Anxiety is pretty much my defining characteristic (yes, my parents are very proud). But because I’ve lived with it all my life, sometimes I forget how much it influences my thinking, especially during normal everyday things, such as working out.
I was reminded of that fact today when I was talking to a friend at the gym about all of the things I was worrying about. She was like, “Wow, that’s… not what the rest of us are thinking about.”
More: 15 GIFs that show what growing up with anxiety is really like
These days I just have to laugh at the barrage of worries, both big and small, that my brain manufacturers — because if I can’t laugh at them, I’d just crawl into my bed, pull the covers over my head and never come out. And it’s worth the battle to get to the gym. The truth is that exercise is the most effective medicine I’ve ever found for my mood disorders (and believe me, I’ve tried them all!).
So here’s to all the other anxious ladies out there still killing it in the gym even when their minds are trying to kill them.
25 thoughts every girl (or at least this girl) with anxiety has at the gym
1. I hate gym parking lots. Do I pick a spot by the door to make sure I’m not late to my class and risk looking lazy? Or do I park as far away as possible and get a little workout in before my workout and risk being late? How about I just park in the emptiest place possible so I don’t risk hitting any other cars. Again.
2. Do I have my gym card? What if my credit card has expired and I forgot to update it and I can’t get in and everyone is staring at me… again? Why don’t I pay more attention to my credit card expiration date? How many credit cards do I have? In fact, why don’t I pay more attention to my finances in general? I’m a terrible money manager!
3. How did I never notice how weird my smile is on my ID card? I look like a cross between Minnie Mouse and a serial killer. What was I thinking that day? What if they don’t let me in because they don’t believe that’s really me? What if they think I stole the card? Is stealing gym ID cards a thing?
4. Oh, hey, I made it in the gym with no problems. Weird.
5. OK, I should go to the bathroom or I’ll have to pee in the middle of class. Oh, who am I kidding? More than five jumping jacks and I’ll pee anyhow. Wait, do I pee too much? Is that a sign of cancer? Maybe I should call the doctor just to make sure.
6. It’s a good thing I’m not wearing my gray workout bottoms. Black doesn’t show pee or sweat! But how did I not notice when I was getting dressed that my pants are a shiny black and my tank is a matte black? That’s going to bug me every time I look in a mirror. Maybe I just shouldn’t look in mirrors. Why are there so many mirrors in gyms?
7. Are there bumps in the back of my ponytail that I can’t see?
8. I really hope I get my spot. Yes, I know I’m a full-fledged grown-up, and it’s weird that I have a spot. I swear I’m not territorial. It’s just my workout feels wrong if I’m not in the right spot, right?
9. Does the mirror on this side of the room make me look bigger than the mirror on the other side? Stupid mirrors.
10. Is that woman looking at me funny? Am I in her spot?
11. Maybe I should just hit the weight floor instead. All of the experts say that weight training is the best exercise for women. Well, except for the experts that say cardio is best. I’ll just do both. Lots of both.
12. Do I work out too much?
13. When they say you’re supposed to be at an 8 on the exertion scale, what does that even mean? Is my heart supposed to be beating so loud I can hear it in my ears? Am I going to have a heart attack? I’m going to die in a heap right here in front of everyone?
14. I can’t hear myself breathing. Did I stop breathing? Or is the music just that loud? Am I going deaf? I should call the doctor just to make sure.
15. Am I doing this wrong? Is this good pain or bad pain? This is just pain-pain!
16. Wait, how many lunges have I done? I don’t want to have uneven butt cheeks!
17. Does the instructor know she did eight on one side and 16 on the other? Why is it so many fitness instructors can’t count? No one else seems bothered by this. Maybe this is just my problem.
18. Do I have OCD? I read an article about exercise OCD once. I’m pretty sure it’s a thing. Where did I read that? I just read it. Why can’t I remember it? Am I getting Alzheimer’s? Can Alzheimer’s start this young? I think I read an article about that…
19. Agh, when did we switch to arms? Did everyone see me screw up? Are they laughing at me?
20. It’s fine. No one is looking at me. Why is no one looking at me?
21. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. I have so much work. I wonder how many emails I’ve gotten? Has my kids’ school called? Was there another terrorist attack? Will anyone notice if I check my phone? Did I leave my phone in the car? Did I lock my car doors? Wait, where did I park again?
22. ENOUGH. Less thinking, more sweating. Shut up, brain.
23. Hey, it’s been 20 minutes, and I haven’t worried about anything! Exercise is the best! Endorphin rush! Wheeeee!
24. I think I peed a little. From joy.
25. When’s my next workout?
(What if every girl with anxiety doesn’t think like this? What if I’m just a weirdo? Did I forget to list something I’m worried about? What if people think I’m crazy? What if… sigh.)