There is a mentality that starts when we are very young. This mentality gets us asking the age-old-question, “what if I fail?” especially when we have goals we are working towards. Unfortunately, as women, we often allow this mentality to lead us to believe that “we can’t,” or “we aren’t “enough” (pretty, rich, thin, fast...enough,) to reach our goals. And, these thoughts produce and fuel shame in our lives. I started challenging this mentality recently and wondering what would happen if we started to believe the opposite? That we CAN do the things that we dream of doing? Changing the “what if I fail?” to “what if I am successful?” is a possibility for all of us, but our hearts and minds often refuse to cross that barrier. Sprinkle in some anxiety and depression into this, and the thought of success can feel utterly impossible.
Diagnosed with depression at 19, it’s no surprise that anxiety joined the mix as I got older. I self-medicated with alcohol from time to time, but nothing that seemed to be a problem. After the birth of my son in 2001, my anxiety spiked and going to the grocery store was an enormous feat. Thankfully, these feelings waned over the next 3 years; but came back with a vengeance in 2006 when my daughter was born. I was able to learn how to hide the anxiety and panic from everyone around me, even my husband. I had a basket full of excuses to not leave the house for any reason and I added agoraphobia to the mental health list. It wasn’t until October of 2006 that I finally admitted out loud, “I have a problem, and I need help.” I went back to therapy, started anti-anxiety medications (which were scarce, since I was still breastfeeding). However, I didn’t take the medication for long, my preferred method was alcohol.
I started running during this time, but due to anxiety I ran only indoors on a treadmill for ten years. In 2008, I signed up for my first 5k. I ran the whole way and I cried when I crossed the finish line. Over the next ten years, I continued to run races and events; panic, anxiety and depression running alongside me and alcohol being the friend I could go to when social events got to be too much. I completed countless 5k’s, then moved to 10k’s, half marathons, marathons, and an ultra-marathon. I also added in triathlons, doing my first half Ironman in 2015.
I WAS ALWAYS RUNNING.
Not until 2017 did I start to ask myself what I was racing to (or from) regarding my exercise and alcohol habits. Am I trying to prove something? I’d had people close to me tell me I wasn’t “mentally strong enough” for certain types of situations and events. These people I had confided in about my depression and anxiety, they knew that in order to be comfortable at a barbecue I needed to drink a bottle of wine. I also heard I was more fun when I was drinking. But, what was wrong with me just being ME? This all nearly brought me to an existential crisis, but I continued to numb myself, pushing feelings and thoughts down.
LETTING GO OF ALL THE SHAME, THE “NOT ENOUGH,” AND THE FEAR WAS FREEING – AN EPIPHANY. AND ONE I AM WORKING TO CONTINUE IN.
Changing this mindset, and choosing myself, choosing sobriety has opened so many doors for me and it’s absolutely given me strength and confidence. I feel as if I can finally be ME.
Written By Julie Lyons