I got sick this time last year.
I love to exercise, I really do. I think I hated it for at least the first 29 years of my life. It got in the way of drinking and smoking, so you can imagine how huge the turnaround was when I first started to get off my butt. I spewed at my first boot camp class!
But ever since that first horrendous, torturous class I've kept myself going back, to boot camp and now to TRX, tabata, dance class, tone, yoga, swimming, spin class - you name it, I'm up for it. Why? Yeah, so it helps control my weight (my diet is something I have only just started changing after all these years), and it has made made fitter now in my 30s than I was in my 20s (and probably in my teenage years too). But, most of all - when I walk into the gym, it's a sensory overload for my brain. From the second I smell the blood, sweat and tears, every pain point I've had from the day seems to melt and disappear. I've programmed my brain that way, because it knows that the physical exercise I'm about to do is going to flood it with feel good chemicals. Walking into the gym is just the start, it's like the moment a junkie sees the needle - it's a fixation and I have it. I have it because if I don't do it, my anxiety starts to rumble and my OCD can kick back in, spiralling me into thoughts of 'I'm not healthy enough', 'I'm not good enough', 'I'm hopeless at my job', 'everyone hates me'. You know, the usual disgusting things we say to ourselves...Except mine start and won't stop.
Then I get the physical sensations in my stomach, like a thousand faulty electrical wires rubbing against each other and sparking but never quite lighting a fire, just keeping me nauseous. Shallow breath that makes me feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, I will also sometimes get numb finger tips, itchy feet, throat swelling (psychosomatic, it's not actually happening) and the worst of all - dizziness/vertigo. It's hell. I said to someone this week that staying in a haunted hotel for me would be a breeze, because there is NOTHING scarier than my own brain and what it does to my body when I'm not well.
So what's my point you ask? Well, I've been on meds since Feb this year and honestly, my life completely changed. I've had tiny rumblings of anxiety in the past 8 months but nothing like what I was used to.
Unfortunately though, I've been paying attention to myself over the past two weeks and I'm a bit gutted to report that she's there, my anxiety, lurking and ready for the pounce. I've been worried about my rising levels and I've been hiding it (as I always do) but tonight I said no! People need to hear this, people need to know that medications don't always 'cure' everything all the time and that mental illness is situational and circumstantial as well as chemical. And, right now I'm struggling with all of these things...My job has changed and I've been given more responsibility, in fact, in a recent recruitment process I was labelled as 'the most important person to impress' which to me is madness (because of my insecurities at work) but it shows me just how much I have dedicated to the job and how far I've come from the toxic environment I used to work in.
It's also nearly November. Last year I had the most almighty breakdown because I started to struggle with my anxiety in November, and I kept it hidden until I was practically forced to the doctor by a good friend in Feb. The picture of me with this article is from November last year, and it was the very last time I felt 'ok' before the meds. November and December weigh down on me because everyone goes batshit insane at this time of the year - we're super busy at work, everyone starts driving like a maniac, everyone wants to catch up, the weather gets hot and sticky and of course, who can forget that Christmas is looming...
I thought I'd be ok this time. But, in really paying attention to myself recently I'm not. This year, instead of ignoring it I'm working on it. People who are demanding more time from me than I can give, I'm having to be strong and say no. I'm also finding that my exercising isn't helping me right now. I went to the gym 5 times last week and while the effects straight after were awesome, my body was aching for me to stop. But, my addict brain kept telling me to go back for more. So, last night I made a choice that I wouldn't have done last year. I flagged the gym and went straight home, ate a quick (healthy) dinner and then went straight to bed. The difference it has made today is phenomenal. And it has taught me that I really, really need to listen to what my body is telling me. And so should you. If you're tired but you feel guilty about cancelling commitments, DON'T. If you're body is so exhausted you feel like you could sleep at 6pm, go to bed. If you feel like you've lost touch with people and you have a free weekend this weekend so you should catch up - but what you really want to do is potter at home and talk to no one, lock the doors on Saturday and stay in, stay quiet, sleep, read, breathe, eat fruit and have smoothies, do that. Don't force yourself.
What I'm saying is, don't expect your usual go to 'cures' to always work (pills, exercise, yoga) because sometimes the flux is even too much for them. Ride it out, keep breathing and know that it is only temporary. Mental health is a constant battle, but if you're switched on and self aware, you'll win the war.
One decision last night to listen to myself, guilt free, meant that today was a new, clear day.
Trust yourself. Trust your body. Listen to it.
At ease. xxx