How Witnessing A Stranger's Train Suicide Changed My Entire Life

Originally published on ThoughtCatalog.com

 Credit: Unsplash

Credit: Unsplash

A commute to work can be long, dull, relaxing, frustrating, or all of the above. But an hour’s commute, whilst looking out the window to beautiful Essex countryside, can be used for a time of reflection and gratitude.

On an otherwise grey Monday morning, I woke up early, got dressed, and ate my porridge breakfast in preparation to conquer the day. Finally, I thought, I don’t feel exhausted after the weekend. I was looking forward to work and planning ahead for the rest of the week.

I boarded my usual 7:45am train and sat in my usual seat and decided I would forego wearing my headphones and enjoy the natural sounds of commuting, in a bid to stay present and mindful. I suffer with anxiety and depression most days and it was particularly difficult on this Monday morning.

The 7:45am train is the fast train, so it passes through a lot of stations bar a few where it picks up commuters along the way. Speeding along the tracks towards Basildon, we hear a sudden screeching and crunching noise, and train turbulence – what felt like a derailment. My heart jumped out of my chest as I clutched on to the gentleman next to me bracing for what I thought would cost me my life.

Instead, the train slowly came to a halt. We all looked at each other, with one woman looking like she was almost having a heart attack, feeling thankful and almost in disbelief that we were still alive. The train was stationary for about 30 minutes before our driver's voice quietly came out of the tannoy.

Apologies for the delay but someone has jumped in front of the train. There was nothing I could do, and I have called the emergency services so there will be a delay. I haven’t had any experience with this before but I am sorry for the delay.

Gasps, tears, and screams consumed the carriage as we noticed bits of a broken corpse outside the window beside the tracks. I closed my eyes and prayed that it was all a bad dream, that it was just a nightmare I’d soon wake up from.

We were on the train for what felt like 12 hours, waiting for the emergency services who turned up almost suddenly with sirens blazing and blue lights flashing, rushing down the aisles of the train carriage informing us of the situation. Eventually they moved us to another carriage so we didn’t have to witness the removal of the body, but by we were already traumatized.

About an hour passed, and the poor driver, obviously in a very distressed way, told us we would be on the move but would have to change trains at the next station. I couldn’t wait to get off the train. I couldn’t stop crying.

Soon after, we arrived at the next station and were asked to exit the train to move further down the carriages to avoid the blood splattered carriage we were on. Eventually we arrived at Laindon, where I exited the train to board another, which I struggled to do, and instead I sat on the platform and wailed. I wailed and wailed and wailed. The pain I felt, the hurt I felt, the guilt I felt.

I experienced a stranger’s suicide.

Now, the funny thing about stranger suicides is that when you’re not on the train that hits the victim, you huff, puff, and tut your way into work over how late you are and how inconvenienced you are. Look, we’ve all been there. That meeting you’re supposed to chair? Cancel it. That breakfast meeting you’ve got scheduled with a client? Nope, cancel it. Oh, that interview you’re late for? You better cancel that too.

But despite all these things inconveniencing your life, have you ever considered how inconvenienced and traumatized the train driver will be? How devastating it will be for the victim’s family to receive the death knock? How witnesses will be affected by what they’ve seen, heard, and felt?

The sad thing is that there was nothing anyone could do. The person had made their decision, carried it out, and was successful.

I felt guilt. I felt cold and numb. I didn’t even know this person yet I still felt an empowering connection to them. I wish there could’ve been something I could’ve done to stop it. I don’t know, perhaps delayed the train or somehow convinced the drivers to go on strike that day.

In reality though, it was out of everyone’s hands, but I can’t help but think about it. I keep getting flashbacks, constantly hearing the crunching noise being replayed in my ears over and over again. The sirens of the police and ambulance as they arrived at the scene. The traumatized face of the paramedic who had quite clearly not experienced this before either. The blood. This was not the first time I saw a dead body but the first time I had seen it actually happen before my eyes. For once, I’m struggling to even describe it on paper, I can’t even seem to get these words out of my mouth without stuttering uncontrollably.

I’m still in disbelief, in shock, and I’m still grieving.

Some may argue that you can’t mourn a stranger because you have no connection to them. You don’t know their name, their age, what their profession is, what their favorite color is. But it’s similar to mourning celebrities right? And as far as I’m concerned, and correct me if I’m wrong, but being human connects us, does it not?

