This weekend's Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon will see a whole company running the race together. Tom blogs about his own experience of mental health problems, and why raising money for Mind is close to the collective heart of his workplace.
Like many people struggling with their mental health, music has always provided a source of relief for me. It’s something that’s provided a world away from the ‘real world’ that I’ve often struggled with or felt uncomfortable within, and as such I’ve always had a desire to immerse myself in the ‘music industry’.
This is something I achieved last year after being offered a job at Brace Yourself - a music PR company that I’m beyond proud to work for. This weekend, my colleagues at Brace Yourself and I will be embarking on the Royal Parks Half Marathon, in order to raise money for Mind. The idea arose as a way to ‘celebrate’ our two-year anniversary as a company (Yep, our loving boss is so into his running that he actually sees the 13.1 miles as a celebration). It was a no-brainer to link up with Mind for the run - their work centres around a subject close to our respective hearts for a number of reasons.
For myself, I can trace memories of feeling suicidal right back to the age of twelve. I still remember vividly, to this day, spending a whole evening at an end-of-school-year party at the end of year seven in tears because I couldn’t shake the feeling that, really, I wanted nothing more than to not make it through the summer. There was a horrible feeling inside that I couldn’t shake – one of worthlessness and the feeling that I’d never truly be missed for more than a week or so, that left me desperate to make it stop by whatever means necessary.
It’s something I’ve battled with for over a decade since, the return of these feelings and almost constant numbness in the back of my head that dulled any positive experience with the feeling that really, no one wanted me around. It’s something that came to a head after finishing university last summer, when a few friends and I embarked on a number of festivals, for one big blow-out and attempt to avoid ‘the real world’ for as long as possible. Mentally, this came at a tough time for me for reasons that I’m still unsure of, but the environments that I was pitching up in every weekend allowed me to dive into drink and drugs with little to no consequence in my attempts to avoid the anxieties in my head. The busier, drunker and more out of it I was, the less I could focus on these feelings.
"Thankfully, there was a break in the clouds... I was prescribed with medication that eventually helped level me out."
By the summer’s end I had hit a wall and this all came catching up with me. Over the August Bank Holiday at Reading Festival I found myself swamped by the feeling that I never wanted to make it home. Afterwards, I became stuck in an hourly swing in emotions that dug me deeper and deeper into my hole with every passing day and saw me systematically pick fights with and push away some of those closest to me. Almost exactly a year ago I began to make peace with the fact that I was going to take my own life.
Thankfully, there was a brief break in the clouds – one that was long enough for me to drag myself to a doctor who diagnosed me with longstanding anxiety and severe depression. I was prescribed medication that eventually helped level me out. I’m calmer now – a fact that many who’ve come to know me in the last year might be baffled by, but it’s a happy calmness, one that’s been helped by the gradual finding of my feet in this weird ‘real world’ that I was trying to avoid.
It’s still a difficult thing to explain, the absolute numbness of the depression I felt for so many years, which is why charities such as Mind and their efforts to educate are invaluable. I have little doubt that without such efforts, I wouldn’t have been able to find the strength to come to terms with my own issues and seek the help I needed. Fittingly, too, I recall a conversation with a Brace Yourself colleague last summer, in which he opened up about his own struggle with depression. “If you had a cold, you wouldn’t think twice about seeking out medication,” he said, “and really, it’s the same thing”. That’s an idea that stuck with my throughout every step of seeking help.
And so, the run. It’s been a journey fraught with shin-splints, hangovers, dodgy backs and lord knows what else, but it’s finally here. I hope that, in whatever roundabout way it might happen, our efforts might help drag someone else out a hole similar to the one I found myself in up until a year ago. It’d make all the aforementioned comical injuries worth it.
Read about types of mental health problems
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.