This is a topic which is quite personal to me and is something which I wouldn't have felt comfortable discussing two years ago. In my 'about' section on this website, I addressed the subject by saying "I can't truly say I’ve been healthy ever since I began lifting as I did end up in a situation where food became an issue for me, but there was a stage in my life where I decided that I wanted to improve my lifestyle and what I was eating. I struggled with an anxiety disorder which had an impact on what I ate for some years, I became underweight and despite my love for exercise I felt completely unmotivated to do anything. I had time off school and spent most of my days having panic attacks, but that’s all behind me now. I got help and began to look at life in a different way. I believe that without this experience I wouldn’t be the person I am today." So here it is, a more in-depth but tricky to write blog post about how exactly my anxiety has improved through my fitness journey. Please note that this topic may be sensitive material for some.
Where it all started
My anxiety disorder first really developed in the year of 2013, when a big change happened in my life. It's something I'm not prepared to broadcast to absolutely anyone in the world. As much as I'd love to, I know I'm a better person and for the sake of others, I'll keep that part of my life to myself and those who already know it. Anyway, my anxiety disorder didn't really surface and impact me daily until 2015. I can remember when suddenly it just clicked and something changed. I was on a train at the time, I felt really different and terribly paranoid. I was already seeing a counsellor at the time, so getting and waiting for help wasn't a problem.
Picture this, I'm 13 years old, thinking about everyones opinions of me, very addicted to my phone and not at all interested in exercising everyday. I occasionally went Weightlifting but began to fall behind and stop for many months as people at my school would humiliate me for saying that I was a Weightlifter. I'm still not entirely sure what that was all about, maybe it was because I didn't 'look the part' or it was just hilarious to draw attention to someone who was doing what they loved and simply wanted to be left alone. So if you're reading this and you know why, then please contact me and let me know. After all, that was what helped me to get stronger and become more determined to succeed. The person I was back then, is not at all who i am today. I would sometimes respond to people who annoyed me or were 'teasing' me, which probably just made things worse. I could make this deep and say that those people caused me to have an anxiety disorder, in fact I could list names and complain. But I won't, because I set high expectations for myself. There were a few more fall outs I had with friends, which of course are going to happen as you don't always keep the same friends in high school forever. By then, my anxiety was just rocketing and I had 4 months off school. I gradually began returning to some of my lessons, but this time was hard as I didn't go out most days and many people required an explanation for my mental health. This I couldn't provide, meaning that some people thought I just wanted to skip school.
Being off school didn't mean that I was able to have fun and do nothing all day. I was constantly living in fear from crowds, seeing people I knew, loud noises, feeling trapped, people in general, text messages, social media, making mistakes and being the centre of attention anywhere. Right now, I cannot recall the last time any of these things caused me so much anxiety that I wouldn't be able to breath or function. However, thats not to say that now and again I'll still feel as if I cannot cope if I cannot escape a situation quickly or with ease. I can truly say that once my anxiety began to improve during the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, that I am incredibly amazed at all I have overcame. The lowest point I reached with my anxiety relating to sports was when I would struggle during Weightlifting competitions and could no longer go out for runs. But, very gradually I began to start Weightlifting, running and genuinely feeling happy again. This next part of this post will explain how fitness helped my anxiety to improve.
My next step
I knew when I departed from my counsellor that although I'd been given ways of coping, that I needed some sort of distraction or hobby to help me have something to do other than occasionally Weightlifting or sitting around all day wondering if my anxious feelings would ever pass. I decided that even if I was going to feel anxious a lot, I should have some activity which would help the feelings to pass and something I could set goals for. This made me realise that in order for my mental health to improve, I needed to put all my effort into Weightlifting and running in order to feel good about myself. I did this and noticed that my anxiety would no longer be there when I could put my passion into the sports. By setting myself targets and noticing improvements, I felt very motivated and felt as if I could do anything! But around this time, I still felt as if there was something missing. Although I was competing again and was constantly running to feel refreshed and calm, I became motivated by The body coach (Joe Wicks) through Alfie Deyes. I'd often spend a lot of my time on YouTube when I wasn't engaging in sports, so a certain video entitled '90 DAY CHALLENGE' really made me feel intrigued. Alfie was doing the 90 day challenge which was created by Joe Wicks, so i decided to try it too. Alfie stopped after a bit, but I continued and even reached past the 90 days. I was working out daily and eating much healthier by planning meals and cutting out junk food. After a while, I didn't even crave junk anymore and could definitely see the progress I had made.The video below is what first inspired me to begin my fitness journey (towards the end).
By exercising daily and organising my workout, healthy eating, Weightlifting and Running schedule, my anxiety improved by miles as I developed a positive attitude and put my heart into my passions. I think that without the determination I had, I may not have returned to being active with a new mindset, resulting in me giving up easily. But when I began the 90 day challenge in August and finished in November, I felt so inspired and proud of myself that I knew I needed to continue putting in the hard work. Hence, why I'm still active now. I realised that although I went through a very difficult situation, that I currently work hard for what I have and love what I do. Once I'd been living my new lifestyle for a year (August 2016), I realised that there was still something missing. Although, I had taken up a new hobby of Irish Dancing in February 2016, I had many creative ideas that I needed to express. I already had created my Instagram account, but I needed somewhere else where I could explain my ideas and help others. December 2016, I created this website and realised that I had found the hobby which would help to inspire myself and others.
Real me, right now
Right now, I would say that a lot has changed about me since 2015. I've became more focused on the important aspects of my life. I currently love myself and my hobbies, unlike back then. I feel that without my fall in life, I may not be where I am today and may look at life differently. Right now, I have plans for the future and each day I feel more and more inspired by many different things and people. I no longer spend my days worrying about what other people think of me, but more about how I'm looking after my body. Thats not to say that I still don't have problems with anxiety sometimes, it isn't very often at all and I have an excellent way of coping with the build up into a panic attack. Usually, I'll completely remove myself from the scene and look outside or distract myself by thinking about something.
Thank you for reading this post, it was slightly difficult to write as I've not really discussed many personal topics about me on this blog. I hope that my experience may inspire those with similar issues to find something big or small which can help them. Whether it is sport related or not, it may be something which could help you on your road to recovery.
A 17 year old girl, fitness enthusiast and dedicated Olympic style weightlifter. I'm determined to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of my body whilst influencing other young people to do so. I never doubt my ability to achieve something; I just change what I'm doing until I succeed.