This is one of the best feelings, a sense of perfect utopia, and a positive result of such intense irrational and anxious thoughts. This is what I achieved today, an incredible feeling! I will try my best to explain this extreme relationship one can have with their anxiety.
Without seeming too big-headed, I’m a rather good runner- well at least when I’m not suffering from anxiety. Last August I found myself starting to get obsessive with just about anything to do with a run. I was convinced that I’d have an asthma attack while out because there was too much pollen or it was too wet or too cold or whatever else the weather could have been on a given day. I was sure I’d hurt myself- I’d visualise myself having awful injuries, and I don’t know how probable it is for a runner to be decapitated after missing a curb, but my irrationality made it feel far too likely. I obsessed that people would judge me as I ran past- that I wasn’t good enough. And I would even visualise being assaulted violently while out running. These thoughts didn’t just appear one day, they grew like an unwanted weed, deeply rooted which, will speedily spread of left untreated. By the time it was September I was already too scared to run outside, I was however still able to feel safe running in the gym. This is to say I ignored the unsightly root (the problem) and covered it over with some AstroTurf. This covered up the issue well for a few months and allowed me the exercise at the gym that helps my anxiety. Then shit gets real. The roots have broken the membrane of the AstroTurf, and there’s a knotted jungle of terror ahead. I’m now too scared to go to the gym, so my anxiety is starting to spiral, smaller things are setting me off, and I’m struggling to feel safe to walk too far alone. I need to do something and soon! A friend once gave me some excellent advice: ‘Take baby steps.’ I often fall after being overwhelmed by doing too much too soon. This year when the weed of my anxiety had knotted up inside of me, I realised I needed to take baby steps.
I started by just putting on a running kit, not leaving the house or even the bedroom. I then started to cut back on the use of wine as my replacement for exercise. Next, I started some exercises at home, then in the gym, then the treadmill at the gym, and finally, I DID IT! I DID IT! I achieved a (very cautious little) OUTSIDE RUN! The best feeling ever. It took a good two hours of lying on the floor to calm down before I managed to leave the house and begin a run, which some people could have done faster as a walk if I’m honest. It wasn’t easy or a record-breaking speed by any means, but it’s one massive step to knowing it’ll be ok again.
I love running, but it also makes me too scared to leave the house. This is a sad reality of anxiety that it’s often the things you love the most that it steals from your life. When you finally win against it, it feels like you’ve made a fantastic left hook and he’s fallen hard to the ground. You’ve won, and while you know he’s still there, his not going to be getting up too soon. It’s the most beautiful victory.