Someone gave up their life because they felt there was no other way out. That was their only option. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is the option people are taking. Taking their own lives at such a young age.

I know how this person felt because I’ve been there. I know how it feels to have the black cloud consume you to the point where you feel there’s no way out. But instead, I was miraculously saved, something I wish could have happened to this person. He deserved to live, he deserved another chance.

But it kinda puts life into perspective. Witnessing a suicide made me realize how short life is when your problems consume you.

But this is why we need to talk openly about how we feel and turn feelings and emotions into real life conversations so no one suffers in silence. No one should feel judged. No one should be called a moron for taking their own life because they just so happened to make you late for work.

There will always be another day for you to go to work. There will always be another meal for you to eat. There will always be another holiday you’ll enjoy.

For the victim, the victim’s family and everyone involved or witness to the tragic incident, their lives will have changed forever. They will always have that incident ingrained into their memory forever.

So, remember that next time you huff, puff, and tut into work because someone’s death inconvenienced your life.

In Our Own Words: Living With Bipolar

Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide and can affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

I had the privilege of speaking to one man who wanted to use this platform to tell his story.  He has opened up about his experiences living with Anxiety, OCD and Bipolar Disorder.  Hoping his experiences will help and encourage others to speak out, he's shared his story below.

  Photo credit: Tom Sodoge

Photo credit: Tom Sodoge

I've chosen to remain anonymous because I don't believe my name will make a difference to what I have to say - there are so many people out there struggling alone and I hope that by talking more about the subject, people will recognise that mental health is a real thing, and will take action  to recognise this.

I wanted to be someone else. I wanted to love and be loved, to experience a normal relationship. I wanted to argue without feeling like it were the end of the world. I wanted to spend Christmas with my family without being exhausted with emotional confusion. I wanted to leave the house without doing a 50-point check of light switches and appliances.  


Back when I was studying for my degree I was diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder, OCD and a side order of Bipolar Disorder

On the outside, I came across as a confident, 'happy-go-lucky' kind of guy, but underneath I was experiencing something completely different. 

I was finding myself fighting my mind at every step; sometimes it could take me an hour to convince myself that the oven was off or the front door locked. Fighting my brain was exhausting - checking, checking and checking again. On top of this, I would experience days of elation where I would have awesome ideas and be full of love, closely followed by days where I would sit and convince myself that I was useless and that friend's affections for me were falsities. 

My girlfriend at the time handed me a tough decision - either go get some help or this is over. Without passing judgment, I'm glad she gave me this ultimatum as it made me realise that I wasn't in a good place and there were people out there who could help.

After visiting a doctor, I was referred to a psychologist where I was diagnosed with a number of 'disorders'. At the time, I found this hard to take in as I wasn't ready to admit that there was anything wrong with me, although looking back I would say that admitting this to myself really was the hard part. 

I was prescribed Fluoxetine (Prozac) and put onto a course of tri-weekly cognitive therapy sessions. Essentially, these sessions were aimed at establishing the causes and triggers of my problems - later moving on to learning methods on how to deal with them. I was advised to make lists of any triggers I recognised and when my anxiety levels were high to note down the cause. I was shown methods of remembering that appliances were off - the strangest being taking a 'photograph' with my fingers and forming patterns to remind myself. 

The cognitive therapy was undeniably successful, showing me ways to ease my anxiety and compulsions, but I was finding medication confusing to me emotionally.

I found myself becoming numb and emotionless - unable to feel affection or enjoy the things I used to love. After 6 months on medication, I concluded that I couldn't live this way and have never been on medication since. I have learnt to love myself and my quirks as part of who I am - using the 'high' points to my advantage in my career and working out ways in which to deal with the 'lows'  through writing things down and using cognitive techniques.

7 years later, rather than laying in the dark on the 'low' days like I used to, I now sit on the Wharf or take a walk - watching the seagulls and the tide, the boat sails jangling and the crabs scuttling across the sand. Getting away from the rush of modern society is refreshing and calming.

I still use cognitive methods to get through the day and as people who have lived with me will tell you, I have some strange habits but this no longer worries me - I am who I am and that's absolutely okay! 

