Exercising for a better mental health

A, B, C or maybe D

Monday 20th May (1256 pm CET)

I write this on an aeroplane to Cardiff from Alicante about 1hr 40 into the flight so not long until I arrive home.

I have had a week away, a week to do nothing apart from take in the sun and see parts of Spain never visited before.

Why am I writing this now? To get some stuff out of my brain. Going home is always inevitable after a holiday and with that returns the whirlwind of a busy brain. It didn’t completely shut up whilst I was away as decisions which I need to make occupy my mind. At the moment I would describe my thoughts as contradictory, but with that, surprisingly comes some sensible thinking.

I feel I have a decision to make and to choose between a hypothetical ‘A’ and ‘B’ is not easy, especially when I am currently stuck in plan ‘C’. 

I know plan ‘C’ cannot continue, it may not be sustainable even though I have made recent changes in my life. There is no hurry regarding ‘A’ and ‘B’ but this is what is plaguing my mind. In a recent blog I wrote about finding peace. I still have that but I have shaken it up a bit with an idea which I had thought had long passed me by.

This all may sound a bit cryptic and that is because I am unable to publicly write about it. Stick with me on this until I can and will. Oh and welcome to my confusion.

I am not one for lists of pros and cons but maybe I need to think about scribbling this down in my journal. This may make things clearer, as will time no doubt.

Going forward from here I need to pick up again on writing my book. I had to park it for a while as I did not know which way I was going to go with it. I also felt confused by my life, lost in a world where decisions were being made around me and for me. This is no longer the case and it is time for me to open the pages back up and get it all out. 

Mentally I am not doing too bad. There are certain thoughts that I feel I can control better but I am far from ‘there’ yet. The ‘wobbles’ still happen. Once I have sorted out ‘A’ ‘B’ ‘C’ or even maybe ‘D’ then who knows? My plan over the next day or two is to put some lists together and see what they throw up.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

Monday 13th May 2019 (10.29am)

Today marks the start of mental health awareness week, something which I never even knew existed up until a few years ago. Now I am keen to see what is going on  nationally and how inspiring people look to make a difference by helping others. The national picture this year is focused around body image; however my message this year is about ‘change’, change to make a difference in your life, whatever that may be:

  • Positively change an attitude towards something or someone
  • Change your thoughts by not allowing negativity to dwell and eat away at you
  • Change a routine that you are stuck in and cannot see a way out of (you can – trust me)
  • Change the way you think about yourself. Look at the positives. You all have so many

These are just a few suggestions (and all could be linked into body image) but you will have your own ideas. One small element of change a day could bring you so much more and open up avenues that you may never  have even thought of.

Make change positive, embrace it and see it as a mini project to keep you focused.

I am currently going through change (not the change as someone keeps saying 🙄😂) and I am seeing many benefits to my mental health. Of course, not all is perfect here, I am not saying that, but by making a couple decisions I have finally seen a glimmer of light in that dark tunnel which I have been in for so long. More about these decisions again.

Your challenge for this week is therefore to do one positive thing for yourself each day which you do not usually do. This could be getting up 10 minutes earlier to have ‘you’ or ‘quiet’ time’, going for a walk, only allowing a set time of social media a day, reading a book about something different to usual. 

Put the ball firmly back in your court, take back control of your life and whatever you do, have a good week and stay safe xx

From an Ultra Marathon to a Virus in 24 hours

*image taken at my local parkrun (Barry Island)

Thursday 9th May 2018 (11.28am)

It has been so long since I last wrote but here I am, back with an update.

On Saturday April 6th I ran my first ultra marathon, 33.5 miles over rugged terrain taking in the beautiful welsh coastal path. A day that I will never forget for many reasons. Friendships made, mental toughness and battles tested to the max as I once again put my body through physical pain to achieve a goal which I put my mind to earlier on in the year. 

My plan was to write about the ultra in detail but a day after running I became physically unwell which accounts for my absence from here. I was hit by a virus which rendered me unfit to fly away on holiday. My body feels like it is still recovering as I managed my first run in four weeks on Saturday, followed by one on Monday and a swim today. All were hard and I kick myself in frustration when I think of where I was in terms of my fitness. Unfortunately other negatives then kick in, about my diet and food intake as I feel disgusting with myself as I continue to eat the same volume of food as if I were still in Ironman training. 

