My two hours on the shrink’s couch

Running rests right at the center of my brain

I’ve been thinking about seeing a sports psychologist for some time now. I’ve also been debating whether or not I would share the experience if and when I did. No one likes to air their dirty laundry, me included, but I think this was an experience worth sharing.

As you know, two consecutive injuries have kept me sidelined for most of 2011. I am for the most part a happy person but lately, I’ve seen some signs that made me worry I might have a touch of situational depression from this long running layoff. So, I finally made an appointment for a therapy session.

The doctor, a psychiatrist, not psychologist, was the perfect fit for me. He’s a runner, his kids are runners, his daughter-in-law is a stud of an ultrarunner. And he’s also the sports psychiatrist for the Baltimore Ravens. He understands injuries and what they can do to you.

After getting all my background, he explained to me how the brain operates in relation to something that delivers pleasure. I’ve found something (running) that I look forward to, enjoy while doing, and that makes me happy when it’s over. This pleasure circuit is great when you’ve got it–it keeps you continually happy. But when it’s broken, that’s when you have a problem. If you were wondering–yes, this is much like a drug addiction (I’ve kind of always suspected as much!).

In my case, and probably in many other runners, because I get so much out of running, I don’t bother to diversify much and find other outlets. Right now, without running, I need another outlet. I’d say writing–and landing writing jobs–can somewhat fill that void, so that’s where I’m going to concentrate.

Problem number two for me has been a lack of letting these emotions out. Look, I’ve got a mom and a brother-in-law with cancer. Um, that kind of trumps what I’ve got going on, so I haven’t looked for help there.

But the doctor reminded me that, regardless, my emotions are valid and that they need an outlet. So I need to find some poor friends who will let me talk about my feelings. I’ve avoided this for the most part because who wants to burden people with their baggage? When I told the doctor this he countered with the fact that friends are there for these times and that unloading some of this can actually strengthen a friendship.

I left feeling 1,000 times better–I had that very real sense of a load taken off my shoulders. My take on time with a sports psychiatrist? Well worth the investment.

Would you ever see a sports psychologist/psychiatrist?

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  1. says

    I think it’s so great you went! I never would have thought to go to a “sports” psychiatrist, but for sure am convinced in the real need for a psychiatrist or therapist when you aren’t able to process what’s going on in your life. Sometimes all it takes is a good brain or emotion dump to someone to start the process of getting back to your happy place.
    julie recently posted..Monday Morning Dance PartyMy Profile

  2. says

    It had never occured to me to see a sports psych but the whole prospect of it fascinates me. I thought they were more for dealing with winning and not choking, etc rather than coping with injury. Thanks for enlightening me. Glad you found it beneficial.

  3. says

    I have been to a psychiatrist for something different, but never heard of a sports psychiarist. I know for my situation it helped me a lot. So glad you went and you were able to get some of that load you have been carrying off your shoulders.

  4. says

    Amazing what a different perspective on things can do for you! When someone explains things to me in a way I can understand it, I get it.

    Glad you went through with this, good stuff here.

    I am in the same boat as you, when I couldn’t run this winter, I was miserable, downward spiraled.

    Keep your head clear (as much as you can) and understand that just because one thing in life is currently on the backburner, there are so many other things you can be excelling in :)
    Matt Oravec recently posted..I have been busy…My Profile

  5. says

    I honestly didn’t even know that there were psychiatrists that specialized in sports (but duh, I probably should have known that). Thanks for sharing your experience! I know someone who will find this very useful. If you ever need anything I’m a great listener!
    Suzanne recently posted..Collge Football Explained (& NFL too)My Profile

  6. says

    I’m glad he’s helping! So many people write off psychiatrists and psychologists but they can help make you think about things you may never have made yourself think about and process/work through. And as you’re seeing – they help in other areas of our lives other than the specific problem we went in there for.
    Lindsay recently posted..september 2011: clemsonMy Profile

  7. says

    I’m so sorry you are going through all of this!! I’m glad you saw someone and you should absolutely be venting your frustrations with your friends and on your blog. We’ve ALL been through it, we can totally relate!

