anxiety

Fear: The Dream Killer

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”
-Dorothy Thompson

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Let’s take a moment to talk about Fear.  We have all experienced it.  Its evolutional function was to keep us safe and alive.  However the problem comes when we are in no real danger and still living in a state of trepidation.  We are no longer living in a time when our lives are perpetually in danger, yet the fear remains.  Don’t think it’s affecting you?  Keep reading.

I grew up in a household with a constant undercurrent of fear.  My father suffers from mental illness and was labeled with a multitude of different diagnoses through my childhood.  While they struggled to find the right combination of meds, we lived with the constant anxiety that he might take off or worse.  My mother had promised to never have him hospitalized, so we saw first hand what he was like unmedicated and in the throngs of full on delusions.  At one point he disappeared for days and we weren’t sure if he was even alive.  With the changes in his meds, his personality also changed.  We never knew who we would be dealing with.  During most of that time he was paranoid, angry, and verbally and emotionally abusive toward my mother.  I learned to be hypervigilant at an early age, always aware of the slightest change in his mood.

The fear from my home life carried over into life outside of our house.  We all were charged with keeping the secret of my father’s illness as if it were something to be ashamed of.  We were not allowed to have friends over, and as a result were rarely invited to our classmates houses or birthday parties.  For the most part, we all coped by excelling in our studies.  I found solace in sports.  I did both cross country and track and joined just about every club in high school.  Anything to be out of the house.  Running was a chance to escape my problems, but it didn’t resolve my deep seeded anxiety.

I was afraid of everything growing up.  I was constantly praying and making deals with God.  I would count everything as way to feel like I had some control.  I’d see programs on aliens and armageddon and be too terrified to sleep.  Every thunderstorm I would curl up in my bed with rosary beads in hand.  I was terrified of going to school, of trying new things, and most of all of failing.  Being perfect was how I coped with my lack of self worth.  It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I became fed up with living in constant fear and challenged myself to do one thing that frightened me each day.  This is what I wrote about when I filled out my college applications.

By the time I left for college, I was well on my way to becoming my own person.  I was living on my own in the dorms and paying for my own school.  It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin.  I started working and volunteering, and spent my summers home constantly out of the house.  Yet, I never managed to escape my anxiety and self esteem issues completely.  Perhaps this is why I I was easily seduced by my abuser.  He frequently complimented me and made me feel like I was the center of his universe.  I would have done anything for him.

It was likely my upbringing that lead me to stay with my abuser so long, unaware of just how much fear and anxiety he had generated in my life- fear of saying or doing something that might upset him, fear of another outburst, fear of him doing something to embarrass me in public.  At no point in our relationship did I even realize I was being abused.  I had mistakingly thought that men who abuse their partners are aware that they are abusive.  In reality, people like my ex truly believe other people are the cause of all their problems and behave toward them accordingly.  This is because people like him are completely incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions and consider their victims the problem, not the other way around.

It was after I left my abuser that my fear and anxiety hit an all time head.  The PTSD symptoms I had were paralyzing.  You know that feeling you get when you are alone in the house at night and you hear a noise?  Imagine feeling like that all the time.  It’s literally exhausting.  It ruled my life, and I hated it.  Running and working out helped.  In fact, they were the only thing that helped– not therapy and not meds.  People see how much I train, and they think I’m super dedicated; but the truth is this is how I cope with my anxiety.  The more I trained, the more I needed to train to get the same sense of calm and relief.  Presently I need to workout 2-3 hours on my days off to feel relaxed the rest of the day.  At least it’s cheaper than therapy though, right?

Now while I realize that most of you have not had to grow up the way I did or deal with PTSD, we are not actually that different.  ImageWhat is different is that my anxiety and fear existed on such a large scale that I had to face them head on.  It was the only way I’d be able to function at all.  Yet, many people live their lives in fear without ever realizing how much it holds them back.

