Two weeks ago, I was feeling a little stuck. Having recovered from the surgery that I had 4 months ago, I was starting to see my energy coming back and even though I knew that I wanted to get back into shape again, I just didn’t know where to start. I’d become so used to not doing much physically and last year, because of how poorly I was, I’d put on over 2 stone.
Then, like an actual Fairy Godmother, a lovely person from HEINEKEN contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in taking part in Race To The Tower – a two day ultra marathon event to help raise money for the mental health charity, Mind. All of me screamed YES! First of all, I need a genuine kick up the arse to get myself in shape, I want to make the most of my health while I have it because last year I didn’t have that luxury. Secondly and most importantly, I’m desperate to raise money, as our mental health services are dangerously underfunded and understaffed. I love that with my blog, I get to raise awareness but we’re in dire need of funding and awareness alone just won’t help that situation.
So what am I actually getting myself in to?
Well, I’ll be walking 52.6 miles over two days along The Cotswold Way, with a stop over at a base camp halfway. So two marathons, two days on the 10th and 11th of June. I have 4 weeks to train but I won’t be doing alone, my lovely boyfriend Shay will be doing it with me.
We’re extremely excited and very nervous, as this will be a huge physical and mental challenge for both of us.
Making a donation:
If you’d like to help me and Shay raise money for Mind, you can make a donation here. No donation is too small! Even if all you could donate is a £1, we’d be over the moon! And if you can’t donate anything, please consider sharing this post <3
The post I’m Doing An Ultra Marathon To Raise Money For Mental Health appeared first on Anxious Lass.
As previously mentioned, I’m really out of practice with blog-writing/ writing in general, so I’ll stick to writing (or attempting to write) fairly short posts over the next few weeks. These will probably be a bit random in terms of subject and chronological order.
I mentioned in a previous post that after coming back from Namibia, I seemed to be coming down with repetitive bouts of the flu. One day at work, at the end of November, this lead to a rather dramatic (and somewhat embarrassing) turn of events.
The weird thing about this particular flu-like illness (other than that it kept coming back over the course of a month or so, after me feeling like I was completely back to normal) is that I would go from feeling completely fine to unable to get out of bed, in the space of only an hour or two. During this particular shift at work, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. I started to feel very run-down and very cold, so I told my manager I that I wasn’t feeling well, put my work fleece on, and had a short break for a few minutes. A couple of my colleagues could see that I was unwell and said that I should probably just go home, but having always been a conscientious person, and not wanting to let my colleagues down, I tried to just keep working.
A short while later, I started to feel very dizzy and like I was about to throw up, so made my way back to my department as quickly as I could. My manager and team support people were busy as I got into the department, and so, feeling awful, but not wanting to be rude, I ended up leaning over one of the trolleys (as I felt like I was about to pass out), hoping that someone would notice me and ask what was wrong. It’s both funny and alarming that even when I’m feeling really unwell, I’m still anxious about interrupting people/ getting the attention of other people. After a few moments, my manager turned around, and I simply lifted my head up from the trolley and casually asked “Is there something that I can be sick in?”, then told my manager and another colleague that I felt like I was about to faint. A look of horror suddenly came over my manager’s face, and she and the other colleague rushed over to try and keep me steady. At the same moment, I felt like I was about to faint there and then (I had tunnel vision, just like I did before I fainted/ nearly fainted in the past), so I immediately sat down right where I was. I actually felt better (in terms of no longer feeling nauseous) once I had regained my vision, but because I’d nearly passed out, had a temperature, and still felt unwell, 3 first aiders were called to my department, and my manager (who seemed really worried about me, especially as I had recently been to Africa) decided that an ambulance should also be called. I started freaking out about my health at this point, as I really didn’t feel that things were serious enough to call an ambulance, but started to worry that something may be seriously wrong with me. This wasn’t helped by one of the first aiders telling me that the rash on my right hand/ arm looked a lot like insect bites. They also pointed out that I was shaking (due to the adrenaline kicking in to keep me conscious), but for a change, I actually wasn’t that bothered about it. Normally, having someone notice my shaking (or other physical symptoms of anxiety) would lead to me getting even more anxious.
