I’m not gonna lie, I hate tooting my own horn. In fact, it’s rare I do anything that I deem worthy of a toot; but just this past week I made leaps and bounds, and not to put too fine a point on it, I’m blummin’ proud of myself.
Ya girl joined a gym!
No big deal, I hear you say – actually for me, it’s bloody huge.
See I’ve avoided gyms like the plague since the day dot; the mere mention of going to one gave me the heebie jeebies, and it was such an anxiety inducing thought that I’d point blank refuse to go. Ever. I can’t tell you exactly what it was that scared me so much. What I can do though, is give you an inside look into my noggin on previous consideration of gym-going.
- What if I get stared at. I’m so self-conscious. Aghh.
- I don’t know how to use the equipment, I’m definitely going to break something.
- What if I fall off a treadmill.
- I don’t wanna go by myself
- …. but I don’t wanna go with anyone
- Anxiety anxiety anxiety
- Heaps upon heaps of probably-won’t-happen-but-I’ll-panic-anyway scenarios of what could go wrong, but probably won’t. But I’ll worry anyway. Fuck sake.
- Do I look ugly when I sweat?
- Will I have a heart attack…
- More anxiety. Add panic in. Splodge of paranoia. Recipe for the worst cake in existence.
… So, yep. Basically I’d convince myself that the gym was a no-go zone for me. I saw it as a trigger (even though I’d never been to one) and written it off as something that could benefit me in any way. That was, until a few weeks ago.
My boyfriend joined a new gym and asked me at least five times if I wanted to join too. I wouldn’t even consider it and said no because, well, take your pick of the above. Sigh. & then one Tuesday, when he asked me for the umpteempth time if I’d go… I said yes. I’m not sure what changed. I don’t know if something greater was at work (I’m a big ol’ ‘the universe is at work’ believer) or if I’d just sub-consciously decided that day to go against all the internal ‘NO’s!’ inside me – maybe I was just done being told what I could and couldn’t do by my anxiety – but I went. I frikking went.
I’ll not lie, the first day was the worst. I was snappy with my poor boyfriend, I was self-conscious, anxious as hell, and I felt like all of the three other pairs of eyes in the gym were on me, even though I knew they weren’t. Crazy how you can rationalise what anxiety tells you, but your brain still goes into panic mode anyway. Either way, I tried to stay calm and take in my surroundings; our gym is a dinky one and as yet, doesn’t have tons of members. I expected to have a panic attack whilst I was there, almost willing one on because I was so sure of how awful it’d all make me feel. But I didn’t. I was anxious, I was scared – but somehow I overrode whatever negativity was going on and threw it into working out. I soon plugged my music in, let the Foo Fighters fill my ears, and let Dave Grohl
sing yell me through an hour of cardio.
I went to a different place in that hour. Transported. I can’t explain it – I just zoned out. I quickly realised that I’d discovered something – and it was mine. I’d taken myself there and I could go back again. So a week later, I officially went and became a fully fledged member of a gym – aged 27 – for the first time in my life. I’ve been back about seven times since.
If you’d have told me a year – no – a month ago, that I’d be doing this, I’d have laughed in your face and told you you were crackers. I’m not cured of anxiety by any means, but I’m winning battles over it every single day – some of them I might not even notice straight away – some of them are a bigger deal like this one, and when I look back at who I was last year, last week, I know I’ve come a long way.
I guess I wanted to write this all down – in part – for my own clarity – a written reminder that I won this battle and I can keep winning. But I also wanted to write it for all of you; for anyone that might need encouragement – you can do this; whatever you’re trying to achieve, keep going. Don’t give up. For those who think anxiety rules their life; it doesn’t. You might live with anxiety, but you don’t have to be governed by it – go against it every so often – don’t force it – but little by little, challenge it. One day you’ll climb over that hump anxiety has built and you’ll realise how strong you are. For those of you who don’t believe you’ll ever win. You will. Trust me. & you’ll be so blinkin’ chuffed with yourself when you do.
It’s not just about the big things – it’s the little victories that count, and I’ll champion them til I’m blue in the face. I’m proud of me today, and in the days I feel like my mental health has bettered me, I’ll come back and read this. I hope you find some hope here too.