Running From My Problems
It’s All In Your Head
Before we get into how to run, allow me to share a little bit about myself and show you how running has improved my life. After all, how can one possibly learn from someone if one doesn’t know who that someone is? I’m a human named Hunter Owens Wallace, and without sugarcoating it, I was born with a very big problem: the inclination to think that I have problems, and on top of that, the inclination to run from the problems I think I have until I actually start to have those problems, forcing me to face them and chase them off. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The only thing you really need to know about me is that I’m a natural born shaman, or in more societal terms, mildly schizophrenic; mildly in the sense that I saw a bona fide psychologist a couple times and he didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, but schizophrenic in the sense that my perception of the world seems to be vastly different than that of those around me to the point that I pick up on things that others do not. For example: you’re probably a little put off by my use of the word schizophrenic to describe myself. Good! That was my intention.
First off, let’s be real: schizophrenia is one of the more beautiful words in the English lexicon. I mean, just listen to it! Skitzo-frenny’uh; it doesn’t roll, it dances off the tongue. Secondly, get out of your comfort zone! Mental illness is NOT something to be ashamed of – in fact, when you act all apprehensively around a human with a mental illness, it just further isolates them, making their condition worse – and they do notice, whether you think they do or not. So uh, yeah, don’t do that. If love is the best medicine, then fear is the worst antagonizer. So be like Mother and love.
Clipping that tangent: at one point (a few months ago when I originally published this pamphlet) I thought I was literally schizophrenic, like, in diagnostic terms. I thought this because I experienced a whole lot of very inconvenient symptoms, both mental and physical, that I thought were a byproduct of having a schizophrenic brain. In reality, I’m pretty sure I just had neurological Lyme disease, an affliction that I’m also pretty sure I accidentally cured through very strange shamanic means (check out that appendix!).
The aforementioned symptoms included, but were not limited to: insomnia, joint inflammation and pain, muscle spasms, trouble keeping balance, uncontrollable nerve firing resulting in a burning pain underneath my skin, emotional and physical numbness, exhaustion and fatigue, extreme paranoia, impaired memory, spontaneously blurred vision, constant nausea, trouble with eating human-sized portions of food, brain fog and difficulty with thinking, sensitivity to light, extreme irritability and explosive episodes of rage (especially directed towards family and friends, and anyone else whom I would associate with on an everyday basis), panic attacks, the swinging of my mood from maniacally happy to suicidally depressed, both auditory and visual hallucinations, and a whole mess of coleslaw to boot; all symptoms of neurological Lyme disease that, before some events similar to those detailed in the appendix, I learned to deal with by running like I stole something.
Living with a shaman brain isn’t all bad – I wasn’t even that miserable when I was trapped under my unrelenting barrage of neurodegenerative symptoms. In fact, now that the symptoms are working their way out of me, it’s pretty much all gift and no curse! Because of my crazy perspective, I naturally gravitate towards a very spiritual existence; I felt my third eye open up underneath my forehead, my dreams are always vividly lifelike and occasionally prophetic (as in I sometimes dream about things before they happen in the “real” world), I occasionally have mystical visions and out-of-body experiences when I sit lotus in meditation, I observe synchronicities constantly, and I’ve come close to astral projection with no formal training.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘It’s all in your head.’ Well so is the rest of reality, bucko; your brain could be in a jar inside an extraterrestrial’s spaceship right now, for all you know. I’m sorry the voices don’t want to talk to you, but that’s no reason to tell me that my reality’s false, as if you even understand why your reality is the way it is. Grow up.
Yes, not only am I a cheeky bastard, but I’m also a bona fide crazy in the good way human. So are you, probably; you just don’t realize it because your crazy is very similar to the crazy of the majority of the other humans out there. You know, living that 9 to 5 corporate crony-capitalistic lifestyle, accepting the government as a real and necessary thing, strictly abiding by the guidelines of political correctness and traditional cultural norms, chasing the dollar by any means necessary; in essence, living the rat race life in hopes that your masters will see that you spin the wheel better than all the other identical rats alongside you so you get promoted to a bigger cage. See, I’m entirely not about that lifestyle, it’s a little too Column A if you’re lacing my racing shoes here, but that’s… wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about running?
