Tag Archives: mental health

Injured But Happy

Injured but happy. Those words are total opposites in running. How on earth can being injured and being happy co-exist?

About a month ago training was going really well. I had a place in the Reading Half Marathon and I was really excited to get back into road races. All my runs had been going well. I had kept my long runs at a conservative pace without going mad. Shorter, faster runs were feeling more like my old self again and I was feeling quite chilled out about it all. And then one morning I got up and there was a sharp pain in my shin when I walked down stairs. That pain was also there a bit when I walked. After a couple of days rest and some stretching and foam rolling I went out for an 8 mile run. Not even half way in I turned back. There was a pressure in my leg that was building and wouldn’t ease off. I didn’t feel distraught but wasn’t feeling overly confident.

I left my decision right until the last minute as to whether to sack it off. The day before Reading I tried a jog. Every step on my left leg brought on a searing pain on the inside of my shin. The decision had been made. No half marathon for me.

I didn’t cry, I didn’t get overly frustrated. I didn’t come to my blog straight away to moan or blub about it as I might have done previously (Note: nothing wrong with that, just highlighting a change in me here). Instead I carried on about my business, took some ibruprofen and shrugged my shoulders. The only thing that bothered me about it was that I would be unable to take my beginners running group as effectively and I hated letting them down. But shit happens.

The difference in me compared to a few years ago when I was injured is this: running is no longer my emotional crutch. I am happy in other areas of my life and I think it is because I have decided to unapologetically be me. I stopped holding back on the person I wanted to be. I enrolled on my MSc. I have set up my own physio clinic. I went after a volunteer job to be physio for a national squad and I got it. I stopped hiding myself in running. Instead running is something that I do alongside everything else in life. I stopped looking inward, stopped thinking about luck and bad omens, stopped overthinking running and stopped paying attention to social media. Yes it sucks to be injured but I accepted it and moved on. I did what I could do about it and then got on with my life while waiting for my injury to heal.

Four weeks post injury and I managed a pain free run today. I don’t even think I’ve been particularly patient but it hasn’t felt like that long since I had to rest. After I ran I was of course happy but I think I would have felt like that anyway. It’s weird to feel that I am happy. I went for a long time feeling so anxious and stressed that I never thought I would feel like this. I have the excitement of the new clinic and the work with Cricket Wales and it’s a really good feeling. Hopefully the leg has settled and I will be able to run again on the weekend but I’m being mindful about it instead of overthinking it. Plus there are other things right now helping to fill the place in my head that I had expected running to fill for so long.

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Being There

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to write this post but my head has been swirling and sometimes it feels good just to type and see where it goes and more importantly, empty the contents of my head. So here goes.

Like most of the world waking up on Tuesday I was saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams.  He committed suicide after battling depression for a very long time. Immediately social media started to swim with support for those battling mental health and the consequences of it. All of these messages came from the best of places and it was warming to see how we have moved on in recognising deprsssion as a clinical illness. Sort of. I say sot of because we have a long long way to go in my opinion.

If you’ve read some of my posts you will know that my husband has clinical depression. So I have some first hand experience of observing a person living  with what is at times a crippling illness. This post is more for for those supporting people with depression.

Yesterday despite the heartfelt messages being put out there for people with depression I started to feel angry. And here’s why. I feel sorry for someone with depression right now because all the messgaes are for them to talk. Talk right now to anyone. Just talk. From my experience you can’t force someone with depression to talk. Like any physical condition there are stages and as with any illness, use the wrong approach at the wrong time you can either make no difference or possibly make this worse. I read an article in the Guardian which suggested that talking therapies can be dreadful for some with depression because they can act as a trigger and worsen it. And I actually remember with my husband that at his worst he couldn’t physically speak. It looked as though opening his mouth to speak caused him actual physical pain. It was heart breaking to watch but talking at that point was fruitless. That’s not to say that talking never helps. It did help him, eventually, when the time was right.

Why do I feel that the messages to talk could be a trigger? Because for many with depression the voices that are telling you how awful you are, what a burden you are and that your loved ones would be better without you (all things that my husband felt) are so strong that I wonder if those ‘you must talk’ messages at the wrong point could be something else for them to feel like a failure and therefore reinforce the messages from their depressive inner voice. Morbid I know but for my husband I know he felt like he would not be a loss to he world so why bother talking?

So if talking isn’t an option then what else is there? 

You can be their advocate.  I made phone calls for my husband. I fought for services when he couldn’t.  I argued with GP receptionists. I would tell him to go for a walk. Sometimes I would sit with him and simply hold his hand, a touch to distract him from the demon depression telling him that his wife and children were better off without him. Encouraging him when he found the woodwork that helped to bring some Mindfulness. Telling him never to be ashamed. And then, once he was feeling more stable and having counselling, listening.

Supporting my husband through depression is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and my husband has fought it so hard. It will always be there and there has had to be some acceptance from me that he has this condition and that it has to be managed. I have no easy answers for you if you have a loved one with depression.  It is not an illness that can currently be cured and I have had to fight my instincts to try and ‘heal him’. What I have learned though is that sometimes just being there and advocating for your loved one can be be best thing you can do.

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Knitting Me Back Together

Intermittently over the years I have had a go at knitting. Both my grandmothers were superb knitters and my mother and her sister were really able knitters. When I became pregnant for the first time I thought that I would immediately develop the ability to knit. Sadly I did not. I would knit many many rows, imagining I was on top of it all. Then I would spot a mistake in the middle of the pattern and would have to set to work taking it all back again and restarting all the hard work.

So yeah, knitting. What does that have to do with running or in fact the universe? Well I’ll get to it in a bit.

