Run #8 Reflection: First long run of 2017 DONE!

nYou know the bit where Charlie, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shows Grandpa Joe his golden ticket and, after years of being bed-bound, Grandpa Joe yelps “Yippee” in a burst of glee and springs from his bed, rejoicing with a little jig? Well, how Grandpa Joe felt about Charlie finding the golden ticket resembles how I felt doing Sunday’s run.

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WAS BUZZING!

I went with my old running partner, Rachel. We did the Cardiff 10k together in 2016 and attempted the Bristol Half a couple of years before that (let’s not go there…!). The aim for this run? 50mins, non-stop. Running around the Downs in Bristol on a Sunday morning was very different to running around the small streets of a little north Wiltshire town. Not only were there other runners out and about, of all shapes, ages and levels, but there were loads of people out for other reasons, too; walking, cycling, boot camp, football. I felt energised for running with someone else (Rach is great at setting a pace for me – her stride is longer than mine and so I run behind her trying to keep up), energised for being surrounded by other runners and people, and simply energised by the run itself. The sun was shining but there was a lovely cool breeze to keep us at a comfortable temperature. Oh, and I gave my new bit of kit a go, too: my running belt!

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I decided to get one of these as I get so, so thirsty on runs. I try to hydrate enough throughout the day and ahead of runs so I don’t need to bring water with me but any run over 45 minutes and I’m gasping for a drop of H2O. So I thought I’d give this a go as when I run with bottles in my hands, my shoulders get tight and I my focus moves on to them instead of my run which isn’t all too helpful. And I was really surprised, the belt worked really well and didn’t annoy the hell out of me like I thought it would. Winning.

With people, the run and water fuelling my body and mind, motivating me to put one foot in front of the other, we not only achieved the run’s aim but we surpassed it (ok, only by 5 minutes, but still!). I still can’t quite fathom how I’m supposed to do this just over 5 times more but let’s just keep on taking one run at a time and hope that across that time it just happens!

Run #8 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 5

I don’t feel like this run could have gone any better!

Enjoyment = 5

I felt like I’d won the golden ticket.

Oh, and as a reward, Rach and I went for brunch after – well done to us!!

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Run #6 & Run #7 Reflections: AM v PM

Last week I finally got a good run of runs in: 3 in a row (that’s good for me!). Being new to running like this with a proper schedule is taking some time to get used to. It’s fine in theory but juggling ‘real life’ with the training isn’t always so easy in practice (as me writing this post a week late shows). So I was really proud that I got 2 short runs in last week followed by the long Sunday run (see next post). And this is how those 2 runs went…

Run #6: Early morning run in the fresh air and frosty countryside

Wednesday morning. Clouds criss-crossing the blue sky as it the white fluffy lines were scratches and tears in the smooth sheet above my head. The ground glistened as if a million slugs and snails had conquered the land at night, leaving their mark behind as dawn broke. But really it was just frost. And as I drew in my first breath as I took my first steps on the run, my trachea felt like it was frosting up, too. The air really was icy. Despite this being a bit uncomfortable, the run felt so good for my feet, my body, my mind and my soul. I love running out in to the countryside. The mix of green, gold and brown fields sprinkled with sparse trees, silhouetted against the sunshine just brings me so much joy. Adding to this, music. While I do enjoy running in silence at times – just taking in the sounds that surround me at that one given moment – on this particular morning I was joined by Witney, MJ and Bowie to name but a few. Music is also something that is medicine for my soul. And the mix of that morning’s sights and sounds really felt heavenly. Isn’t it amazing that you can have a slice of paradise simply on your front door? That morning, I felt incredibly grateful and at peace… despite the puffing and panting!

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Run #6 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

I got up, got out and got on with it. I did have to pause a couple of times to catch my breath and I would have liked it to have been a bit quicker but I’m really pleased with my progress.

Enjoyment = 5

I’m sure you’ve got how much I enjoyed this run. So many good things came together at once on that morning. 

Run #7: Late night run in cold, dark night

My Friday night run couldn’t have been more different. I ran through the streets of my home town instead of going out in to the countryside but it was quieter on the concrete roads surrounded by houses instead of fields. It was rather eerie, actually. While there wasn’t much to look at compared with Wednesday’s run, I still found inspiration from the sky: the stars. I love looking at stars. I know a few constellations and I know a (very tiny) bit about the formation of stars. I find them enchanting, fascinating and weirdly humbling. So as I do my run on that cold, dark evening, I look to the stars to give me some perspective to help me stop worrying about the little things and let go of all the stuff that doesn’t really matter because, at the end of the day, we’re all bits of star dust and we will, one day, become just dust. 

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Run #7 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 3.5

While I got up and out straight from getting in from work, I did find it difficult to plough on through on this run. There were times when I wanted to turn back and I know I didn’t really push myself, which is something I need to start learning and applying if I’m to make any progress in this training for the day itself.

Enjoyment = 3.5

While I didn’t get the same joy from Wednesday’s run, I did like this run. I wonder whether it was more the fact that I got out after work and did a run when I was supposed to. But, like I said, the peace and quiet, along with the starry sky, did play a major part in making it a good run. But you know what, whatever it was that made me smile rather than grimace, I’m grateful for!

 

Run #5 Reflection: First run of 2017 done!

Wahooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First run of 2017 done and I feel GREAT! It was cold, dark, damp and my phone died during my run so for half of it it was silent… well, except for my panting which sounded like a mix between Wheezy – the penguin from Toy Story – and an old foot pump trying to blow up an airbed.

BUT THAT DIDN’T MATTER!

I went out and ran, non-stop, for 23 mins (I thought it was 20 mins and so initially I was chuffed that I did a few minutes more – turns out I was 2 short, oops!).

And again, THAT DOESN’T MATTER!

What matters is I turned up, I gave it a decent go and, not that this really matters either, but I enjoyed it. I feel pumped because I went despite not really feeling it and I feel pumped because I’ve got my body working faster than Southern Rail (ok… maybe not the best comparison); my endorphins are running around, rejoicing, like primary school kids on the last day of term, bringing in their own games and wearing non-school uniform. I really am chuffed with myself.

What was also nice was running in a different, yet very familiar, setting. While I’m at my mum and dad’s for a bit, I’m running around the town I spent my child hood in. Running around different parts of my hometown brings back fond memories and so I spent pretty much my entire run smiling… I should savor this moment as this could be the first and only time this happens!

So all in all a pretty good damn start to this batch of marathon training… now how to keep it up??!!

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Run #5 Rating & Reflection

Achievement = 4

Well, I ran without stopping; I completed tonight’s goal (well, I thought I had – I’ll make those 2 minutes up tomorrow); I smiled; I even tried some new stretches before and after my running (I got Paula Radcliffe’s running book for Christmas!).

Enjoyment = 5

Well, if every run could be like today then I’d be a very happy woman! However I know that won’t be the case and so I’m soaking up this feeling and trying to remember it so when I have bad runs, I know there will also be good runs. I’m also going to use this positive experience as momentum, pushing me forwards on to the next run and training session. A journey of a thousand miles and all that jazz!

p.s. GO ME!

p.p.s This gave me a fantastic boost before I went for my run… from a beautiful friend who has run the London Marathon herself and is one of my inspirations 

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To blog or not to blog…

Something that played on my mind when I first thought of setting up my blog was whether or not I should do it at all. My home page explains why I wanted to write these posts but here are some of the reasons why I’ve had some reservations…

Reason 1: Will blogging do me more harm than good?

Yes, a problem shared might be a problem halved but at the same time am I creating more problems for myself in the process? I worry that regularly analysing, reflecting and dissecting how I feel – and why – is draining my energy, bringing me more pain and reinforcing some of the bad feelings and thoughts. I don’t want to identify solely as someone who has depression because that would be losing sight of the so many different aspects that there are to me. But by checking up on my progress, my stumbling blocks, my symptoms and the causes, am I fueling the fire I’m trying to put out?

