Adrian blogs about why he and his dog are running 800 miles to raise money for Mind.
When mental illness first affected me almost two years ago it came out of the blue, but since then looking back I think it may have always been lurking under the surface.
I woke up one Saturday morning and felt different. Very different – and not in a good way. I had been out having a few drinks the night before, but this felt different to a normal hangover. It felt like a shift within me, like anxiety off the scale. The world felt a little darker and the security blanket that had always been there had been stripped away from me. It scared the hell out of me.
I would talk about what I was experiencing with no hint of emotion whatsoever - almost like a robot reporting on what was going on with his circuitry.
After a long time of keeping it to myself and feeling worse daily, I decided I needed therapy. In these sessions I would talk about what I was experiencing with no hint of emotion whatsoever - almost like a robot reporting on what was going on with his circuitry. Now I think I was just too scared to open up. After speaking with a few different therapists about what I was experiencing the word dissociation kept popping up, and even though I didn’t know then what it meant if felt good to have a name for something I was experiencing.
I have since discovered, dissociation is the mind and body’s way of dealing with trauma by distancing itself from the traumatic event, as it’s too scary to deal with at that present moment. Most of the time this dissociation passes quickly when the danger is no longer lurking, but in some cases it doesn’t, and this is called dissociative disorder. It keeps your mind and body on full alert constantly which is incredibly exhausting and makes it hard to concentrate properly on anything other than dealing with the imaginary danger. Living with dissociative disorder makes you feel disconnected from everything and everyone. You feel emotionally numbed, all senses feel non-existent. As time goes on you feel as if you are fading into nothing and is horrendously frightening.
It has been a struggle just getting through the day sometimes, but I am determined to get better.
Since that horribly memorable Saturday morning I have tried out anything and everything I can in an attempt to feel vaguely ok. It has been a struggle just getting through the day sometimes, but I am determined to get better and also determined to figure out what happened to me and why. I have seen a variety of therapists, started doing yoga and martial arts, been exercising loads, got back into meditation and mindfulness, have read all sorts of books on trauma, books on body mind connection, books on the ego, books on Chinese medicine - books on just about anything to gain a deeper understanding of mental and physical wellbeing.
I have learned a lot about myself over the past few years since having these mental health issues, and I do feel a little more together. Practising mindfulness and having therapy has helped massively. It has taught me to be more aware of myself and things around me, be with what you are experiencing, good or bad, and to be more open about what you are feeling. Men in particular are not good at talking about what they are feeling, but it’s not surprising considering how we are conditioned from a young age to be tough and not cry as it is seen as a sign of weakness. I have learned over the past few years though that to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be open and to cry takes an enormous amount of courage.
Mind have been an amazing support to me through these difficult times so I wanted to show my appreciation.
To learn more about physical and mental wellbeing from different perspective to the western world, I have taken a sabbatical from work and headed to south East Asia for five months studying mindfulness and martial arts at a few different retreats, and on my return I will be fundraising for Mind. Mind have been an amazing support to me through these difficult times so I wanted to show my appreciation by running an 800-mile loop of England’s canals and rivers to raise money for them, setting off at the beginning of September. (Route details below) Talking about mental health issues are a great way of dealing with them, but it is also a great way of raising awareness of them too. So, as I run from town to town, my plan is to sofa surf as I go, and use it as a chance to talk to as many people as I can about mental health and why talking makes you stronger.
Teddy’s craziness, non-stop entertainment and unconditional love has been such a huge support to me.
I will also be taking my amazing little dog Teddy with me on this adventure as he loves a good old run and this might finally tire him out! For anyone worried about a dog running all this way I have cleared it with my vet but I do have to buy him some doggy running shoes! Teddy’s craziness, non-stop entertainment and unconditional love has been such a huge support to me so I also want to promote too how much of a positive impact animals can have on people going through mental illness.
If you fancy joining me and Teddy at any point along the route for a few miles or even few days I would love the company.