opinion

"I know it sounds strange, but the Olympics is helping me deal with my anxiety."

Through reasons that make absolutely no sense to me at all, I truly love the Olympic Games.

I say this because I’m the kind of person that dreams of the day a genie will magically appear from a bottle, granting me a wish that allows me to never exercise again but maintain a killer figure and good health. If that happened, an outline of my body would surely be imprinted into the couch within a week.

Sadly that genie is yet to appear, so here I remain, watching the 2016 Rio Olympics with fervour, biting my nails and cheering at the TV like it’s AFL grand final night.

Bronte and Cate Campbell at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Source: Getty Images. 

Tuning into week two on Tuesday, nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary except that my anxiety was worse than usual and I was having trouble getting it under control.

On this particular day breathing exercises weren't working, my hairs began to stand on end, the shivers running swiftly down my spine.

Within moments I had left my spot on the couch and was keeled over the toilet vomiting, shivering, head spinning, gasping for air, the anxious voice in my head drowning everything else out.

Scared in a way I still don't really know how to put into words.

Alone in my (highly secure) apartment, there I was lying on the bathroom floor, thinking that at any moment catastrophe would strike.

Ukranian gymnast Oleg Verniaiev. Source: Oleg Verniaiev / Facebook.

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I should backtrack and explain that I am not a particularly athletic person.

I used to be, but then puberty hit and I got anxiety, and suddenly I wasn't anymore. All those hours spent swimming laps of the local pool and willing my body to fly great distances across a sandpit at the athletics oval disappeared within a few short years, and now I think most people would assume I was lying if I said I'd once dreamt about being a champion long jumper.

Now like a lot of people, I exercise out of need rather than desire, and because of that it's never felt the same as it did when I was a kid.

Like doing laundry or brushing my teeth before bed or going grocery shopping, exercise is a necessary evil I know I have to live with, despite deriving no pleasure from the process. It keeps me healthy, it justifies eating a burger on Friday night and it's the one activity that manages to silence the anxious voice inside of my head.

So I do it a couple of times a week and get my kicks instead from watching others do what I no longer can via the Olympics.

Simone Biles competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Source: Getty Images.

Here are these people, I think, so brave and lucky that they get to challenge themselves to go faster and achieve feats previously thought unachievable. What an amazing feeling that must be.

But from my foetal position I could still hear the TV, crowds cheering and commentators assessing the technique of a gymnast whose name I didn't recognise.

Gradually, I found myself getting up from the tiles, wiping my face with a warm cloth and leaving the bathroom to go and be a part of  what was happening on the other side of the world. I was slow moving, but distracted nonetheless.

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Five minutes of deep exhales, runs, twirls and faultless lands later, these perfectly toned hairless men had somehow managed to distract the preparing-for-doomsday voice inside of my head.

Then I found myself thinking, if they can present themselves on a world stage in a lycra suit that unapologetically hugs their junk then I can definitely regulate my breathing, damn it.

Kyle Chalmers after winning gold at the 2016 Olympics. Source: Getty Images.

And so slowly, I did. And then I got changed. And after a few hours I even managed to go for a run around the block. Because if those guys could spend four years of their lives readying themselves for one short moment on a vault, then surely I could surely spend 20 minutes shuffling my feet back and forth, right?

And though I didn't realise it at the time, for that short moment exercise felt like it did before I got anxiety and the weight of world events sure to never happen began drawing me to bathroom floors.

Some days the Olympics aren't on and as much as I want to will myself out or believe that it's going to be fine I can't. Some days it totally defeats me.

But the days I feel like the gold medal winner of my own race are surely worth celebrating too. Because these are the days that I'm going to try and cling to the memory of next time I'm heading for the floor.

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