I feel compelled to write this week and almost feel like I could write a book on the struggles that surround mental health. I’ve made secret of the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety and although this is now mostly controlled through exercise (specifically running) and diet, it is something that I have accepted I’ll live with for life. In light of the real focus on mind matters during the London marathon period, I feel a deep sense of relief that finally, the stigma surrounding these issues is decreasing and people are starting to accept some of us live with monsters in our mind. That does not mean that we are ‘mental’ or we are ‘mad’! There are too many reasons to list as to why people suffer, but kindness costs nothing, yet means such a lot.
On a personal level, many of my issues stem from a series of traumatic events that occurred during childhood, which were completely outside of my control. This led to various eating disorders (as it was the only thing I could control) which have since caused irreparable damage to my health and body, including the loss of 2 teeth, possibly the cause of the degenerative disc disease in my spine and the early onset of osteoporosis . Punishing the body and starving it of everything, including life. I remember my mum and dad bribing me to eat when I was 14… If I ate for a week, they would buy me an Adidas tracksuit. I did it, but I know I put them through years of hell and unnecessary pain. Guilt I live with every day. Although there are probably too many complex issues to delve into here and everyone is unique, the message that I want to share is, celebrate your body and don’t punish it. When the doctors said to me “You’ll be dead by the time you are 30” I wish I had believed them and accepted the help. Although I’m approaching 34 and now very much alive, mostly happy and healthy, I have to live with the physical damage that I have caused because I couldn’t accept my issues and hid away from them until I sought solace in running 3 years ago.
This is the picture that helped me to transform my life:
In October 2014, I was admitted to hospital for lots of tests (to try to get to the bottom of 10 years of serious insomnia). It was this night that changed many things for me. I have mentioned in a previous post, that my heart beat slowed down to a dangerous level and the resus team were called. I had been grieving badly following dad’s death; stressed with work; in a crumbling marriage and the list goes on. But the point is sometimes we need a wake up call. This sure gave me what I needed and the long process of changing my life began. At this point, I had only been running for a few months (and wasn’t very strong), but I knew if I had something to focus on, I could live again, both physically and emotionally.
How has running helped?
For me, running has been the one constant in my life over the past 2.5 years. Even, on the dark days, I have pulled myself out of bed to run. It has provided me with a sense of clarity and relief and has been therapy to me where every other form of therapy has failed. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to turn around and say that I totally love my body, but what I can say is that I feel a greater sense of confidence and achievement. I can’t recommend running enough. Being at one with your mind and body is just one element that running helps with. It allows me the escape, to think and to problem-solve. The physical benefits go without saying. Running helps me to actually eat and to look closely at nutrition and fuelling the body and soon, I’ll be sharing some quick runner recipes! I want to say running has cured the insomnia, but sadly not yet. It has helped manage anxiety levels though.
I believe so strongly in the power of running, that I will be taking my ‘Running in leadership’ qualification next month and this will enable me to take the next qualification of becoming a running coach and ultimately, help increase awareness of mental health issues and how running can help.
Let’s break down the stigma further. Don’t be afraid to speak out and ask for help and above all, please don’t judge. We all fight a battle that others know nothing about.