Parklife

[Written as part of Time to Talk Day, part of the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. As part of this, England Athletics have worked on #runandtalk, which seemed apt given the content of this blog. A friend from Southwark parkrun asked if I had anything suitable to share for the occasion. “No,” I said “But I’ll write something”]

One in four people will experience a mental health problem this year. Four in four people have mental health. Just like physical health, we all vary in how “well” we are and that wellness varies dependent on more factors than I can list. Sometimes you’re the picture of health. Sometimes you feel fine but problems are lurking, the mental equivalent of bad cholesterol. Sometimes you’re aware of a niggle, the emotional version of a bad knee or a slight cold. Once in a while, the devastating life changing illness or injury comes along. That’s exactly like a physical devastating life changing illness or injury except nobody can see it and nobody offers tests or scans that prove “You’re Sick”.

I’ve spent most of the past 10 years with a mixture of anxiety and depression, dancing back and forth over the line of niggly problems and devastating illness. Just as it improves physical fitness, running has done wonders for my mental health. We don’t wait to need a filling before we head to the dentist (not strictly true, I do); we shouldn’t wait for a problem before considering our mental health. So this post is for the four in four.

At 9am on a Saturday, in various parks, you will find hundreds of people running a 5km course. Across the country this number adds up to several tens of thousands. Welcome to parkrun. Your Saturday mornings just changed forever.

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The view from Lee on Solent parkrun

For the uninitiated, parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5km run that happens at venues primarily in the UK but across the globe. All you need is a pair of trainers, to sign up on a website and print off a barcode that’s used to help determine your time. No further cost, no need for fancy gear. It’s a phenomenon and those of us who participate regularly can verge on evangelical about it. For the four in four, here are ways that parkrun has contributed to improving my mental health:

Exercise

The benefits of exercise to your mental health are well publicised, although nobody seems quite sure of the exact science behind it. When I first began running, I lost a little weight although I didn’t have much that I needed to lose. It improved my posture. It forced me to reassess my diet. I drank more water. I drank less alcohol and caffeine. I started sleeping better. My skin, hair and nails suddenly all looked healthier. It was the first step in completely overhauling my physical health and that has impacted on my mental health in an extreme way.

The key thing that exercise has granted me however, is confidence. As a 26 year old woman, I finally really like my body. That’s sadly, quite unusual. I’ve slimmed down and I eat whatever I like without (much) guilt. I have legs that are now strong enough to carry me for 10 miles at a reasonable speed and they’re about to make it to 13.1 miles. The best thing of all is seeing photos both during and after any run. My hair will be scraped back, I’ll be devoid of makeup, I’ll be exhausted, I’ll be decked head to toe in clashing neon. Despite all of that, I think some of these photos are the absolute best photos taken of me because it’s when you really see pure bright-eyed happiness in my face.

Sense of purpose

This came in two stages. First, the ability to run 5km. I could (just about) do this when I started attending parkrun but it was a bit of a struggle. Being able to run the full 5km without stopping was a massive achievement, as it is for a huge number of parkrunners. Parkrun is not just for “runners”, it’s for everyone. Sure, some people go sprinting round the course in an agonisingly fast time but there also plenty of people who walk/run it.

Once I could run that 5km, then came the relentless quest for PBs (personal bests). At the end of each parkrun, you receive a text with your timed result. Here begins a maddening relationship of trying to improve your PB. Every week you wait for that text; some weeks it disappoints you, some weeks it elates you. If it elates you, then you just try to beat it again the following week. It’s strangely futile because although you’re incredibly happy, you’re never quite happy enough. There’s always a new goal in mind, the next barrier to break through.

It’s interesting that no matter my lack of motivation or enthusiasm in other aspects of my life, the drive to be a better runner doesn’t fade. I don’t necessarily always back it up with the motivation to train enough to get there but the goal remains. Sometimes the only thing in my life I’m striving towards is a new PB. But that’s something at least. It’s a spark in the darkness.

 Community

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The start line at Southwark parkrun

Loneliness is a routine issue that’s brought up in connection with mental illness. It’s isolating. Loneliness extends well beyond that of course; to the old – as we all know from John Lewis’ Christmas advert in conjunction with Age UK, to parents who feel their life now revolves solely around their child, to young people surrounded by friends in the greatest cities on Earth. I never felt so lonely as when I moved to London. Strange, to feel alone with 8 million people around you.

