14. Running for the Soul

Today’s guest blog comes from a dear friend of mine Ali, who publishes Diary of a Detour  As part of my Self Help for Mental Health series,  Ali shares her story about how running and exercise keeps her demons at bay.

Let me start this blog by saying that I’m no Paula Radcliffe.  When you see runners gracefully moving along roads or in parks then they don’t look like me.  I’m a 51 year old, wobbly, sweaty, tomato-faced, slow, jogger.  I never ran at school (God forbid!) and didn’t actually start doing any proper exercise until after I had my older son, some 20 years ago, mainly because I was a size 18 and needed to change my lifestyle for the better.

So I started running to lose weight, and I started slowly, building it up gradually for a few months, but then in my first 10k ‘race’ (I wasn’t actually racing, I was just grateful to finish!) I got an injury which has plagued me periodically ever since.  My knee hurt and so I saw a physio who diagnosed ITBS, which is usually when runners do too much too quickly, and the ‘band’ which runs from your hip to your ankle rubs against your knee and causes inflammation.  I have had an issue with my iliotibial band (ITB) ever since then and although I go to the best places to be fitted for my running shoes (I can’t recommend Alexandra Sports in Portsmouth highly enough) I still feel the odd twinge.  But I’ve generally been fine since I switched to the Brooks GTS range which suits my odd gait and pronation (where my foot rolls when running).  So please take my advice and always get fitted with the right shoes before you start running!

running-medals-marathon
My lovely friend Tori and I at the end of our 1000km – she bought us both medals!

 

I have always felt really self conscious running in public.  Even in the right gear, with a good and supportive sports bra, you can’t beat a Shock Absorber! I wobble in all the wrong places.  This is why I run so early in the morning, to try and get back before most normal people wake up.

I spent a number of years taking part in 10k events, just because they are good for giving you something to focus on.  In the year I turned 40 I challenged myself to get a personal best in the Bognor 10k (my local race) and I did it!  I haven’t actually beaten that time in the decade since, which is fine by me.   In fact, two years ago I knew I wouldn’t beat my best time so I decided to go incognito and dress up in a character outfit to run for charity.  I raised a few thousand pounds for the Alzheimer’s Society and waved at lots of happy people along the route, along with high fiving many children as I ran.

funrun-marathon
Me running as Percy the purse with my amazing friend Emma keeping me company!

The longest I’ve ever run was the Great South Run in Portsmouth, which is 10 miles, which I’ve done twice.  It’s in October so the weather is a complete lottery.  The first time I ran it was on a wet and windy day, which was horrific, and the second time was on an unseasonably scorching ‘Indian summer’ day, which was equally difficult as it was SO hot!

ali2
A selfie at the end of the hottest Great South Run ever

In 2015 a friend and I decided to run 1000km over the course of the year, which for most proper runners doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 20km per week, EVERY WEEK OF THE YEAR, regardless of illness, injury or weather.  We are made of hardy stuff and we did it, finishing with a lovely 5km run together in Bosham which is midway between our respective homes in Portsmouth and Bognor.

But now, I don’t run for speed.  I don’t run for distance either.  I run for my SOUL!  I’m still really into exercise and keeping fit, as I strongly believe it will help me stay mobile and alert when I get older.  It will help my heart and my bones, but most importantly it will help my MIND.

Running is ‘me’ time, it is when I plug in my earphones and listen to the same playlist every single time, which allows me to really switch off.  I get to think my problems through.  When I’m stressed (which is most of the time) or especially anxious (which is extremely often) then I can often put things into perspective during a run.  I resolve issues too, as it’s a chance to think through my problems, whether it’s something to do with the family, work or anything else.  I also get brilliant ideas for my blog!  I can be really creative, and if I need to then my phone is with me if I want to write anything down.

On top of all these benefits, when the weather is nice, then that period of the day when the world is waking up is just so glorious.  The early morning dogwalkers are out and about but the streets and beach are generally deserted.  It’s ‘your’ time of the day.

What is also brilliant is when you take your running shoes on holiday and get to see much more of a city than you would have done by just walking, or even travelling by car.  As I go out early still, I’ve seen some incredible sunrises in amazing places.  Whether in Paphos, Cyprus, or Toronto, New York, Los Angeles or Santa Monica.  The memories will stay with me forever!

torronto-canada-sunrise
Look at this sky!  I would have missed this if I hadn’t been on an early morning run.

