Exercising With A Mental Illness Is Not Easy

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Last night I posted a series of tweets talking about my recent struggles with my weight loss / fitness journey. I mentioned that I was initially going to share my thoughts on my private account, but then realised it would be dishonest of me to not share this part of my journey when i've only shared positives before now. Progress is not linear and we're always going to hit bumps in the road, and addressing this publicly (and receiving some really lovely support, thank you ♡) has already helped me face my struggles head on and get ready to move past them. 

While I have found having a Fitbit to be crucial in my progress as it helps to get me moving and reach activity goals, it can be somewhat detrimental when i'm faced with the facts of my weight hitting a bit of a standstill in recent months.

As a whole (below left), my progress is clearly there which is great - i'm two and a half stone down in 6 months which is slow and steady, and more than I ever thought i'd reach to be honest. However, you can see that December to February (below right) has been a continuous up and down and maintaining around the same number. This is no ones fault but my own, as i've been feeling somewhat defeated in recent months.

In January, I joined the gym - if you know me or have read any of my previous posts about my weight loss/fitness journey, you'll know about my anxiety when it comes to the gym, and that it was one of my goals to finally join one this year. So, I made the most of the January sales and got myself a membership. The particular gym I joined had an app that let me see how many people were currently in the gym - something I thought that would be really beneficial for me so I could aim for quieter periods - but, of course, there isn't a quiet period in January. 

After having a membership for a couple of weeks and not going, I decided to email the gym to ask for some advice and reassurance when it comes to being an anxious newbie. Unfortunately, much like another gym i'd contacted beforehand, they didn't care about my concerns and replied with a generalised template about inductions. Whilst I (obviously) understand that it is not gym workers responsibilities to be a therapist, it is their responsibility to be welcoming and ensure that their members are comfortable and happy at their gym. Their cold response didn't fill me with much hope to calm my anxiety, but a few days later I bit the bullet and drove to the gym after work.

I sat in the car park watching the stream of people that were going in and out of the doors and I could not stop comparing myself to them. I kept thinking the worst, that a photo of me would be on someones Twitter feed laughing at me on the treadmill. That I wouldn't know how to work the machines. That i'd have to change in front of a stream of toned, beautiful women. My anxiety was rapidly worsening whilst I sat in my car, until I ended up breaking down into a fall blown panic attack. Once I calmed down, I drove home and cancelled my membership.

I am so self conscious and riddled with crippling anxiety that I physically couldn't put myself into a building that is centred around health and looks. I spent that night crying about how much i've failed, feeling extremely defeated about my mental health burdening my progress, and embarrassed that i'd told everyone i'd finally joined the gym but then couldn't even step foot in the building. 

This setback naturally put me in a pit of defeat, and my self loathing and anxiety has increased, which has caused me to lose my care for healthy eating and fitness. My motivation to do my home work outs in the evening had completely gone, my protein shakes for lunch were becoming fewer and fewer, and my trips to the drive-thru were becoming more regular. 

People don't talk about how difficult these "simple" tasks are for those of us dealing with mental illness. People don't think about how it's not easy for everyone to "just join a gym". I want to get healthier, and I want to work out, but I have accepted that (for now) this is a private journey for me. You don't need a gym membership to achieve your fitness goals, so to work around my fear I decided to invest in a cross trainer to have at home. I really do love dancing and the little youtube workouts I have found (playlist of my faves here), but I can definitely feel myself getting a bit bored of the repetition so it's time to try something new. 

I haven't received the cross trainer yet so I can't comment on if it's good or how i'm getting on, but i'll be sure to continue updating you on my journey - the good and bad - and hope I can build my motivation back up.

Please feel free to share some of your favourite home work outs in the comments!

© Image Source: Unsplash

Whould you like to comment?

  1. I am so sorry you got such a cold and awful reply from the gym! Their response really could of changed the outcome of this for you however I hope that your crosstrainer helps with the plateau

  2. It really does depend on the gym - our Instructors are totally supportive and trained to help ally fears ... I was a nervous wreck the first time I went in there for a workout - and I work in the building and don’t have a mental illness either! I was soon put at ease and realised none of the clients give a toss about me - and there are all sorts of shapes and sizes... it’s not about looks, it’s about health and a decent Health & Fitness Instructor will assure you of this. Sorry they were not supportive, it’s a pity you’re not close enough to come to mine ��. Hope the cross trainer inspires you again �� x

    1. Thank you! I understand this is not the case for every gym, but definitely hindered my positivity of ever joining one! We'll see, maybe one day... x

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