The Real Reward Is My Freedom


By Ali Mariani

I had to speak my truth out loud. It’s not that I wanted to; it’s that I had to.

I didn’t want to. I was really scared that if I said my problems out loud, I would also be agreeing to get help for them. Help is the thing that I had refused to ask for. I hated asking for help. To me, asking for help meant that I was inferior. I really thought that I was a weak person if I had to ask for help.

Plus, I didn’t want to burden anyone with my pain. Wasn’t I supposed to be able to figure this out on my own? Wasn’t I capable and strong enough of dealing with my own issues? I was an independent, intelligent girl. Surely, I could handle this. Maybe if I took a shower, I would feel better. Maybe if I got a good night sleep, tomorrow would be better. When I start that new job, I will feel better. When Spring comes, I will feel better. I’m sure this is just a phase. Didn’t everybody feel like this?

Now I realize that I had it all wrong. I realize that was my depression talking. My depression barters with me. My depression wants to stay silent, strong, independent. It doesn’t want to ask for help. Most of all, it doesn’t want to be exposed. It’s like a Vampire. It doesn’t live in the light.

The minute I said the words out loud, I swear to you, my body lightened. I had let go of a heavy rock. Just by saying the words out loud and admitting that I needed help, I had taken away their power. I had begun the healing process. I had begun to feel freedom. I had begun my road to recovery.


I’m a runner. I have been running since I was too young to even know what running was. Growing up, my older brother and I used to have races in the backyard of our father’s Connecticut home, nestled in the woods. We would sprint from one side of the yard to the other, marking a tree or pile of leaves as our imaginary finish lines.

As I grew older, I started to run in a few local races. One year, I remember winning several blue ribbons for my speed. Winning felt good. Nobody forgets the first time they win something. In High School, I ran Track and Cross Country. I was good. Not great, by any means, but a solid runner in my own right.

Last October, I ran my first Marathon in Hartford, Connecticut. 26.2 miles. It poured the whole time. This is something that I never imagined I was capable of doing. I felt light and free. I felt that my life was limitless. That’s when I knew that my depression wouldn’t stop me or hold me back from life. That’s when I knew that there were no limits to what was possible for me. I believe that’s true for you, too.

On Saturday, September 12th, The (I’m)Possible Project and The R.E.A.C.H. OUT Project will be hosting the 2nd Annual Road to Recovery 5K Fun-Run/Wellness Walk in honor of National Recovery Month. We will be celebrating recovery in all of its glory. Recovery in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and genders.


Ask anyone who loves running to tell you what they love about it. I would guess you would get a lot of really interesting responses. For me, it’s about freedom. A freedom that I have only felt for two things in my life: running and recovery.

But I try to always remember that recovery isn’t a race. It doesn’t even end. There is no blue ribbon, trophy, or award at the end.

The real reward is my freedom.

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