I’m Proud Because I Am Achieving Things I Thought I Couldn’t Achieve Anymore

Trave River

The photo above is not very special, because it’s just a random snapshot of our Trave Channel. I like to add photos to my posts, but this post here is not so much about the photo but about something else. Today I just noticed that I am proud, actually pretty proud about myself. Because I was swimming again, even if I went jogging yesterday. But I felt great after two hours swimming and I sat at home thinking, or daydreaming. Do you know these moments when you ask yourself what goes well at the moment, and what goes not so well?

A couple of years ago, if you would have told me that I will soon go running at least three times a week, and swimming two times in the same week, and not to mention all the hiking, I would have laughed and replied “Seriously? You’re funny!”. I wouldn’t have believed you, mainly because I smoked a pack of cigarettes each day, I suffered from depression and anxiety disease, and my overall condition was just bad because I sat at home the majority of time. Ok, to be honest, talking about the diseases, I made huge improvements since the existence of my blog. If I talked about it, I always mentioned it’s not the greatest issue anymore, nonetheless I still have some bad days sometimes, but I can deal better with it today.

I think that’s it, when it’s about depression and anxiety disease, you probably never get rid of it (although I heard about people who did), but you can learn to deal with it, like other people have to deal with their diseases. But my point is, when my depression (which was most likely a side-effect of the fact that my anxiety disease did prevent me to leave my home regularly) was still severe, my world of thoughts consisted of ideas like “You will never ever become an active person anymore, because you can’t to this and that anymore”. But you know what? I was so wrong, I was absolutely wrong. As said, today I would still say that I will never ever get rid of it completely, but maybe I come back to it in a few years later when I realize I was wrong about this too.

If you would ask me where I started to cross the border, it was probably when I got myself this cheap Medion point-and-shoot camera in 2012. I made a lot of progress earlier, but it was still at a time where I got panic attacks regularly in all kind of situations. But at the same time I also realized it doesn’t matter, because I would get them at home too. I think it was full despair, I just gave up fighting it. Or what might be more true, I just stopped to care about it. It didn’t matter anymore where I got the panic attacks, my life just sucked anyway. And you know what the irony is? To my surprise, I realized that this is exactly how you push the anxiety disease to the side. You can’t fight it, but you can accept it, and at that point the real progress started, yes, from alone. Because you stop listening to all those symptoms you get, because your life sucks big time, and at that point things just can’t get worse anymore. And this is when the chemistry in your body gets the message “Shit, he’s not listening anymore, what now?”.

So, I went outside with my cheapo point-and-shoot camera. I liked to play with Photoshop, but if you don’t have your own photos, it’s just bad. Previously I shot my photos with one of these old phones, that was bad too. But this new camera raised the bar, at least a bit. I started slowly, I didn’t do huge hikes. Most of the time I shot photos of flowers, because you can find them everywhere, even if you don’t like to be too far away from your home. But with that, I didn’t really notice how I increased the distance from my home over time, because I became interested in other subjects that you can’t find close to your home. I increased the distance again, and yes I got panic attacks sometimes but again I told myself “You can get them at home too!”.  As I said, the body and brain got the message. As a kid I was afraid of some larger dogs in our neighborhood, but I realized they don’t want to kill me and my anxiety went away. I think that’s exactly what happened with my disease too. I actually learned that a panic attack doesn’t kill me, it’s awful due to all those different symptoms that can appear but it never killed me.

In theory, a dog could hurt you, but it doesn’t happen too often.  In theory, I could imagine that you could get a heart attack during a panic attack, but if that ever happened to someone, it probably happened much less often than dogs do bite kids. So, how exactly did I learn that dogs barely bite? Right, as a kid I had to be brave, I had to go past this scary large dog. I did this a few times more often and I couldn’t remind anymore when I lost my fear of dogs. Exactly this is what happens when you stop to fight panic attacks, when you just accept that they are there, and that they most likely won’t kill you. The professional term for this is “habituation”, you habituate yourself to certain situations again. Science still doesn’t know why certain people get these diseases, but it is already known for sure that you will get out of the mess on the same way you entered the mess. You got fears in certain situations, a few more times and you started to avoid these exact same situations. Now you need to get back into these situations, so that the link between the situation and your fear gets destroyed, in your brain.

You know, doctors are not all-wise. I was told that I have some kind of social anxiety, but if that would have been the case, I would have gotten most of my panic attacks in social situations. I myself always believed that it is much more likely that I suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder, because I got the panic attacks in all kind of situations, even at home where I was alone. But no matter what it was, photography was a great way to break out of it. I had to do both, leaving my safe harbor, and I got into social situations again. It didn’t really matter to me what it was, it was just more important to see that the issue occurred less often, the more I went outside again. In 2015, when I got my first DSLR camera, the problem was barely still present. The camera actually got me interested to visit even more distant places. I’m not much of a traveller, but now it didn’t matter anymore if I take photos on the lawn in front of my apartment or several miles away from the city. Did panic attacks still occur? Possibly, but barely. It happened every day, but now it was like one or two times a month if at all. That’s why I still say “You probably don’t get rid of it”.

During my teenage time and maybe to the point I became an adult, I was very sporty. I was in a soccer club, I visited fitness clubs and went swimming regularly. So, the next big question was if I could achieve something like that again? Could I do sport again? I tried it often but it never really worked due to the pack of cigarettes a day habit. But that habit did stop when I found a much better alternative in December 2016. It’s sad that governments and all kind of media channels or a huge cigarette lobby try to fight the e-cigarette trends. I mean I understand it, because the cigarette industry does lose money while the government loses money too until they introduce taxes on e-cigarette related products. But talking about my own health, I just can’t tell you how much better I feel. If you are a smoker, I am not kidding, give e-cigarettes a try. I know, it’s better to skip both, but if you want to get close to a non-smoker, e-cigarettes are your secret weapon, because you will feel like a non-smoker. Why do I say this? Because as said, it was impossible to go running or do any kind of sports as a smoker, but since I became a vaper, it became possible to start with fitness again. Yeah, my lungs just don’t hurt anymore, because my lungs don’t consume burned tobacco anymore, it’s now just vapour.

