through difficult things and I’m always working to not let my mind talk me out of things. I have to thank Taylor for this, as well. He’s taught me that when I “fail” a lift, just walk away, shake it off and clear your head, then try it again. Don’t give up, and don’t let your inner demons talk you out of your progress.

I still haven’t accomplished what I’d like: kipping pull-ups without the band, doubleunders, and stringing together Toes2Bar, but I’m a work in progress and I know that by my 2-year anniversary, I’ll have all of those down. I just need to be consistent with my work and my goals.

I want to thank all of those who have supported me through this year in CrossFit and for putting up with me. There might be those who still roll their eyes when I get to talking about the “Sport of Fitness”, but it’s my lifestyle and I’m proud of it. Here’s to another successful year!

Your turn: When you celebrate your anniversaries (of running, CrossFit, etc.), what has stood out the most for you?

Hardest

Battling the Binge: Eating, Drinking, Working Out

A week or so ago the news stations were talking about how many drinks equaled “binge drinking.” The talk of bingeing always seems to come in waves: binge drinking one week, binge eating the next, … binge anything else later.

Now, you probably are thinking, “Well the title of this includes working out, but I’ve never heard of binge working out…” True, maybe you haven’t. But, to me, there is such a thing.

I haven’t been too shy talking about my episodes of binge eating. It’s a nice that comes in waves, personally. A lot of times it happens just around that certain time of the month, which happens with a lot of women. For me, it happens a lot when I’m stressed, lonely, bored, or just any thing that I try to suppress.

3

 

If there is something semi-tasty in the house, it’s in my belly. 

I have no willpower. 

If I feel I’ve worked for it, by God I’ll have it.

My thinking? Well, I’ll sweat out the calories at CrossFit, so I’m golden, right? A little here and there won’t hurt. Etc. Etc.

It’s totally unhealthy. I know it’s the reason for my recent weight gain and horrible feeling. But I can’t help to want just that scoop of ice cream, or that handful of cereal…multiple times throughout the night. Even though I had a filling, nutritious dinner just a few minutes ago.

At the box for my 2014 resolution, I put that I wasn’t going to snack after 7 pm, or else I’d have to do 50 burpees. Ugh…I have a lot of burpees to get through after this past week.

Hence what brings me to “binge working out”. When I had a gym membership, you could find me at the gym for an hour or so before work, then after work I’d be there for another hour or so. At some points I’d just want to work out more and more, to make up for the unhealthy decisions I had made previously.

I don’t believe I’ve ever really participated in binge drinking (well, except maybe during college…), but some times I worry about the thought of “Maybe just a drink will help me relax after this stressful day…” Shouldn’t I find other ways to relax? I walk the dogs after work, I surf the Internet, I try to just enjoy television. But it doesn’t seem to be sufficient.

I’ve gone into 2014 hoping that everything that was horrible in 2013 was going to instantly disappear as soon as chorus of  “Auld Lang Syne” was completed. But, it hasn’t. Instead my faults have been magnified: I’m making as much money as I used to; my writing isn’t exactly what one editor wants it to be so maybe I suck as a writer; maybe I made the wrong decision about the new career; maybe I’m not cut out to be a competitor; maybe I’m just wrong.

So hence the bingeing with everything. I’m trying to combat things so I’m restarting my healthy lifestyle. My wish is my husband will work with me to keep out the bad stuff from the house (“out of sight, out of mind, out of my mouth”), and maybe even start encouraging me to do more activities together and not just mope alone on the couch, thinking negative thoughts.

Mountain

And, yes, I do worry that maybe I’m not as “cured” of my depression as I thought maybe I was a few months ago. Depression isn’t just one textbook diagnosis and treatment, like I thought maybe it was. It’s not an easy fix and end-all, like I had hoped. But it just means that I need to fight harder to find myself, find my happiness, and keep it that way. Life isn’t easy, and we can’t just sit back and think we’re just observers–we have to live our lives.

Fly

 

You turn: Please share your story, comments, or inspiration.

Saying Goodbye to 2013

Happy New Year’s everyone! I am definitely happy to see 2013 go away–this was one year I didn’t feel bad was going by so quickly.

The past year has been one of so many changes for me. From professional, personal, location, and physically, I’ve changed in so many ways.

Professionally:
A crushing blow slapped me upside the face mid-year in which I was forced to take stock in what I wanted to do with my life. I dove back into my freelancing, only now full-time. I had to push myself to get out there and network with other publishers. It’s been fun writing for different magazines and trying to create my business. I’ve started a professional site for my work and will continue growing my business throughout the year.

I’ve since accepted, and started, a new job at an animal health technology company in a newly-created position. My boss is hilarious and very laid back. The job itself is a little mundane as I start sifting through 15 years of work that’s been lacking. I’m interested in seeing how this job and my career grows in 2014.

Personal:
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so down. But I’ve never felt as crushed, lost, bitter as I did midway through the year. I was diagnosed with depression and put on some prescription medication to help with things. It wasn’t meant as a permanent solution, but just to help balance me so I didn’t alienate my husband, family, friends, and ruin things like my partnership with my dogs in agility.

If I hadn’t dived into CrossFit like I had, I don’t know where I’d be today. My Man O’War CrossFit community helped me make it through everyday more than they really know. I was forced to wake up to my alarm clock in order to make it to the morning class. After class, I knew I had to walk the dogs, take a shower, and take care of myself. Without those workouts, I probably would have stayed in bed, been a slob, etc.

