Exercising for a better mental health

Tough night

Friday 27th April (8.51pm)

**picture taken from car**

Sat at my ‘go to place’ with chips. I am not ready to go home yet. I can’t, I need just to sit here in my car with headspace. I am watching the sea which tonight is relatively calm, despite there being a wind. The tide is in, there are people around, not many, enough. I will not be getting out of my car, there is no need to and neither do I want to.

What has brought me here? This evening I went to a colleague’s retirement do. A colleague who has become a very good friend. A friend who has helped me over the last few years. A friend who has been there for me, even though I have some times ignored   her and pushed her away. A friend who gets me, who understands me. A friend who this week has said goodbye to a 30 year police career. A friend for life. 

I wanted to be there tonight, I have missed many nights out over the last few years but tonight was different.

I walked into a busy pub, spotted my group and felt panic. I felt lost, I felt like I no longer knew these people. People who I worked with before going off. I felt like an alien. People made me welcome, gave me hugs, asked how I was. I politely replied. So much change over the last 2 years. 

The skittles alley had been hired so off we went to play. I offered to be the person who replaced the skittles and chuck the balls back down. This was an easy ‘out’ for me as I was at the opposite end to everyone else. Still involved in the game but on the outside of conversation. This is what I wanted. As time went by I found it harder to be there. It seemed to get louder, I felt overwhelmed. I felt anxious and knew I had to escape. I felt no longer part of that group, no longer part of something that was once my life. I struggled to be around ‘work people’.  I could not cope with it. Too many memories. My head became busy. Run George Run. This has nothing to do with any of the people there, in fact they are all lovely. I just couldn’t do it. 

I grabbed my best friend and my retirement buddy and said I had to leave. They knew. They saw it in my face. They understand. My mate walked me to my car. I am ok as I sit here. I am out of the situation. It has reaffirmed my deep overriding anxiety and panic of anything related to work. 

Now I will head home, home to my gorgeous dog who will bring me back to earth, who will tonight sleep on my head and give me unconditional love.

That was tough xx 


London 2018

**Photo from Heads Together**

Wednesday 25th April 2018 (10.21am)

So that is it, the 26.2 miles of London done and dusted for another year. After finishing I said never again, but as I reflect on the experience, there is no way that I will miss the opportunity if it comes up again next year.

The last 6 days have been another surreal, yet crazy experience. It started last Thursday as I made my way to London for the Mind over Marathon ‘one year on’ event with Heads Together, held at the Curzon in Victoria. It was amazing to be reunited with Chevy, Mel, SeSe, Rhian, Jake, Claudia and Nick Knowles. Unfortunately, Poppy, Paul, Sam and Steve could not join us, but they were all there with us in spirit as we chatted to an audience. This can be viewed via the Heads Together Facebook page.

I cannot believe that we are one year on and I have my second London Marathon finishers medal. Sunday was tough, as I along with 41000 others battled the heat bumping off the streets of the capital. For me Sunday was a mind game, I knew that I was physically in shape to take on the challenge, mentally I was in a better place than last year but the conditions were going to be the ultimate test.

I woke up Sunday morning thinking that I was just going on a long run (with lots of others). I was not nervous, in fact I don’t get nervous, I knew where I had to go to start and I adjusted my game plan in my head to slow my pace down and aim for 10 min miles. I knew I could beat last years time, but that was not really on the agenda. It was more about finishing comfortably and without injury or illness.

I was in the blue start, pen number 6 and whilst waiting I chatted with others, some who were on their first journey of London.

From the start, the heat was a factor, I saw a runner receiving medical attention in the first two miles. I felt the heat pounding down which made me even more determined to stick to my pace plan, stay hydrated and well fuelled. I could have chased it early on, but I was not there for that. The crowds were amazing, people handing out sweets, slices of oranges and I have never been so grateful for an ice pop lolly! That cold, orange flavoured hit came at exactly the right time. I will never forget the sheer amount of people and the reception on Tower Bridge. It is something that as a runner has to be experienced. Words cannot describe the lift it gives you at the half way mark. I felt good at this point, again thoughts of ‘pushing it’ went through my mind. I was on for a 4hr 15 finish. I remained sensible as I ran through to 20 miles. This is when it began to get tough. It seemed to got hotter, the crowds appeared to get bigger, louder and enclose. Lots of people were walking, many were on the side of the road, beaten by the conditions. I carried on slowly, not stopping and never walking as I knew I would not get going again.