    Feel better and big hugs!! :)
    Dash recently posted..Eye on the PrizeMy Profile

  8. Pat says

    I haven’t seen a sport psych, but I’ve seen a thera therapist for other issues and, if you find the right fit, therapy can be great. I do have to admit that art of this post made me want to shake my finger at you…..who better to understand how bummed you are not to run than your friends who run?! We love you and are just as bummed that you aren’ t running with us!

  9. says

    Good for you Amanda!

    I was thinking about seeing a therapist and bringing a film crew with me. Could probably turn a few sessions into a 13 episode reality TV show – I’d make that therapist question their choice in careers!!!

    I got three words for you that is much better then a sports therapist: Hoka One One

    They are the injured runners dream!
    Jeff recently posted..Things that Bother Me: The Triathlete EditionMy Profile

  10. says

    I am glad you went!!! You know, you can ALWAYS find someone with “bigger” problems than yours, but that does not diminish your challenges or feelings. I hope you are able to share with someone (email or call me any time!!!!) and that you are able to find another outlet AND get back to running sooner than later. Good for you for taking care of yourself. Hugs!!!
    Erin Henderson (@SeeMomRunFar) recently posted..Review of Brooks PureFlow running shoesMy Profile

  11. Stacey says

    I totally believe in the therapy route!!! There is nothing worse then holding all those emotions and frustrations inside! So glad to hear you feel better after going to appointment! Vent all you need/ want!

  12. says

    I do think talking with someone a bit removed can offer a great unburdening effect.

    People typically hold back even when talking with close friends out of a fear that their friendship couldn’t handle the whole truth. The individual thinks that the issue so large that they are having trouble dealing with it so fo course a friend would be burden just as heavily. However, the reality is that to the friend (who is some what removed of the issue and it’s consuqences) can usually offer encouragement and strength simply by listening. Unfortuantely individuals impose their own view onto others and then predetermine that sharing those challengening life issues would be too much to ask a friend. But I say, that is exactly what friends are our friends for. All those other happy times together were just preparing the friendship for the real life issues.
    shelly recently posted..The Other Coast ~ Day TwoMy Profile

  13. says

    Wow – I really wish I had done this while I was injured for most of last year. You’re describing exactly how I was feeling. I would never even have thought of it – but so glad you did & went.
    katie recently posted..the goals postMy Profile

  14. says

    I actually hadn’t considered seeing a sports psychiatrist until reading this. I think it’s a great idea. I have gotten a lot out of therapy, especially during college when I was going through a very difficult time. I’m glad to hear you had such a positive experience.

    I always knew running was an “addiction” in a sense, at least for me. That is why it is so hard to be happy when injured. Finding other outlets is such a challenge. I tend to read a lot and pour myself into my work so I don’t think about it as much but I never feel like myself until I am running again.

    Will you keep us updated on your sessions if you learn anything interesting? I’m fascinated and would love to read more.

  15. says

    I’m glad that you found it to be a positive experience. Reading your post above, I felt like I could have written the whole thing myself. As you know I was injured for like 5 months or so, and it has been a tough time. Just now I am starting to feel better. Like you say above, running and exercise gives me great pleasure, and it was hard not to have that outlet to go to. I definitely believe that exercise and running have an addictive aspect to it, because once you get a taste of it you want more. Talking with others has definitely helped, as well as posting on my blog, because all of us runners understand what it means to be injured. That way my family and friends don’t have to hear as much about it.
    Nelly recently posted..Home is where the run isMy Profile

  16. says

    Well, you know my take on this and I was happy to read yesterday’s email that you were going to go. I didn’t have time to get back to you before you posted, but I’m also glad you shared your experience with us. Will you continue to keep going?

