Well maybe ‘hall of fame’ is a little bit of an over-sell, but this is a guest post I wrote a few weeks ago that appeared on a professional physiotherapy website. This is my R.E.D January Guest Post for my lush physio friend ‘Mike Stamp’ who wants to include regular guest posts on his website by people writing about the positive mood-enhancing effects of regular exercise and sharing their experiences. Here is his website HERE
I am going to include hall of fame posts every time something of mine is published outside of my blog. Tomorrow I will include the full un-edited of what I wrote for the PharmaTimes magazine about PTSD and BPD :)
With this post as I’m in a silly mood tonight I added some new bits inbetween the paragraphs, purely for my own amusement. The new bits are in HUGE text to differentiate them from the rest ;)
READ AND ENJOY…
This morning I did what every person would do on a freezing cold morning…I went jogging in the snow! Sometimes I wonder how I got to the point where I think the best thing to do on a snowy day is to don some lycra and head out for a 5k.
*hides face while shaking head, aiming to conceal a very confused facial expression*
I have never thought of myself as a runner. I always thought runners were a very different breed to me, and maybe were even born with a different gene…separating *me* out from *them*, but I’ve always envied the so called “runners high” that they talk about…so when a Facebook post came up on my feed advertising R.E.D January-a social movement to get people moving and beat the winter blues, I signed up straight away.
*because I’m an impulsive muddy funster*
It was to support Mind-a charity who have been an invaluable source of support to me when I was very poorly with mental health problems-so the idea of fundraising *and* getting fit and healthy really appealed.
*not to mention the idea of fitting into my six pairs of Topshop skinny jeans that were always a snug fit but now are alarming in their ability to cut off my circulation*
I live with long-term chronic mental health problems-Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD (which is a disorder of chaotic emotions, high sensitivity and mood swings) and PTSD which had arisen from a childhood of severe abuse.
*thanks for that dad-what a legacy-eye roll*
My body had taken a battering from the anxiety and anti-depressant medications I take to ease the symptoms of my illness…so my starting point was being someone who was very out of condition, and very unused to exercise.
*read- possessing the Wii fit age of an actual pensioner*
Going out on my first run therefore was daunting. I didn’t know how my body would react after so much inactivity. I quickly tired and thought ‘wowzers-what have I done here!… committing to doing this everyday [or some other form of exercise] for 31 days-in the darkest coldest month of the year!’ But I came in from my run rosy faced and proud. That endorphin buzz was instant and amazing-I came in and felt more awake and energised than I’d done for a long time-and also like I’d done something out of my comfort zone that I could genuinely feel proud of.
*and I didn’t even collapse or require paramedic assistance*
When you live with mental health problems-or even if you don’t-it is so important to build little successes into your day-things that make you feel like you’ve accomplished something-and that’s exactly what running did for me. To push myself to go out, even on days when leaving the warmth and comfort of my home was so difficult, built a sense of personal mastery.
*being a psychologist, I am a lover of phrases like ‘personal mastery’, which make you sound super intelligent, thereby obscuring the fact I am not intelligent enough to explain psychological concepts to non-psychologists in plain English*
The buzz of running continued, and intensified more and more, the more I did it. Shock horror I began to actually enjoy it! I found that my runs cleared my head of all the rubbish in my mind,
*and cleared my bowels of all the stagnant waste in there in the form of bouts of diarhorrea-T.M.I? honest but true* ;)
and while on the run I enjoyed appreciating the natural beauty of my local surroundings. I realised how much beauty lay on my doorstep and I discovered new places to run which made me feel more at home and more grounded and settled in the area where I live. For people with PTSD, simply leaving the house can be a big strain. People with PTSD have a mind-set of threat, being very over-sensitised to perceived danger, so people like me often end up confined to their homes which is so sad. Running gave me confidence. I was able to extend my comfort zone and run on longer routes further from my home, building up my sense of safety. That was hugely empowering to me as a survivor.
*and a huge relief to my husband who had regular escapes of having the house to himself so he could play Xbox 360 in peace without me moaning that he’s always on the chuffing computer*
I also started to find the running less of a physical strain. I noticed an improvement in how long I was able to run for very quickly. My breathing was less laboured and my previously un-used muscles ached less and I recovered quicker afterwards.
*I also began to raise in optimism that one magical day I might fit into those Topshop skinnies*
This was all so good for me. Aside from the daily buzz of exercise that I was getting there were a couple of highlights that stood out for me in R.E.D January…one was the first time I took part in my local park run. This was a 5k timed run with a group of over a hundred runners. I was so nervous the night before as I wondered what it would be like-but I have to say it was the best feeling to run in a group like that, and the ‘crossing the finish line moment’ was something I will never forget. My husband, children and a friend were there to cheer me on, and as I ran the mantra in my head was THIS GIRL CAN. That is what spurred me on and enabled me to finish the race in a time I was proud of.
*without paramedic assistance, though with a sense of resentful jealousy as I bounced past my family drinking their hot chocolates and munching on chocolate in a cruelly obvious way*
After that amazing experience I went out and bought myself some proper running clothes as a treat-
*if you can get your head around combining the words “florescent” “lycra” and TREAT into the same sentence*
I felt like I’d crossed the line and become an actual runner! Something I never thought would happen.
Finally, my other highlight was when I jogged happily and confidently past a location where I’d attempted to take my own life. I felt overcome with positive emotion, a sense of relief that those dark times had ended, and a new found enthusiasm for life and my future.
*no jokes appropriate to insert here*
A month of running did not only give me slimmer thighs and a bottom that wobbled a bit less. It gave me hope, confidence, pride, accomplishment, a sense of positivity and new found control, as well as a new daily routine. A depression-busting activity I could do every day that I knew was guaranteed to make me feel better no matter how difficult a day I was having. And for someone with complex emotional needs that meant the world to me.
*it actually did, and still does-I’m still running regularly now :)*
For anyone who is keen to try running but daunted by it-please don’t be. Go easy on yourself at first, listen to your body, and enjoy those magical moments you get while you run, and the post-run buzz afterwards. Running has taken me far away from a past that was very painful and difficult, into a future that looks much brighter and sparklier.
My advice for novice runners would be to take a smiley selfie of yourself every time you’ve gone for a run, and keep them as a building record of all you’ve achieved as well as a reminder of how good you felt after that run. If you ever don’t feel motivated to go out, simply looking through all the selfies and the glowing happy faces in the snapshots always convinced me to lace up my shoes and just go for it!
As for my future, I have entered a 10k race to raise further money for Mind in the summer, and am also in the process of organising a group hike along Hadrian’s Wall for myself and a group of people I met through RED January…so running has kick-started a very positive process of transformation in me, marking my move towards full mental health recovery.
I blog, vlog, make videos and cartoon about my experiences of BPD and PTSD to raise awareness of these issues, and my ultimate aim is to destigmatise mental health disorders via the open sharing of my own personal experiences. I have had a vlog and two blog posts published by Mind (one of these being about my experience of RED January,) I have aspirations to become involved in documentary making and radio/TV appearances, and have two books in the pipeline, which are already partly written and I hope to have published by the end of the year. You can follow my recovery journey on my summerSHINES blog HERE and follow me on Facebook HERE
and tell me I’m amazing on blog comments here…
*points downwards to share your shine comment section*
I’m standing in the hall of fame…