The paramedics arrived really quickly and took all my vitals, and my blood sugar. They could find nothing physically wrong with me other than a raised temperature. However, given my recent African adventures, they decided that I should be taken to A&E just to be on the safe side. As I had been sat right at the entrance to our department (thus preventing my colleagues from returning/ processing trolleys), my colleagues all had to wait outside the department until my manager asked that they take an early break. I was taken out of our department in a wheelchair (just in case I fainted or felt faint again), with most of my colleagues looking on, which was rather embarrassing. I sheepishly said hello to one of the colleagues who had advised me to go home as I left, and she basically said “I told you so”>
I ended up sitting in A&E for about 2 hours before (thankfully) being told that there was nothing seriously wrong with me and being discharged. The doctors/ nurses reckoned that the weird rash on my hand/ arm was just some sort of allergic reaction, probably related to my eczema. Although I was much relieved, I felt pretty awful about the whole thing, as my sister had to miss classes at university, and my mum had to take the rest of the day off work, in order for them both to pick me up/ make sure I was okay. The member of staff who told me that it was likely just a flu-like viral infection seemed quite annoyed with me as well, and – even though it wasn’t my decision to call an ambulance – I obviously felt really terrible about wasting the time/ resources of an ambulance that could have gone to someone in a much more serious condition. I just hope that the medical professionals I’ve seen before about my fainting/ near-fainting problem are correct in saying that it’s related to anxiety, rather than a sign that something is physically wrong with me. In the CBT group that I attended, the therapists told us that it was practically impossible to faint when very anxious, due to all the adrenaline, so I do find it all a bit odd. Perhaps I’m just someone who faints easily.
I was sort of the talk of my workplace for days after my near-fainting episode, which was quite embarrassing. It’s nice to know that people care/ were concerned though. Honestly, the lengths I will go to just to skive off work, eh? The only good thing about the whole ordeal was that I got to relax, stay in bed, and do nothing but sleep and binge play Oblivion (the Elder Scrolls game) for three days. (Yes, I’m a massive nerd, and this is probably part of the reason why I didn’t have a boyfriend until very recently. But I make no apologies for that. It’s an old game but it’s a good game). Unfortunately, playing video games is something that I only get to do once in a blue moon these days, and I do miss the sense of adventure and escapism that they bring. (Again, nerd alert! You’re all free to run away now.)
Anyway…sorry for the word vomit. Life has been crazily busy lately (in a mostly pleasant way), hence the lack of posts. I haven’t forgotten my blog though.
i am posting this picture because i need to see it like this. me how i am right now. today. i’m not sucking it in or covering it up. this is my body. it is what it is.
notice how quickly we start to make a judgement. i do it too. don’t talk to me about weight or pounds. i mean it. don’t tell me that i am fat or not fat. skinny or not skinny. that i am beautiful on the outside. if you think anything about me is beautiful let it be my honesty in writing about this difficult topic.
because i don’t feel beautiful but i do feel honest.
since getting really sick with depression, anxiety and ptsd, my relationship with my body has gone through many changes. superficially my medication caused me to gain almost 30 pounds when all was said and done. my hair fell out for a while and i had terrible breakouts. it truly sucked. but my physical appearance was the last thing on my mind when i was sick. i was almost detached from my body – the source of my illness. on a deep down level i felt that my body had betrayed me by letting me become so unhinged. i couldn’t trust it anymore.
as i began to recover and stabilize i came out of the fog and began to notice myself again. “oh my god,” i thought, “who is this fat version of me?” i’ll be honest – i was totally mortified about my weight gain. it sounds superficial but it is very, painfully true. the change in my appearance made it hard for me to see people again – on top of having to own that i had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and then quit my job, i had to top it all off with 30 extra pounds.
does it sound like i was being hard on myself? i was. and to some degree i still am. it’s common to experience guilt and shame after an episode of severe mental illness – about many aspects of our lives, including how we look. we do the best we can at any given time and self loathing was the best i could do. i wasn’t able to give myself a break or tell myself that how i looked was ok. because it wasn’t ok with me and i felt that i had to work so very extra hard to recover from how bad life got – and how bad it made me look to myself.
i got motivated. i changed my diet completely and restricted carbs and sugar. i started working out all the time, pushing pushing pushing myself to drop the extra pounds. walking running lifting biking. and while i think that exercise and healthy eating are critical to my wellness, i wasn’t doing it entirely for my wellness. i was doing it in large part for my clothing size.
