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.”


Good Reads 5.11.13

I’m sorry for the lack of posts this week. Life has taken a sharp, fast turn and it’s been crazy for me lately. I got hit with freelancing deadlines, plus an extra article that I couldn’t turn down, plus picking up some extra reffing nights for the next week or so. Needless to say, I haven’t spent much time at home and I haven’t had any time to relax or sit down to really blog. I’m hoping things will quiet down soon and I can share some things with you.


That being said, I’ve been able to squeeze in just a little bit of reading this week, so here’s some link love for you:

Finding my Blogger Identity (High Heels & Shotgun Shells): Danielle is so frank about everything she writes about. I was introduced to her blog by a friend I went to college with, and it’s great for me to keep in touch with what’s happening in agriculture and anything else. For bloggers starting out, we go into this venture with the high notion of exactly what we’re going to do and say, but things always change. We tend to forget the blogs need to be about us–who we are and how we feel–and just be us. That’s what people want to read.

Divorce (Newlyweds on a Budget): It seems like all of a sudden I’m hearing about friends and family members having marital problems. It’s scary for someone such as myself who is a newlywed of 218 days and working hard to have that happy marriage when battling differing schedules, money woes, etc., to see and hear how some couples just seem to give up instead of trying to work things out. Great point: “As individuals, we’re not happy all the time. And I think too often when we become married, we seem to blame our unhappiness on our marriage rather than look at our own issues.”

#Whats Beautiful? Recovery (Live, Travel, Eat and Run): So UnderAmour has started a new campaign with some of the FitFluential Ambassadors about what’s beautiful for women. Amalia chose her goal for the campaign to “recover strong.” It seems rather fitting, considering the struggles I’ve been having with my knee. My hope is to recover strong in time to start training for a Fall half marathon and to be able to run in the Bluegrass 10K on July 4, so this was an inspirational post for me.

On Balance (Fitting It All In): Clare hit the nail on the head with this blog post for me right now. I’m struggling to find a balance with my personal life, professional/money-making life, social life, and my exercise life at the current moment. Lately it’s been a struggle for me to have a normal day, and, as mentioned above, life has been really crazy for me with some unexpected deadlines and changes in schedules, etc. I’m an all-or-nothing type of person too, and I’ve been self-medicating through emotional eating throughout the struggle, and it shows already. It’s hard to find that balance–it’s always an ongoing project for you life. If you’ve found the key, can you share it with me?

What’s been your favorite blog this week?

Knee Frustrations

Wednesday morning I went to my fourth physical therapy appointment. I went into the appointment with a list of concerns: my knee wasn’t better (in fact I felt that it was worse than when I started PT), and my right heel/Achilles tendon almost paralyzed me in pain last week.

Last Friday I really wanted to go for a run, so I did a 3.75 mile loop around where I work and my old neighborhood. The run felt great–I didn’t push myself and ran around 9:00-9:10 miles. I felt like I could go for longer, but I was afraid of pushing myself too much. I stretched, went home to shower and then tackle the night’s festivities of a cookout with friends and bowling with the hubs and his co-workers.

Through the night my knee was a little sore. But the scary thing was my right heel/achilles tendon starting hurting so badly when I walked. It was hard for me to lift my leg just to walk, so I’d basically drag it behind me. No clue what that’s about, so I brought it up to my PT, Ryan, on Wednesday. His main concern was that my knee wasn’t any better, but he did say I should talk to a sports medicine doctor about my heel/achilles–it might be because of my heel spur.

We started my PT session with a strength test, to make sure I’d been doing my exercises to strengthen my quads, since that was supposed to help my knee feel better. I’d improved greatly, and even lengthened my quad muscle in my left leg by 3 inches (it’s now only 2-3 inches from heel to butt!). So I’ve improved in that respect, but it feels like my knee is getting worse.

For example, I can’t cross my right leg over my left knee for very long–it feels like I’m pushing down on the knee cap and it starts to ache. Tuesday, while reffing volleyball, it ached depending on how I held my legs. I can’t stay in a deep squat position for very long, or else it starts to hurt.

