Over the years I have had different levels of fear and acceptance over the things that send me into mental health downward spirals - triggers. For many years, I have steered clear of the things that I have associated with my general anxiety and panic attacks, but this year I've been doing things a bit differently.
I have two strong triggers - food and exercise/overexertion.
Both of these come from the same event.
A few years back I decided to start running, and I've never been a runner in my life. But as I became fitter I liked knowing and feeling that my body was getting stronger and that I could go for a 6km run if I wanted to.
I decided to test myself and enter the Hamilton Round the Bridges event, taking on the 12km and running it. As I had never entered an event like this before, I had no idea what to expect, but figured people run 12kms all the time, so I should be sweet.
I completed the race, and came home to chill out for the rest of the afternoon, but there wasn't any chilling out. Within a couple of hours I was pacing the house with what I would class as intense panic attacks. I was so unsure of what I should eat, and the thought process spiraled into thinking there was nothing I could eat that would replenish my body, and it was going to fail on me. I was going to die.
I know to a lot of people this will seem like an extreme leap, but this is part of anxiety. The rational mind goes out the window, and the extreme unrealistic thoughts take over.
I figured I would go for a drive, as this can often take my mind off the anxiety and help me calm down, but it wasn't working on this day. I drove around and around Hamilton and outer Hamilton for about 2 hours, and as I was driving the waves of anxiety were coming on stronger and stronger. I remember ringing my parents, so that at least if I did die I would be talking to them and they could send someone to get me (as they don't live in the same town). I know, but that’s the sort of thought process anxiety can create.
Eventually the waves of anxiety became so strong I did something I have never done before and drove myself to the hospital. This wasn't easy for me, as I don't want to feel like a fool, but I really felt like there was no other option. However, driving around and around the hospital trying to find a carpark distracted my mind and the anxiety started to subside. It was at this point I chastised myself for being so ridiculous, as it was clearly just anxiety and I wasn't going to die.
So I drove home and managed to push through the next six weeks until the Christmas break, and then absolutely broke. My parents were back in the Bay of Plenty by then, so I spent a lot of the summer break with them at the beach, and felt like shit! The doctors tried me on some medications (as I had been off them for a few years), and I experienced some negative side effects. I remember drifting in and out of sleep one after on the couch and hearing mum say to dad that she didn't know what do to and how to make me feel better. I could hear in her voice how worried she was and that she was at a complete loss.
Since then I have had a well stocked kitchen, and always ensure I have food with me. If I’m going away I’ll turn up with bags of food, as this makes me feel more comfortable. But I faced this trigger earlier this year when I went on Vipassana for 10 days. We weren’t able to take any food with us, and when I arrived I found out we would only have fruit for dinner. But I went in with the mindset that I was surrendering myself to the experience and that’s what I did, and I didn’t starve to death :).
I also haven't run since then, and I haven't completed Round the Bridges again, but in two weeks I am joining a group of friends and will walk the 6km course. I know it’s not the same as running the 12kms, but it’s a step and although I’ve walked 6km plenty of times since I think participating in the event again will be a good step for me.
Having a different perspective and trusting myself has given me some light at the end of the rainbow.