i started to drop weight – 5, 10, 15, 20 pounds. i got so many compliments: “wow you look amazing!” or the ultimate praise: “have you lost weight?” but i still felt fat. when i looked in the mirror i saw my size and it looked no different. even though i came within 5 pounds of my pre-breakdown weight i felt ten times as big. i asked my husband, my mom, my sister, over and over and over again, if i looked ok, bigger, smaller, better, worse. constantly checking to see what they thought. but no reassurance will be good enough if we aren’t prepared to accept it and if we can’t reassure ourselves.
in january i had foot surgery and wasn’t able to walk for six weeks or exercise for three months. the weight came back – 5, 10, 15 pounds. and i lost my resolve to honor my restricted diet. i felt like i was watching myself let go of all the progress i had made. once again putting myself down. once again feeling inadequate. and always feeling overweight. maybe not fat to you but fat to me. my own kind of fat.
i’m sick of caring about this. i’m sick of looking in the mirror and criticizing myself. i’m sick of feeling guilty when i eat something i like. i’m sick of comparing my body to somebody’s else’s body. i want to do better. i want to see myself differently when i look in the mirror.
but i can’t just snap my fingers and become body positive. (i totally wish i could). so i am forced to ask myself why i put so much energy into disliking my body, into criticizing myself. does it go back to losing my dad and the abandonment i felt as a 13 year old girl? it is the impact of the trauma on both my body and my mind, teaching me to distrust my instincts and the world around me? how much of this is cultural – our fixation on the skinny, perfect female body? let’s not forget mental illness – the lies that depression tells me about never being good enough and my anxious focus on what other people think. it’s all of this and more, more more. all tangled up in one messy self conscious knot.
i find it hard to just look in the mirror and tell myself i’m beautiful. it feels fake. like i am glossing over how hard this is for me. so instead i ask myself what my body has done for me. it carried me through a childhood trauma. it has allowed me to travel all over the country and some of the world. it alerted me when i was heading into a mental health crisis and gave me an opportunity to learn how to take better care of myself. today i use my body to cope with difficult symptoms, finding peace in deep breathing and physical movement. my body took me to spain on my bike journey last may – riding 200 miles in honor of the 20th anniversary of my dad’s suicide. these are things i can hold in the balance. things i can appreciate. connect with. feel proud of.
maybe loving my body has more to do with trust than it does with appearance. because right now my reflection lies. maybe it is just this first step, this awkward conversation that doesn’t have a happy ending.
one day i want to be body positive. right now i’m just body.
The memory now is like the picture was then,
When the paper’s crumpled up it can’t be perfect again
– ‘Forgotten’ by Linkin Park
If someone tells you something – whether that be that you’re ugly, worthless, a freak, no good, too horrible to have friends, etc – eventually, it becomes truth. So blindly true, in fact, that you don’t even question it. Especially if you are told these things when your brain is still developing (i.e. childhood or teenhood), and you lack the critical thinking skills of an adult. It is all the more true if you are told these things day in, day out, by multiple people. And the lies turned truths are even more effective if you have no friends to refute them, and to shield your highly fragile adolescent self-esteem from cruel words and actions. It’s sad but true that what someone says to you when you’re 13 years old can profoundly affect you for the rest of your life. The legacy of being bullied can last a lifetime.
Being bullied leaves an indelible mark. No matter the progress, the doubt – both in yourself and in others – will always remain. Perhaps time, and repeated positive social interactions, will help to heal. The memories will never go away, but perhaps with some hard work and luck, their impact can be blunted over time.
Edit: This post was taken from some “free-writing” I did a while back. I hope to FINALLY write more (mainly far more positive) blog posts soon.
University of Illinois researchers report the trauma associated with a sexual assault places victims at increased risk of a wide range of mental health conditions.
Investigators analyzed nearly 200 studies involving more than 230,00 adult participants and discovered the elevated risk was apparent regardless of how a researcher may have defined the sexual assault.
Researchers found a history of sexual assault is associated with significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.
The analysis, reported in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, represents a summary of 40 years of research on the subject.