The parkrun community is a) massive, b) wide ranging and c) welcoming. Constantly on the lookout for new participants, each parkrun begins with a new runner briefing where all new runners to that course have the concept and the route explained to them. No shame here in being the new kid. There is also no one demographic to parkrun. Children run it with their parents (and indeed it has proven so popular that there are number of junior parkruns springing up), parents run it pushing buggies with sleeping babies inside, the young and old alike run it. From people embarking on their first runs, to those who have run ultramarathons, they all flock to parkrun and that’s part of what makes it so great. Wherever you are in the pack, you’ll be cheered over the line. Fellow runners offer their support and advice. Eventually (and surprisingly quickly) you make friends. Recently, when some drama in my personal life made me nervous and reluctant to attend, it was that community who supported me and coaxed me back.

The community is such that no matter where I am in the country, I can turn up at the local parkrun and be welcomed readily as a parkrun “tourist”. I seem to pack my running shoes no matter where I am for the weekend and end up chatting to strangers about running and the other parkruns I’ve attended.

It’s also very easy to be involved through Twitter and Facebook. So many individual parkruns now engage through social media that there’s an extra layer of participation. Even outside the hour on Saturday mornings, the connection to the various parkruns I attend lingers on throughout the week because I continue talking to the people involved and the organisers. I see photos of friends and people I recognise, I see increasingly brilliant statistics about the number of participants and volunteers and PBs set that week. It’s a little like a club, that will have anyone as a member and that I’m incredibly proud to be part of.

Routine

There’s a lot to be said for routine, it brings some structure when perhaps the rest of your life feels like it’s crumbling away and being swallowed by a sinkhole. Personally, I am not a morning person and so really, parkrun is a fresh type of hell. Being somewhere by 9am? On a Saturday? Madness. Most weeks see me complaining about how early it is, especially on the weeks when I volunteer and I have to be there even earlier. As I pointed out in my most recent tweet on the subject, I actually get up earlier to volunteer at parkrun than I do for work. Arguably that’s because I have a dreamy commute but hush.

When ballerinas pirouette, they focus on a fixed point to fend off dizziness. That’s what parkrun has become to me, my fixed point and my anchor. No matter how bad work is going, no matter how much I’ve dreaded social commitments, no matter the other things falling apart, I know that 9am on a Saturday is there. The worst case scenario is that I have to get through 6 days until then. It’s amazing how much that can help, knowing there’s a glimmer of positivity on the horizon.

What’s more is that there is so much Saturday left afterwards. Did you know Saturday existed before midday? I didn’t. A day that was often previously lost to feeling sorry for myself is now wide open because I’m awake and I’ve conquered the hard part of getting out of bed and then out of the house.

Volunteering

It’s easy to feel like a burden when you struggle with mental health. People tiptoe around you. You screw up a lot. It gets tiring. You offer very little back to anyone in return. I know in my heart that I’m one of the most loving, supportive people available to the people I truly adore, I really am. It doesn’t stop me feeling like a leech every time I ask for help.

Parkrun is organised by volunteers, that’s one of the ways that it remains free. Every week, people drag themselves out of their warm beds to shiver on part of the course wearing hi-vis. Hi-vis is cool. Thank the volunteers when you run past them because they have no chance of a PB that week and a tiny bit of them is dying inside. Also they’re wearing hi-vis and it looks really stupid.

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Hi-vis is cool; I look exceptionally glamorous in it & I will not be told otherwise.

Without the volunteers, parkrun couldn’t happen and all things considered, it really is a staggering effort that is put in by people up and down the country to put on these events every single week, come rain or shine.

The idea is that for every five or so parkruns you participate in, you volunteer for one, giving back to the community that you’re now part of. There’s a wide range of roles available, from marshalling, to handing out finish tokens, to acting as a tail runner making sure there’s no man left behind. I do genuinely believe I get as much, if not more enjoyment out of volunteering as I do running. I have made friends through it but most importantly for me, I get a sense of self-worth. I know that parkrun needs my efforts to exist and seeing the huge amount of enjoyment it provides to literally hundreds of people running past me results in so much satisfaction.

After a long week of feeling useless, I can stand about on a drizzly Saturday morning and know that in that moment, I’m doing something on behalf of 300 other people. That has to make you feel a little better about yourself.

