As you probably already know, on 29th May 2017 I completed the Vitality London 10k and raised over £600.00 for Mind.
Please check out my experience of the event which I’ve posted a video about here.
Since that day, I’ve had time to reflect on what I’ve achieved and it has really sunk in that this goes so far beyond any monetary value.
In this post, I’m going to share a concise version of my mental health story to illustrate how it is possible to achieve things which you can’t even imagine when you’re going through the excruciating lows of your mental health conditions.
Let’s first rewind 10 years to 29th May 2007. I’m 15 years old and, although I don’t know it yet, mental health conditions including panic attacks, agoraphobia, anxiety and depression are going to have a massive impact on my life.
At that time, I had no real concept of mental health other than the stigmatised version which is prevalent in society. So when I began having panic attacks I didn’t understand what was happening to me.
Panic attacks made me feel detached from myself and reality. They made me feel like I was going completely mad; like I was inevitably going to be put in to a mental health facility and locked away forever.
So, at that time, with my lack of understanding and these scary thoughts in mind, it is no wonder that I developed agoraphobia because of my panic attacks.
The thought of having a panic attack terrified me. The thought of having a panic attack in a public place absolutely terrified me. Therefore, my strategy for coping was to try and stay at home for as much time as I could. That way, if I had another panic, lost control and went mad at least I’d be on my own and nobody would judge me.
I avoided family events, making plans with friends and even situations as simple to others as going for a short walk with my family.
It wasn’t just that I avoided these things though, I have cried uncontrollably and begged my family not to make me go out with them before because of how scared I was.
Even though I was able to overcome my panic attacks and agoraphobia over 5 years ago now, I have experienced several recurring bouts of severe anxiety and depression since then.
The most recent of these bouts was between Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016. My anxiety completely overtook me and caused me to endlessly obsess over thoughts and questions which have no answer. It was exhausting and debilitating.
During this period, like each of the several times I’ve experienced severe anxiety, as I became depressed due to my conditions I withdrew myself from the world. If not always physically, then certainly mentally.
In my mind, the way in which I withdraw myself during times in which I’m going through anxiety and depression is different from the agoraphobia which I used to experience.
I find that it is not a fear in the same way as my agoraphobia was but ultimately it has the same consequence. I become isolated and just going out to do daily tasks like go to work or go shopping are suddenly mountains to climb.
Even if I’m able to achieve something in this state. It will have been a constant struggle and I will not have been able to enjoy it.
It is difficult to explain such complex conditions and emotions in a blog post and ultimately I don’t think I can ever get across the amount of fear, hurt and helplessness that I’ve experienced because of my mental health.
Hopefully though I’ve got across just how isolated I’ve been at several points during the last decade and how consigned I was to the fact that I’d always be like that.
This should put into sharp focus for you how unbelievably massive and farfetched it would’ve seemed for me, even 18 months ago, to go to central London, take part in an event with around 15,000 people and actually enjoy the entire experience!
On top of that, in order to even start my fundraising I had to actually tell people about my conditions and be open about my mental health!
I would never ever have felt able to do any of that a few years ago. I would have been far too scared of what people would think of me to speak out.
Regardless of that, I wouldn’t have been able to go to an event like the Vitality London 10k without having to constantly reassure myself in my head that I would be okay; if I was even able to go at all.
Yet, here I am in a position where over the last year or so I finally can do what I want to do.
I now want to tell everyone about my mental health conditions to eliminate stigma and help others.
I now enjoy and revel in doing things and living life fully because after years and years of trying I have learnt to manage my conditions positively and I very rarely experience anxious thoughts anymore.
I feel motivated and passionate, I want to achieve things in my life and I want to make a difference to others because I know how tough mental health can be.
Fundraising, blogging, YouTube, volunteering and campaigning all give me a platform to try and make that difference.
Bizarrely, and unbelievably to the 15 year old me, I’m happy that mental health is still a big part of my life because it is in such a positive way now!
As I’ve said before, I’m not naïve enough to think that I’m invincible to mental health conditions now. I still take anti-depressants and I know there is a chance that my mental health could become worse again in the future.
However, I know that I am so well equipped to manage my mental health now that I would overcome the tough times again. Besides, I know now that it is nothing to be ashamed of to not be okay and that acceptance that I, like everyone else, am human and vulnerable to it means I feel at peace with it all.
Whatever happens to me over the rest of my lifetime will happen. However, I know now from personal experience that it is possible to go from extreme lows to massive highs and achieve things which I never thought I could.
That inspires me and I hope it inspires you too.