I do not have a weight problem, I do not having an eating disorder, it is just my natural reaction about myself if I am not training. We all know that exercise is therapy for myself and for lots of you, and no doubt many of you would have been where I am today; out of sport or exercise through injury or illness. Yes its frustrating but at the moment there is nothing that I can do about it, just wait it out and be patient. I will get back to where I was soon enough, my drive and determination will make sure of that. 

I have missed my running, cycling and swimming. My routine is up the spout and I have lost my plan and daily direction. I have lost the freedom which I get from being out in the open air, doing what I enjoy. One of the biggest decisions I had to make was to pull out of Newport Marathon last Sunday. I have never had to do this before, but I knew that I had no hope of ever making it to mile 5. Hey, it is not the end of the world having a DNS next to my name, I would rather that than a DNF.

The work situation continues, I am still off on the sick. After being diagnosed with phobic anxiety to the work environment in March by the Police Medical Appeal Board, I am just awaiting treatment for what they have recommended to begin. I am waiting to see a Psychiatrist who will determine if this is practicable. 

My life is going through massive change at the moment. I have made two life changing decisions which have given me peace, certainly noticed by myself and those around me. When you put the ball back in your own court, things happen. Things move for the better, you become in control of your life and the outcome.

It feels somewhat ironic that since I changed over my blog name, twitter and instagram to Mind over Marathon Runner that my running has gone downhill 🙄. It is now Saturday 11th May and I clocked up another 5 mile run, including a Parkrun. I am happy to say that I felt better, but far from where I want to be. I have a cycle planned for tomorrow with others so lets see what thats brings.

bd826b9b-e3ae-4a96-9396-6eb35859ae00Ultra buddies – without these two amazing people it would have been a very long day xx

Part IV Connecting with others

 

**please refer to blog ‘Supporting others’**

So far we have looked at connecting with the outdoors, connecting with movement and connecting with self. The last in this series looks at the importance of connecting with others. Something which I am totally rubbish at, but I am getting better at.

The value of having a good support network around you cannot be underestimated. That one person who you know you can turn to day or night, who will be there to listen to your ramblings, pick you up from the floor, give some words of advice or even just say nothing could one day save your life.  I am so grateful to have a few special people who I can put into this category. People who understand me, people who I have connected with over the years, but then at times pushed away and not spoken to. True friends who were there before I got ill and still stand by my side today. These are the same friends who I would avoid texts and phone calls from. The same friends who I would let down after arranging to meet for me to then say I didn’t want to. These friends certainly deserve a medal.

I am also supported by the new friends I have made over the last three years. Friends who I have met through running, dog walking or social media. Friends who didn’t know me as the police officer in uniform, or the Detective Sergeant in plain clothes. These friends know me as me and not the identity and the badge which I used to hide behind. That was a different me, that was a me who was so obsessed about having a successful career with an ambition to climb the ranks of a job I loved. That was a me, who 3 years ago (4th April 2016) went sick, exhausted from life and work, who could no longer carry on. 

What I have found since being off is that my circle of friends has changed. Some who I thought would be there were not, some who I had not spoken to for years or hardly ever were right there, offering up their support and opening up to me. I will remember everyone who has connected with me with their kind words pushing me in the right direction. Thank you x.

The same goes for family, admittedly, it took me a long time to tell mine what exactly was going on. This was because I did not want to worry anyone, and I tended to deal with things in my own way and in my own time. It was when I started to talk to the TV cameras for Mind over Marathon about how bad things were that encouraged me to finally be honest. I knew that my life would go out on prime time TV, so this gave me the push to tell my parents what had been going on. 

I understand that some of you may not have the support network of the family and friends which I have, but support for me has also come from different directions. I have met people through therapy groups such as Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation Therapy. People who get what it is like to live with such struggles. I have met some amazing people through this blog, twitter and instagram. So many of which have taken the time to connect with me to send me messages of support. I still cannot believe that people take the time to do this, to actually write to me. You lot truly are amazing. 

I have also connected with the majority of health professionals who I have come into contact with and I cannot thank my GP enough for what she has had to put up with over the last few years. My GP has literally seen every side of me, from the petulant child or stroppy teenager, to the professional, rational, articulate me. Being able to connect and engage with your health team is so important as you get to understand what is and what is not achievable against your expectations. It also gives you the confidence to say things exactly how it is. There is no point saying all is fine if it isn’t. If your life is shit, then say, that is what they are there for. I am sure my GP has wanted to knock me out on more than one occasion for the way I have been though 🙂

The more you connect with people, the more you will feel able to talk. Talking about your thoughts and feelings is not a sign of weakness, it is more than that. Talking is a powerful tool which enables you to take charge of what is going on in your life. Own how you feel and don’t be afraid to let others know. I never wanted to tell people as I did not want to burden them or bore them with my life. Why should they be interested in me and how I feel? Trust me, people do care, they are interested and by talking you certainly are not burdening anyone. It took me a while to understand this.