I’m sure there are more ways that parkrun has helped me feel “normal” again but I could lovingly ramble on forever. I encourage anyone, from any walk of life to attend your local parkrun which you can find here. I’ve never come across anything so welcoming and that provides so much benefit to so many people. Anyone in south/central London who would like to attend but is nervous about trying something new, give me a shout and I’m more than happy to come along with you some Saturday morning, I’m a very friendly creature and not all that fast so I’m the ideal running mate for newbies.

With thanks to all the parkruns who have hosted me, but mostly to Lee on the Solent, Wimbledon and finally Southwark, for providing inspiration. The nicest bunch of people you’d ever want to meet.

Links:

Time To Change: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Mind: http://www.mind.org.uk/

Rethink Mental Illness: https://www.rethink.org/

Parkrun: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/

Southwark Parkrun on Facebook and Twitter

Wimbledon Parkrun on Facebook and Twitter

Lee on the Solent Parkrun on Facebook and Twitter

 

Sing oh January oh!

31st January already. 1/12 of another year gone. I thought I’d do a “month in review” style post, both of my running and my mental state.

I ran 70km in January. Far less than I was aiming to. January is a hard month to motivate yourself through anyway, it has been cold and wet and dark. I began a new job on 4th January and getting up to speed with everything it entails has left me exhausted. I made the decision to listen to my body and get as much rest as I could, I know my resilience is linked heavily to my energy levels. If I push myself too hard it will result in a meltdown and so I’m remaining cautious.

I started the year badly with a couple of reasonably severe panic attacks hitting me, most frequently on Sunday nights. Refusing to leave Hampshire to go back to London, tearful phone calls to friends and family, hyperventilating. I’m not being too harsh on myself about them, there’s more to be gained from being kind to myself. January is hard and new jobs are tiring and anxiety-inducing in the best of us. I seem to have settled a little as the month has gone on so I think a situational blip.

The new job is going well. I’ve now completed 4 weeks and managed not to have a panic attack in the office. It’s a dramatic change in attitude from my previous firm and I’m still adjusting to having a better work/life balance, to kinder people, to not feeling like I work in a pressure cooker. This was a big promotion for me and I’m trying not to put pressure on myself when nobody else is doing that. Last year I was regularly working until 8pm in the City, getting home at 9pm, leaving less time for running and my energy levels already depleted. I’m now back at my flat by 6.30pm most evenings. Over the course of the month I have gained hours back to my life and over time, I’m hoping that means I can factor a lot more running into my week. So far, so good. It all feels like the right decision and I am far happier.

I have slowly upped my long slow runs and with 7 weeks to go until Bath Half, I had run 15km, or 9.3 miles of the 13.1 I’ll need to do on the day. This weekend I have a slightly dodgy knee and a bout of tonsillitis which have kept me at home. Irritating and I was concerned that it would set me back but it’s better to rest now. I’ve been adding about 2km on to each long run so the distance will come to me, I’m almost there, there is still time.

I kicked off my year of running for Mind with the Romsey 5 Mile Road Race. No matter the race, I experience severe nerves and I spent most of the night before feeling a little sick and sleeping fitfully. Romsey is a fast flat course, 3 laps around a portion of the Broadlands estate with a run up and down an additional straight about halfway round the 3rd lap. Race day was grey and warmer than I would have liked but the rain thankfully held off. I ran 10km the day before which is unusual, IMG_20160124_162732I don’t tend to run on consecutive days. I was a bit worried that this would have left me slightly tired for the race but happily, my chip time came in at 47:17, meaning an average pace of around 9:27/mile. It was by no means fast but I’m aiming for 10 minute miles for Bath Half in March so this was a nice start. I started out too quickly and paid for it about halfway round the course so briefly slowed to a walk – I would be annoyed that it impacted on my overall time but I think really it will just have balanced out that early burst. I find the beginning of races difficult, the bustle of the crowd around me leaves me claustrophobic and I struggle to find my own pace instead of matching everyone else’s.

On to February. More writing. More running. The last push before Bath Half. A tiny holiday to Iceland all planned and booked. A shorter month.

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First medal of the year!

