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move to heal project

RxRun Documentary!

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RxRun Documentary!

This past month I had the opportunity to watch RxRun before it was released to the public- it's a documentary that follows the stories of Emily, Tom, and Mackenzie as they take back their lives from mental illness through a running program created by clinician Dan McGann.

This doc is a MUST-SEE. These are real people struggling with real-life things. It's humanizing. I found myself tearing up at multiple points throughout the video because they are so open and honest with where they are at and what they are experiencing but are also willing to fight to make a change + to keep moving forward.

The main focus of the doc is to highlight the positive relationship between running and mental health.

The documentary is now released digitally through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play and was also accepted to the Running Film Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina (this screening will take place in November).

Trailer is below!

Links to watch the full Doc are here:

iTunes

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/rxrun/id1398708634

 

Amazon

http://a.co/7ggBBg3

 

Google Play

https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=6WPKzZgYpB4

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reach out to me or to Bruce Baklarian, the director at @rxrundoc

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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

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I'm Cayla. This is My Story. Chapter 2

 

When I was little, my Mom told me I was what the doctors called "flop-jointed"- which essentially means that I moved like I had no bones. I could easily put my leg behind my head, do the splits, distort my body in whatever way I wanted and I didn’t feel a thing.

I used to move like I had no bones.

Now, Twenty-two years later all I am is bone.

Life can feel so sadistic.

 

Chapter 2

 

I am lying in a heated room in the middle of Montreal, drenched in sweat.

I’ve been here for 22 days. Not 'here' in this room- but here in this training where I am learning how to teach hot yoga.

I know we left off around the time I was sitting in the car, staring at the windshield.
The story may eventually loop back here- it may not.

But for now all you need to know is that the intense pain that was plaguing me in the car is still present . On top of that, I'm starting to become aware of more pain in my body, and how I have learned to live with it; sit inside it. Sometimes the pain is systemic- sometimes it shifts into certain parts of my body. Today it has shifted from my stomach and into my wrists.

This pain is deep and stiff and lingering so bad I can barely wrap my fingers around the yoga block that is strewn on the floor next to my mat.

When I was young and learning how to Rollerblade, I never learned how to brake properly. Instead, I’d hold my hands out in front of me and my wrists would snap back whenever they caught the wall in order for me to fully stop.

Up until now, this is the narrative I have been telling myself as to why I live with pain in my wrists.

Isn’t it funny, the stories we tell ourselves, in order to avoid facing the truth?

The air is foggy and thick and the longer I am lying here the more my mind drifts off and for one full minute I am mentally pulled out of the yoga room and flashback into my old bedroom where I am lying directly on my wrists.

It’s 530am and I can hear her in the kitchen. She is rustling around looking for a spoon- presumably to stir her coffee, which she takes with her every morning she works in the OR.
I am definitely not sleeping.
I’m not even half asleep.
My body is flexed the way one might hold themselves as they prepare to walk down a back alley in the middle of an unknown city.
My jaw is clenched. My right cheek is pushed into the pillow and my eyes are fixed on a streetlamp that is still lit in the dark light of the morning, just beyond our house, just beyond my window, just beyond the blinds.

All of a sudden the clink clink clink of the spoon in the coffee stops, the rustling stops, and I hear that swishing noise paper makes when it lifts off a surface and I know now she is reading the note I have written her, the bomb I am dropping on her, the family tree I am uprooting in this exact moment.

My eyes are fixed on the street lamp and, although the entire weight of my body is on my hands right now I can feel my fingers instinctively curl around the sheets beneath me.

She’s coming.

My friend that is a dancer told me you can always tell how someone is feeling by the weight in their footsteps, and the weight that is drawing nearer to my bedroom door is heavy, thumping, filled with rage.

What little feeling I have left in my arms drains out of my body.

The colour drains out of my skin.

I hear the door fly open.

I pretend to be asleep. Which is funny in hindsight, because the adrenaline rushing through my veins is so strong I wouldn’t be able to close my eyes even if I wanted to.

So maybe a better way of putting it is:

I am immobile and praying she won’t ask questions.

“What the f*ck is this?”.

Her voice is stern, loud, hot water about to boil over.

I can’t see her in my peripheral but I know she is fisting the paper with one hand, holding her coffee spoon in the other, a dark shadow in scrubs standing in the light of the hallway, in the small glowing slivers of streetlamp.

I don’t respond, which pushes her over the edge.

She screams my name and when I remain unresponsive she grabs the corner of my duvet and yanks it completely off my bed exposing my body- rigid, frozen, distorted.

