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Running for a Fix…

Running for a Fix…

So I've been pondering whether I should share my story on why Miles for Mind has come along at a pretty appropriate time for me and yes, the fact I'm writing this anonymously kind of defeats the whole concept of speaking out about Mental health issues without the fear of shame, but I guess it just goes to show that the stigma attached to speaking out can still very much be a huge worry as it has been for me..  

A lot of my issues stem from being overweight from a young age, I was bullied at school, on the surface I laughed it off, played the fool and acted as if I didn’t care about what people said. My mum, on one hand was constantly nagging me to lose weight, and on the other she'd feed me pretty much what I wanted so I was in a vicious cycle. I consider myself really fortunate to come from a good family where my parents have done everything they possibly can to help me in other aspects of my life but we never really spoke much about about emotional issues and I always felt awkward talking about personal things so I never really learnt how to be open with people so I took all the hurtful comments onboard and stored them away and over following years beat myself up with them.

As a kid I always loved art so I got through school and moved away to uni to study graphic design, where I thought I’d make new friends, but I always struggled with how people would perceive me. After all I had drilled it into my mind that I was still that fat, ugly person that wasn't very interesting to be around so I shyed away from others on my course. My determination to at least succeed at something made me focus on my studies and when there were times when I had to be social I would turned to alcohol to get me through them as I felt it helped with confidence. The drinking made my weight issue worse and the pounds piled on but somehow after getting through uni I found a decent job so I put my head down and focused on my career.

At this point I had managed to make a couple of good friends, we were all earning decent money so my drinking spiralled and I was binging at weekends, either out with them or drinking on my own. I would never say that I classed myself as an alcoholic, nowadays I do enjoy a few drinks but I know my limit and I stick to it, but back then I found that the times when I was sober my mood hit an all time low. One day I was ironing a shirt for work and I just happened to catch my arm on the plate, instead of recoiling in pain like any ‘normal’ person would, all I actually felt was relief, the pain was like a release of all these pent up emotions that I couldn’t express to anyone and from then I turned to self harming as a way to cope when I couldn't deal with my negative thoughts. I was always very careful to keep my injuries to places where no one saw - and my weight issue made me mainly target my stomach, but the associated guilt and shame of what I was doing got to me so I withdrew further, drank more and sank into a deeper depression..

My secret shame went on for months but eventually one day my housemate commented on my mood and something just snapped and before I knew it I was in floods of tears and pouring out a whole load of incomprehensible babble so the upshot was that she dragged me (pretty much kicking and screaming) to the doctors. I was terrified I would be classed as mad and I’d be locked up in some sort of secure unit but once I got through that door I realised that wasn’t going to be the case so eventually concluded I was at the point where I needed to admit defeat and accept help so reluctantly started taking antidepressants. To this day I believe that she saved my life as I’m not sure I’d have been able to take that first step of getting help on my own.

Things improved slightly even though I was largely resistant to taking medication as I couldn’t get my head round the fact that a tablet could help improve my mood I was still just about functioning at work as it was the something I found familiar and my deep rooted work ethic wouldn’t allow me to jeopardise that, but then came the news of potential redundancy. Another reason to worry, doubt myself and think I wasn’t good enough. This is the point where I guess my dedication to work paid off as I was approached to join a start up business by a couple of people that were setting up on their own, obviously they knew nothing of my struggles. I felt it was my only option but my conscience made me come clean about my issues to my potential new employers. It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had but they agreed they still wanted me in the team and would give me time to attend counselling sessions which by now I’d started even though I didn’t fully embrace them and felt guilty that I was taking up help from someone that needed it more than me. But anyway the job offer gave me renewed passion for designing, and a dose of confidence in the standard of work I was producing but I was still hugely uncomfortable about my weight and lacked confidence when I had to approach new people and I was still relapsing with my self harming.