If I had to give a piece of advice to anyone struggling with a mental health condition, I would advise not to look at those 'strong' people as a benchmark for how everyone should be. Learn to love yourself for who you are and educate yourself on ways to deal with your unique mind; take a break, slow down and enjoy life for what it is.  

It's okay to be you or to be different - behind closed doors, a lot of those 'normal' folk probably aren't so different. Keep an open mind and don't be so quick to judge that confident guy in a suit or that homeless 'addict' you think you've got figured out.  

Get out there and seek the help you need, you won't regret it. 


Learn more about Bipolar Disorder here

Learn more about Anxiety Disorder here.

Learn more about OCD here


NEED HELP?

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

(Nationwide) call free on 0800 58 58 58

(London) call free on 0808 802 58 58

or get help online here.

SAMARITANS 

(UK) call free on 116 123 (24 hours a day)

(ROI) call free on 116 123 (24 hours a day)

or email jo@samaritans.org (24 hours a day)

Me, my depression and I

 

It strikes again. I knew it was coming, I could feel it all week.

Am I going to break? Or am I going to be okay? Okay i'll keep myself busy so I can stay focussed. I won't waste a single hour in my day just in case in that quiet hour it strikes. 

I'm at work, exhausted. Eyes heavy, I've got the shakes. Espresso, lots of espresso. I should eat though, maybe I'll eat some cucumber, that'll keep me going until lunch time. 

That hasn't worked. I still feel really shit. Like an anchor is on my shoulders. Why do I feel so heavy? I can't actually concentrate on the computer screen. But I reallllyyyyyy need to write this copy for the social team. Jess pull yourself together and write it, it's easy, it'll only take you 5 minutes. *30 minutes later* why haven't I written anything yet? Why isn't my brain working? Okay, here we go. Let's try again. Fucks sake. Okay done. It's almost 5.30pm. I can go home and sleep. Ugh but I've gotta get on the damn train. I want to sleep on the train but I can't. What if I dribble? What if I snore? Are people looking at me right now? Why is that woman staring at me? Have I got visible bags under my eyes?! Oh god, I look like shit. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows I'm exhausted. God, everyone knows I'm working too much. Calm down. Keep your head down and turn your music up Jess. Oh no but I've got this writing to do later, how am I going to find the time? Will I have time to eat dinner? What if I fall asleep and don't get to write anything? Why am I shaking?! Ok put on some classical music that'll work. Nope, more anxious. Ok, headspace app, go! Ok, that's a little bit better but wish that guy over there would stop staring at me though. I wish I could hide or go home another way. I want my mum. Almost home now. 

I hate walking home. It's too dark. And I'm about to get killed by all these people sneaking up on me. Hate this walk, hate it, hate it, hate it. Why are there barely any street lights? Should've got a taxi. But I forgot I have no money. Or maybe someone to walk me home? Probably get killed. Ok Jess just concentrate on walking home, it's only a 4 minute walk. But it feels like an hour's walk, why is this so difficult?! Fuck. Okay almost there. Why is it so dark?! I hate winter. 

Home, finally. Need a wee though, hurry up and open the door. Ok, it's warm in here. My body hurts. I'm so tired I can't even wee. My appetite has gone. No I'm not hungry, I'm tired. I can't think, please don't talk to me. I can't sleep either, but my body hurts. Why is my chest vibrating? It's really vibrating every 2 minutes. My arms are shaking. My hands are cold now but i'm sweating. Okay I'll eat but I have no energy to feed myself. 

Oh no, it's coming. Oh. I can't stop crying. Tears, snot, brain pounding. Explosions in my mind, why does my head feel like it's about to blow up. Someone please stop this. Oh no mum. Mum I can't stop crying. She's holding me. Dad's here. Why am I crying? I don't know. Everything's black. But my head is vibrating. Temples convulsing. Body shaking.  

I'm lying down. Body and chest still shaking. Shivering from the cold but still sweating. Eyes glazed. Trying to distract myself by listening to Spotify. Acoustic soul. Tears streaming down my face, can't even manage a smile. But the music is nice. It's really nice. More tears. I can hear it but I feel nothing. I love music why don't I feel anything. I can't even sing. I'll cry again. 

This will pass. Once I get to sleep it'll pass. Then everything will go back to normal. Until it strikes again.  

Taxi Driver

This morning I woke up early to go to the hospital to receive my MRI scan results for my knee/leg. It has been a very long wait since the injury happened and it's been frustrating not being able to exercise properly. 