Sometimes I cannot describe how I am feeling as it is just a jumbled mess. More often than not my head is so busy it is difficult to get it out in any sort of order for it to make sense. This does not matter, just get it out. This is where the writing really helps me. Words on a page, in bubbles, lists or spider diagrams help many of you to connect with your own thoughts and feelings. Seeing it on paper gives you ownership of it. It gives you the power to do something about it. If you find it hard to verbalise, then show this to friends, family or health professionals. 

What you have said

‘I went 6 months without wanting to see a single friend, I did my best to avoid phone calls text messages, and meeting up. I could not plan, I didn’t want to be around anyone. I did not want to talk. I felt that I had to message now and again to say that I was still alive, but I only did this when they threatened to bosh my door in. I can see now how bad I was at maintaining contact. These days I am much better at meeting for a catch up hot chocolate, and now understand how important it is to keep connected to friends’ (Me).

‘Me and my friend meet for lunch on a weekly basis. She knows I have been going through a tough time, she does not judge me, instead she takes time to listen. Though I may not want to meet, afterwards, I am always glad that I did’.

‘I found that by being open and talking, people opened up to me. This has extended my support network’.

‘I joined a cycling group, meeting other people who enjoy what I do helps me. I am building my confidence to speak out’.

My closing words of (non) wisdom are look out for one another, if you are struggling, connect with those around you. If you are not, then look out for your friends, check out any behaviour changes and don’t be afraid to ask if they are ok and don’t be afraid to dig that bit deeper if need be.

I hope you enjoyed this series and I am grateful to those who reached out and connected with me with their own experiences. The offer is always there is anyone wants their story on my blog. This is a community and not just about me.

Please reach out if you are suffering. The telephone numbers and people are out there xx

Part III Connecting with Self

**please refer to blog ‘Supporting others’**

Time to self doing what you want for you is vitally important for recharging the batteries, chilling out and having ‘you time’ without any outside influences or distractions.  It was a point made by many of you with some great ideas and suggestions as to what you like to do for your own wellbeing.

I appreciate that for many of you this may be difficult with busy lives, juggling work, children, family and everything else that goes along with day to day life. Yet, for you it is just as important if not more. 

Time to self or connecting with yourself does not mean that you have to spend a week away at a luxury location; however nice that may be. It can be as simple as having a bath, lighting a candle, putting a film on or reading a book. You can also connect with the outdoors and with exercise as in previous blogs. Whatever you like to do, do it and where you can, build it into your routine. 

At work, take that lunch break, escape from the office, go for a walk and clear your head. I was guilty of sitting at my desk eating my food; yet when I made the effort to go out and clear my brain I was more focused and less stressed with what was thrown at me in the afternoon.  

I was guilty of rushing here there and everywhere as I would try and fit in the gym before or after work, then rushing home to do chores and cook dinner before often jumping back onto my work laptop or work phone to clear some emails which had built up in the time from leaving.

Was I connecting with self? No, I felt that I was in the rat race of Monday to Friday (in latest role). My heart felt that it was always beating fast, along with my breathing. I felt like an internal pressure bubble which I could not switch off. My training helped, but at times I even found that difficult to connect with as my head was ahead of itself thinking about the following day. 

Yet now, looking at where I am in terms of my mental health, I wish I had taken more time out when I needed it and not jumped from one task to another without a break. Simple, obvious stuff to do but often difficult to execute.

So what can YOU do?

Studies looking at people suffering from depression have shown that mindfulness exercises such as yoga and tai chi are associated with better mental health (bustle.com 2018).

Change your scenery. It could be a 5 minute walk away from a chore or task that you are doing to simply get some air and refresh your brain. All too often it is easy to carry on saying to yourself, that it will get done quicker without a break. This often does not lead to productivity. Studying is a good example of this. If you have exams, take regular breaks rather than just reading without taking anything in. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.

