The past few years has seen me come to terms with the fact that I struggle with depression and anxiety.
At first I didn’t do anything about it because I couldn’t feel more pathetic about feeling this way when I am lucky enough to have excellent physical health, a loving family, great friends and a well paid job.
However none of this mattered because I never felt adequate and could never find pride in anything I achieved.
Nothing I did was good enough.
When the depression and anxiety got worse I started to suffer with physical symptoms; panic attacks, chest pains and destructive thoughts. I felt hopeless.
At this point, with some support from my then partner, I sought professional help, but this was a long and shocking process.
I knew that it was hard to get help because I have lived with family struggling with mental health problems, and my ex partner had to deal with it too in her life. But it didn’t stifle the shock to be told I would have to wait over a month to see my GP.
This was after telling them that I needed to see a doctor after nearly crashing my car while having a panic attack, and that it didn’t really bother me too much at the time.
I am fortunate to have private healthcare through my work and sought help through this avenue, but even this didn’t really help me. It was only when I funded therapy myself that I started to understand the root of my problems and start to address them.
In parallel with this I had been increasing the amount of exercise I had been doing to help me to focus on something else, and to release those wonderful endorphins.
But towards the end of 2016 I found myself getting more annoyed at how difficult it was for me and my loved ones to get help for mental health problems.
I couldn’t help but think that the mind is such a beautiful and complex thing that it shouldn’t be a surprise that it could falter. It shouldn’t be so hard to get help for mental health problems, and there certainly shouldn’t be any stigma associated with it.
That is when I decided that I wanted to do something to raise awareness and hopefully some money, too.
To help raise awareness and to give myself a real focus I decided to take on a host of challenges. I took on 10 challenges over the year, which seemed overwhelming at the time.
These included my first obstacle course race, my first half marathon, first marathon, trying to climb fifteen 3000ft tall mountains in Wales in 24 hours and finishing with my first Ultra marathon, at 75 miles long.
In doing the challenges I have covered over 360km, tackled over 800 obstacles, climbed nine mountains (five twice), through mud, water, wind, rain, and even ice.
Before I started the furthest I had ever run was eight miles.
These were ridiculous challenges that needed far more preparation than I put into them. But that was kind of the point of my events, to highlight that some people have to face what feel like insurmountable challenges every day just to live their lives.
I also wanted to show how much impact our mind can have on achieving these things and prove to myself that I could conquer these epic challenges and attain a sense of pride in something I’ve accomplished.
I did endure struggles along the way and not just the physical ones posed by the events. I constantly faced doubt about whether I could do these things and whether anyone would be interested. It took me until my last challenge to share on Facebook that I too had experienced mental health problems.
When I didn't get much reaction I worried if I had done the right thing. This was until I spoke to a friend’s father who told me that he really appreciated seeing me share.
That one person, plus all the money raised, made every single bruise, scrape, ache and pain completely worthwhile.
It made me realise that my personal help didn't come from the challenges, but from helping others with their problems.
My depression and anxiety is more under control now, through an understanding of the root cause of it. But it is still there and I still have my down days. But I now know what I can do to make things better for myself; a little exercise to lift my spirits and clear my head a bit so that I can revaluate whatever it was about that day that made me feel low.
And for once I am proud of what I have achieved, physically, but mostly in raising awareness and funding for Mind, which I think is such an amazing cause.