Anxiety, and My Love/Hate for Running

Prior to my ‘man, I am out of shape. To Couch to 5K, Zombies Run! edition I go’, I could sprint a little. Maybe a sixteenth of a mile. Maybe.

I’ve finished Couch to 5K. I am now trying to build up my stamina and hope to do another one, then a 10K.

Now, I have been told so many times that exercise will help with depression and anxiety-and I understand being unable to take that advice.

It feels like being told you will feel better if you learn to breathe underwater.

There are steps that have to be taken before running is a reasonable thing to attempt. Five years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible for me to keep up, much less attempt.

I was constantly terrified, so exhausted that I could sleep twelve hours a day or more, and self harming.

Telling that version of me to start running would have been a bad attempt at a joke.

But now, when I’m not shaking, when I can get out of bed, when a new day is a new start and not dragging out my agony, starting to run has  been a gift I gave myself. My body, my heart rate, how my muscles move; these things that have not been mine, are suddenly under my control.

I can slow down or speed up, test myself, see how far I can go. It gives me something to focus on. A physical outlet that isn’t harming myself. A personal achievement. Something that is mine, that it for me, and I am the only one who is accountable for it.

And there are moments that make it seem like everything in the world has slotted together and is glorious. I forget my aching calves and my doubts and escape anything dragging me down and I am powerful. It’s a rush. It makes me want to train to run faster, even when it seems like I have physical limits.

So, that’s the love. Try Couch to 5K if you want to try. (Zombies, Run version plug here, it’s so much fun.)

woman-jogging

Me on a good run. (Except it is nowhere near that sunny right now.)

The hate? If I am already past a certain personal anxiety point?

Running makes it worse. My brain picks up on my faster heart rate, translates it as danger approaching, and I have to stop running, because my vision blurs and I feel so terrified the only thing I can do is go home.

And I feel frustrated. Defeated. Kept from doing something good for myself because I’m afraid, because I feel weak and scared.

Because I’m not strong enough.

But then I realize. I may not be invulnerable-but I’ve run before. I’ve had terrible days. And then I got back up the next day, and then I went back out.

So there is some strength there. More than I would have realized that I had, at one point.

So I love my little jogs more than I hate them.

(Except for when I’m cozy in bed. Then I am not a jogger, I am a cozy sleeper, and I stare in wonder at the 5 AM runners.)

I may never run a marathon. And that’s fine.

But I have challenged myself. I have grown stronger. That is something that I can always say to myself.

Medicated and Irritated

Roughly ten minutes prior to midnight, January 16th, 2017.

I am full of my prescribed medications. And one non-prescribed medication.

No one get excited. It’s a sleep aid. It’s chewable and smells like lavender!

However, I am still restless, depressed, fatigued, and just want to curl up in bed and stay there for a year.

But I can’t. I have to go to sleep, get up tomorrow, walk a dog, go to therapy, exercise, job hunt, and then go to bed and do more tomorrow.

Pills, I agree to take you because you’re supposed to make me work right.

I am not working right.

So, pills, what do we do now? Change you? It took so long to find you.

Ten minutes past eleven AM, January 17, 2017

A quarter past noon, same day

I set an alarm, and promptly slept through it. Though I suspect that I in fact woke up and turned it off, without fully waking, and slid back into sleep, only to wake up when I was supposed to be arriving at my destination.

After wandering in a haze I managed to take the dog outside to do his business, and jerk in surprise at the sound of human voices, and ran back into the house in a panic, then resisting the urge to claw at my own face, drained my cold brew.

I have stayed in, taken my pills, and everything is fine. I am watching the rain.

I am hyper-vigilant, and don’t feel safe going outside. I managed a short phone call.

I have to

I may have to face the reality that a nine to five job is unrealistic for me.

I wonder how many of us neuroatypicals have to face that reality.

There are things that I could do. Maybe a small home business, writing. Something.

Twenty past seven, same day

Now, post therapy, I’ve been calmed, and told that I have to practice compassion towards myself.

I forget, sometimes, that compassion towards myself is something that must be practiced. Until it’s a habit.

That my cruelty towards myself would be unacceptable towards another person, so it is also unacceptable towards myself.

I should look for work that suits me, if I can find it, and appreciate that I need maintenance like anyone else.

Always remember to breathe.

Everyone breathe.

 

 

The Freeze

I was originally going to call this post ‘Seasonal Depression Can Kiss the Fattest Part of My Shapely Butt’, but I thought that was too long.

The sun came out today, and after blasting myself in the face with my sun lamp for about twenty minutes, I went for a jog, trying to get back into the swing of things.

(I still occasionally find me saying ‘I’m going for a jog’ odd. My former self was a. too shy to exercise in front of other people who were not also exercising, and b. too out of shape to jog for more than a minute or two.)

Today was a good day.

The last few days have, not to mince words, sucked massive amount of ass. The day before today, despite my sun lamp, encouragement from my BF, and effort worthy of Hercules, all I could do was sleep and occasionally feed myself.

Plenty of people have seasonal depression, and it is manageable, so I think the average neurotypical person might not understand how it affects someone who is not neurotypical.

On top of my usual issues, suddenly my brain (really, the entirety of my body) is insisting that it is cold, dark, and that going outside is unnecessary.

It’s just…another weight on me. I have to add another twenty minutes to my day (at least) to blast myself with my lamp, during which I have to sit still to get the maximum effect. More mental energy has to be used. I tire more easily. I lack motivation, I am more easily startled.

And often the response is ‘Oh, everyone gets the winter blues.’ And while that might be true, I feel like that’s saying ‘oh, everyone gets a cold once in a while’ to someone who already has a compromised immune system.

It’s a lot harder to deal with.

But I did it today. I can take pride in that.

To my fellow neuroatypicals who did it today, I congratulate you.

To my fellow neuroatypicals who stumbled, I see you. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Get some rest. Try and find some sun tomorrow.

 

We Have To Talk About Triggers

From my personal observation, the general public seems to have two beliefs about triggers.

  1. A war veteran hears a car backfire, and either ducks for cover or goes into a full flashback where they are in a combat zone and is now potentially lethal.
  2. Triggers are stupid and are just people complaining about not wanting to be exposed to opposing viewpoints and/or things they find upsetting/gross/etc.

As with many widespread beliefs:

  1. The first one does happen. It is often exaggerated by media, and is only one of many ways triggers can cause a reaction.
  2. The second is mostly just wrong. Are there people who ‘misuse’ triggers and trigger warnings? Sure, with as many people as we have on this planet one could probably find examples of any behavior, if you looked hard enough. Does this mean triggers and trigger warnings are stupid or a sign of weakness expanding throughout our society? No.

I have PTSD. I have triggers. And I freaking love trigger warnings.

A trigger warning is really just a tool for making informed decisions, and keeping myself safe. If I am having a bad day, and a piece of media is marking with a trigger warning for rape, I can decide ‘well, I’m not watching this today’, and go on with my day, instead of getting half an hour into the piece of media, a rape scene occurring, and having to deal with that completely unprepared.

As an example, I was watching television, and found what I thought was a dysfunctional lesbian romance, and instead turned out to be about a woman murdering men who were sexually assaulting her. This set off a panic attack. Had the description mentioned that there were scenes consisting of rape, I would have prepared myself. Or I could have chosen not to watch it.

A professor for a class on Race and Literature asked my opinion as to whether a certain reading should have had a content warning. As the content in question were uncensored photographs of lynched African American men, I said that a warning would have been appropriate and helpful; the photographs, with no warning, were highly disturbing.However, I thought they served a purpose beyond shock value, and should not be removed from the reading.

She agreed to add a content warning when she next taught the material.

Triggers warnings are about making informed decisions. About giving someone a moment to prepare. They aren’t about wanting to hide from new information, or things we find unpleasant. In the same way we have a rating system for movies and television, a trigger warning is just that: a warning.

Triggers are not necessarily violent or disturbing. Some are, of course, but a trigger can be a song, the smell of cooking meat, a cartoon character. All a trigger needs to be is something that our mind has associated with the past trauma.

I can’t go to the laundromat. It is, at best, extremely unpleasant for me. I can do laundry in machines in someone’s home, for example; it’s laundromats that trigger an anxiety attack, nausea, flashbacks. I’m sure to many people the idea of the laundromat being a fearful or, really, anything but annoying is ridiculous, but that’s just how it is.

I don’t see how bringing awareness to what triggers are, and why trigger warnings are needed, is indulging people. A trigger warning allows everyone to make an informed decision, and includes everyone. I don’t see how this is a negative.

 

Being Kind to Me

Today I got up, walked to the doctor and got vaccinated, worked out, had a healthy dinner, and did some writing and practiced French. It was a good day.

Cue the inner monologue: YOU DIDN’T CLEAN THE WHOLE ROOM AND YOU DIDN’T LOOK FOR MORE JOBS AND YOU DIDN’T CURE CANCER AND YOU ATE A PIECE OF CHOCOLATE AND YOU’RE GARBAGE AND YOU’RE FAT AND-[Expletives Removed]

It’s a little ridiculous. I am reasonably functional-but I have a constant companion that screams at me for anything that could possibly be seen as inadequate. This pushes me to try and do more, and more, and more-and then I burn out.

And then my mind leaps on my back, screeching about how weak and pathetic I am and how I should self terminate.

Paying the voice any attention does me no good. But ignoring it is rather difficult, in the same way that it’s rather difficult to ignore a small child screaming at the top of their lungs a foot from your ear.

And it can come on without warning; I can go from a moment of serenity to collapsed in a puddle of despair and self loathing, with only a reminder of a failure, a memory of pain, something as simple as forgetting to pick up a package and the voice screams at me, encourages me to slap myself, dig a pen into my arm, curl up and hope a sudden death finds me.

So I have to consciously practice kindness to myself.

(Really, I think the average person should do this, but I make it a requirement for myself.)

It often comes off as ridiculously cheesy. I have to wave to myself in the mirror, smile. I have to say, “Self, you are not Wonder Woman. Yes, Wonder Woman is wonderful, but you are a human being, who is fallible, who will make mistakes, and who sometimes will prefer to watch endless Law and Order marathons with tea and cake to doing anything productive. That is okay. You are worthy of love and good things and you are not a waste of space.”

Being kind to myself is a requirement because my internal monologue is determined to ruin me.

I refuse to be ruined that way.

So if I have to take five minutes out of every day to build myself up? That’s okay.