How I use exercise to deal with my depression

Even on the bleakest days, when I'm overwhelmed by anxiety, futility and nothingness, when I can barely speak to my family or leave the house, I force myself to go to the gym and get on the cross-trainer for 45 minutes. It's often the only thing of any note I achieve on days like that; for a depressive, there's something pleasing about expending all that energy getting precisely nowhere. It's a form of validation.

It's also a release. I find that if I set the resistance level high enough and keep going for long enough, there comes a time – usually after about 20 minutes – when the pain gets so intense that I stop thinking. I can't tell you how good that feels. No voices in my head telling me what a useless shit I am: just me, the machine and the pain.

Is this a healthy way of dealing with depression? Probably not, but I've never pretended to be mentally well anyway. Is it an effective way of dealing with depression? That's harder to say. Once the endorphins have worn off, the voices telling me I'm a useless shit invariably return. So as a long-term solution, all the exercise does is maintain my fitness as I go to the gym most days when I'm not depressed as well. But as short-term care – time off from myself – it has come to feel like a life-saver.

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