For anyone who knows me, it’ll come as no surprise that I love running and often refer to it as my #1 feel good tool. Or #1 type of self care. It makes me feel good in every way I can think of:
- You just know you’ve been good to yourself when you’ve made your heart beat faster and worked up a sweat.
- It clears the mind.
- I changed my routine and began running first thing in the morning and it sets a brilliant tone for the rest of my day.
- There is that beautiful rush of good feelings.
- Even if you remove all of the above, it feels good to have done something good – running for me falls into the Good category and afterwards I feel virtuous and accomplished.
About a month ago, my hip began to hurt. Because I had this once before, in 2010, I immediately recognised it as piriformis syndrome. Basically it’s a muscle that gets inflamed – in my case, it appears to be due to lack of stretching – and it then pushes on a nerve, which in turn sends sharp, stabbing lightning bolts of pain down my leg and side. It’s not the sort of tender pain you might get from over worked muscles, but rather the white hot kind that immediately stops you in your tracks. So I knew what it was, and unlike ten years ago when I initially ignored it, I immediately knew what it was and did just that – I stopped in my tracks. I’ve not been for a run in a month and I won’t mess with this. It’s now been over a week since I’ve felt a twinge and I’m getting ready to attempt a short and gentle run, maybe some time this morning. I last tried about two weeks ago, after having been given the all-clear by my osteopath – try gently but take it slow, and if you feel it then leave it longer. It won’t do any harm to aggravate it but it’ll hurt like hell, basically.
But that’s not the point or what I was getting to, other than to say I’m being patient – something Sober Me can handle and deal with.
What I was getting to is this: I’ve had a real wobble. With the counselling course. I mean, the whole thing from the start has been a wobble, but I’ve been persevering and was seeing small, but distinct, improvements and my hopefulness knew no bounds there for a while. I felt for a while like I was winning the war against my own brain. I had begun to discover that there were times I spoke up in class when my heart DIDN’T race, when I didn’t feel like crying, when I didn’t get paralysed with crippling fear.
But then, there is was – and seemingly out of nowhere.
During a lecture that was about a heavy subject – suicidality – but one I personally had no direct experience of or triggers around, I’d gone in to class feeling cautiously nervous due to the sensitivity of the subject but calm in myself. I spoke up because I had something to say. Nothing super personal or in any way difficult to share. Yet suddenly I found myself in the icy grip of what felt like the beginnings of a severe panic attack. I cut what I was saying short and fought hard to not faint, not cry, not fall in a heap or freak out. My heart was pounding so hard I worried it was about to give up, I couldn’t catch my breath and my skin went cold as my temples began to tingle just like they do right before I faint.
OK, so that’s shit, but what’s worse is that it really did come out of nowhere. I still don’t quite understand what triggered it. It knocked me for six. No joke. It has really dented what little confidence and faith in my own ability I’ve so painstakingly built up over the past two years. I’ve worked so hard at soldiering through my fear – at the rehab facilitating groups and then on the counselling course speaking in class – and those wins were so hard won and slow to build up. Then this.
Since it happened, I’ve felt defeated and crushed. Initially, I tried to ignore it. Tried to tell myself it was just a bump in the road, but yesterday I had no choice but to accept this has really rumbled me. In class, I was asked a question. Immediately the panic over took everything. I understood the words, I knew I had the answers somewhere, but I couldn’t connect the two. All I could think was don’t faint don’t faint don’t faint. I told the tutor:
“Sorry, I’ve gone blank“.
It’s not the end of the world and I nearly wrote “and I doubt the others paid any notice to it” but I find I definitely DO believe they all REALLY noticed and now I’m written off as “why is she even here, she doesn’t understand anything”.
Of course I took this to my personal therapy over the weeks since it happened (as part of this Diploma course I have to have 70 hours of personal therapy – very handy for Yours Truly as I have a shit load to work through). Last week my therapist said “just enjoy it” about the course.
I reflected on this a lot over the past week. And I realised this: I don’t.
Unsurprisingly, given my all or nothing nature, I can’t find many things I feel neutral about. How I feel about all this can be divided up into two very distinct lists of love and hate.
- The client work on my placement.
- Supervision – I learn TONNES.
- My personal therapy.
- Our tutor’s teaching, i.e. lectures and workshops.
- Skills practice.
- Fish bowls.
- Presentations – mine is in JUNE NEXT YEAR and yet I feel sick just thinking about it.
In a way it felt good to just establish how I feel, as opposed to just telling myself over and over what I want to feel. Want and do are opposites in that sense. I want to feel I can enjoy it, trust the process and not suffer like this. But I don’t enjoy that hate list. I hate all those things and I am back to those early stages of dreading it every time. I go into class on Fridays now with dread and anxiety. That’s crap, I know, but in a way it felt good to just recognise and verbalise that this is how I feel – whether it’s right or wrong, there it is. And I now think of the course as something I just have to suffer through in order to get a piece of paper that allows me to work with something I love and feel passionate about for a living.
I’m not AT ALL at any stage where I feel like giving up, but for the first time in a long time I am now wondering if I’ll manage to get myself through this. Before this wobble, I had so much hope. I even felt that the big presentation (in June!) was something I could do. I even felt a little excited at the thought that I’d overcome so much and had faith I could do this too, even though it’s something I once never believed I could make myself do.
It’s a set back for sure. No, I’m not going to give up on this. But there is a LOT of work ahead and I need to really knuckle down and get a handle on this.
The running? How is that connected to this?
Well, I think it does play a part. The wobble happened after a week or so of no running. For all my talk about how much I love running and how much good it does for me, I think it played an even bigger part than I realised. It turns out I was left vulnerable than I expected to be with this #1 self care strategy. I do think there is a connection, even if perhaps small.
This is why I sometimes feel I can’t trust my emotions. Well, not SOMETIMES. I very RARELY feel my emotions are being accurate. And so I have to work so hard to see past everything my entire soul appears to tell me. It’s trusting in something bigger than I am. It’s having faith that a higher power will show me the way when I can’t see it. And so I go on fighting through this. But right now it’s really hard. I feel I’ve been pushed down so many pegs and it’s disheartening. Last night I just wanted to cry. 70 class sessions of this course. Nine down, 61 to go. This is how I’m currently looking on it as there’s no point trying to convince myself I enjoy things I just don’t. What I do hope to do is get back to the point where I don’t feel invincible but at some kind of equilibrium where I at least feel I have as much of a shot as anybody. I got there before, I’ll get there again.
That’s what we do on the Pink Cloud, remember? We keep going. The cloud isn’t pink as much as it’s a deep grey right now, but I’m on it and I’ll stay on it, damnit.
So there it is and I’m nothing if not open and honest – I’m low and I’m disheartened and I’m disappointed and I’m feeling shit. But I’ll keep going. I won’t roll up into a little ball and mope. I’ll keep going, I’ll keep showing up and I’ll keep working.
And here is that one magical thing that, even in this shitty spot that I find myself in right now, always makes my heart sing with joy:
Today I’m not going to drink.