14 December. 2019 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
Eden Project Parkrun.
I used to have a lot of friends. I had even more acquaintances. I think I saw my friends list as a badge of success. If I knew all these people, then they must like me, I must be popular. I think ultimately, since school I’d always struggled with how I felt about myself, and how I felt other people perceived me. I never quite felt good enough, I don’t know why, but there was always a little voice of doubt nagging me, reminding me that other people were judging me, and generally looking down at me. I probably should have been able to shake the feelings off, and left it behind when I was no longer a teenager, but I didn’t. Instead I just covered it up and buried it. On the outside I projected a look of self-confidence, because worse than feeling bad about myself would have been other people knowing about it. So following the “Fake it till you make it,” school of thought, I just kept on trying cover up how I felt.
Wine acted as a huge buffer for me, between myself and my feelings. Although events themselves might have been hard, later when I got to overthinking and winding myself up, wine numbed it. It made it easier, but in the long run so much harder. Alcohol not only fuelled my anxiety, but it also prevented me from realising how bad it was.
Over the last few years I shut myself off from everyone I knew. It was hard to go out and face everyone, not only was I more anxious than I had ever been before, but I was also filled with a huge amount of self-loathing for the amount I was drinking as a coping mechanism. I couldn’t open up to anyone about how I felt, I was terrified that they would judge me and think the worst of me. Instead I avoided everyone. After I stopped drinking I had no reason to reconnect with anyone. I really felt any of my old friends wouldn’t understand how much I’d changed, and that they didn’t really know the real me anyway.
My kids joked with me that I had no friends, and to a certain extent that is true, I found it easier just to stay in my little bubble. Even making small talk became difficult, I’d often circle over conversations I’d had in passing, wondering why I’d said something and thinking how stupid I must have seemed. I hadn’t expected my confidence to take such a knock, but then I guess, I should have been prepared, this new stripped back me had nowhere to hide.
Running got me outdoors, it helped my anxiety, it gave me a focus. Something I had never done before, and wasn’t good at, suddenly became something I enjoyed and was getting better at, but people, well, I still avoided them where I could.
Something has changed in the last few months. I’m not sure exactly how or when, but looking back I can see it has. I’m not quite so suspicious of everyone I meet, I don’t think everyone is out to get me anymore. (At least, not all the time!) It’s been 3 years and 3 months, I never thought in a million years it would take me this long to get my mind back on track, but it’s getting there. There were days when I thought I’d feel broken forever, and I don’t anymore.
Today I went to Parkrun at the Eden Project. Unexpectedly my son and I ran into someone we knew and afterwards we stayed for tea and cake and a chat. It was lovely. I forgot how nice it is just to stop sometimes, how nice it is to connect with others.
So, while the last few years have been more challenging than I expected, I am glad I am where I am now. I’m not hiding anymore, I’m authentically me and I think for the first time, I’m okay with that.
As always, thank you for reading.