Yes, and like I said above, running was the only way that I could deal with the life-ruining Lyme symptoms I once felt. When I would go for a run every day and let my mind enter that special, dare I say sacred space that lies in between thoughts, I became balanced out. The mood swings became manageable. I could actually fall and stay asleep at night. I didn’t hate everyone around me for no reason. I got my blood pumping every day and healed some of the Lyme damage every day, even if the healing would be reversed by the next morning. I wasn’t going backwards anymore, it was closer to advancing two steps and retreating one; frustrating, sure, but compared to the experience of other humans who catch Lyme and spend months of their lives in bed because of it, well, I really couldn’t complain.
I kept moving because the running kept me going; it was magic, meaning science that we don’t quite understand yet. Well… that you don’t understand yet, because your crazy is still like everyone else’s, dominated by the fear of what might happen if you start living outside the box.
Today, now that I don’t constantly feel like my body is under attack by a foreign entity that I confused for Existence, I will admit that I run a bit less. I don’t need it to have a handle on my life anymore; it was my medicine in a time in which I had nowhere else to turn. That’s the magic part though – even though I don’t need it anymore, I still do it for one reason and one reason only: because I like to. Running is that special type of medicine that you can take even when you’re feeling good because it makes you feel better in a way that doesn’t lead to horrible physical or mental withdrawal symptoms. Plus, running keeps me grounded; I know Earth would miss me if I floated off into the spirit world for good.
And I would miss Earth! Anyway, we’re over a thousand words in. Let’s get on with the first chapter.
My life, or this life I should say, began in a small town called Highland Lakes in northern New Jersey. I was born to a carpenter named Mikey and his wife Glauria, and I love them both very much. We had a dog and two cats back then and we lived in a lovely little abode with some spectacular neighbors that, to this day, we still keep in touch with. I went to a preschool called MySchool, I was friends with everyone, and life mostly consisted of eating, sleeping and playing outside (read: running around like a maniac); it was splendid. One day I was even blessed with a little brother, shout to Jarome.
But, with the extra human humaning around, our family was getting too big for our house, so we gave the dog to a family friend and moved across county lines to a special little town called Ringwood.
Pump the breaks, if you will, and allow me to give my adopted hometown some love. Ringwood, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a small mountain town in northern New Jersey with a ton of history that nobody knows about AND some of the best hiking you’ll never experience. Home to the Ringwood Iron Mines, which supplied iron ore to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Ringwood was also the chosen home of Robert Erskine, the legendary forgotten general. Besides being one of the closest associates and friends of George Washington himself, ol’ Rob held the title of Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Without Erskine and the secret-service-type work he did, we would have hands-down lost the war – Washington even went as far as planting an elm tree next to the man’s grave – the tree was later struck by lightning by the way – which you can (but probably aren’t going to) visit today at the illustrious Ringwood Manor state park.
Ringwood also houses the Monksville Reservoir, and on the other side of its dam, the Wanaque Reservoir, a valley-turned-lake with a government-funded security force armed with assault rifles that actively patrols the property. It’s also the focal point of many local conspiracy theorists – in the 1960s, the Wanaque was the site of one of the biggest mass UFO sightings in American history that was completely and totally covered up by our government, but that’s another story. Also, Erskine’s Ringwood Manor is haunted. Also, the geographic area in which Ringwood sits was once home to a Native American civilization of sorts, specifically of the Lenape variety, with artifacts found here dating as far back as 8,000 BC. According to the local lore, our Ringwood was recognized by those tribes not only as sacred ground, but as a hotbed of supernatural activity, likely due to the prevalence of naturally occurring magnetite and quartz crystals in the local mountains. To quote the martial artist Breddie Avo, “look into it.”
So anyway, we moved to this paranormal town because my dad’s family owned a large housing development here; we were not rich, but we lived in the rich part of town for the majority of my life and, yes, our house was on a hill, with a driveway that stretched approximately a tenth of a mile off of the main road. I didn’t live on the top of the hill, and the only reason I lived on that hill was because my dad built the house by himself with his bare hands, but I was definitely on the hill, alongside all the snooty neighbors with whom I never became acquainted. Don’t get me wrong, living there was great; we had a pool, there was a wonderful patch of woods with tons of cliffs to explore, and I would run up and down that hill countless times during my stay in that house. Not at first though; at first I only ran in the woods.
