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Coming full circle - thanks to running.
How I wish I’d had running in my twenties when my life was at its absolute darkest.

How I wish I’d had running when my acute anxiety meant that I could barely eat for the knots in my stomach. When my endless, negative and repetitive thoughts were rattling against the inside of my head like a marble in a glass. I was exhausted by the misery of it all.

As a kid, I lived for football and running. Nothing else mattered. I was good too and loved every minute.

Then on the 8th September 1991, a few weeks before my 16th birthday my optician discovered that the blurred vision I was suffering from was actually two detached retinas. The following morning I received a 7-hour operation that literally saved my vision from the edge of blindness.

Five years as a hospital outpatient followed. Football, running and sports were forbidden.

My sight was pretty much back to normal after about 8 weeks, but the risk of a second detachment meant that the doctors put me under strict orders to keep out of the way of any sort of physical activity that had been my life just a few weeks earlier. I was lost.

With sport and football no longer in my life, I found solace in art and music (it was the early nineties and there was a feast of explosive, grungy new sounds to be devoured). Throughout my late teens, I began to experiment and rebel.

The next decade consisted of some serious fun, but also some serious amounts of alcohol, smoking, an appalling diet, recreational drugs, unemployment and dead-end jobs. I’d taught myself how to play the guitar and joined a band and although I made some amazing friends and created some of my fondest memories, my mental and physical health was taking a severe beating.

By my late 20s, I was suffering from anxiety, depression and was unable to eat properly as the knots in my stomach grew tighter and tighter. I’d always been skinny, but at my lowest, I weighed little more than 8 stone (50 kilos / 112 lbs). I was a mess.

It was a long slog to get through it, but eventually, through travel, I found a way out of the darkness and following a university degree, love and marriage I made a really good recovery.

Mental illness though can sometimes have a tendency to linger and as I hit 40, a new set of problems began to surface.

We’d just stopped travelling after 4 years on the road and I found settling down to normal life difficult. Then came a crippling back pain on top of the stress of becoming a father for the first time. Add to that my financial worries plus a depressing political landscape and before long I started to hear the sound of a familiar voice again - ‘anxiety’.
 
The clouds were beginning to gather once again, however this time, I had an ally.

My physio had suggested that I get back into running as a way to alleviate my back pain. I was too lazy to take her advice for almost a year, but eventually, the pain became too much to handle. I had to give it a try.

Low and behold, she was right. A few weeks in and my back pain was improving, but more than that, I was slowly beginning to fall back in love with the sport that I'd had to give up all those years ago. 
 
Running is fixing my body, but more than that, it's also doing wonders for my mind.

Getting out there into the fresh air makes me feel alive, and through the repetition of my steps, the deep breathing and a sole focus on what lies ahead, I find I can make myself relax, focus and think.

Then, the clarity, positivity and creativity will come.

After every run, I immediately need to look for something on which I can write down all of the ideas and thoughts that are pouring out of me.

The thoughts cleanse me, make me feel whole. Like a man in control.

I've since been inspired to start my own business www.smashingfifty.com a health, fitness and personal development website for middle-aged men, and I find myself energised and inspired to devour personal development courses, eat well and exercise.

I’m now focussed upon creating a life that is full of physical and mental strength, calm and positive energy. Where any negative or anxious thoughts are allowed to come, be assessed, thanked for their time and be tossed away.

I owe it all to running. I've come full circle, back to where I belong.

Thank you, running, I’ll not leave you again.
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Thanks to Michael for sharing his blog and helping to start the conversation that #MentalHealthMatters

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