Anxiety and the sleepover

Some of you may remember my summer two years ago (otherwise known as “The Lost Summer“) when our confident, friendly, outgoing daughter morphed into an anxious, angry, isolated child who couldn’t cope with life. It was an awful time for our family, but we learned a lot about anxiety disorder and came out of things with a great therapist and our “old” daughter back.

Well, maybe not entirely back. The thing about anxiety is that it never goes away completely like a head cold or sunburn. Instead, I find that we deal with hurdles put in front of us differently.

In the past, if my daughter had been anxious, I might get frustrated or just tell her “you’ll be fine” and move on with things. But after that summer, I learned that she needs someone who will talk about her feelings, validate them as real, but not let her give in to them.

The way I put it last week: When faced with something “scary” in her eyes, her first response is “flight”—get away from it as fast as she can. Our job as parents is to help her face the anxiety and see that it’s largely something in her head and not truly a scary situation.

In other words: Flight from a burning building? Good! Flight from a hard math test? Not good!

And flight from a sleepover with friends in a safe home with people I trust? Not necessary!

But, when I got her first text at 9:14pm on Wednesday, I knew that she was trying to fly home. “Mom, I’m getting hot. And a little scared” was all she wrote.

I picked up the phone and for almost an hour, we talked. We talked about how I WOULD get her if that is what she wanted, but that I knew that she was going to be okay. That she was not in harm’s way (her therapist’s favorite saying), and that she would be so proud of herself if she got through these feelings. That bedtime is always the hardest time for her. But that her friends would love her whether she stayed or left.

After about 30 minutes, feeling like I was pushing too much, I said “OK, pack up your stuff. I’ll be there in a little while.

No, wait. . .” she quickly said. And then I knew. She wanted to stay but didn’t think she was strong enough to do it.

We hung up shortly afterward, with the understanding that she would text me from the iPad I lent her until she felt like she would be okay. These screen shots capture her words on the left, and my ridiculous “let’s keep things light!” texts on the right. The first two lines of hers are mentioned above. I pick up the typing at 10:01 with some inspirational rap. And the Harry Potter reference is because they were watching the last movie in the series while she typed.





We stopped typing around 11 or so, but I kept the phone by my bedside, waking frequently to see if there was a text on it.

There wasn’t.

The next morning, we texted again, this time she told me they stayed up talking until 2am, and she was soooooooo tired.

And though I knew she’d be a bear around 4pm that afternoon from exhaustion, I couldn’t have cared less. She did it!

Sleepover: 1

Anxiety: 0

You never forget your first 10K

Photobucket I took my place at the 10-minute-mile marker in the queue of 7,000+ runners, the last section before “walkers” at the Harvard Pilgrim Finish at the 50 race at Gillette Stadium. I had a lucky bib number: 1999 is the year I was married and also one of my favorite kick-ass Prince songs. Both good omens.

Surprisingly, I found a friend in that massive crowd, and we talked for the 15 minutes or so before the race. She shared a piece of gum which helped me take my mind off the summer heat that was still strong at 6pm.

The starting gun went off–I think. Being so far back, we only assume it went off. But nothing happened as far as I could see ahead of me. After a few minutes, I could see the tiny heads way up there starting to bob with movement. It took me a full eight minutes of walking in a tight crowd to even cross the starting line. Thankfully the chip on our bib numbers started our time only when we crossed the start.

I had my running partner, Jeff Galloway, in my ears as I started that first mile. I passed my kids and husband and tried to look relaxed and not as nervous as I felt.


See? Not nervous!

After three minutes of running, Jeff’s voice said, “It’s time to walk!” and I faltered. I felt great. Did I really need to walk? Oy, people are going to think I’m the lamest thing ever. But, all around me were people like me—running at a modest pace, or walking, or pushing strollers. And I reminded myself that my entire training had been based on this notion of early walk breaks. And, so I walked those 6o seconds.

The first mile came quickly. The 5K runners veered to the right, and I went to the left with my fellow 10K runners, never for a moment forgetting that I was actually doing this! My first 10K!

Every three minutes, Jeff’s voice prompted me to walk, and around 2 1/2 miles, I was so happy to hear it. It was still so hot, and I began to get scared that I wouldn’t be able to do this. I kept getting passed by people pushing strollers. A guy ahead of me stopped frequently to take photos of the flowers on the roadside. A few people near me looked like they might not make it.

But then I passed the three mile marker and the line in the road that someone had painted “3.1 miles!!!” That’s all it took. One 5K done. Just one more to go.

