On Wednesday I took part in the #thisgirlcan UV 5K event for International Women’s Day. This was the first organised event where I’d be doing a physical activity with other people for years. Doing anything outside my comfort zone triggers my anxiety, and this was so far outside my comfort zone that I’d have needed binoculars to see it! It’s an understatement to say that anxiety is not pleasant. I struggle with anxiety a lot.
The person I was walking with was running late. I spent almost 20 minutes waiting for her, watching loads of women going into the park.
Anxiety lies, and there’s rarely anything logical about it. Despite the evidence of my eyes my brain told me that all of these women were fitter than me, better prepared than me, better equipped than me.
Anxiety focuses on irrelevant details. By the time my friend had arrived I had convinced myself that they weren’t going to let me walk because my shoes were wrong, and was deciding whether I should protest or just slink away.
Anxiety is invisible. Although all these thoughts were screaming through my head and my body was in full on fight or flight mode with heart thumping and nerves jangling I said nothing to my friend. I don’t talk about what’s going on in my head much. I can write it, but I can’t say it out loud to anyone.
Anxiety can be beaten. Together we joined the women walking to the park, where no one gave a damn about my shoes, and we joined women of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels ready for the off.
There were runners in full athletics kit, Nordic walkers with poles, loads of hiking boots, trainers, tutus and face paint. There were women in glorious neons and women like myself who are so used to dressing to be invisible that grey is the brightest colour we own. They were all supportive, all enjoying it.
Me and my friend walked the course at a fast pace. It challenged me physically and soothed me mentally. By half way round I was smiling, and by the end I felt great. Sweaty, muddy and tired, but great.
I wish I’d realised sooner that #thisgirlcan is for all ages. I’m still not comfortable with the name, and judging by this article in the Guardian I’m not the only one, but I’ll be looking out for more of their events. And hopefully next time I’ll be less anxious about it.