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When You Can't Outrun the Pain of Anxiety and Grief

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For years, I ran and ran. I ran because I thought it’d fix my problems. I ran because I felt if I stopped, I’d have to deal with the pain, anxiety, the grief and the deep, raw feelings. I was afraid I’d have to finally accept things I wasn’t ready to accept about myself and my story. I spent years running in circles, determined not to let these things catch up to me. I believed running was easier, that repressing the scary things in my brain and not accepting them or dealing with them was easier. But I couldn’t run forever. I was exhausted; I finally found that out when suddenly everything I didn’t want to deal with was now weighing down on my shoulders, and everything I didn’t want to face made me crash into the pavement.

I thought I was a pillar of strength for being a kid who made it through tough times and had carried on with a smile, but really I was just running from my problems and my past. I never realized what strength was until I was dealing with all these emotions, the grief and the trauma, all at once. I knew what pain felt like, but I was unable to express it because numbing myself from the pain was so much simpler.

Once I finally was able to express my pain, I learned it’s tough and it’s so incredibly hard. The tears fall and fall, and sometimes I feel like I’ve cried enough tears to fill the Atlantic Ocean. And there are times when I just want to crawl up in my bed and isolate myself from the world. It’s not going to be easy and I know that, but I keep telling myself one day it might get easier.

I’m not going to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Because honestly I still don’t know what works for me. I’m a work in progress. What I do know is the work I’m doing on myself is harder than any academic class I’ve taken in college or graduate school. It’s more rigorous than anything I’ve ever done.

But every day is a new day, and every day my anxiety comes in different forms. I battle with thoughts of not feeling enough, not feeling worthy, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to a place where I love and accept myself exactly as I am. The eating disorder I developed at 14 years old has warped my brain. The scale is in complete control of me and has created a monster of irrational and self-loathing thoughts.

I often wonder if I’ll ever heal from the trauma of my dad dying by suicide when I was a child. The ripple effect it’s caused throughout my life turned into a tidal wave. The trust issues, separation anxiety, fear of the worst and just fear in general have become a large component of my life. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to trust someone, if I’ll ever be able to let anyone in. I’m so terrified of being hurt that it’s often easier to rely on myself and only myself, because I know I won’t hurt myself or let myself down.

I often wonder if I’ll always live in fear and be terrified of the unknown. If I’ll continue to think the worst of every situation — not because I’m a pessimist, but because I’ve been through the worst.

I got tired of running, and here I am. The past has caught up to me, the feelings and emotions stronger and more powerful than ever. I finally acknowledged the fact that I have severe anxiety and that it’s OK. I finally accepted everything and all I’ve been through, and I realized nothing I ever do will change my story. It’s all part of my journey.

I know running from your pain may seem like the easiest solution, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. Eventually your legs get tired and you may not be able to hold yourself up any longer. That’s what happened to me, and I crashed into the pavement.

Luckily, I was able to clean the scrapes off my knees, rise from the ground and begin to do the hardest work of my life.

Working on yourself is a marathon, not a sprint.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: October 27, 2016
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