After running the London Marathon with his two friends in a giant Heads Together headband, Evan tells us why he is on a mission to smash another World Record for mental health.
Having experienced first hand the impact mental health can have, Evan now dedicates himself to combining athletic challenges with raising awareness.
Four years ago my wife Lucy and I experienced a challenge in our lives that neither of us expected or were prepared for. We had moved to London after graduating from the University of Bath, which is where we met, and we were both enjoying our new jobs and living life to the full in the big city.
However, that all changed when Lucy started a new role in a team with an unhappy and insecure leader and a complex and toxic culture. Nothing changed drastically overnight, but as we continued to discuss our days at work, and the challenges and stress that came with it, it became clear that Lucy wasn’t just finding it difficult to settle into her new role, but that there was something going more deeply wrong.
Lucy began to experience severe anxiety. She started to find it difficult to make simple decisions, struggled to sleep at night and started over analysing everything she and others did and said.
"At first, I had no idea what was going on. I tried to be supportive, and to talk practically about how to fix things but this just didn’t seem to help."
Lucy’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and instead of improving things, I felt as if my suggestions were just making things worse.
There was nobody I felt I could really talk to because I didn’t understand myself what was happening, so how could I explain it to anyone else? Instead of listening and supporting I continued to try and fix the problem and hoped that it would resolve itself.
Thankfully, I was able to talk to Lucy's parents and sister who were really supportive and recognised that we needed some outside help. We found professional support in the form of counselling and within a matter of weeks it was amazing to see things starting to improve for Lucy.
As Lucy continued to get better I felt happy and relieved, but also hugely frustrated and guilty that I’d not been able to help sooner. Looking back now, rather than trying to fix the problem I needed to focus on being supportive, listening and above all, recognising that it wasn't my sole responsibility to resolve it by myself and there were people I could turn to for help. I’m extremely fortunate to have a loving family and lots of friends who I can talk to about anything, but I didn’t know the questions to ask or the things to try and explain that would let them help.
"This is why I feel so passionate about wanting to try and change the dialogue associated with mental health."
I was fortunate to have family who could point us in the right direction, but I know so many people aren’t as lucky.
Take on an active challenge for Mind
If I’d understood even a little better what was happening I would have been able to act sooner and helped Lucy on her journey to recovery. I feel this comes from awareness and an openness to talk about any and all issues which is why I believe so strongly in the work the Heads Together campaign are doing and why I wanted to get involved.
The opportunity to do so presented itself in October 2016 when I was asked to join the Heads Together Marathon team. I wanted to do something a little different so rather than taking on the marathon alone I decided to do it connected to two others within a massive Heads Together headband. The idea was to literally bring the concept of Heads Together to life. We set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in a three person costume.
I want to build on what was achieved at the London Marathon, and keep raising awareness and making sure more and more people understand that there are times you can’t easily describe what’s wrong but the key is to talk about it openly and ask for help. That’s why I’m arranging a 5km run in Hyde Park on 20th May. The run will build on what we did for the Marathon with every one of the runners completing the distance connected together. In the process we’ll be attempting to break a Guinness World Record.
Since experiencing the period of anxiety those years ago Lucy and I have had our first child, a beautiful little girl called Ava, and Lucy is now in a fantastic role she loves.
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.