“We compared people who had been sexually assaulted with those who hadn’t and found a significant difference in mental health,” said Emily Dworkin, who conducted the study as a graduate student with University of Illinois psychology professor Nicole Allen.
“We also compared people who had been sexually assaulted with people who had experienced other forms of trauma and found that the difference was still there, suggesting that sexual assault is associated with significantly increased risk for these mental health conditions as compared with other types of trauma.”
The association between sexual assault and mental health conditions was generally apparent across studies, regardless of how researchers defined sexual assault, Dworkin said. For example, some studies only examined forced assault, others included coercion or incapacitation, while others included any unwanted sexual contact.
“It doesn’t seem to matter how broadly or narrowly you define sexual assault — if you’re only looking at penetrative forms of assault or if you’re also including people who experienced assaults limited to fondling — the association is still there,” Dworkin said.
About 24 percent of participants across studies had been victims of a sexual assault, the researchers report.
The analysis also found that adults who had experienced a sexual assault were at higher risk of some mental health problems than others. The risk of contemplating or attempting suicide, for example, was highest relative to other conditions. The risks of PTSD, obsessive-compulsive conditions and bipolar conditions were almost as high as those for suicidality.
“We often think of obsessive-compulsive conditions and bipolar conditions as more biological or genetic in origin,” Dworkin said.
“While these findings are based on a smaller number of studies, they suggest that maybe those conditions are more trauma-related than we previously thought.”
The risk of mental disorders associated with sexual assault was consistent regardless of the age, race, or gender of the participants in a study, the researchers found.
The analysis also suggests that having been assaulted by a stranger or by someone using a weapon “appears to be associated with more risk of mental health consequences,” Dworkin said.
Not all sexual assault survivors experience mental health problems after an assault, the researchers said. The analysis suggests only that sexual assault survivors are at higher risk.
“Just because you’ve had this experience doesn’t mean you will have a negative mental health effect,” Allen said. “But if you do, our findings demonstrate that you are most definitely not alone. These are not uncommon responses to sexual assault.”
“I want to emphasize that conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality, depression, and anxiety disorders are very treatable, and they’re often treatable within the course of a few months,” said Dworkin.
“As a clinician, I see such tremendous benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy for people who have experienced a sexual assault. They say that they feel like they got their lives back.”
Source: University of Illinois
Conflicting parental opinions on how to manage a baby crying at night can undermine the co-parenting relationship — especially when the mother has stronger beliefs than the father.
Parental teamwork is key to healthy child development, and the findings underscore the importance of early and frequent communication between parents.
In the new study, researchers asked mothers and fathers how they felt about responding to night wakings — for example, whether they should attend to their crying infant right away or let him or her self-soothe — and their perceptions about their co-parenting.
Investigators found that when mothers had stronger beliefs than the fathers, the mothers also reported feeling worse about their co-parenting relationships.
Jonathan Reader, a doctoral candidate at Penn State and lead author, said the study was an important step in learning more about how parents can work together to promote child well-being.
“Setting limits about how to respond to night wakings is stressful, and if there are discrepancies in how mothers and fathers feel they should respond, that can reduce the quality of that co-parenting relationship,” Reader said.
“We found that for mothers in particular, they perceived co-parenting as worse when they had stronger beliefs than the father.”
While previous research has examined how a mother’s beliefs about infant sleep affects her baby’s quality of sleep, few studies have explored the father’s beliefs or how their beliefs about sleep affect co-parenting quality.
The study’s participants — 167 mothers and 155 fathers — answered questions about how they feel they should respond to night wakings.
For example, “My child will feel abandoned if I don’t respond immediately to his/her cries at night,” when the baby was one, three, six, nine, and 12 months old.
At the same time, participants also answered questions about co-parenting. Researchers asked if partners have the same goals for our child, and if they were experiencing depressive or anxiety symptoms.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that mothers generally had stronger beliefs about how to respond to night wakings than fathers, although both parents started to become less concerned about how to set limits as the infant got older.
But when mothers had stronger beliefs, their perceptions of co-parenting went down.
“During the study, we saw that in general mothers were much more active at night with the baby than the fathers were,” Reader said.
“So perhaps because the mothers were the more active ones during the night, if they’re not feeling supported in their decisions, then it creates more of a drift in the co-parenting relationship.”
