The Sting

I said it out loud, but I’d known the truth for some time.

I remember sitting on the porch with my stepmother, something I wrote about in an earlier post. I told her that while I’d achieved my fitness goals, that I wasn’t any happier. I’d attained the body I thought I wanted, but it didn’t matter. My mind was still all over the place, and while I felt confident on my best days, that confidence was subject to change. When my anxiety flared, it seemed to erase all of the mental progress I’d made.

I’ve spent years working on my physique. I’ve wanted muscles since I was young, primarily because I was a non-factor in most of the sports that I played. I was sort of tall, but not thin. I wasn’t fast, and I certainly wasn’t strong. When I look back at it now, I started working out to quell my insecurities. I wanted to be able to lift heavy weights. I wanted to be able to do a pull-up. I wanted to be the strongest person in the gym, to be able to give other people advice if they wanted it, and I wanted to play sports and be good at them.

It never worked out, my athletic career, but exercise would come to play a major role in my life. I fell in love with running, and running gave way to strength training. I was enjoying myself, but somewhere along the journey, there was a shift. My decline in mental heath and my spike in anxiety went hand in hand, and suddenly working out became a necessity. It was something I needed to make it through the days, to feel whole, to feel like myself. In the outside world, there were things like pressure and expectations, but in my home gym, I was in control. I could sweat and not be self-conscious about it. I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety I associated with going to a gym, and most importantly, I felt like I was in my element. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I was living the life I wanted to live, and I looked how I wanted to look, but the insecurities didn’t go away. I was physically fit, but mentally, I was still a disaster. I’d see someone walking down the block with a better physique, and I’d find myself envying that person. My confidence would quickly be derailed. It wasn’t a healthy way to think or to live life, and I’d find myself avoiding mirrors that weren’t particularly flattering.

Exercise helped with my anxiety, but sometimes it would return the second my workout was over. I’d hoped to be so high on endorphins that I’d never come down, but it didn’t work that way. When I’d have injuries or setbacks, I’d be forced to confront the fact that I wasn’t healthy, that there was still so much more that needed to be done.

I added exercise to my mental health toolbox, and while it’s been helpful, there have also been times when my anxiety supersedes everything I threw at it. I’ve tried yoga, listening to relaxing music, reading, and therapy, to name a few, but none of them were 100% effective. I was winning battles here and there, but there was this dark cloud that I could never fully get rid of, a cloud that entered my mind when I wasn’t thinking about anything at all. I felt like I was going to lose the war, whatever that means, and it wasn’t a question of if, but when.

—-

And we become animated by our desperation.

I’m fond of writing year-end pieces, posts of reflection. I could write about the goals I’ll set for next year, but instead I’m going to focus on the one goal I made for 2018, the one I knew I needed to keep. My resolution was to meditate, if not every day, then the good majority of them. Years before, I found a calm in meditation that was something new and refreshing. I’d been doing it almost every day, but once life got busy, I stopped making time for it.  Meditation had eased my anxiety, and allowed me to be more functional, but when you want to keep moving and staying active, it’s difficult to want to sit still for 10-20 minutes.

My goal for the past year has been to meditate every day, and while there were a few months that weren’t consistent, since the beginning of August, I’ve been meditating multiple times a day. It’s been a complete game-changer. I’m finally sleeping like a normal person, and when I feel the world getting to me, when I feel the anxiety building, I’m able to pull myself back in, take a deep breath, and a feeling of peace sweeps over me. I know it’s working when the tension leaves my body, and my shoulders drop.

Meditation has changed the way I see the world. When my anxiety flairs, it warps my perception of reality. Suddenly, the most minor and inconsequential happenings become a matter of life and death, and my mental wellbeing hinges on the outcomes of so many things I can’t control. With meditation back in the mix, life has become more manageable than I previously thought it was. Rather than seeing things as good or bad, or letting my anxiety get the better of me, I’m seeing things for what they are, without the emotional weight I attach to them. As a result, I’m able to navigate each day with a feeling of calm. I’m not where I want to be, but I know I’m on the right path.

Meditation takes the sting out of life. It might not be for everyone, but it’s doing things for me that weren’t going to happen any other way. My anxiety is so much better, and I’m feeling much more secure and comfortable with who I am. Sitting there on that porch with my stepmother, I knew I had to do more for my mental health. Meditation has given me a feeling of remove. It puts a barrier between me and life. It allows me to do the things I need to do, and I’m no longer crippled by possible outcomes and indecision. I’m living life the way it’s supposed to be lived, and I wish the same for everyone, to find that sense of inner peace. It’s time to live, to truly live, and I plan on doing plenty of that in 2019. Thank you for reading.

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