On a podcast, I once heard the great Brene Brown say that until she had fully worked through the big life somethings, she would not share her stories with her readers. It wasn’t because she was trying to hide — she just had to get past the point where someone else’s approval could make or break how she was feeling. (My words, not hers.) I related to that concept so much and it explains my lack of posting over the past few months.
What I am about to share here was hard for me to write. But I have learned that those are the things I need to share and, often, that others need to read. So this is me, standing in front of you, being brave. And I thank you for listening.
Our story begins this past Sunday when I ran the Jingle Bell Jog 5k with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while. She had been busy moving further out west and having a baby. (The nerve!) When I found out she was running this race, I texted and asked if she wanted company. More on our silly, fun, joyful adventure in another post.
What I wanted to share with you was what she said at about mile 2.7 of our 5k – “you have had quite a year”.
Her words have been playing over and over and over in my head. That quite a year has meant a lot of things – finishing my first Ragnar Trail relay this spring and the Baltimore Marathon with a 30+ min PR in October. 2016 also gave me TWO shots at my 15 mins of fame – speaking on the Another Mother Runner podcast AND having my hair selfie featured in a Women’s Running magazine article. Goals were accomplished and shining moments abounded!!!
But there was also darkness for me.
And that was the year my dear friend and I spoke about on Sunday – amidst sparkle and tutus and about a thousand running Santas – she gave me the gift of her listening ear, as only true runner friends can do.
As I have shared on this blog, I have lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Over the years my toolbox has grown to be able to manage my mental health quite well. But there has been one addiction I have returned to over and over again despite my all of my growth. Shopping and debt.
You see, I spent years caring so much about what others thought of me that I would never take up drugs or alcohol as my addiction point – I chose the one that was most socially acceptable. And from the very first moment I was handed a credit card, I spent money I did not have.
The behavior has ebbed and flowed over the years. My husband, one of the most fiscally responsible people I know, has done his best to work with me. He helped me pay off round 1 of heavy debt when we first got married, tried to put me on a budget, cajoled and pleaded with me to change… He got so frustrated with my behavior, he eventually just separated our finances completely so I could not hurt our future. As a responsible, educated 40-year-old mother this mortified me.
But he was right. I could not be trusted with our financial future. I had spent the last six years of our lives racking up thousands of dollars in secret debt.
I wanted to stop.
I tried to stop.
I read books and froze my credit cards (literally – froze them in the freezer).
I listened to self help books and tried to white knuckle my way out of the situation.
I ran miles and miles and miles. And did yoga. And meditated.
But the truth is, every time I would feel sad or frustrated or hurt, I would go back to my habits of spending hundreds of dollars in a sitting.
In June I had decided enough was enough and began attending Debtors Anonymous meetings. Despite my own hard work and how much I’d finally embraced what I was learning – for the first time in 22 years – it was going to take a long time for me to fix what I had created. And in the middle of ANOTHER budget discussion, I came clean to my husband.
And he did not leave. And he did not hate me. My biggest secret was on the table and he was still in his chair. There have been tears and anger and frustration. But I have not used a credit card in 145 days. And we are finally working through this together.
If it weren’t for running and knowing that I can do hard things, I would never have had the courage to face up to my own behavior patterns. I wouldn’t have known that if I did the work, the path in front of me would illuminate.
This year has been harder than expected. And it did change me. In ways I never would have imagined on January 1, 2016.
And I remain forever grateful for every mile and every lesson.