This could be my story. This is my story. No I'm not a single parent, but I do live with a chronic mental illness - something that will never go away, will never be cured. Something I will likely need to take daily medication for, for the rest of my life (unless some kind of cure is developed - highly unlikely, and even more unlikely that I would take it).
Substitute bipolar disorder for schizophrenia; triathlon (and pre-triathlon, running) for cycling and you will maybe have an idea of why continuing on with these things is important for my life. Endurance sports give me a goal, something to work at/for every single day.
I often say my dog saved my life. He came in to my life at a time when I needed something, something to get me up everyday. Something that gave me purpose. My life would not be the same with out him in it. He did save me. And, running, and ultimately triathlon, saved me as well. The dog helped me open my eyes to the possibilities around me. These activities, helped me find myself, see what I am truly capable of accomplishing.
I am not "built" for endurance sports. I am not particularly fast (even as I've gotten faster, I'm still decidedly at the back of the pack). I will likely never win a race. But that's not why I do any of it. I do it because I need goals, things that keep me going. Something to focus on, other than illness. Something that helps quiet my mind and soul.
I may not stand on the podium of a race, but I win the race of my life every time I jump in the pool, ride my bike, go for a run. I win because I keep going when, so often, it would be easier to just stop, to just not do any of it, to let the illness control my life. Instead I fight back. I live my life. Living with bipolar disorder could limit my life. I choose not to let it do that. I choose to go for big, sometimes scary, goals.
Everything about training for an ironman was difficult for me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. To say it was a struggle would be an understatement. Someone recently said to me that my first year on ironteam I suffered, a lot. And it's true. I sucked at riding my bike, like REALLY sucked. And the physical work I did was no joke. Everything about that training was hard for me.
But the suffering of that season wasn't really about the physical work. I suffered a lot emotionally/mentally. I had to work through some serious demons to make that training, and race, happen. I had to work through all of the doubt, the naysayers, everyone who thought that being bipolar would keep me from completing an ironman. I had to work through how to make it happen while taking three different daily medications (that affect not only my mental health, but also have serious physical side effects). I had to figure out that I wanted it more than I wanted to let anything stop me from getting there.
And, it was the hardest, and single most rewarding year of my life. I did something that so many people (including myself, much of the time) thought would be impossible. I did something incredible.
Remember, if you are living with mental illness, you are not alone. It does not have to define you. You can still go after those big, scary goals. You can fight back by living your life. Find what keeps you going. Find that spark and pursue it, go after it, give it everything you've got. Don't stop.
I am not defined by this illness. I am not defined by bipolar disorder. I live with it. I struggle nearly daily. But it gets easier. It gets better. And, I know I am not alone.