When I launched the Your Story campaign, I had no idea what to expect. I certainly wasn’t ready for the overwhelming stories of strength and beauty perpetuated by the contributors who reached out to participate.
This first story talks about the effect of fitness on anxiety. It is raw, it is real, and some may find it hard to read. However, the tenacity and inspiration captured in these words make the read worth it. Without further ado, here is Eva’s story.
When it’s bad, my anxiety is everything.
It’s every thought, it’s every feeling, it’s every breath. It’s all I hear, all I see and all I speak.
When it’s bad, I sometimes don’t recognize people I‘ve known my entire life. When it’s bad, I sometimes have to cut myself or punch my fist into a wall, just so that for that short moment I can feel enough pain to feel something other than the anxiety.
It’s rarely that bad, but it happens, and when it does it takes weeks to recover sometimes a month to recover.
When it isn’t bad my anxiety is just a voice inside my head, always making me aware of everything that can go wrong. It’s the voice spelling out every single mistake I make. Real or imaginary, that doesn’t seem to matter. The voice is never silent.
When I’m around people, it’s awful. There are so many things that I do that the anxiety tells me makes everyone hate me; it tells me so many more things can go wrong. When I’m not around people, it is even worse, because there is no noise to drown it out.
Anxiety Makes an Appearance
I developed anxiety just before I turned six years old. I was about to start school and follow in the footsteps of three fiercely talented brothers and sisters.
About eleven years later my therapist said, that it is likely the pressure is what kick-started the anxiety.
As a six-year-old, I wanted to kill myself. This feeling held on for about four years. When it came back at fifteen, I was fortunate enough to have a breakdown in front of my boyfriend at the time, who then forced me to talk to someone.
I started horseback riding when I was eleven. I found that the only time I could quiet the voice of my anxiety were when I was on a horse. Back then, I thought it was about control I had over the horse but so longed for in my life, and the connection with the horse that was so unlike my relationships with humans. The animals did not make me question everything I had done and said after our time together. I did not realize that exercise in itself played a major key.
I managed to kick the anti-depressants before I started university, but anxiety is not something that is cured. The voice isn’t silenced, you simply learn to listen a little less. At university, I met a guy. This could be a lovey dovey “he changed my life and saved me” kind of story, but it isn’t. That’s not how anxiety works; nobody will rescue you from its grasp. However, he was the reason I started to work out.
My First Taste of Fitness
The first time I was in the gym I was so scared. I made a ton of rules for myself to be able to cope with the experience. I had to stay for at least 20 minutes. I had to shower there. I had to do something else than just walk on the treadmill. Rules calm me down, so I made more. I would try the gym membership for two months. If I used the gym at least twice a week, it was worth the money, if not I would quit.
The Journey Continues
I ended up going more than twice a week. In fact, pretty quickly I went almost every day or at least every day I didn’t go riding. A lot of good things were happening in my life at that point, so the fact that my anxiety was behaving pretty well at this point didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was how I reacted during the weeks where I couldn’t find time to go to the gym. I soon realized whenever I stopped working out for about a week or so my anxiety got substantially worse. Up until this point I mostly worked out to get thin, but now I realized I had to work out to stay sane.
I have done many different types of sports since I came to this realization. Horseback riding has been the only constant. Right now I prefer BodyCombat and powerlifting. The combination of the two don’t just quiet the anxiety; they also build my self-esteem. They make me feel strong and like I can fight for myself, and that gives me a feeling of self-worth. It makes it easier to forgive myself when the anxiety tells me I shouldn’t.
I am nowhere near competing in any of my sports. I am not heading for medals or glory. But for 1-2 hours a day, the voices in my head are quiet, and that is worth more to me.
Be sure to comment and show Eva your support! Want to contribute to Your Story? Find more information here.