Tonight, I discovered that nothing beats a bike ride.
As many of you know, I love love love road biking. But lately, I haven’t really been riding. Like, at all. And there are lots of reasons for that. Okay, mainly just one.
I just finished my freshman year of college. I started out at my dream school, but then it turned out that the only place it was amazing was literally in my dreams. I seriously hated that college. And that’s to say nothing against the academics there, because I took a freaking fantastic linguistics class and learned a lot about Shakespeare, but it was just the wrong place for me. I didn’t feel like I fit in, and I had a really hard time making friends (which is kinda hilarious, because I’m not exactly shy).
And then there was the severe, debilitating anxiety that I experienced at that time. I started having panic attacks every night, and then I started having them in public places. For those of you who have never experienced this kind of anxiety, let me just tell you this: I have experienced nothing more terrifying than a panic attack in a dining hall. I — honest to God — thought that the people standing behind me in line were going to hurt me. I had to leave without eating, and I feared going back for several weeks because I connected my panic with that place. So I started staying in my room all the time, sleeping through classes, panicking at night, literally crying in the bathtub at 3 a.m.
I don’t say this to make people feel sorry for me, and I definitely don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. But this is the real story of my life, and it has shaped every action I’ve taken since that time. So knowing me is knowing this, and I haven’t talked much about it to anyone yet.
Anyway, I transferred to a school closer to home in January, joined a sorority and the school paper, and am so completely content there. That’s not to say that the anxiety is gone, because it definitely isn’t. I have the occasional panic attack, though with the help of a fabulous psychologist those are becoming few and far between. I still feel anxious almost all the time, to varying degrees, but it’s not as bad as it was last year. So I’d say I’m definitely improving.
What the hell does this have to do with biking, you ask? Well, I think when you start limiting your activities based on how much anxiety each one causes, you start going a little bit overboard and limiting everything. I don’t do much these days. Yeah, I read, blog occasionally, study for math placement tests (yuck), work around my house and babysit (cutest kids ever), etc, but I get so scared and anxious doing everyday activities that I worry about what will trigger the anxiety. And for some reason that means that I’ve pushed biking out of my life, even though you’d think I’d know that exercise outdoors would make me feel better.
Believe me, I do know. There are just a lot of barriers I still have to get past.
So getting back to the story…I took a long ride tonight. Today was a crappy day, and I was feeling all anxious and jittery, and those thoughts of, “Hey, just go upstairs and get in bed” were starting to jump into my head. Somehow, this time, I pushed them aside and hopped on my bike. Believe me, that ride was hard. I haven’t ridden in so long. But it was kinda like getting together with an old friend, one who never lets you down but also never lets you quit.
I rode 8 slow miles through the countryside, and by the time I was done I couldn’t really walk (and my butt still hurts). But somewhere between panting up a hill and riding past a pasture full of horses, I forgot all of that anxiety. Even if it just lasts a couple hours, I’m really glad I rode tonight.
Although…I can’t lie; the smell of horse poo is lingering in my nostrils still…
Author’s note: I would love to hear your stories of anxiety, depression, etc should you feel compelled to share them. I understand how sensitive this topic is, and rest assured that this will be a safe place to voice those stories. Or not. It’s up to you.
On a related note, please refrain from attacking any commenters or belittling their experiences. Thank you.