As I sat in the waiting room, eyes glazed, I felt like everything around me was moving twice as fast. I thought to myself, should I be in here for my leg or for my mental health? I was excited for this appointment because it meant I could proceed in some way or another with my injury recovery, rather than being stuck in limbo. 

Yet I was told, again, that this appointment was a mix up and I shouldn't have been there. It was a 'mistake the receptionists made'. For goodness sake, again?! But I tried to remain positive. After all, the Orthopaedic still proceeded to update me with my results and referred me to a Physio, hurrah. 

Feeling like I had achieved something for the day, I hop-skipped my way to the taxi rank to take me to the station.  There's always an awkwardness in taxis because you never know if the driver wants to talk. On this occasion, the Beatles song being played on the radio was enough to make one feel suicidal so today was the day to talk. 

Because that's all I really wanted to do.  

I smiled and greeted him with pleasantries. Discussing the weather seemed to be the best and most quintessentially British ice-breaker, and we spoke about how lucky we were to have an extra hour in bed at the end of this month. 

"What do you do for work?" he asked. 

"I'm an aspiring writer. I actually just quit my job, I was really unhappy but now I'm happy, I think." 

I noticed he looked at me in his mirror, I smiled back at him.  

 "The city is driven by money and power. As long as you can pay your bills, I'm sure you will be fine." he reassured me. 

 "Yes of course, I aspire to be an editor one day, and that will hopefully pay my bills." I chuckled. "Do you enjoy your job?"  

 "Well I've been doing this for 29 years, so I hope so!" he laughed. 

This small-talk-turned-therapy session was starting to make me feel queasy and a little uneasy. 

"At least you get to meet and speak to different  people every day, that must be nice." I said, hinting that I was really enjoying the company.  

"Yes, well, not everyone is as nice, happy and smiley as you. I do get some miserable people who do not want to talk, or who are going through different circumstances. You never know what is going on with people sometimes."

If only you knew. 

I felt my eyes well up. He has just described me as "nice, happy and smiley" yet I feel none of those things. How, from the outside, can he draw that conclusion when I'm feeling the opposite right now? Is this how I portray myself? 

I started to wonder if  he knew. We made eye contact again in the mirror as I wiped the tears from my eyes. I looked out the window. 

"I don't want to go to work today"  I cried.

 "Well, you are close to home aren't you? I won't drop you home though. You'll enjoy it once you get there."

My fare came to £6.40 and I left him with £10. I never asked his name, nor did he ask mine. But I was so grateful for that conversation.

For a 15 minute journey, I didn't feel invisible. 

  

Why I Quit My Corporate Job To Prevent Having A Nervous Breakdown

 

"You don't have a plan?" 

"Not really"

"So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know, maybe write more, go to the theatre, finish knitting that scarf, EAT!"

"What about money?"

"I can't put a price on my happiness".

happiness

ˈhapɪnəs/

noun

1.              the state of being happy.

 

Happiness.  A word many of us struggle to define or understand and something we crave through material things.  Short-term happiness can sometimes be achieved through things like shopping, eating a nice meal, reading a good book, seeing a friend.  But what about your long-term happiness?  Your ability to look into the future and feel confident that it is going to fulfil you.

The past year has been a whirlwind of mixed emotions with various life events taking place that I was experiencing for the first time, all whilst chasing a career in finance. 

The city of London, an urban rat race, can be overwhelmingly lonely.  A bubble where nothing else matters except money and power.  You hear corporate drool instead of real conversations.  You see nothing but tailored suits and high heels.  Is anything really real here?

I started working at my firm with the hope that I would learn and gain more experience within the financial sector as my background is in law.  It was a big step for me but I was enthusiastic to add another string to my bow and put everything into it.  This meant sacrificing my evenings to work late and to attend networking events.  At this point, I was in a relationship with someone I was well and truly in love with, a love that was unexpected and a love I truly valued.  However, that love slowly began to disintegrate along with my social life because my happiness was fading at work.

A lot was going on.  The working day was incredibly busy as we were seeking more clients to grow the company's revenue; my boss was constantly out of the office looking for new business whilst shouting down the phone to me.  That was until it became too much for me to handle.  The main problem I had with *Patrick was the fact that he refused to accept liability for his mistakes and would automatically transfer it onto me.  Whether it was via telephone call, email or even face-to-face, he continuously beat me to the ground until I had no more layers left.  I felt useless.

