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An interview with a nutter by Martin

Why do you say nutter? 

It's still how I feel, there is still a lot of social stigma about mental health, particularly around men. We are supposed to be strong, brought up with a stiff upper lip and told to just get on with it. Having mental health issues is seen as a weakness. I still find some things difficult to talk about

When did you first realise you had issues with your mental health?

Started in the early 90's when I was seriously ill. Unfortunately the treatment weakened my kidneys and my immune system generally. I subsequently contracted hepatitis. I was recently married and it was just too much for my wife to cope with. We had married young and I wasn’t the person that she needed me to be.

The marriage failed in 1992/3 and at first was amicable and I was coping and getting better from the illnesses. However, when I bumped into her with her new boyfriend choosing a new bed, it hit me like a brick. I just broke down unable to cope. I thought I had hit a low, but more was to come.

I had been ill, my marriage had broken down and I lost my job – rock bottom nearly hit.

How did you get into running?

It was during my recovery, my mum had gone into overdrive with her mothering. Her baby boy had been hurt and she went into protective state. My dad was and still is old school, he doesn’t show emotions and quite often said I should pull myself together and get on with life. Trouble is, I didn’t want to and wasn’t ready. 

I thought I would prove everyone that I was stronger and fancied a focus. I had done a bit of running before but nothing serious so I thought I would enter a Marathon and none better than London. I applied and got accepted first time for the Flora London Marathon in 1994.

I knew some people at the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and had been in awe of Lloyd Scott who had done a few Marathons in fancy dress. He provided my inspiration to get out there and train.

Running gave me a focus and training over the winter of 93/94 went well, I got fitter and more able to cope. Got a new job and got close to my running partner. I thought I was on the up and then on the week of the marathon depression hit big time and I had some really dark thoughts.

I did the FLM of 94 but it was tough as I wasn’t fully ready either physically or mentally.

How are you now?

I had a break from running to concentrate on children. My wife suffered post natal depression and a breakdown but I was able to be there for her.

I started again in 2016, the children were getting older and the job was more stressful and I needed a cheap form of activity that would help me deal with life. Joined a running club although I prefer to train and run on my own but from time to time I like having other runners for support.

Running has helped me with the lower points in my life and given me a focus. I have had redundancies and moving to new areas with work. Getting involved with parkrun has given me a new family and I find I am much more motivated to support and volunteer than actually run.

I have good days and bad days. I still suffer from anxiety and there are days where I cant cope but I have coping mechanisms and try not to be hard on myself. I will never achieve the same level of running as I did 20+ years ago and I tell myself its ok to miss a run or even miss a race.

Does Running still help?

It does, but I have to keep an eye on the pressure that I put myself in. I’m at a stage now where I don’t feel useful. Kids are off of our hands and my wife’s career has really taken off – am really pleased for her. However, I find I can be in a houseful of people but feel lonely.

I do still run and compete in local runs, I don’t call them races anymore as that puts too much pressure on me to perform. I prefer to help pace or go and enjoy the route. I don’t like to wear my running club vest as I feel it adds pressure, preferring a charity vest or even a fun costume – it takes the pressure off to perform

I am lucky that my employment is flexible so if I am having a bad morning I can pop out for a few miles. I find it clears my head and I can let my mind just wander, whether that’s admiring the view or thinking through a work problem – I have come up with my best solutions whilst out running. When travelling on business I take my trainers and try and get a run in at a new location.

What tips would you give to someone who is struggling?

Firstly, you are not alone. It quite often feels like it but having someone to support you either in person or online can make all the difference. If your partner or family don’t understand running then find friends online who do.

Get out in the fresh air, regardless of the weather and get some miles in. don’t put pressure on yourself to run a distance or a time, just enjoy being out.

If you are a social runner then find your local running club or parkrun. Unfortunately there are still running clubs who only want runners who will compete but you can find those that are social. parkrun is a great initiative for gaining new friends / family from either running or volunteering.

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Thanks to Martin for sharing his story and helping show that it's ok for men to talk about their feelings and what's going on in their world and we encourage more people to do the same if they feel they need to. #MentalHealthMatters

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