At mile 23, things became even harder, I wanted to stop. My body was hurting. I started to feel sick. It was time to play the head game ‘its just a park run to go’. This felt like hell. I had seen many people who I knew along the way but I was prepared to go the last few miles on my own. Zoned out from the world and noise around me. My legs somehow kept going as I turned onto the Mall and saw the count down signs, 800m (‘only twice around an athletics track’). Just keep going. Then I saw a friend who I had met through Twitter. Jules who works for the London Ambulance Service, you were my angel as I heard you shout my name, the hug as I literally fell onto you was exactly what I needed at this time. You spurred me on to the end. You and your colleagues were amazing that day. Thank you for that. We will meet up in different circumstances soon.

Then I saw it, the finish line, it was getting closer, or was it. Was I going backwards? I was overtaking people, or were they overtaking me? I have no idea, but there it was the end, the red finish line. I had done it. I had crossed the line in 4 hrs 31.17. 

I will take that.

An invite to SMP

Tuesday 10th April 2018 (2.17pm)

This morning I received a letter from work. My SMP (Selected Medical Practitioner) appointment has been arranged for Friday 18th May. This is now real. For ages I have been able to park it at the back of my head thinking that this appointment would not be until later in the year. So many emotions have surfaced since opening this letter and at the moment I am finding them too much and difficult to handle.

The thought that the direction of my future will be determined shortly does not yet seem comprehendible. It has been two years since I first walked out of my job. At that point only a few people had an idea of what I was going through as I sat behind my desk as a Temporary Detective Inspector with South Wales Police. Yet, here I am now wondering if I will ever return to a job which I once loved and gave everything to. In the end it became a job which has contributed to my ill health and I cannot see a way back. I have Psychiatrists who say that a return would be detrimental to my health and would likely lead to self harm or worse. To me, this sounds conclusive but I have to see another Doctor who will determine the outcome.

I am still trying to digest all of this and so far I have done what I do best. Five minutes after reading the letter I was out of the door on a run trying to forget everything. My one hour run, banking 7 miles was what I needed as I tried to focus on my plans for next week as I make my way to London for marathon number 1 of 2018.

I am grateful for mates who have rung me today and listened to me moan (they are used to it by now) and put my back on the right path of sensible thinking.

Olly who appears to want to act like a naughty teenager when we are out at the moment still keeps me grounded. Despite him trying to steal hot dogs from cafes, rolling in fox poo, eating horse poo, chasing after bikes, eating chicken bones and generally going bat shit crazy I still cannot imagine life without him.

Time to sign off now as I have a therapy session with ‘Mind’ where we are working on my perfectionist traits (more of this will follow in another blog).

Need to turn today around

Thursday 5th April 2018 (10.48am)

I am sat in Starbucks having just done a tired effort 1600m swim (half of what I had planned). I woke up and just knew today was going to be one of those days where I could easily just hide away at home and do nothing. Physically perhaps this is what I need after my 19.7 mile run on Tuesday. Staying home watching the Commonwealth games would only have messed up my head so I knew I had to get out and do something. I feel that I have to push myself to the limits in order to succeed. I am currently writing a blog on ‘perfectionism’ and what I have learnt through therapy, it is scary how the traits resonate with my behaviour. What I have to do is reign this back in and learn to deal with things which may not go to plan. Is it such a big deal if I miss a swim session to chill out? No it is not, but try telling my messed up head that.

I had plans for today, but at the moment I cannot see me fulfilling them. Nothing big, just continuing with my book chapters and heading down to work to meet up with friends and sort out my expenses. Today is a can’t be bothered day. My mood is too shit. I hate this feeling, it is like I fall back into a dark place where negativity rushes through my brain space. ‘You will not finish the marathon, you will bomb out of Ironman Wales, in fact why are you bothering, you are writing a book – what?’ These are just some of the things which I deal with, not just today.

Physically and mentally, I feel off track, off course, heading for the bunker on the 18th hole when I had one hand on the trophy. I dig for the ball like I dig into my head for the strategies and coping mechanisms which I have l learnt.