“ANSWER ME”.

She orders me to follow her into the kitchen, she turns to exit the room, she is a dark outline in the doorway just like he was- and for one moment she is Him, and He is here and I am small and clenching the sheets and curled into a ball pretending to sleep while his 6 foot frame engulfs me.

Everyone knows he is here, but no one knows what he's doing except for me.

I am both the witness and the victim.

His arms are long, clenched, immobile, and they are stretched over the top of my head like a bear trap. I feel his breath slink across the back of my neck and into my ear. I crank my head to the right, I cross my arms into an X, I roll onto my wrists to try and keep him out. I search the room for something to land my eyes on so I don't have to look at him.

There is a stationary bike in the corner. It's white and blue. I focus on that.


There are cut-outs in the white wall, they are filled with Grandmas jewelry. It's ornate, elaborate costume jewelry and I imagine myself wearing it. I focus on that.


I climb out of my body, and all of a sudden the next few moments aren't moments, they're polaroid's.


Bike. Jewelry. Him. Window. Door. Darkness.


I focus on that.


He has evil rushing like water underneath his skin. When he touches me my skin crawls and hours later when it's still crawling I question whether his evil has become a part of me.


I easily detach from my body now.


Some nights I just stand in the shower until the hot water runs cold. I stare at the droplets of water running down the white tile. I lose track of time, of feeling, of space. I learn to avoid mirrors because I see the grooves of his face in my jawline and it reminds me I will never fully be free, because blood is thicker than water.


In a small moment of email confrontation he denies everything, his girlfriend speaks up, says he was only acting in love.


"Do you have children?" I type, my blood boiling.


"Allow me to demonstrate on your children, exactly how he was being loving" I reply. There is sarcasm rushing off my tongue, vengeance running through my veins.


I press send. I dry heave into a garbage can.

 

I feel small, I am still. The air is foggy and thick. I have grown used to seeing the shadow of Him exiting the door.
My Moms voice, panicked, angry, prying, calls to me from the kitchen.
I grab my duvet off the floor. I wrap it around me, walk out the door and down the flight of stairs.


I'll probably need therapy for this, I quip

 

I am lying on my yoga mat. The air is foggy and thick.

I take my left hand and use it to bend my right wrist back and forth, back and forth. It's thin; frail. Exactly as I would expect it to be after sleeping on it for 15 years. The pain is pointed, raw, inscribed. I keep bending.

It's slow and methodical at first but then it builds into hysterical flapping because maybe if I bend it enough the stories will release from the fascia, pour out of my bones, I'll be free.

My teacher Dina- her footsteps are soft and kind and she comes over to me as I'm lying in Savasana the way a Mother moves to protect her cub. She places her hand on my knee, I deflate, I begin to cry. Tears spill out of me the way my sweat is pouring off my skin- quickly and without permission. 

This is the first time I have allowed myself to cry. In my entire life.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she mouths.

 



 

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Meet Ali. This is her Story

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Meet Ali. This is her Story

 

As a kid I remember my emotions feeling so big it seemed they couldn’t physically be contained in the room I was in. To me, they were palpable, and taking up space, big and heavy, they surrounded me.

I guess that I have always been like this- feeling in a big, intense way.

While this certainly has its advantages in the pleasant and joyful contexts, when things swing the other way it’s hard to feel something so deep and so painful; especially when it appears from the outside that the circumstance just doesn’t seem to call for it.

 

As a teen I remember literally, running away from these deep feelings when they became too much. As in, I would actually head out the door in whatever I was wearing and run as far as I could, “away” from the pain I was feeling. Usually, after a few blocks, I couldn’t breathe very well and not being in proper footwear and attire led to extreme discomfort. But for a few minutes, being sweaty and out of breath gave me something else to think about- it released me from whatever pain I was feeling, without actually having to truly confront it and deal with it.

 

This worked for a while here and there until I experienced a period of pain as an undergrad so deep that I could not run away from it. After a particularly bad week of sleeping all day, a friend dragged me to the gym with her where we participated in a kickboxing class. For the first time in weeks I was actually moving my body and getting the blood flowing. It was tough, I didn’t want to do it, but with each shadow jab I felt a little lighter.

By the end of the class I remember feeling good, so good, that I cried on the way back to my dorm room.

I just wanted to feel this good more often, but it seemed so impossible. I remember later that day talking to a friend and saying out loud the words I was never able to say before; “I think I’m depressed”.  She encouraged me to seek help, and thankfully I did.