I know running isn’t for everyone, and to some people I probably AM Paula Radcliffe, as they do nothing at all, but I would highly recommend taking up any kind of exercise if you are suffering from mental health problems because IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER.  The endorphins in your brain are so powerful!  You’ll feel a fantastic sense of achievement.  You’ll start the day with a clear mind.  And on top of that your heart and body will thank you for it.  And if you want to, it can help you lose weight – although diet and resistance exercise are equally beneficial, and I have plenty of other fitness ideas in my blog for fitness challenges.  Although I run on my own, it can also be extremely sociable, as there are many running clubs who welcome people of all abilities.  Or just enlist a friend and try the ‘couch to 5k’ plan.

Your soul will thank you.  Good luck!

Do check out  Diary of a Detour a fab lifestyle blog about fitness, travel and scooters amongst other things.

And have a look at some of the other posts that I’ve previously written about Self Help for your Mental Health.

1.Self Help For Your Mental Health 
2. My Mental Health Story 
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

 

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The Smiling Fanny Manifesto

I came across “The Smiling Fanny Manifesto” when reading a novel by Lucy Anne Holmes entitled “Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy”. It’s a lighthearted book but Jenny (Fanny) suffers with depression and her friend Phillipa gives her this list of things to do to keep the black dog at bay. Even if you don’t read the book or suffer with depression, have a look at the list as I think we could all do with a little bit of smiling fanny in our lives!

THE SMILING FANNY MANIFESTO (text taken from the book)

  1. Phone a friend
    You can always call me. Just say, “I am calling you because I have to tick it off my list.” And then we can chat about the usual: what we shall name our future children, our top five sandwich fillings, what you would say to Robbie Williams if you bumped into him on the street
    .
  2. Grow something
    Not like something different every day, just always have something growing, like a plant! (Mould on an old cup of tea doesn’t count!!!!)
  3. Count your blessings
    Before bed you have to think of things from the day that were good and that you’re grateful for. One, very random, off the top of my head example could be “my best friend, Philippa”!!!
  4. Have a face-to-face conversation with somebody.
    Skype doesn’t count, you actually have to leave the house – it could just be, “Lovely day, today, isn’t it? Do you know what the forecast is for tomorrow?” to the man in the corner shop.
  5. Give yourself a treat
    Doesn’t have to cost money – a nice bath, a trip to the charity shop to try out new outfits, that sort of thing.
  6. Laugh
    my favourite – see attached gift!!! (comedy dvds in story)
  7. Exercise
    can just be a ten-minute walk round the block.
  8. Smile or say hello to a stranger
    has to be a different person to number 4. 
  9. Do a kind deed
    either helping someone or going out of your way to be nice to someone.
  10. Watch no more than two hours of telly a day.

    If you do suffer with depression please check out my series of self help blogs HERE

    smiling fanny mannifesto photo lucy ann holmes 600

 

If you want to read the book you can buy it HERE from Amazon on Kindle and paperback.
just-a-boy-standing-in-front-of-a-girl-lucy-anne-holmes

13. Self Help For Your Mental Health – Hope

So that’s it, the end of my series of Mental Health Blogs! They were extremely hard to write and probably even harder to publish but it was something that I wanted to do in the hope that it would help others. If everything happens for a reason then perhaps my getting ill was so that I could tell my story and give someone else a little bit of comfort and understanding.

I don’t want pity or sympathy. I just want to raise Mental Health Awareness. I want to let people know that there is light at the end of that very dark tunnel. I want to give people some hope that they can have a great life again.

Now whilst mental illness is clearly a big part of me, it doesn’t define me. I’m that same person you knew last week before I’d published this series. I’m still the wife, mother, daughter, friend, who holds down several jobs as well as a whole load of voluntary roles too. I’m still the person who loves going out with friends to see bands. I’m still the person who likes upcycling things and making them usable and loved again. I’m still the woman who loves tea and cake!  It’s just sometimes I get a little bit ill, and that illness is inside my brain.

Incidentally, it’s World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10th October 2017 so it would be great if you could give this blog a share to show your support for Mental Health Awareness. Thank you.

