I was suffering from heartbreak and heightened anxiety when I began boxing.
A pretty longhaired man had broken my heart and I felt disconnected from the city I lived in.
The body is inescapable. I was walking around in an anxiety-fuelled body. I was terrified by small talk and most human interactions. I had isolated myself within one of the world’s most isolated cities. When I began boxing I had not been to many places outside my own mind in a long time.
As I walked into my first class of boxing I walked outside my comfort zone and out of my own mind. I had discovered a magical dirty underworld that smelt like fierce determination. Some of my fellow boxers didn’t have any front teeth, I weirdly felt at home and at peace.
It was clear that the cool boxers wear black gloves, I messed up and got giant white gloves. I have funny chicken legs, I am uncoordinated and I am commonly described as ‘too nice’.
Boxing the crap out of a bag in goofy gloves gave me the metaphorical strength I needed to break the anxious cycle. Around 45 minutes into an intense boxing session when I was challenged to punch as hard as I humanly can I knocked my anxiety out.
This was the defining moment when I realised I was a life long boxer. When your entire body and mind is engaged in mastering a technique, trying not to fall over and punching as hard as you can your mind is clear.
For me anxiety arises when I don’t feel empowered or power over a situation. My power had been taken by the inconsiderate actions of a pretty longhaired man. My sense of empowerment left when the subcultures I connected to in the city I lived in disappeared.
Through building strength and self-defence skills, I feel empowered. I have the additional power of knowing that I could beat the crap out of my big brother. On a more materialistic note, boxing has changed the shape of my body.
It’s a change that signifies punching through mental and physical barriers that were preventing my life from moving forward. The sustenance required to box changed my relationship with my body and food. I have a habit of freaking out and hiding my peanut butter somewhere high that requires a small stepladder to access it to make myself think about my decision on the climb. I am no longer consumed by how many calories I eat now, I just want to eat the right food and get enough protein so I can keep boxing.
I never thought I would repeat this to anyone and I am genuinely concerned that this it could mess with my cool. In the name of writing outside my comfort zone to connect with other people I will tell you. I developed a trick, it’s a bit comical and you can try it.
I started comparing ‘critical thoughts’ as equivalent to ‘punching myself in the head’. These ‘thoughts’ just like ‘punching myself in the head’ would clearly hurt myself and prevent me moving forward in. When the thoughts would arise I would vision my own arm knocking myself in the head and I started knocking them away from me.
After two years of punching through life I quit my corporate job and I moved interstate by myself. I have pursued a brutally competitive creative industry that I had minimal experience in. My boxing training helped me run very fast when I was chased out of my new Melbourne home by aggressive vegan drug addicts. I have lived in ‘art style poverty’ but managed to find cheap boxing classes and buy new black gloves.
I do still have to climb up a stepladder to access my peanut butter. However now when I fall over in life instead of going into hiding, I punch my lanky arms around with my fellow boxing thugs. After that I do something else that that scares the crap out of me in pursuit of following my creative voice. The voice I can hear more clearly now I punched out the anxious and critical voice.
Watch Mia Freedman explain how she deals with her anxiety.