 

My story does not end there of course. While I had quickly learned that staying active played a key part in getting my life together again as a depressed undergrad, my depression didn’t just go away one day because I decided to work out regularly. In fact, while I continued to remain very active in my early 20s, the next obstacle that was thrown my way was uncontrollable anxiety that felt like it was just handed to me one day, out of the blue.

 

At first, I was not able to fully recognize that something was not quite right. I began making lists for everything, always worried, terrified, that I would forget something. These lists began to control my life in a way that I couldn’t explain. Some days and even some vacations were spent just making sure things were crossed off, instead of actually living in the moment and enjoying each “item”.

 

This sense of overwhelm and desire to complete what I felt I “needed” to was all-consuming at times. At first, it was easy to blame it on my perfectionism and Type A personality. But as this spilled into every other area of my life I realized that these feelings of trying to control everything were not normal. It reached a tipping point when I would drive to my internship every morning with butterflies in my stomach and then sit in my car once parked for a good 15 minutes convincing myself to go inside. There was no real “reason” to feel this way and I could not control it. In a sense, my lists were a way I was able to feel control over my life at this time.

 

I would sweat every time my phone rang, worried that the person calling me was going to tell me a family member had died. I was afraid to get in a car with another driver in fear of getting in an accident.

 

My fear of the unknown and all possible terrible outcomes sent my head in spirals, I had trouble sleeping and would often feel on the verge of a panic attack when I thought about anything beyond my current task at hand or day. Unfortunately, regular physical activity had taken a backseat to graduate school and juggling two part-time jobs. But one day, I felt the overwhelm and lack of control bubble over and was reminded of my childhood feelings- I could not keep them in the room and I just need to get away from everything. I laced up my shoes and headed outside, telling myself that maybe I  would just feel a little bit better if I went for a run.

 

It sucked. I was breathless within 3 minutes and sweating through my shirt. I stopped to walk every few minutes and cursed myself for thinking this was a good idea. However, after a few minutes I realized the feeling of panic had subsided.

I probably only ran about 2km that day, but I returned home with a clearer mind and a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in weeks.

 

A few days later when I started feeling the same way, I laced up my shoes again. I don’t know what came over me, but for some reason I told myself that day that I would train for a 10k race. Over the next few weeks, I started to run regularly when I felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the feeling of getting out there. I fell in love with running the way I fall in love with most things in life- obsessively, completely and all at once.

 

At first, I loved how it humbled me, I had thought I was fairly athletic and in shape, but running seriously kicked my ass . Over time though, it gave me a sense of control as things became slightly easier. When I laced up my shoes, I knew what to expect. I knew when I would tire and where I would turn around and how far I could do. Eventually, I was able to start pushing myself more and more- conving myself to run 100 more meters when my mind was yelling “STOP!”.

For the first time in my life, I realized I could challenge my thoughts and push beyond them, and, that my thoughts were not always right- I COULD run a little bit further if I wanted to.

 

After a few months, I found myself in a place where running gave me space to actually work through things. Instead of trying not to die with each painful breath, I was able to fall in to a rhythm, to run and think and recognize my obsessive thoughts as merely thoughts. I was able to be in that moment while correspondingly work through the unpleasant physical feelings it gave me- and I realized how much that related to my anxiety that I dealt with in my day to day life. It was okay to feel unpleasant things, accept them for what they are (temporary) and keep pushing through them.

 

Running has since become a major part of my life. As soon as I feel myself slipping, I know what I have to do to feel better. That’s not to say it’s easy to just lace up my shoes when I feel my mind take over with negativity and worry. Sometimes it takes everything I have to lace up my shoes and get out the door. It has also helped to have a community to push me and support me and get me out there on the days when I would really rather not. Running has challenged me to push beyond my self-imposed limitations and not let thoughts define me. In running away from myself, I have actually learned to not shy away from myself.

I have learned to come home to my body and my breath and who I am- anxiety and all.

 

While there is no question that professional help and medication can turn a life around, it is the feeling of pounding concrete that has truly changed me.

It is so easy to look at physical activity as a way to look a certain way, but in reality, it has the power to not only change your body but change how you FEEL. Learning the connection between mind and body has been the most pivotal and important lesson I have learned in my life.

 

My depression and anxiety are parts of me that I have learned to live with, and physical activity is an important piece of my toolbox that I often reach for when life just seems to be too much. Running is always there for me, steady as can be. One foot in front of the other. Left foot, right foot, breathe in, breathe out and repeat. It pulls me back to the ground when I need it the most.
 

 

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