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I spent much of my life running. I ran 8 miles, sometimes 14 a day . The euphoria and calm that came from running such distances can only be understood by other runners.  I could start in a terrible mood, seeing the world as dark and dreary and end with clarity and bliss.  I have completed many half marathons and three full marathons. In my thirties, running became an addiction, that took precedence over everything and everyone. I spent years running while others spent them living, in this context living –  meaning with presence.

When I wasn’t physically running in the same city I lived, I was running to other cities and countries  and then running around those. If physically running wasn’t possible I ran in my mind. I ran to new places, met new people, saw new things and experienced whole new worlds , where I was a completely different person in my mind.

Running began in childhood. When I didn’t feel safe in a situation or ashamed , I ran and hid. Often, I ran away from people I thought knew how worthless I was, how silly. I ran away from family in order not to be punished, I ran from friends so that they didn’t find out what a loser I was. If I could not physically run,  I ran inside and dissociated from the harsh reality I was engaged in.  Daydreaming is a natural disassociation children experience. I lived fully in my daydreams and found solace , held in that space while others looked for me in the present. I was found in my dreams, reality didn’t feel good.

This coping mechanism continued well into my adulthood, my body and brain memorized  the act of running. Withdrawing from people,  as I suffered from the remnants of my childhood, I ran to corners I could cry in, I ran to people I understood (the familiar world of toxic people), I ran to others arms who were more than willing to “console” me, as they affirmed how invaluable I was . I ran into work, (throwing myself into various perfectionist archetypes). I continued running physically unless I was frozen in fear and unable to take the first steps, unable to come out of daydreams and nightmares that had developed by this time.

In my twenties, a doctor attempted to stop my “running”, by giving me a medication that froze these desires. They had manifested as anxiety. Unfortunately, this medication trapped me  in a cycle of fight, flight and freeze and further damaged my nervous system

In 2018, I found that I had become sensitive to my home developing inflammatory  responses to mycotoxins as well as food. If you are interested  in the medical diagnosis, it was Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome,and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (there were several others).  I began again to run, my default to external and internal stressors. I would argue that these illnesses came as a result of the danger the limbic system perceived in the external as a small child and throughout life. There is a scientific explanation to CIRS and MCAS, that has to do with histamine surfacing as a result of the damage of benzodiazepines, but I know it is multi layered and the emotional reasoning behind this “allergy to life” as a I called it,  was fear, and the inability to find safety.The next few years after crashing into my physical illnesses were spent running- from homes, from people, from situations of the past, from my friends, from anyone who was trying to “hurt” me, and from any material possession I had. I lost everything I owned and everything I had ever worked for as well as my mind. The truth is I was in a terrible state due to these illnesses and benzodiazepine withdrawal, and some people were (unintentionally and some intentionally)  hurting me.  Throughout this blog, I speak of benzodiazepine withdrawal as well as other physical and mental illnesses I have suffered. You can read more about that here.

I felt like a wild animal being chased by a predator and my goal each day was survival. 

Then, I found brain retraining, and it stopped me in my tracks.

As I healed later, I continued running,  it became softer and with intention and often “running to” , instead of “running from.”  Some days it is mostly “running from” old external and internal triggers.   For example, I run from certain people I am not ready to let into my life out of old pathways of “shame”,   or “guilt” or just fear of them and their behavior.  I often describe these pathways as whispers rather than tornadoes. They are completely manageable and rewireable, but I choose to allow them to dictate certain behaviors until I choose differently.

I have been a runner both physically, mentally and emotionally. My body and brain have memorized this act of running as a default to triggers. I have worked hard to change this, and these days in learning to navigate life again, I can be found tiptoeing, crawling, walking and often running with intention.  Sometimes, I am unsure if I am “running to” or “running from”, until after I am in motion but I rest in the knowledge that I am always able to stop, turn and go back to my starting position.

Stefanie