Today is a big day. AS OF TODAY, I have worked out every week, at least twice a week, for a full year. This is a major accomplishment for me. I have never, never, gone a full year working out. This is the first time in 22 years that I have had any consistency when it comes to physical activity.
And in coming to be a more physically active person, I’ve learned people love to talk about numbers. Everything is quantitative. How many reps can you do? How many pounds can you lift? How many kilometres can you run? And the answers to all those questions are: what exercise are we doing? I don’t know but probably not a lot, and I can run 10 km. But those aren’t even the most insidious numbers. What’s your BMI? What are your measurements? How much do you weigh? How much weight have you lost? How many calories do you eat? Each of those questions are vicious but thriving in conversations about healthy lifestyle. It is important to note that all of them can be answered with a simple, “None of your business”.
When it comes to this more active lifestyle I’ve taken on, there is only one number I consider important. The number 4. Over the last year, I have only had 4 panic attacks. I’m actually smiling right now, I know you can’t see it because this is a blog and not a YouTube video or a Tik Tok, but I’m smiling.
I have two different anxiety disorders and a long history of panic attacks. If you’ve never had one before, it feels like your heart is going to explode, your skin is on fire, and your brain is made of lava. Additionally, despite having around 8 years of experience with panic attacks, they don’t get better. They are just as terrifying, unsettling, and uncomfortable every single time. I don’t know the last time I had less than 10 panic attacks in a year.
I’ve had people tell me that I look different, or even better. And those compliments are nice, I do appreciate them because I understand that there is value in appearance. But that cannot compare to the feeling of being happy. I ran into an old friend the other day, and she told me, “It makes me so happy to see that you’re happy”. And she’s right, I am.
There are some important points to note here. Numero uno: I did not get rid of any of my other coping mechanisms. Working out did not replace anything, it is now something I do in addition to music and therapy and talking to friends and creating lists and the 3,000 other ways I have structured my life to manage anxiety. Numero dos: I still have anxiety. She rears her ugly head and makes me feel like a bag of garbage, but those periods are less frequent and more manageable (yay!). Numero tres: I do not know what will happen in a world post-vaccine. I have social anxiety and a lot of my triggers involve large groups of people, which hasn’t really been a problem over the last year. I’m aware that things could change.
Numero cuatro: I did this for me. Working out (especially when you start) can suck. It makes your body hurt and you get sweaty and sore and uncomfortable. It can be defeating and demeaning and frustrating. So, you need to show up for yourself, and accept that some days just suck. There were days this year I ran 10 or 11 kilometres and felt like a goddamn icon. There were also days I ran 3 or 4 kilometres and STRUGGLED. My first run was 2 kilometres, and I walked a good portion of that. But I kept working because showing up for me felt good. It’s better to run 2km than 0km.
I will never be a gym rat that can run 100km and lift a zillion pounds. I will never be super flexible or proficient at any sport. However, I show up for me and I take care of my mental health and that’s more than enough. And I can see that in the number 4. It shows strength and resilience. It tells me that I’m doing something right. That for a full year I loved myself enough to do something that I thought I couldn’t do.
Over the last year, I have spent 183 days in lockdown, gone to 0 bars, eaten in 2 restaurants, gained 1,628 Instagram followers, got started on 1 new social media platform and worked out at least 104 times. But it’s all because of that last one, that I get to be most proud of the number 4.
From me, with love, to you,