Mental Health Awareness Week – Part 1

I published this on my personal Facebook page as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, after being told by one friend that ‘people need educating’ and a second friend who told me ‘don’t ever be silenced’.

I decided it was a good place to start with my personal blog after receiving credit for speaking out and sharing the most I’ve ever shared on a public domain………

“This week is Mental Health Awareness week and what struck me yesterday morning when I went out for a run and my PTSD symptoms (which I’ve had for 6 years) kicked in straight away is that I’ve seen nothing in my news feed around ‘open, honest conversations and mental heath’. Yes, I run, many people would assume that helps me manage my mental health, in some respects that’s true, but for the most part as soon as I start running I’m constantly triggered by the environment whether I’m on my own or in a group. These are mostly related to sensory information overload and can be things like sunlight or car headlights in my eyes, noise, speed of traffic, unfamiliar places, smells, darkness. My heart rate will increase, leading to difficulties regulating my breathing, sometimes chest pain. I have to have a constant dialogue with myself reminding myself that I am safe and use distraction techniques to the best of my ability.

My biggest fear – being in a group and my ‘flight’ response kicking in and suddenly feeling unsafe, like I’m not able to stay in present moment, that I ‘need’ to get home and running off home. This holds me back from participating in group runs as my confidence drops further adding to feelings of social isolation, lack of self worth, lack of belonging etc.

Last night I tried to start an open and honest conversation. Initially, it was met positively with a couple of open responses. The way I wrote it was blunt and to the point – the truth. I won’t apologise for this. I did re-read before posting, I am not prepared to ‘flower anything up’ or use ‘humour’ just to make it more palatable for readers 1) it’s a serious issue, 2) it’s not funny.

In my opinion I got singled out and therefore ended up feeling marginalised. This was never my intention of creating the post in the first place. I know I am not alone. Statistics say that 1 in 4 people at any one time will be struggling with their mental health. Why is it that we can’t have honest conversations just like we do if we’ve got a physical illness or injury? Things will never change if this is the case. Stigma will remain high, individuals will continue to be afraid to speak out for fear of judgement etc.

In January this year a very close friend of mine took her own life, leaving behind her 15 and 13 year old sons, partner and an extensive support network of friends. Ironically, she was diagnosed with PTSD a couple of years ago. She was also the third person in my life to have taken their own life.

Since then my life has been a blur and arguably those that have supported me and had me in their home for 2 mths would say I gave up on everything. That is true. I even stopped running which I would normally continue with despite a decline in my mental health (albeit running on my own). Last year I’d set myself challenges including Naseby 1645, Notts 20 and Manchester Marathon. When I stopped running I realised there was no way I would be able to achieve these things. Making the decision to withdraw/defer resulted in me losing the point. There was no point in running.

I’ve recently given away/transferred race places as I’m not strong enough for them. At the beginning of this week I had to delete one of my posts for a race place as individuals started having ‘banter’ amongst themselves about the place being taken. This might have been ‘banter’ but you know what it hurt me. No thought or consideration for why I might be selling my place.

Previously I’ve asked questions during the winter months about routes and street lighting. Genuine questions as I struggle running in unfamiliar places in the dark, triggers my PTSD and results in me feeling unsafe. A few days later there was a post on a ‘night race’. In the responses, again ‘banter’ this time about whether there was any street lights at Beacon Hill. Yes, you’ve guessed it I did not find it funny. It’s time that everyone of us took responsibility and showed some compassion or stopped to think for a moment that there may be a genuine reason why a question is being asked.

Despite being at home last night, my PTSD was triggered by the events and when that happens at home my flight response will still kick in resulting in me putting my shoes on and leaving my house not knowing where I am going all I know is I need to ‘get away’. I can end up miles away from home. Fortunately last night I was able to head back towards Birstall and walk a loop.

My PTSD is not solely triggered when running, I live with the symptoms and have to work hard with myself having a constant dialogue throughout the day, everyday. I experience images and flash backs and I can disassociate as my brains way of shutting down my response to stress overload, not something I have control over, it’s an autonomic physiological reaction as is my anxiety and panic.

I don’t have an end to my day as I don’t sleep properly, I can’t think it’s ok at 10pm I’ll go to bed and I’ll get a break until morning. I’ll go to bed and be woken by nightmares and a racing heart and have to get up 2-3 hrs after I’ve fallen asleep. Then at some point I’ll be able to go back to bed and get say 2hrs of sleep then I’m awake again. It’s no wonder that I feel exhausted most of the time as I never get proper rest that allows my brain and body chance to restore some energy for the day ahead.

All of this is going on and most of you will be oblivious as I try to hide it from the world, as I try to have meaningful contact that perhaps will give me a break or provide some distraction even if just for an hour. Then if I really feel I can’t hide it, I will simply just disappear and not really leave the house.

I am not after any kind of sympathy or even any kind of response from those that take the time to read this. This is my life, this is what I have to deal with on a day to day basis and you know what it’s bloody hard. I do it on my own most of the time, I don’t have people phoning me or knocking on my door popping round for coffee. I know there are people reading this that would say if you need anything just ask, but you know what actions speak louder than words and the truth is I’m unlikely to ask for anything as most of the time due to my lack of self worth my brain would tell me that if you really wanted to then you would make the effort too.

I couldn’t have managed this year without 2 very special people and you know who you are ❤ x”