I run because it is the most natural medicine that has been able to remedy my anxiety and lay to rest all of my worries and fears!
Anxiety is a MFer. It is one of the most crippling feelings to ever grip my soul. It would leave me doubting my capabilities, my decisions, and every person and structure around me.
I cannot pinpoint an exact trigger moment in life to say when I started struggling with anxiety, but definitely at some point in my childhood. It wasn’t until my twenties that I truly became debilitated by anxiety attacks, with no explanation to what I was experiencing.
It was as if someone else had taken up random, unexpected residence in my mind, at the most inopportune times, in the form of worry and self-doubt.
Anxiety attacks would come over me, shroud my mind and mood, take away my breath, and cause my very bone structure to tremble within my skin. It was as if someone else had taken up random, unexpected residence in my mind, at the most inopportune times, in the form of worry and self-doubt. I would say that it peaked an all-time high in 2010, not long after I turned the golden twenty-five (the first time). 2010 was my first full year as a soldier in the Louisiana Army National Guard, as well as the year I got divorced and started living alone for the first time in my life; did I mention with a 3-year-old daughter and heading back to college for my Master’s Degree?!
By my late twenties, anxiety had crept so deep into the very essence of my soul, I had accepted it as a personality trait. Now, I can see all of the ways that I let anxiety dominate my life, and all of the ways I utilized it as an excuse for poor behaviors and bad habits. Ultimately, because of my anxiety I would be reserved in crowds of new people and often labelled defensive “with a bad attitude” (because I was defensive with a bad attitude)! Anxiety made me worry about every detail, replay every past decision and conversation, envision every possible outcome, predict worst case scenarios; it was exhausting and I had no clue how to channel it into something positive or constructive. My coping mechanism was to put a smile on and avoid avoid avoid! This was before I discovered the power of long distance running.
I’ve always enjoyed being active, but running anything past a mile or two was never my thing. I ran track in high school, but the 400m (one lap around the track) was enough for me.
I’ve always had a passion for yoga and strength workouts. Leaving everything I have to give in the gym has been my go to in times of frustration since I hit the reset button in life in 2010. I served eight years in the Louisiana Army National Guard, and my military training is by far the hardest physical challenges I have ever faced. The Army made me hate running even more. There’s something about someone forcing you to run miles on miles, in horrible weather and in combat boots, that does absolutely nothing for building a like for it. Most runs in the Army resulted in me standing on the side of the street vomiting and limping.
Also, at this time, my anxiety was back and rearing its ugly head and I was facing stress from both my personal and professional life.
In Spring of 2015, I had a conversation with a friend who had just ran the Crescent City Classic 10k, she left me with the desire to try to train to run one myself. More than anything, as a gym junkie, I saw it as a new physical challenge to switch up my workout routine. Also, at this time, my anxiety was back and rearing its ugly head and I was facing stress from both my personal and professional life. I was at a crossroads with my military life, and I had to make the decision whether or not to stay in and continue to pursue my military career as an officer. I had just been accepted into my PhD program and I was trying to wrap my mind around going back to school a third time for four more years. To add to it all, my personal dating life was crashing and burning. A couple of weeks into a 5k training plan, I had a horrible week that left me emotionally spent in ways I just wasn’t prepared for. I couldn’t muster up the desire to do much of anything, let alone run, I tried and felt sluggish. I took the weekend, went out-of-town, and put on my running shoes in new territory. Afterwards, I was on such a natural high and endorphin rush. I mentally made the decision right there to switch things up.
That summer I ran almost every day. I was pushing myself physically to run farther and faster than I had ever ran before. Mentally, I felt like a new person. Even if I was in a bad mood when I started a run, I ended each run with the biggest grin! The sense of euphoria was so strong I can still feel it. I still smile when I reflect on how amazing those moments felt for me. In those moments I was running purely for my sanity.
Running has been my refuge ever since. Running has become one of my forms of meditation. Running gives me the head space to take note of all of the many worries, fears, deadlines, and to-do lists circling through my mind; acknowledge their presence; and still inhabit the present moment to enjoy my run and tackle life.