Taking a break may mean being active or may mean doing nothing at all. Concentrate on mindfulness, breathing, meditation, put your feet up. For that time, move yourself away from the task that you were doing.

If you are really tired, listen to your body and give yourself sometime to sleep. Without good sleep our mental health suffers and concentration goes downhill (Mental Health Foundation).

Why not learn something new? Learning new skills can help boost your confidence and give you a sense of achievement. The options are endless and can include learning a new language, signing up for a course or evening class, trying out a new recipe or a new exercise class. It does not have to be anything big but challenge yourself, keeping it achievable.

Make sure you enjoy your ‘me time’ and that it makes you feel good. It could be going for a walk, playing an instrument, listening to music, going to the cinema, colouring in, grabbing a coffee out locally, reading a book, gardening, or having a bath. Whatever works for you then use it as a stress reliever. 

Write down what works and does not work for you and document why? Are there barriers or hurdles which you need to jump but don’t feel that you can at the moment. Some of you may find it too difficult to face the world and go to a coffee shop. If this is the case, what else can you do? Some of you may feel the need to get out of a certain environment; ie the house or workplace and would find a coffee shop beneficial. We are all different, with differing levels of fear, anxiety and stress. 

For me, I isolate myself and avoid certain social situations so I am not around people. I like my own company. I like to do what I want to do. If I don’t want to do something or go somewhere then I wont and I am happy with that. This is not to say I never go, I do and someone talking to me there would never know what it has taken for me to get there. So what I am staying is that, though I have given a number of suggestions of things for you to do or consider, they may not work for everyone. Find what works for you, but don’t completely poo poo the idea of dipping your toe into a different ocean.

What YOU have told me

‘My me time involves sitting in a coffee shop away from the crowds reading or writing. I can easily block out what is going on around me, yet when I look up I am reminded that life and the world goes on. I enjoy holidays, and quite often go on my own. I love to walk my dog, finding new places to explore. Watching him run and play with other dogs is just perfect. Being out in the fresh air with him on the beach or park makes everything seem so simple and right; it is as if nothing else matters (Me, 2019).’

Sitting at Heathrow airport waiting for a flight to Dubai. Ironic reading. Relaxing time to self.

‘Breathe. Centre. Don’t worry about the next moment. Stay in safety’.

‘Taking in some fresh air, I love to sit in the garden and watch the birds eat the food I leave out for them. Simple, but it puts me into a different mental space’.

‘I have recently taken up photography. I am learning a new skill and getting out and about at the same time’.

‘I like to go to a coffee shop or the cinema by myself’.

‘Sometimes I forget who I am so I do something I love like helping other or going to a meditation class or somewhere where things feel more real I suppose. A good movie that pulls the heart strings helps me connect again’.

‘A hot bath, with candles whilst the kids are being entertained by their father’.

‘For me, the perfect me time is immersing myself in a good book. I find the time can just go but that does not bother me’.

‘My allotment provides me with the prefect retreat, peace and quiet. I am making the effort to get there more often as I know how it assists with stress relief and mental wellbeing’.

I hope you have got something from this blog which you can use to help you. Even if it just taking time out from everything and everyone make sure you do it for the right reasons and for you. You may think that you are being selfish, but I don’t see it that way. If you look after yourself then you are better able to look after, and support those around you. 

Resetting and filling yourself back up in a positive manner will no doubt lead to a better mental health and wellbeing.

Sometimes the world can wait.

Thank you to everyone who has helped contribute to this blog. Forever grateful. xx

Trying my hand at floristry. Something which I had not tried before but extremely therapeutic.

Part II Connecting with movement

Sorry for the delay of part 2 in this series but I have had some stuff going on so my head has been elsewhere. Hopefully I am back on it now 🙂

**please refer to blog ‘Supporting others’**

Exercise, movement, activity, sport, call it what you want, this is the most popular response I had to my shout out ‘how do you manage your mental health?’.

To those who have followed my journey over the last few years you will know that exercise has been key to my health and recovery. What it gives me is more than the physical benefits. I use it for structure and routine. I use it to give me a sense of purpose in life, to get me out of bed each day. I use it to connect with others. I use it because it puts my head in a clear space. I use it as it gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction that I am achieving something positive.

For many years studies have shouted out about the physical benefits of getting our bodies moving but now more and more research is being done about how it can also help and improve our mental wellbeing.

What we are being told

Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD and  other mental illnesses. Exercise relieves stress, improves memory, helps you to sleep better and boosts mood. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can use exercise to make you feel better (HelpGuide.org).

