Scared to live
The first time I remember experiencing fear I was four years old, I'd started a new school in a new country and I went and hid in the bathroom.This was probably my first encounter with anxiety. Not knowing what is going to happen, the unknown, or not known how to do something are really big triggers for me. Of course, at age four all I knew was that I was in a room full of strangers and it suddenly made me very uncomfortable. Hiding in a small bathroom, with four walls and a closing door, felt like safety. That is until the teacher came to coax me out of there and back into the classroom.
As life would have it, anxiety was not something I grew outgrew. I suffered it when I had to go to school after being picked on by the older girls the day before. I suffered it when I thought I didn't look pretty enough, or thin enough. I suffered it when there was a test at school, usually in PE because back then physical exercise was not something I loved! I'm sure you get my point, it followed me around my whole childhood. In the nineties in Spain no one seemed to know what anxiety was or that there were ways to help it.
When I was a teenager my parents split up, and the usual issues with "where will the kids live" began. At first I moved from Spain, where I had grown up, to England. The school was different, with uniforms and kids I'd never met. I was also living with my dad, and I missed my mum who had stayed in Spain. Each morning I woke up to go to school I would projectile vomit. Full on exorcist puke my guts up with no end in sight. Until my dad relented and allowed me to stay home, when my body would calm down and I'd feel better. This is one of the ways anxiety can present itself, but mental health issues were not widely talked about way back when I was a teenager.
Not knowing how to handle my illness, my dad put me on a plane and sent me to live with my mum. The situation and set up was just as weird and new to me. New city, new school, new classmates... but at least it was in a country I knew. My mum, who will love to hear this, had the patience of a saint for my anxiety. Every morning she would walk me to the bus stop to go to school, reassuring me that once I got there I would be fine. The whole time I threw my guts up and wondered where my body was getting all this from because I knew full well I had not eaten breakfast!
Still, my mum persevered and after a few gross weeks my body calmed down and I just stopped feeling anxious about school. The funny thing is I met one of my best friends on the first day at that school. We spent every day together, even during the holidays. So it wasn't a fear of being alone, which has never really bothered me. In fact being alone is often when I've felt the most comforted. All personal development books will tell you that you have to be happy with who you are, that you have to be able to spend time with yourself without feeling the need to fill it. I have that down to a tee. My "problem" is with the outside world and its input.
Recently my health took a hit. I was feeling drained and nauseous. So I stopped working out, following medical advice... but then I struggled to get started again. I kept to my nutrition plan, and I am happy to report that in all the time I haven't worked out I haven't put on a single pound. Though I have lost some definition on my abs! Not working out became a problem, one that I didn't want to recognise. Both my fit fam and my actual fam encouraged me to try gentle workouts, to start again. The more people mentioned it though, the more I crept into my shell. Why? I have no idea. No. That's a lie. Because I was scared. I didn't know what would happen. I didn't know if I would still feel really ill and cause another set back. I didn't know if I would have lost the muscle and stamina I'd built up. I didn't know if I still could... which I understand is silly given that in April I started my fitness journey from scratch and over 25lb heavier...
My anxiety took on a different form this time. I became isolated, not wanting to share my thoughts, talking to my friends less, making less plans, scared of showing up to planned days out or dates... I became scared that everything I was doing was the wrong thing. What I did or said all felt wrong. I also became increasingly agitated, aggressive, sad, tired, angry, resentful... My mind felt foggy. I could see myself spiralling and yet incapable of stopping. A few friends told me they were worried about me, but I didn't reach out. My coach reached out to me, and I must admit although I wanted to talk to her and explain... I couldn't. My relationship with my boyfriend reached breaking point.
So what triggered this recent bout of anxiety? Well, as far as I can tell, it's a fear of happiness. Or maybe a fear of losing that happiness. It's a fear so strong I feel like that four year old me, hiding in a cubicle and not replying to the teacher who is asking me if I'm ok from the other side of the door. I want to say I'm not. That I'm scared. I want to open the door and take her hand, go back out there and enjoy myself. I want to ask for help and accept it without feeling like a failure.
So instead of wallowing. Instead of giving up. This morning I got up, I drank my nutrition dense protein shake, I went to work early and engaged with my job and work colleagues. I ate healthy food. And when I got home, I put on my workout gear, picked up the heavier weights my brother bought me for my birthday and I did a workout. I did my best. I pushed hard. And I lifted those heavier weights, for the whole workout! And I survived it, it's two hours later and although my arms are still shaking like mad nothing hurts and I do not feel exhausted or ill...
Am I cured? No, let's not pretend that one workout will cure me. Did I do the right thing? Yes, for once I chose to listen to advice, to treat myself with kindness and to do the one thing I know helps me stay happy. It is true that you NEVER regret a workout. But how many times have you said "I really wish I'd done a workout today, I would feel..." (better, satisfied, happier, etc), I for one have said that to myself countless times over the last few weeks.
So what am I going to do next? I'm going to talk to my friends more. I'm going to organise seeing them and start going out more. I am not going to start any more arguments this year, even if that means playing monopoly at Christmas and watching football on tv! I am going to forgive myself, because mental health issues are not your own fault. I am not going to keep apologising for my behaviour, I am going to work on changing it. I am going to visit my gp and ask for medical advice. I am also going to work out every damn day! And I am going to try my best to be happy, as often and for as long as I can.
If you or someone you love suffers with anxiety I'd love to hear your story, please leave a comment below or send me a message, I'd love to connect! Do you have any advice, hints or tips? What works for you?