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. 

  

Marathon Marcus

The global running community is huge and social media is a fantastic tool to keep in touch with everyone.  Through Instagram, I connected with Marcus Brown aka Marathon Marcus, who is a 10x marathon runner, advocate for healthy mind and body and has set incredible goals for himself in the coming years, including completing all six World Majors.   I was really inspired by the amount of work Marcus puts into his training but also his reasons behind it so I sat with him down to find out more...

I noticed you started blogging quite recently as your first blog piece was published back in February earlier this year, what prompted to you start running and write a blog about running and mental and physical health?

I started running in 2006, my first running event was the Nike 10k. However I didn't start my blog until 2016.  In 2015 I did a work presentation, so I decided to talk about running marathons and the lessons which I learnt along the way, thankfully it went down well and I thought maybe I could be a bit braver moving forward and discuss mental health and running.

Growing up I've always had to be independent, which has made me highly guarded. In small quantities, it can be helpful, but when you wear a coat of armour (figuratively speaking) all the time, it isn't healthy to be in state of such high alert for extended periods of time. I now recognise this, and the fact it isn't conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Naturally, I'm quite a private person, and subconsciously even now, I find it hard to open up and express myself despite appearances. There was a ten-year gap between running, then starting my blog and posting on Instagram. It was started as an attempt to help me, break my subconscious habit of not allowing myself to feel and express a lot of emotions I had bottled up. By making a conscious effect to go public, I was holding myself accountable to break a negative subconscious behaviour, and the fears I originally had that I needed to be on high alert all the time, were proved to be baseless.

You actively promote a healthy mind and body on both your blog and Instagram, do you think running is the best way to achieve this?  If so, how have you achieved this?


Running works for me but everyone has their own path to what sports activity they like whether that is individual or team sports for example.

For me, the healthy mind and body goal is a fluid target with no final destination, but each day I take steps to work towards that goal. Each day I do my best to get that balance right, but some days are great and some days I have set backs, but during those difficult moments, I have gained the tools to deal with the challenges which have knocked me sideways historically.

But in a wider context, when we think of psychology, whether it's in a business or a sports context, it's seen as a positive thing, however, when psychology is talked about in regards to mental health, it tends to have a negative stigma. However psychology in sports, business, or mental health has the same function, it helps improve your performance in challenging moments.

Mental health has been one of the forefront topics of the year, with celebrities and the royal family speaking openly about it.  Was there any particular reason why you chose to raise awareness for mental health problems?  Can you explain why it is so important to you?

It's personal to me, because I have my own challenges. I spent a long time being ashamed of it and falling into line to avoid stigmas. But a weakness is only a weakness if you don't acknowledge it, and hide from it. I chose to face my challenge and to make a decision to accept myself, for what I am and what I wasn't it. Through my own journey I want to bring awareness to the subject, and hopefully inspire other people.

To be honest it's fantastic that the Royal family are behind this as it smashes another stigma, that mental health can affect everyone. I'm really glad overall it's getting more positive media coverage.

You've set yourself the long term challenge of completing all World Majors and then a short term goal of completing 4 marathons in 1 year.  I've been called crazy by my peers for completing 4 marathons in a year, in such a short space of time.  Have your friends/family had the same reaction to your challenges?

It's been varied, my wife gets me so she is really supportive. My family are naturally looking out for me and hope each marathon is my last. On the whole my non running friends are generally supportive but they still think I'm weird for running multiple marathons. My running friends get it and are supportive. Some people aren't that positive about it but it says more about them to be honest. I fully accept that people may be supportive or not so supportive, but regardless of what people think, I enjoy running and as long as I'm healthy and can do so I will continue.

I had a conversation with a friend earlier this year, and she told me what an amazing experience the New York marathon was. It really inspired me to actually think well why not give it a go, and that snowballed into aiming for the six world majors. I think it is a good thing to have big scary goals because it stretches you as a person. Life is more fun lived outside your comfort zone.

I've seen people do four marathons in a month, or run four marathons four days in a row, so there are some amazing athletes out there, that have trumped my four marathons in a year. But the main reason for my goal was to raise awareness that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health challenge.

When you first started running, what were the biggest challenges you've had to face and what advice would you give?

I would ask people to honestly ask themselves and then talk to a trusted friend also for a balanced view, to define the 'why' behind their training.  If your training, in an attempt to achieve a goal to conquer something you don't like about yourself, you could run a 100 marathons but if you hated yourself before, once the euphoria has gone, you will start to hate yourself again after completing the marathons. It took me a long while to realise that a healthy body cannot coexist in conflict with an unhealthy mind.