Whilst this was going on at work, my mental health outside of work was declining.  I could recognise the symptoms from the first time I had discovered I was ill so I was encouraged by my boyfriend to seek further help, which I did.  I went back on my anti-depressants and tried to carry on as normal.

I didn't tell my boss nor did I tell anyone I worked with because I didn't think they would understand.  A colleague was always referring to people as 'mentally retarded' so how could I say to them 'yeah, I'm mentally deranged too'? 

The days dragged and each morning I struggled to get out of my bed to start my commute to work.  Every day felt like Groundhog Day, but worse.  I would spend half the day escaping to the women's bathroom to cry in the cubicle, with my head against the wall looking down at the puddle my eyes had created.  Get it all out Jess, you can get through this. I’d then then spent a good ten minutes staring at my reflection in the mirror whilst fixing my make up so it didn't show I that had been crying, but then frantically wiping my tears once I heard someone come through the door.  The fake smile made a return; I picked up my pass and waltzed back to my desk like nothing had happened.

I always looked at work as being an escape from my rather manic private life but in this case I had no escape at all.  I wanted to escape a lot of things and as usual it was all happening at the same time, an overload of emotions created a storm in my mind.  I had nowhere to turn until I felt solace in standing on the platform edge.

I tried to jump at Mile End station one morning on my way to work from my boyfriend's house, until I felt arms round my torso preventing me from doing so.  I remember looking back at this woman in disbelief that she would save my life like that, or perhaps she herself recognised the behaviour before I had walked up to the platform.  She dealt me a card that day and I will never forget what she said to me when she hugged me. 

Life is a gift, do not waste it. 

She must have been my guardian angel because I never saw her again.  I didn't even get her name but even today I hear those words echoed in my ears and have never since tried to take my own life again. 

However, things took a turn for the worst and at Christmas, my boyfriend out of the blue, broke up with me because he couldn't handle my mental health.  He then preceded to tell me in a Starbucks round the corner from my office that he doesn’t and never loved me.  From the moment he broke up with me, he cut off all contact and I had suddenly become a distant memory to him. 

I went into a fit of rage and upset, my world shattered into tiny little pieces. My heart had broken in two.  I constantly had a knot in my stomach because I felt so unloved. Yet, through all of this, I went to work to seek some peace.  But this peace did not exist, for I was in another relationship, or so I felt, with my bullying boss.  What really pushed me over the edge was when a potential client sent me an incredibly rude and inappropriate email stating that he wanted to bend me over a table and spank me, my boss did not fight my corner, instead he allocated that client to me despite my objections against it.  That was confirmation to me that my boss did not care about my wellbeing nor me and only cared about the company's revenue.

Crying became a pastime and each time my boss would shout at me or send me a rude email blaming me for something, I would simply take a deep breath and hide in the cubicle in the bathroom again.   This became a regular occurrence.  

After a few months, I had gained confidence through running and I made plenty of new friends to pick me up from my running community.  From this, I was able to legitimise my smile again and finally have a balance in my life.  Even if work was an unhappy place, I had a happy place to go to every Tuesday night.  A place to escape the madness. 

As I began to start training for various races, I had an excuse to avoid every networking event, every social event and drinking session my boss asked me to attend.  I left work at 5.30pm on the dot.

My attitude changed as my resentment for my boss grew day by day.  My enthusiasm to help him disappeared; my willingness to stay late to finish a particular project was non-existent.  I refused to answer emails outside of my working hours or even so much as answer a text message from him.  I decided from then on out, I would not let him take over my life.  I will not answer any 5am calls anymore. 

I Googled how to quit your job for months to get advice and a sense of direction.  My desperation to leave was increasingly high but the anxiety surrounding my future finances and the subsequent ‘what ifs’ were taking over.  If I did quit, could I afford it? What will I do?  Will I get another job?  Will my parents hate me?  Will my they think I'm a failure?  My thought processes throughout this period were all over the place. 

Most people told me that I should have a plan.  That I shouldn't quit unexpectedly.  That I should be careful.  

I was looking for new jobs and interviewed for a few until a bomb exploded.  My boss gave me a promotion.  Some people would be absolutely over the moon with a promotion and in some ways I should've been too but the thought of having to work with this vile man any longer made me sick.  I realised then that my time was running out and I needed to get out quickly.  But then something awful happened.  I got severely injured.  

