Posted Friday 8 October 2010
This weekend marks the start of Time to Get Moving week where thousands of people across England will get together to get active and challenge mental health discrimination. Mind volunteer Andy talks about the benefits exercise has made to his own mental health.
Running. At 18 I said I would like to run the London Marathon, but it remained an idle dream. Until this year, when in February I actually started to run. A few months earlier at my 30th birthday a good friend suggested the Great North Run and I found myself thinking seriously about running it. It felt a now or never decision, in terms of achieving something within sport, which in one way or another is in my blood, of improving my fitness and most importantly to mark the end of a decade dominated by depression and depressive behaviours.
At the start line, well a good 500m back, I stood waiting alone, emotions ranged from simple nerves to raw tears, held back, for my depression that had led me here and the acknowledgment and conquering of it. I felt proud to be running for Mind, an advertisement that mental ill health shouldn’t be kept in the shadows, however difficult it can be. Then there was the excitement, I was surrounded by 40,000 people, all running for themselves, for charities, for friends and family; all seeking to enjoy the day. The elation and pleasure I felt crossing the finishing line will never leave me. I had conquered my demons and done it with a smile. And the thing was I was never alone, there was a good will present among the runners and the crowd that provides so much hope.
I saw the Great North Run as a chance to mark the end of an era, but instead some traits of old reared their ugly heads. In training there were attacks of low confidence and false voices I attributed to friends. I could hear the sneers, ‘you are too slow, call yourself fit, you’re letting us down’. My head at times was consumed with this fear of failure. I knew the voices weren’t theirs, but my own, for they would never say such things. My own to take responsibility for, to challenge, to change. I can’t box up my life, there is no before or after depression, I still hear its call and what I have learnt from running lessens it charm.
Training provided many other positives as well, there are the achievements of your first mile, then 3 miles (5k), then 6 miles (10k) and so on. These are the runs you run for yourself. I learnt that by putting one foot in front of the other that there is a depth to me; that I can push myself and reach my targets. I’ve developed a hardiness that has boosted my self belief, which has impacted positively on other areas of my life. Running is good self medication.
I am proud to be supporting Time to Change’s Time to Get Moving week, and hope you’ll join me in helping end mental health discrimination, and while at it boost your own mental wellbeing by taking part. I am pleased to have found a sport I enjoy and the benefits of it are clear to me and can be seen in my daily life. If you have also dreamt of trying something I encourage you to try it; there will be challenges, but you’ll also reap the benefits. I’ll be returning to the Great North Run and the London Marathon is no longer an idle dream.
Mind Media Volunteer Andy Harrod writes at http://decodingstatic.blogspot.com/.
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