It has been exactly two years since I first walked out of work. How did 2 weeks sick leave become 2 years? Time which has been eaten up in GP appointments, therapy, courses and medication.

I am ok, today is just one of those days. It will pass. I will ride it out. Olly will make sure of that.

Addiction (written by Anna)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**
Thank you Anna for your openness in ‘take over 12’

My drinking was problematic from the day it began. I had an alcohol withdrawal seizure when I was 17 years old after drinking to excess one summer. I remember a close friend telling me that she thought I was an alcoholic when I was in my early twenties. Addiction is sometimes described as the “disease of more” and I can certainly relate to that. When I started drinking I had no off switch.

I believe that I would be an alcoholic regardless of the direction my life took, but it became a very useful tool for coping with an increasingly dark void inside of me which I couldn’t identify or cure.

When I was 18 I innocently mentioned in passing to my parents that I had started a relationship with a woman. I was naive and didn’t think for one moment that this news would have the devastating effect that followed. Out of respect for my parents’ privacy I won’t go into detail but the result of a very traumatic few months was that I ended the relationship. And then I pursued relationships with men for the next 15 years. Being gay was no longer an option.

My drinking went through ups and downs. Occasionally I could get it under control for a while, usually until the latest self-inflicted disaster had passed. At one stage I managed to stay sober for 18 months. When I wasn’t drinking I was binge eating, stuffing my face with food until I felt sick, dirty and full of shame.

But my reliance on alcohol always came back and it progressively got worse in my early thirties. I was suffering with depression and going through periods of being unable to attend work, regularly signed off by my GP. When I wasn’t in work I’d start drinking as early as possible in the morning and think about how much I didn’t want to be alive. I was in a relationship at this point and often went missing, leaving my partner to worry about me and undertake sad searches of local pubs and park benches, looking for me. I’d wander around drunk, wondering if I could perhaps freeze to death if I stayed outside long enough in the cold rain. I couldn’t walk over a bridge without thinking about flinging myself off into the dark water below.

When that relationship inevitably ended, I started living on my own. This was a disaster to begin with but it ended up being my salvation. I drank for a further year, in which my my attendance at work was so bad I almost lost my job. Any day I wasn’t in work I’d drink, smoke and binge eat all day from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep. I’d go from my bed to the sofa and back again, occasionally scurrying to the shop for supplies and hoping no-one would look me in the eye.

But being single and living alone meant I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I was only answerable to myself and in the end that helped me to get sober. I had to ask myself whether I really wanted to die, because if I carried on drinking death was becoming an inevitability, either through suicide, an accident whilst drunk or a drinking-related illness.

It’s often said that you should tackle your addictions in the order in which they’re most likely to kill you. I stopped drinking on 24 November 2014. I wish I could share some magical wisdom about how I did it with yoga and meditation, but it really came down to avoiding social situations, eating a lot of food, drinking coffee and smoking. Whatever works. I stopped smoking six months later and kicked caffeine another six months after that. My eating disorder got worse for a while and binge eating is the final hurdle but is slowly getting better.

I try to walk every day, eat a plant-based diet, and have meaningful interactions with people who are important to me and whose company lifts me up. I read, listen to music, watch films, take photographs and try to spend time outdoors. I talk regularly with other sober women.

I’ve also been in therapy for over two years and, through that process, have realised that the void inside of me was not resentment at my parents or my circumstances. It was shame and guilt for turning my back on my true identify. I lived a shadow life for almost twenty years, doing what I thought I should be doing, based on things I’d seen on TV and in films. I couldn’t feel my way through life instinctively because I’d lost touch with who I really was and what I truly wanted.

I still feel very much an outsider. I’m sober, which in itself sometimes seems a pretty radical stance in a society which venerates alcohol so highly. I’m gay but don’t feel like I have a place in the LGBTQ+ community as I’ve been in heterosexual relationships most of my life and didn’t stand up for my identity when I had the opportunity. I feel like a fraud even using the label.

But I’m a lot better. After a particularly bad depressive episode which started last November, I began taking antidepressants in February. My mood has lifted and I’m feeling more optimistic about the future. Most importantly, I know that in sobriety I am a nicer person. I care more and am happier to help. I’m a better friend. I’m more honest. I’m confident that I could act appropriately in an emergency instead of being the one causing it.