Reader said the findings, published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology, confirm the importance of early and frequent communication between parents.
“It’s important to have these conversations early and upfront, so when it’s 3:00 a.m. and the baby’s crying, both parents are on the same page about how they’re going to respond,” Reader said. “Constant communication is really important.”
Dr. Douglas Teti, department head of the Human Development and Family Studies department in the College of Health and Human Development, also participated in the study. He added that the health and mindset of the parents are just as important as that of the baby’s.
“What we seem to be finding is that it’s not so much whether the babies are sleeping through the night, or how the parents decide to do bedtime, but more about how the parents are reacting and if they’re stressed,” Teti said.
“That seems to be much more important than whether you co-sleep or don’t co-sleep, or whatever you choose to do. Whatever you decide, just make sure you and your partner are on the same page.”
Moving forward, Teti said the next step is more research into how best to develop and enhance the co-parenting relationship, with attention paid to infant sleep.
“We want to learn more about how to put families in a position where they know that not every baby will be sleeping on their own by three months, and that’s ok,” Teti said.
“Most kids learn how to go to sleep eventually. Parenting has a lot to do with it.”
Source: Penn State
this piece was just published on healthline.com – click here to view it on their site.
if you looked up “overachiever” in the dictionary, you would probably find my picture where the definition should be. i grew up in a suburb of washington d.c., and am a product of its fast, almost frantic pace. i went to a top-tier college and graduated phi beta kappa, magna cum laude. and, for all of my working years, i have excelled at every job i’ve held. i was often the first to arrive and the last to leave the office. my to-do lists were the most organized (and the most color coded). i’m a team player, a natural public speaker, and i know just what to say or do to please the people around me.
sounds perfect, right?
except 99.9 percent of my colleagues and supervisors didn’t know that i also lived with generalized anxiety disorder. anxiety affects about 18 percent of adults in the united states. while some are frozen by anxiety, i am propelled by it at a million miles an hour. my particular brand of anxiety is “high-functioning,” meaning that my symptoms are masked in overdoing, overthinking, and overperforming.
for a long time, i didn’t recognize that working so hard and caring so much were wearing me down. they seemed like positive traits, not symptoms of a disorder, which is what makes it so difficult to spot.
but with high-functioning anxiety, no success is ever enough to quiet the fear. behind every perfect presentation and flawless project was a mountain of worry. i was plagued with guilt that i hadn’t done enough, or hadn’t done it soon enough, or hadn’t done it well enough. i lived for the approval of others and spent countless hours trying to perform at an impossible standard that my own anxiety had created. no matter how hard i worked or how proud i was of my achievements, the anxious part of my brain would scrutinize, criticize, and patronize me.
and, worst of all, i suffered in silence. i didn’t tell my coworkers or supervisors. my fear of judgement and misunderstanding was too big. the only way i knew how to deal with my symptoms was to try a little harder and never slow down.
anxiety was in the driver’s seat for the first 10 years of my career, taking me on a terrifying and relentless ride with many highs and even more lows … the train went off the rails a couple of years ago when i found myself descending into a major mental health crisis. thanks to therapy, medication, and a tremendous amount of hard work, i have come to accept and own the reality that i live with high-functioning anxiety. today i recognize my thought and behavior patterns and use practical skills to intervene when i feel myself getting sucked into the anxiety vortex.
1. recognize your symptoms for what they are
do you know the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety? if you don’t, get to know them. if you do, understand and acknowledge how they impact you. anxiety kicks our brains into overanalysis. “why, why, why am i feeling like this?” sometimes, there is a simple answer: “because we have anxiety.” ruminating over a simple decision, overpreparing for a meeting, or obsessing over a conversation often don’t mean anything more than that my anxiety is acting up.
mental illnesses are in part biological, and i try to remember to think of my anxiety as i would any other physical condition. this helps me to cut off my worry about how i am feeling at the pass. i tell myself, “i have anxiety and that is okay.” i can accept that today is a little more challenging and focus my energy instead on how i can help myself.
