Hells Hollow (North Country Trail) to Breakneck Falls (Breakneck Falls Trail) and back, McConnells Mill State Park. [10/03/21]
This run was time on feet in preparation for Oil Creek 100, which is on October, 16th-17th, 2021.
Trail run 13.20 mi @ 20:21 min/mi
Best mi 14:45
Ascent 2,011 ft
Descent 2,008 ft
Coping with anxiety, fear and a flighty nervous system while trail running
This run wasn’t quite what I expected, I was experiencing some posttraumatic stress symptoms (What I’m calling it. Never self-diagnose and be careful how you label yourself.) which got intense enough that I almost gave up on my run. Guess my body isn’t as recovered as I thought from the mountain lion encounter back in June. Read about the mountain lion encounter here, I was doing a FKT. My post “To Hell & Back” run report video here (A little hard to watch, I was out of it and not making much sense).
I’m sharing this little journey that I’ve been going through over the past few months with you to just let you know that if you’re going through something, you are not alone. Also, someone can help you. This is not medical / mental health advice because I am not your therapist.
What my body was experiencing
- Racing heart
- Hands slightly trembling
- Jumpy at falling leaves and small critters rustling about.
- Hearing faint growling, but not noticing anything actually present.
- Imagining a mountain lion or bear, some times this was caused by seeing a log or shadow off in the distance before I my mind could make out what it was.
- Feeling paranoid. Occasionally, checking behind me to make sure I wasn’t being stalked by a mountain lion, sometimes I imagined the mountain lion coming up behind me.
- A large bird was startled in brush next to me, causing me to instinctively yell at it, my face became hot and tingled, my hands tingled, and my heart raced.
- I came across a few hundred black birds flying wildly from tree to tree and dive bombing towards the ground. It seemed odd, like something was off. You know how birds will stick together to protect a nest from a predator, this was what I was thinking. Of course, I was immediately looking for a predator. Stopping dead in my tracks, my arms and hands were shaking as I began examining the terrain for what was causing the birds behavior. No idea, I couldn’t find anything. I thought to myself, I’m about two miles away from the Jeep, I need to either get past these birds, or turn around and go all the way back to Eckert Bridge and call a ride. It was also getting dark, so it could possibly take longer if I turned back. I chose to continue towards the birds and the Jeep. I sang and talked to myself out loud, knowing that animals could hear me coming and can be scared off by the human voice. The last two miles seemed very long.
- A pile of Hawk feathers, meaning one might have been attacked by a predator, causing anxious thoughts.
- Strong odor of scat, causing anxious thoughts
- Anxious thoughts catastrophized and made the situation seem worse.
- Avoiding trail running every once and a while due to anxiety or fear
There was never any real danger, but in my mind, there was a threat of danger. My mind can be anxious, I have a very active mind, that’s just how I am. I do try to be mindful not to label myself as an anxious person. It is healthier to say, “I am a person who experiences anxiety” or “I have a very active mind.” I have a mini theory, I believe my near-death encounter with the mountain lion wouldn’t have made such a dent in my mental health if my mind wasn’t as anxiously active in the first place. My nervous system was shot by the end of the run, it seemed like the symptoms intensified over the course of the run. I was more tired mentally than physically, but I could sense feeling physical drainage from experiencing symptoms for a few hours.
Reflecting on everything, it was a positive run and I enjoyed getting out there. All was good. I prayed for safety while driving to the trail, God kept me safe during this run. I’m ready for Oil Creek 100. I did video a lot of this run, as it was helping me cope. The video is interesting. Things I filmed: waterfalls, the black birds, pile of Hawk feathers, crazy mushrooms, and falling on my butt (Yep, caught it on camera, it happened fast.).
I hope that sharing this story with you helped in some way. Please, if you’ve ever gone through something traumatic and are still affected by it in some way, consider talking with a licensed professional counselor, preferably, one that is a good fit and specializes in trauma. It is helpful to gain an understanding on what the different types of trauma and stressors are and how you can foster healing. Everyone reacts a little differently to traumatic and stress-related events, so if you’re reading this and have gone through something yourself, you may or may not relate.
Like I said earlier, this is not medical / mental health advice, but here are the ways that I have been proactively healing.
- Noticing my anxious thoughts and reframing them into more realistic ones.
- Steady, deep breathes
- Being in-tune with my body and try to develop understanding.
- Practicing mindfulness
- Reading trusted resources to learn more about trauma and stress-related events.
- Connecting with colleagues and getting resources from those who specialize in trauma and stress-related events.
- Hitting the trail, not avoiding them
- Sharing my story and experience with people I trust.
- Coping and distracting when appropriate (Like videoing the run made me feel safe and not alone.)
Healing has been a process, slower than I expected. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover, but that’s alright because I can continue to overcome it and anything else that comes my way. By the way, you can continue to overcome anything, too.
Thank you for reading my story.