Right now my mental health does not appear to be as healthy as I thought it was. The big hint I suppose was with the insomnia. I started the Mindfulness course and I thought I was doing quite well, identifying my unhelpful thought patterns and ‘grasshopper’ thinking that would contribute to my anxiety. But in other ways it seems to have set me off on another path, opening up a lot more, confessing to having bottled up things I thought I had tidied away in neat little boxes in my brain. It turns out a stiff upper lip is really unhealthy and leads eventually to a very wobbly lip and lots of tears. My anxiety seems to be amplified and I have all of a sudden become aware of how anxious I have been for many years and the ways in which it has affected my behaviours, relationships and decisions.

As runners we always talk about how the act of running makes us happy and helps us to chase the blues away. A rough day can become again became blissful by the simple act of lacing up our trainers and running out the door. And for many years this was true for me. But yesterday I went for a short run and I had a horrible thought creep into my consciousness: my mental health was incredibly intertwined with being able to run. As well as being a source of fitness, running had become a coping mechanism for me when my husband was ill. I had become dependent on running for my mental health. And then when I was badly injured and in pain for many months, my coping mechanism had been ripped away with me. Subsequently instead of running helping my mental health, running has actually started to feed into my anxiety.

This was probably something I haven’t wanted to admit to and as a runner you never want to say that running is ever bad for you. But after having no control over running due to nearly 2 years of injuries, I have to say my desire and need to run might not have been doing me any favours, especially because I put pressure on myself to get ready for London in such a short space of time. I mean, that was the equivalent of an energy gel for fuelling anxiety.

So right now I am like my knitting pattern. For many years I have obviously kept ‘knitting away’ trying to ignore the growing problems within the pattern I was building. But now I’ve recognised it and I’m unravelling things all back, row by row, until hopefully I can get to the crux of everything, find that little flaw that could cause the whole pattern to fray, and start to re-knit myself to become stronger once again. This is possibly why the Hanson method is appealing to me right now, because in a similar way to the Mindfulness course, it encourages you to strip things back, unlearn bad habits and start again with new ones. My anxiety is amplified right now and the physical symptoms seem to be more obvious than they were before but I hope with some work I can get through this and improve my mental health. I suppose you could say this is my Mental Marathon.

In other news I am heading to the Wales Blog Awards tonight. My husband very sneakily nominated me and the first I knew of it was when I had an email to tell me I had been short listed. Over 300 entries were received and I have been included in the final 32. I am amazed and honoured to be included because I never intended this blog to even have the readership that it does. So thank you for supporting my blog and thank you to the running community for introducing me to so many wonderful people.

Running and Depression: A Vent

Before I start I should state a disclaimer: I do not have a diagnosis of depression. This post is not about me having depression. This post is mainly about how others see depression. I am no depression expert. I am just the partner of someone who does have this diagnosis and have seen first hand what it can do to someone’s health and well being.

A few days ago I came across a couple of tweets, the first of which I’m sure was coming from a good place:

‘Running is a great cure for depression, you can’t run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time’.

Another tweeter replied with:

‘If only depression was as simple as feeling sorry for yourself’.

I very nearly jumped into the conversation but I decided not to, it’s a topic for me that needs much more discussion than just a few tweets. However I’ve been mulling things over and I just needed to projectile vomit them onto this blog.

Firstly: if only it really was that easy. Two years ago when my significant other had basically decided he was done with this life, if only it had been that easy, that I just tell him to go for a run. He could have walked in from a few laps of the park saying ‘hey I’m all better now’. I would have dragged him out marathon training with me. If that was the ‘cure’ that the first tweeter was talking about then why isn’t everyone with depression doing it? Well it’s not that simple. Exercise can be an adjunct to the therapies for depression but it will never be a cure.

Secondly, to say that someone with depression just needs to go for a little jog to feel ‘less sorry for themselves’ completely undermines the condition. If someone is in physical pain from a chronic condition we don’t tell them to go for a run and get over it do we? Again exercise is an adjunct but we never expect exercise to completely reverse Type 1 diabetes or cure a tumour. No, because physical pain seems more acceptable and plausible to people than emotional pain. Emotional pain and mental anguish seem far harder for us to fully acknowledge. People are embarrassed by it and turn away from it. It is taboo to admit that you don’t want to be alive any more. Imagine that, at your lowest ebb, people telling you that you just need to ‘get moving and do some exercise’. Believe it or not, when I didn’t understand the condition as I do now, I tried to persuade him to do some exercise because I had read that it helps symptoms. Not when you’re down the rabbit hole though. No way.

Thirdly, I myself got a bit sick of the ‘he’s just a bit down’ and ‘what has he got to feel sorry for himself’ attitudes from people surprisingly close to us. Now, if I feel a bit frazzled from the day’s events then yes, possibly, a run might shift the clouded feeling I get. I get back from a run and I’m pretty much over it. But I don’t have depression. Depression isn’t something you can stick a patch on and expect it to be a bit better in the morning. The fact that some people insist on telling those with depression that they just feel ‘a bit down’ completely invalidates what they’re experiencing. People with depression need to feel safe to voice what they are going through, be heard, acknowledged and then tools and therapies decided on to manage it.

As the wife of a man who fell to some real depths I cannot imagine what people with depression have to suffer. I myself used running as a bit of a crutch to help me cope when it got tough so to this day I probably have quite a strong emotional connection to running. It’s why I miss it so much when I can’t do it. But no amount of running will cure depression. It will help manage it alongside medication and counselling, but please don’t tell the wife of someone with depression that you could cure my husband by taking him for a run. Just don’t.