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Right, I’ve alluded to this a few times. Last year was hard for me. Mentally. It was damn draining. My anxiety sent me out of damn control. Again.

It’s been that bad before. Way back in my second year of uni I kind of hit a massive wall. I felt awful. I felt alone. I felt tired all the time. I kind of didn’t understand the point of doing anything. I very nearly dropped out of uni and just live in my bed never to leave. I kind of didn’t really do anything about it at the time, I pulled myself to the end of the year and then just had the summer before I went back for my third year.

But I was even more alone then in my third year. I didn’t live with anyone that I knew, I could honestly go for days without really talking to anyone. I was not in the headspace to have that much time to myself in my own head. But I did. And I drove myself a little bit mad.

To the point that I would find myself without fail on a Thursday for weeks on end just taking myself to the on campus nurse/doctor. Funnily enough there was never actually anything really wrong with me. I mean I did have a really stiff neck at one point but that probably because I was holding so much damn tension in my shoulders. But otherwise there was nothing wrong with me. I spent a lot of time spiralling semi out of control. On my own.

It was kind of hellish to be honest.

At some point it was suggested that maybe I had some form of anxiety, but nothing ever really came of it and whilst I was trying yoga and mediation and trying to keep myself busy to distract myself from my own thoughts it just sort of stopped being a problem.

Don’t get me wrong I didn’t stop spending so much time by myself or anything, but I guess I finally had something to strive to and that something was I realised that I was going to have work my ass off in order to get a 2.1. I could not leave uni without getting a 2.1 Seriously.

And then I don’t even really know what happened post that. I think once I was finished with uni I was so damn tired that I don’t think I had it in me to be anxious in regards to every single thing. I didn’t even have it in me to be anxious about the fact that I couldn’t seem to get a job.

And then I got a job. And I spent a lot of time in the bathroom crying because the anxiety came back. Then I settled into it and didn’t feel so shitty all the time. Then the job changed and the crying started again. Then I settled again and it was fine.

And then last year started and I have not been quite okay for about a year now. I go through phases where I’m coasting ya know? But for the most part there is always this weird feeling curling in the pit of my stomach that feels like it’s going to burst into a full blown panic attack. It hasn’t quite done that yet, but it got real close a couple of weeks ago where I full on cried twice in the same of an hour and had that weird kind of crying tension headache for the rest of the day.

Anyway cycling back to my point, because there is one, because I noticed a moment of progress this week that I was a little bit apprehensive about.

So, when my anxiety gets really bad it manifests itself primarily in me focusing on my health. I did it in 2012/13. And I did it again last year. Because on the back of a stressful day at the beginning of the week I went to a boxing class with the hope of getting it out of my system and during the warm up I noticed my heart skip a beat. Now I’ve done a lot of reading about this since, that’s a thing that happens as your heart starts to speed up to accommodate the increase of oxygen that your body needs as you exercise. In the most basic of senses. And the rational part of my brain could accept that. Knew that it happened to me before. Knew that my recovery time was good. And is better than it’s ever been. I knew all that. But my brain decided that it didn’t want to be rational and so it gave me something to focus on.

And when you focus on it then it becomes a problem. And my obsession and hyper sensitivity with it became a problem. And I managed to have this whole problem whilst still going into work and being around people for 8 hours a day. One person knew I wasn’t quite right. One.

I thought the reason that it got so bad the first time was because I was just left alone to my own devices and thoughts 24/7, but no. It got bad when I was surrounded by people, but no one knew. Bar the one person I told because they knew that I wasn’t okay and it felt good to just say it out loud. Not the whole thing, just the fact that I was having a bad time of it anxiety wise.

So anyway, I was obsessed with this and spent most of time focusing on it. I stuck to low impact exercises only because it didn’t get my heart rate up and that was more manageable. I went to see my GP. Twice. The first one was shit and told me that it might help with I dealt with my skin problems and my minor acne problem. The second one actually took me seriously. And sent me down the route of therapy.

And I did that. And it mostly worked.

What also worked was the fact that I literally forced myself to get back into more hardcore exercises, aka cardio. Which had honestly become my nemesis. And it was fine. That remains fine. I mostly do flat out cardio twice a week now and there are cardio elements to my other 3 workouts in the week. My heart rate goes up. I don’t worry about it anymore.

Which brings me to the point. Finally.

My Apple Watch tells me what my heart rate is. I spent hours driving myself mad with my fingers against the pulse in my neck. The number was never accurate because I was so worried about it and that skewed the reading. Then I started trying to do it whilst I was working out and then straight after. Then I tried to figure out when it went back to resting. I told you I drove myself mad. And I tried to force myself to stop doing that as much as possible.

If I ever found myself reaching to do it I would have to distract myself and do something else. Like walk around the office, or get some water, or just go to the toilet for no real reason. And eventually I stopped doing it. That element of my anxiety went away. It thankfully wasn’t replaced by anything.

But I was still wary of anything that would draw my attention to it because I am not really in the correct headspace to not let it overtake my life again. It’s been 5 days now and to be honest I’ve not even really thought about. I mean I have, but more because I was just curious to know what my resting heart rate was and the way it peaked during exercise. And well, that feels kind of wild.

I am not exaggerating when I say that for a couple of months last year it kind of consumed my life. And I stopped thinking about because I forced myself to. I had to change the habit. And I did for the most part. And apparently have done so. I’m not saying that it’s for good or anything because I’ve said that before and then last year happened so that was bullshit. But it feels like it’s done enough for now.

And for that reason, I am kind of proud of myself. I am proud that. I am proud that I have stopped letting that part of my anxiety rule my life because that shit was getting exhausting.

I’m proud of that. And I feel like I need to celebrate the small victories because it does still have a hold over a large part of my life. For example trains stopping for a slightly prolonged period of time still gets my heart racing my mind providing a lot of bad scenarios which I guess is the next area of this mammoth beast to tackle…

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I don’t know if it’s psychological or whatever, but every time the year starts to draw to a close I start to feel incredibly and completely drained. Of just everything. Having to b around people exhausts me. Having to be somewhat sociable exhausts me. Getting out of bed exhausts me. Just existing pretty much feels like the most exhausting thing in the world.

I got it a couple of years ago, I went from the stress and constant anxiety of being unemployed to having a job which changed my lazy lie ins to waking up before 8am five days a week. And then I didn’t really have longer than 5 days (including weekends) off from August through to the end of the year. Last year I kind of got it as well. Again, I hardly took any time off all year and certain aspects of my job changed massively and it became more of a responsibility. Oh and there were some other different job related stresses there as well.

But I kinda thought that I had already done this in 2017. I had a really rough time of it from about March through to about July, if not longer. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. I went on holiday this year and it was such a welcome relief it was almost tragic. That holiday was also the first time in 2 years that I took a truly extended amount of time off work. I didn’t come back of that holiday feeling totally 100 but I didn’t feel like I was just going through the motions and getting from point a to b either. And I thought the worst of it was over.

Then last week started and come Tuesday afternoon I felt like I collided straight into a steel wall that I hadn’t seen in front of me. Which was annoying because I thought I might get away with it this year. Because like I said, I’ve done this already this year. It was fucking tiring.

Another reason that I thought that I had gotten away with it is because the thing that I thought would fuck with me massively didn’t a month ago. And then these past few days the whole situation hit me and with it came all the emotions that I thought I had passed through. It felt like being doused with ice cold water.

And now I just kind of feel like I’m hanging about in slightly cold water that I either can’t get out of or just won’t warm up.Which is pretty shit. And has left me feeling at the end of my rope. Or rather I just want to climb into my bed and not get out of it except to eat. And even then I can eat in bed.

The timing of this is always great as well. I mean it’s not like December is known for being quiet or anything. I honestly had to tell someone the other day that I’ll let them know if I can go and be sociable at a later date because currently I’m running on empty and the thought of doing anything remotely social outside of having to be at work is exhausting me to just think about.

It’s my work’s Christmas party today and I mean I see most of these people 5 times a week for 8 hours a day, but I’ve had to mentally prepare myself for it since December started because it’s going to involve me actually having to appear to be okay.

And I mean I am okay. For the most part. I’ve been worst this year and in a strange backwards way that is keeping me going.

Because I’ve been through my version of a personal hell and made my way through it mostly fine and slightly stronger for it this year.

I have a week off soon and it’s the Christmas week so I mean it will come with alllll the food and none of the guilt (I’m joking, I don’t feel guilt about food, ain’t nobody got time for that). So I will have some time to rest and reset to a degree.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m still not a little bit annoyed that it’s happened again.

Am I the only one who always hits a wall in December?

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Strength Training and Me

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In my new minor obsession with working out, because hello an outlet to direct my anxiety, I have slowly introduced a lot of new things to my routine slowly but surely. Some have worked and I stick to them on a mostly weekly basis, some I rotate in for a few weeks and then I switch them out. Sometimes I just have to listen to my body needs and wants during any given week and work accordingly.

The one thing that I have never done is anything that involves weights. And it’s not because I was worried about getting bulky or anything, I was just sort of scared of them.

They intimidated me in a way that I try to not let things do anymore.

I would just have these visions of me not being able to lift that much because my upper body strength is effectively non-existent and then eventually somehow getting that small weight above my head only to then promptly fall on the floor because the weight is too much and I can’t take it. Or getting crushed by a barbell or something. I would go full Final Destination with my thought process for no reason whatsoever.

And then at some point last week I was like ‘fuck it’, I’m a lot stronger in my body than I was when I first started this ‘journey’ (I am reluctant to call it that but I don’t have a better word so I have to go with it) and can almost do something that could almost be called a push up without being on my knees now. So my upper body strength is doing something that should probably be considered progress in some way. And also my lower body strength is pretty damn strong.