Being the new kid in town at the start of kindergarten, I never got acquainted with the locals in preschool and I wasn’t great at making friends; in hind sight it was probably because in Highland Lakes, for whatever reason, everybody approached me, and in Ringwood, because I had just shown up one day, I was supposed to approach everyone else. Oh, social norms and cues, I shall never truly understand you.
I did have one very close friend who lived on my street though, he and I would play in the woods together all the time – we even had our own made up ninja villages behind each of our houses. Now when I say play, I mean run around like maniacs – my parents both encouraged me from a very young age to get out in the woods, and I did just that. I’ve always felt more at home in the woods, there’s something about the open air and the trees that’s always made me feel free.
Despite my affair with the forest, over the course of the grade school years I would become infatuated with video games. This led me to spend less and less time in the woods, which also meant I would spend less time running. Looking back on those years, that’s probably why I became so sad and depressed, but more on that nonsense later.
Video games offered me an escape similarly to the way running did, but video games required less physical work, so naturally, I gravitated more towards them. The video game infatuation turned out to be lust-based rather than love-based though, and it blossomed into an actual drug-like addiction, accelerating to the point where I spent an entire summer inside sat in front of a computer playing Runescape with another friend I had made during third grade. Here’s to the glory days.
The summer of ‘Scape that marked said glory days was also the summer that a tick gave me the
helldemon gift of Lyme disease. I was around ten years old at the time and, after a summer of antibiotics, my child’s brain believed the doctor when he said I was cured and immune forever. Ah, childhood innocence; thus began my ride on the Lyme sleigh down Symptom Hill that I wouldn’t fully appreciate until I hit a tree in my twenties and knocked myself back onto my feet. Not a victim, just supplying context.
As grade school approached high school, my two friends and I grew further and further apart. My first friend was out meeting new friends and having new experiences, which freaked me out (see symptoms: extreme paranoia), and I was generally just a really bad friend to the Runescape friend (see symptoms: extreme irritability) so he didn’t much want to be friends with me anymore. This was probably because of the Lyme symptoms paired with the more than healthy dosage of family drama going on in my life at the time, but that’s a bit off base and self-victimizing. My point is that regardless of the circumstances surrounding me during that part of my life, I chose to spend more and more of my time alone; whether I was playing video games alone or playing in the woods alone, I was alone with my thoughts a lot, decidedly adding to my list of “problems” rather than trying to actually do anything about them.
All that said, around seventh or eighth grade is when I really started running from these nonexistent problems. I forget how I learned about it, but I knew once high school came around there would be a track team. I was never big into sports, but I knew my parents would want me to do one, and while I was too short and scrawny for football and too uncoordinated for soccer, running I could do. So I ran up and back down my driveway almost every day. Straight up and down a hill. Torturing myself and loving it.
Okay, I undeniably hated it at the time, but no matter how much I wanted to stop, no matter how much pain I was in, my parents would always push me to keep going, to never give up. Mere words can’t describe how essential that extra pushing was for me, as I had not yet developed the block everything out and get shit done ability that I attained while running in high school.
It never occurred to me back then, but when I would be running up and down that driveway, I was so busy being in pain that I wasn’t over-thinking about all my non-problems. The effect was the same when I was sprinting through the woods, except instead of being in pain, I felt the rush of wind as I dodged between trees and leapt over rocks. Both running and video games offered me an escape from the world I was so needlessly afraid to be living in, but running had long-term benefits while playing video games was a short-term high. Had I been aware of the effect running had on me back then, I never would have picked up a video game for more than an hour a day again, I swear.
At some point before my class graduated eighth grade, we had something called an eighth-grade open house at the local high school, Unspecific Regional to be exact. That’s when my parents forced me to sign up for the cross country team. The thing was, I didn’t want to do cross country, I wanted to do track. I put up a big fight but the parents won in the end, and by the time eighth grade graduation came around, my entire summer leading up to high school was planned out for me. The running was about to get kicked up a notch.
Cross country is a fall-season sport that is entirely composed of running long distances, meaning it is not fall track. If you call it track, it will be taken as an insult.
There are two races: the freshman race (usually around 2 miles) and the mighty 5K (3.11 miles). Practice starts in the beginning of the summer and the season ends during the first/second/third week of November, depending on how far your team makes it in the competition. If you didn’t know that, I don’t blame you – I didn’t know it until I joined up, or rather, was forced to join up. I didn’t want to join XC at the time, I just wanted to stay inside and play video games and let my thoughts drive me more insane. But that’s just the thing – it wasn’t a matter of want, it was a matter of need.
