I just wanted to write about my experience. Partly for others, partly for myself if I find myself in that unfortunate place again.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been quiet, and for good reason. I’ve been trying to climb out of the dark hole I put myself in these past few months. I finally am feeling a lot more like myself and am able to move forward. You see, I have a pretty strong family history of anxiety and depression and mine is usually doesn’t give me much trouble other than the occasional stressful day. About 6-8 weeks ago something just changed. I dug myself into a hole in many ways, making my anxiety worse than it’s ever been. Now this isn’t something people talk about much, it’s all talk about sunshine and rainbows when it comes to performing at a high level. But I think a lot of people who have anxiety and/or depression get into running because it helps them feel normal, calm. And it’s important to talk about disappointments as much as success. It’s the reality of a sport that can be so accurately measured by time and distance, minutes and seconds.
I put far too much on my plate between working full time, doing a (hard) online class in half the time it’s supposed to take, applying to school, and trying to run up to my potential all at the same time. I know myself pretty well to know that most of my anxiety stems from 1) fear of change and 2) fear of failure. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, one of these usually lie beneath the issue. This year I had one of the best builds I’ve ever had and truly was in the best shape I’ve ever been. As my season neared a close, I felt as though I failed; I had squandered some of the best fitness I had ever had. This was really disappointing. The first real blow was my poor performance at Around the Bay and I never really let go of that. Each race I just got more disappointed and frustrated at myself. And for the last 4 weeks of training leading into Ottawa, I couldn’t finish a workout to save my life. Just continuously getting overwhelmed and quitting half way through. I felt a heaviness in my chest every day especially during workouts. So hitting the “burn-out” point in training was not a great start. On top of it all, I was completely overwhelmed with school. I knew I had to finish that class to get in to school but it was a 12month class and I had 6 to do it. I spent every spare minute at work studying between clients (during my 10hr day) then came home to studying a few more hours each night, 8plus hours on weekend days. I felt completely disappointed here too, I wasn’t remembering things very well and doing subpar on my tests even though I was studying as much as I could.
By the time I hit Ottawa 10k, I was only able to muster enough will power to focus for 3k of the race before cutting my losses and jogging it in to the finish. I had my final test booked 9days after Ottawa and promised myself the week off of running. I still had to study but at least one stressor was reduced. Or so I thought. The heaviness that I had sitting on my chest for the last 6 weeks only worsened this week as I neared the end of my course.
Instead of running on my lunch breaks I went for hour long nature walks and tried to just relax. I still felt very overwhelmed and internally upset. The biggest thing I’m sure was the stress of having such a big change coming up in my life, a lot of unknowns. How will training go? Will I do well enough in school? Will I be able to manage the commute.. etc etc. My normal mindset would just tell me to worry about each as I got there and that everything would be fine. My anxiety mindset filled in the gaps with what ifs. By the end of the week off of running I just about had a melt down because my car tire needed air in it. I still managed to go into work that day but I was a shell of myself. The 6th day after Ottawa I allowed myself to go for a run since the lack of running was only making my anxiety way way worse. I ended up staying out in the Dundas trails for 18k and just going for an adventure run.
As the following Monday’s test passed I felt a lot more calm and in control of my life again. I ran every other day that week and started to feel like myself again. I’m not giving myself and crazy pressure for the time being planning races and goal times. I’ll wait for that. I feel that now being able to talk about this experience will help me move on from a very rough patch that was the past few months. It’s was good to stay off social media for the last few weeks to allow my mental wellbeing to recover, as social media is often one of the worst things; mindlessly scrolling when you’re not at your best. Everyone only posts about the best and the greatest things they’ve done that day and it can often leave you feeling insignificant. I’m happy that I was able to come out the other side and feel normal on my own. Not everyone can be so lucky. If you are having a rough time, not that it helps, but know that even people with the best mental tools and strategies have a hard time sometimes too. Try to do things you love. I got back into painting art finally last week and I have felt really happy about that. And give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can do, that is enough. It happens, and it sucks. Just worry about yourself. Other things in life can wait. I’m not looking for comments about how awesome I am or anything like that, I just wanted to tell my story.