How daily exercise helps me keep my BPD anxiety in check

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I think I first became depressed as a young child. I was abandoned by my birth mother at a very young age, just six months, left at an orphanage where I languished for another five months before being adopted and sent to the United States where I grew up. Nearly as far back as I can remember, I was sad. I did not act out as a child, that came later but I would quite often isolate in my room feeling overwhelmed by sadness. I suppose it was unrealized grief, and having no words to describe the feelings, I was left fighting shadows of dragons that terrified me and seemed relentless in their attacks.

My world was always a very scary place

The world became a very scary place because of this and I eventually channeled most of that fear into anxiety. As I grew up I became highly anxious -- not to the point that it kept me from going out and being with people but to the point where I became hypervigilant in crowds and my frustration tolerance dropped to almost zero. My anxiety spilled over into my relationships with my husband, my children, my friends.

I lived with this anxiety for many, many years without being able to name it. It was always just sort of there as a feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach. Nothing I could put my finger on but something that never left. A sense of foreboding, fear of the unknown. So I became extremely afraid of ambiguity and that eventually became one of the hot spots in my marriage. I recall my husband once becoming exasperated with me because I was demanding an answer about something he could not give. He shouted at me,” You’re just going to have to wait! I don’t know the answer right now!” I remember feeling so confused by that because my world was so black and white an his was definitely full of greyness which I just did not understand.

My anxiety ramped up after my husband died

After he died, my anxiety really became almost unbearable. I did stop going out and my interaction with the larger world ground to a halt.

One day I started thinking about adopting a dog. My husband had had a dog who I loved and I had always wanted a dog when I was a girl but my father was very anti-pet. I mulled the decision over for about three years. I know…. It took that long…. But I finally decided to take the plunge and I adopted my little Shih-Tzu. He came from a rescue organization and was thought to be seven years old when I took him home. He had a lot of behavioral issues but the best thing about having him was that it forced me to go out and walk him. We started by literally only going around the block. Eventually he stopped doing his business so I added another block and another and then another. I eventually came to realize that walking like that was a balm for my anxiety. The gentle rhythym of moving my feet was calming. I bought an iPod and started listening to music as I walked and gradually my anxiety began to melt away. I also started researching other anxiety calming techniques and putting them into practice. 

I calm my beast through my daily exercise: walking

Today my life is almost entirely anxiety free. I walk between six and eight miles every single, come hell or high water, no matter what the weather brings. It only gets a little bit ticky during the winter when there is a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalk. Doing all that walking doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anxious at certain times. I do. But my anxiety has a different flavor to it these days. There is a different cadence to it. I can identify it when it starts and, through the practice of mindfulness, I have learned how to calm it and sooth myself through it. I do some of my best thinking when I am walking. It has truly become my antidote to my stress and fear. The most wonderful thing about this form of exercise is that is free and readily available to anyone. When I feel my anxiety starting to rise I put my shoes on and head out the door, earphones in and iPod in my purse.