    You know I’m a email, text, or phone call away. Hey, you can even jump on a plane and come to the mountains with me, if you want :).

    Love ya!!!
    Jill recently posted..The Golden Rockies / Week 5My Profile

  17. says

    Wow, you sure picked exactly the right guy for you, and I’m so glad he helped.

    I know I’m a much happier, more pleasant person when I’m able to be active regularly. In addition to being crabbier when I don’t run, those times when I’m physically unable to make it worse because it’s not a choice. That helpless, anxious feeling SUCKS. In addition to finding your mental outlet in writing, I hope you’ve got something that can give you a physical outlet, too.
    Kate recently posted..Triathlons are stupid, and so am IMy Profile

  18. says

    Wow I really admire you for sharing this experience and can only imagine how much it would help. I have never been injured from running long term but I cannot even imagine how difficult and frustrating it must be. I truly hope that you can find peace in other outlets and that this injury will only help you learn and grow.

  19. says

    I’ve had a couple of people suggest this to me and I’ve seriously been considering. I too have found myself in situational depression and there are times where I just do not know how to get over or deal with it this injury. I feel like it has stolen my identity and has it’s thumb on my progress of overcoming it. I’ll be interested to hear more about your sessions, if you choose to share, and please know that if you ever need someone to vent with you’ve got an (injured, commiserating) friend in me.
    Morgan recently posted..Tuesday Trial: Run Like a Girl Book Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  20. says

    This is exactly what I do for a living half of my time. Worth your money, though I am biased toward psychologists bc we spend 5 years on psychotherapy, as opposed to only the residency, as is the case for psychiatrists.

  21. says

    I’ve been told I’ve needed to see a doctor, that’s for sure! I turned to running (and working out in general) as my outlet when other addictions ruled everything going on in my family. So naturally, whenever I couldn’t use running to cope with things at home, I’d become quite the mess. Things are more balanced now, though, that I have a child of my own. She requires all of my energy and focus when I take care of her, so there’s no sitting around feeling sorry about a missed run or workout! Besides which, I still expend plenty of energy around her and get to relish in all the hugs and kisses :)

  22. says

    HI there!
    Love the new look! Dang…it all looks great.

    I’d totally be into seeing a sports psychologist. find it fascinating and a necessary aspect in a person’s ‘athletic’ endeavors.

    Cheers friend!

  23. says

    I absolutely would see one and I think it is great that you went and you shared it. I have a sister and a husband who suffer from depression (more genetic than situational). So I am a big fan of seeking help. I have seen what a difference it can make! Glad it helped and I really hope you can run soon!!
    Katie recently posted..A running mom’s PSAMy Profile

  24. says

    I’ve been there, and know how you feel. I often feel like it’s an addiction, although a good one, except on the pocketbook. When I’m injured I feel as if the world is coming down around me. Don’t feel alone. I think it’s cool that you got to see the same guy that works with the Ravens. Man, I sure do wonder what in the world they say to him???
    Coy recently posted..Mo’ Cowbell Half Marathon sans Christopher WalkenMy Profile

  25. says

    I think it’s great that you went to a psychiatrist! When I couldn’t run for 3 mo I found myself getting a little depressed. I can only imagine what you’re going through with being sidelined for so long. Like he said, friends are there for you through the good and bad times! You shouldn’t feel bad about talking about what’s bothering you…that’s what friends are for!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Should I pop it??My Profile

  26. says

    As a sport psychologist myself, it sounds like he is spot on. Very progressive and a bit courageous to go get consult. Hopefully future sessions are as helpful as the first.

    As an athlete-I had to fight hard to keep from going down the road of depression, especially earlier this year-luckily I knew enough, but I have used one in the past when I couldn’t run Boston.

    I’m biased, but I think this field is essential and glad it helps athletes whether age-groupers or pros (or football players!).

    Positive thoughts, press on! :)

  27. says

    Im glad that you got so much out of it! I can vouch that Im addicted to exercise. If I dont get a chance, Im an unhappy camper….

