I have watched in awe and with interest all the coverage that hit the headlines these past few weeks in the UK in the run up (sorry pun alert) and throughout London Marathon Weekend. As a topic close to my own heart as a sufferer and to many people dear to me, it is refreshing to see people (particularly the Royal Family) talking openly about their experiences with mental health.
But what it also tells us is that no one is immune to it.
My own anxiety/mental health issues kicked in about eight years ago back, in fact if I did more digging I am sure I have had it since my teens, only I never appreciated what it was I was dealing with. Often when I had a panic attack or walked out of a club with no explanation whatsoever (my coping mechanism for when it got too much), you would be labelled as moody, a bit loopy, needing to get a grip or just plain old nuts. When I had my first proper attack - full on snot, tears and being rooted to the floor unable to do anything - it scared me - so the first thing I did was go to the doctors where they promptly put me on a course of medication, and signed me up for cognitive therapy.
Of course, that's great and all but it's a bit like sticking a plaster over a crack in the ceiling - great short term fix or so I thought. A few years later, I weaned myself off the medication because I didn't want to be on anti-depressants! I forgot the fundamental basics of the cognitive therapy and ended up back on different stronger medication - and this time it reared its head as post-natal depression with a side order of anxiety attacks (so worse than before).
That's when I called my friend Vicky for advice. Vicky is the owner of a running group called RIOT Squad. Vicky is like Forrest Gump... she just keeps on running. She is also a fellow 'nut job' and is a rock to anyone who is dealing with their own mental health hell. She was the one who pretty much pushed me around the 10k course at the Great South Run.
Why am I talking about a running coach - what's that got to do with depression?
She is also one of the hero coaches behind several of the marathon runners last weekend. You can also catch her on the BBC - Mind over Marathon!
She and her RIOT squad where born out of the black dog. To overcome her depression (and hers was pretty bad) Vicky started to run. She is the one that told me that depression is often the curse of the brave - that sufferers are those people who push themselves to the point of breaking. When it all gets too much. When we need therapy and medication to help us get back on our feet.
Because of the stigma with anti-depressants/depression medication - what you find is a lot of people decide (me included) because they are feeling well again and start to give a sh*t - that it's the time they try come off that medication. Big mistake. Speaking from personal experience - if you are prescribed a small amount of AD to balance your brain chemistry - it's because you need it.
The medication is a small part of the process, to get the happy hormones pumping, the best thing to do is get your endorphin's going... enter running - or yoga, dancing or trampolining if your pelvic floor can handle it.
What groups like RIOT squad do - rather than try to add more stress to the situation, they take a more supportive fun approach to running. This is about encouraging people to get fit mentally and physically and should they so wish participate in marathons.
My point to this... if you are on medication stick with it - if you are suffering, talk to someone. Join a group like RIOT Squad, most importantly do something at least once a day that gets your happy hormones going...