Running for MIND - Great South Run
For a little while now I've been saying I'm going to write a blog post about why I'm running for MIND in this years Great South Run. It has definitely taken longer than I planned to just sit down and write.
While there has been quite a few things going on, applications, interviews, odd jobs, I have in truth, properly put off writing this for other reasons. My feelings, emotions and experience are the reasons I am running for MIND, they are also the reasons I haven't spoken about my chosen charity as much this year.
In previous years I've posted and asked for donations, when running for the amazing NSPCC. This year has been different.
I have deliberated on how much to expose myself and my experience. This has been a very difficult decision. In considering this I have realised the difference reading certain posts and hearing certain comments has made to me, and how powerful that message or story can be, even if it is to just one person. Additionally I believe I have changed in a positive way because of the support I've received and found. But I recognise that there were times when that could have been different. It is with that in mind that I write this...
My experience, or story, is just that. It is mine. I am not about to pretend to know or assume how other people deal with things, react or come to terms with certain events. We all experience different events during our life's, and are affected differently by them. I know people who have been through worse than me, but in the moment that doesn't help, it doesn't make a difference. At least it didn't for me.
In late January to early February 2007 I started a relationship with someone that became very special to me. We shared amazing times and memories over six years. We then celebrated our love with family and friends as we became husband and wife in 2013 and continued for two more years in happily wedded bliss. Until January - February 2015 when the relationship suddenly ended.
Louise (I've changed all the names) decided she was not happy anymore and ended the relationship. For me this was a horrific surprise and something I could never have prepare for. Both now and at the time I respect the difficult decision Louise made and the courage it took to say, I'm not happy, this isn't what I want.
That being said, my closest friend, my love, my wife, telling me this rocked me to my core. In that moment I suppose you make an unconscious decision. Mine was to cover these emotions. To hide the horror, the shock, the hurt, the pain, the questions, the doubt and the shame.
At this time I travelled approximately one hour twenty minutes to work. I knew the route well and there was a steady flow of traffic through the country roads, so it's a long time to sit and think.
I became short with friends and colleagues when questions or conversations about personal life came up. But I managed to remain positive and professional at work (I think). I even managed to fake this 'professional' me in my personal life. This I believe is the outcome of that first unconscious decision. I had times where I lost myself in the fake facade I had created. This meant I also had moments where my emotions would suddenly rush out.
The first time this happened I was at work, I just managed to make it to the toilets before breaking down. After I don't know how long, it was a while, I managed to sort my self out and started to walk back to the office. On the less than a minute walk I knew I was about to go again. It was all I could do to ask my boss for a quick chat. I'm not sure what I was thinking, I guess that in that moment I knew I wasn't going to be able to work as normal and in an attempt to keep it professional wanted to inform her that I wasn't going to be up to much today. Well, that 'professional' me lasted about ten seconds. I told Kim everything. She was the first person I had spoken to about the relationship ending, and would be the only person I'd talk to about this for some time.
This is where the long drive into work became a bigger issue. I started to have repeated thoughts of self harm and even considered my willingness to continue with life. At this time, I felt like I had lost everything, I had failed as a husband and lost the person that mattered most to me. My inability to be honest with myself prevented me from seeing what was happening. Any questions from the few family or friends who knew about the break up where met with neutral reassuring responses. This was a difficult period, suddenly having a lot of alone time and also not wanting to talk to people. Looking back I think two things really helped to start to shift my attitude from that dangerous downward spiral.
The first was the support and friendship from Kim and my two closest colleagues. They knew something was wrong but never pushed me to talk about it, never complained when their questions about last night or the weekend where met with short dismissive answers. Whatever happens in the future these three people will always be in my heart for the support they gave me at this time. They were there at a time when I was not ready to talk to old friends, people who had known me for a long time and known myself and Louise as a couple.
The second was online resources and material promoted (and provided) by MIND and similar charities. While I could never build my confidence to engage with someone / anyone at the charities and ask for help. Reading and listening to other people's stories started to help me come to accept my thoughts and feelings and recognise the negative thoughts as...well, just that. They where thoughts and understandably so. BUT this was not what I wanted.
From this point I was able to make small gradual changes. Although some were bigger and more risky.
I left my permanent post, and those amazing colleagues, to accept a job closer to home. So I was able to cut out that long drive, where I was often having negative thoughts. The new job was another focus and there was a lot of change happening at my new institution to keep up with. I made an effort to socialise more and meet new people. I still keep in regular contact with my former colleagues, even lining up the occasional man date with one of the guys. As for Kim, well she has become my best friend. She is the person I go to first for advice, she has seen, and known, me at my lowest, and still accepted me.
You never know what is going to happen in the future. But I will always remember the time these guys where my saviours and supported me through the most difficult moments in my life so far.
Taking the new job did come with its own risks, I gave up an awesome permanent job to accept a short term fixed contract. Mentally this comes with its own challenges, of feeling like you have nothing permanent in your life. But in the short term, I think, this is what I needed.
I have changed a lot in this time. I am still me, but I'm also different. The mental, emotional and I suppose psychological scares that I have will be with me forever. But even in this short time, I have come to accept them, acknowledging them and in turn their affect on me lessens.
I have learnt to trust people again, and now find myself able to talk about my experience. This, is a big change.
That tells you a little about my experience and how for me MIND was one of two support systems that helped me during a very difficult time. I am someone who has benefited from the advice, support and information they provide. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in MIND and in similar charities that work to support and inform us all on issues related to mental health.
I mentioned at the start that I am running the Great South Run (this weekend), this will be my 5th time running. Previously I have asked for donations, I'm still keen to get some money coming in, I have a modest target of £50, so every £1 counts! However my main aim is to get people talking about mental health, to engage people in conversations and raise awareness of this hidden health issue.
Thank you for reading.
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