2. make friends with your fear
if you have anxiety, fear is your friend. you may not like it, but it’s part of your life. and it motivates so much of what you do. have you stopped to examine the nature of your fear? have you connected it back to past experiences that may be telling you that you aren’t smart or successful enough? why is it that you are so focused on the approval of others?
in my experience, anxiety can’t be ignored or pretended away. with the help of a therapist, i stopped to look my fear in the face. rather than feeding it with more anxiety, i worked to understand where it was coming from. for example, i can recognize that my fear isn’t so much about having a stellar presentation as it is about my need to be liked and accepted. this awareness has taken away some of the power it has over me. once i began to understand it, my fear became much less scary and i was able to make critical connections between the basis of my fear and how i was behaving at work.
3. reconnect with your body
anxiety is just as much physical as it is mental. people with high-functioning anxiety tend to live in our heads and find it hard to break the cycle of fearful thinking and feeling. i used to spend 10-12 hours at the office every day, and never exercise. i felt stuck, both physically and mentally. a critical component of how i deal with my symptoms today is by reconnecting with my body.
i use deep breathing all day, every day. whether i am in a meeting, at my computer, or driving home in traffic, i can take slow, deep breaths to circulate more oxygen, relax my muscles, and lower my blood pressure. i stretch at my desk. i take walks outside, sometimes during my lunch break. i exercise. i do yoga. and when i feel too busy or too overwhelmed … i do these things anyway. because i need them, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes. having a healthy relationship with my body gets me out of my head and channels my nervous energy in a more positive direction.
4. have a mantra, and use it every day
i have learned how to talk back to my fear. when that not-so-little voice inside starts to tell me that i am not good enough or that i need to push myself even harder, i have developed a few phrases to say back to it:
“who i am right now is good enough for me.”
“i am doing my best.”
“i am not perfect and i love myself for who i am.”
“i deserve to take good care of myself.”
this tool is especially helpful when it comes to dealing with a challenging symptom of high-functioning anxiety: perfectionism. having a mantra is empowering, and it gives me an opportunity to practice self-care and to cope with anxiety at the same time. i remember that i have a voice and that what i need is important, especially when it comes to my mental health.
5. learn how to intervene with yourself
anxiety feeds off of anxiety, like a giant snowball rolling downhill. once you have identified your symptoms you can learn how to intervene when they appear, and step out of the way before you get rolled over. i find it difficult to make decisions, whether they’re about designing a brochure or picking out a brand of dishwasher detergent. when i start to obsess and check back and forth, back and forth, i stop. i make myself walk away from whatever is causing my anxiety to rise.
one tool i use is setting a timer. when the timer goes off, i hold myself accountable and i walk away. if i’ve had a particularly stressful week at work, i don’t follow that with a jam-packed weekend. this may mean saying “no” and disappointing someone, but i need to prioritize my own wellness. i have identified activities outside of work that are soothing for me, and i make time for myself to do them.
learning how to moderate my own emotions and behaviors in response to anxiety has been key to managing my symptoms, and has decreased my overall level of stress.
6. create a support squad
one of my biggest fears was telling people at work about my anxiety. i was afraid of telling people around me that i was afraid — talk about a negative thought cycle! i would fall into a black-and-white thinking pattern of either telling nobody, or telling everybody. but i have since learned that there is a healthy in-between.
i reached out to a few people at the office whom i felt comfortable with. it really helps to be able to talk to one or two people when you’re having a bad day. this took a tremendous amount of pressure off of me, as i was no longer powering through each day with a superhuman persona of positivity. creating a small support squad was the first step toward creating a more authentic me, both in my work and personal life.
i also found that my being open worked both ways, because i soon found that my colleagues would come to me too, which made me feel really good about my decision to open up.
all six of these life hacks can be put together into an effective high-functioning anxiety toolbox. whether i am at work or at home or out with friends, i can use these skills to put myself back in the driver’s seat. learning how to cope with anxiety doesn’t happen overnight, something that we type a’s can find frustrating. but i am confident that if i put even a fraction of that overachieving energy into my own wellness, the results will be positive.
The post 6 daily hacks that help manage high-functioning anxiety appeared first on blue light blue.
I grew up with a Social Anxiety Disorder, which led to a long and complicated relationship with Depression. My mental health was never very good growing up, I struggled even in my early twenties. There were lots of break-downs, hospital visits and unfortunately, self-harm.
