Own the Equinox: Improve Your Mental Health

August 11, 2015

by Mark Dunning

So you’ve read about the Own the Equinox Mile-a-thon. You feel like it’s a good cause. You want people to know about Usher syndrome, to understand it, to fund it, to cure it. But, boy, that mile a day seems like a lot of effort. You really just don’t feel like getting off the couch.

Of course, that makes you feel guilty, anxious. You SHOULD do something. Other people can do it. Why can’t you? Maybe you look in the mirror, on those rare occasions when you do get up, and you don’t like the person that is looking back. Or you look at where the mirror used to be and you can no longer see the person looking back, reminding you, again, where you are, what you are. So you shuffle back to the couch and sink in deeper.

It presses down on you, buckles your knees, like you’re carrying a piano wherever you go. It makes the idea of walking a mile a day feel incredibly difficult. Running a mile a day? Impossible. Yet you know you should do more. You know you should do something. It just seems like too much, like the effort required to drag yourself off the couch is more than you can bear.

Welcome to depression and anxiety. Mental health issues are very common among families with Usher syndrome. I suffer from them myself. I take medication every day for depression and most every night for anxiety. Medication buys you the space to operate, but it doesn’t treat mental illness. No, for that, you have to go after the stressors that are causing it.

Usher syndrome is a disease of isolation, both physical and social. It’s a terrible feedback loop. People with Usher have a hard time with mobility so they don’t go to as many social events. This leads to depression, which makes it hard to want to do anything. The body softens. You don’t like how you look, how you feel. Maybe you gain weight or developer a furniture problem (your chest falls in to your drawers), so you don’t want to be seen. On and on it goes, piling up and up, and pressing you further and further in to that couch.

The best thing you can do to break that cycle is to set an attainable goal then force yourself to do it. The Mile-a-thon is your chance to do just that. It’s an opportunity to feel better about yourself AND help find treatments for the big stressor in your life: Usher syndrome. We chose a Mile-a-thon as our primary awareness event not just because it accessible to most everyone, but because exercise is good for you. It’s good for your body. It’s good for your eyes. And it’s good for your mental health.

There have been numerous studies on the effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. One study found that a single exercise session of 15-30 minutes reduced anxiety and depression. A SINGLE SESSION! The study also stated “The benefits are significant especially in subjects with an elevated level of anxiety and depression because of more room for possible change.” Now who does that sound like?

So get up, get out, and start walking. One mile a day, beginning on August 25th. Walk or run, one mile every day, until September 19th. Pause to celebrate your accomplishment on Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. Then keep on going. One mile, every day, day after day, until treatments are a reality. When that day comes, I would imagine you would prefer to start skipping or sprinting with your shirt off.

Until then, get up and get out. Help us Own the Equinox and help yourself. You don’t have to wait until August 25th. You deserve to feel better, starting today.

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