Trying to shrug off the anxiety demons

Doom Hippy MTB trail by Andrew Gills
Doom Hippy MTB trail, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

I am the first to admit that I struggle with an anxiety disorder. It has plagued me most of my life. But, unlike the Andrew of the past, the me I am today won’t wallow in this unfortunate reality. I am fighting hard to keep the Anxiety Demon and his friend, the Black Dog away.

The seemingly constant rain isn’t helping my emotional state. All I want is for the cool blue sky days of winter to kick in. I’m tired of the wet season and the associated wet cycling clothing, wet clothing and, increasingly, cold body. Early in the wet season, I took some time off to stay indoors during the heavy rains. Then I went through a period where I just went out to play in the rain because the weather was warm anyway. But the air is turning autumnal and the rain drops are no longer fat and warm; they have become slim, stinging and cold. Perhaps it’s time to remember to take my waterproof jacket with me when I go out until the winter starts.

I know that the Anxiety Demon is of my own making. I try to do too much. I try to push too hard. I want to do everything at once and be everything to everyone. And acknowledging these things is the first step to overcoming them.

This morning, the Anxiety Demon and cold rain really affected my riding. I got frustrated that my rear derailleur kept slipping. I got annoyed when I couldn’t take turns on slipper gravel. I felt slow when my speed dropped.

So, halfway through the Doom Hippy single track I stopped. I parked the bike against a log and took some photos. I stood on the side of the track and forced myself to slow down.

I pushed my anxiety about the university assignment I submitted last night to the back of my mind: I can’t control my grade now I’ve submitted the assignment. I reminded myself that the pile of work on my desk will never go away. I acknowledged that it’s okay to only train one hour a day instead of more because I need to make time to study; I actually enjoy studying. And I decided to stay home the weekend of 20-21 April because it’d be good to repaint the walls and tidy the house so that we can get it ready for sale.

So, while the MTB ride this morning was fairly average in speed, technique and distance, it was just what I needed. The fresh air helped me get some perspective and the beauty of the bush helped calm my nerves. Sometimes we all just need to take a few moments to breath. And I need to remember that the challenge of balancing uni and work and training and Scouts and my magazine column and family is a first world problem. Each of these elements of my life are important to me. Uni and Scouts only take up 26 weeks of my year, while the rest of life just ticks along.

The Anxiety Demon feels much further away now than it did out on the trails this morning. I can see him standing on Doom Hippy enjoying the scenery, rather than sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear. My life’s pretty good. Besides, in three months time, I’ll be walking the 250km Great North Walk and that trip will give me plenty of time to recharge my batteries. Here’s to the sun coming up on a new dawn tomorrow morning πŸ™‚

My route this morning

My route this morning

Total: 9.5km MTB

Post Script: I try to keep my blog positive but it would be remiss of me to pretend that I don’t experience anxieties and struggles from time-to-time. By being honest about these things, perhaps I can help others who also struggle with anxiety or depression to see they too can overcome them.

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3 responses to “Trying to shrug off the anxiety demons

  1. I am amazed at how many pots you have in the fire, so to speak. Sometimes less really is more, Andrew. Don’t forget to take time for yourself sometimes to just BE.

    • I know πŸ˜‰ . I think that after 4 months off last year I have been like a kid in a candy shop – putting my hand up for everything I could – only to end up with a stomach ache πŸ˜‰ .

      I’m going away hiking for two weeks in July. That will give me breathing space to evaluate my priorities and how I can better balance my commitments (including those I need to pare back). Right now, I am going to try reducing my training sessions to five days a week of quality outdoor activity (and limiting to just an hour on work days) so that I have more energy to spread around.

      For the second half of 2013, I want to be more selective about the events I enter so I have more time to enjoy Scouts, which is an activity that is like a breath of fresh air – it’s about having fun not performance. Scouts also is an important activity to me because it ties in with my goal of becoming a high school teacher after I graduate from this university degree.

  2. Excellent πŸ™‚ I can truly relate to the Anxiety Demon and I love how you said it is still hanging out on the trail. Good for you!

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