 

Comfort Food: Runner

“I can’t believe I chose the mountains every time you chose the sea” – Los Campesinos: Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State

I’m originally from the coast and still get desperately homesick from the sea. The coastline in Hampshire is very flat, no cliffs to be seen and yet last summer I fell hopelessly and unexpectedly in love with the mountains. At 26, I went on my first family holiday since I was 15. I found myself in the Pyrenees with nothing much to do but roam around the mountains with my parents. Ironically, this is exactly the sort of holiday that I hated so much in my teens that I was banned from the family holiday experience for a decade.

Ten years on, I loved it. For a week, I traded London and a job that was making me sick for scrabbling about on hillsides, breathe4648764-b81f-47cd-aa7e-bcf5c965a8d6ing mountain air and then immediately having that breath taken away by increasingly stupendous views. Even my parents were surprised by how easily I took to the mountains, galloping off ahead of them and then running back down to hurry them up. More mountain goat than girl. Making my poor retired mother pick her way across mountain streams so I could get a bit closer to icy waterfalls. All of this in a battered pair of old Converse which may well have been worn on that last family holiday.

Earlier this week I was browsing Stanfords (magical London travel book/map shop) while waiting to meet a friend and on a whim, ended up picking up a book with the silhouette of a woman running across the mountains. Runner, by Lizzy Hawker. Lizzy Hawker is, to me, the most ordinarily extraordinary woman. I still balk at the very idea of marathons. Lizzy is a previous 100km world champion. She has run from Everest base camp to Kathmandu more than once. She won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), 103 miles through the Alps, the first time she ran it and then went on to win the same race on four further occasions. There are other races and other records.

How is this Comfort Food material? How can it be reassuring to read about a truly incredible endurance athlete whose running is in such a different league to my own? I think it partly comes from my perceptions of my own running. I am not fast; I’m reasonably happy with my 10k+ times but the pace of these is barely different from my 5k time, quite slow and taking a long time to slowly improve. Distance however, I seem more naturally attuned to and week on week I find myself able to run longer distances more comfortably. Although the distances that Lizzy runs are staggering (and she runs them quickly!), I find this less difficult to comprehend than a champion sprinter. I find it hard to reconcile that I will get faster but it seems plausible just to keep running.

It is in part because Lizzy seems so ordinary. Remarkably relaxed about her achievements; Lizzy is a long way into that first UTMB before she realises just how far up in the field she is. She is someone who kept running Very Long Distances and through that eventually found that she was an endurance athlete. Of course, she suffers injuries (although her body is terrifyingly resilient), she runs despite pain, she suffers disappointments. That’s nice really, making what to a lot of us are superhuman feats suddenly resolutely human. There’s extreme inspiration in her determination. If anyone can will themselves to run another 30km through the mountains whilst in pain, what excuse can there be for me not heading out into the wintery London night?

It’s a point very early on the book that resonates most strongly. Lizzy is full of trepidation as she sets off on her first UTMB, when she stops worrying, realising “we just have to keep running”. I’ve been feeling despondent and anxious about my running the past couple of weeks. I’m not fast enough, not running far enough, I’m lacking enthusiasm about heading out on cold January nights when I know that I have to train for Bath in March and Run Hackney in May. I put too much pressure on myself. I’m doing well, I’m doing better than I could have possibly expected a year ago. Still, I’m self-critical. My schedule tends to be a couple of short runs in the week after work, 1 evening of hill sprints, a long slow run on the weekend. I enjoy the long slow run. Those weekday nights, I am desperate to finish. After reading Runner, I went out (reluctantly) with the aim of doing 5km with Lizzy’s words fresh in my mind. “What more do I need to do other than simply keep moving slowly forwards?” I came home having run around 8km, not a huge distance but more than I would ever usually run on a weeknight.

Via Lizzy, I am carrying Lewis Carroll’s words from Alice in Wonderland with me on every run:

‘”Begin at the beginning,” the King said very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”‘

What else is there to do? It doesn’t matter if you’re running your first 5km or the 320km from Everest to Kathmandu; all you can do is begin, go on and when you finally come to the end, stop. True of life, as well as running. There have been days where getting out of bed seems too much. Where showering or making lunch is as much of an impossible feat as an ultra-marathon. But this is not the end, I know that. Finish lines have people cheering and medals and hopefully some Haribo. So I go on. Moving slowly forwards.

I am dreaming of the mountains again, they are waiting.

“Come on, come with me, the race is about to start. The mountains are waiting for us.” – Lizzy Hawker: Runner

And you’ll ask yourself, where is my mind?