I was on my way to meet some friends for dinner after work when my quadriceps gave way and I twisted my knee.  I couldn't walk and had to be rushed to the hospital.  When I had to explain this situation to my boss the next morning, I received no reply. 

The doctors had signed me off for three weeks due to the fact that I couldn't walk let alone travel to work each day but I assured my boss that I would work from home.   In a way, this was a godsend as it gave me the time to reevaluate my life choices. However I was beat down again after hearing that my boss was refusing to pay me for the time I was off sick.  

The way I was treated whilst I was at home, isolated from everyone, was unacceptable.  My employer offered me no support and my mental health was steadily declining again.  I had anxiety every day about work, even begging my father to allow me to get to work even on my crutches.  

And that's when it hit me. 

I can't walk and I'm in an incredible amount of pain.  Yet, here I am, trying to put work before my health and wellbeing.  What the hell am I doing?  I turned on my Macbook and started work on my notice letter.

After a month, I went back to work fully on my feet and handed in my notice straight away with no immediate plan for the future.  I could say that it was daunting but I had discussed my options with my family.  I have no mortgage, no car and no children to pay for.  I'm 23, and my life is just beginning. 

The fact that I was 99.9% close to having a nervous breakdown was enough to make me realise how unhappy I really was and that no job should ever make you feel that bad.  The morning I handed in my notice, I was shaking profusely with sweat dripping down my temples waiting to see Patrick's reaction.  He was okay with it, and apparently, he had seen it coming.  I released a sigh of relief and suddenly a weight had been lifted although I knew I had to suffer a further four weeks of my notice period until I was well and truly free.

I have never felt happier in a decision I have made in my life.  A lot of people told me not to quit, my parents were a little anxious about it too, but what I have learnt from this is that everything works itself out in the end and your mental and physical wellbeing should always come first.  A job is a job.  No one will die if you quit your job.  There will always be a replacement.  Being in a toxic environment will only kill you. Money is just money.  These are just things.

What matters the most is you.  

 

*Names have been changed to protect the individual's identity. 

The Great Wall of China Marathon. HERE I COME!!!!

Tomorrow, I board a plane alone to Beijing to prepare myself to run The Great Wall of China Marathon on Saturday 21st May 2016.  I write this with all sorts of emotions flowing through my body as I begin to take it all in that I leave tomorrow on a trip I have been planning and preparing for since last year when, on impulse during a depressive episode, I decided that I wanted to get away.

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I felt lost and I felt like my drive for life had been swept away from channeling too much energy into someone else's life who didn't deserve it.  It was my time to cut loose and do something I wanted to do because I was desperately trying to find out who I was as a person.

During a period where I was stressed at work, having flashbacks of my sexual assault that were haunting me like an awful nightmare and the thought of reconnecting with my biological mother after 22 years were taking its toll on my mental health.  It felt like a total brain overload and I wanted to end my life.  I knew I had to find a way to end these thoughts.

So I began to google marathons.  At this point I had never run a marathon in my life but I knew I wanted to challenge myself because I knew how much the training commitments would keep me distracted.  I became excited because I finally had something to look forward to.  I found The Great Wall Marathon online via Albatros Adventure, and even though it was a little costly, I knew this was a perfect opportunity for me to travel, run and find myself again on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Not only do I get to run 26.2 miles and climb 5,164 steps in 35 degree heat and 400m above sea level on one of the world's most treasured and historical landmarks but I also get to visit Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Cloisonne Factory and Ming Tombs, the Summer Palace and Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Panda.  I've always wanted to visit countries in the Far East so I thought this trip would combine my two favourite things in the world; running and travelling. 

I started my training in September 2015 and since then I have run 3 marathons as part of my training.  Mentally and physically I now know I can run the distance.  I have so many people to thank for this because this time last year I couldn't run 5 miles, let alone 26.2 miles.

