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Training With Anxiety

What I Call my Darkness

Is a very of a personal and vulnerable subject for me. When I started running it was two fold, weight loss and dealing with breath stealing, gut punching anxiety.

Have you ever been out for a run, its a beautiful day, everything is great then all of a sudden your body takes over your mind, you can't catch your breath, your chest and throat feel tight, your vision maybe closes in or it gets glaringly bright, sounds either get really load or you hear nothing at all but your heart beat.

When anxiety comes upon me, most of the time it will be a sneak attack!

My skin will start to become hyper sensitive, my scalp and neck get tight, everything sounds really load, my throat and chest hurt, I feel claustrophobic, and all I can think about is to get away, or doing something to make it stop immediately!

Feelings of Shame

In my younger years I stopped the severe attacks in unhealthy ways, making me ashamed and compounding the problem into a vicious circle of anxiety/shame round and round.

After the birth of my daughter, I was so afraid she would be like me, that I had passed on some bit of my darkness to her, or worst of all she would find out what I considered at the time as my weakness and shame.

Trail Running

I started running for weight loss, taking a Learn To Run clinic through the Starting Block in Vernon. I would feel so good after each class I figured running would magically get rid of my darkness, and everything would, did change for awhile.

Running did help but it was not the magic "That was easy" button I was hoping for. I found that like running, I had to work at it the anxiety and help it along during my runs. Working first on moment to moment, then minute to minute, until I could finally shift my emotional responses and breathe again.

I tried bringing small containers of scented oils to smell, smooth rocks to rub, mantras repeated over and over, even counting my steps, in the end the only thing that worked for me was putting an elastic band around my wrist and snapping it as soon as I could sense the now very familiar warning signs.

For me this worked, it broke the cycle of my body and mind reminding me to breath, relax and calm myself.

It took about 7 months for my attacks to stop, this doesn't mean I don't still have anxiety, it means for me when I feel my warning signs I can immediately break the cycle in a healthy way. I still occasionally wear and snap my elastic band, and I'm defiantly not saying this will work for you, only possibly finding something like a metronome or a mantra may help when you are out there and still need to get home.

I Love You

Over 17 years of Ultra Running has help me through anxiety and taught a ton about myself, good and bad. A lot of training time by myself has given me time to think about why I had anxiety and fear, what is the root, where was is coming from?

When I run alone, it gives me opportunity to look at myself, pull apart each piece, really see each part of me, and look at my anxiety straight in the face and say,"you suck! but I accept you as only one part of me, let's hug it out."

My Baby Bear

I think about my daughter (who has anxiety), and how much I love her no matter what. Here I am loving and accepting her for who she is not matter what, yet I was not giving myself the same love and acceptance.

The Mess that is Me

Ultra racing taught me how to endure! Endure physical pain, mental and physical exhaustion, yet still push through because nobody is going to do it for me.

I have had time while running to look at the messiness that is me, the mother that is me, the wife, friend, daughter, coach, confidant, and all amazingness around me that helps make me, well me. I have finally come to a spot where this is good, I am good, this darkness is faced with a giant light that is my life and I finally love it all...

PS: I am not a medical professional, and only relaying to you my experience with my anxiety. If you are dealing with anxiety, depression and feel like you can't get your head above water, please, please tell someone. Hear me, You are loved and are on this planet for a purpose.


Unknown member
Jun 22, 2021

Thank you for sharing your story and your love.


Unknown member
Oct 13, 2020

Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your journey and how you’ve learned through the process. It’s so important that we encourage and understand each other in our journey of life.


Unknown member
Aug 22, 2020

Dawna, I feel so grateful and honoured that you share your learning and strength here. You are showing that hero’s get anxiety too. 🙏

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