I had a few friends going into high school, but there was nobody I felt comfortable coming out of my shell around. This is not an ideal situation for any adolescent human, especially one with a budding case of shamanism, and you better believe I added it to the mental pile of catastrophic life-threatening problems I told myself I had.
Despite my best attempts at stopping her from making me go through with it, momma Glaur’ forced me to do cross country. She came with me to the first summer practice, even going as far as getting out of the car and walking me to the group. Except we couldn’t find them at first, so we walked around the entire perimeter of the track before locating the team at the designated meeting place: the flagpole.
Yeah, we couldn’t find the flagpole. The fifteen-foot-tall flagpole that wasn’t visually obstructed whatsoever.
During that summer I was one of a handful of freshmen on the team, everyone else was an upperclassman and boy did I let that intimidate me. The coach, let’s call him LT, was entering his first year of cross country coaching just like I was entering my first year of cross country running. He chose to only come every other day during the optional summer practices, to give the team a chance to bond without the presence of an adult figure, and he was not there on the first day. I can’t remember what we did for a workout, but I remember it being very awful, and by the time I got home I wanted to die. So, momma Glaur’ forced me back the next day and I rinsed and repeated, running more and more each day. At first I could hardly handle a mile, but before I knew it I was tackling four-mile workouts and not even finishing last. Self-improvement through hard work.
Over the course of the summer a few more kids showed up, and by the time school started we had a solid little group of freshmen. A week or so into the season we had some late joiners, two of which were soccer players who got booted from their team. These two would dutifully go on to become the best runners on the XC team; a cardinal rule of cross country is that soccer players evolve into the best runners.
There was additionally a runner on the team named Zak; he is easily my most memorable teammate and one of the more brilliant humans I know. I still keep in contact with him today; he’s living in his own apartment in North Carolina, he’s got a job that he enjoys and he’s well-known and well-liked by everybody in his city. Dude’s doing better than me, hah! Can’t say I’m even a little bit surprised – he’s a winner.
Zak’s whole family was into the running thing too; both his older brothers ran, and during that season I befriended his brother Tate; he was a senior on the team and I ran with him during most practices. He was a really big inspiration for me, I’m not sure he ever realized it but he kept me going during that first year, always pushing me to refrain from walking when I ran, even if I had to drop it down to a baby jog. Seems self-explanatory I know, but when you’re at work you break for lunch, right? Same thing – it just ruins your momentum and makes it harder to get back to pace. Now I’m not saying don’t take breaks at work, I’m just saying to not get yourself into a situation where you have to break in medias res because the law says so.
Prior to my graduating class’s entrance, Unspecific had never had an exceptionally strong cross country program, and like I said, my freshman year was also LT’s first year of coaching. Even though the odds were against us in every pace, stride and form, we made some noise that year and would continue to make noise during my sophomore year. Our ragtag band of knuckleheads even took first place at the Sophomore championship race, imagine that. Plus, I had a circle of humans who I could talk to at school, something that I never really had before. All because of running.
Around that time, I was getting my family into running as well. I would occasionally race poppa Mikey but he would always beat me… until, that is, I beat him. He probably let me win that day if we’re being totally honest here, but I didn’t realize it at the time, and that moment gave me such a bombastic boost of confidence that I wrote about it in a book almost a decade later. Momma Glaur’, on the other hand, really took to running. She started off small, maybe running for five minutes a day, but now she does a 5K at least once a month, usually twice or three times. I even got my brother into it; he was a freshman during my senior year and he stuck with the sport all the way through his senior year, which I thought was pretty awesome. He absolutely hated it, but he stuck with it and benefited from it. Another shout to Jarome.
Anyway, as time went on our little team got bigger and bigger. My class had improved exponentially and we had some really solid runners in the grade below me, one of which shared a last name with the coach. They weren’t related, of course, but we always made sure to give him flack for it anyway. We didn’t call the kid LT-y (in my head I pronounce that L’Thenny), and to this day I haven’t met another runner like him. He would skip practice all the time, never put any effort in at all, and constantly clown around, but yet he was one of the best on the team. The dude never tried and he kicked my ass up and down whatever course we were running every single race and practice. Oh well, such is life; I’m still waiting for him to teach me that magic trick.