When is the last time you thought about something you wanted to do and then made an excuse to yourself about why you couldn’t or shouldn’t?  That is the fear talking.  Don’t say I could never run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or ultra.  The question is not a matter of can.  The question is whether you are willing to put in the effort.  Find a way. If it is truly a dream find a way to make it happen.  Get a coach, find a training plan, write inspirational notes to yourself, and build up to the person you need to be to accomplish that goal.  Perhaps you can’t do it now, but that is the point of establishing goals.  It’s a about morphing into a stronger, smarter, and more confident version of yourself.  Mold yourself into someone you can feel proud of.

Plus I will let you in on a little secret: getting outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself, while incredibly uncomfortable while you’re doing it, feels BEYOND AMAZING once you’ve done it!  It is one of the best feelings in the world- and it doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Maybe the first step in your case is just to believe you can.  That’s ok because we all have to start somewhere.  It’s your journey and the only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.  Make a commitment to yourself to grow into the person you have always dreamed of being.  Along the way you will learn to truly love and accept yourself; and the everyday fear of not being good enough will slip away.  It’s amazing how little you care about what other people think of you when you are truly happy with the person you’ve become.

Fear is just an obstacle getting in the way of your dreams, and it’s time to get over it.  Don’t let your inner critic hold you back.  He or she is just bitter about your awesomeness.  You are strong, inspiring, and courageous.  You have talents and gifts that need to be shared with the world.  It’s your time to start living fully and leave any lingering reservations in the dust.

Repeat after me: Today I stand no longer afraid.

I am not afraid to try new things– Sure it may be scary, but it’s what makes me feel like I am living!

I am not afraid of being disliked– I’m a great person.  I put others ahead of myself and truly care about the people in my life from friends and family to my employees and patients.  If other people can’t appreciate that, it’s truly their loss.

I am not afraid to fail– Because, hey, at least I am trying!  If I do fail or DNF then at least I know I’m testing my limits!  Have you ever stopped to think what you might be capable of if you just tried?  If you never try then how would you know?

I am not afraid to bear my soul– This blog is 100% me and my truth.  I am not going to hold anything back.  I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.  People can go ahead and judge, but I am going to stay true to myself.  How would I be any help to anyone else here if I wasn’t?

Who’s with me?  What fears are you ready to give up?

 

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Trying to Make the World a Better Place

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility.

It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’

Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

-Mr. Rogers

 helping-hand-quotes

I have been feeling fragile lately, as if the world itself is weighing on me.  While I had an amazing 2013 filled with adventure and love, many of my friends did not fare as well.  I feel like I knew more people to who lost loved ones this past year than in any year in my life to date.  Perhaps it’s just part of getting older.

Lately though, it seems there is more and more bad news everywhere I turn.  As much as I try to focus on the positive and avoid negativity, good news seems to be in far fewer supply these days.  I keep thinking at some point someone is going to have to catch a break, and then another call or post to the contrary happens.  Just in the past week I woke up to texts that my best friend’s husband (also a friend) was in the hospital and needed surgery.  Later that day my two bulldogs got into a fight so intense that one passed out (I thought she dropped dead and totally freaked out)… which lead to the excruciatingly painful decision that the younger one needs to be re-homed.  The whole situation is a long story, but suffice it to say it has been a long time coming, and we have tried everything to improve the situation including working with a trainer.

Already reeling from the heartbreak of losing one of my fur children, I found out today that a friend of mine who already lost her mother to lung cancer around Thanksgiving and then her father suddenly a few weeks later near Christmas has now lost her sister unexpectedly.  This latest development has had my head just spinning.  I just can’t reconcile having faith that no one is dealt more than she can handle with the fact that this girl has just lost three members of her family in less than 3 months.  No one should have to deal with that.  I have had all I can stomach of loss just from everything my friends have been going through, and here she is having to pull herself through burying yet another close family member.  How can you not think life is out to get you at that point?