I realise that everyone experiences different forms of mental illness but I can only write about what I know.  I’d love to know if anything here has helped you as a sufferer or carer, or if just reading that someone else has experienced the same as you gives a little comfort. If it has please leave me a line or two in the Comments Box below (you don’t have to give your real name and email addresses doesn’t appear). I hope you’ll continue to follow this blog for my travel stories, tips and recipes, or pop back and reread this series if you need to (all links below).

I wish you all the very best on your journey to recovery, and thank you for reading. 🙂

1.Self Help For Your Mental Health
2. My Mental Health Story
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

13 hope
https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx 
https://www.thecalmzone.net/
https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us 

12. Help & Support For Carers & Friends of Mental Health

Depression can affect anyone of any age, background or sex. It doesn’t matter if someone has a seemingly perfect life, mental illness can still hit and consume their mind. It is much more than feeling a bit low or down in the dumps. It leaves the sufferer feeling useless, worthless and unloveable. They can see no end to the pain and feel full of despair. They may feel that you would all be better off without them. As much as they would love to “pull themselves together” and be happy again, it just doesn’t work like that. All the mental anguish and energy has left their mind and body exhausted. Their tiredness is like nothing you can imagine.

Being a carer or a friend to someone with mental illness might just be the toughest thing you ever have to do. It will push out a range of emotions that you might not feel comfortable admitting. Watching the person you love change in front of your eyes, feeling unable to help them and dealing with a total change in your relationship whether it be a parent, sibling, friend or partner is never going to be easy, but it will be so worth it when you get that person back.

You will witness a whole new range of behaviour. The depressed person might become really needy or push you away mentally and physically. They might be verbally abusive or not talk at all. They might not want to go anywhere or do anything that you previously enjoyed doing together. They might not wash, dress or eat. They will suffer irrational thoughts and solutions, but to them it will seem very real. None of this is personal, they are just totally incapable of controlling their actions and thoughts, and will have no energy or desire. There is no joy left in anything.

However, there are plenty of things you can do to help:

* Push for medical help for them and go with them to appointments. You may be able to answer questions that they cannot, and you will remember what the Dr has said.

* Learn as much as you can about mental illness so that you can reassure them (and yourself) that they will get better and that all the thoughts and symptoms are due to illness.

* Listen to them even though you might not agree with what they are saying.

* Think before you speak and bite your tongue. Do not express your anger, or exasperation. Let them know you will always be there for them. One wrong word really will be enough to push someone over the edge.

* Make them tiny meals and snacks, especially childhood foods (see My Mental Health Diet blog)

* Help to bath and dress them.

I was in such a bad place with no energy or desire to do anything. My mum had to bath me like she did when I was a child.

 * Offer solutions to irrational thoughts.

I felt that if we moved closer to my parents I would be well again, even though they only lived 
10 minutes away. Thankfully my husband said that we couldn’t afford it at the moment but we’d save up and do it soon – that gave me hope that there was a solution in sight – it was totally irrational and unrealistic but he didn’t shoot down my idea)

* As a friend, keep in regular contact with them even if your friendship becomes one-sided for a while. Just a simple message like “hi, thinking of you today” or sending a funny photo will help.

* Reaching out will be hard for them to do so let them know you’re always there to listen. One day they might chose to open up.

* And of course give the simplest thing of all, a hug. Sometimes that’s all that is needed.

Depression can be just as draining on a carer as it is a sufferer so you must also take care of yourself.

* Get some support from people who understand what YOU are going through (a counsellor, support groups, friends)

* Don’t beat yourself up if you feel resentful or angry. I have seen the illness from both sides and even though I understand the illness I still got frustrated with my mum.

I was so cross that she didn’t fight it more, why didn’t she push herself to go out and do things!

* Don’t lose hope when they show signs of recovery then slip right back. It is the nature of the illness, they will take one step forward, then two back. But in time the forward steps get bigger and last longer.

* Allow yourself time away to do something for you, keep going to the gym or an occasional night out.

Good luck and thank you for caring. I’m sure my recovery from that first bout wouldn’t have been possible without such strong support from my husband, my family, and my dog!

I hope this might give you an insight into mental illness as a carer, particularly if the sufferer cannot explain how they are feeling. Does anyone have any more tips to share for carers or friends?

Links to my Mental Health Series:
1.Self Help For Your Mental Health
2. My Mental Health Story
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

 

12 carers

https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx 
https://www.thecalmzone.net/
https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us 

 

11. Self Help For Your Mental Health – Meditation, Hypnosis & Relaxation

One key element of recovery, or just existing, is to relax your mind and your body. Of course this is the hardest thing to do when your mind is either whirring or just dull with pain. Here are a few tips to give you a helping hand.