Things were going okay for me at that point. I had a couple close friends and the cross country team was like a big family, we would go out and get dinner together pretty often and I didn’t feel totally alone all the time. I would even go out and run on my own, completely self-motivated. Say what you will about LT, and I certainly said some stupid things about him in the first edition of this book, but the man really did a lot to instill the team is family mindset that still sticks with me today. That was his best quality, without a doubt – he was the glue that bound all of us together and kept us together, and whether we realized it at the time or not, he was essential in our team becoming the family it became.
Outside of school I still spent the majority of my free time alone, but it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. In the past I would literally suffocate myself with a very real fear of the very unreal and overexaggerated problems I didn’t have, overthinking things to the point of lunacy. In high school, that didn’t happen nearly as much because I had running as an outlet. This is when I became aware that running from my “problems” was a pretty good in-the-moment solution. The running wouldn’t actually solve the problems, mind you, but it would put me in a mental state in which I could figure out how to solve at least some of the problems. There were humans I could run with, humans I could talk things out with, humans I could be competitive with in a friendly way – all these things were part of the magic.
Some of the team, myself included, were also (varsity) members of the school’s illustrious Nature/Hiking Club, which is when my trail running infatuation really blossomed. Two teachers ran the club, a married couple with the last name Runnin. There was a certain group of us that would always be at the front of the hiking pack and Mister Runnin would have us run certain parts of the trails with him, and by run I mean sprint down mountains at breakneck speed whist performing sick parkour-esque moves that, by all rights, we should have filmed, preferably with a GoPro. It was some of the most fun I had back in high school, traversing mountains among a tribe of humans with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world. I still do that today, the only difference is I don’t fall down nearly as much. Practice does make perfect, after all.
By the time my senior year rolled around, our team was solid. We were all accustomed to working our asses off and getting results from it, so we kept on keeping on all the way until the end of the season. Finally, the day came for the final race: State Sectionals.
The end of the XC season is marked by three state-level meets, the first one being Sectionals. The top five teams and top ten individual runners at Sectionals would move on to State Groups, and the top five teams and top ten individual runners from the Groups meet would move on to the Meet of Champions. Unspecific, under the still-maturing coaching styles of LT, hadn’t yet made it to Groups ,and this was our best chance.
But, you know, life happened and we didn’t make it to Groups.
We almost had it too; we missed the cut off by 6 points, which is the equivalent of getting a 99 on a test that requires a 100 to pass. During our cooldown run after the race, the entire team wept. I don’t mean we cried, I mean we wept. I was four years varsity on that team and, aside from the overtly expensive varsity jacket that everyone else had, I had nothing to really show for it. And… that was it.
I did spring track for the first time my senior year and I got a varsity letter for it, but that wasn’t anything special. Graduation happened and my teammates and I all went our separate ways, some of us vowing never to run again (I was one of those). Looking back, I believe that vow had more to do with teenage angst than it did with the running, but oh well. Outside of running, not much of my high school career is very memorable, I really didn’t do much. I was like a ghost during the day, then when practice started, I would suddenly appear in gym clothes, enthusiastic and ready to go.
If it wasn’t for the running, I don’t know that I would have made it through high school alive. I’m positive that the depression/anxiety/self-loathing spawn of the Lyme demon that was possessing my body would have chewed me up and spit me out if I wasn’t able to constantly pace one step ahead of it, BUT, it didn’t. I ran and I thrived, so who cares?
Even though I was fairly happy during my high school years, I had this thought in the back of my mind that I was actually terribly depressed. I really wasn’t, but in my mind I was, so… I guess I was, in a crazy in the bad way sort of way. After high school ended though, I entered into what I fondly remember as real life, also known as the dark ages. Buckle up, hypothetical reader. Things are about to take a turn.
This is the part where, in the first edition of this pamphlet, I disrespectfully and immaturely tore down the random man who dedicated four years of his life to coaching the cross country team I was part of (not my team, but the team I was part of); I hardly hid his true identity behind a very thin veil in an attempt to get a few laughs from a few specific humans. The truth of the matter is, after wasting three years of my life trying to coach with him and change his ways without ever being asked to do so, I felt like I got burned, and I wanted to get back at him somehow. I felt as though he took “the one thing that I enjoyed in life” (I hope you feel the sarcasm I’ve enchanted into the words between those quotes) away from me, so in an evil, selfish way, I tried to take something from him – I used that man as an excuse to drive myself to the pettiest state of being that I’ve ever found myself wallowing in, a state I dramatically regret allowing myself to enter.
