Helen really caught the running bug, but the weight gain and numbness after a change of medication really tripped her up. Then she came across our online community Elefriends, which reignited her passion.
Two years ago I was sat staring out at the world and feeling safe inside my kitchen. My big doggie looking up at me and to be honest looking as depressed as I was feeling.
She had been my training/running partner. I’d dug myself out of the blackness by starting running. I signed up to a race and nothing was stopping me all the way to my first half marathon. And all the while I had my big doggie with me; every small step of the way.
But not long after the darkness came back again. A change of medication and its horrid side effects – horrendous weight gain and a medicated numbness. It stopped me in my tracks and a left me dreaming about my goal. My running shoes were hidden away – along with my will and soul never to see freedom again.
Two years later I found information about Mind and started to scan the web site in search for answers and there in a quiet corner was Elefriends. Finally I’d found a space for lost souls all supporting and caring for each other. No more disapproval, no judgement, no hate or misunderstandings.
Slowly I started to grow in confidence to posting how I was feeling and helping others with kind, caring thoughtful words. I truly started to make friends that cared for me and what I was posting. I slowly started to notice the kind of support - It wasn't resentful, it was genuine and it built my confidence to start battling the darkness.
Reading positive posts inspires you to do the same thing – to take small steps and get encouragement from others for doing it. And that feels great.
One lonely day I turned to the Elefriends to keep me company and there on the main wall was a very inspiring post by my now friend Vikki. It jumped from the screen and said to me, “you can do this too”.
Vickie was looking for Elefriends to start running with: to offer support and motivation to each other and to complete the Couch to 5k running program – this was my chance to start again and to inspire others.
It didn't take me long to say yes, in fact it was a very impulsive yes. Breathe and release, now where did those running shoes go, let alone the sports bra.
Big doggie noticed from her quiet corner that I’d put on my runners and what this could possibly mean. You all probably know a dog’s reaction to walkies – I just have to whisper that I want to go running and her tail wags and the ‘yes, I do three barks of get me out there’ excitement starts. Stop, breathe, set phone app, step out that door.
Wish I had my big doggie’s carefree madcap ‘get me out there and run’ impulsive behaviour.
So off we set. Music beating against my ears until the app beeps to let me know when to run and when to walk – pacing yourself is really important when you first start running. Everything around me is there: the air rushing in my lungs, the landscape inspiring, the odd runner going past saying hello or well done. Big doggie trying hard to stop and sniff.
I have to say running with her is the best feeling – even when you have to stop and pick up the dog poop and then continue to run with doggie and a bag of poo. It’s very grounding.
So I was running again. The feeling was amazing, buzzing with a positive feeling of gratitude to Vickie, my dear Elefriend who started with a brave small step of asking a simple question. I am grateful because I'm now on my way to 5km and who knows just maybe my first marathon.
I believe that exercise should be prescribed before any medication or therapy is given for depression. It makes me feel that I'm achieving something in my life while everything else seems to be in hold and held in the grip of the darkness. In my ideal world, be it running, walking, cycling – or whatever your choice of exercise – if it's the right time in your recovery exercise should be up there at the top of treatments.
I can now sit in my kitchen and work up the courage to get out there without feeling forced or scared. Speaking of which big doggie wants to get on with the run, here goes. Trainers already on and watch out world because here we come again… and again.
Good luck and well done everybody, because even if you fall you're still moving forward.
Hugs and love your Elefriend x.
Read about Side by Side
When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Choose one of the options below to find out more.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.