I know that to keep hold of anything worthwhile, I have to stay sober. It has to be the first thing. The most important thing. Sometimes, the only thing.

If anyone is struggling with addiction, please know that it can get better. There is support available and more people than you may think are fighting the same fight. Please reach out.


The Black Shroud (written by John)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you John for your openness in ‘take over 11’

As a teenager I was a very outgoing, I had a lot of friends, I was very sociable, I went away on holidays and had nice girlfriends. I had always wanted to join the police so at the age of 22 I did. I went away to training school and enjoyed the structured environment. One day I received a message to contact the reception. I did and was told that my beloved grandmother was dead. It hit me harder than I could ever imagine. I remember vividly a black shroud descending down on me which clouded everything.

Suddenly I was no longer good old dependable John, I was paralysed, not able to enjoy anything, with an overwhelming desire to hide myself away from everything and everyone. It was exhausting just trying to appear normal. I found that I couldn’t remember aspects of law and struggled with the exams. Somehow I passed out of training school, even managing the drill display at the end.

I guess I have struggled with depression and anxiety all of my adult life. I wasn’t diagnosed properly until my mid twenties, when the pressures of being a Police Officer really started to tell.

I am routinely visited by the black shroud, which restricts everything. It makes me have an incredibly low opinion of myself and bombards every waking moment with negative thoughts, which have evolved over the years into very real suicidal thoughts. I have always had a very high sense of justice, a high work ethic and detest letting people down. This collective drive of mine kept leading to burn out, I would always put others before me, even though inside I just wanted to run and hide.

Slowly but surely my mental health deteriorated, but I just kept going as normal, working long hours in ClD, helping people as a federation rep and putting myself last. I would then charge my batteries a little on rest days and start over again.

I would arrive at work 30 minutes early, as I would always have a small anxiety attack in the car park. I would sit there in my car not able to breathe, sweating profusely and sometimes crying. I would then go into the office and switch the fans on to dry out. I did this for years.

I’m a great believer now, that the brain will give you warnings and then stop you if you don’t adhere. This is exactly what happened to me. One morning I found I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop sweating and I couldn’t do ‘normal’ things. I had absolutely no idea how to start my car or tie my tie. I had a period of sickness and genuinely thought about taking my own life, on more than one occasion. Thoughts not action, but extremely frightening.

I never told anyone, I was ashamed that someone like me was suffering from a mental illness. All I saw in my mind was the film “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. I wasn’t being ridiculed by people! I went into many different departments and did very well, thanks to the periods I wasn’t enveloped in my shroud. But it was always there, hovering above me, I could feel it arriving and leaving.

I got very good over the years of masking my illness, and my colleagues were sometimes non the wiser, although I was never able to socialise, I just couldn’t do it. The surprise on their faces when I informed them that I was suffering from depression was a picture.

I couldn’t pretend anymore, my work was being effected by my inability to concentrate or sleep properly. I haven’t slept properly for over 20 years, always waking at 3am. Alone with my thoughts as my wife relegated me to the spare room, my mind went into overdrive. Little thoughts became huge problems and I would get up not refreshed and not really capable of performing at any level, never mind the extremely important job I was performing at the time.

I have tried every anti depressant out there, some good, some bad. I am now taking Lithium and an anti psychotic. These make me feel like a zombie, spaced out and without feelings. Not so good for a Police Officer, which is why I am to be medically retired after 27 years service.

My mental illness has taken over my life.


The broken wrist analogy (written by Abigail)

*Picture taken off internet*


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Abigail for your openness in ‘take over 10’

When asked to write about how it feels to have depression I started by reflecting on a question that I have had for years, “do you think you’ll ever get better and stop having depression?” Personally, I don’t think so. I think depression has become an aspect of my life and I cannot ignore this. I think my brain HAS changed because of depression. I now think differently and perceive the world in a new way. Not everyone who has depression feels like this, and this is entirely from my own experience. Sometimes it doesn’t feel rubbish knowing this, more of a resigned acceptance.

