Outride Anxiety

Anxiety has been something that has swirled around me for all of my life, I just didn't have a name to tie to it for a long time. Instead, it was always trying to fight something when it was almost beyond my capabilities of doing so.

For years I managed, but I wouldn't call it thriving. I did everything normal folks did- go out with friends, work, etc.  There were days that were a lot better than others. There were times, tho, where I experienced a sense of dread, and my body retaliated against me. Other times I could put on my mask and act surprisingly confident and sure.

My safe spaces were repetitive tasks, and many of my jobs have been based around repetition: milking and cashiering...doing the same thing every day was a security blanket for my soul.

Conversations were exciting if it was something I knew about or was passionate about. Other times I would sit and listen, hoping that I wouldn't have to lend my opinion to anyone. It was especially challenging for me to compile my thoughts and to process if there was a lot going on. Ultimately I was multi-tasking constantly. Sometimes my thoughts go through my brain faster than I can say them out loud and it totally sucked and left me feeling embarrassed.

One day I bought a bike. Then I went for a bike ride. I found that a bike ride really helped me quiet down my noisy brain. I was able to think more clearly and process my thoughts better.

This became extremely important when I underwent one of the most nervewracking life changes possible- Divorce. My bike rides were my therapy, the time where I could either think clearly or literally ride away from the anxiety of new beginnings.

I can't help but think how different would my life have been, growing up, had I found some sort of way to exercise and not hate it. I remember going for walks in the woods at my dad's/grandma Smith's and how happy I was to be out in nature. Among the trees, flowers, and birds I didn't have any worries or stress. There wasn't anxiety to be found as I sat next to the creek and listened to the water bubbling over rocks.

After discovering my love of riding, especially mountain biking, I was able to bring back those joyful feelings of my youth. However, I did discover a way to turn mountain biking into something that caused me extreme anxiety- racing. If only I had understood how anxiety worked, I would've figured things out a lot quicker. I didn't. I'm not upset at all over the racing I've done, in fact, I know it has given me a more well-rounded experience. I helped myself push through walls I'd throw up, I made myself experience things that I would've otherwise told myself I couldn't. So many folks said that the pre-race jitters would get better, but I'll be honest...they never did for me.

Overall, life was good. Life is good. However, another change came years later that hit me harder than I could ever imagine. The day my dad died was a day I'll never forget, and honestly, I still have a hard time believing it's true. It's been over a year since then, and time has gone by extremely quickly...two years in a row I feel like the summer season didn't really exist. In 2018 everything was a mess, and I will be the first to admit that I should've realized that I needed help a lot sooner than I did.

I wasn't able to think nor process my mental and emotional health as I barely had time to think about anything other than estate business. I was able to get some bike rides in, but I was plagued with so much nerve pain that it was difficult to ride.

In 2019 I found that I was still busy and still finalizing estate business, but I could acknowledge that I had been through the wringer when it came to my mental/emotional wellbeing. I needed to try something other than just having mental fortitude. So I visited with my doctor and came up with a plan.

No longer do I feel like there is something "wrong" with me, but I can see that my body and mind needed help. Cycling was the first step in my helping myself, and medicine was step number two- both of those combined help me to maintain my physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

I accepted that life is short and that I needed to take care of myself, in all ways possible. Set aside time to do what I love, and say no to what doesn't resonate with me. Racing no longer resonates with me. I'm finding after having a busy season at the shop with inconsistent help, that my body needs more time to recoup. I was told time and again at PT that I will have a long road of recovery, and it's apparent that it's easy for me to overdo it with work and riding.

For another year in a row, I wasn't able to train, and frankly, I have loved not worrying about training. All I want to do is ride how I want to ride, at my pace, when I want to.

Anxiety has been a gift and I can look back and see what I was able to accomplish, even with my "Panic Brain" in full swing. I can appreciate how cycling has improved my life and that it gave me the courage to go forward and find happyness.