I’m Not Inspirational, I’m Just Anxious

When people learn that I do long distance running for “fun,” I often get,“You’re an inspiration,” and, “You’re crazy,” and sometimes, “Why?” all with a note of respect in their voice. Whenever I have these interactions, I think to myself, “Yep, if only you knew. Don’t be impressed.”

Ok, you can be a tiny bit impressed. It IS a really cool medal.

I really, really, REALLY love running and I can’t imagine what my life would be without it. The once in a lifetime experiences I have had and the deep friendships I have made are ones that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have pushed myself past limits that I did not think possible and have surprised myself often with how much strength I had within me. It is something I do just for me. But, I don’t think people understand what it is that motivates me to run as much as I do. 

I run because I am a deeply anxious person and running helps.

Every single morning, for as long as I can remember, I have woken up with a sense of dread and a pit in my stomach. It does not matter if I slept well or not, it does not matter if I have a perfectly wonderful day planned. Anxiety, after all, doesn’t care about any of that. 

The minute that I am upright, the inner dialogue in my head that I am so very familiar with begins. The voices in my head tell me that today is going to suck, it tells me that I suck and that I did some terrible things yesterday. Then, a list of all of the things I did the day before that were terrible (no matter how minute) start to scroll through my head. As that list ticks along, I hear another voice. The one that tells me to go back to bed and skip my run. Most days I can ignore those voices long enough to get dressed and out the door.

The miracle of running for me is that the minute that I put on my shoes the voices stop. The minute that I step outside, the voices come back on but they are gentler and much more reasonable. It is then that I can settle out my monkey mind. Maybe I didn’t set up my kid for years of therapy because I made some off-hand remark. Maybe my friend isn’t mad at me because I forgot to call her back. And maybe my kids aren’t going to die because we had take-out last night instead of a healthy home-cooked meal.

The longer I run, the better I feel. This is made exponentially better if I have a friend or two with me. By the time I come back home, I am a new human. I am ALWAYS glad I went out the door no matter how hard the run, no matter what the weather. I have quieted down the voices in my head and I am ready to take on the day. 

Not ideal conditions for a run but for me it was better than staying home!

Sometimes, running is the target of my anxiety: I’m too slow, I am not a real runner and I have no business signing up for that ultra I have my eye on. Sometimes I listen to those voices and stay in bed and my days do not go well but I try to be kind to myself anyway. When that happens, I turn to yoga and oftentimes a trusted friend and/or therapist. Sometimes, when the anxiety gets too much, I must re-evaluate what I have on my plate and scale back for a while.

Post 50K –  We make it look fun don’t we?

To be clear, I have an amazing life. One that I am grateful for and do not take for granted. But, I also have a really damaging inner dialogue that sometimes gets me down. 

I know there are those out there who struggle with anxiety and depression, who fight hard  to get out of bed and get their kids off to school and/or get themselves to work. I know that exercise often helps me but it does not work for everyone. I know that we all struggle some days and maybe we need to be a little kinder to ourselves and one another.

Self-care for me has never been about bubble baths and pedicures. It has always been about learning how to accept myself with all of my sensitivities and flaws so that I can be the best mom, partner, sister and friend that I can be. I also continue to learn how to be okay with not always getting it right.

When you see smiling pictures of me at the finish line of a race, know that what you see is much more than a goal being reached. What you see in that smile, if you look into my eyes, is that I fought my demons and won.

At least for that day.

 

 

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Julie Jensen is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie works part time at Fleet Feet Sports where she gets to talk to other (adult) runners and is also a yoga instructor and owner of Red Ox Yoga - https://redoxyoga.com/ You can follow her on Instagram at @out_numbered_mama6

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