Reason 2: Will my blog do more harm than good to other people who’re suffering from depression?

I find reading other people’s experiences of depression both comforting and helpful. It’s a cliche but having reference points to relate to not only helps you through coping with the depression in a practical way but it also helps to not feel alone. So I felt compelled to stand up and shout about my own experiences to do the same; if just one person is helped by my writing, like other blogs have helped me, then at least there can be a silver lining to my own personal experience of this rotten illness. And while it can be challenging when writing my posts, I do often find it cathartic. But not everyone suffering from depression will find sharing their experience a cathartic one like I do. And that’s ok. But I worry that in me sharing, I’ll make people feel bad if they feel they’re unable to share. I had an incredible response to my last post, commenting on how brave I was to share my feelings and I do get why people think it’s brave given the stigma surrounding talking about mental health so openly, but I don’t feel like I was being particularly brave; I’m comfortable talking about my feelings (probably too comfortable for some people’s liking!) and I tell stories about other people for a living, so while it is a bit different to tell stories about myself, it’s not all that difficult – just uncomfortable at times. But I don’t want ‘talking about depression’ to be a binary thing when it comes to being brave. I don’t want people thinking that they’re only brave if they’re talking about their mental health openly. It takes courage to face up and admit to your own self in having a mental health illness, like it does with a physical illness. But how that’s subsequently dealt with and managed varies for different people. Just because someone isn’t talking about it doesn’t mean that they’re not being brave; I hope people know that when reading blogs like mine.

Reason 3: Will I lose friends by talking about my depression?

I have had so many messages and offers of support from close friends to acquaintances since being diagnosed with depression. I really am lucky and without this network I’m not quite sure where I’d be. I am constantly told that people are there for me to talk to if I need to and I am so grateful for that – and I do bend a few ears every now and then (sorry if it’s one of your ears I’m wearing out!). But I worry that on top of talking to my friends about my own worries, I’ll end up boring them with my additional blogging. Plus, it’s not exactly the most uplifting of topics is it?! I don’t want to bring everyone down around me…

Reason 4: Will I upset friends and family with my posts?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my depression. I’ve had numerous therapy sessions – group and individual – and I’ve read A LOT about the illness (perversely, I find it fascinating and I’ve enjoyed learning more about it – weird and sadistic, I know). I’ve had time to come to terms with having depression and what that entails. But I realise that not everyone around me is the same. For some, this will be their first ever insight in to depression, through my experience. For others, they know a fair bit about it from personal experience. Whichever way, no one likes to hear that someone they care about is suffering. And to hear just how they’re suffering is not easy. So I worry that I’m being selfish with my honesty; revealing the truth might be liberating for me but I could be causing pain for those having to read about it. I don’t want to cause even more worry and upset to my friends and family.

So, to blog or not to blog?

Some of my thoughts on the above…

1. Blogging is not going to be 100% healing for me nor is it going to be 100% harmful. It will be both these things in different measures and at different times. I think the important thing is to be aware of that, monitor how I’m feeling and the impact it’s having on me and go from there.

2. I have good intentions. I can’t control how people will react to my blog. I take great care and time in writing my posts so that I minimise the amount of upset, offence, or harm I could cause. I believe in the positive aspects of the blog, for me and others, and so I hope they outweigh the potential negatives.

3. If I lose friends through me talking about my depression then they’re friends that aren’t worth having. I still need to be a good friend myself and be there for others for the good and the bad stuff, but if simply talking about the depression is enough to put people off of me then that’s not my problem. And anyway, I think this is a fear rather than a real problem (I hope anyway!).

4. And that leads me to this point: I worry too much about too many things. But that’s a symptom of depression and something that’s being measured on a weekly basis at my therapy sessions (true story – sometimes I worry about my worrying!). But I also know that worrying is a normal human emotion and many of my worries are because I care. But I do need to stop worrying so much – it’s so bloody tiring!