Through the years, I have always had my coping methods, including ones that were just bad for me and hurt my mental health long-term but the one coping method I clung onto, that was nothing but good for me, was walking.
It was my escape.
Walking in the woods and listening to birdsong or walking along the docks with my headphones on, it made me feel free, strong and clear headed. For me, there was nothing that could replace that feeling.
It also helped me with my Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for my social anxiety, as I had to ‘expose’ myself (I know, sounds a bit rude) to social situations and walking outdoors meant that I could do that in a more relaxing and slower paced way. Instead of just going to a party and meeting a heap of new people all at once, basically diving into the deep end, I went walking to start my social anxiety recovery journey.
I’d see a few people every 10 minutes or so and I actively tried to say hello or at least acknowledge each passer by with a smile, I found that people were much more approachable than I first thought. One day in particular, I’d gone for a half walk/half jog and I’d just tackled some really steep steps that had been built into a hill in the woods, when I noticed a photographer with all of their equipment by the stream. I’m a wedding photographer by trade and I like to dabble in other forms of photography too, so I figured I would push myself that little bit further and try to introduce myself. About 20 minutes later, we were following each others work on Facebook and I felt like a social fucking butterfly.
See, walking hasn’t just helped my mental health because it’s good for my body, released endorphins and makes me feel strong, it’s helped me because it’s got me out there in front of people and socializing even in just a small way.
I don’t know if you saw my last post but I mentioned that I’d be taking part in HEINEKEN’s Race To The Tower event to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind. This will be a two-day event where I’ll be walking over 52 miles, all in aid of raising money for mental health.
What has walking done for your mental health? Let me know in the comments.
If you want to sponsor me for the Race To The Tower ultra marathon in aid of Mind, you can do that here. No donation is too small!
I posted before I went on holiday, that me and Shay would be taking part in Heineken’s Race To The Tower event on the 10th of June. Well, the event has been and gone and I’d love to share the experience with you all, especially as some of you so kindly sponsored us – which we appreciate more than you will ever know!
This amazing trail marathon took place along the Cotswolds Way, somewhere I had never been before and was extremely excited about seeing. We decided we would walk instead of run as we had less than 6 weeks of training, I also haven’t run since before my illness last year so I wasn’t about to try for the first time at such a long distance. I’m glad we decided to walk because to put it bluntly, that was fucking hard enough!
The course itself was pretty brutal, so many hills! This was no ordinary marathon, with constantly changing terrain and steep climbs that were rewarded with breathtaking views.
This was an experience of a lifetime for me… to think that just a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have mentally been able to do it. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come with my anxiety disorder and that thought alone made me feel very emotional during the event, especially getting to the base camp and seeing that finish line. Another thing that made feel particularly emotional was how much this will help people with mental illnesses, being as Mind was the chosen charity for Race To The Tower. Lots of people in need of help will benefit from the money raised and that’s amazing to me. At a time where funding and resources are very low for mental health, that money raised is SO important.
I have to hand it to Heineken, they put on a damn good event that was extremely well organised. Being part of Team Heineken, they took such good care of us, sending us goodies for our training and things to keep us motivated. The pit stops were also super impressive – loads of food and drinks to re-energise and the base camp was incredible.
My favourite thing that happened…
At one point, literally at the peak of one of the hills, overlooking some stunning views, a herd of cows actually walked with us. We had to slow down because they’d surrounded us and they walked along side us for a good 15-20 minutes. After panting and heaving myself up this massive hill, to then experience this peaceful moment in nature was pretty incredible.
My least favourite thing that happened…
I swallowed a fly.
Things I’ll take away from this experience…
Firstly, the adrenaline was exceptional and no matter how anxious something makes me before I go into it, I know that I CAN do it and I’ll feel fucking fantastic afterwards. Secondly, I really want to keep raising money for mental health, so any suggestions would be wonderful. Thirdly, Heineken 0.0 really tastes like the real thing!
Thanks again to Heineken for having us on their team and inviting us to take part in such a brilliant event for a great cause. Also thank you to everyone who sponsored us, it means a lot. There’s still some time to donate if you wanted to sponsor us before and didn’t get chance: Any donation would be massively appreciated.
Also, check out the 52 Miles in 52 Seconds video on the Heineken UK Facebook page – you can see Shay at -47 seconds!!