I started running to lose weight and get fit three years ago. I ran away from other people in deserted lanes, passageways between houses and in the nearby woods; so that people wouldn’t laugh at me – a fat woman trying to run, who was I kidding? Having been chunky, plump or large all my life, I was used to being laughed at, taunted and bullied but I had a way of dealing with these people; I hid behind a mask. I joked along with the taunters, the bullies and others who took pleasure in throwing names at me, and I pretended that it didn’t bother me. Sticks and stones and all that – but it did hurt. I wasn’t prepared to give anyone more ammunition to hurt me by letting them see me try to run. I wasn’t depressed or anxious in those days, I was just another fat kid being taunted by others but I think it is a mindset that has stayed with me, now thirty years later and contributed to my current depression and anxiety issues.
As I got better at the whole running malarkey and began to lose weight and gain some semblance of a shape, I began to care less about hiding away from others when I ran. I started to feel more in control of not only my body, but also my mind. I felt more positive about the way I looked but, more importantly, it also had a huge impact on my self-confidence – I finally had some that wasn’t all a front that I put on for others. It didn’t hurt that over a period of two to three years I had gone from a size 24 to a size 12 and could wear anything I wanted. Self-confidence is amazing, especially when you’ve never had it before.
I have suffered from depression on and off for twenty years now. If first reared its ugly head when I was off sick from work for a year with a back injury. I was in pain, alone for most of the day and having problems with pressure from work into coming back before I was ready. I started taking anti-depressants and continued with them for several years. They were very mild, but they kept me on an even keel. I weaned myself off them because I felt that I no longer needed them, and I didn’t want my family and friends to think I was weak for taking them for so long. I was wrong – there is nothing wrong with needing or asking for help when you are struggling with everyday tasks and no one should ever make you feel that this makes you weak or fragile or in any way less than you are.
I wish I had found running earlier in my life; at the grand old age of 46 years old with greying hair and dodgy ankles perhaps I came too late to the party to achieve much speed or endurance but, as I look back on my dreaded cross country lessons at school and all the ways I tried to avoid taking part in them, I think maybe I came to running at exactly the right time for me and that was when I needed it most.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need support, Dorset Mind can help. Find out how here.
Thank you to our guest blogger, Helen, for writing this blog.