Running For Clarity & Mental Health - Sarah's Story
How Sarah Turned To Running After Experiencing Some Dark Days
From learning to understand depression, to fighting it with running. Sarah has come out on top.
Even as a teenager I remember having ‘dark days’. Where I didn’t want to see people, talk to people, get out of bed. Where there felt like there was a cloud over my head that just wouldn’t go away.
I got married at 25 and had my daughter at 26 and it felt like I had everything I should possibly want from life.
When my daughter was born she was an awkward bugger. I ended up having a c-section two weeks early as she was breech and when she was born she was tiny. I remember ringing my friend in tears from hospital asking her to go and find tiny baby clothes because none of the newborn stuff we had bought had fitted.
I was determined I wanted to breast feed and it was a huge struggle at first. She was losing weight and wouldn’t feed and I was finding it SO hard. The health visitors made me feel like a failure (no disrespect to them, I’m sure that was my own issues not theirs).
So much of her early time feels like a blur and I hate that now. I can’t remember specifics about her first words, when she started crawling/walking and I feel like I missed out massively on those first few months.
I did go to the drs eventually and I remember breaking down in tears. I was prescribed anti-depressants and came home and sobbed to my mum and dad. How could I be depressed when I had this beautiful baby girl? I made the decision at the time that I wasn’t going to take the tablets and I started exercising.
This worked for a while and I felt better and lost weight (in retrospect probably a bit too much weight…) but then the year I turned 30 my marriage broke down and I had to cope with the fact I was 30 years old, divorced and alone. I went back to the drs because I was really struggling, breaking down at work, avoiding friends and self-harming.
This time I took the medication and went to Talking Therapies but the medicine just made me feel numb. I wasn’t crying all the time but I wasn’t really feeling anything, not even happy.
Life moved along in that sort of lull, I started seeing somebody but it wasn’t a healthy relationship and probably made things worse in the long run. I ended up putting on 3 stone. This ended in December 2018 and it gave me the kick up the arse I needed.
The Running Bug Bites Again
I started with Run Every Day for MIND as it was obviously a cause I felt passionate about and I got the running bug again! During 2019 I ran the Great North Run and numerous 10ks, I’ll never be the fastest but I ended up losing 2 stone and was feeling fitter than ever.
Fast forward to February 2020 and I had a fall which resulted in a bad injury and 3 months out from running – boy did I miss it! This was the worst possible timing as it coincided with lockdown and being at home 24/7 with no adult company and an energetic 10 year old who was missing her friends, school and gymnastics.
The Benefits Of Exercise On Mental Health
I started running again (slowly) in May of last year and it was a hard process, I had lost so much fitness and psychologically I was scared of making injury worse or falling again. I joined our local running club “Run Fit Hartlepool” in July and I loved it! Although we have been in and out of lockdown and so sessions have had to stop and start again it’s been lovely to meet other runners and find routes I wouldn’t have used otherwise, plus my competitive side comes out and I push myself to keep up with the faster (not the fastest!) members of the group.
I am also completely aware of and thankful for how understanding my bosses are for my need to run by allowing me to take time out during the day when it’s light to get my exercise as they know this makes me a better worker (I hope!).
I have always been open with our carers about my own mental health as I think if I can help just one person to realise they are not alone in how they are feeling, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of, then it has been worth it. That’s why I love what Be Defiant are trying to achieve (plus the gear is pretty nice too!)
You Have To Be Honest About Mental Health
I am honest with my own daughter too, she knows mummy used to take ‘happy pills’ and some days would be feeling a bit sad. In fact, on occasion she has even told me to go out for a run ‘you always feel better when you go for a run mummy’. She is actually registered as a young carer herself for me due to my mental health.
I decided I wanted to do RED January again this year and then a few members of our running group joined up for Prostate Cancer UK 28 Mile Challenge and so I am now currently on 57 days consecutive running. I know that’s not a lot compared to some people out there but for me it’s a huge achievement and I am excited to see how far I can go with it.
More importantly though, I am now 2 months completely unmedicated!!!! Now I will hold my hands up, I went about this completely the wrong way and forgot to renew my prescription before Christmas. I know, don’t copy my example. BUT, I am so proud of myself. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with medication and please don’t be afraid or ashamed to take it if it is offered and you need it. And I am not saying that everyone should just take up running and they will instantly feel better and be ‘cured’. I know this is a battle I will have for the rest of my life and I will have good days and bad days and I will never be ‘cured’. However, for me personally, taking just even 30 minutes to go out in the fresh air, clear my head, listen to music or an audio book (current favourite is Chris and Rosie Ramsey – S*****d. Married. Annoyed.) really does make all the difference.
I’ve started trail running on weekend’s I don’t have my daughter and do 10 miles or so running through the fields in mud, snow, rain or sun. The best thing about trail running is there is no focus on time. You aren’t worrying about PBs and just enjoying the surroundings. These weekends are a huge test for me at present, on my own in the house, not allowed to go anywhere or see my friends, so 2-3 hours out exploring is the perfect distraction and antidote.
The Running Community Has Helped My Mental Health
Also, how amazing is the running community on Instagram? I started my page as a way to document my running as not many of my friends run or ‘get it’ so it was a way to record my achievements without annoying the life out of them but honestly I have ‘met’ some lovely people and small businesses all over our joint passion of running.
There is one particular moment that stands out in my head since coming off the medication. I mentioned earlier that whilst I was taking them I didn’t feel anything. Well, about 3 weeks after my last tablet I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls (how did I not see it the first time round) and I cried. Real tears! I genuinely couldn’t remember the last time I had actually physically cried no matter how much I felt I needed to. In my defence, it was a really emotional episode with Luke and Lorelai, but that’s another story…
I know I have waffled on a ridiculous amount but once I started I just couldn’t stop! Thank you to Be Defiant for asking me to write this, I feel so honoured to be able to share my experiences with you all and I hope it may help just one person who is struggling.
Check out Sarah's Instagram to keep up with her life!