Every Monday and Friday, I grab my gym bag and head out of the office. I walk across the parking lot to our on site fitness center. The smell of feet and sweat assaults my nostrils as I enter the locker room. I quickly change and head outside into the warmth and humidity of the midday sun. I started back up running consistently about three and a half weeks ago because I realized that I was a mere six weeks away from participating in my first 5K run, the Dirty Girl Mud run here in Wisconsin.
I run to clear the racing thoughts in my head. I run to quiet that fight or flight response which is marked in me only by flight. I literally run away from my feelings and emotions. I sweat the anger, the fear, the self-loathing and the perfectionism out of my system. I run to keep the insomnia, anxiety and depression at bay. I run and walk for about thirty minutes. When I finish, I look as red in the face as a cherry tomato. I normally thrive in the company of others, but running is a solitary activity for me for now. I need this centering and regrouping.
Every Wednesday, I head over to the same fitness center for my forty-five minute yoga class. I have practiced yoga on and off for nine years. I anticipated that this hatha yoga class might be a bit easier for me since it was not the full hour class. I could not have been more wrong. Our instructor challenges us weekly with different poses. She has us set an intention for each practice. Every week, my intention is the same: to be calm and free from anxiety. For that blissful forty-five minutes, I effectively shut off my brain and just listen to my teacher and my body. I can feel myself growing stronger and more flexible with each successive class.
My progress is slow in terms of endurance, fitness, muscle tone and weight loss, but a dear friend reminded me that slow and steady is healthy. I lost weight too quickly after I gave birth to Skeeter all due to my anxiety. I was literally pulsing with this nervous energy. I could not sit still. Once I began to wean her, the pounds slowly crept on without me noticing. Now I learn to trust my physical body again and to trust its responses. When I am feeling stressed out, I now recognize that I need to do something physical to help work out my feelings and emotions. As I run and practice yoga, I see that beast of anxiety and depression sitting in the corner. I stare at it, determined to not let it beat me. I am strong and brave. I survived PPD and PPA, and I will not let this current anxiety beat me down into submission. I am choosing to use my talents and my abilities to work myself towards better mental, physical and emotional health.