And then of course there were the days I couldn't run, when my head was too fogged from drugs or I was just weak and ill. But not having to work helped keep my stress down, and the weakness became less, and there became some point where if I could just focus enough to get out there and make the legs do it, my body could manage. I'd built the muscle back enough that I could do the easy steps of the Couch to 5K every time. Not once during the entire training program did I just quit in the middle of a run: I made it through every single one ... if I could make it out the door.
And I'm thinking, what did I really develop over that summer? Was it incredible muscles or an athlete's responses? No. I developed discipline. My muscles came back online and what I have now is actually much better than I've probably ever had my entire life. But for this race that I'm hoping to do Sunday, I'm not doing it because I'm an athlete: I'm doing it because I disciplined myself. I made running a habit (a habit which fed off of my adrenaline and my horrible, horrible need to do something to keep it from frying my mind) and turned to it when I needed centering and calming.
I still don't like it. But I like that I can look at "what I need to do to be able to swim X far" and in my head I think of it like the Couch to 5 K, look at what you can do, become confident, then ramp it up, master, then add a little more.
I am, however, very sadly aware that the urticaria and the systemic shut down due to stress overload is still a real thing in my stupid body. And I've thought once or twice that, actually, if I get really ramped up on race day, well, that might have a bad enough effect on me after the race that I won't do any of these anymore.
But I do believe I will make it through Sunday on willpower alone. And I'm very hopeful that I will be able to use the great stuff I've been learning in my anti-anxiety counseling to help moderate the crazy fear thoughts and just keep focused on my goal: finish the race. And I'm already believing that, maybe as early as October, I'll train myself well enough to do a proper full length triathlon (Sprint, not Ironman, obviously). Will I ever do one again? I think it's likely I won't, because it's been the combination of still needing to fight off the stress/anxiety and having a job 5 minutes from a gym that's made this possible in the first place. Without the (pretty much literally) burning desire to run, I don't think I'll want to keep on with this training. But for now, while it's my self-medication of choice, I am liking very much the idea of taking my lemons and turning them into lemonade. I started out too weak to walk up a flight of stairs without resting, and I carried on my recovery plan until I became a triathlete. Even if it's only true for a few months, it's still an idea that makes me feel really cheerful.