In the past few weeks, it became apparent I wasn’t coping very well with my emotions. I noticed my anxiety was sky high. I was very down and didn’t want to do anything. I shook it off as post marathon blues and boredom. Thinking that in the weeks leading up to the marathon I was focused on training, nutrition and fundraising, being busy everywhere and was really enjoying it! Then the highs of finishing, getting the medal, and basking in the satisfying glow of achievement ate up a few days following. But it wasn’t long before the world went back to normal and even though I was still on a high, no one else was. People got tired of hearing the same story of my aching legs, how I missed the Cutty Sark, the amazing crowds, seeing Pete (punctuation manager and life partner) at mile 22, my “open arm” finish, and celebratory room service burger! People were proud and happy to listen but you can only hear the same story so many times. I understand that.
I crashed hard soon after realising my time had fizzled. I noticed old habits of sleeping, not washing, ignoring the landline and not eating properly were creeping their way into my day to day routine. Lack of actually!
Then it happened, a panic attack. I haven’t had one in a long time. Usually I can manage them well and they go away after 30 mins. However, this one was different. The physical pain in my chest and throat was like being sat on or punched in the heart while being strangled around the neck. My pulse began to race, I was sweating and struggling to breathe. My head filled with pain, my eyes began to blur. I knew what was happening and I knew how to stop it but I didn’t have the strength to fix it. I crouched on top my knees and tried to breathe through. “It’s not real” repeating through my clouded mind.
Eventually it passed and I feel asleep, exhausted.
I woke up the following morning with a splitting headache, a sore throat (from the strangling feeling) and light sensitive. The natural thing to want is sleep when you feel this way. However, I have taught myself over the years, that sleeping won’t fix it all. We must move a little bit. I’ll tell ya, I gave it my best shot. The physical pain of a panic attack isn’t talked about much, probably because no one really knows it’s happening or even linked. You carry that feeling with you for hours, sometimes days and it can’t be fixed by painkillers and a hot bath. You look tired or grumpy on the outside but that’s the case inside. Inside you’re trying to keep it together and remind yourself that you’re not actually choking, not actually being strangled, no one is punching you in the chest and no one is staring at you. That’s the hardest one.
I’ve made no effort to hide my past experiences with mental health and I definitely do not shy away from the fact I still have bouts with it to this day. It’s hard to say what brings it on as some days are bad but I can see them through without an attack. This time was different, it felt strangely close to the marathon so I sought advice from my doctor. It has been confirmed that marathon runners can become quite depressed after completing their challenge which is why they often sign up for several in one go to keep the momentum going. In my case, I experienced such positivity after completing London from those around me, I crossed something off the “bucket list” and I did something that 0.05% of the world has done. That made me feel pretty damn special. So of course, what comes up, must come down. Hence the all mega crash.
Having a good chat, with a doctor, friend, or family member can help you separate the tangled thoughts of a worried mind. So, when I saw my doc for advice, it was refreshing to hear that I’m not headed down the path of my past. I’m just having a temporary setback on the back of something so amazing.
Shaking it off is tricky, even though I know I’ll come out the other end. Anxiety is a terrible thing that effects people differently. Personally, I feel confident this is a one off, but for so many people out there, it isn’t. It’s an everyday occurrence. There are so many suffers that can see the other side and struggle to detangle the clouded strings of the worried mind. I remember it well and tell those who feel so alone that awareness is happening. People are more open about talking and listening. But know that it doesn’t last forever and you can regain control. Your journey will be different but it’s unique to you. You’ll find what works and you’ll run with it. Don’t be afraid of the setbacks, they happen to everyone. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure, it’s a sign of growth and progress. If you take anything from my blog, take comfort in knowing rebuilding can happen. I’ve got the bricks, you bring the cement. Let’s build this path.
DeAnna’s (Blue Chameleon blog series) Focuses on rebuilding self-confidence after suffering through difficult times. DeAnna lives in Cambridge, England with her family, cats and dog. She credits a portion of happiness to her partner, Pete, punctuation manager, chief tea maker, and bringer of toast.