Andrea Loucks shares how logging miles helped her overcome her postpartum depression and got her feeling stronger than ever before.
I gave birth to my daughter in 2012 and my pregnancy was as easy as they get. The following year, however, was quite the opposite. At the time, I didn't know that there was a name for what I was feeling, but I spent the first 12 to 13 months of my child's life either depressed and anxious or just completely numb.
The year after that, I became pregnant again. Unfortunately, I went through a miscarriage early on. I didn't feel overly emotional about it as I sensed the people around me were. In fact, I didn't feel sad at all.
Fast-forward a few weeks and suddenly I experienced a huge rush of emotions and everything hailed down on me all at once—the sadness, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. It was a total 180—and it's when I knew I needed to get help.
I scheduled an interview with two different psychologists and they confirmed that I was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD). In hindsight, I knew that was the case all along—after both pregnancies—but it still felt surreal to actually hear it being said out loud. Sure, I was never one of those extreme cases you read about and never felt like I would harm myself or my child. But I was still miserable—and no one deserves to feel that way. (Related: Why Some Women May Be More Biologically Susceptible to Postpartum Depression)
In the weeks to follow, I began working on myself and doing the tasks my therapists had assigned, like journaling. That's when a couple of my coworkers asked if I had ever tried running as a form of therapy. Yes, I'd gone for runs here and there, but they weren't something I penciled into my weekly routine. I thought to myself, "Why not?"
The first time I ran, I could barely get around the block without being totally out of breath. But when I got back home, I had this newfound sense of accomplishment that made me feel like I could take on the rest of the day, no matter what happened. I felt so proud of myself and was already looking forward to running again the next day.
Soon enough, running became a part of my mornings and it started to play a huge role in getting my mental health back. I remember thinking that even if all I did that day was run, I did something—and somehow that made me feel like I could handle everything again. More than once, running motivated me to push past those moments when I felt like I was falling back into a dark place. (Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression)
Since that time two years ago, I've run countless half marathons and even the 200-mile Ragnar Relay from Huntington Beach to San Diego. In 2016, I ran my first full marathon in Orange County followed by one in Riverside in January and one in L.A. in March. Ever since then, I've had my eyes on the New York Marathon. (Related: 10 Beach Destinations for Your Next Racecation)
I put my name in... and didn't get selected. (Only one of five applicants actually make the cut.) I'd almost lost hope until an online essay competition from PowerBar's Clean Start campaign came into the picture. Keeping my expectations low, I wrote an essay about why I thought I deserved a clean start, explaining how running helped me find my sanity again. I shared that if I got the chance to run this race, I'd be able to show other women that it is possible to overcome mental illness, especially PPD, and it is possible to get your life back and start over.
To my surprise, I was chosen as one of 16 people to be on their team and will be running the New York City Marathon this coming November.
So can running help with PPD? Based on my experience, it absolutely can! Either way, what I want other women to know is that I'm just a regular wife and mom. I remember feeling the loneliness that came along with this mental illness as well as the guilt for not being happy to have a beautiful new baby. I felt like I had no one to relate to or feel comfortable sharing my thoughts with. I'm hoping I can change that by sharing my story.
Maybe running a marathon isn't for you, but the sense of accomplishment you'll feel by strapping that baby in a stroller and just walking up and down your hallway, or even just making a trip down the driveway to your mailbox every day, might take you by surprise. (Related: 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise)
Someday, I hope I'll get to be an example for my daughter and watch her lead a lifestyle where running or any kind of physical activity will just be second nature to her. Who knows? Maybe it will help her get through some of the hardest moments in life, just like it has for me.