Today should have been my 150th parkrun, but I walked off the course halfway through.
Today, for the first time, my mental strength was just as poor as my physical fitness and I just couldn’t find a reason to keep shuffling around the course. This wasn’t how my 150th parkrun was meant to be; my 100th was under 24 minutes, I didn’t want my next milestone to be 40 minutes of pain and disappointment. I’d thought of going the distance and just avoiding the finish, but I didn’t want the questions that would come with it, so I quietly strolled off the course and hid in the crowds.
As I was heading home a little later I realised this was a culmination of a period of declining physical and mental health and had to pull the car over for a minute to gather myself.
At the turn of the year, knowing I couldn’t be setting any running goals for a while, I set myself a different target for 2018. In the very first conversation I had about it I was told it was impossible and I’d never do it. I believed them, and haven’t taken a single step forward since. This story has repeated several times over the last few months, a series of failures has set a level of expectancy that things will not go well, in any circumstance, and I’ve reacted by avoiding trying.
It’s manifested itself in many ways. I haven’t tried training because I’m so unhealthy I can’t do it. Now I know the idiocy behind that statement, faced with that as a coach I’d be going bonkers about self-limiting beliefs and the like, but I can’t be my own coach because my brain works quicker than I can and not only plants the seed of doubt but waters it, nurtures it, helps it grow and presents me with a beautiful big tree of doubt before I have the chance to try and argue with myself. This has spilled over in to other areas of self care. I am eating utter shit, day in, day out, because why shouldn’t I?
– Can’t train? May as well get fat. Three stone overweight? Well you can’t train then. –
As well as neglecting my physical wellbeing I really haven’t looked after my head. Without the mind-altering joy of exercise I’ve allowed the negativity, failure and disappointment to build until I no longer do any of the things I enjoy. Not only have I stopped reading things I like (replaced by a succession of self-help books that tell you page after page to “love yourself” and “be your best you” – fuck off mate, I can barely get out of bed some days), I’ve stopped writing, stopped exploring music, stopped getting outdoors and stopped socialising.
And then there’s my work; I get it, no one really likes going to work, but mine is destroying me or maybe it already has. My working situation is so ridiculous that in the last 12 months I’ve been chastised repeatedly for being too confident and now I’m chastised again because I’m not social enough. Just a small example of the constant chipping away at my self-worth and self-belief. What advice have I been given? “Just quit, something will come up”. Brilliant, I’m pretty sure being homeless and destitute isn’t going to do anything to improve my situation.
So where does all this leave me? How do I deal with the fear of waking up every morning and going through another day like the last? Well right now it leads me to this moment and writing it down for the first time. I’m sure I’ll be horrified when I look back and see what I’ve written about myself (I’m hitting publish without any editing) but I needed to make it real somehow, somewhere, so I can face it and have something to deal with. I’m scared of speaking to the doctor because if I told him what’s in my head I’m either ending up in a padded cell or addicted to happy pills, but that’s the first logical step. I’ve been avoiding it because even being signed off work for a few days is enough to make life very difficult (sick pay? no chance!) but after this morning I know I have to do something. When the one thing I could always rely on to be my saviour no longer works it’s not new running shoes I need, it’s professional help, so that’s where I’m headed.
Just to tone down the melodrama a touch, please rest assured that I’m not at risk of self-harming (unless it’s with another burger and chips), I’m staying one step ahead of that and dealing with things. I don’t need wrapping in cotton wool or watching and I certainly don’t need taking for a pint (alcohol is a depressant, don’t force it on people who are depressed!). I just need a little understanding that I’m not me right now, and I know that, and I’m trying to come back from it so please be patient and kind while I do.
Thank you for sharing this James. So important to talk about these things, as you’re not alone in how you’re feeling (though that doesn’t help you, I know). Best wishes for getting some help that works for you.
Poignent and honest. I can’t help but I will tell you about 2 or 3 people I have worked with who were changed mentally by bad managers. All of them were signed off work and lost confidence. All of them are now happy and successful under the right management or a new job.whatever you can find the pay the bills is step one in my opinion. You have inspired many and hopefully one of us can help light a new spark in this darker time for you.
Be strong, there may appear to be no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is, there is always hope, take one day at a time, try and live it to the full, do ‘nice’ things, be kind to yourself. Try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy… it wirks! At 19 i had an incurable blood disease similar to Leukaemia, 2years on high dosages of steroids made me suffer with depression, i wasnt suicidal but i just wanted to go to sleep and for it to all go away. 10 years later, no treatment, i was clear of the disease.
Married, disastrously at age 40, emotional abuse and physical abuse, i filed for divorce, it cost me a fortune both mentally and financially, nervous breakdown number 1. I shut myself away for 10 years, i worked, ate, slept, worked, ate, slept, eventually i gradually got my ‘life’ back… yes with the help of ‘happy pills’. When you are healed, its easy to ween yourself off them.
Then, after years of throwing myself into my work, stressed, overworked, bullied…just the tip of the iceberg, nervous breakdown No 2. 4 months off work sick, decided my health and well being was more important than work and money. I took voluntary redundancy… took 6 months out and decided to work part time, at an hourly rate of half i’d been used to. 3 years part time… decided id had enough of work so retired, to spend time with my elderly parents and to start ‘living’.
After routine screening, no symptoms, at last feeling the fittest and healthiest in 20 years… looking good at 4 stone lighter (LCHF diet and intermittent fasting…it works) was diagnosed with Stage 4 incurable Bowel cancer, 2 weeks later my mother passed away! I am strong, i am positive, my CBT councelling helped, the happy pills helped, i have many supportive friendss and a supportive family. I dont know what the future holds as Stage 4 is incurable, i dont know how long i have got… but im making the most of every day, and strangely enough i am happy! Its been a tough old road ive been travelling… so accept help, seek professional help, take happy pills… and take one day at a time. You dont know me… but i know Simon and Jeremy from years ago. Dont give up… life is worth living and we get one shot at it… dont beat yourself up… accept help and believe in yourself, you can get through this… believe me… you can. Good Luck x