But do not despair! I think it’s really hard for people who do not have a mental illness to understand that, when I say “yes I’ll always have depression” it doesn’t mean I’ll always be depressed. Quite the opposite in fact. I love life. I am so blessed and currently very lucky to be surrounded by a gorgeous network of people I know and love and I’m very excited about my future. Despite the fact I am currently going through a depressive episode. It is because of this mis-understanding I have developed something I call the “Broken Wrist Analogy”.

A few years ago I broke my wrist on holiday. The experience I had with that caused me to reflect and think of it like the one with my depression. You’ve broken your wrist and It hurts. You can’t move it and you literally can’t stop thinking about this pain. You go to the doctor get a plaster cast on it and it heals, however, it’s never quite the same because your wrist has been hurt. Sometimes you can go months without thinking about it. You can go about living your life with no problem to your wrist. Some days you can wake up and be in pain. All it does is hurt and you’re sick of it because you broke your wrist years ago and it’s just so annoying that it still hurts.

Sometimes you decide it’s a great idea to carry lots of heavy bags in one hand, causing your wrist to ache. Sometimes it aches in brand new ways. But you’ve already had pain before so you can think of ways to help it. Whether that’s going to a doctor, having a rest, or just moaning about it to friends and family. At some point you begin to see how funny it is that the wrist just keeps doing the same things in brand new shiny ways. Your wrist heals and it gets stronger. For a while its delicate but then it’s unstoppable. You begin to use it normally again, you carry one bag of shopping, then two, then three. You begin to weight lift, it gets stronger and stronger every time you do, so then the next time it hurts, it’s okay, because your muscle has all this memory of being strong. Sometimes your wrist twitches, you get a shot of pain but then it feels okay again. Sometimes it’s such a shock. It’s still got these lasting effects of the injury. You’re trying really hard, but it just hurts. And that’s not great. But it’s okay.

Over time, you accept the fact that, your wrist is different now. Its been broken but now it’s getting better, you realise that maybe if it wasn’t for all the trouble with it, your arm wouldn’t be as strong as it is now. You realise that maybe, it’s okay to be a bit different and have battered, unique, wonderful, wrist.

There we have it, me talking about my mental illness. Those who have finished the aforementioned paragraph and feel somewhat confused about a girl who clearly spends too much time thinking about old injuries that’s okay. Just know that if you know someone who has depression, it’s okay. They can still laugh and have joy and conquer difficult things and achieve EVERYTHING they want. It just means sometimes; old injuries play up.

Thank you Georgie for giving me this opportunity to write! It’s been super fun, and I would encourage anyone out there who hasn’t done this before to give this a go, it really adds perspective.

Sending love

Being gay. Being bullied (written by Bridget)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Bridget for your openness in ‘take over 9’


I have always been bullied. There I have said it.


I only recall one hug from mother – ever. I was perched on the edge of the bed as she tended to my baby brother. I was fiercely instructed not to move despite begging for the toilet. I got a slap, and then the hug came from guilt as the 3½ year old sobbed apologetically. 


I didn’t know what gay was when I was very young but I was able to recognise that I wasn’t like the other girls. Everyone called me a tomboy. Never a choice, just who I was. Girls teased me for being more like a boy than most boys were.


Growing up gay in Glasgow was a taboo. I had secret romance. Later, she moved to London and was tragically killed. Nobody knew about us, or how much I hurt. I was unable to grieve openly. I didn’t even go to her funeral.


My mother was “informed” that I was a lesbian. She was livid. Deny it on the bible or be disowned. The shame of it would break dad’s heart. I was 16 and naïve. She still has no idea to this day that I lied.


I was too short to be one of Strathclyde’s finest (police), so looked at the RAF – a good job with accommodation – escape. Under 16’s needed parental consent. She refused to sign the forms and dad wouldn’t cross her. I got the forms for the Navy instead, she refused them too. At 18 I got the RAF forms again. She rifled my room frequently and mocked me when she found them. I was incapable of discipline. I couldn’t take orders. Homosexuals can’t serve, she sneered. I tore up the forms. I asked dad why she hated me. He couldn’t understand why I would think that.


I had no job at the end of a YTS placement. Mother said I must really be crap. I got a job. She said it would never last. I tried so hard to please her to no avail. I struggled into my twenties when I bought a flat. You’ll never leave me, she said. I did, but by then I had long shut away “me” and my persona was one that met everyone else’s expectations. In the solitude of my own home, I cut myself.


