It sat on the horizon like a summer storm for many years.
Every now and then it would roll in a little closer, but somehow it would float away again back to the horizon. I knew it was there, I tried hard to pretend it wasn’t, and I certainly didn’t tell anybody else it was there. It can come at any time and affect anyone. No-one, and I mean no-one, is immune to it.
I’m talking about my depression of course. That summer storm has sat on the horizon for years, occasionally it would get so close that I could feel its raindrops hitting my face, then it would drift away again. I didn’t recognise it for a long time as it likes to creep up on you. I just thought life was a bit difficult at times and, after all, being a carer is. And I’d had my fair share of caring roles over the years. I did admit it once, briefly, went to see the doctor and got some pills, after a week of horrendous anxiety I decided they weren’t for me and what I needed was a job. I got a job and it did really help… for a while.
My circumstances changed, life was good, work good, family good…
…but there it sat, the summer storm on the horizon. This time when it rolled in I recognised it, saw the doctor, got different pills, got better, and didn’t bother to go back for more pills. Going back for more pills would mean getting an appointment with the doctor again, talking about my feelings again, why bother when I was feeling so much better.
Getting up in the morning became a challenge, staying up in the evening was equally challenging. My head just seemed to hurt and I couldn’t be bothered with stuff, stuff being everything around me. I had set myself some rules as to what I needed to do to keep the storm and the feelings that come with it at bay, these rules generally meant as little interaction as possible with people as that was an effort. I would tell my family that I didn’t like to talk because I talk to people all day for my job, I needed peace in the evening. I always had to have something to look forward to, holidays and short breaks would keep me going and for a while it did help. I would go away for a break, de-stress, come back and get on with it. I was plodding along again with the summer storm on the horizon threatening to roll in and rain all over my life.
The phone rang one morning, life changed again, quite drastically.
Now I was metaphorically running from the storm, it was trying its best to catch me but I kept my head down, focused on my job and pretended everything was ok.
I’m sure you have probably guessed, I got caught by the storm and had no option but to hunker down until it passed. Avoiding it came at a cost, two months not being able to do the job I love and times when I thought it was never going to pass.
Here was my wake up call, things needed to change.
There were some things in life I couldn’t change. You can’t change other people or certain situations around you. There was one thing I could change and that was me, how I live my life and how I live with my depression. There it was, I finally came out as living with depression. I admitted it to myself and everyone else. By telling people there was nowhere to hide anymore. I won’t bore you with the details but I started really listening to my body and mind.
Now the reason why I am telling you this is because of something I was introduced to…running. I know a lot of you out there will say “I can’t run!” Yeah I used to say that too. In fact I would say “I’m too fat and over 40 to run”. I would see people out running and wish I could run too, they look so slender and healthy, but I told myself I couldn’t. I even tried the Couch to 5K app a couple of times and didn’t get past run number 2. One day I found out that Lucy Martin, Adult Carer Team Leader at Carers Bucks, had done Couch to 5K and completed it. I told her of my dream to be able to run and my past failed attempts. She was very insistent that anybody can run and that I could do it. At first I ignored what she said as I didn’t believe it. Lucy continued to encourage me to give it another go, eventually I gave in.
I can now proudly say, with the encouragement of Lucy Martin along the way, I have completed the nine week Couch to 5k app. I can run for five kilometres! That’s just over 3 miles! Not only have I completed the Couch to 5K, I have also been doing parkrun on a Saturday morning. I don’t always run it, sometimes I walk…after all I am still fat and over 40 so I have to be mindful of not pushing my body too hard.
Achievement and reaching your full potential is great for your mental health.
Running, or any type of activity will increase the happy chemicals in your brain. I can honestly say that after I have been for a run the storm on the horizon recedes out of view for the rest of the day. It’s not a cure and you should always consult your GP if you have a consistent low mood. It is important to say that we are all individuals, medication works really well for lots of people and therapy is also really helpful. Depression is a physical response to stress, we need to listen to our bodies and our minds to reduce stress and keep that storm at bay. For me, running or walking and most definitely parkrun makes my head feel normal, and it’s wonderful!
Maybe I’ll see you at a parkrun soon.