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How Running and Medication Helped me Conquer Depression and Anxiety

“For months, no one knew I was struggling. I’ve always been a high performer, so I didn’t want to be vulnerable. Eventually, my husband noticed and I had to open up for the sake of our marriage.”

Struggled with:

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Ashley Kaiser. I live in sunny Tucson, Arizona surrounded by beautiful Sonoran mountains. I work as a physical therapist and freelance copywriter with a specialty in health-related fields. 

I’m happily married to my best friend Austin. We have a sweet rescue dog named Bella who runs the show in our little family. Together we go on lots of outdoor adventures that typically include trail running and rock climbing. 

I do consider myself to be happy. Although I think happiness is an endeavor that takes daily intentional effort for all of us.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

About two years ago I battled with a serious bout of depression and anxiety. I bounced between feeling on edge and questioning why my existence even mattered. 

It started with a vague feeling of burnout in my career. Healthcare can be a tough field. You want to help people, but it’s easy to feel incompetent and not be able to live up to patient expectations.

This led to me feeling like I shouldn’t be a physical therapist and that all my training was a waste. And when things wouldn’t go quite right with a patient, my anxiety would take over. I’d lose sleep and ruminate over everything I could have done better. 

I felt like I was waking up only to repeat the same day. The weight of the anxiety and depression made it hard to get out of bed for what was almost an entire year.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

Struggling with anxiety and depression made me feel like I wasn’t myself. I never thought in a million years I’d feel depressed. 

I’m typically a happy-go-lucky kind of gal. When I was depressed and anxious, I felt like I lost a piece of myself. Because my familiar optimism was nowhere to be found. 

For months, no one knew I was struggling. I’ve always been a high performer, so I didn’t want to be vulnerable. Eventually, my husband noticed and I had to open up for the sake of our marriage.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Things started to turn around when I finally asked for help. My husband suggested I go talk to my primary care doctor.

I went for a visit and was tempted to hide my real feelings out of pride. Luckily, I didn’t. And my doctor decided to put me on Lexapro, which is a medication for both anxiety and depression.

It wasn’t a quick fix, but I do believe this gave me the chemical reset I needed. I also made changes in my career and opened up to my family about my struggle. All of these variables helped me turn things around.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Nothing changed overnight. But I started to notice a shift by taking the Lexapro and talking openly with my loved ones about my struggle. I also was able to taper off Lexapro after being on it for about eight months. 

I want to point out that it’s okay to be on medication for your mental health. And just because you use it doesn’t mean you’re always going to have to be on it. 

I only ended up needing it for about 8 months. I self-tapered when I felt the time was right.

Whether you need medication for a short time or your whole life, it’s okay. Your mental health is important so don’t judge yourself.

Another big step I took to find happiness again was to make real changes in my job. I decided to see fewer patients. With fewer patients, I was able to give good care while not burning myself out. 

I also started trail running. I have always been into exercise. But during my depressive bout, the strength training didn’t seem to be having an effect on my mood. 

Getting outside and immersing myself in nature while releasing endorphins through running was therapeutic. This also led to me setting some big race goals that helped me find my spark again.

ashley kaiser running picture

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I have shared this journey with several people in my life. At first, I was only comfortable talking about it with my husband and my family. 

I struggle with vulnerability. I like to appear like I have it all together. And I get afraid people won’t like me if they know the real me. 

But this battle with depression and anxiety taught me that vulnerability is the key to healing. So eventually I opened up to my boss who has been nothing but supportive. I’ve also opened up to close friends and often I find they have had similar struggles.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

My biggest piece of advice to someone struggling with anxiety or depression is to seek help. Sometimes you can’t fix it on your own and that’s perfectly alright. 

The sooner you allow yourself to be vulnerable and let those around you support you, the closer you are to finding peace.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can find me here on Instagram and LinkedIn.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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