MEDITATION – Even when I’m in a good place I find meditation impossible as my mind wanders off constantly. The experts say this is ok but I find it frustrating which leaves me far from calm. I have recently discovered Guided Meditation which actually works for me. I find I can quickly get into a trance like state and when my mind wanders off it keeps pulling me back on track with a gentle reminder. There are many on You Tube, just keep searching til you find a voice that soothes you. Here’s one that I personally like to start you off. Guided Meditation For Inner Strength, Ease & Clarity  or Guided Meditation For Anxiety & Stress , this time with a male voice that includes a lovely visualisation journey.

HYPNOSIS – Thoughts vary amongst the medical profession about whether or not depressives should be hypnotised. I was never willing to take that step but have found a series of “hypnosis” cds by Mark Bowden that to me are an extension of Guided Meditation and Relaxation. There are a variety of subjects including Depression, Panic Attacks & Anxiety, Self Confidence and various relaxation scenarios. Each CD has an intro, a daytime and night time session. I’d recommend them if only for the fact that they give you a half hour relaxation session. If they do more, then that’s even better. Priced at around £12 they can be purchased from his website.

BUBBLE BATHS – I love a good soak in a hot bath and can easily stay in one for a couple of hours. However, when I was very depressed it would be the place I went to and cried without anyone knowing. This just left me feeling absolutely desolate. As my baths were normally before bedtime, I was in the worst possible mindset for sleep. If this is your scenario, take some upbeat music in with you and set a timer of say half hour. If you’re not relaxed in that time get out. If you’re not up to making that decision for yourself make sure someone else will tell you to get out.

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES – Massage, Aromatherapy, Reiki, Reflexology, etc. All are great forms of relaxation and a lovely treat but can be expensive. To cut costs search out a mobile therapist or a college student who are generally much cheaper than a salon.

DISTRACTION HOBBIES – Try things you’ve formally enjoyed like listening to music or reading. If you don’t have the energy or concentration for novels, try magazines or short stories.
Give colouring a go, crosswords, word searches or number quizzes. Anything that requires a little bit of mind distraction but is still easy to achieve without having to put a lot of effort in.

Please let me know if these suggestions help, or if you’ve got any other ideas or things that relax you.

Links to my Mental Health Series:
1.Self Help For Your Mental Health
2. My Mental Health Story
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

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https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx 
https://www.thecalmzone.net/
https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us 

10. Self Help For Your Mental Health – Qi Gong & Tai Chi

This is my favourite post in this series and calms me instantly. I have been practising Tai Chi and Qi Gong for the last couple of years and have found it to be hugely beneficial to my physical and mental health. I have attended classes and done it at home to varying degrees. The breathing alone is great for anxiety, and in time you will become so focused on the movements that all negative energy and thoughts leave you, if only for the time of exercising. I really can’t recommend it enough and find that I notice the difference in my wellbeing if I don’t do it for a couple of days.

Do consider going to a local class as it will get you out of the house and you will also be taught how to do it properly. But if that’s not for you or you don’t have it in you to commit that level of effort, have a look at some of the video links that I’ve posted below. I know that everything can be an effort when you’re ill but all are very short (just a few minutes long) and achievable for every level of fitness or dedication. Try a different one each day or use a combination of several.

Qi Gong – 7 Minutes of Magic (For Health) – This is my favourite quickie and perfect to refocus your mind to a calmer state. Lee Holden has a channel with some great longer routines too.

8 Simple Movement Qi Gong for Clearing Negative Energy – Although not a professional quality video, these are great breathing exercises that are quick and easy to learn and really do calm you. Cherry was my instructor and has many more videos online.

Qi Gong Therapy for Neck, Upper Back and Shoulders – Chances are if you are depressed or anxious you will carry tension in these areas. These are simple stretching exercises that can be done sitting or standing anywhere throughout the day.

Tai Chi Silk Reeling – I love the many formats of Silk Reeling and instantly get in a calm zone when practising, particularly with this hypnotic music. Watch the whole routine from 7.22 then go back and learn step by step. Some of it is in spoken Chinese with English subtitles.