    BTW, Im all ears for listening! My Cole is battling cancer also, so I totally understand in that respect!


  28. says

    If I needed help absolutely, there’s no shame in that.

    We intend to make our own problems less big if someone around us has bigger problems. I remember when my Dad had cancer my Mom was sick too, but we didn’t know because she didn’t want to be a burden, my Dad was already sick and he needed more care. When he died we had worries about my Mom for over a year because everything came out. Since then I always say that everybody’s condition is serious because it’s something you have to deal with. So go to your friends and talk about you, it will help you.
    Fran recently posted..A week in the life: week 39-2011My Profile

  29. says

    That makes so much sense – without running I am usually much more grumpy and cranky. Its a release and helps you. Having people to talk to about your problems is huge, even if you don’t think your problems are that bad compared to others. I am glad you got so much out of it!
    J recently posted..September RecapMy Profile

  30. says

    so happy to hear you went to talk to someone…it can make such a huge difference. i’ve blogged before about how exercise and the feelings associated with it are like an addiction so I totally get it. hope you find an outlet to talk to…if not, email me! i’ll listen. :-)
    Denise recently posted..Catching UpMy Profile

  31. says

    Thank your for sharing with us! that was a brave thing to do, and very encouraging for people who may be going through the same thing. What your feeling is completely valid. There’s no reason to feel bashful about it. I’m glad to hear it was helpful.
    Runblondie26 recently posted..5K Double HeaderMy Profile

  32. says

    I’ve had a great experience working with a sports psychologist. It’s not the be all end all fix as you still need to do the work yourself, but I’ve appreciated having him as a guide and as someone to help me change my thinking. Great to hear that you’re doing this!
    amy recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: The BasementMy Profile

  33. says

    I’m glad you got so much out of the session, everything you wrote about makes total sense. I went for help once while in college, so I can understand your sense of release/relief. hang in there!
    Molly recently posted..In limboMy Profile

  34. says

    Good for YOU! Sometimes we need a little help getting perspective, seeing things clearly or even having our feelings validated. What you are experiencing is normal and a part of being healthy!

  35. says

    A real friend is one who wants to share all the times – not just the good ones. My Saturday walking buddy, Natalie is my therapist and I’m hers. We spend hours downloading over a walk and coffee and never fail to feel better when we part. Your psychiatrist was bang on the money.
    Char recently posted..Bits and PiecesMy Profile

  36. says

    Right there with you. I’m so glad you were able to talk to someone. You really do have a lot on your plate and not having running as your therapy takes its toll.

    I didn’t realize how bad I was becoming until I was able to ‘run’ (wog, walk fast) and my husband breathed a huge sigh of relief and said there was no way we could go back to where I was because he couldn’t take it any longer.

    You haven’t accomplished all that you have by being a wuss. You’re a tough cookie, and you’re going to see the other side of this injury mess.
    Tracy recently posted..5 For FridayMy Profile

  37. says

    I’ve seen a psychologist before for a personal issue, but never a sports psychologist. If I had the need to see what, I probably would. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I personally don’t mind if you air your “dirty laundry.” It’s important for you to get that frustration off your chest, so do it!
    Richelle recently posted..Race Report: City of Lakes 25KMy Profile

  38. says

    I’m glad you mentioned this post in your post today. It’s definitely an interesting perspective and I can totally get it. When I was diagnosed with my shoulder injury and missed my last triathlon, I was literally devastated. Jim said to me you seem more upset than you did when Harley (our previous dog died). Now, I’m not sure that was true, but it was like all of a sudden something I enjoyed was taken away. Luckily for me it’s my shoulder and although I still can’t swim for now, I can still run and work towards other goals so I do still have some outlet. I hope you continue to find ways to fulfill those needs that running does. It’s great that you talked to someone.
    Michael recently posted..DC – A Mostly Pictorial PostMy Profile


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