1555472_10151987446654807_983311388_nSo my friends and I brought our heads together to try and figure out the best way to show our support.  We not only wanted to help, but to remind this girl that we will be there for her.  We wanted to show her that there are parts in life worth living even in the face of unfathomable grief.  We wanted to show her our love for her.  What we came up with was a fundraising page through gofundme to help alleviate the financial burden of three funerals, medical bills, and lost wages from missing work.

When we were planning the page I was excited.  I was so happy to be able to do something to help.  However, the instant I posted it I had a pit in my stomach.  I am an introvert by nature.  If only there were a way to save the world anonymously...  I immediately worried that I would not be able to get people to rally they way I envisioned they would in my head.  I worried about failing…. and then I worried about what would happen if we were really successful.  I worried about what people would think of me and about whether they would have a problem with me stepping up to do something publicly when I’m not part of the family.  I was afraid of offending people.  Am I the only person who gets this conflicted over a simple fundraising page?

Really, the issue comes down to putting myself out there.  You can’t help other people while sitting on your butt in the safety of your comfort zone, not if you really want to make a difference.  Does putting myself out there and attaching my name to a fundraising page make me uncomfortable? Absolutely.  Do I think this girl is worth it? Absolutely.  At the end of the day, does it really matter whether I am super successful at it? Probably not.  To someone struggle with the loss of three family members, my success or failure with raising money is probably not even a blip on her radar.  What matters, I hope, is that her other friends and I cared enough to take a leap and make an effort.  In the end, I hope that at least the thought that went into it will mean something.

Never Enough

“Women are taught to feel we’re not good enough, that we must live up to someone else’s standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am.”

Elle Macpherson

atelphobia

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I have a propensity toward over doing it when it comes to training.  I had thought (and hoped) that by working out with a trainer and optimizing my workouts that I would do better in the moderation department… Yeeeeaaahhh  Not so much. :-/

The problem is, no matter how much I run, bike, or train in a day: it just never seems like enough.  I’m not sure exactly what makes me feel like I need to work so hard.  It’s Imagelike a compulsion.  If I don’t workout at all I feel like crap.  If I go a week or more without training I get depressed.  A couple days without a run and my anxiety goes bonkers.  I have become so physically and psychologically dependent on exercise that the idea of not training or missing a day stresses me out.  It’s like I’m completely addicted to the endorphins.  There is nothing else that even comes close to alleviating my anxiety.

The problem is, the more I train, the more I feel like I need to train.  Doing a quick 5K on the treadmill just doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment now as it did a year or two ago.  These days I need to get in a good 8-10 miles at a clip to get any effect.- that’s on top of the 3 workouts a week with the trainer and the easily 30+ miles I’ve been biking a week. 

Maybe my problem is that the fitter I get, the harder I have to work to feel like I’m really pushing myself; and that is what training out is all about for me- pushing my limits and reminding myself that I am stronger than I thought.  The issue becomes that there are only so many hours in a day, and I can’t spend all of them training.  As it is, I already struggle to get in enough calories to keep up with what I’m doing.  I couldn’t imagine doing or eating any more in a day!

I need to find a way to deal with my anxiety that does not solely depend on working out.  Furthermore, I need to appreciate what I can get accomplished in a week and recognize that it’s more than what most people would be willing to take on.  I need to not compare myself to what other people are accomplishing because their my-weaknessesachievements have nothing to do with me or what I am capable of.  Lastly, I need to learn to not be so critical of myself, to stop judging myself based on what I’m accomplishing this moment, and instead to look at just how far I’ve come.  

There is always going to be someone faster, stronger, or fitter, but those people have nothing to do with my journey.  I have done half marathons, tough mudders, a marathon, took on the ultra beast, and I am still standing.  I may not be currently running 30 miles a week, but I am taking on cycling– and that is HUGE for me!

