Running for Myself

Running for Myself

by Ashley Erickson

A lot of things scare me. Right now, those things include my first 20-mile run of marathon training that I have this weekend and sharing this post. That’s the thing with fears, though. Embracing them usually makes you stronger.

Childhood Worries

I grew up with an easy life in the sense that I had a family that loved me and was always taken care of at any expense from my parents. But it definitely wasn’t average and at times wasn’t easy. I was a typical child who loved to roller skate and sing and watch musicals, but I always felt a bit different. I’ve been told that the adults in my life expected me to develop ulcers in third grade because of my constant worry and anxiety. I spent a lot of time in the nurse’s room, lying on a cot with stomachaches. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood why.


Feeling Foolish, Then Finding Help

My first real panic attack was in college, though I didn’t know what it was at the time. I was in a movie theater and I suddenly got the shakes and felt like I couldn’t breathe. That landed me in urgent care, getting chest X-rays, an EKG, and every other test for chest issues. I thought I was crazy when doctors told me they couldn’t find anything wrong. I felt foolish the second time it happened and different doctors told me I was fine. I felt hopeless the third and final time I went in and they said the same thing.

Luckily for me, I was attending the University of California, San Diego, which offers great services for students. I began seeing a psychologist and learned I was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Though sometimes I had to leave classes during panic attacks, my psychologist gave me some advice: “Run.” She said that running helps people learn to control breathing, which is very useful in the midst of a panic attack.

Up until a few months ago, my panic attacks mostly happened at night, and I would wake suddenly with one. I had uncontrollable worries — some more dramatic than others — and was constantly tense and high-strung due to constant worrying. They can be different for everyone, but my panic attacks involved my heart racing, the feeling that I couldn’t breathe and my throat was swollen, dizziness, and intense anxiety that often lead to shaking or shivering. They lasted from 5 to 40 minutes.

Under Control

Now at age 26, I can say that my anxiety disorder is under control, with the help and support of friends and family, running, medication, and health insurance. A lot of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder and depression aren’t as lucky.

I am sharing this story so that you understand what someone with GAD has gone through. In the case of my running, my anxiety has actually proved to be a strength, especially when it comes to controlling my breathing. In other aspects of my life, it was just a giant weight that kept me from living my best life.

People need help. And asking for it isn’t a weakness. Admitting you need help and asking for it? That is acknowledging fear and gaining strength from it. Actually getting the help you need? That is something that not everyone gets. I am running for them just as much – if not more – as I am running for myself.

When I decided to run my first 26.2 miles at the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, I knew it would be empowering. Trust me, running 18 miles a few weeks ago definitely empowered me. But it is also empowering to be able to use my marathon to raise money for ADAA.

photo credit: AzulOx Photography


Ashley Erickson, a freelance fitness writer and PR Account Manager in Austin, Texas,  graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2008. She trains with Rogue Running and runs for Oiselle.


People need help. And asking for it isn?t a weakness. Admitting you need help and asking for it? That is acknowledging fear and gaining strength from it.
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