The first edition wasn’t terrible, it just came off like a jealous pre-teen wrote it, and looking back, I realized I had been something of an asswipe towards the old coach. Just like I was to the majority of the humans whom I interacted with when I attended high school, yikes. Hindsight is 20/20, he says with glasses on the back of his head. Anyway, in order to keep things moving, let’s just say that my clouded perception of my overall high school experience led me to believe that running was the source of my issues and, after graduating, I stopped cold turkey.
Up until that point in my life I had been a very, shall we say, physically oriented human being. No religious beliefs to speak of, no real spiritual practices, zero contact with my shamanic roots I didn’t even know I had. One day though, my college friend Mike and I stumbled upon a video talking about meditation, the hidden third eye, and all the benefits that come with sitting cross legged and breathing deep for x minutes each day. He didn’t get too much into the mysticism or the meditation, but I certainly dove down the rabbit hole and picked up the habit. It seems idiotic to claim that the benefits spawning from meditation are as bountiful as those that come from running, but uh… I said it, so. Blah. Plus, after only a few months of sitting for twenty minutes out of the day every day, I felt my third eye open.
I don’t mean that metaphorically; no, I literally felt an eyeball, lid and all, open up underneath my forehead. Now I’m not saying everything you know about the human body is wrong, but uh… you explain the shit. Oh, and to all those thinking it: yes, I was sober when it happened. I don’t even do any drugs, gOsH. One could say it was an eye-opening experience; when you’re finished retching over that pun, you can continue.
After that weird stuff that I love to call mystical started happening to me, my life changed a little bit. I saw the world around me, or rather, the watery rock floating in a void of meaningful nothingness that I happen to inhabit, in a vastly different light. I became more honest and open about my feelings (perhaps to a fault), I saw myself as a healer that was put here to expose the darkness and fix those who didn’t ask to be fixed, and I just loved to tell all the other humans about the eye that I felt open up underneath my forehead and why that meant I was special.
Needless to say, some chose to distance themselves from me, fearing that I had actually lost my mind and become one of those holier than thou types. In the past I was a self-proclaimed deletist, that is to say, when a relationship started to go sour, I would sooner burn the dilapidated bridge than try to repair it. Now that I’ve realized that everyone, human or otherwise, is capable of activating their pineal gland and opening their third eye and that I’m no more special than any other of my fellow humans are, the majority of these bridges have regrettably remained torched. Fortunately, the bridge between my college friend and I hasn’t been reduced to a smoking pile of cinders, but some of my friendships have. I say all that to share the following lesson that I’ve learned, one of the most important lessons there is to learn: no matter how mad the other humans make you, no matter how far you feel like they’re pushing you away, removing them from your life is not the right answer. It’ll just leave you alone, angry, and with nobody to run with. I know, you didn’t ask, but what can I say? I’m a shaman, I like to help others heal and learn, especially when they can learn from my mistakes.
ALLLLLL RIGHTY! With all that aside, after I started community college I had to get a job, so my dad called a local warehouse that an associate of my grandfather’s owned and asked if they needed work. There was one interview, no resume required, and I was in – crony capitalism at its finest.
My warehouse job was a gig that required the handling of smelly fragrance ingredients that would come in packages weighing anywhere from half a pound (stored in bottles) to five hundred pounds (stored in fifty-five-gallon steel drums). I didn’t mention this earlier but I was born with a slightly crooked hip and therefore a slightly bent spine – allowing myself to work in the warehouse for as long as I did with this skeletal stuff on top of the Lyme shit caused me a lot of pain, discomfort, and nerve-pinchey issues. I still have back pain and numbness/burning to this day; it’s not severe, but on the days it approaches severity, I go out for a run and come back feeling tip-top. I tell ya, it’s some of the best medicine that money doesn’t have to buy.
During this time, I was working anywhere from twenty to thirty hours a week while also going to school full-time and volunteering a couple days every week at a local animal shelter. I had spread myself far too thin and it was hell, a hell that smelled like a combination of potpourri and dog piss.
So a hell that smelled entirely of dog piss.
