I had been following Cory Reese since reading Nowhere near first three years ago. I enjoyed listening to that audio book about his running journey from struggling to finish his first marathon to running a 100 miler every month for a year. His style is inspiring and filled with humor which made me smile and laugh while listening.
In this new book, Cory opens up about his recent struggles with depression and adds to the much needed discussion to remove stigmas around mental health. More runners are making themselves vulnerable and discussing their struggles like Alexi Pappas in her book Bravey.
While the topic isn’t light, I really enjoyed this book and read through it quickly (book version, not audio for this one).
Cory discusses his case of “smiling depression” that makes everyone thinks that you are doing well (because you are smiling) even though you may be going through a storm internally — see quote below.
While he highlights how running has been a played a powerful role in his mental health journey, he also admits that his acceptation of the seriousness of the situation and his ability to ask for help from family, friends and medical professionals were the first steps to healing — even if the road from there still has a lot of set backs and challenges.
There were multiple quotes that I found really meaningful while reading the book (and the advantage of reading on my Kindle is that it’s really easy to highlight them). I found this one to summarize the book really well.
But beyond running, this book explores the raw vulnerability of admitting that you’re broken, and gathering the courage to ask for help. It’s about learning how to fight back, and how to find the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other when the voices in your head are yelling that you should quit.
Mental health and the stigmas around it may come from the fact that it is hard (impossible?) to understand and empathize with the feelings without having experienced them. Even as a social worker, trained and working with people with depression, Cory struggles to identify depression in himself and initially refuses to recognize it. Here is how he describes it:
I could have listened to people explain the different shades of reds, and greens, and blues. But until I saw those many shades of colors for myself, there is no way I could have fully understood. It is the same with depression. Now, my comprehension of depression goes beyond a textbook explanation. I more fully understand it because I am experiencing it.
Another challenge around mental health is that it can be hard to recognize, even by the people directly impacted. Going through “smiling depression”, he didn’t recognize the severity of his situation and didn’t ask for help for months, while others didn’t realize that he needed help either.
I am a fake. I have become an expert at using a mask to hide the sadness, pain, and darkness inside me. I have become a poster child for a phenomenon called “smiling depression.” Often, people use smiling as a defense mechanism. Sometimes people hide their depression because they worry about being judged. Sometimes they cover up depression because they don’t want to be a burden on loved ones. Sometimes they struggle with perfectionism and don’t want to admit being flawed. But faking positivity can become an incredibly heavy burden to carry.
And here is one last quote to leave you on a positive note:
If there was a television ad for running, it would sound like this: “Running! It’s an exercise that can help you feel just a little less guilty for the three chocolate chip cookies you ate at lunch. (Then the spokesman’s voice speeds up.) Warning: running may cause blisters, cramps, sleep deprivation, nausea, vomiting, strained marital relationships, snake bites, sunburns, uncontrollable crying, questioning of one’s own sanity, and exorbitantly priced shoe purchases. If you willingly participate in this hobby for more than four hours, see a doctor.”