The Art of Showing Up
My sophomore year of college, while I was on the women’s varsity swim team, I struggled a lot. I struggled with sleeping, eating nutritional meals, getting to class, doing my school work, dealing with and managing the stress and anxiety of everyday life and with motivating myself to be a contributing member of the swim team. I was undiagnosed at the time and was probably dealing with the undiagnosed symptoms of bipolar disorder. Stress, college, being around 20 years old seemed to be a high trigger for feeling out of control and symptomatic.
I put so much pressure on myself to be the star student-athlete. I put pressure on myself to perform to make my teammates, my athletic department, my advisors, my family and my university proud of me. I put pressure on myself to be viewed as a hardworking athlete. I mentally, emotionally and physically drained myself so much by doing this that I just couldn’t keep up with my efforts anymore. I wasn’t swimming fast, I wasn’t being positive and it was showing to everyone, everywhere. I was beating myself up for it. It was a negative, never-ending cycle. So, once day, I stopped.
I decided there would be no more “swimming for my school” and “swimming for my coaches” and “swimming for my team”. I would go to practice and swim for me to make me happy and make me a better athlete; this meant that I would show up, jump in the pool and if I wanted to try that day, I would and if I felt like just floating around all practice, that’s what I would do. It completely changed my entire season.
I was in control, all I had to do was show up. I went to practice and during the first few minutes of warm up, I always consciously made the decision to workhard each day and I had a great season, even with a rocky start. I wasn’t putting pressure on myself to meet other people’s standards, I made my own and it was simple. Show up.
This week, I started the week the same way I did when I was beating myself up. I had a full, daunting work week ahead of me, in addition to the half marathon training I started recently. I felt weird, off and symptomatic. This whole summer I was afraid of having an episode since sometimes I feel like I’m “due” for an episode. I spent the summer exercising a lot, traveling and I was drinking more which, always leads to my meds being off.
I switched my black and white thinking and made myself believe I just needed a few days or a week of routine and I’d be okay again. I wasn’t going to go to the hospital or back on medical leave. I just needed to show up and get back into my routine.
But, that stretch of time took patience and tested my ability to just show up to run, to my commute, to work and every thing I had planned for the week. So that’s what I did. Each morning, I set my alarm for my morning run and I just showed up. I did each run, even when I didn’t want to. I told myself to just step outside and start, if I wanted to stop, I could. I had the same mentality that if I didn’t want to push myself, I wouldn’t. Naturally, I did push myself and accomplish more this week than I had in my past weeks of training.
When I was coming home from work yesterday I thought, what did I accomplish this week at work? And to be honest, I told myself nothing. I didn’t do anything great. I actually have been putting things off. I was not very productive but, I showed up. And sometimes that’s all it takes. I just have to show up. Showing up can mean different things and showing up can lead to different results.
I’ve found with my illness, sometimes its the beginning of something that is the hardest. It’s telling someone when I feel off. It’s sitting down at my desk at work and just showing my face or answering a phone call. It’s taking the first few strides of a run. It’s texting a friend a few times back and forth. It’s just showing up.
Showing up comes up in varying degrees but always has a positive result. For me, with athletics, when I show up, I have the natural drive to push myself. With work, showing up sometimes literally means just showing up. I will feel good that I came and gave my day the structure it needs.
Showing up can take a lot of effort but once I show up, I’ve already accomplished so much and I am only in the position to do so much more.