I was combining daily meditation and the occasional run to get me through the week, but I was still depressed, and not the nonsensical high school student depressed but the actual, unrelenting suicidal urges kind of depressed. I got into self-harming a little bit prior to the meditation and the suicidal thoughts were all too real, but once I established a solid meditation practice the cutting dribbled off and the thoughts became more under control.
It wasn’t long before I convinced myself to start running again, and things started working out for me again once I did. I was making money, I had good friends with whom I spent great times, it was wonderful. Then I graduated from Haskell University (shout to the four humans who get that joke) and moved on up to “real” college; that’s when things took another turn.
I kept running and kept meditating, but college bugged me right out. The pressure I put on myself to be perfect in an atmosphere that demanded learning from mistakes made me want to put my head through a roof, the social anxiety of explaining to all the dormers that I drove a half hour just to leave right after my classes ended ate me alive, and… well, I just wasn’t a happy camper in general.
With such a hectic schedule, time management and focus were nothing short of imperative to my success at this point in my life. However, I didn’t have much of either of these things because I totally stopped running, meaning I stopped working out my mental muscles and they got smol. As time went on, I started to experience mental breakdowns in which I would emotionally shut down for no real reason and start hysterically screaming and crying, I even punched a few holes in my bedroom wall. These explosive episodes of rage happened once in a blue moon at first, then roughly every two weeks, then at least once every week, then it escalated to the point where I would slip into a shamanic/Lymey rage every single day simply because I couldn’t deal with the way I was living my life. I would skip classes every week because I was so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from just living. I even switched my major from psychology to business, but that only made things worse. Not all those who wander are lost, but I sure as hell was.
After a while I realized that I wasn’t going to college for myself, I was only going because my parents wanted me to have that piece of diplomatic paper. I didn’t want anything to do with college, nothing I was studying was even remotely related to what I needed to proceed in life; I felt like I was scamming myself, and for what? The approval of my parents that I already had? No more – one day, I withdrew from all my classes and officially dropped out of college. It was the happiest day of my life.
In the months that followed, my parents weren’t nearly as happy with my decision as I was. I constantly felt paranoid and stressed and although I continued to meditate daily, it wasn’t working like it used to. I would just sit at home all day playing video games and not running and wishing my life was better, all the while doing nothing to better it. And I wasn’t running, if I didn’t mention that. This was around April of 2017, and a few months of this lifestyle led me to… well, it led me to my death.
Hypothetical reader, this is the part where I tell you about something that happened to me which can only be described as anomalous. I don’t expect you to believe me, nor do I care if you don’t, but it is the truth: when I stopped running from my problems, I accidentally killed myself. I don’t mean this figuratively either; I mean I was hanging out with a couple friends and, in a fit of laughter, I broke a piece of my skull on the corner of a metal bed frame and felt it stab into the side of my brain.
It was one of those things where you hurt yourself but you don’t feel it at first because of shock or the endorphins or whatever, kind of like the publishing of the first edition of this book, but essentially what happened went as follows: my friends and I spent the day in the woods, wandering around and enjoying nature like a proper band of hippies. When the sun started to set, we went back to our friend’s house and listened to music for a while, then we started watching TV. Ten or fifteen minutes into the TV, something really funny happened and I swung my head down in laughter, colliding with the bed frame.
I felt fine for a few minutes, but then I noticed my vision doubling and I couldn’t hear anything besides a high-pitched ringing, which led me to realize that something bad may have happened. I gingerly felt around on the left side of my head right above my ear, where an immense amount of pain was radiating from, and that’s when I felt my skull cave in.
I literally felt a plate of bone collapse inward on the side of my head and simultaneously pop out on the top, coupled with a pain equivalent to the worst migraine you’ve ever had combined with the feeling of being punted head-first into a fucking woodchipper by an upside-down soccer cleat.
In the moment I was 100% sure I was going to die, and I felt strangely at peace with it. I was also beginning to fade into black, so, not wanting to freak out my friends, I decided to go quietly into that great transition; I silently clicked the bone back into place and then fell forward, passing out.
And then it was dark. It was dark for a very, very long time.