I was diagnosed with endometriosis, mother laughed despite the prospect of never being a gran. I worked with a man that became my partner. We shared many adventures and drank.


I fell pregnant on honeymoon. I had a lonely 9 months while he continued to go straight to the pub after work. When the baby was 6th months I asked him to be more home-centric – he said he was what I married and told me to deal with it. We fought often.


I worked part time, my boss didn’t like me. I had trouble for a year until the day I woke up crying.

I was 34, it was a Tuesday morning. I found myself trapped in a recurring dream which I recall as far back as childhood. I can only describe it as an avalanche – chased down by an ever-increasing and over-whelming presence but always managing to outrun it in time to wake up. It engulfed me. As the fear of helplessness and impending doom hit me, I awoke, sobbing uncontrollably. For no reason I could fathom. The doctor signed me off – work related stress. I didn’t want medication, he didn’t recommend counselling and I was signed off for a month, all of which I cried, barely able to leave the house.

My beautiful little girl would “fix me” with her hugs. When I eventually stopped crying and ventured out I slowly morphed from a weak tearful person to an inhospitable creature. The frustration, anger, rage, hurt and bullying of 30 years spilled in a torrent of vitriol at anyone in the way. I told people what I thought of them – cared nothing for their feelings. I was hurt and I wanted to hurt. I trashed the house often – it was easier to hide than self-harm.


I returned to work after 4 months because I ran out of tears. I became ruthless. I was headhunted and without hesitation nor discussion with husband, I changed job. I travelled 4-5 days and weekends were devoted to my daughter. I immersed myself in work, and my barriers became impenetrable. My avalanche was gone. When Gran passed away, I shed no tears. I took pride in this strength, not realising that I really was no better. Devoid of emotion. Nothing got in, and nothing got out.


I met a woman who became the catalyst for a spectacular change in my life. Not since my teenage sweetheart had I felt so comfortable in someone’s presence, and for the first time ever – it all came out. Through talking to her it dawned that I had all along and still suffered with my mental health.


I couldn’t be this person any more, tired of hiding, tired of fulfilling the expectations of others. I needed to cry and couldn’t. The rage building was worse than before. My avalanche came back, and I lashed out at others again. One day I walked out, left everything, even my daughter whom I loved and cherished dearly. I drove to the opposite end of the country to start a new life with the woman who listened.


I. Am. Gay. I wasted enough of my life not being “me”. The following few months were incredibly hard but cathartic. When I learned of the suicide of a close friend, it hit home just how fragile we are. My partner makes me feel worthwhile and makes me believe in myself. I am now 6 years without an emotional relapse, all because I have someone who listens and loves me for who I am despite my faults.


Nowadays I do exercise and sport to help. It might be meditative pilates, weights, or running. Some times I go into the woods and scream it all out. It’s my release. I went from 14st unable to run 20ft to losing weight and happily jogging half marathons. I play football again after 30 years which I love. Bad days are cancelled out with a hard run now, and when I run with a buddy, it’s a bonus.

Lessons I learned

Talk about it. Don’t bottle it up. You are not alone. There will always be someone who will listen. The people that matter don’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter. Help each other. Bullies only do it because it makes them feel powerful. There is nothing to be ashamed of by being who you are.

Mind Over Marathon and beyond (written by Kathryn)


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Kathryn for your openness in ‘take over 8’


29th April 2017

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Manchester feeling tired, alone and anxious. I’d recently returned to work, as Clinical Trials Pharmacist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, after suffering from my third episode of severe depression and anxiety. I found returning to work challenging and I could feel my anxiety building, so was scared that I would suffer from another recurrence of depression.

I hadn’t been away on my own for some time and wasn’t sure what to do to calm my thoughts when I remembered seeing trailers for the BBC ‘Mind Over Marathon’ program about a group of people with mental illness who trained to run the London Marathon. I downloaded the program from BBC iPlayer onto my iPad. I watched the first episode while I was eating dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was amazing seeing people being so open about the challenges they faced in life and how developing friendships and having a goal to aim for was helping their recovery from mental illness. I was captivated and wanted to see if they achieved their goal and watched the second episode when I returned to my room. I went to sleep that night with a renewed sense of purpose, I’d already started running while I was off work (using the BBC Get Inspired NHS Couch to 5K app), but didn’t have the motivation to get up to 5k. Seeing the Mind Over Marathon team face the ultimate challenge of finishing the London Marathon while recovering from a mental illness and being so open about their experience was inspirational.