In fact, I just got my bike fitted today! With big girl clip-in pedals even!  To be honest, it scares the hell out of me more than anything else, but life is best lived outside the comfort zone.  Getting into cycling has been a huge fearhurdle for me, and instead of beating myself up that I’m not getting good at it faster or logging more miles in addition, I should be celebrating the fact that I am challenging myself on a whole new level.  Soooo that is what I am going to try to focus on doing.  Instead of obsessing about getting in enough mileage to run a marathon in addition to taking up cycling, I am going to try to focus on one thing at a time.  The most important thing for me right now is to concentrate on the cycling, so that is what I plan on doing.

Rather than stress myself out about what else I could be doing, I am going to continue to remind myself just how far I have come with that bike.  I have progressed from full on panic attacks to clip in shoes!  Again, HUGE!  I rode over 100 miles of hills streets, traffic, and busy intersections on a mountain bike and earned that road bike.  I pedaled though the anxiety and panic to a point where I can enjoy cycling… and I’m sure I will get back to that place once I get the hang of these new pedals… 😉

Revenge of the Shoulder Blade…

“The pride you gain is worth the pain.”  

-Dennis Ogilvie

Or  “my life on the injury roller coaster” 😉

I am not a super athlete; I’m not even athletic.  Rather, I am an orthopedic disaster.  I am used to being limited by my joints and spending time getting MRIs and Xrays.  I am accustomed to pushing through and blocking out pain.

However, 2 weeks ago when I tweaked my shoulder on that pull-up, I honestly wasn’t having pain.  I had a little soreness, but nothing to write home about.  Since then, I have been taking it pretty easy.  I haven’t done boot camp at all and only did Insanity once.  I’ve also avoided any lifting that might aggravate it..  The only thing I did do, which in retrospect was probably not a great idea, was go climbing a couple times- but I was pretty darn careful.

So yesterday when I woke up and my shoulder was bugging me a little I was kind of surprised.  I hadn’t worked out in 2 days, and hadn’t done anything to really trigger it.  I figured I must have just slept on it wrong.  I ended up sleeping a good part of the day because I was feeling under the weather (with allergy season hitting me like a ton of bricks) and had a hard time getting comfortable.

Then this morning I woke up with pain that literally took my breath away.  I couldn’t even turn my neck!  I managed to make it to work, but found myself cradling my left arm most of the day because it was so painful just to let it hang- even on the max ibuprofen dose.  I left work early to see an ortho doc and it turns out I have some muscle spasm going on.  Apparently it doesn’t take much to aggravate your shoulder muscles (specifically the infraspinatus muscles) and it takes FOREVER for them to heal.  In other words: no climbing, Insanity, boot camp, or lifting for at least the next week.  😦  I wonder if the 4 days I haven’t done anything already this week counts… jk

It looks like the stationary bike and stair climber are going to be my BFFs for a while.  Hopefully I will at least be able to run soon.  I am also hoping to be healed enough in 3 wks to still do the Tough Mudder (even if I have to skip obstacles), but I’m thinking that may be pushing it…

In case anyone is wondering how I am coping… I went for some retail therapy and bought the loudest running shorts I could find (figuring it’s going to be one of the few forms of exercise I’ll be allowed for some time...) 

As much as I am I frustrated about this whole setback, I am really trying to roll with it.  In reality, I am extremely grateful that it is just a muscle spasm and not a tear or neck injury (especially with all the numbness down my arm and in my fingers!).  In the grand scheme of things, a couple weeks of taking it easy is not going to set me way back.  Sure it sucks, but it could be a lot worse.

Normally, I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to physical discomfort.  I have spent my whole life with knee caps that pop in and out of place and have put myself through some serious physical torture. BUT THIS PAIN WAS NO JOKE.  If I could have found a spot to curl up and cry at work today I would have.  I don’t ever want to have a muscle spasm EVER AGAIN.  I would rather run a whole marathon TWICE…IN A ROW.