And so I signed up for a class that is literally called ‘Lift’.

It was hard.

Not in a bad way, just in a way that my body isn’t used to. I mean it squats a lot (I have to squat into my jeans to get them to sit right on me, long story, but yeah…I have to do that) and it does a fair amount of arm work. But never with weight involved. Funnily enough it gets harder with weight involved.

It also highlighted new areas of tightness to me. For example, I knew I had tights hips, but they are definitely not as bad as they used to be so I’ve sort of stopped noticing tightness there. There are things that have gotten a lot easier as they have ceased to be so damn problematic. This 45 minute class taught me that I also have tight shoulders. Like really tight shoulders. I mean they loosened up a little, but for the most part they’re tight. I did not know that before.

Another thing I learned is that I’m not actually as weak as I believe I am. I mean I’m a light lifter but I didn’t go into this thinking that I would be super good and strong because that’s absurd. But I wasn’t as weak as I expected. I managed to do a whole round with 10kg on a barbell which the thought of doing sparked those images of being crushed by a barbell. It was hard, and I didn’t think I could do it but it was definitely a case of my body being way further ahead of mind, which happens to me a lot these days.

It burned and it hurt (not in a bad way or anything) and I felt like quitting a couple of times, but when it came to the final track and I actually managed to (mostly) get through it with 8kg on my bar and not cry. I kind of felt fucking amazing.

So much so that I did it again last night. It was a little bit easier and then also somehow harder. I mean I knew what to expect from it this time which also helped so that fear was gone. But also I just felt more confident in it. At the end of the day I can only do what my body is going to allow me to do in terms of weights. And that’s not going to change if I lift light or super heavy.  It’s going to very much be an of the day thing.

It’s a full body work out and it makes me really focus in on the way my muscles are moving and supporting each other. It’s another great way for me to just disconnect from the world and let the stress of the day melt away as I get into a rhythm with it all. It releases all those fun endorphins and it’s a proved to be a great way to close out my work out week.

I’m probably going to phase more of it in because I actually almost enjoy it, even though it burns so much. It feels the same that barre did when I first did it and I do that shit on the weekly now, it’s one of my staples.

And you know what, I didn’t fall to the floor under the weight of it all and I can do something called a skull crusher and not worry that my arms might actually give out and crush my skull…

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I’m a Convert

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Here’s a sentence me of the beginning of last year never thought I would write.

I get the hype around exercise.

At the beginning of every year since I was about 18/19 I always make this vague as hell resolution to start getting a bit more in shape. I never followed through with them, In fact I think that following year I started treating myself the worse I ever have. But then I started noticing that my insomnia was coming back in a massive way half way through last year and my anxiety was the worse it had ever been and I was having far to many breakdowns in office toilets and I needed to do something about it.

And so I did. And here I am aching like it’s nobody’s business and feeling fucking great for it all this time later. I started to take exercise and fitness more seriously around October last year and noticed small benefits. Enough to tide me over at least. And then this year, when I made that vague promise to myself yet again, I upped the ante and did even more with it. I upped my workouts to be more than just 2/3 times a weeks for the most part and it helped. I felt strong and I left a workout feeling accomplished and good and all that other jazz that people bang on about when they make the strong suggestion that you should give exercise a chance to help deal with the other issues.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not a cure all and I had another flare up of my anxiety and insomnia in a big way and I kind of let the forms of exercise that made feel the best fall to the wayside because old habits die hard and it’s not that I slipped completely and felt worse or anything because I did keep up low intensity work outs and they did help with my not feeling like I was totally failing at it and that made things easier.

Like when I finally returned to doing the workouts that made me feel the strongest. Which was this week. And when I say I returned to it, I literally mean that I have 3 relatively high intensity cardio workouts since Saturday. I even found myself impulsively signing up to do a class an hour before it started last night and then borderline crying my way through it (it burned so much, my glutes were on fire, they still are). But I got back to feeling that good vibes feeling afterwards.

There is something incredibly satisfying about it. Feeling myself sweat it all out is actually cathartic as hell. Having to focus solely on what I am doing and trying to push myself further to get past burn and complete all the reps means that I am not focused on whatever else I have been focusing on all day. There’s even something a little bit satisfying when my muscles ache the day after (that doesn’t last long, it’s annoying for it to hurt whenever you sit down).

I do find myself feeling a bit more together and less in my own head and on most occasions it helps me sleep better. I find myself actually sleeping to my alarm and getting pissed off when it wakes me up, because it is actually the thing that wakes me up.  I find that it has actually helped me manage everything a little better and I don’t really know why I just sort of rubbished it for so long as being a thing that would help.

Or rather I do know, but that’s for another day.

For now though I can say that I am a convert to using exercise as a way to keep myself sane.

Who would’ve thunk it?

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