The Ride

Please enjoy the scenery from my bike ride.

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.

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10 thoughts on “The Ride

  1. I’m glad you’re on the road to recovery, and feeling confident enough to talk about it. It’s amazing how great an exhausting bike ride can be, I could see how doing something like that could be helpful to relax you a bit, reduce the anxiety. I hope you keep up doing things (other than hiding in bed) that help you deal with your panic :)

  2. Cappy, I read your blog from time to time and would never have guessed you struggle with such a difficult issue. Good for you for getting out and going on your ride. I admire your strength to not let it limit you forever, your sharing this with your readers, and your reaching out to other sufferers. You go girl!

  3. Hi
    I had writers block the other day, which is how i found your blog. it’s really good. I also have panic attacks – well, i did, not so much now – they were the worst. I had one once playing the guitar on stage during the last night of the university drama society annual play. It’s too hard to describe it, suffice to say it sucked.

    Anyway, I think that was a turning point – until then I had in someways limited the things I’d do because of the attacks, but that made me realise I needed to exercise some control over my existence. I did some research, made a few changes and since then (touch wood) the attacks have been very few and far between. I hope you keep going as you are. Don’t let them dictate what you can or can’t do!!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, because it’s amazing.

    My freshman year of high school I experienced the same thing. I missed so much school because it was the place I associated with the most stress, etc…And it took me a really long time to feel like myself again. Or even just happy for no good reason.It’s really hard to talk about, so I relate to what it takes to write about it. Writing about it is what actually made me start to feel better, though, so I hope from the bottom of my heart that you do too :) Feel better, that is. :D

    • Thank you so much for sharing that with me and everyone :) I completely get how difficult it is to talk about, though I agree that it’s easier if you write. People somehow think that people with anxiety/depression etc are supposed to just keep it to themselves, because it makes others uncomfortable, and I’ve always struggled with when I should reveal the high level of anxiety that I experience. It’s such a huge part of my life, and I feel like others knowing about it is important, but it isn’t always socially acceptable. I’m glad you seem to be improving, and I really really appreciate that you’ve decided to comment here! And keep writing, because god knows it’s so helpful for so many people!!
      And thank you for following the blog! I love you for that :) Cheers!

  5. Pingback: Write. « writer's block

  6. Cappy, I missed this post because I was in Europe at the time and not reading. I’m so sorry you’ve been having anxiety. You did the right thing leaving that last school. Glad the new one is working out better for you. I think being on the school newspaper staff is a fantastic experience. I’ve never had the kind of anxiety you describe, but I have been depressed, which I’ll tell you about some time, maybe via email. The hardest periods of my life have been last year of high school and start of college; and when I went through my divorce. Each time I turned to writing. The best therapy I had when I was going through divorce was a writing group therapy. Six of us plus our therapist; each of us going through our own crisis. And the therapist gave us writing assignments, which we’d read, share and discuss in group. How I loved this therapy, and I’d look forward to it. Lasted a year and it worked in ways nothing else had. I love writing and so do you. Thank God, we have a way with words, eh?

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