So it’s back to “resting” for me.  Unfortunately, shit happens. No point in getting upset or feeling sorry for myself about it.  Really, there’s not much I can do about it now other than regroup (and brace myself for the onslaught of lectures from the non-exercise inclined community about overtraining and how I push myself too hard… Btw just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m entitled to respectfully ignore it.  Your concern is appreciated, but completely unnecessary.  I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself.  I am strong and intelligent enough to make my own decisions about what’s healthy for me.  Exercise is my anti-stress, antidepressant, and instant center.  Risking injury every once in a while to stay sane and love myself is a trade off I am more than willing to make.  Besides, if I don’t ever push to my limits, how will I ever know them?).  Luckily, Pike’s Peak and the Spartan Ultra Beast are still months away with plenty of time to train.

In the meantime, I am going to do my best to reduce my stress and take care of myself.  As much as people like to point the finger at over training anytime I get run down or sick, the truth is my job has really been wearing on me.  My work environment can be toxic at times and being an emotional sponge– it really takes a toll on me.  Add on top of that everything going on with my mom and her dog and my grandmother getting sick, and you can see how a person can get worn thin.  With all the chaos I haven’t been eating that great (or enough) or getting much sleep- (which is generally the key component for me getting sick).

For me, exercise is the one thing that helps me combat all that stress, gives me an appetite (and makes me crave healthy food), and helps me sleep at night.  I feel more sore and miserable when I don’t work out than when I do.  There is no way I am going to let anyone try to convince me it isn’t good for me.

Last night I slept funny and I woke up with a terrible muscle spasm.  It could have happened to anyone.  It’s not a reason to give up or stop pushing.  Before I started really working out again, my knee caps popped out of place, I had crippling anxiety, felt weak and unsafe, and barely knew myself.  I am not about to give up all the ground I’ve made over some silly muscle spasm.  It’s not in me to quit… guess that’s just the beast in me. 😉

Holy Hip Flexors!

“I’m smiling because I love it.”

Shaun T.

Story of my life!

Holy shoulders! Holy hurt!

The good news is month one of Insanity is done.  The bad news is (and let’s be truthful- no one is actually surprised here) “RECOVERY” week has started, and there are still level 1 drills (BOOOO!).  My trainer had warned me that the recovery week was no joke.  It was filled with a lot of torture as promised, but still totally doable.

To be honest, I was really looking forward to the new workout this morning for 2 reasons. 1) I was getting REALLY BORED with repeating the other workouts day in and out (now I get the same one for another 5 days straight…wooohooo!). 2) I needed the stretching after hitting the gym yesterday.

It won't kill you. I promise. No one has ever died of pain.

Plus, I as much as I hate it at times (like when I’m doing it)- I still LOVE IT (yes, even the level 1 drills).  It’s the best substitute I have for missing boot camp, and even if it isn’t quite as challenging as the the torture Mike inflicts, it’s still a really good workout and a great way to start the day.

The other bad news is I am not as 100% as I originally thought yesterday. lol  Our group training session totally kicked my butt, and it wasn’t even that hard.  Not that it wasn’t hard, but there were a few exercises I don’t normally struggle with that were really difficult for me.  For example, usually on ball-to-wall (you squat and then throw a medicine ball up at the wall and repeat) I use the heavy ball and crank them out, but last night I had a lighter one and I still felt fatigued.  I even struggled with the jump rope!

Damn straight!

Admittedly, doing Insanity in the morning, and lifting to train for my pull-ups immediately beforehand probably affected my performance some; but I was dragging WAY MORE than usual.  I hate that feeling- especially because I know it means I should probably back off some until I really am back at 100%.  On a side note I still totally kicked ass on the box jumps and killed my previous PR on the tall box. 🙂

I don’t know why I am so impatient when it comes to exercise.  I hate when I don’t feel like I’m making progress, even maintaining isn’t enough for me.  I have this little fire burning inside that is always driving me to push harder, get stronger, jump higher, move faster, and conquer the next challenge.  Why? Because making those strides is empowering and the feeling is addictive.  I honestly don’t care as much about my physical appearance as I do about ability.  When I demolish a hard workout, I truly feel like I can do anything.  It is the best high there is- completely intoxicating.  It also an amazing outlet and the most effective treatment for my anxiety/PTSD I’ve found yet.