I started running, and yeah, you need to start slowly especially if you skipped any kind of physical activity for too long. But now I am running miles, and somehow it was not enough. As hinted in my first paragraph, I do actually run three times a week, and I did crave for more, which is why I also go swimming two times a week now. If we take the last decade as an example, I am probably at my highest point right now. I feel like twenty again, my fitness improved and I finally understand it again. It’s just not for the health, or because you want to burn a bit of fat. No, I understand it again, it makes you fit, it generally makes you feel better. It’s not really that I forgot this over the years, but too often did I tell myself “You can’t do that anymore!”. I’ve been wrong, so wrong. Yes, I can do that, and yes it’s worth it. Right now, I’m just feeling healthy and top fit. Right now, I don’t even understand how I got to this point again, I’m just proud that I did. But here I can make another point.

I don’t want to force anybody to do a fitness program again, but for those who are interested and with the mindset “I can’t do that”, you’re most likely wrong too unless you have a severe disease that makes it difficult to do any kind of physical activity. I believe, we too often think “Nah, I can’t do that”, and you know why we think that? Because we don’t start. There is just one question you need to ask yourself and it is “Do you really want to do it?”. If you answer this with “Yes, sure!”, you absolutely can do it, and you just need to start right now! If your lifestyle is preventing it, you need to make changes there too, right now (talking about cigarettes for example)!

I actually started to run with a jeans, and as I said, I didn’t run a mile. I just started slowly but my condition improved with each run. Of course I am not running with a jeans anymore, I have a complete set of running clothes because I realized again, that fitness was always my thing. A couple of days ago I talked with a friend who said “You’re inspiring, I’d like to do fitness again too but I can’t do it.”. Guess what my reply was? Right. Too often we think that we can’t do something, but in reality we just don’t want to start doing it. If you want it, you need to start it. It’s that easy, and it works.

4 thoughts on “I’m Proud Because I Am Achieving Things I Thought I Couldn’t Achieve Anymore

  1. I am very happy for you that your life has improved. Some people get a dog to motivate them to get outside more often. I find that photography is also a good motivator. Many times I have taken long walks on nature trails because I was looking for interesting things to photograph. I hope you continue to find joy in photography and in life.

    1. Thank you. My mother suggested a dog back then during my worst time, but I somehow ended up with a cat as you know. 🙂 But I didn’t disagree with the idea, because I am sure it’s helpful because you need to go outside then, it’s just that I wanted a cat. But yeah, photography had the same effect for me. But cats can help too, because they bring joy as you know as a cat owner yourself 🙂

      Right now I find joy with many things outside. Photography, hiking, fitness, meeting friends again and so on. Spring and summer is very helpful for my mood, it’s the time where you can do many things outside. I do also like autumn, but winter can be a problem because that is almost like jail time, sitting at home. But then I somehow manage it to keep my mood stable with PC gaming, photo editing and so on. But there have been winters where I did fall back, it’s usually the end of winter before spring starts, but then I get well again 😀 But today I would say it’s not really depression, it’s just the winter blues everyone experiences when winter is too long. But a hike through the beautiful snow landscape can resolve this too. 🙂

  2. You have every right to be proud of all that you have achieved and now you know that even if you have bad times you will find a way to get through them. Recently I was reading another bloggers post about photography and depression and she said, very like you did, that photography helped her keep going. She had decided to post a photo a day and some days the thought of getting that picture was what got her out of bed in the morning. I guess it doesn’t matter what it is, a sport, a hobby or a pet as long as it gives your life some meaning.

    1. Thanks. Yes, anything goes. The own interests must be discovered again, and then it must be done, just starting doing it, not thinking. Even if there are panic attacks and what not, the more you try, the less likely it will happen. It’s the same process I got into the mess, but running backwards out of it. It’s habituation. Things like doing photography outside while getting a couple of panic attacks (Hyperventilation, increased heart rate and what not), helped me a thousand times more than the few weeks therapy I tried. Because we are all individuals, and I couldn’t feature out how the program of the therapist would fit to me, my ideas, my wishes and who I am. The only thing I heard in a therapy that made sense was the “habituation” part, but I discovered this on my own and by reading years before the therapy.

      The other blogger is right. Photography is super helpful. But this is probably not for everyone… but like you said… anything goes. It’s all about finding joy again (in the case of depression), and about accepting what the body does (in case of anxiety) while you go into situations anyway, and eventually over time the attacks disappear. Anxiety often reminds me of these ghost kid’s movies… the ghosts do pranks, but they don’t kill people, they rather look like cute ghosts. And usually in these movies, the ghosts give up with the pranks when humans are not afraid anymore. That’s exactly how beating anxiety works. Or as said, like kids beat their anxiety of dogs or what not.

      I think the big issue is that when people start getting their first severe anxiety attacks, it can really feel like being short before getting a heart attack (racing heart, hyperventilation, breathing problems). And there are tons of different symptoms and every attack can feel like a very dangerous situation. I think 7 years ago, I called the ambulance once because I thought I would get a stroke… it was just a panic attack again.

      When you had these attacks a hundred or thousand times, and when you read or discovered on your own that it just feels scary, but that it never killed you… it gets easier, and ironically anxiety starts to disappear (but it doesn’t if you now start to link a situation to the attack, then it gets worse and you avoid more and more situations). Anxiety is a big mouth, but when you do your homework, anxiety gets shy and afraid of you.

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