Rates of depression and anxiety are at their highest recorded levels in countries such as India, China, the US and the UK. Many aspects of modern life, social isolation, poor diets, a focus on money, image and inactivity contribute to this state. Most people find that a walk or trip to the gym improves mood. The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from damaging self talk. It can also encourage interaction with others and being outdoors which are known to improve mood and general health (psychologytoday.com 2018).

Studies consistently confirm the link between even small amounts of physical activity and better mental health. A study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry has found that literally just walking can improve your mental health.

The same study (as above) found that people who saw the greatest mental health benefits from exercise worked out for around 45 minutes a time, three to five days a week. Interestingly more exercise wasn’t necessarily better, with the benefits dropping off after five workout sessions per week (bustle.com 2018).

What YOU have said

‘I love running out in the cold or the rain, it is liberating and makes me feel alive and in the moment. No music, I just like to be at one with whatever the weather throws at me’

‘Dance, get lost in the music and dance, particularly Latin and ballroom’

‘Run, run and then run some more’

‘I will go for a run or play tennis. Fresh air and exercise makes me feel better’

‘Running is the best therapy for me’

‘Dance got me out of some of the darkest times. It helps me feel more in control of my feelings and understand them better so I could communicate with others. I love being able to express myself through movement and a piece of music’

‘Going for a run makes me feel better’

‘The freedom and head space I get with cycling is awesome. You cant beat it on a crisp cold winters day’

‘I love to walk my two dogs. It certainly gets my step count up and makes me feel so much better mentally. It makes me so happy watching them play. 

‘I love swimming, especially open water. It helps after a stressful day at work’

‘Is there any better way than to smash a squash ball around a court to relieve stress. For me it is perfect therapy’

The culture shift towards the benefits of using exercise as a therapy

In 2017, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry spearheaded the first Mental Health Marathon. Welcome ‘Heads Together’ and thousands of runners pounding the streets of London for 26.2 miles wearing blue headbands. Hundreds or runners proudly raising the profile of mental health and inspiring others to talk. As TV cameras and press focused on the Royals and their campaign, many people stood up and listened. It was suddenly acceptable to talk about your experiences watching an emotional Prince Harry opening up about the death of his mother and his struggles.

The start of the 2017 London Marathon. A day that I will never forget

It was this campaign that encouraged me to open up about my own journey and struggles along with nine other incredible people on Mind over Marathon. Our stories inspired a nation as our lives were made public on National TV. A documentary commissioned through the BBC which is still talked about and respected to this day. Ten ordinary people suffering from a mental illness showing how exercise helps and benefits them. Ten people who had their lives followed for seven months. Ten people who would run the London Marathon on April 23rd 2017. Ten people who achieved so much more than could ever be imagined. Ten people congratulated in person by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry for spearheading their campaign. Ten people who would receive a special recognition award off Prince Harry for ‘speaking out’. Ten people (and Nick Knowles and coaches) who have become the greatest of friends and an important support network.

A memorable day filming with the BBC with the incredible Rhian Mannings

For me Mind over Marathon changed the way I exercise. Previously using it as a self harm to batter broken knees and to keep weight down, I was taught techniques and other ways of exercising. This saved me in so many ways, putting me on track to healthy exercise. It gave me back the enjoyment of exercise and enforced the importance of running with others and community. It gave me some self worth knowing that I could achieve. 

A privilege to be invited to the launch of the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon

I continued running after London 2017 and was fortunate again in 2018 to run it again. The mental benefits I got from this helped in so many ways. It gave me confidence and courage to enter more events. It gave me access to people where for so long I stood isolated. It gave me back my smile which was so often there but hidden in the depths of my eyes.

Today, I still get the same buzz and satisfaction whilst out running, biking or swimming. The people who I have met along my exercise journey have been incredibly inspiring. Many with their own struggles opening up to me, finding comfort in their release. People sharing common interests helping and supporting each other. People say that I inspire them, thank you that is so very kind. The ones who inspire me are the ones I see at Parkrun, not the fastest, but that doesn’t matter, they are there every week, running and encouraging each other. Laughing, grimacing. Turning up to events as competitors or supports. These are the people who I respect and admire. These are also the same people who have given me so much support, they understand me and I feel privileged to now call each and everyone a friend. They have helped me more than they will ever know. Thank you SMR run community xx 

Some amazing and inspiring people who I have met through Parkrun

Just move

Age is no barrier. Time is only a perceived barrier. Not having a local leisure centre is no barrier. 

