I reflect often on everything I have and have accomplished in the years since feeling like I've been safely out of the grip of suicidal depression. There are times I can't believe that I've accomplished some of my dreams again. For a while, I didn't think I would ever be capable of getting back to a productive, eventful and fruitful life. I'm also doing some things I NEVER thought possible or even imagined myself doing before my depression. It's been 31 years, and 7 extra particular years of blood, sweat and tears to get to this place. I don't even know what the future holds but I'm excited for it. And I can't help but think back to a time when I was legitimately considering ending it all...my life... Because I couldn't see a future or a purpose anymore. I was willing to give it all up. Any CHANCE at all of seeing what could happen or what could change. After all, there was time before depression so why couldn't there be a time after?
I'm not afraid of the stigma. It's not MY my fault. I didn't do anything wrong. You get depression like you get a cold.
But, I just can't believe that I'm here. And here is only where I am because of EVERYTHING that I've been through.
I can equate my current success with every single experience I've had, good or bad, especially clinical depression. I do hope it is a fight many of you don't have to face. In retrospect, what sets us apart are the things we've FOUGHT through. That's true for ALL things and ALL of us. YOU did that. You got yourself here. It's not easy to know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel when you have no idea how long the tunnel is. It definitely feels easier to just...stop hoping for it at all.
I guess I've learned that even though you may be in a tunnel, it doesn't mean that the view along the way is empty and dark. There's something out there, too. So you need to pay attention. I don't fight for the future anymore. I fight for the NOW. I couldn't have known I would be where I am today, but you do get there. Actually, you're always there. Don't get down on yourself wishing you were somewhere else. Just accept the present moment.
I guess all I'm really saying is...the universe has a plan and purpose for each of us. Who are we to stand in its way? Who are we to know all the "why's?" Just know, it's all important to YOUR journey and then maybe we can shift our perspective just a little bit through the really hard stuff so we can appreciate the good stuff even more.
Take a look around. Maybe it's not as dark as you think. I hope I never reach the light...I don't want the journey to end.
This brings me to how often I am asked: "Why do you do so many obstacle course races?" Well, "WHY NOT?"
To keep a long story short, I was diagnosed with depression in 2007. Before I knew it, I was a shell of the person I used to be. I lost all sense of self, confidence, worth, esteem, drive and motivation. I gained 45 pounds and for years I never even left the house and could barely find a reason to shower. It was a devastating 4 years and I was convinced that I was going to be living like a ghost for the rest of my life. Until I ran my first race.
It lit a fire inside me. It forced me to reach deep down and find those parts of me that have be missing. I was utilizing parts of me I didn't even know I had! Every time I race those feeling and attributes get stronger. I was finding myself...MORE of myself. Spartan Race allows us to go beyond what's normal and what we're used to and access the full potential of our being. Depression became just an obstacle like the ones I met on course. I had to face it head on and learn how to navigate an experience I had never been encountered before. One I thought had no end. Spartan Race made me realize it was possible. It was addicting and the way it made me feel transitioned in to my life and career and had me coming back for more. With a side of balance, of course. (Cue: goofball mode)
There will always be obstacles in our path. They are coming for us, but we should never be our own obstacle. When we face them head on, without fear and with confidence that no matter what happens, we are capable of getting to the other side, perspective shifts and everything becomes manageable. I force obstacles upon myself, I race weekly, to remind myself that I can get through anything!
I can see down my path into the future, see those obstacles in the distance, look them straight in the eye, smirk and say "I'M coming for YOU now."
Perri Lauren is an actress, athlete, and depression survivor. Based in New York City, Perri has performed in a number of musical theatre and feature film productions, most recently in a major supporting role in John Shea's feature The Grey Lady. Keep an eye out for her as well in the upcoming Garnier Olia Hair Colour campaign, which focuses on Perri's personal battle with depression. Now armed with her love of fitness, nutrition, and compassion, she is returning to the Spartan course, helping inspire others to break the shackles of mental illness. You can find her latest work on her website, or follow your journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter