I sat at the kitchen table and laid both my palms flat on its surface. Fear pierced my heart.
What in the world was happening to me?
Everything tilted, though I hadn’t moved. Familiar sounds came at me as if through a long, steel tunnel. A dense fog invaded my mind. I couldn’t make sense of words or actions. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move.
Even worse, I was completely alone with our two-year-old strapped in her high chair. It would be hours before the older kids came home from school. And the dogs had no idea how to dial 9-1-1.
After several long moments, the episode passed. I was perfectly back to my kind of normal for a few days. The next episode hit on a Saturday with everyone in the house.
When I could speak again, I burst into tears. Within the hour, the emergency room doc had my head in a whirring, clicking machine, drew half my weight in blood, and connected me to so many wires and tubes I could have passed as steampunk.
While we waited for results, the doc grilled me on every aspect of my life. I thought I had everything under control, but my body told a different story.
The results dripped in. Thyroid – normal. CT – normal. Blood sugar – normal. Vitamins and minerals and various counts – normal.
The doc sat and tapped her pen against her lips.
“I think you need to run,” she said.
As I recall, I laughed so hard I snorted.
“I don’t have time to run!”
Hadn’t she heard a word I said about all the stuff on each of my To-Do lists?
“You don’t have time to NOT run,” she countered.
All the way home, I made my list of reasons why running was out. Too old. Too busy. Too slow. Too lazy. Too hot. Too cold. Too crowded at the Y.
No matter how much I tried to justify my Reasons Not to Run list, the three words on my Reason to Run list outweighed them all: Too Much Cortisol.
Cortisol, apparently, is a stress hormone. It’s normally released in our bodies to aid in those fight or flight situations we sometimes get ourselves into.
For me, though, I had made each day into a fight or flight situation. My stress levels were through the roof. While I hadn’t had a stroke as I had first supposed, the invisible beating my body was taking would eventually take its toll on my heart.
Way back in high school and college, I ran competitively. That was four children and almost as many decades ago. So this time, I started slowly. V-E-R-Y slowly. Eventually, I got faster. Each time I passed a milestone (get it? A MILEstone), I allowed myself a little treat.
When I could run a mile without stopping, I invested in an Iron Man watch to count the laps at the YMCA. Eighteen laps equals one mile at my YMCA track. That’s a lot of numbers for a writer to keep in her head, you know.
When I could run two miles without stopping, I invested in those fancy socks that I had my eye on. Fashionable and supportive.
When I could run three miles without stopping, I registered for a 5k run and paid the extra fee for a t-shirt to prove I had run.
It wasn’t easy, and it STILL isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips I used to help me stay on track and out of the hospital!
- Find what works to get you moving and start. For me, I used the FREE part of the app C25K (Couch to 5K). For you, it might be weights, cycling, swimming, walking.
- Find your first micro goal. Even marathoners have to run one step at a time. Set small goals and work toward them. Reward yourself when you get there.
- Find the right, healthy priorities off the track. Pare down that schedule. Not everything is urgent.
- Find something to listen to. When I first started working out, I had a tendency to listen to the liar inside my head telling me it was no use. Then, I wrote down scripture on 3×5 index cards and memorized them while I ran. Good, until my hands got so sweaty I could no longer read the words. Then, I discovered PODCASTS for WRITERS. Bingo!
WRITING PROMPT: Jillian Willows woke up in a sweat. She’d had the same nightmare for the fourth night in a row. Not exactly what she needs the day she is scheduled to run in the biggest race of her life. Write a short scene of dialogue between Jillian and an undercover angel who is sent to encourage her to run the race with endurance.