When we talk about how great physical exercise is for mental health, we oftentime forget to mention that sometimes the toughest part of being active can be getting out the door.
There are times when the simple act of sitting up in bed seems the most heroic of tasks to undertake so when the suggested solution to a depressive episode is to just ‘get up and go for a walk’, I sometimes actually want to punch the suggester in the face. The logical part of my mind knows that it will likely help but the dodgy voices in the back of my head who take over on these days rarely (if ever) listen to logic.
Then there’s my anxiety who, without a doubt, puts my depressive episodes to shame.
Like most things in life, running for me isn´t just as simple as lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement. The amount of anxiety and planning that go into a simple jog is absolutely baffling and ever-frustrating. Example: for a long time my preferred time of day to run was anytime in the dark FOR THE ABSURD REASON that I didn´t want anyone to see me and my wobbly thighs trudging along down the street, red-faced, out of breath and likely swearing under what little breath DID remain. Ok, who am I kidding, I STILL prefer to run on my own and in the dark. My top must always cover my bum and I’ve been known to fuss with my hairstyle upwards of 10 million times BEFORE I hit the road. I know, I know, ‘ just get over it’, ‘stop being so silly’, ‘how you look has nothing to do with how you run’, ‘excuses, excuses’…I’ve heard it all. And I’ll tell you a secret – I WISH it were that easy. The truth is, more often than I care to admit, my anxiety surrounding jogging turns into full-blown physical symptoms. I’ll be sick to my stomach, my breathing and heart rate will speed up, and before I know it I’ve broken out into a cold-sweat without ever having taken a step.
Life with a long-list of anxieties is getting pretty old, so after my hike across Ireland – in which I proved myself capable of obliterating my inner voices – I decided to conquer yet another aspect of my dodgy mental health and compete (who am I kidding, participate) in a public sporting event.
Naturally – as these days I’m not one for the safe and logical – I decided the best way to do this would be to run a marathon. The London Marathon to be specific and I was incredibly lucky to get a charity bid for Mind Charity, an organisation I’ve been eager to work with since I first heard about them in 2016. With over 50 000 runners, a spectator-packed course that winds it’s way through the city of my childhood dreams, and a daylight start time, it is the perfect opportunity to push myself as far out of my comfort zone as physically possible in one go and with one month to go, I am more-or-less TERRIFIED.
More or less.
In one month I will push myself to my absolute physical limit, in a massive crowd full of runners doing the exact same thing as an even bigger crowd loudly cheers us on. Many have told me that a large part of marathon running is the mental aspect and while I’m sure that’s meant to put me a bit at ease it actually makes my heart start beating just the tiniest bit too quickly. If I’ve neither the physical nor mental strength on my side then what chance do I stand at completing this idiotic idea of mine?! If half the race comes from mental strength, am I doomed to fizzle out and collapse (gracefully of course) to the ground halfway through? I want this so bad! But how sure am I that I won’t flake day of, and instead of running a marathon, spend the 22nd of April in a blanket burrito, a little ball of shame, anxiety and depression?!
So many insecurities, so little time.
And of course, as usual with my various adventures, things have not quite gone to plan…I’m decades from reaching my fundraising goal ( PS follow the link above to donate!), will likely be crossing the finish line in a slow crawl and do not yet have marathon-suitable running shoes.
For better or for worse (god help me I hope for better) I will cross that finish line but if I’m to be completely honest with you – this week I came very close to dropping out.
I saw it coming, this low point, but it hit a bit harder than expected thanks to a few extra sucker punches life saw fit to swing at me. My marathon budget has been thrown completely off balance meaning there are now marathon essentials that I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford, my current living situation is vile and toxic (and full of a**holes), and my DODGY MIND is just not having any of it. I’m exhausted and anxious and sore, and can’t quite shake this gloom that seems to have permanently attached itself to my forehead. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and I can’t breathe and while I know it will get better (and bla bla bla motivation bla bla bla) this week has been complete shite and instead of running 20km tomorrow all I want is to curl up in a blanket burrito, cry loudly and snottily, and eat my body weight in chips and ice cream. Right now, this marathon and everything surrounding it seem impossible and as I write this I am in fact sitting on my bed crying tears of who-even-knows-what -anymore into an over-sized sweater. I think this may be my pre-marathon-nervous-breakdown and while it’s insufferable, I’ll be glad to be done with it and have it out of the way.
On the bright side, all the tears are really helping me out with my dry contact lenses.
I will complete this marathon, likely in tears and not without a bunch of love and motivation along the way. So for this week, all I ask of you is this – if you have any words of motivation, please send them my way. If you work for a biscuit shop, my favourite is anything. If you happen to have copious amounts of spare chocolate, dark is the only way to go. If you know someone who knows someone who works for a running company, a family and friends discount would be absolutely ideal. If you have lots of love for me and a spare stamp, snail mail never fails to make me ridiculously cheery and my address is 53-55 Malone Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6EP (a girls gotta dream). And of course, if you have a spare bit of change, I would be ever so grateful for any and all donations to Mind (link in menu). They truly are a brilliant organisation and I am so proud to get to run the London Marathon in their vest.
I would love nothing more than for my fundraising page to be shared as many times as possible! Share it with your runner friends, your dodgy-minded friends, your celebrity friends (c’mon, I KNOW some of you have them…), share it with whomever you please. And if you have any brilliant fundraising ideas, I’d LOVE to hear them!
As always, my dodgy mind and I thank you for the love and support as absolutely none of this would be happening without you.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine and defeating my inner demons. Sometimes they win, and right now they’re coming out on top. There are some major changes and adventures coming my way and while they are all positive things, in this moment, I’m terrified of each and every one of them. I’m terrified, so for now I’ll fill my mind with moments when I overcame that fear and future moments (ONE MONTH!) when I will defeat them once more. And while I know I ultimately will overcome it all, I would desperately love a sign from the universe that it’s all truly going to work out for the best. But (she said with a deep sigh) I’m fully aware that life (outside of fairytales) doesn’t quite work that way so for now I will indulge in a bit of crying and a bit of shovelling chocolate down my throat while I obsess over cool mum Instagrams (my latest obsession) until I once more feel strong enough to stand up to my dodgy mind.
And tomorrow, well tomorrow I’ll get out there and absolutely smash 20km.