The route through neighborhoods in Foxboro, MA was so pretty and peaceful. Families stood on their lawns and waved. Kids lined up to high-five us as we passed. A few industrious families promoted their businesses. I remember running past a HUGE inflatable water slide with the words, “RENT ME” on a sign in front and thought, “Oh, I’d really like to go down that slide right now.”

Four miles came and I clapped with a few people around me. This was now my longest race.

When five miles came, I felt great. Only one mile to go, which sounds crazy to me even now, since I clearly remember when “one mile” was so, so long. I could tell the road looked to be sloping a bit down, so I decided to just run that last mile and ignore Jeff.  I think he’d be okay with this.

We must be getting close. Or so I hoped. The air had cooled and I had no idea what time it was. I knew they closed the route at 8pm, but it couldn’t be that late yet, could it? Then, up ahead, I saw race officials directing people to go down a “restricted road”.

I turned down the road and Gillette Stadium appeared up ahead. It literally took my breath away. I fought back tears and swallowed down a lump in my throat. A few people near me cheered. I would have cheered with them but was afraid I would just start bawling my eyes out.

The race finishes at the 50-yard line in Gillette Stadium. We ran through a short dark tunnel, under a giant inflatable football helmet to the finish. For Patriots football fans, this must be holy ground on which to tred. For me, it felt like salvation of a different kind.



My final time was 1:07 for 6.2 miles. Two days later, I feel great—just a tiny bit sore. But, if I could bottle up that feeling when I crossed the finish line and give everyone a sip, I think I’d have a lot of friends with me at the starting line next year.


Though I run alone, I couldn’t do it without the support of my family or my friends who have been so, so, so supportive and kind. As I told a couple of them, “(you) seem to believe in me more than I believe in myself sometimes.”

Jeff Galloway is an effing genius

For most of my adult life, I have wanted to be a runner. Even when I wasn’t actually logging any miles, I’d see people running down the street and wish that were me: Sleek, fast, with a look of determination and not defeat. . .It  spoke to me in a way that team sports never did.

But, my reality has always been so far from my daydreams. I have never been all that speedy even 15 years ago when I had much more time to train.  Whenever I start  adding multiple miles, my knees start hurting. That first mile Always Sucks, and my runs never squeaked much past a few miles, even at my most fit. Throw asthma and some horror called “cystocele” into the mix and you start to understand how an 80-year-old toothless man finished ahead of me a couple of years ago in a 5k. Hey, what can I say, he was a speedy senior.

But, nevertheless, I get bit by the running bug a few times a year and usually find myself plodding down my street to achieve that wonderful “runner’s high”.

This time, though, I’ve been bringing Jeff Galloway along with me. I had heard his name before but never knew that he has championed the “run/walk” method as a way to build miles without injury or insane training schedules. And once I started reading about his method– and found his Easy 5K app for the iPhone–I had to try it to see if it would work for me.

It’s been a few weeks, and I just got back from a 5 1/2 mile run. Five-and-a-half miles (5.8 if you count the warm up/cool down walks). I have never gone so far. I could cry from happiness. Nothing hurts. And, other than my post-exercise asthmatic cough, I feel great.

What I love about Galloway’s plan is that he  incorporates short walk breaks even from the start of your run, before you get tired, as a way of avoiding early exhaustion. With his voice in my ear and my music playing, I’ve been dutifully going out three times a week at a pace of two-and-a-half minutes of running, broken up with one minute of walking. Somehow, telling myself, “just two-and-a-half-minutes” over and over chops up the running portion into little chunks that I can handle mentally. And the app uses Lolo to speed up/slow down my music to my pace (9 minute/mile while running) so that I can just find the beat and keep to it.

But, this isn’t just about running longer and farther. Galloway also says that walk breaks can improve your performance so that you actually finish a race in less time then if you just ran the entire time. But how is that possible?

Last weekend,  I decided to test his theory by running in the same 5K I did last year (remember this photo?). Like last year, it was a hot day, with the sun beating down at 11am when the race began. I did not have a great race. I was just coming off a respiratory virus, felt dehydrated, and just got too hot, too fast. But, I followed the Galloway method throughout.

And? I finished one minute faster this year than last. (last year’s finish time:  33:36 ; this year’s finish time: 32:48.)

Suddenly a 10K doesn’t seem like some crazy pipe dream for this almost 45 year old asthmatic with bad knees. And I’m feeling more like  a runner than ever before.


Jeff Galloway did not pay me to write this (c’mon, does he sound like he’d say “effing”?) nor did I get the Easy 5K app for free to test. I love the app though it does sometimes “lose” my play list which means I have to re-import the music from my iphone which takes all of 20 seconds.