5. This is a hard one but I think I have to accept that I might upset some friends and family along the way with my blog. Again, I can’t control how people respond to what I write, I can only mitigate it the best I can. But being upset isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not nice, but it’s life. If I upset friends and family (unintentionally, of course) it’s because they care about me, not because I’ve been nasty and horrible (well, not on this occasion anyway!). And a lot can be learned from pain and suffering. Like I said, it’s life.

6. I really do believe that it’s important to talk about difficult subjects, whatever they might be.  If no one talks about them, then we can’t learn from them and tackle the important issues that need to be addressed.

7. It’s ok to do things for yourself; that doesn’t make you selfish. At the moment, this blog is giving me a huge boost. It’s a way for me to talk about things which, at times, I find difficult to talk about face to face. Because of the blog, I’ve had a number of people who’ve suffered from depression get in touch with me and pass on some of their advice. I’ve also had messages of thanks from others who have said that my writing has been a comfort to them. That means the world to me. And the writing itself has been good for me; I love writing and at the moment I feel like I have something worth saying. Whether people want to listen or not isn’t my business, but I hope they do. 

Now I think you know the answer to the initial question…

Broken/Identity: the Scarecrow, the Tin Man & the Lion

In my When the drugs don’t work post I briefly mentioned how I’d recently had 2 ‘moments’ relating to me coming off of one lot of anti-depressants. I also said I’d explore them in a separate post. Well, since then, not only have I had a few more ‘moments’ but something else has cropped up that’s essentially led me to feeling broken – physically, mentally, emotionally – and feeling like I’m having an identity crisis. I feel like all 3 characters from the Wizard of Oz but in reverse: I have a brain, I have a heart and I have courage but they’re slowly being chipped away at and I fear I’ll lose them. This is why:

So, I’m fully off the Amitriptyline, which I was taking to help me sleep. And I’m pleased to report that my sleep has relatively been unaffected since coming off the drug. But, for the short term, that’s where the positives stop. The withdrawal symptoms have been agony. I suddenly feel as if I’m riddled with arthritis from head to toe; my shoulders feel like they’re tissue paper that’s been scrunched up or bubble wrap that’s been twisted and popped all at once; my digestive system feels like an Olympic gymnastics team’s flipping and tumbling inside it; my head feels like it’s a hamster wheel – fairly empty but rapidly rotating making me feel dizzier and dizzier; and each night, my bed sheets are soaked through from profuse sweating (I know, gross, but it’s the truth and I promised to be frank and candid). And that’s just the physical symptoms. Increased anger, heightened paranoia, reduced concentration, inexplicable irritability and constant crying (more so than usual which, for me, is like saying the Niagara Falls has got bigger!); those are just some of the mental and emotional responses I’ve had. So all in all, a rather unpleasant few weeks. Slowly but surely I feel as if my brain is disintegrating and my body is withering, becoming limp and lifeless like the Scarecrow dangling in the field.

Adding to my broken body, I now have a broken heart. It would be unfair for me to go in to detail because this doesn’t just directly affect myself, but I can’t really write this blog without reflecting on life as it happens, and experiencing a break up and the subsequent broken heart is something that’s recently happened to me. And it’s the proverbial straw. I’ve gone to write this sentence a number of times and I still don’t know what to type. To keep the Wizard of Oz analogy going, I feel the exact opposite to how the Tin Man feels when he’s given a heart: deflated, disappointed, despondent. Towards the end of the film, the Wizard of Oz says to the Tin Man “Hearts will never be practical until they’re made unbreakable.” And yet the Tin Man still wants one. Why? What I’d give to have an unbreakable heart right now, or even no heart at all. Ok, ok, I don’t mean that. I do believe in what Tennyson said, and I’m trying to remind myself of that every time I feel anger / despair / confusion about this all. And the thing is, I do still have a heart: I am still in love, I love so many things in life, and I still believe in love. For now. But with everything else that’s been going on, it’s hard to remind myself that things will get better. I’m trying so hard to just let the feelings and emotions wash over me but not drown me. My little heart is still beating, just not pounding. I feel broken physically, mentally and emotionally, but I am not broken and I won’t feel broken forever.