All you need is an area to move, inside or out. Your living room or a park. You do not need money.

You don’t have put on the lycra or fast daps. You don’t have to sweat buckets to feel the benefits.

Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. Start off slow. Start off with just a few minutes, you will soon see the time increasing and it getting easier.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a planned class or activity. This was a massive problem for me until I began working with a coach who would say ‘don’t worry about it, put it aside, do not try and catch up, move on to the next session’. Such advice removes guilt and was what I needed to hear when training for the biggest event of my life, Ironman Wales.

I never thought I would enjoy swimming as much as I do now (after giving it up as a child). Take the plunge try something new, walking, hiking, mountain biking, dancing, yoga, tennis, spin class, the list in endless. 

My challenge is to try some classes at the gym.

You never know what you have been missing out on for all these years.

Good luck and welcome to my movement community 🙂

Remember I am no medic or health professional so please take advice off GP before participating in any physical activity.

A great day with the parents who have supported me immensely. Inspired, they ran a 10k with me in 2017.


When things go wrong

I am aware that I am part one into a four part series on ‘How do you manage good mental health and wellbeing’ but I just wanted to say this before I continue with it and explain what has been going on recently.

Friday 1st March – I have been stupid, I am not proud, it is not clever and I deeply regret what I have done. I have been lucky and am clearly on my 9th life. I feel the need to publish this in order that nobody will ever do what I have done. Please learn from a mistake that I have made which could have killed me. Four days on I am still suffering the side effects.

I have been struggling and found myself lost in a world where I did not see a way out of my own head. I feel like a robot being controlled remotely by outside influences which I cannot do anything about. I am not blaming anyone for my stupid, idiotic behaviour but the impending police medical board on Monday 4th March and the outcome has stressed me out more than you could ever imagine. Stuck in a lengthy process compounding the fact that I cannot handle it.

On Monday 25th February, I went out with a blister pack of 56 tablets. I have no idea why I took them out with me or what my intention was. I carried on as normal doing chores which needed to be done out and about. Acting like I had not a care in the world as I dropped a parcel off at the post office, yet inside, my head was bubbling over, racing away from me. I could not pull it back in or slow it down. It needed to be stopped. It needed to be numbed. The pain needed to go.

Shortly after, with a bottle of fizzy flavoured water in my hand, I took a pack of tablets from my pocket. Was this the answer? Would this help? My switch went, I had lost control and took a handful followed by another. I will not say what I took or how many (legal and prescribed).

I got up from the sofa with a racing, buzzing head and a massive headache. I fell into the wall. I could not see straight and I could not walk. I began to worry as I did not want anything bad to happen. I looked at Olly with guilt which deeply saddened me. Concerned, I thought to walk across to the Dr surgery and ask if what I had done was dangerous but I could not get there. I felt too ill. Next idea was to consult Dr google but I could not focus on my phone screen.

I lay on the sofa next to Olly as he slept. I closed my eyes but had black dots in front of me. My head was too busy, it would not switch off. I recall eating Nutella, bagels and two bars of chocolate.

Sometime later I took Olly out. I was able to walk better but was gripped by the worst headache that I ever had. I was hoping fresh air would help but it didn’t. I was hoping a hot chocolate would help but it didn’t. I was in bed by 7.30pm. I am not sure if I slept or passed out Monday night but I know I took Olly to the garden at some point.

On Tuesday I tried to carry on as normal and spent a few hours at the beach with Olly. I stayed with my partner that night. I needed to explain. I needed to be with someone.

On Wednesday I had a routine GP appointment. She asked how I was and I told her what I had done. Her face was all I needed to know how serious this was. She told me that what I had taken was extremely dangerous and I was lucky not to be found in bed dead. I should have rang for an ambulance on Monday. My GP made some immediate phone calls to toxicology as I waited, reflecting on what I had just been told. I was sent immediately to hospital where I underwent blood tests, examinations and a psych assessment. I was lucky to walk out with no lasting damage, just the side effects to contend with.

Tuesday 5th March – I have been asked many times why I did it? My answer, is that I lost control, I have no idea what I was doing. My switch went. The rational me exchanged for someone who had no care, fear, feeling or emotion. Someone who wanted to block out pain from a bubbling head. I had no intention to kill myself, yet I came close to an accidental overdose. This upsets and saddens me to know who and what I would have left behind. And for what? An appeal board, a job. It is easy for me to sit here now, 8 days on and spout this out to you.

