Earlier this week I got it together to go running twice. (Ok, so maybe technically it was jogging not running, but hey, I’m not in it to win any medals.) And it was good. I have a problem with giving myself time to think or relax and as I said before I remembered that when I run alone it gives me a space in my head to think things through.
At school I was the opposite of most other kids, I got better the longer the distance. I’m not fast, I came near the end of 100m sprints races, but I can keep going, so as the distance got longer I worked my way up the finishing order. However, I’m not really a natural athlete, so I wasn’t good enough to do running clubs and the like and when I finished secondary school I finished running.
Then two years ago I was browsing a book shop early in the new year looking for something to help kick start me into being healthier as is culturally traditional in early January and I was getting frustrated by all the faddy diet books around. Then the corner of my eye caught a book called Run Fat Bitch Run. I was so surprised at the title that I picked it up. I liked what I saw and bought it. I started reading it that evening and early on it suggested that you put down the book right now, stop procrastinating and go out for a walk. So I did. In a few weeks I was “running” 5k four or five times a week. I felt better, I was getting up in the morning, before anyone else to go out for a run and I was fitter, had cravings for healthy eating and was loosing weight without really trying. Excellent all round. Then I go a chest infection that hung around for weeks and it all fell away.
But I wanted to write about something that was going round my head when I did get out pounding the pavement this week. In her book, Ruth Field talks a lot from the perspective of her alter ego, The Grit Doctor. Which she describes as “That nagging little voice which makes you feel just a tad uncomfortable about helping yourself to another biscuit…” Basically her method is not to have a detailed list of rules written by someone else of what you should and shouldn’t be doing that you can start with enthusiasm and then give up on. She argues (from my memory, it’s 2 years since I read the book so I hope I’m not mistruing her words) that what you should and shouldn’t be doing is simple and you know it, the problem is getting your motivation together, which she phrases as listening to the Grit Doctor. And her approach is fairly sensible, she advocates slow starts and realistic goals and not running when injured. But also not making excuses for yourself.
So, what has all this got to do with anxiety? Well, it occurred to me as I was out that the Grit Doctor is Bitchface. Bitchface by the way is what Fi from Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers calls the negative voice in her head that tells her that she’s not depressed, she’s lazy, that she’s not ill she just needs to pull herself together. Check out her blog for a more elequent explanation. I’m not sure how much sense this revelation will make to anyone not familiar with the Grit Doctor or Bitchface, but it seems obvious now to me.
Now I don’t mean that Bitchface is right and all I/Fi/anyone with anxiety/depression/other mental health problems needs to do is pull themselves together and get over it. Far from it. What I realised is that just as mental health problems screw with the very workings of your mind and mess up your logical thinking, so they do with your motivation/voice of consious/grit doctor. Bitchface isn’t who you should be listening to. She’s ill too. She’s your motivation, your get up and go gone wrong. She’s ill and she’s scared and she’s lashing out and what she needs is a big hug.
At this point, I’m worried that this will either sound like utter drivel, an overly laden analogy, or really obvious to someone who understands psychology better than me. But I don’t care. The idea, that Bitchface is ill too, like me, that she is freaked out by her lack of control of the situation (and lets face it, she wants to be in control) I found very powerful and reassuring. She is a scared little child who doesn’t know what to do and is lashing out at those she loves, like a small child takes things out on a parent.
I’m hoping that next time she comes to call, telling me that I’m useless, I can take a big breath and give her a big mental cuddle, listen to her fears, as I would to a child, and without promising to have all the answers and fix all the problems (which I can’t promise), I can instead rephrase the problem in my words and try and get her ideas on what we can do to fix it and come up with a plan together, just like I would with a child.
Maybe this is a roundabout way of being compassionate with myself. I’m aware that on one level it’s a bit contorted, to name my motivation, to name my critical feelings, to label one as the other having a bad day, to treat my critical feelings like a small child. But hey, if it helps…
And yes, I do need to go running again. Just as soon as the glands in my neck stops aching from my cold…