You may have noticed that I wasn’t keeping pace with Michael’s blog posts. I wrote the following when I was
in the throes of the symptoms I was experiencing. Luckily, I am finally getting some relief from my medications, and I’m back for more blogging. Thanks to Alisha Perkins for her guest posts — they were expertly timed, and empowering.
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Marathon training was going as expected. We made our obligatory trips to the gym, and once the weather changed, we started running outside with the jogging stroller. The day's became longer, and our window of time to exercise before nightfall extended. The miles crept up and up and up, 7 miles, 10 miles, 13 miles... And then it started happening.
I've been acquainted with anxiety my entire adulthood. I've gone to the ER sure I was having a heart attack, only to be told to cut down on caffeine and to work on stress reduction. Each time I have one of my "fake heart attacks" as I have lovingly named them, I breathe through it, and sooner or later it passes.
But over the past month, that's not been my experience. Instead of a flutter in my chest, it has felt like my chest is tightening up — a lot like an asthma attack coming on. I feel like I can't breathe (although I can) and there's a wave of panic — a vibration just under the surface — so uncomfortable I could crawl out of my skin. And it lasts for hours — I have to drive my car though it, I have to interpret for clients through it, I have to calm my baby through it, I have to run through it. Last I checked, breathing is pretty instrumental to running ... So it's been a challenge. I've had to trick my mind into cooperating with my agenda. "We're running now, we can breathe just fine, just keep going ... 3 more miles."
For the first time in many years, I've decided to try medication. It hasn't kicked in yet, but I'm hopeful. I've cut down on my work hours, I've read all about mindfulness, I'm taking time out for myself: massages, meditation, rest. And I'm running.
Anxiety has a source. Mine did not manifest in a vacuum. I've got a lot on my plate — my employment, my relationship with my recently diagnosed husband, a one-year old that at times won't stop crying until I hold her. It's not easy.
We knew a child would change our lifestyle, but having a loved one with a chronic illness changes communication dynamics. We tiptoe around the symptoms, we dance around the elephant in the room — we're not ourselves.
And it takes a toll. I've held it together for a year. I stayed strong for Michael. And now, it's time to recuperate. And it's time to stop living in survival mode — and hash through this awful mess. What is MS doing to us? How are we going to adapt and move on?
After 14 years together, I truly thought Michael and I had already weathered the storms, and tackled "the hard stuff." Life from here on out would be us against the world. But as a trusted colleague recently confided, "there's always hard stuff." It doesn't end. It's not just us and it's not just MS — like Michael said in his introductory post, "everyone is dealing with something."
I recently looked through an old weekly calendar book I used a few years back. It was strange to see how different my everyday life looked. Days packed with back to back meetings, freelance jobs, appointments; places to be. But the weeks were punctuated with races — half marathons, the Bear Water 20 mile, and on that fateful Sunday, in all caps, "TWIN CITIES MARATHON!" The common thread through my previous life and my life now: running.
Isn't it strange how running can be so therapeutic? I used to ask marathon runners, "Why do you do it?" Now I know that for some people, it's a question not so easily answered.