You don’t have to be alone
You do not have to deal with these feelings on your own.
For just under twenty years, this is exactly what I did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no martyr to my mental health problems. I spoke to my GP and was given anti-depressants that balanced my mood for the most part. But with the exceptions of my husband and parents, no one even knew there was anything wrong.
I didn’t really have any friends; and my brother and I aren’t close, so he didn’t even know. You see, when you are fighting depression and/or anxiety, you spend most days behind a mask of normality. To anyone who met me I was a bubbly, easy-going person who always had a smile on her face and a self-depreciating sense of humour. I became good at hiding the way I was feeling. I think even those who knew forgot that there was anything wrong as it was never talked about.
Depression is often misunderstood
I think my parents and husband thought I had just been “a bit down.” Or “down in the dumps” and I had managed to “snap out of it” or that I had “pulled myself together.” They didn’t understand that depression is a mental illness and it’s not something you can just snap out of. Mental illness is still a term that is surrounded by stigma; it’s a taboo subject that people don’t want to mention for fear that they will be thought of as mad, weak or dangerous – someone to pity or fear.
Finding a place where I belong
It wasn’t until May this year that I finally found my perfect family. I signed up for “Miles for Mind” a running challenge to raise funds for mental health. Over the month, I pledged to run 50 miles. I dutifully joined the Facebook group where we were to post our runs and chat with others who were taking part in the challenge. Many were also fighting their own mental health demons, or knew someone that was.
The sense of community was amazing. We congratulated each other on our progress and commiserated when times were hard. We ran more miles than we needed so that those who were struggling would also be able to accomplish their goals. Importantly, they would also receive their well-deserved medals. Mental health wasn’t a taboo subject here, it was accepted as the norm to chat about how you were feeling.
Sense of community spirit
To receive encouragement and kind words from these complete strangers, many of whom were going through the same battles, was awe-inspiring. We were a team with a singular goal; to raise as much money as possible, to help others like us. I completed over 100 miles during the month of May, running 50 miles more than I needed. It became far more important to me that those extra miles would be donated to another person who had struggled with the challenge than the satisfaction that I had smashed my own target
We didn’t want to lose this wonderful community spirit that had developed between the “Miles for Mind” group. Luckily, one of our number set up a follow-on group, “Team Jelly Baby” so that we could continue to grow and support others. This group and these people, most of whom also completed the challenge, are my mental health family. I now know that I won’t ever have to be alone with my demons again. My running family will be there with me.
Thank you to our guest blogger Helen for sharing her story. When people take their time to raise awareness and fundraise for us, we support them every step of their journey