So by now you’re probably wondering where running comes into the equation. Over the next few years the business grew and was becoming successful and few people had joined the company and someone had signed up for a half marathon only to discover she was pregnant, she knew I’d talked about my desire to lose some weight and get myself fitter so asked if I’d be interested in taking her place. At first I was hesitant but decided it was worth a shot. Well I couldn’t run from one lamppost to the next without wheezing but I had committed to taking the place and I wasn’t going to let it beat me so I persevered with training, because I was so down on myself I mainly trained in the hours of darkness so no one would see my efforts and laugh at me but I eventually started to build up my distance and I was amazed that some weight started to shift, I began to feel so much happier in myself my selfharm decreased dramatically. By the time the race day came I had shed 2 stone and wow, it was such a hard day but I got round in just under 3 hours, the support from the crowds was amazing and the feeling running gave me made me think that I thought if I ended my journey here I would be a fool so I continued training and I even got up the courage to join a running club although I still felt much more comfortable running on my own.

Over time I lost a total of six stone and completed numerous half marathons taking off over an hour from my first race time and for around 10 years I was pretty stable, I had come off the antidepressants and I was enjoying life but I had began to reach a plateau both with my weight and the times I was achieving. I was training for my first marathon so I began to use it as an excuse to increase my food intake, surely it was fine - i’d just go and run it off, but my weight started to creep up again, nothing to what it was previously but I became disillusioned with myself, my pace was dwindling and in hindsight it was because I was overtraining and pushing myself to the limit but I couldn’t see that at the time so I just carried on training more and running further determined not to go back to the old me.

About this time last year things began to change at work too. I’d been happy being part of a small team but the company was scaling up, suddenly I was faced with responsibility of running a team of designers with no real experience of being a manager, I was having to communicate with more people who I felt were all much more intelligent than me, so I put huge pressure on myself with the thought that I had been trusted with the position and that I didn’t want to let my anyone down. Everyday I was driving to work with a massive tightness across my chest with worry that someone would ask me to do something i didn’t know how to do but I couldn’t ask for help as it would show me up to be a failure. To try and alleviate the pressure I ran even more. It was getting to the point where I would go out twice, maybe three times a day but on some runs I’d purposely not use GPS tracking so people I was connected with on Strava wouldn’t see the extent of what I was putting myself through. By Christmas time I was exhausted physically and mentally and during the break from work I began to think of times in the past that the self harm had helped me cope so I began to slip back into it’s clutches again. It took a few months of me burying my head in the sand but I began to realise I couldn’t carry on and knew from my previous experiences that help was out there. I somehow managed to confide in my boss - well I had planned what I needed to say but ended up getting so anxious that everything just came out in one big tearful mess but as much as I felt ashamed at least it was out there and it was again the first step to getting help.

My employers have been great and they’ve given me the space and time to get professional help whilst keeping things confidential from the wider team. I’m now coming to the end of 3 months CBT and I’m working on positive ways to bring back the enjoyment of running without taking it to such extremes so when I saw Miles for Mind challenge I thought it was a perfect way to help myself though I was careful to select a target that I knew I could handle without adding pressure. I can’t say it’s been easy to hold myself back as I’m actually on target for the 150 miles instead of the 125, so I’m still on the journey of getting myself to a stable place and as I write it’s only been 12 days since my last relapse but the support between participants on Facebook and Twitter has been fantastic and has given me a renewed love for my running and I’ve even given my local parkrun a go so that I’m curbing the distance of my weekend running and being more social as well.

I just want to finish by thanking all the brave people that have written blogs and shared their journeys of progress and recovery during the challenge and hope people are still inspired by the stories in the future. If writing this helps one person to not slip in the same negative mind trap as me or inspires someone to seek help for their own issues then it’s been worth it. Remember it’s OK not to be OK.

Thanks for sharing this story. As part of #MilesForMind we wanted to raise money for Mind and also awareness of mental health issues.

It's OK to have a mental health issue, it's OK to talk about mental health, and it's OK to ask for help.
We firmly believe that running can contribute to a healthy body, and healthy mind and we hope sharing people's stories of mental health and running will inspire others to lace up for better mental health.

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