The problem is most people don't realise how unhealthy subconscious thoughts rule their life's, they believe that they are making sensible conscious decisions, until it's pointed out by a therapist that all is not as it seems.  My advice would be to interrogate the 'why' behind your training, if it's for unhealthy reasons, I would advise people to deal with this as a matter of urgency, running away from the problem won't solve it. You can only run for so long before it catches you up. Face the fear head on.

When you ran Abingdon in 2008, can you remember exactly how you felt once you crossed that finish line?  Did you ever imagine running 9 more marathons after this race?

When I first started running marathons, I ran it in the hope that by setting a big challenge I would prove that I was something beyond what I already was.  It took me a couple of marathons to realise that the finish line isn't what it's all about. Completing the first marathon was an amazing achievement, but I was the same person that I was before I completed the Abingdon marathon. I think it's just mainly reinforced what I already was, which is enough.

With running being so prominent in your life, how have you dealt with set backs such as injury from a physical and mental point of view?

The first few injuries were hard to accept, and I didn't deal with them well. As such I rushed back into training and made the injury worse. Now I think of the quote by Arthur Ashe:

"If I were to say, 'God, why me?' about the bad things, then I should have said, 'God, why me?' about the good things that happened in my life".

Don't get me wrong I don't like being injured, but once it's happened using energy to worry about how unfair things are, is wasted time which I can't get back. I focus on what I can control and make the decision to do what I can to come back stronger, and not make the injury worse.

With 4 more marathons coming up (Robin Hood Marathon Nottingham, New York 2016, Paris 2017 and Tokyo 2017, do you think a BQ will fall on one of these races?

My Boston Qualifier (BQ) time is 3:05 at approx. 7:03 minutes per mile. At the moment my PB is 30 minutes short of this. The target is achievable but I'm going to need to work very very hard to achieve it. With goals like this I need to be realistic, so my current short term goal is to achieve a 3:20 marathon. The long term aim is to achieve the BQ, but if I don't achieve it, I'm still very happy with my PB.
 

What/Who would you say inspires you the most?

First and foremost I think you have to be your own inspiration, when your tired and don't want to train, or when your getting up early to do training runs in the winter, you need to be your own cheerleader first, as relying on external inspiration will only last for so long.  Secondly I'm inspired by so many of my Instagram friends, including yourself. The work your doing with Mind is incredible to bring awareness to mental health.

When I see the journeys that people have made and I can see the similarities in my own journey, it makes it more relatable than looking at a profession athlete. So far I've been able to interview a number of people on my blog. Such as Emma @devlins_angel whose cousin Jay committed suicide in December 2015. Emma is raising awareness for the charity CALM, after completing a tough mudder and training for other running events. When I'm struggling during a run, I think of Jay and imagine the pain he felt that taking his own life seemed like the only option to end the pain. Then I think of my own low moments, I remind myself how I have survived each moment. But all the people I've interviewed from Louisa, Mayling, Iris, Elizabeth, Marianne, Emma, Blake, they all are expressing themselves despite the challenges they have faced, in such a relatable and inspiring way.
 

Last but not least, physically and mentally, how do you prepare yourself for race day?

I always get nervous before a marathon despite running 10 of them. It shows I care and that I respect the event.  Physically, there isn't much you can do on race day. I remind myself that I've done my best in my training, and I will do my best in the marathon regardless of what happens.  Mentally, Ideally you don't want to be completely chilled where your horizontal, and you don't want to be too excited. You want to be in the middle of these two opposites. One thing that I think of to get me amped up in a good way, is thinking about how I survived previous challenges, in line with the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou:

"You may write me down history, with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust I rise..."

This stanza rings true for me based on experiences in my past where I've been told many lies, that have put me down as a person. I've even had a former employer use my mental health against me. Now I look back with a sense of pride about how I've learnt to separate the lies, from the truth, about what I am and what I am not. I am a 10 x marathon runner. I remember how I raised above each lie to, reveal to myself, what I am and no one can take that away from me.


You can follow Marcus here:

Blog: https://themarathonmarcus.wordpress.com

Instagram: @themarathonmarcus

Email: themarathonmarcus@gmail.com 

Twitter: @marathon_marcus

Facebook: Marathon Marcus 

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. 

DON'T JUST STARE

Last year, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting an amazing woman who's vision for mental health and the creative arts became reality.  DON'T JUST STARE is London's new Mental Health Platform, raising awareness through creativity.  Here I speak to the Goddess behind it all, Ms. Nicole de Leiburne ("NDL").

Hi Nicole, can you tell the readers about yourself?

