Showing Up Is 80 Percent of Life ~ Woody Allen
“Know that showing up is half the battle”. That is the words I see on a poster as I enter my gym. For some reason, it means so much to me. I had joined my gym at the tail end of a 2+ year depression that came on as a product of my Complex PTSD. That, in turn, was brought on from a youth of constant bullying abuse by others that led to my having adult stress, anxiety, anger, and finally a deep depression.
What did it mean, this saying? Why did it matter so much to me?
I think that most people know the story of the depressed person who just can’t get out of bed. Some people spend endless days and nights in bed with their mind telling them they can’t get up. Trust me when I say they want to. I wanted my life back. I wanted to go out shopping, go to work, see my friends and family. Do what I thought were normal things. But each time I started, my mind would flare up and tell me “NO” and try to stop me. If I did go, all I could think of was getting back home to the comfort of my bed. My ears were ringing, my heart was racing and my anxiety was through the roof.
Even at home, it wasn’t much better. I hated myself. That’s just one way that depression gets you.
Depression and anxiety, of course, have many tricks. We know from research that about 20% of women and 10% of men admit to being depressed at any time. I think those numbers are low, as depression can have many levels and mental health is still taboo, so many won’t talk about it.
So again, what does it mean, showing up is half the battle.
For depressed people, this takes on a new meeting. For me, first I had to decide I had this issue of anxiety and depression. I didn’t want to face it. But, I picked up the phone and called mental health experts and went to meet with them. I didn’t want to be there, admitting to this dark issue. But showing up was half the battle. I stayed and showed up every week for a year or so as I learned how to like myself again. This was my first step out of depression.
Of course, therapy recommended that I go face doing all the things my mind said not to do. This is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s a well-used way to treat people with anxiety issues as well as depression.
You see, your mind is a great liar during depression. It wants you to believe a great many things that are not true. My worry, from the bullying abuse, is what others might do to me or how they might treat me. So I did it. I went to stores I was fearing and rode our rail system that I was fearing. I showed up. I did it. Nothing happened to me. Soon my mind stopped telling me I couldn’t do it.
But why the sign at the gym? Part of my way out of depression was to eat a healthier way and live a healthier life by exercising, which I decided to do by going to the gym. I had never exercised much before and I learned about cortisol and endorphins to help your brain to overcome anxiety and depression issues. Also it goes without saying that it can help your overall health.
So here is where I saw the sign, “know that showing up is half the battle”.
They knew what I and many others struggle with. It’s not just the gym, but it’s life. We can be enjoying so much, but our minds try to tell us differently when times are dark. How do I know this to be true? Besides being one of the experienced people to have learned this, I also saw or talked to people about this saying.
The first person I recall seeing this issue with, was a woman who was to show up at an anxiety and depression group meeting I was running. She had signed up and commented beforehand how important this meeting was to her. According to the sign-up, ten people were to be at this meeting. When I went to the meeting, only nine people were there. She didn’t show up.
On the web page for this group, I found out why. She said she drove to the library where the meeting was to take place, but her anxiety prevented her from getting out of the car. She tried showing up, almost got there, but then her mind told her not to go in. She listened and left. Had she come in, she would have seen nine people feeling much like her. Scared, nervous, hearts racing, admitting to the issues we all shared. We showed up. At the end, I can only speak for myself to say I was comforted by the fact that I was not alone. Half the battle.
The second story I find more interesting. Part of my recovery was also to set some small, realistic goals. I figured I would tie that to going to the gym to incentivize me just to show up there. I decided to run a 5k (3+ mile) race locally. I signed up well in advance. I paid a fee to run in it. I bought new workout clothes. I began to do cardio work to prepare.
The day of the race, my mind said not to go. I had tons of excuses. It was cold out. Who cares if I run it? Why am I even doing this, it’s a waste of time? I had tons of excuses, trust me. I also had a son who signed up with me to run. So I had to go, just to bring him there. We went, we ran, I got a medal and I felt great at the finish line. I can’t explain how important that race was. I showed up and I did it. A few years later, I would run in a half-marathon. All the same fears above I had for that. I did it though, with friends, and felt great.
I was talking to a friend of mine who has depression and a fairly bad case of it. She shared with me that she did the same, signing up for a 5k race. She had a small baby and bought a special running stroller to take her in. She paid the fee, bought new clothes, all the same as me. Except, the day of the race, she listened to her brain and didn’t go. She didn’t show up to meet half the battle. She did not get that euphoric feeling of accomplishment. She is still battling her depression.
I am in no way saying that showing up is going to cure someone with anxiety and depression. But, I now understand the sign at the gym. It is only one place where that sign should be. Now, each time I get to my gym, I pause for a moment and read the poster again. I know that showing up is half the battle. And there I am. I showed up! Now, I have to go, nice reader, because I have to go do the other half of the battle and continue to get better.
Would you like to share your story here with others? I am looking for other writers to share their stories about bullying, and overcoming abuse here if you want to. Send an email with your story to me at email@example.com. Make sure to put “my story” in the subject line. Let me know how you would like your name to appear in the story (if at all). I will contact you and work out the details from there. I would be honored to share your story here. ~Alan Eisenberg