When I returned to Cardiff I entered Cardiff Half Marathon as part of the Cardiff and Vale UHB Health Charity team raising money for the Hafan Y Coed Mental Health Unit. Considering I’d only run for 20 minutes non-stop once this was a bit of a challenge. I was struggling to find the motivation to run in the evening and by July I still hadn’t got up to 5K. I saw an advert on Twitter for Les Croupiers Running Club Croups off the Couch 5K plus and decided to join this.

8th July 2017

The day before my 47th birthday I ran 5K non stop for the first time at Cardiff Parkrun in 37:54. The experienced Les Croupiers running club members ran with us and I was amazed how talking while running made me forget the pain and enjoy running even more. The 5k plus group met three times a week over the summer, gradually building up the distance we ran to 10K. When I joined the group I’d decided to be open about why I started running and was surprised by how many people shared their story of mental illness while I was running with them. I’m not a natural runner and had resisted running for years but I could feel the benefit of running and talking about my experience on my depression recovery. With the encouragement of the Les Croupiers RC members I got my Parkrun PB down to 34:15 and I was hooked.

I was tweeting using #365daysofselfcare and regularly posted about my runs and how beneficial they were to my mental health.

3rd September 2017 Cardiff 10K

I joined almost 6000 people to run 10K around the beautiful city of Cardiff. I’d only ran 10K once before and that was with an experience runner encouraging me. As most of the 5K plus group were faster than me I ran round on my own. But I talked to fellow runners and was encouraged by the spectators. I managed to run all the way round and was so proud to finish in 1:15:26.

1st October 2017 Cardiff Half Marathon

My training between the 10K and half marathon didn’t go well as I suffered from a recurrence of depression as the evenings got darker. I found it impossible to get out of bed on a Saturday morning in time for Parkrun and probably only ran 5 times in September and the furthest I ran with 5 miles. But I was determined to take part in the Half Marathon. I asked some experienced runners for advice about how I should approach the race as I’d only ran 10K twice. I decided to run the first 5K and then walk/run the remainder. I was extremely nervous in the run up to the race and felt my anxiety levels building and considered injuring myself so I couldn’t run. But I made it to the start line by the iconic Cardiff Castle with 25,000 other runners. The atmosphere was incredible and I couldn’t believe how many people came out to cheer the runners on. I stuck to my plan and ran the first 5K and then tried to walk for a few minutes and run for 15 mins for the rest of the race. I ran on my own again but talked to other competitors, especially those who were in #TeamHealthCharity. There were moments in the race when my legs were sore and I felt that I couldn’t carry on, but the crowd and the thought that I was raising money for others with mental illness kept me going. I was amazed that I completed 13.1 miles in 2:57:48, especially as I’d gone from non-runner to the half marathon in 9 months. When I crossed the finish line I said to my husband ‘Next time I’ll have done the training’!

Unfortunately after completing the half marathon my mood continued to decline and I lacked the motivation to go running. It was only during a holiday in Costa Rica, in December, when the light came back on and I felt happy again.

When we returned to Cardiff I saw a Facebook post advertising a #TeamHealthCharity Couch to 5K group. Although I had already run 10K I decided to run with the Couch to 5K group. I’d gained so much benefit from the help that experienced runners gave me while I was starting to run, I wanted to give something back by helping others discover how beneficial running is for the body and mind. I was very honest about how I started running to help my recovery from depression and a number of the group have shared their personal journey through mental illness with me.

In 2018 I’ve run Cardiff Parkrun on a regular basis and invited other runners (using Facebook) to join me for a run and chat, I’ve continued to run with the #TeamHealthCharity Couch to 5K group and helped encourage the next intake of Les Croupiers 5K plus group. I find running and especially social running helps control my depression.

I’m continuing to challenge myself and have entered 5 10K and 2 Half Marathon’s so far in 2018. I will be raising money for Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie, MIND, Pharmacist Support and Cardiff and Vale UHB Health Charity.

