Let’s end the pity party

Everyone has pity parties sometimes. It’s a normal and natural part of being human. We want things to happen easily and quickly. But sometimes they don’t. When we are hurting or afraid our pity parties sometimes take on a tantrum-like quality. It’s like we revert to childhood and to rolling around on the floor threatening to eat worms. It’s not very dignified and it’s difficult to come back from a tantrum. But the measure of one’s strength and courage is not their ability to avoid the pity party; it’s their ability to recover from it. It’s their ability to say, “No! I am going to fight this fight! I will not quit!”

I have spent the past two weeks feeling sorry for myself. My old anxiety disorder has been forcing its way back into my life. I let my guard down while things were good and forgot to protect myself when things got tough. That’s the nature of anxiety disorders, they creep up on you and then cut you down like a sword strike to the backs of your knees. Once you are down, it’s difficult to walk again. So you start to crawl. And you look up at the world around you and feel so small for not being able to walk with them. It takes deep resolve and focus to grab hold of a railing to lift yourself back up into the sunshine. But I’ve been there before and it’s worth it.

Being injured has made me scared. I’ve been scared I’ll never heal. I’ve been scared I won’t be fully productive at work again. I’ve been scared that I’ll lose myself back into the grip of anxiety that I used to live in. I’ve been scared I’ll regain all the weight I worked so hard to lose. I’ve been scared I won’t be able to enjoy the company of my running friends. I’ve been scared I won’t get that seratonin hit that comes with pushing through the wall in an ultra marathon.I’ve been scared I won’t be able to ride my bicycles again after spending lots of money fixing them.

I’ve also felt guilty. I’ve felt guilty about the $250 a month physiotherapy is costing me. I’ve felt guilty for spending lots of money fixing my bicycles and then not being able to ride them. I’ve felt guilty about the angry and miserable moods my fear has caused. I’ve felt guilty about not performing well at work. I’ve felt guilty for not being a better role model for my employees. I’ve felt guilty for not being more available to my son and grandchildren. I’ve felt guilty for not repairing the relationship with my son after we had a major argument on a day when we both felt vulnerable. And even worse, I’ve felt guilty for feeling guilty.

Fear and guilt have built inside me until it’s become a crippling anxiety. And that’s only fed both the fear and guilt.

But I don’t want to go back there! I am not merely the sum of the races I enter or miles I run. They are things I do for enjoyment. Yes, they are a big part of my recovery from anxiety. But there are things I can do right now to fight both the injuries and the anxiety. I always knew it was going to be a long slow road to recovery when I started getting treatment for my shin splints. Fifteen years of muscle tension doesn’t just disappear overnight. I just wasn’t prepared for my back to go. So I didn’t mentally prepare for a recovery period that included a second round of pain.

Now that I know these things, I can decide to take steps to take charge of my body and mind. I can become a Body Leader rather than someone who lets my moods and lifestyle react to my body’s signals. Because my body’s signals are signs of how well I am treating it and I need to listen to them and take proactive steps. I won’t perfect this skill overnight. I’ve got to see it as part of my ongoing development. But I can take small positive steps every day.

I took a day off work yesterday. I was a cranky so-an-so all day, though the 40’C (104’F) heat didn’t help. But I did take some very positive steps:

  1. I went to my Australian aunt for Chinese medicine treatment and I asked her to explain what she was doing, why she was doing it, and how it can help me
  2. I got an xray of my lumbar spine to make sure there are no bone issues, which there aren’t
  3. I bought a jar of St John’s Wart to help break the cycle of anxiety and depression; while drugs or herbal medications might not cure the causes of the anxiety, sometimes it’s necessary to get some relief to help you think clearly and retake command of your body and mind
  4. I bought a jar of cod liver oil because my Australian aunt recommended it for joint health and to help reduce inflammation
  5. I didn’t cancel my physio appointment for Thursday (one of my self-destructive behaviours is that I walk away from professional help when the going gets tough so I fought the strong urge to just cancel the appointment and walk away).

Today I am working from home. I am going to take some more small positive steps to help me take charge of my body and mind:

  1. I am resting my body instead of going walking with my partner because I haven’t tried full rest as a treatment option yet
  2. I am researching aromatherapy treatments for my back, calves and mind; I love aromatherapy and believe it can be a helpful tool in both physical and emotional healing
  3. I am making enquiries with a local yoga instructor about her classes; my muscles are too tight and my core weak so I need to take proactive steps to help with those things
  4. I am designing a bar table style desk to use at work so that I can stand part of the day instead of having to sit
  5. I am getting my work done today
  6. I am going to the movies for a few hours with my partner because movies are one of my favourite sources of inspiration.

