It was 2013. I was broken. Crippled by heartache and completely isolated in my overwhelming world of grief.
I could feel the physical weight of my despair crushing my spirit and whatever happiness I had left in me. I could feel myself edging closer to an emotional and mental breakdown with each day that passed in a slow, jaded blur. I was tired of being at the mercy of my grief and I was truly so desperate to feel alive again.
It was then that I discovered the cathartic relief of exercise.
I remember mounting a SoulCycle bike for the first time in the summer of 2013. Music blasted from all corners of the packed candle lit room. As the instructor yelled, “Ride to the beat! One, two, one, two!” I begin to pedal not so much to the beat of the music but to the beat of my heartache. It was as if I was trying to forcefully eradicate my pain with each powerful step. I wanted to purge myself of the all-consuming sadness that permeated every part of my life. I rode with determination. As the instructor continued yelling “One, two, one, two,” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “fuck, this, fuck, this.” I pedaled aggressively, hoping the process would not only exhaust my body, but my ability to think and feel as well.
As I rode through the pain, my eyes suddenly began to well up with tears. I wondered how the hell it was possible to experience such profound sadness and not lose the will to live. I wondered if it was possible to die from a broken heart. I wondered how I could live without my younger sister, my favorite person in the world. I wondered if I would ever feel happy again. As I pedaled through each song, tears streamed down my sweat-stained cheeks. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t care. I looked at my reflection in the full length mirror at the front of the room. I saw an empty shell of a person staring back. I barely recognized myself.
As I walked out of class into the slightly cool, dark summer night, a foreign emotion began to sink in: peace. I felt an unknown calmness in my heart for the first time since my sister passed away. It felt like my burden had been lifted. I felt light. I felt free. I felt hopeful.
I became addicted to SoulCycle. I went every week for months. I biked until my tears subsided and my heartache disintegrated. I biked until I was no longer marching to the beat of my pain, but dancing to the beat of the music. I biked until SoulCycle transition from an unconventional form of therapy to a wonderful session of sweat and fun.
It’s amazing to look back and see how far I’ve come and how mentally, emotionally and physically strong I really am. To know that I alone could bear the unbearable, that I alone could find a way to navigate the saddest time of my life, is something that makes me truly happy. To know that after that awfully long, lonely period, there really is nothing I can’t overcome, is something I find immense comfort in.