"Welcome to my World"
This blog features a guest article written by a friend and fellow coach, Max. Max talks openly about her experience living with a form of anxiety disorder, one that really came to my attention during the lead up to lockdown. As the coronavirus was beginning to take hold and we moved into a world of uncertainty and fear, I noticed that my running buddy was becoming more and more reluctant to run. We spoke about her concerns, and Max agreed to put her thoughts down in writing.
What struck me was how well my fellow coach could hide this issue, and so whilst I was aware that Max found certain situations difficult, I had no idea to what level, or what help she had sought in the past. And this is hardly uncommon – we have no idea what goes on inside peoples lives and indeed in their heads, making us quick to judge without empathy or understanding. Max hopes that by sharing her story, people like me will gain a clearer insight into one of many forms of anxiety, one that may affect more people than we imagine. And the more we can talk about mental health, the good, the bad and everything in between, the more we will help to reduce the stigma around the topic.
Thank you, my friend, for shining a ray of sunlight on this issue.
“Welcome to my world…
No truer word has been said. That is a phrase I always think is chucked around and used in jest but never really used true to its expressive sense.
Not many people know this but since the age of 8 I have had a, now diagnosed, anxiety disorder, Emetophobia. It’s a phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. Yes, it sounds weird and freakish but it’s real and something that developed in my mind in my younger years. I put coping mechanism controls into place and I lived my life around it. Those controls over the last 40 years have been my lifeline, the constant analysis, assessment of body language, the colour of a face, touching door handles with sleeves, obsessively washing hands, using hand gel, hyper alert to certain noises until the announcement of the Norovirus back in the community brings me into meltdown.
The turning point in my life came when my son was moving out of my controlled, nurturing zone into the pre-school environment. The controls I had in our home and lives no longer worked, I had to ‘go with the flow’. ‘If he caught the norovirus, he caught it’ was a mind-set I had to adopt but that mentality doesn’t sit well with a control freak! The panic, the fear and the heightened anxiety became too much to bear and I hit a brick wall of depression and anxiety.
Prescriptive drugs, CBT, psychologists, reiki, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, meditation and a whole host of other therapies have all been dabbled with to bring some relief but there is only one thing that I can say that’s helped with the management. This is where running comes into play.
I’ve been active all my life. Swimming, gymnastics, netball, athletics - PE at school was my favourite lesson - aerobics, cycling, weight training. All activities to distract myself from reality for a short duration but nothing can compare to how running neutralises the anxiety, settles my breathing rhythms, provides the headspace to rationalise the racing thoughts, releases the endorphins and neutralises the cortisol.
March 2020 - to date and for how much longer… Welcome to my world… The recent uncertainty of the covid-19 virus, combined with other life stressors has taken my everyday anxiety to levels it hasn’t been to for a long long time. Hand washing, hands up sleeves to open doors, applying gel, surveying people’s faces, keeping your distance from the people around you, always on alert, the feeling that you can’t relax. The constant body scans and questions ‘am I feeling the symptoms?’, become all-consuming with the continuous flow of cortisol and adrenalin around the body; it becomes totally overwhelming and the anxiety kicks in. The drive to run away from the world is so strong. Social distancing enforcement and the increased levels of awareness of this silent virus makes everyday activity a challenge but to muster the motivation to put my trainers on amongst this array of emotions is even harder.
The one thing I have to draw on is the knowledge that once I’m out there running, the world will become a slightly easier place. The head talk, rumination, questions and all-consuming anxiety will lift and for the short but all important duration I can forgot about everything other than the sound of my breathing, thud of my feet and the immediate world around me.