Nothing is worth risking your life for. I was stupid thinking that I was invincible. I am still tired with a headache and I am mentally drained. The intense thirst and the dry mouth which I had has only recently subsided, but my head still hurts. It has been one of the worst weeks I have had, yet I have come through it. My medical appeal board was yesterday and I should know the outcome of this in two weeks time. Between now and then it is about keeping well and safe. I have help and strategies in place and checked in with my GP this morning.

Unfortunately I have not been able to exercise for over a week. I am hoping in the next few days I will be able to resume. Perhaps being as fit as healthy as I am saved me on this occasion. I don’t know.

Wednesday 6th March – I have taken myself away on my own for a few days. I need space to regroup and slow myself down. My head is still rushing around (I am sitting down yet I feel like I am running), so a time of walking, sightseeing with some reading, writing and seeing family is what I have planned. Feeling as I do I decided to leave my PE kit at home. I was hopeful of a run but realistically I knew that it would not yet be possible. It is clear that I am physically and mentally drained with the events of the last 9 days. 

There are times when you just have to go with it and this is one of those times.

I will be back soon

Hi all, just taking some time away for some self care after being unwell since Monday.

I will be back as soon as I can with the next in the ‘how do you manage your mental health and wellbeing’ series and to update you with what has happened.

For the time being I am taking a step back from my blog and social media.

Thanks for your continued support.

Stay safe xx

Part I Connecting with the outdoors

**please refer to blog ‘Supporting others’**

There is no getting away from the outdoors, it is there night and day, just look out of a window and you will see it. The four seasons show it in all its glory. We all have access to it, it is free to see and use (excluding attractions) and it is available to all of us. Some may hate it and some may not be able to experience it due to illness or disability. In the main it is there beaming at us to go and explore it.

The way each of us experience it differs. Some of you may be in a hurry on a commute, stressed about arriving at work on time or to get to that next appointment or meeting so don’t really look at what is around you. Ordinarily passing the same place each day, the same people on their same journeys. But what do you see? Is it your phone screen, deep in social media, emails or chat (if on foot) or is it the cars and building traffic around you, for some reason annoying you as you left home two minutes later than usual.

We have all been there, I know I have, too busy engrossed in a screen or too busy worrying about the day ahead or getting somewhere on time. How often do you say to yourself ‘how did I get here? I don’t remember passing (insert landmark).

If you just pause, look up and use your wonderful senses that you were given then who knows what you will find. People do not connect (in the real world) like they used to. A simple hello or smile to someone you pass may mean the world to that person who is lonely, not spoken to anyone for days, thinking of self harm. You never know what the person on the bus or tube is going through as you sit there or walk along preoccupied.

We live in a rat race of pressure, but what if we just step out of that for a moment.

I was given the idea to write about the outdoors by a few of you. One of you wrote  There is a science about having our bare feet on the earth that I read, that it literally connects us back to the source. I don’t do it enough but I do get down the beach, to the woodlands or up to the mountains when I can. Air and connection with true self is my medicine’.

How incredible is this?

It would be easy for me to link into exercise here but I will save that for another blog.

I have never been a ‘walker’. I would rather run or cycle but would only walk when I needed to. I would jump in the car to go up the road to the shop. The car is always there, it saves time, time which I could be spending on other things (busy things but often of no significance or relevance).

I love this ‘I deliberately do not drive during the day. If I am moving between sites I walk or use transport to clear my head to refocus and mentally prepare for the next task or meeting’.

I have never walked so much since being on sick leave. I cannot stay home, I hate it, hate being confined to four walls. In the early stages of my illness getting out was my escape. It was my escape from memories which my property held, knowing that if I stayed inside, I would be stuck, not able to move, consumed by deep sadness, staring down the bottle of wine or counting the pills which I had, working out what to take. 

Getting out became my medicine and has remained to this day. I walked to places that I not been to before, I sat on benches overlooking the sea. I wrote pages and pages in my journal whilst out in the fresh air, often inspired by what was around me.

Think about what is around where you live and work. Parks, nature reserves, woods, fields, beaches they are all there somewhere.

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It was when I was out walking by myself that I decided to get a dog. I isolated myself for many months not wanting to speak or meet up with friends but what I noticed was that dog walkers appeared to have their own little community. 

