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.”


Running: Good for What Ails You

After my rough Tuesday, I decided I needed a mental break from what’s been the norm lately.

I decided that I needed a day off from CrossFit because I was starting to get competitive with the other girls in my box, wanting to lift the high weights and finish the same amount of rounds as they do (even though they’ve been doing CF longer than me). That isn’t the right mindset to have in CrossFit. You’re supposed to compete with yourself–push yourself to new limits, but don’t hurt yourself.

I haven’t gone for a run in a while because I wanted to rest my knee from that pounding and hope my plantar fasciitis is on the road to healing. Quite frankly, I hadn’t really missed running…up until Tuesday night.

So Wednesday morning I laced up my new Saucony shoes (that were purchased almost a month ago and still in their box), grabbed my running belt, and hit the road. My goal was to just run. I’ve been running/walking the mile to and mile back from Man O’War CrossFit daily, but I hoped to go further than just a mile.

No music. No running partners. Just the sound of my feet hitting the blacktop and my breathing as I struggled against the thick, humid air.

Aren't my new Saucony Rides badass looking? Finally, running shoes for my "special feet" that look cool! Thanks, Saucony!

Aren’t my new Saucony Rides badass looking? Finally, running shoes for my “special feet” that look cool! Thanks, Saucony! (PS Man, my legs look tan in this photo! w00t!)

It wasn’t a fast run, and I did walk a couple of times, but it was a run. And it was what I needed mentally and physically.

3.60 miles in 34:19 of free, pure therapy, without the prescription.

And you know what? My head was clearer. I had a game plan for the rest of the day, and I felt confident I’d follow through this time. I went to Panera later that morning and spent three hours there busting out interview transcriptions, re-wrote my article I lost on Tuesday, and wrote a second article.

I came home feeling so much better about myself and reigniting my confidence in my writing. I just hope it’s something that’ll continue.

Oh, and guess what. After spending an extra long time stretching, and then rolling a frozen water bottle under my right foot, I’m happy to report my knee feels great and my heel is no worse for wear! Though I’m still going to take it easy getting back into running.

Your turn: What do you do to clear your mind? What reinvigorates you mentally and physically?

Double Duty Rehab

So remember that pesky patellar tendonitis? And the pesky heel problem? Yeah… They’re still there.

Last week I went to the physical therapist to have some more ultrasound done to my knee and I mentioned my heel hurting. I told Ryan I was doing research and most times my heel makes me think of plantar fasciitis, but other times it doesn’t. He had me take off my shoe and sock and he pressed one spot on the inside of my heel and I jumped off the table. Yep, it’s PF… So, on the sly, he did a little electro-therapy to my heel while we ultrasounded my knee and talked about what I could do to help both problem areas.

After being released from physical therapy a month or so ago, I lapsed on doing my exercises to build up my hips like I was doing (dutifully) multiple times a day. I was still stretching just as much, and while I was getting stronger with the CrossFit, I had to remember that most of the workouts did not work the muscles needed to strengthen around the knee (seriously, squats don’t work?? Yet we do a ton of them everyday!). So Ryan suggested I go back to using my band and doing the exercises at least once every other day, if not everyday, and continue with the stretches. We’re going on month 4 of this tendonitis not 100% going away, and that’s cause for concern.

As far as the PF goes, I need to be more conscious of doing the stretches and exercises–I’ve done them when I’m thinking about them, but not consistently. Also, I might need to take a break from running for a couple of weeks, just to see if that’ll help heel the micro tears. I’m continuing to use my PowerStep insoles (just purchased a new pair in July) in almost all of my shoes, which should help as well. I just need to be more conscious about my shoes/foot strike/etc. right now.

So how am I handling the situation? By doing double duty rehab. Every morning, after CrossFit and after walking the dogs, I stretch more (I stretch a ton before and after our WODs at the box), then I do my band exercises:


I’m also icing my knee if it feels a little sore, just to keep the inflammation down. And while I’m icing my knee, I roll a frozen water bottle under my foot for massage and icing (in fact, I’m doing both right now as I write this blog post–can I multi-task, or what!?).

Easiest form of rehab: rolling your foot with a frozen water bottle--it lets you do other things while rehabbing!

Easiest form of rehab: rolling your foot with a frozen water bottle–it lets you do other things while rehabbing!

I’ll do heel raises off the curb every time I go outside with the dogs, and lightly stretch.

This not running thing is killing me, though, especially since the humidity has broken and it’s much cooler out! But, I know it’s the best for me in the long run, and right now running with pain in my heel doesn’t entice me as much as it used to…

So that’s my plan of action. We’ll see how well this goes through the next week or two…

How do you handle nagging injuries?