You know all about mindfulness, right? No? Well come hither from the cave you’ve apparently been residing in since mid-2014 because mindfulness was the hot wellbeing buzzword of 2015. There were hundreds of newspaper articles, books, courses, apps and retreats. Everyone was practicing mindfulness and it was going to change the way we all thought and deliver us from the evils and stress of everyday life. Or something like that.

Mindfulness is, in brief, about being aware “in the moment”. It is an awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensory experiences as they’re happening and as they’re changing. This can potentially really help people suffering from stress and anxiety as it should help slow down your thoughts and forces consideration of what you’re feeling and why. From previous posts, you may recognise that this is exactly what I need in my life. I’ve tried meditation and I’ve tried yoga, both practices more commonly aligned to mindfulness but the focus on my breathing in those circumstances tends to induce panic. I’ve tried to employ elements of mindfulness in my daily life but so far, I haven’t made much headway despite trying a multitude of methods. I suppose that is the point of practising something; if it came easily, it wouldn’t require practice. I hate not being immediately good at things.

I have however, found running to be a mindful action. To run well and to improve requires far more awareness than you may initially think. It’s a basic act, running, and humans have been managing it successfully for thousands of years, so surely it doesn’t require much thought. Put one foot in front of the other, repeat. I certainly haven’t found it that easy.

My first experience of mindfulness in running came early, in the same way I suspect it does for many people. The first few runs were awful, leaving me horribly out of breath and feeling nauseous. A mix of things led to this; a complete lack of awareness about the concept of pacing, a general lack of cardiovascular fitness and most importantly, because I had no idea how to breathe. Years of hating any physical exertion explained because nobody had ever taught me that I couldn’t expect to breathe the way I do while sat at this laptop. It took a long time to learn what pattern I needed to apply to my breathing in order to keep running (I tend to eventually adopt “in for 4, out for 4”) but that awareness changed my life forever. I still find that if I don’t pay enough attention to my breathing, then I quickly lose the ability to run altogether. I’ll happily run >10km without a backwards glance but if I’m not mindful of my breathing, a run can just as easily end after 2km and leave me a disheartened mess.

Through running, I’ve become a lot more aware of my body. Injuries in the past year have left me cautious and hyper-alert to any niggles or aches during the course of a run. Anybody who has ever used a foam roller can attest to the incredible specific (and torturous) focus you feel on the tiniest spots in your muscles. During a long run, I pay serious attention to my form and constantly reassess if my shoulders are hunched, if I’m leaning too far forward, where my eyeline is focussed, if my fists are clenched and forcing tension all up my arms. There is no other time that I’m quite so deeply attuned to myself in such a positive way.

Finally, there is so much to be aware of in your surroundings. If like me, you’re often running through a heavily urban area like London, you’re constantly required to be aware of heavy traffic and a high volume of people. To not do so could prove fatal. A lot of races suggest not wearing headphones for exactly that reason, to improve your awareness of the other runners around you. If you’re a trail runner, more thought needs to be given to exactly where you’re placing your foot, of the terrain you’re covering. If you don’t see that tree root, that rock, that hole in the ground, it’s liable to result in injury.

My understanding of local geography has improved immensely. Suddenly I know how all the backstreets of my town connect, from poring over maps to put together circuits and from confused moments of emerging from the end of a road to find myself somewhere familiar but unexpected. I give more consideration to my visibility by others; early nights through the winter lead us to break out the hi-vis kit (although actually, I am a neon wonderkid all year round), to attach tiny pulsing strobe lights to ourselves. I keep finding new ways in which running requires me to be mindful and the more I practise it, the more my running improves.

If you’re a runner and any of this has resonated, you’re already practising mindfulness. If you’re not a runner, then it can be an incredible way to learn mindfulness and I hope that eventually it will help me more outside of running. I’ve been forced to build a foundation and learnt the skills, I just need to apply them in different scenarios.

IMG_20160116_162025.jpgA reminder: it’s about awareness of the moment that you’re in. On occasion, that means stopping and appreciating the world around you and sometimes that may mean sacrificing a fast time. I’ll leave you with this photo taken halfway through my 15km run this weekend. There will be so many more runs where I can knock a few more seconds off my 10km PB but the light hitting the water in that exact way at that exact moment? That’s lost forever now and I was there to witness it.