Then I woke up on my back, skin pale and drenched in sweat. According to my friends I had went into convulsions for a few seconds too, but I don’t remember that part. All I know for sure is when I hit my head and felt my skull cave in and I passed out, we were watching TV, and when I came to, we were still listening to the music – meaning we hadn’t started watching the television yet – and my skull was solid. I had a bit of a headache when I came to, but otherwise, I felt okay. I didn’t feel the need to call an ambulance or anything, my friends consoled me and took care of me; all in all, the rest of the night (and my life in general) went on as if nothing happened.
Except for the fact that everything is very fuzzy after that all happened; the details are hard to remember, so I’ll just fill in the blanks as if I remember everything clearly, unless I can’t, in which case I will make postulations until the cows come home.
About six months later, a day or two after Christmas, I sat down to do some coloring in a trippy illustration book that Mother gave me when I suddenly felt something burst inside of my head in the exact spot where I had cracked it that fateful night. My body started tingling and trembling, I became extremely lightheaded and both my vision and hearing started to dissipate. I tried getting up and walking around a bit, but I hardly got halfway down the hall before I fell down to my hands and knees, unable to hold myself upright. This was the second time in less than a year that I thought I was going to die. Ugh, shaman problems.
So what did I do? I went outside and ran ten miles.
JUST KIDDING lol, could you imagine? No, I crawled back into my bedroom, sat myself in a chair, did some very deep breathing and prepared myself yet again to go quietly into that great transition. Surprisingly I started to feel better for a moment and, just as the hope that I would be okay sparked inside me, the fading intensified beyond my control. It was just like the cave-in at my friend’s house, I simply drifted away.
But this time, it was white. It was white for a very, very long time.
Then I woke up, again, skin pale and covered in sweat, but this time without any friends to make sure I was okay.
Later on that day I went to a hospital and when I told the doctorman what had happened, he rolled his eyes at me and ordered a tox screen, suspecting I was a dumb kid who had smoked some bad drugs or something. Plot twist: I didn’t, and the doctor was dumbfounded as to why I felt the burst. And that was that. It’s a good thing I had insurance at the time, otherwise I would have never been able to afford to confuse the doctor and his fancy wall full of framed medical degrees!
A week or so later I had an MRI done and I got it checked out by my normal doctor and a neurologist, both of which found nothing abnormal about my head. Much to my own disbelief I was okay; I was alive and in no immediate danger of losing that status. I’m okay now Mother, the doctors told me so.
But I’ve gotten way off track; I didn’t even mention the part where I went back to coach cross country at my high school! In 2016 I signed on as a volunteer assistant coach, working side-by-side with LT to turn outcasts into athletes. Honestly that first year was incredible, I genuinely enjoyed working with him and the kids & I made a lot of progress. It was also one of the major reasons I started running again; I would run with the kids at practice and, according to them, my doing that actually motivated them to try their hardest and keep at it. Method to the madness.
The next season was preceded by the head injury, which drastically altered my mood, mental state, and behavior in ways that everyone besides me was aware of. I don’t coach anymore, so I assume things didn’t go quite as well that season, and the season after was probably more of the same, so at some point I guess I left the coaching gig behind. I miss it, but presumably, I did what had to be done.
Since then I’ve slowly but surely replaced running with writing as my main hobby, in other words, my main way of getting high. I still run, usually on the trails and not on the road, but now that I’m capable of staying relatively sane without constantly beating my body against the forces of the Universe, I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to.
Running has also immensely helped me along the path of recovering from the head injury and the Lyme-related stuff by keeping me moving, keeping my blood flowing and keeping me positive. Positivity is key in overcoming any injury, ask anyone who’s been through trauma; without a positive state of mind, nothing you do will work. Plus, if you make running part of your recovery, you get the exercise too! Win-win.
But yeah, that’s where I’m at. I was born a crazy dude who loves to run and I’ve been crazy and running ever since, and now I even write books! A crazy running writer, call that a triple threat!
I’ve battled boredom, loneliness, outcastedness, anxiety, depression, lite psychosis, a neurodegenerative disease, and death itself, and I bested all of them, all because of running. As it turns out, life is hard work! And so is running! But through running, I’ve learned how to persevere and push through the nonsense until I’m drenched in the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s never let me down in the past and I doubt it will let me down in the future.
But enough about me, this book was written for you. To run is to open the doorway to bettering your life, I hope that much is clear thus far. Running isn’t easy and I will fully explain how to do it, but not quite yet.
I’ve shown you why I run, so next I must explain to you why you should run.