My name is Natalie and I am 25 years old. In 2014, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which was hard to accept. I was prescribed anti-depressants which I had to take every day. These would give me the worst headaches imaginable, make the room spin and make me sensitive to light. I hated taking them but knew it was a long road to feeling “normal” again.
My doctor told me that along with taking my medication, I should stop bottling things up and also try to do some light exercise to clear my mind. Talking felt difficult, especially because I wasn’t sure why I felt the way I did. Surrounded by supportive family and friends, I had a good job and had no reason to feel down. That was what made it more difficult, because I felt guilty for feeling bad when I knew how bad other people had it and how they would happily switch lives with me. Exercising was out of the question because I had no energy or motivation.
I felt guilty for feeling bad
I just wanted to go back to work and lead a simple life, either that or wrap up in bed and never move. It was a long journey that required a lot of talking, but also listening to how other people saw me. They didn’t judge me or think I was weak. Instead they offered support, a shoulder to cry on and someone to listen. Eventually, I returned to work and tried to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. I’m quick to criticise myself for things I can’t do, but don’t stop to look at what I’m good at.
I met a great guy and was honest and open with him from the start. With his support, I eventually weaned myself off of my medication, after consulting with my doctor. My head can still make me doubt myself, but I refuse to let it talk me out of things that I really want to do or to achieve. I have more positive voices in my head, and regularly flick through a few motivational quotes or stories for inspiration.
Running helps me clear my mind. It helps me to set goals and to see my progress, and gives me something to be proud of. I can see my improvements and my journey, and that keeps me pushing for more. My self-respect has increased. I watch what I eat, I try to exercise 4-5 times a week and I’m a much more positive person. I don’t dwell on the things that used to drag me down. Instead, I tell myself that life is too short and there will be something better out there.
The support of others was crucial
For me, the support of others was crucial. I didn’t want to be labelled, and I felt as though everyone would look at me differently, but that wasn’t the case. Everyone should have the support that they need to overcome their barriers. But not everyone is as lucky as I was to have a great support unit around me, and this is why I am now fundraising for Mind. My goal is to run a marathon, hopefully Birmingham 2018 – training permitting – and I felt that fundraising for Mind would complement my achievements as I run to help clear my mind and to take control of my thoughts and feelings. There are some days when running is the last thing I want to do, but as soon as I start out, I feel better for it.
Running helps me clear my mind
I started running in November 2016, and could barely run for 30 seconds without ending up red faced, out of breath and bowled over with stitch. At the end of November, I entered my first Parkrun (a timed 5 kilometre “race”) and completed it in 46:11. I had to walk a fair amount of it and felt absolutely shattered by the end. Since then, I started the C25K program using walk/run intervals, but then ended up adjusting it. At the start of March 2017, I entered a 10 kilometre race, and finished in 1:22:28, with a 5k time of 39:08. In March, I ran over 100 kilometres (challenge for Combat Stress UK), which is my best total for a month so far.
For 2017, I have a goal of running 1000 kilometres. My furthest non-stop run is 40 minutes; I covered 4.7 kilometres, focusing on keeping a consistent speed and not slowing for walks. By the end of the year, I hope to be run/walking for 20k, a half marathon. I hope to improve my 10k time, running non-stop, to under 1:20:00, and my 5k time to under 37:30 (under 35:00 is the big goal).
My goal is to run a marathon
Then, hopefully I can focus on extending my distance to 42k (full marathon distance) in 2018. My goal is just to complete my first marathon, so other than trying to run as much of it as I can. My focus is not on speed or setting a finishing time goal – it is to push myself to cover such a massive distance and to overcome the nagging voices in my head that are telling me it’s too far, or that I need to stop.
I have recently been allocated a London Marathon charity place with Mind, the mental health charity. Mind provides help and support directly to those in need. In addition to providing support across 140 centres in England and Wales, Mind also campaign for change. They believe that everyone with a mental health problem should be able to access excellent care and services. Aiming to help beat the stigma associated with mental health, they believe that everyone should be treated fairly, positively and with respect. They campaign on a range of issues that could affect anybody with a mental health problem. These include health services, legislation, protection of legal rights and employment. Join us to campaign for change.
Fundraising for Mind
If you would like to sponsor my journey, and help support the work that Mind do, please visit my Virgin Money Fundraising page.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here