And that’s where the Lion comes in. Man alive do I have courage. It’s not something people usually boast about and it’s certainly not something I usually attribute to myself; I just think “Well, I just get on with things.” But I am going to boast right now #sorrynotsorry. I am brave. I do have courage. I’m facing up to some tough shit and trying to deal with it the best I can; I’m asking for help where I need it and I’m trying to accept when I’m not coping. I know I’m not the only person in the world who has problems, but I also know that everything is relative and one person’s crap isn’t necessarily better or worse than another’s: crap is crap and we all deal with our own crap in different ways (figuratively speaking, thank you!). I’m just trying to deal with my own the best I can and in a way that’s right for me.

And yet, I’m terrified. I am so scared that my broken body and mind along with my broken heart will break my courage. And without that, what do I have? My yellow brick road. I have my yellow brick road: hope. I can’t and don’t know for sure what will happen and how things will turn out but, then again, neither did Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man nor the Lion. So I’m just going to keep on putting one foot in front of the other and follow my yellow brick road.

Pre-marathon-training ‘training’ reflection… 

“So how’s the marathon training going Rhiannon?” is a common question that’s been asked many times by friends, family and colleagues in the past few weeks. It feels good to have people take an interest in something you do. It doesn’t feel good when you give the answer I’ve been giving. “It’s… er,” I stammer. “Well, it was going and now it’s… well, now it’s kind of not going,” I mutter, with my cheeks blushing the way they should blush after a run, not a sheepish admission. 4 runs achieved out of a planned 24. A sixth of runs completed. 16.6% of runs done. Or you can look at it as 20 runs not achieved out of a planned 24. Five sixths of runs not completed. 83.3% of runs not done. Those aren’t great stats.

When I put it all in to context, I’m not surprised nor am I as ashamed with my minimal-track record. The past 3 weeks have been emotionally and physically turbulent to say the least and with a routine going out the window with moving house plus Christmas and New Year, I’m amazed I even know what day it is. And before the break up (see next post) there was the week that knocked me for six as my (then) partner was in hospital and I literally worried sick about them. I don’t want to make myself sick in this process; that’s the opposite to the desired effect! Running on empty is going to do me no good, literally and figuratively speaking. So I get how around 12 runs have been wiped out right there in one big swoop.

But what about the other half? Indeed. What about the other half?

While I keep reminding myself to strive for progress and not perfection, I’ve got to remember that I’ve actually got to put the effort in to make the progress at the very least. I knew that committing to the training would be the hardest part for me, especially when going through a tough mental period. But somehow and from somewhere I’ve got to suck it up. I decided to do this, no-one forced me to do this. I wanted to take on this challenge. So now I’ve got to show up and do that: take on the challenge. I’ve got to go out and train, even if I end up walking for the duration/length. Because come the marathon day, I will complete those 26.2 miles even if I crawl across the finish line with stewards patiently meandering behind me clearing up the banners and barriers, hours after everyone else has finished. I owe it to the Mental Health Foundation, I owe it to those who have – and hopefully will – sponsor me and, finally, I owe it to myself. So yes I might not make every training session becuase life/shit happens, but man alive do I have to give myself a good kick up the arse to get those stats more in my favour because otherwise I’m not making the most out of this experience, I’m not giving myself a good chance and, ultimately, what’s the point if I’m not putting the effort in?

So next time someone asks me how the marathon training’s going, I am going to say “it’s going and it’s going well, thanks.” And I’ll say that with a smile on my face from the satisfaction of knowing that I’m telling the truth because I have been training. Just if you see me over the next few days, hold off asking that question until the start of next week, thanks! 😉🏃🏻‍♀️👟🏅🏆👍🏼💪🏼