Today I’m posting something a little different.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 is taking place this week, between Monday May 8 – Sunday 14, so I thought I would talk to you a little about my life and experiences and how my running journey has helped with this.
About 4 years ago was the height of my illness, without going into too much detail, I was struggling with depression & anxiety. This wasn’t something new, it was something I’d been dealing with a while, but was just heightened at this point in my life. Most issues stemmed from my identity, and with talking therapies I realised this was something that stemmed back way further than I ever imagined. I actually found a list I’d made in secondary school (10 years ago) of all the things I wished I could change about myself, it was a long list, there were pictures of how I saw myself at that time in my life and it made me so sad because I honestly thought that all everyone else could see was what I saw: the worst possible version of myself.
Up until my worst point, I’d gained and lost friends, I’d had numerous jobs and been to university and experienced a lot of change. The turning point for me was this: losing two of my friends because I started showing signs and symptoms of depression and suicide. It’s one thing to distance yourself from someone because your life is taking a different course to them or that you just didn’t enjoy that persons company anymore but two of my best friends saw my cries for help and told me I was too negative to be in their lives. They placed all the blame on me and it lead me to spiral further. I was told I was selfish because there were “children dying in third world countries and you are wasting your life”.
At the time these words hit me like a ton of bricks – the situation wasn’t well handled at all. A few years later, one of them actually wrote a blog post on this and says she didn’t regret her decision or the words she said. I still check their social media from time to time because I hope that life is treating them well and that they are happy (of course everyone presents them selves as happy on Instagram). It’s always been a situation I’ve kept stuck in my brain, I still have the conversations printed out and scribbled all over analyzing every word, but I can finally say I’m super thankful this happened.
After this incident, I spiraled, totally lost control. I was struggling with my identity but also my career. My true passion was Dance & Theatre but it suddenly wasn’t making me happy anymore. The pressure to look and act a certain way made my dream impossible. So I gave up. It still hurts to this day but I value not having that pressure in my life, and being a lot healthier mentally. As this was happening, I was seeking help, Medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This helped me out of a hole, got my head above water and helped me find the light at the end of a tunnel.
Whilst all this was going on I began Aerial, I’ve briefly talked about this before in a previous post, but it was actually part of my therapy. Also around this time I must have began talking to now one of my best friends. Her Name is Rosie, we met on Tumblr. I have a few great/close/best friends who I value each in their own way, however Rosie has played a massive part in my journey and is a constant crutch for me to lean on at the best of times. In reality we both lean on each other, she has struggled with Mental Health issues too, so we have created a great support system for each other through the last couple of years. We live far apart so we make time to see each other regularly throughout the year, and talk pretty much every day (and our Snapchat streak is going strong).
This time in my life was another turning point for me, the one where I got better. It wasn’t fast, easy or simple but I got better. It took me till 2015 to start feeling more comfortable, I began bouncing around jobs trying to advance my skills and career, I began being a lot truer to myself, and started to enjoy my life a lot more.
In late 2015 I got settled in a long term job where I’ve been a year and half now. This regular routine allowed me to pick up doing regular aerial again, and start running.
No doubt you’ve heard the health benefits of running, especially for mental health, for me it’s hard to mentally get my head around running sometimes, I often have a mental block when it comes to running long miles, and I can be hard on myself if I’m not “fast enough”, but it’s an exercise that gradually gets easier, and has helped wonders. I’m now medication free and I’m balancing my low moods and anxiety with a run, or other exercise. I am so inspired by all the runners who took part in the London Marathon this year and have loved the open discussions being had about mental health and fitness combined. I myself aim to run the London Marathon day and I am so moved by everyone’s stories.
So that’s my Journey! I still struggle with Anxiety, self doubt and deep rooted identity problems but I actively work on them. I am a much happier person, I truly love myself a lot more, and find most days to be good rather than bad. I have found new passions, hobbies and friends that keep me going and I look forward so much more than I look back.
So for those of you reading this, here’s my advice to you:
- Don’t be so hard on yourself, remember that each day is part of a bigger story, so don’t let one bad day change everything. Just take everything one day at a time.
- Talk more, find your people and share with them. A true friend will not feel burdened by your problems.
- Don’t fall under the pressure of what you think you should do, sometimes you might take a different path than what your original plan was, and that’s OK.
- Find an outlet, find something that you can put yourself whole self into and gain from. I found progression in running and aerial has helped when I don’t think I’m not progressing in other aspects of life.
- And for those of you not struggling but looking to support a friend, just listen, do what you can, don’t blame them for their illness and be patient with their recovery.