My mental health story begins officially in the middle of my degree when I’d just turned 30. I’d been having some wobbles and insecurities before this time, but I thought they were just ‘me being me’. Due to a personal situation suddenly changing, I went from being well organised and flying at university, to not being able to cope with the simplest tasks and unable to even begin impending assignments. Thankfully, amazing friends convinced me to get help, and a talking therapy service gave me my first diagnosis of severe low self esteem and moderate anxiety. Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue any further treatment, and the niggles kept rumbling on, albeit mostly in check. I’d been trying to keep fit throughout university, and running featured here and there, but only really as an antidote for cake and beer!
Fast forward to 2017, where I was now trying to juggle my ever-increasing anxiety with a new career as a teacher. Most people are aware that teaching is a hugely stressful job, and as such my headteacher insisted on all of us having a wellbeing target for the year. I chose running the Hastings Half Marathon as mine, which is where my running lifestyle properly began. I’d run the race a few years before without any real training, and I knew that I couldn’t do that again, I would need to put the miles in. Instead of getting home and flopping on the sofa to worry about my work, I’d lace up and head out at least twice a week, sometimes with colleagues, but mostly alone.
Parkrun was a revelation. Here was an amazing, free, local event that meant I had to get out of bed and run, I couldn’t put it off til ‘later’. Tracking my running on Strava, I got hooked watching my pace come down, and my mileage going up. And it was on the longer runs that I began to realise the real benefits of running for me. With a pre-planned route ahead, all I had to think about was putting one foot in front of the other and getting to the end.
My brain didn’t have time when I was running to overthink like it usually did, and the runners euphoria at the end of my run, realising how far I’d run, did wonders for my self esteem!
Slowly, as my fitness developed and I was able to run further, I realised I could use the time during runs to think things over. If I’d had a tricky day I could use my running time to unpick it, or I could mentally plan lessons for the following morning. And so over a year later, running has become my go-to tool for clearing my head and shaking out the worries. My anxiety is so much better, and now I’ve learnt to recognise when it’s building I can try and tackle it head on with a run.
My anxiety hasn’t gone, my self esteem still wobbles. And recently I’ve been suffering from low mood, which I’m in the process of seeking professional help for. But through all of this, I run. I take my trainers to school, and run at lunch if I feel the anxiety building. Running, even just a couple of slow, plodding miles, really does blow out the niggling doubt and the negative voices, and helps me to be happy being me again.
For me, running really can turn a bad day into a good day, and that’s why my next challenge will be running the Beachy Head Marathon in October, raising money for Mind.
As part of #MilesForMind we want 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.