This journey has primarily been about improving my mental wellbeing, my physical health and becoming a better version of myself.  I decided to start a mental health blog and write about my own experiences which meant facing a few of my demons all over again in the process.  I openly spoke about my depression and the reasons why I became depressed on social media with the attitude that it could help someone else face their demons the same way I did.  Sometimes when life throws you curveballs your mind goes into overload and you forget how to manage it.  You forget yourself and spend a lot of time running away from your problems rather than trying to fix them.  But it's good to know that you're never alone in this world and others go through similar situations.  In the last few months, I have learnt to:

1. Embrace Opportunities

When opportunities are presented to you, jump at them.  You never know when these things will happen again and life is too short to be worrying about what ifs.  Experience all you can in life and you will reap all that life can give you; happiness.

2. Love Myself

Before you can love anyone else, you must love yourself first.  Putting yourself first in life is not a crime.  When you are working hard on your personal goals you release positive energy that will attract others.  Don't let others hinder you from what you want to do and never feel like you should compromise.

3. Form worthy friendships

Surround yourself with open minded, positive and inspiring people.  There is no room for negativity and when negativity makes a show, avoid it.  The people who really care about you and what you do are the ones who you should surround yourself with.  That way, you can push and encourage each other to be successful.

4. Educate myself

There is always room to learn.  Education is a gift and if you share your intelligence and knowledge with others and vice versa, appreciate it.  We know everyone loves a competition but once you team up and work together with everyone's skills involved, you're unstoppable.  Give more than you can take!

5. HAVE GRATITUDE

This year has been a total eye opener for me especially as I've come from a time when I felt so down and didn't want to continue living anymore, my life since then has taken an 180 degree turn and I feel alive again. I 100% owe that to those around me who have brought me back to life. 

Whilst I am out in China, I will not be active on social media as they block it.  However, it'll be me, my camera and my journal taking it all in.  This trip couldn't come at a better time, especially as I am in the mood for solidarity.  If you read my previous blog piece on solidarity you'll understand why I love it so much!  It'll be a huge culture shock and some things might frighten me but this is what I love about travelling alone.  It allows you to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things.

My run is in aid of Mind, the UK's largest mental health charity.  Mind have supported me and thousands of others by helping us get our lives back on track.  Whether that's ensuring we have a voice on the other end of the line to vent to, a shoulder to cry on at a therapy session, or educating us on mental health to understand it more.  Every service Mind provides is free but only as long as people keep fundraising and ensuring awareness is spread.

I'd like to personally thank every single person who has donated to my Just Giving page and has helped me exceed my fundraising target of £1,000.  I'd like to thank Charlie Dark and everyone at Run Dem Crew for lifting my spirits high and making me feel like I matter in this world.  I'd like to thank Stephen and Georgia and the rest of LDN Brunch Club for ensuring I never get left behind on our Sunday Long Runs, Sorrell Walsh for continuing to inspire me and most and foremost, to my Squad (and you know who you are) for always having my back, always putting up with my hangry attitude and for always believing in me.  The support has been extremely overwhelming and I am eternally grateful for having such inspiring people around me doing such epic shit.

It has been a very emotional rollercoaster of a journey but I am here (admittedly writing this in a puddle of tears), recharged, revived and recuperated.  I was once a young girl with no self-esteem, anxiety and stuck on a road with no direction and now I am a 23 year old woman with confidence, aspirations and dreams, ready to conquer the world.  I finally love life again.

I can't believe it's here. Tears and all, China, I am coming for you.

See y'all in two weeks and please keep donating. 

AIN'T NOAH MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH FOR ME.

f r e e d o m

Rolling around like tumbleweed, battered and bruised until you rise to your feet only to be knocked down again.

Why me? I hear you cry. As the tears fall down your face, I watch your lip tremble and notice the saddening look of desperation you wish would go away and stop haunting your every footstep. 

But I won't leave, I will win and continue to until you climb like the smoke from a fire, cutting loose the chains that once held you captive. 

Leave me be, you beg as you fight for your freedom.

Rise from the dark cesspit I dragged you into, through the baron woods of exertion that exhausts you to death.

So this is what it's like from the Other Side.

The grass is never greener.  What you see is simply on the horizon.  It deceives the naked eye. 

Once it crawls closer you realise you were wrong all along.  Hiding behind a facade only makes it harder and at that point you wished you had opened the door sooner.

So I ask.

Who Am I? 

In Our Own Words: Middle Aged-Dread

50-year-old Mark Lancaster, from Southend-on-Sea, shares his story about his mental and physical impairments and how he has managed all these years down the line.  A true, gritty and honest account of one man's life. 

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