NDL: My name is Nicole, I am 24 and a Summer baby, living in West London with my beautiful girlfriend and puppy.

 So what is DON'T JUST STARE and where did it all begin?

NDL: DON'T JUST STARE is a new creative platform based in London, raising awareness for Mental Health Illnesses, through events, workshops, film and festival pop-ups.

That's amazing, so what are your own experiences with mental health?  What prompted you to create the platform? 

NDL: When I was 17, I experienced my first panic attack.  I was diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety and depression, which made it increasingly difficult to leave the house and live life with happiness...

Your platform promotes Creativity and the Arts.  Why do you think creativity is so important for those with living with mental illnesses?

NDL: I believe creativity can benefit everybody because it is simply universal, we can all be creative.  Whether you are listening to music, playing music, singing in your bedroom, singing in the street, taking note of the art of everyday conversation, taking photographs, cooking up a healthy meal from scratch, reading a book, writing a poem, all of these things are incredibly creative and they can hugely make us feel good inside.  I think we all need to become more aware, that we can all be creative and do more of it!

You're so right, all of the above can be so therapeutic and calming for the mind. How much of an impact do you think your platform will make on people's lives?

NDL: Picasso once said "We were all born Artists, the problem is how to remain one, once we grow up".  This has stuck with me the moment I read it and it continues to be a strong message within our ethos at DON'T JUST STARE

What projects do you have coming up?

NDL: We have some incredibly exciting projects emerging at DON'T JUST STARE. We are currently working on our Wellness Programme of workshops for the public which we will be launching this summer in Shoreditch.  We are also looking to work with schools, colleges, universities and businesses in and around London to deliver our Wellness Programme.  We also host a forward-thinking series of seasonal events, showcasing musicians, artists and speakers who have all suffered from Mental Health Illnesses and use creativity as their outlet.

What do you hope for the future for DON'T JUST STARE?

NDL: Our aim is to build a huge creative platform and community, where people feel safe to share experiences and meet new people.  We believe nobody should feel alone through difficult times in life.  We aim to break the stigma and show people that it's ok not to be ok and creativity can make you feel damn good.

If people want to get involved, how can they contact you?

NDL: If you would like to get involved or just want to say hello, please get in touch at hello@dontjuststare.com

And lastly, if you have 5 things to say to your younger self, what would they be?

NDL: If I had 5 things to say to my younger self, it would be -

1) Relax

2) Meditate

3) Learn Spanish and keep it up

4) Don't be so hard on yourself

5) It's seriously going to be OK

I hope if anyone is reading this and has suffered from difficult times, you know that you are not alone and we are here to help in a non-clinical exciting way. 


CONNECT

Website: www.dontjuststare.com

Instagram: dontjuststare

Facebook: DON'T JUST STARE

Twitter: @dontjuststare

Email: hello@dontjuststare.com


UPCOMING EVENTS:

1 October 2016

DON'T JUST STARE X CALM X Kamio

More info here

RSVP is essential - Please send full names to hello@dontjuststare.com


TALKING TO STRANGERS SERIES

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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? 

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The Beginning of the End

Do you remember episode 15 of Season 3 of the Hills when LC exclaimed at Heidi:

"All there is left to do is to forgive and forget. So, I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you!"

This is exactly how I feel about 2015.

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I would like to forgive 2015 for all the unfortunate things which occurred even though they will allow me to learn and become the person I want to be, but I would also like to forget some of those things because bringing them into my future will not allow me to grow and achieve the goals I want.

Sometimes when you are faced with a new year you frantically look for resolutions and yes, it is a cliché, but starting a new year is the perfect opportunity to set yourself challenges.  For me, starting a challenge half way through the year would be a nightmare (because I am a little neurotic and OCD about things being in order) so here is a snippet of my list of things I vow to do in 2016.

  • Write More

When I was 5,  and as suggested by my mother, I wrote a journal every year over my six-week summer holidays to document our vacations.  This included where we stayed, what we did, which museums we visited and all the hilarious occurrences which took place during our travels.  My mother always encouraged me to keep a memoir because she was so dismayed by my fragmented and poor memory of what we did the year prior.  She always complained that I never remembered anything nice about what we did (and still do) so I promised her to keep a diary every single day which I subsequently did for 16 years.

Every now and then, when I **reluctantly** do a little bit of a spring clean, I find myself rummaging through and reliving all of those memories of being the usual teenager with a lot of angst.  The reason why I maintained a diary for so long was because I struggled to speak about my feelings growing up and I used it as an outlet.  I managed to keep the exciting dreams and tried to get rid of all of my worries on paper, then I was able to put it back on my shelf and continue with my day.  It has certainly helped me grow up and learn more about myself.  In 2015, I neglected this so this year I vow to stick to it as writing is extremely good for helping maintain a healthy state of mind which is something I am currently working on.