I don’t think I would have persevered with running and maintained my recovery from mental illness if I hadn’t watched Mind Over Marathon, so I am extremely grateful to the BBC, Heads Together, MIND, Nick Knowles, Georgie, Jake, Rhian and the rest of the Mind Over Marathon team.

I held on to life by my fingernails (written by Karen)

Wednesday 28th March 2018


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Karen for your openness in ‘take over 7’

I was first diagnosed with depression 16 years ago at age 13. I felt like I was in a cage with the bullies, my teachers, friends and parents all looking in and laughing at the stupid girl inside. I wore baggy clothes to try and hide myself and barely spoke at school to decrease the risk of me saying something stupid. I cried myself to sleep pretty much every night then woke up screaming with recurring anxiety dreams that were so vivid I didn’t know if I’d actually been awake or dreaming. Then I went to school and got humiliated in front of teachers and the class all over again to be told by my dad when I got home that I was making it all up.

I thought of dying a lot at this time. I still view staying alive as the most selfish thing I’ve ever done because I did it to spite everyone. I thought “you think you can treat me like this? you think I‘ll just go away?” I knew that was what they wanted so I held on to life by my fingernails.

Unfortunately you don’t just get over sexual assault and bullying because you are not in that situation any more, it leaves a numbness, a fear and an emptiness. After seven years of school with those boy’s it was hard to break the habit of being constantly in fight or flight mode. It was hard to trust my parents, or anyone else, again because they had failed before so they would probably do it again (and they have), this made me much more selfish which is something I’ve tried to correct recently.

The thing with depression is it never completely goes away, it lurks. You have to practice self care all the time, not just when depression smacks you in the face. It also doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re going through, how much money or how many friends you have, it will take you for its own regardless.

I went to the doctors age 26 after having panic attacks several times a day and randomly bursting into tears a lot. I didn’t understand what was wrong, I’d had the best year ever. I’d got engaged to my boyfriend, I’d recently qualified as a Samaritan and had passed my G.C.S.E psychology with flying colours. I had loads of great friends, a busy social life, a fantastic relationship with my fiancé, my sister and even my parents. Yet the doctor told me I had generalized anxiety.

It’s so tiring not sleeping because your mind won’t shut up. Then when it does you wake up with another anxiety dream. Then getting up for work and spending all day on your feet pretending you’re fine while ending up in the toilets with your friend having another panic attack, only to be told by a manager you need to stop going off the shop floor. It felt like there were weights on my arms, legs and heart, the latter also felt like it was scrunched up into a tight ball constantly. It was impossible to relax, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages of a book, I’d realise someone was talking to me but couldn’t remember what it was about because my concentration was so bad.

I was juggling a million balls and dropping them all which made me feel like a failure, why was I unable to live life like everyone else? They all managed to hold down a full time job and a family so why couldn’t I?

Looking back this is clearly how my anxiety got accompanied by depression. I was doing too much and not looking after myself. The doctor took the decision out of my hands and signed me off work. I was still being stubborn and went back full time after a month, but everything just started all over again.

I cut down my hours and changed jobs which made me feel incredibly guilty because the lessening of money would affect my fiancé since we lived together. I felt useless sitting at home while he was working hard, doing over time at weekends. I kept trying to push myself to do more hours but I was having panic attacks still and the guilt made the tears come more frequently.

Sometimes the frustration and anger I felt at myself was unforgiving and then other times there was just nothing. My mum would come around and we would go for a walk and I would see the trees, birds, the lake but feel nothing. It was like I was looking down at my body from somewhere else, I had no connection to it at all.

Having had depression before it definitely made me more scared of it being that bad again but I learnt a lot from that first time to help me cope. For starters I’d surrounded myself with amazing people especially my husband and sister but also my friends and even my parents at times. I’d also read a lot about depression since my teenage years so understood what I was up against, and because of years of counselling was able to communicate with people better so they could try and help me.

I ended up staying on anti-depressants for 6 years. I still only work 16 hours but I started writing a blog, then two books and now have an Instagram account. Luck was also on our side as my husband got two promotions in quick succession which took off some of the financial pressure.

I am still scared of depression, you never know which time will be the last time but that just makes me want to do the best I can to be happy now, yes I still battle with my demon’s on a regular basis, sometimes I still find it hard to get out of bed, but there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel and it is very bright.