Tai Chi Qi Gong Joint Loosening Exercises – If you can commit a little more time this is a great set of daily exercises to loosen up the whole body. If Mental Illness is leaving you inactive this will at least relieve some of the aches and pains that you will get from sitting around.

I hope you’ll give one or some of these a go. Use them as a starting point and check out some of the hundreds of others on You Tube if these ones aren’t for you. Stick with it and let me know how you get on.

Please let me know if it helps or if you’ve got any links that you want to recommend to others.

Links to my Mental Health Series:
1.Self Help For Your Mental Health
2. My Mental Health Story
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

600 tc 10

https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx 
https://www.thecalmzone.net/
https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us 

9. Self Help For Your Mental Health – Talk Support

After waiting 6 months for a psychiatrist appointment, all he did was give me another prescription and told me to come back and see him in 3 months! I came out feeling more anxious than before I went in! Over the years I saw another psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a psychiatric nurse, a CBT counsellor and a different GP and found them so helpful and understanding. It really is a case of finding someone you’re comfortable with.

Here are some ways to find talk support:

Professionals – Once you have seen your GP you should get a referral to some form of therapist/counsellor/psychiatrist – you may need to push for a quicker appointment if you feel you need it. Once you get to see someone, it’s important that you are entirely honest with them about your thoughts and feelings. You’re never going to see them again once you’re well so it’s easier to open up to a stranger who will not judge you or take offence at anything you say. If you really don’t gel with that person after a few appointments, ask to be referred to someone else.

Close friends and family – It’s so important to tell them when you feel ill. Keeping quiet just delays recovery. I’m my own worst enemy here as I still try and hide my depressive episodes.  Even if you don’t want to fully open up to them, please just say “I’m not doing so well at the moment”.

The dark thoughts make me feel like I am a nuisance to everyone, that’s why I hide it!

Blogs, Forums and Support Groups – This is a really good way to get help as you will come across people who know exactly what you’re going through. Whether you are reading or talking you will find someone else in the same position as you. Often people can just say one thing and it will instantly click with you – like a lightbulb moment.

You realise that you’re not just going crazy, you are experiencing a symptom of an illness and someone else finally understands exactly what you are feeling.

Facebook – you might be better off limiting your social media use but if you want to announce that you’re a sufferer on Facebook, do it! It is often easier to tell people in one fell swoop rather than face to face. It can be such a huge release. You will be surprised at how many people will be kind. Then take it to PM with a couple of people who can give you the type of support you need.

Samaritans – an anonymous conversation can be so much easier (they now offer an email as well as phone service). Yes I did ring them on a couple of occasions when I was at my worst and they were brilliant. There was no rush and they just listened and asked useful questions.

They were just there at a time I felt I could not speak to anyone else.

Even now I find talking and hearing about  others’ experiences comforting, even though the stories are sad. Often because I would never have thought in a million years that they were a sufferer, they appear so together, happy, funny, etc. And yes, they say that’s how they see me too. It seems we all wear masks to cover up the battleground that’s going on in our heads. But it just shows that there is life with depression. We can live a successful, enjoyable life. It might just be a little tough at times.

I know there are lots of people who will never accept or understand Mental Illness but talking is helpful and raises awareness. I don’t worry now what those people think.

I don’t choose to have these thoughts, I can’t control them!

I hope it will come through in this blog the importance of admitting and saying exactly how you feel no matter how ridiculous it sounds, hard as it is. If you find you’re not quite ready to talk to others, try keeping a diary and write down all your thoughts and fears. (This may also be useful for medical appointments as the professionals may be able to pinpoint a pattern.)

Do you find it easy to tell people when you’re feeling ill, do you tell people that you have a mental illness? If you havn’t told anyone perhaps sharing one of these blogs could be a way to introduce how you’re feeling?

(A couple of heavy subjects today but tomorrow as we approach the end of this series of blogs we have much nicer lighter subjects. )

Links to my Mental Health Series:
1.Self Help For Your Mental Health
2. My Mental Health Story
3. Medical Help
4. Learn and Accept
5. A Mental Health Diet
6. Sleep and Duvet Days
7. Panic Attacks
8. Suicide Awareness
9. Talk Support
10. Qi Gong & Tai Chi
11. Meditation, Hypnosis and Relaxation
12. Help for Carers and Friends
13. Hope

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https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us
https://www.mind.org.uk/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx 
https://www.thecalmzone.net/