Depression & Mental Health is such a personal thing and each sufferers experience will be completely different, However, increased media coverage and political awareness has brought awareness of mental health to the masses. Hopefully as a consequence, this will bring a wider understanding to such a growing social issue.
With this in mind and a recent decision to reduce depression medication, it felt the right time to share my journey about ‘running’ from depression and controlling the symptoms that in years gone by had consumed me.
I was clinically diagnosed with depression 6 years ago shortly after the birth of my eldest son. This seemed to trigger in me personal demons about not being able to be the ‘perfect’ father to my children-something I always promised myself I would try to do, after seeing my own father leave my mum to raise two boys on her own as a child. Of course, being a ‘perfect’ parent is in the whole impossible. Ultimately, my inability to perform to my best as a father, a husband and in my working life, began to unearth feelings of guilt, regret and simply ‘sadness’.
After months of mood swing and feelings of worthlessness and ultimately suicidal thoughts and attempts, medical advice was needed. Visits to the GP allowed me to find medication that took the edge off these symptoms, however they didn’t give me the ‘spark’ that I was missing from life. It was during a counselling session , that a professional suggested physical exercise. They had recently seen other clients find a focus and goal with swimming and running. So I tried….
A Couch to 5k program was downloaded and slowly I began to follow it. One run became two. Over the next few weeks, I had exercised more than I had in years before. These moments gave me a purpose and a goal to focus on. While out in the fresh air, my lungs full and burning as my muscles strained under the increasing fatigue, my mind was strangely clear. Worries seemed not only to be at the back of my mind but they simply disappeared. The feeling post run was one of accomplishment., I had achieved something and felt good doing it.
This new hobby slowly became an addiction. 3 runs a week got longer. Then they became more regular. I became faster and wanted to keep improving. Throughout all of this, my mental health with the regular medication became under control and then starting to improve. I was happy again. I became more sociable in familiar settings and then with a leap of faith- I ran with a group of strangers!
Fast forward a few years, as this was all slow progress. Those strangers are now my closest friends. We set up a ‘Running Club’ to spread to joy and social element we loved about running. Now this team are like extended family. They know my struggles and are always there to listen no matter how ridiculous my issues seem to them. It is with this support network that I have decided to reduce and hopefully stop taking the medication. I know that if the process is not straight forward, I will have friends to stand by me and a wife who has been nothing short of my rock. If I begin to feel anxious or consumed by worry, my medication now will be simply to RUN. Run short…run long…run fast or run up that hill that always my lungs burn. Putting those running shoes on and letting my body take over from my mind is guaranteed to bring me back to earth.