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Alisha Perkins: How running saved my mental health

Alisha Perkins has suffered from crippling anxiety at times, but has found running to be an outlet that has helped her survive. Luke Weber

Alisha Perkins is married to Minnesota Twins player Glen Perkins, and is the mom of two young girls. After the birth of her oldest daughter, Addie, she was diagnosed with anxiety, which she describes as a "no-holds-barred, take-all-prisoners disease that traps you in your own mind."

Determined to "rip off the Band-Aid and get people talking" about mental illness, Perkins penned a book, Running Home, which details her battle with anxiety and how she became a runner. She shared an excerpt with us about the day she realized that running might be what saves her mental health.

I have been surrounded by runners and running my whole life. My cousins, whom I grew up with, and who are practically like sisters to me, are some of the most talented runners in the state of Minnesota. They tried countless times to get me to run in a family 4x400-meter relay in high school, but I always declined because 400 meters was way too far. (I highly regret this -- we would have kicked butt. Sorry, cousins.)

My college roommate, Annie, was also a runner, which is how I ended up meeting Glen. I would do my best to get my two-mile runs in while Annie would bang out an hour of running like it was no big deal. I always longed to be like that, but never understood it.

Then one day, I did understand. To set the stage, it was 2011 and we were in the midst of our seventh spring in Fort Myers, Florida, with our two young daughters in tow. Spring training is a funny thing, because you are in a foreign city for two months with no friends except your teammates, and no babysitters. You get where I am going with this, right? It was me and the kids together, 24/7, for two months.

Since my kids were little and the days were too hot, we didn't go to the games. That year, I never really saw many people other than my husband, which can do things to you. I was desperate for a conversation that didn't center around Dora, Goldfish crackers or pacifiers. When Glen returned home from the field, he was hot and tired, but I was also spent and needed time away.

One day, when he came home after work, I headed out for a run, not knowing that this run would change my running trajectory forever.

I ran my usual two miles (the distance I had now determined was enough to allow me to eat chocolate and not gain weight), but I couldn't go home yet. I wasn't ready. I convinced myself to keep going. I ended up running five miles; a full two miles farther than I had ever run before.

Not only did I beat my personal best that day in Florida, but something else happened on that run. For the first time ever, I experienced "runner's high." I am sure you have heard of this elusive phenomenon -- every runner talks about it. But until then, I had no idea what all the fuss was about. Every time someone mentioned it, I played along, feeling as though I were faking an orgasm.

I had never experienced what everyone eluded to, but on this magical day, when I couldn't take one more minute with my kids (sorry, girls), I had gotten there ... found the big running O. Before those five miles, I hated running. It felt too mundane and hard. But that was because I had never run long enough to get high.

That feeling makes you love running instead of loathe it. I tell everyone it happens after four miles, though that is just my theory.

The high makes you want to keep going, makes you fall in love with each footstep and leaves you intoxicated. Who'd have thought?

Something even greater happened for me out on that run, though: greater than the high was the release. The release of all this pent-up anxiety in my body that I hadn't found an outlet for until now.

My doctor told me when I was first diagnosed with anxiety that I had high levels of adrenaline running through my body; had I not had really low blood pressure, they likely would have put me on a beta-blocker instead of an anti-anxiety med. In running, I had found a way to release that pent-up adrenaline that did not involve bringing my heart to a near stop.

I entered the house that day feeling at ease and calm, something I hadn't felt in a very long time. I was hooked. Right then and there, I knew I was on to something. Glen could tell, too. He saw a more relaxed, calm, easy wife -- and he liked it.

To this day, when we argue, he will casually say, "Hey, when was the last time you went for a run?" He knows I can run it out and then whatever we were arguing about won't seem like such a big deal. He calls me his own springer spaniel; sometimes I just need to run.

So now, I was going to be a "runner."

Excerpted from Running Home by Alisha Perkins. © 2015 Alisha Perkins. Published by North Loop Books. Used by permission.