If enough stress is placed on an individual, it can tip the balance.
That’s what happened to Corner Brook’s Elizabeth Penney after the death of her mom in 2005.
“It was the most traumatic experience of my life,” Penney said earlier this week. “It caused me to experience severe depression and anxiety.”
Penney, a 50-year-old retiree who is married with two sons, suffered for a long time with debilitating anxiety and life become more difficult with other stressors until she decided to seek professional help.
She also lost her dad along the way and it proved to be too much for her to handle on her own.
“It was all too much. I crashed,” she said. “I was self-medicating to keep the anxiety away as I wasn’t functioning properly.”
This battle went on for a long time but then she received the loving support of a dear friend who intervened because she was fully aware of the struggle.
She finally went for the help she desperately needed.
Slowly, with the amazing help of doctors, nurses and a wonderful family behind her, she started to get stronger and life got better.
She recalls her family doctor telling her that physical exercise is what she needed to embrace to improve her outlook. She knew exercise was important in decreasing cortisol levels and to release endorphins, but she hardly had the strength to walk up the road.
She was put on medication for anxiety and depression, and then she started walking on a daily basis, not far at first, but increasing the distance step by step as she forged ahead.
“So I walked every day in rain, snow or in freezing temperatures,” she said, noting that this was her norm for two years before she started to join the gym.
She spent her fair share of time on the treadmill because she hadn’t been involved in running for quite some time despite knowing the benefits that come with it.
She increased her distances with every venture into the elements and her passion for running came to life.
“The endorphins created in my body from the running were better than any medication prescribed, not saying they don’t have a purpose in all of this,” she said.
Running has been a big blessing in her life and she has set some lofty goals for the future. She just completed a 15-km run organized by the Corner Brook Running Club and now she’s committed to participating in a half-marathon Sept. 30 in Corner Brook and hopes to run a full marathon next month in Prince Edward Island, an event that is actually sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Sharing her story is more about getting others to see the benefits of being physically active than what she went through so she hopes others can discover running as a great way to deal with anxiety and depression — something she knows affects people of all ages and walks of life.
“I hope that anyone who has such anxiety will throw on a pair of sneakers and hit the road,” she said.
Running has been her lifesaver. She hopes others will discover the same when depression becomes too much to bear.
She says don’t be afraid to seek help. She says there is help available, but you have to ask for it and be willing to do what it takes to get the right balance in life again.