I’ve not had any words for a while now.
Like Zoey, I used to be a prolific personal blogger. I had a lot of words and I loved sharing them. Most of my posts would write themselves in my head on my long runs and then spill out onto the screen once I got home. It was a fluid, comfortable, comforting thing. I felt like I had something of value to share.
And then my life shifted forever with the end of my marriage. I wanted to share the words but it became unsafe to do so. My space, which was never private and I always understood that, became a point of contention and a weapon to be used against me and so I removed all traces of years of writing from the interwebs and shut down many of my personal social media outlets.
My one remaining outlet was running. The end of any relationship is traumatic even under the most amicable of circumstances. Whilst for me the marriage had ended long before I actually left, and I never expected it would be an easy ending, the reality was beyond my worst nightmares and left me with massive anxiety. I would run to try and escape the crushing feeling in my chest. I would run so that the constant breathlessness could be explained away. I would run to try and find some peace in my frenetic, panicked, confused mind.
It worked to an extent. Everyone knows how great physical exercise is for mental health support and I hate to think how bad I could have got were I not already committed to my training and fitness.
But it didn’t ‘fix’ me. I could not outrun my life. I could not outrun myself.
Having spent many years advocating for better community mental health support and watching people around me fight their own battles, I finally realised that I wasn’t just a bit stressed out and that running wasn’t the solution.
I’d abandoned my Operation Move community, I had lost all confidence in myself, I waded through the days wishing they would just end. My saving grace was the support of my family, and a few specific people who held my hand and my heart while I fell apart.
One of the hardest things in addressing my anxiety (which I now know is an aspect of my PTSD diagnosis) was the way my medication impacted me as I was adjusting to it. It made me really really sick for awhile and left me unable to run.
Having relied on running to support my mental health for so long, being unable to do so was incredibly challenging. I couldn’t hide behind my half-face instagram selfies any more. I had to look myself in the mirror and do the work without that crutch. With the help of my psychologist, I’ve now found ways to manage my anxiety and work through the issues that have held me back for so long.
I’m back in full training now, and I still rely on running to support my mental health. But as my sister pointed out, there will come a day that I don’t NEED to run to be okay; that I will be running purely for the love of it. And that will be a happy day indeed.
I’ve ummed and ahhed about sharing this. There are elements of my life that I’m not able or willing to share at this point, but it occurred to me that for all my blah blah about mental health awareness in the past, if I’m not willing to be open about my own experience then am I not just helping contribute to the stigma myself?
I am not ashamed and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have lived through some extreme trauma and I’ve coped as best I could. I got help when I realised I needed it and I have such extreme gratitude for the availability of suitable medication and psych support. For the first time in a long time I feel like a whole person, I feel like I am finding my way back to myself and I am genuinely excited about the shifts in Operation Move and for the opportunity to get to know and work with a whole new group of movers in our April MOVE IT course.
Moving is a wonderful way to support your mental health but it isn’t a cure all. If you are in crisis you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time for confidential support, or get in touch with Beyond Blue.
I’m going to be okay. Better than that, I’m going to be AWESOME again. I hope you’ll take the journey with me.