I hated camps when I was younger.
I would worry constantly in the days leading up to a school or church camp; about how much I would hate being away from home, how much I would dislike the food and how I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with. I would wish that I could stay home, that I wouldn’t have to get out of the car when we arrived at the camping destination.
But, as my dad would later point out, at the end of the weekend I would have forgotten my fears entirely and have enjoyed myself so much that I wouldn’t want to leave. Until next time, where I would start the cycle all over again.
Years later, I still feel that panic. I felt it most recently the last couple of days. I had recently completed a running clinic, slowly building myself up a 10km, which culminated in me registered for the Gun Run. At the time of registering I was excited, but as the day slowly approached a sense of dread set in. I couldn’t do this, I was stupid to sign up, I would never be able to run a full 10km.
I was vocalizing these doubts to my boyfriend – who had signed up and was going to run with me -who couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. “Of course you can do it” he told me in response. “if you can do 5km you can do 10km. And I’ll be there.”
I explained to him exactly how I felt, and it felt good to talk to someone who listened openly and without judgment. It’s easy for another to dismiss your fears, to tell you to get over it, or that you’re being dramatic. But they don’t realise what it’s really like, to feel the tightness in your chest, the utter despair and feeling of hopelessness and uselessness. There have been many situations where I’ve been excited about going to an event, but then on the day have felt paralyzed with fear, have chosen to stay home and skip it rather than attend just because I won’t know anyone. And while a part of me knows I’ll probably end up having fun, that it’s all in my head and that I’ll regret, my anxiety is louder, screaming at my so loudly that it drowns out my confidence whose voice, though just barely audible, isn’t strong enough to win this shouting match.
Luckily this time, my friends’ reassurance provided that tiny voice with an echo that reverberated and drowned out the loud, obnoxious dread.
I did it.
I ran an entire 10km. I pushed myself and made it to the other side, smiling. It might not seem far to seasoned runners, but it’s such an achievement for me. And even though I can feel anxiety’s cold grip coming slowly towards me again (I’ve signed up for a workshop, despite the fact that I will know absolutely no one) life is made up of small battles, and the victory of this one is providing me with the push I need. It may be in my head, but that doesn’t mean so external influences don’t help.