If I wasn’t so gone completely, this would feel like pain

Post #1 of at least 2 that I don’t want to write, but must. It seems impossible to write a mental health blog without talking about self harm and suicide. The serious stuff. It seems impossible to write about self harm and suicide without feeling you’re writing for shock value. It seems impossible to write this without irreversibly altering (some) people’s opinions of me. Fortunately, I’ve never cared too much for your opinions.

During appointments with many doctors and therapists, I’ve been asked about destructive behaviour. A lot of things are considered “destructive”, especially when used as a coping mechanism. Drinking excessively, taking drugs, sleeping with inappropriate people, being a total nightmare so that people leave you alone and you don’t have to face reality. I spent the first half of my 20s horrendously drunk (and oh, I AM a horrendous drunk), with a habit of abusing prescriptions and making occasionally questionable decisions about men. I am slowly learning to make better life decisions but really? Being 26 is destructive. The perils of our 20s aside. I would tell you that I have never self harmed and I’ve never been suicidal. I would happily tell you that and what’s more, I would believe it. I am probably delusional and I omit difficult facts to fit the imaginary happier life that is running in parallel to my own.

What is true, is that I’ve never meant to hurt myself. My actions have never had a pre-meditated intention, which is not to say that I haven’t done a reasonable amount of damage. My anxiety stems from losing control of situations, ironic really, considering that anxiety plunges me into a state where I have almost no control left. In a desperate attempt to regain control I will mercilessly throw myself into repetitive actions, scratching at my arms, legs and chest until the skin is raw. Whilst living with my ex, there were awful nights of him forcibly pinning my arms down to stop me from drawing blood, and in the mornings after the nights before, I would cry (again) from seeing the state of myself. Mornings of hunting for work dresses with high necklines and long sleeves in an attempt to hide that I looked like I’d slept in a briar patch.

On occasion, my panic attacks turn to anger. It’s frustrating to be trapped inside your mind, to be so afraid of what’s happening, to hate what you’re doing but feel powerless to stop it. I get angry and work myself into a frenzy. I have bitten my arms and the backs of my hands so hard that a perfectly round bite mark will be visible for days after and the bruises last for weeks. A dangerous precedent I’ve set over time. In terms of exerting pressure, the masseter – a muscle around your jaw – is the strongest in the human body and so a forceful bite hurts. The pain is harsh and will shock me out of the state I’m in. That is not healthy knowledge for me to possess.

Clearly I have a detailed history of self harm whether I choose to label it that or not. I am largely better now, thank you very much for your anticipated concern. Running is repetitive and if not painful, at least has physical impact and so is a satisfactory response to attacks. The key is catching the situation while running remains an option. I also spend a lot of time silently reciting the lyrics to Sorrow by The National in an attempt to focus my thoughts and bring any vague form of order back. It works. Sometimes.

Similarly, I don’t really identify as having been suicidal. And yet, I have teetered dangerously close to the edge of train platforms and my eyes have flickered from the tracks to an approaching train and back a hundred times within the space of seconds. I have stared down double decker buses and made knowingly reckless calls about my ability to dart through traffic. I have taken significantly higher than recommended dosages of painkillers, sleeping tablets, benzodiazepines and washed them down with gin. For a few months when I was 23, I went to the top of the same multi-storey carpark on about 30 separate occasions in a trance and gazed down at the ground. It is of course entirely mad to write this and claim I haven’t felt suicidal, but I will.

Because you see, the aim has never been to kill myself. The aim has never been to die. My sole intention has purely been to stop the incessant chatter of every over-analytical, critical thought racing through my mind. Death would be an unfortunate consequence of the action but in those moments, there is no consequence. As long as my brain remains in overdrive, it has enough capacity to realise that yes, it would make it stop, but not enough sense to see that everything would stop.

And really, that’s scarier isn’t it? How easy it is to die because your brain is too stupid, sad and confused to recognise what will happen. Appalling survival instinct. My most terrified moments have been following glimpses of reality during those states where I realise that I am the danger. It’s not my workload, my weight or any of the other things that have broken me before. It’s me. A core group of my friends have endured two hour phone calls in the dead of night with me panicked and incoherent. Keeping me in something resembling conversation until my brain quietens down and I’m not afraid of myself. So ends this particular confessional.

I’d like to say that these are the darkest days and henceforth the blog gets happier. That all I have left to share is the wonder of running and how it helped me. Spoilers; it does, eventually, but it gets worse before it gets better.