Physically:
Speaking of CrossFit, I became stronger in so many ways this year. My mental and psychological strength grew while I was getting myself out of my slump. I learned to focus on different things rather than the “I can’ts” because of CrossFit. I’m stronger physically because I can know deadlift and back squat my body weight, hit the 100s in cleans, and continually see improvement on things everyday.

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I ran my half marathon PR on the hilliest course in the area, and crushed my 5K PR on the anniversary of my race running debut. I overcame injuries, thanks to physical therapy, and I realize that strength is more important than anything. I haven’t run as much as maybe I should the last half of the year, but I’m going to get back into it and learn to balance CrossFit and running training and hope for an injury-free 2014.

So proud!

So proud!

Location:
Finally, M and I moved to a new house just a few weeks. We may have only moved a few miles away, but it’s a symbol of a fresh start for us and our lives, which is something we desperately need. The new house allows us to start new, positive memories. (I’ll have a post about it soon, because we’ve been doing some speckling and painting!)

Sean even helped pack--he wanted to make sure we didn't forget him.

Sean even helped pack–he wanted to make sure we didn’t forget him.

I’m still considering my goals for 2014, so that will come at a later time. All I know is that I’m hoping for a happier, healthier, luckier year. It’s a fresh start, and I’m happy to dive right in!

Your turn: 2013: Good or bad year for you?

Link Love: Good Reads on CrossFit, Running, & Depression

I haven’t done a Link Love post in quite some time, but I’ve spent a lot of time lately ignoring work reading some great new posts that I wanted to share with everyone.

LinkLove

10 Lessons Running Teaches You about Life (The Daily Runner): I love #1 (When things get tough, just keep going) and #7 (You define your own limits). I mean, seriously, how honest is that? You know that the middle of that steep hill is going to suck, but it’s not going to get any better until you push through and get to the top. Stopping in the middle of something difficult, such as working on an article (let’s say), is only going to prolong the pain/difficulty. If you push through, get the job done, you’ll be rewarded on the other side.

Weathering the Storm (Cesar’s Way): As someone who has a dog that is scared to pieces whenever thunder rolls and lightening strikes, I’m always looking for ways to help LaMesa weather the storms a little easier. We’ve purchased the ThunderShirt, but it doesn’t always help. However, I hadn’t thought of the tip in the article saying have her wear the ThunderShirt during calm weather so she associates that with calm more than storms. DUH! Why hadn’t I thought of that?? Read on to get more tips.

Why I WILL NOT Quit CrossFit (Running Wilder): Preach it, sistah!! I never said that CrossFit was for everyone, but I do believe everyone (that likes working out) should give it a good ole fashion try at some point. There are some of us who dive a little more into our passions. And I have become very passionate about CrossFit. I won’t judge you for what you’re passionate about, so please don’t judge me.

Guess Who’s Back in Town (Passion for Life, Love, and Health): I know how hard it is to post something so personal such as a battle with depression. When you’re in a slump, you don’t feel the motivation to do much of anything. There are weeks where I don’t feel like writing, and I don’t. So you’ll see some long stretches of no activity on here, but like Ashleigh, I’m still here and still fighting.

Great posts, great reads for a chilly week. I hope you enjoy them!

Your turn: What’s been one (or two) of your favorite reads this week?

Depression Affects More Than You Think

This post has been months in the making. I started it in August…then re-worked it in September…and now it’s October. This has been tough for me to really wrap my head around and come to terms with. I have been suffering from depression.

My depression was caused by a catastrophic life change earlier this summer, when my world was rocked and I began to question everything I’ve come to know about myself. Now that I look back on it, I think I was battling the initial stages/signs of depression for almost a year before things finally snapped. I was so miserably unhappy in my job and where I was career-wise, I barely had any support from those I worked with, minus a few friends. There was no direction as to what I could really do to make things better, until it all just came to a blow.

I was also dealing with some personal issues, too personal to really talk about here, but I believe it definitely contributed to the state I’m in now.

I’ve talked with a counselor and with my general practice doctor. I’m on medicine with the idea it would help balance things out, help me concentrate and focus again, and be my old self. It’s not meant to be a forever thing–only to help me get through this rather rough patch…whenever that might be.

I started back down this road of “getting better” with the intention that it would happen quickly…but it hasn’t. I know things can’t be solved overnight, but some relief would be nice.

The scary thing is? They say you get good endorphins by exercising…if I’m still feeling this way even after a kick-ass CrossFit workout and 2 mile walk with my dogs, in the fresh air, how much worse could I feel if I didn’t workout as much as I do??

I’ve been using CrossFit as my escape lately. I’ve gone everyday, and when I can’t go it sends me deeper into the mess I’ve been feeling.

I’ve seen my sister struggle with her depression and other issues when we were growing up. I never imagined I could suffer from the same thing–I always thought, “I’ll never be like that…I have everything together…”

Apparently I don’t have everything together. I’ve spent my entire life trying to live up to such a high standard that maybe I’ve set for myself, or maybe it’s been set for me…but for me to admit what I used to consider a fault is hard.

It’s really hard.

But I’m trying.

I’m trying to think positive.

I’m trying to make my body move often.

I’m trying let go of a lot of things that hurt me.

I’m trying to forgive the people that have hurt me.

I’m trying to not let this crush me and change me for the worse, but instead push me to change for the better.

Change

 

I hope this post is the positive right step. I’d appreciate any support or any words of wisdom. For now, I’m trying to keep my chin up and mind clear.

Your turn: Have you dealt with, or do you know someone who’s dealing with, depression?