I don’t expect everyone to understand my relationship with fitness.  In fact, most people won’t, and that’s okay with me.  I have my boot camp family and enough people in my life who get it not to be concerned with the ones who don’t. 🙂

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or stand in the way of your dreams.  If something is important to you, just go for it and forget what anyone else has to say about it.  The only person who can ever stand in your way is you.  You are as unstoppable as you choose to be.  Go out and conquer your goals- whether it’s a marathon or a jog around the block.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  If you commit and believe, you WILL SUCCEED.

Another great one from Motivation,Hope,Strength. Be sure to check out their Facebook page!

What a Difference A Year Makes!

“Happiness is not a matter of good fortune or worldly possessions. It’s a mental attitude. It comes from appreciating what we have, instead of being miserable about what we don’t have.

It’s so simple, yet so hard for the human mind to comprehend.”

-Bits and Pieces 

Today I turn 29.  It’s officially the last year of my twenties.  While many people (especially women) dread turning another year older, I find myself approaching the big 3-0 with the opposite sentiment.  Why? Because life just keeps getting better, and I can’t to see what this next year has in store for me.

Originally, I had anticipated celebrating by going out today; but instead find myself just enjoying the morning at home.  I don’t need any flash or glam today.  I don’t need anything.  It is the most wonderful feeling of contentment- something I don’t think I ever knew how to be until recently (especially sitting still). lol  I guess some things get easier with age. 😉

My Birthday card from my brother and his girlfriend. They know me so well.

I think a large part of how amazing today feels comes from how low things were a year ago (and the year before).  I have had to rebuild my life from the ground up, and along the way I rebuilt myself.  I am stronger, fitter, more self aware and self assured, and all around healthier.  Life is good again.  In fact, it’s better than ever.  I’m better than ever.  A year ago (even 6 months ago), I was still keeping people at arms length.  Now, I can can finally let my guard down and allow people to see the real me.

Borrowed from my girl Kelly

I don’t worry about other people hurting me anymore because I am so much more confident and secure in who I am.  I know I can take the best of what they can dish out.  No person is strong enough to break me. I can handle life’s knocks.  If I get knocked down, you can be sure I’ll get right back up.  It’s going to take more than some harsh words or bumps in the road to break my stride at this point in my life. I have a solid foundation now.  I have a tight support system, and an army of people who LOVE and ACCEPT me FOR ME.

I opened my heart to the world again, and got it completely filled in return. I am SO BLESSED to have as many wonderful people in my life as I do- and I truly appreciate each and every one!  My phone has been ringing off the hook all morning with Facebook alerts and birthday well wishes.  It’s overwhelming at times just how much love and support I have in my life now.  I never thought I would have so many genuine friendships.  The thought of spending time with a lot of people used to exhaust me (or incite anxiety), however, now I’m often impressed at just how easy it is to maintain a great number of relationships when they are healthy and genuine.

All of the hurt, anxiety, and misery I endured makes everything about life so much sweeter now.  I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone, but I also wouldn’t change it.  It made me who I am today.  It brought me to where I am- and I like where I’m at.  29 is going to be a great year for me because I’m determined to live it up.  I am going into my thirties with a bang!

Happiness comes from developing a healthy relationship with yourself. Like any relationship, it takes work.  There will be ups and downs.  There will be times when you will be fed up; but at the end of the day it’ll be worth it.  I have made a commitment to be happy.  No one can do it for me.  I make a conscious effort at it everyday.  Today, that effort will include my next Insanity workout and spending time with the people who matter most to me. 🙂