Welcome Olly dog. What a life saver this little crazy fur ball has been. I soon went out and walked with purpose. I had a little life to consider and look after. I became accountable and on days when I really did not want to move from my bed of self pity, I had to get up as Olly would sneeze in my face to tell me (a thing he still does, over 2 years later).

I suddenly began looking at what I had on my doorstep. Beaches, rocks, seaweed (don’t ask), flowers, trees, wildlife. I fell in love with walking and to this day, I am always on the look out for new places to take Olly. Therapy for me and great exercise for him. People started to stop and talk to me. There was no escape as I started to engage.  I began talking more to people and have built up some great friendships, including neighbours who I have lived next to for over 10 years and have never spoken to.

As one of you said ‘I was in a really bad place 2 years ago and then my dog came along. We are now inseparable. Our walks help a lot. Going to the local beaches makes me go out’

I am not saying that a dog is your answer as we all have different commitments and circumstances. I never even liked dogs! Walking without a dog for many is just as therapeutic. Plus you do not have to pick up poo.

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(Olly likes horse poo)

On your walks, think about how you can bring the outside inside. Many people collect things, pick up pebbles or pick wild flowers. Kids (and adults) enjoy making daisy chains.  Many enjoy photography. Simply being outside tendering to your garden, allotment, cutting the grass or washing the car are all activities where you can be at one with yourself and the world.

Research has shown that there are positive effects of spending time outdoors on our mental health and wellbeing, Trust me I am not making all of this up. In fact, a walk, run or stint in the garden can last for 7 hours after an individual has experienced it (countryliving.com 2018). This refers to feeling happier and in good spirits.

The same research points out that those suffering with a mental illness including anxiety and depression, benefit more from getting outdoors than others.

As one of you so kindly shared Key to my survival is being outdoors, hiking, golfing, hearing the birds sing, appreciating nature, being thankful to be alive. The hiking has helped both my mental and physical wellbeing by clearing the shit from my head, and being able to just breathe’

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Being outdoors can:

  • Improve your mood
  • Reduce feelings of stress and anger
  • Help you take time out and feel more relaxed
  • Improve physical health
  • Improve self confidence and self-esteem
  • Help you be more active
  • Help you make new connections
  • Provide peer support

Today I took Olly to a place where we go often. I walked with my head up and noticed things which I haven’t before. It felt different as I took the pictures which you see. It is amazing how going out with a different perspective changes your thinking.

Remember when out this weekend. Look around you. I challenge you to notice things which you haven’t before.

oznor

Supporting others

Thanks to all of your responses I have been able to chuck together a short series on ‘How to maintain a positive mental health and wellbeing’. These are your ideas with some of my thoughts and experiences chucked in. I have to say that this has been beneficial for me. Not only have I realised the importance of sticking to what I do through your encouragement but I am now able to embrace ideas which I probably would never have thought of.

Each and every response has inspired me. Thank you.

Whilst there may be some overlap between topics I will try and keep it fresh.

I have planned four titles which include:

  • Connecting with the outdoors
  • Connecting with movement 
  • Connecting with self
  • Connecting with others

You see the key word ‘connect’ but I will also write about the importance of disconnecting. It will become clear (I hope).

You may ask why am I doing this? Well, my own views, thoughts and feelings can become stagnant. At the moment I am experiencing a heightened level of stress which is having a detrimental effect on my depression. I could easily sit here and bumble on about it but I don’t want to. I do not feel it is the time or place at the moment. This also helps me to know that I am not alone and writing is a therapy for me.

When I did series 1 of my blog take over, I was truly moved by what I read. Inspiring stories from incredible people who had faced heartache, pain and trauma but are still here to speak up about their journey.

There are so many people out there suffering, many of which do not speak out, many of which do not have support or who are struggling with coping mechanisms. This series is not suddenly going to cure you but I am hoping that everyone who reads it will at least pick up something which may be able to help. 

I am no expert, I don’t profess to be a professional and I am not trained in this area. I am just an everyday person who has fallen in to the 1 in 4. I cannot cover everything and some things you may disagree with. I am not giving advice, I am just offering ideas and suggestions based on what people have said helps them through their own experience. 

Please follow any professional advice you have been given.

As always help is out there, please reach out if you feel you need to.

If there is anything that you would like to see covered in future blogs or you would like your own story to appear here (can be anonymous) then let me know. xx