On Running and Anxiety
So, I have this thing called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s a mood disorder where you freak out about stupid shit and drive everyone around you crazy. I’ve been taking medicine for it since about age 26 and medication works really well for me. After a disastrous experiment of stopping my meds a few years ago, I have resigned myself to being on meds for this until I’m in the coffin. Really. I’m not wasting any more time suffering with this bullshit.
No one can stand me when I’m anxious. Even people that love me the most. I’m the grossest person alive. Seriously.
Anyway, before I learned what my fucking problem was, I developed all sorts of coping mechanisms and world views that shored up my tendency to panic and overthink and not sleep well and obsess over minutiae.
Even though I don’t have daily panic anymore, even though I sleep well (usually) and though I’m able to get through crises without full-on trembling flop sweat now, I still have been formed by the way my body processes and perceives stress.
Marrying my husband has been such good practice for dismantling some of my more persistent, malignant coping mechanisms. He really is a spontaneous person; he introduces chaos constantly and he excels in emergencies and crisis. Being adjacent to that has taught me that we can ride the wave and not drown in it. I don’t need to anticipate every move; I don’t need to plan the shit out of things; I don’t need to carry the worries of my family members. I can fudge along as I go and be okay. And they can carry their own shit. They can face their own consequences.
(Anxious people are very codependent, too, if you’re familiar with addiction in families. I was the WORST until I started learning about codependency and enabling.)
Anyway, another tool to dismantle my fearful approach to life, my general sense that I am lousy and everything I try will probably be lousy, too, has been running.
In addition to helping me sleep better and giving me lots of nice endorphins and keeping my body healthier, going on a run has taught me to STOP THINKING better than any talk therapy I’ve ever tried.
Before a run, I am checking all sorts of data. The time of day. The temperature. The weather. The time since I last ate/drank. What route will I take? Am I wearing a too-tight sports bra? Or one of the decent ones? Are these compression pants too tight or too loose? Will I need a hoodie? A hat? A rain jacket?
The best thing is just when I get single-minded and I just go on autopilot and I don’t plan and I don’t anticipate and I don’t strategize. I don’t know the route; I don’t know the distance; I don’t know how long I’m going to be out there; I don’t know anything. I’m going to run and we’ll see what develops.
We’ll see what develops: a phrase that anxious people are allergic to.
The worst thing that can happen when you just go for a run without thinking is that you have a kind of crappy run. And even then, you still went running. So you can boast about that or feel silently superior or however you want to frame it. So, really, dispensing with all my pre-emptive bullshit and JUST DOING IT is more than a cliche for me. It’s truth and it lets me continue to shed off all kinds of crap that I’ve convinced myself is worth working myself up into a lather over.
So, I go running. And sometimes it’s great. And sometimes it’s not. And sometimes I do plan it. But sometimes I don’t. And any route I take, I come back better.