Most of all, I will not push everyone away from me like I always have in the past. It’s my go-to response. My big goal for this week is not to use it. I will go to physio tomorrow instead of cancelling. I will go to the bakery on Saturday morning at running club instead of being absent. I will phone my mate to see what he’s doing on Saturday afternoon instead of pushing him away.

I will fight back. I will take one positive step every day to control my responses to negative stimuli such as anxiety and injury.

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12 responses to “Let’s end the pity party

  1. I’m so glad to read this post from you, as much as I can understand the pity party mentioned it really was sad knowing such a motivated person was getting pulled down. My wife has been going through a similar stint this year and it is a hard path to travell !
    Keep strong and positive.

    • Thank you Richard πŸ™‚ . I think everyone gets puleld down sometimes. I am determined to stay positive. I lost my focus for a bit there but am back. I have even bitten the bullet and am seeing a specialist doctor this afternoon. It’s going to cost an arm and a leg but I can always enter a few less races in the new year to recover the cost.

      I hope your wife makes it through the difficult stretch to be fit and healthy again too.

  2. Great blog! It’s nice to know that I am not alone when going through tough times. Stay positive!

    • Hi πŸ™‚ Thank you for coming to visit and for your kind words. I am determined to stay positive. Writing this blog and sharing my journey helps with that because I find a sense of community here in WordPress world πŸ™‚

  3. Such a wonderfully personal post, Andrew. I think everyone who reads this can understand your frustration, and also your anger at the “pity party.” We all get that way sometimes. I’ve been thinking lately that ANGER, at least for me, is the most destructive emotion there is. Anything done in anger is going to turn out poorly, and that includes getting angry at our feelings. I struggle with this so much myself. I hold everything in until I explode — and I make everyone MISERABLE around me. Reading your post reminds me that I’m not alone! Thanks for being so honest with your BFFs (blog friends forever).

    • I totally understand what you say about anger πŸ™‚ It’s such a powerful emotion isn’t it. I am glad I shared because now I feel less alone, which means I know others have overcome similar experiences so I can too.

      I hold everything in too and then also explode. My poor partner and mother usually are most affected. Mind you, they also reap the most rewards when I’m happy πŸ™‚ Time to shut down the computer, stop working and go into the city to see the musculo-skeletal specialist.

  4. Nice to read this post after the last one. I didn’t like the thought of you feeling so miserable. I hope the specialist helps.

    Take care of yourself πŸ™‚

    • The specialist wasn’t my type of doctor. I really didn’t like him. But at least I now have a confirmed diagnosis. I have sacroilliac joint disfunction caused by loose ligaments on the right side. The specialist then refused to discuss any treatment options other than prolotheraphy, which just doesn’t sit right with me. Perhaps it would have if he didn’t dismiss other options such as physiotherapy and increasing core strength. But his total disinterest in discussing other options left me feeling like I’d been reemed by a used car salesman.

      Now that I have a diagnosis, I am going to continue my 10 days of full rest and will discuss other long-term treatment plans with my physio tomorrow. These will include: pilates classes for core strength, yoga classes for flexibility and core strength, changing my running technique and the option of wearing a lumber brace when I run to help support the joint so that it doesn’t slip.

      I am feeling much more positive today. I don’t know whether it’s the decision to be more positive or the St John’s Wart. While I feel ripped off by the specialist, I am happy to have a diagnosis because I can start working from there.

  5. Fantastic post Andrew. I think most of us suffer from some or all of these issues but we can struggle to recognise or accept them and retreat behind the safety of our stock responses – ignore it, become more angry, more insular. It can be harder to face up to things and tackle problems in a positive manner but in the long run thats always the right thing to do.

    Hopefully its only a matter of time before you’re as fit and active, not to mention happy, as you can be.

    • Thank you for your kind and understanding comment πŸ™‚ I’ll be back being active soon. Just taking a rest to gather stock and make some informed plans for 2013. Then it’s into the adventure racing training. I have a few things I want to change in my life that will improve my physical health, especially my back health and posture. I am reading a really inspiring book right now and am still inspired by William Wragg’s fundraising afternoon at the weekend so I have some fuel in my reserve tank now that I’ve flicked the switch. That should get me through until I manage to fill back up πŸ˜‰ [to use motorcycling comparison].

      Monday 17th will be my first pilates class and Tuesday 18th my first yoga class (I can’t go next week because I’ll be interstate). I have some exercises to prepare for both classes πŸ™‚ . Who knows, one day I might even become an Ironman πŸ˜‰

  6. Really well said and good for you! Very inspiring!

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