  • Practice Yoga Every Day

Yoga is something I was recently introduced to in 2015.  About a year ago, I had toyed with the idea but I thought it was rather pretentious with all the bad press Hipsters seemed to get.  Nevertheless, I finally took the plunge and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I therefore turned up to my gym's yoga class wearing my newly purchased lycra yoga pants (of course!) and an open mind.  

Our yoga teacher, I can remember quite clearly, had a very soothing voice, the type you could fall asleep to which was perfect for this setting.  However, I was somewhat distracted, for the whole duration of the class, by my mind begging my bowels not to let one rip.  Considering the class encouraged Pranayama breathing (breathing through your nose) which is practically silent, you could barely hear a pin drop.  So the idea of me attempting the Salamba Sarvangasana (see photo below) with wind is near impossible.  I could not handle the stress it caused, ironically, and didn't go for months. 

Fast forward to now, when I am a little wiser and have taught myself to work on my pelvic floor exercises, I have finally returned to my mat gracefully and I am able to reap all the benefits Yoga offers.  I vow to spend at least 15 minutes practicing yoga every morning before work as it sets you up for a great day.  It teaches you to live in the moment and to be grateful for what you have right in front of you.

If, like me, you are frightened of being seen in any wonky upside pose, check out www.yogaglo.com to get you started.  Here you will find online yoga classes (and meditation!) to suit your ability and you can do it from the comfort of your own home (in private!). 

  • Finish knitting the scarf

As this blog's theme is about challenges and goals, knitting is a perfect candidate for 2016 as the ultimate goal here is to FINISH.  Knitting is one of those amazing pastimes you can start and drop at any time of the year.  It is a great hobby if you like being a crafty so-and-so.  I picked up knitting because I thought it was super easy and therapeutic but the only people I saw knitting, however, were old people.  I think we should bring it back!!!  

Before Christmas, I bought three red wool yarns, two 7cm sticks and got cracking.  I now carry my basket around the house and knit all day long whilst watching my favourite television show or quietly listen to a playlist I have made.  I am now three quarters of the way and have gained such a sense of achievement that I have finally learnt how to purl without dropping a stitch and how to measure my tension so my scarf isn't wonky.  I WILL finish it.

  • Complete the Great Wall of China Marathon

So I suppose the whole purpose of writing this blog really is to essentially document my training for the Great Wall of China Marathon.  For those who do not know, I will, on 21st May 2016, embark on a journey to China to test my physical and mental state in aid of my beloved mental health charity, Mind, who have helped me and thousands of others through difficult times. 

The reason why I chose The Great Wall of China Marathon was because I hate stairs or anything with an incline. I will purposefully avoid taking the route with a hill or will indefinitely choose taking the lift rather the stairs.  I can run and I can walk; but I decided I needed to stop being such a cop out and not only challenge myself but do something which will benefit others.  Luckily, I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to join running communities such as, LDN Brunch Club, which is a London-based running club which you can check out here.  I am also training with London's Run Dem Crew which also helps me with my training.  You can check them out here.

Mind is an amazing charity which does so much to help people with mental illnesses.  They provide support and assistance to those who are unable to deal with certain things in their lives, such as a stressful lifestyle or a life changing event which has taken its toll.  Mental illness can vary from depression to personality disorder to anxiety which affects more than 100,000 people in the UK alone and every week over 100 people in the UK take their own lives. 

The money I hope I raise through running the Great Wall of China Marathon could mean someone dealing with anxiety, depression or bipolar can find the information and support they have been looking for. 

It would mean a lot if you would donate, even a little amount, to Mind to give people suffering with mental illness the support and respect they deserve. Thank you.

 DONATE HERE

  • Be Happy

And to end on a lighter note, and quite rightly so, my main vow and advice to everyone for 2016 is to be happy.  2015 ended quite badly and a lot of things last year triggered my depression which sent me into a spiralling decline into Mordor.  I definitely would like to avoid that and by doing all the above, I hope it sends me into the right direction again.  Thankfully I have the support of friends and family around me but I would also like to share what I have learnt with others who may not have that support.  By writing this blog, I will be 100% transparent with my training for the marathon and also with my personal mental health development.  

So get off that sofa and go for a run.  Turn off your phone and read a book.  Challenge yourself, set yourself those goals and aim to complete them.  Do not live your life according to others, do not forget to love yourself and most importantly, do not forget to be happy. 

2016 I am coming for you.