For as long as I can remember I had anxiety.
A couple of years ago I promised myself that I was going to run my anxiety instead of it running me. It’s not easy, I still have my good days and my bad days but I’ve grown to realize even more that my running is not only critical for my physical health but also my mental health.
I didn’t put two and two together that I actually had anxiety until I was an adult, I just thought everyone felt anxious. When I was younger I woke up every morning dreading school, worrying over tests, homework, etc. As I got older it got better in a lot of ways or maybe I was just so used to it that I didn’t notice it as much. When I did notice it coming on I chalked it up to becoming an adult, having a stressful job, and navigating new chapters in my life.
While I didn’t start running for my mental health I couldn’t deny the benefits it gave me. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate that gift and just thought of it as a cool perk.
After having my daughter my anxiety skyrocketed. As a new parent, there is so much that you aren’t prepared for even if you think that you are. You often can’t foresee what the amazing blessing of a child will do for you or change about you. Postpartum I was worried about keeping her healthy, fed, and overall happy—all of a sudden I was responsible for a whole other human, and even after 9 months of baking, I hadn’t fully comprehended what a weight that puts on someone.
I took time to heal and slowly got back into a groove that looked nothing like it had before. Squeezing in feedings, keeping myself fed, and finding time to sleep was hard enough let alone dedicating time to move my body. I loved being a mom, I had a healthy child, and I was lucky to get to stay home, but none of that means that motherhood is easy. The comeback was hard, full of twists and turns and was definitely not linear (still isn’t) but with every run I become a better mom, friend and overall person.
It really was only at that point in my life I realized: If I don’t run, I’m just not me (cue a light hearted reference the the Snickers commercial lol)
When I run, my mind is just a little calmer and clearer. My creativity flows and I think of the most amazing/random ideas possible. It’s almost like with each step my lungs open and it allows my brain to do the same. The endorphins don’t hurt either I feel free, happy, and like anything is possible. Some may call it the runners high but I just consider it my happy place. On my worst days, I wish I could bottle it up and be able to pull it out whenever I need it. While I can’t always go for a run during those times over overwhelming doubt, I do try to visualize that feeling all over again.
I imagine running down the street with a cool breeze on my back, my feet hitting the pavement in rhythm to the music, and not having to do anything but be in that moment in time. It sounds cheesy but often it’s one of the few things that bring me back down.
Now if you do not struggle with anxiety it may seem a bit odd to always have that anxious feeling but for many of us, that is our day-to-day life. While I do have other tools to help me it takes a full toolbox to manage it. Often that’s why I don’t like the saying “running is my therapy” because, at the end of the day, running is not enough.
Running is an important piece of a very complicated puzzle.
I don’t speak outwardly about my anxiety even though I am a big supporter of mental health. It always seemed too personal to share and I’ll admit that the stigma against it doesn’t do much to quell my apprehension. However, I have embraced the fact that sometimes doing the uncomfortable is important and even though I don’t have a massive following I hope that one person reads this and feels less alone or that they finally feel like someone gets it. I’ve written many drafts and then deleted them but I feel like now I’m in a good place to share my own experience for Mental Health Awareness Month. I know other people/athletes speaking out about their struggles has lifted me, inspired me, and helped to reduce the stigma.
I want to be that voice for someone else no matter how small.
The only way out is through. Every day is a new chance for the day to go better, to learn something new, and for good things to happen. Even in the darkest of times, the sun WILL come up tomorrow, and I want to make sure that no one ever forgets that.