It was January 2016. I felt the footsteps of an old monster that attacked me a few years before. It was all too familiar: the immense and irrational fear, losing interest in every single thing, lack of focus, blurry memory, being tired all day long, etc.
An acquaintance had just had a heart attack. Luckily, he made it. He is the person who got me into running in 2012. My mind immediately made very dark associations. “If he is a runner and had a heart attack, then you, being a runner, will have a heart attack and die.”
A few days later, having fallen into my mind’s trap, I went to get a heart rate monitor sports watch, not because I wanted to keep my heart strong and healthy, but because I was scared that my heart was gonna go beyond its limits and kill me.
I kept running, yes, but thinking all the time that I was gonna die while doing so. Therefore, I lost all interest in the activity and my runs were happening less frequently. The worst thing was that I was in the middle of my training plan for the Paris Marathon.
I forced myself to keep training, but one day I just couldn’t do it anymore. I got fed up with the monstrous fear and having the same thought in every single stride: “You are gonna faint. Your heart is gonna give up. You are gonna die.” I quit my training about 3 weeks before the marathon.
The situation was growing like a snowball in an avalanche. Every week I either had a new fear or another piece of me was shutting down. My plan to go to the marathon in Paris was still up, even though I stopped training and I had no desire to run. I had booked a little flat with a stunning view of the Eiffel tower, was gonna meet up with some good friends, and had football tickets to see France play at the beautiful Stade de France, one of my biggest dreams. Yet, I did not want to get on that plane, that’s how bad I was.
As the day of the trip got closer, the bigger the fear got and the less I wanted to get on that plane. One of the reasons being that my mind was making me think I was gonna have a heart attack mid air, and no one would be able to save my life.
Before all this, I was going to a homeopathic doctor (I don’t like traditional medicine for this kind of situation) who prescribed me a lot of drops with calming effects. Somehow I managed to get on that plane, scared and crying a little, but I managed, just as I managed to survive, literally, the long flight to Paris.
Already in Paris, I went to the match, which I enjoyed despite the circumstances, and picked my running kit up, even though I did not know if I was running the marathon or not. Two days prior to the event, I decided to go on a test run along the Seine. When I ran by the Eiffel tower I thought “I have to run the marathon. I’m already here, and who knows if I will get another chance to run it."
So I did, and despite the fact that throughout the 42 kilometers my mind was telling me that I was gonna die before the finish line, I did it in a somewhat decent time, considering, too, that I hadn’t ran for 3 weeks. After the marathon, I stayed in beautiful Paris for one more week, then I returned home, not knowing that things were about to get a lot worse in my head.
The big challenge (more mental than physical, if you can believe that) was that the Paris marathon was behind me. However, not only the panic attacks that I was having were still happening, but they were also happening more frequently. I was even having them at night. There was one night in which I jumped out of bed thinking I was gonna die. I was sweating and my heart was racing.
One morning, at the end of May, my mind was in absolute control of me. Annoying me about my every move. I sat at the end of the bed and said to myself while hitting my chest out of anger: “What the hell is wrong with me!?”
Later that day, I decided to go with my mother to my sister’s place because I simply didn’t want to be alone. On the way there I had the mother of all panic attacks, should have seen it coming, since my mood that day had been at an all-time low. We were about to cross a street when I felt the lights going out. I thought I was going to faint.
“Something is happening to me” I said to my mother in a highly anxious fashion. I sat on a sidewalk. My heart was racing. According to my mother, I looked as if I was terrified, and my eyes were bloody. I was even shaking. The first thing I said was that I wanted to go to the hospital to see what was wrong with me. Of course, buying into my mind’s threat of something being physically wrong with me. We did not go to the hospital, but we called medical services and had them go to my place to see me, since it wasn’t exactly an emergency. Well, in my head it was.
When the doctors arrived, they checked all my vitals. They were fine. But then the plot thickened. When they checked my glucose levels, they found out they were incredibly high for the time of day, that I could have pre-diabetes, and needed to lower my levels right there, otherwise they would have to take me to the hospital. I was shaking and out of it.
Even more scared about the chance of going to the hospital. After a while and huge doses of serum, the doctors lowered my levels of glucose. Before they left, they made sure I had the orders to have some diabetes tests performed on me the next day. Needless to say, I could not sleep that night. The possibility of having some form of diabetes was way too scary. The disease is no joke and it impairs and limits your life in countless ways.
The next day I went to have those tests done bright and early. Wanted to know as soon as possible if I had the disease or not. They took multiple blood tests. Unfortunately for me, I had to wait for two days for the results to get to my email. When they arrived, I opened them with horror.
My life could change forever. I read them multiple times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I had NO diabetes whatsoever. Was not even close to having it. I took the results to my GP, and he said that one or two things could have happened:
1. My glucose levels were altered by my state of mind.
2. The glucometer the doctors used to test my blood was not working properly.
I could have taken legal action against the medical providers, but I didn’t. Instead, I took action on myself, and decided for once and for all to rid my mind of its dark powers on me. I even remember saying: “I’m fed up with this. Gonna fix it.” My doctor told me I needed therapy, so he recommended a psychologist with whom I worked intensely to get all my demons out in the open and slay them.
I still see him to this day, but back then I would see him for two hour sessions once a week. He used all kinds of psychological approaches to help me be me and get my life back. He even got me into meditation, which - I must say- changed my life and personality in such positive ways that I can’t even begin to describe.
I cannot say that I am anxiety free, and I guess no one can, since emotions, good and bad, are part of what make us human. But I can say that my mind does not control me anymore. It tries, yes, but I no longer let it rule or define me. Long gone are those big and scary panic attacks. My life is mine again and since 2017 I resumed my running activities. I’m even thinking of running a marathon to raise funds for a mental institution.
For anyone out there who might have gone through similar stuff or is suffering from some kind of mental condition, know that you are not alone and that you are not monsters because of it. Do get help and you will see how it does get better. The sun will shine again in your life. It is not an easy or linear road by any means, but that bright and warm sun will bless your life with its nurturing beams. Fight the fight and never ever give up.
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This is a guest post written by Gustavo Mendieta. You can reach him via email at email@example.com
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