CrossFit sees you doing a lot of squats and lunges. I’m not able to get the proper form for all of the exercises, which isn’t good.

Last night, at agility class, I wasn’t running my best, mostly because I was scared about my knee. My instructor noticed, and so did LaMesa, and it affected our courses greatly. I pushed any negative thoughts behind me, and pushed through one last course run and it was great…but my knee didn’t feel so great. After the long hour-drive home, I hit the Ibuprofen and wrapped my knee in ice for 25 minutes before bed.

It’s frustrating to me that I can’t run. The weather has been gorgeous. My goal after the Run the Bluegrass was to keep my mileage up so I could easily tackle any next race I wanted, and now I’m only running 3-4 miles once a week (compared to 11 + long runs a week while I was training). Whenever I do get the chance to start training again, I’ll be starting back at mile 1, and that hurts! I’ve also gained about 5 pounds in the month of no running and battling being mildly depressed because of the sudden stop.

I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the sports medicine doctor for the earliest I could get in–May 23. whomp whomp :-/ I have one more PT appointment with Ryan next week before I decide to take a break from that until I hear from the doctor. I’m hoping I can try to get in a little earlier–May 23 seems so far away!

So how do you battle frustrations that stop you from doing what you love? 

My First Physical Therapy Appointment

Thursday morning I slipped on a pair of running shorts and my Run The Bluegrass shirt and headed out the door…to my physical therapy appointment. I went into it with a little bit of excitement but also a little bit of nerves–I didn’t really know what to expect.

My PT, Ryan, is great! We sat down and he asked me the usual questions to get going like if it there was anything that might have suddenly started the pain or if it just showed up. What sports I do, etc. I was quite impressed when I said that I did dog agility with my Corgi and Swedish Vallhund, he asked “Which type of Corgi? Pembroke or Cardigan?” (Most think a Corgi is a Corgi, just one has a tail and one doesn’t.)

Then he got down to manipulating my legs to really pinpoint the pain. He checked the strength in my quads, hamstrings, and hips, as well as their flexibility. He was impressed with how flexible my hamstrings were (“That’s not always normal for a runner”) and how strong my legs were in general, except for my hips (“That’s normal for a runner”). One interesting note: While laying on my stomach, he had me bring my heel to my butt one leg at a time. My right heel came within two fingers of touching my butt cheek, but my left heel was a full hand (including his thumb) from my butt cheek. While he noted that it’s normal for your body to not be symmetrical, this was a concern because of the large difference. Which means I need to work on stretching my quads more.

Verdict: Patellar Tendonitis (cue the “dun dun…DUUUUUNNNN!”)

Then we moved into the gym where, after a quick warmup on a stationary bike, he showed me some stretches and exercises he’d like me to start doing three times a day. The stretches were already ones I incorporate almost daily: standing quad stretch, pigeon pose, and crossing one leg over the other and bending down. I just need to do them more often and hold them longer. The exercises were also ones I have done in the past, but I’m just not as diligent as I should be. I was giving a nifty blue rubber band to do these workouts at home:


To wrap-up the initial appointment, he hooked me up to a little electrode pack to deliver some anti-inflammatory medication straight to my tendon. He said I might feel little pricks, but I didn’t feel much of anything. Twenty minutes later, the appointment was over and I was already scheduled for my second one next week.

I was all "charged up" Thursday morning.

I was all “charged up” Thursday morning.

Ryan said he felt like we could take care of “my little problem” in about 4-6 weeks, as long as I’m diligent about doing the exercises and the stretches. He said he was impressed that I came in after only a month of discomfort–most runners wait until much longer to come in. He said I could still run, but just know that it could prolong recovery. He told me he hates to tell runners they can’t run, even for short periods of time, because he knows it would drive them crazy (haha, how’d he know??). So I’m going to just do some short runs once or twice a week outside (no jarring on the treadmill any more) when I’m feeling froggy, but I’ll end them with my exercises and extra stretching, as well as icing the knees, like usual.

I’m not going to push it with the running, but it makes me happy to know that I can get back to doing something I’ve come to love, even if I can’t really train for any races at this point. But I’m OK with that.

What’s been your experience with physical therapy and getting back into your sport?