As part of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, I will be teaming up with other mental health advocates who have found such vastly different ways to heal and continue their recovery journey.
Today I have collaborated with the inspirational Jessica Robson from www.runtalkrun.com who found a key component to her mental wellness through running. She is sharing her story below in the hope of inspiring others to speak out, stop suffering in silence and to break the stigma.
Jessica Robson – Running for Mental Health Maintenance
I’m Jessica Robson, and on a daily basis I work to maintain my recovery from depression, anxiety, and bulimia. I was SO thrilled to be approached by Ashlee to write for such a cool organisation like ACE. I think they are doing an incredible job at raising awareness and funds for an often stigmatised topic.
When you grow up with severe anxiety, the “grown-ups” as I knew them to be, classed me as a “shy girl”. The word “shy” is so vastly overused with children and adolescents who have a genuine fear of talking to other people. A genuine fear that they will be ridiculed the second they open their mouth. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly fond of P.E. or extra-curricular activities, despite going to the most nourishing school with the most incredible opportunities. One of the only places I could find my sanity was in swimming training, whereby there was no one else relying on my performing well. It was just me, the water, and the relative silence that I was craving from a world that made me want to hide.
Of course, when I left my sweet seaside-town school, I let go of all that swimming training. It took me a few years (and a realisation that my teenage metabolism wasn’t going to last forever) that I decided to give running a go.
Running in itself isn’t what saved me. I ran “solo” for years, with my fear of under-performing playing a very large role in stopping me running with others. In fact, the first time I decided to run with my ex-boyfriend, I actually had a panic attack – primarily caused by a spiralling feeling of “I’m no good at this, I can’t keep up, what will he think of me now”. Funnily enough, at the time, I didn’t even recognise the absence of breath as being a panic attack and actually thought that my inability to breathe was just another indicator of my lack of running capability.
So how come I promote running as a form of mental wellness maintenance? If running was a fear-inducing, panic-ridden experience, how on earth did that then translate into my recovery?
Putting it simply, it is the decision to lace up again.
For all the half-marathons and full-marathons that I booked and never showed up to out of fear of under-performing. For all the times I came home from a run and just cried at how “bloody slow” I felt. Yet somehow, over the past 5 years, I’ve stuck to it. I’ve laced up, again, and again, and again. And that is what builds resilience.
Resilience is a core component to our mental wellness – a vital instrument in our mental toolbox to deal with the shit that life throws at us. Running has taught me, if nothing else, that to just try again is the only thing we can do, in the face of adversity. Not every run will provide us with a runners high. Christ, I’ve had more tears than endorphins over the years. So, yes, running is wonderful at clearing your head but I think it is even more wonderful at building your strength and ability to respond with flexibility and sight of the “wider picture” when things go wrong.
That is why running was, and likely always will be, my most valuable method to fighting against my mental health struggles.
If you’d like to read more on my journey and how I now help others build their resilience through running take a look at my physical and virtual running community – Run Talk Run.
And for anything mental health related with stories from other inspiring runners and humans alike please see www.runtalkrun.com
@jessicamaryrobson / @runtalkrun x
ARE YOU OR IS SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEEDING HELP?
Contact the Samaritans – Free – Anonymous help – Via phone or email
Mind – The Mental Health Charity – Learn more – Make donations – Talk to someone