As I move forward with this blog, I’ve decided to incorporate a little bit more discussion on mental health here too. For me I have found that the two share a common thread.
Over the years I’ve grown to feel quite passionate about raising awareness and support for those struggling to make it through life with mental health issues. Having been limited so much in own life by depression and anxiety, I have found it such an amazing experience to open up, share and realize that you are not the only one!
Take myself, for example. I am an only child with all of my extended family overseas. I have lived a very sheltered life, under my parents care right up until I began married life. So I do feel that this has had a huge influence in shaping the person I am today. I’ve never been on my own, in a position where I was under my own care and not relying on anyone else. So I’ve not a lot of personal experiences to draw from, and in fact have always tended to just follow the advice given to me from those I deemed wiser and more experienced, to help keep me on the right path.
Flash forward to present day and I do not differ much from my childhood self. I am still anxious about the world and my place in it; lacking in self-confidence. Over time these insecurities transformed into a diagnosis of social phobia, where I feel extremely self-conscious and inept in comparison to all those around me, and fumble to function normally in the presence of others.
These kinds of ongoing issues tend to have the added effect of bringing down one’s general mood, and so I have been diagnosed with dysthymia – which is a sort of permanent low mood. It basically means that I don’t know what it’s like not to feel depressed to some degree, because this has been my baseline (normal) mood, and all I’ve ever known. Events that cause me added panic or anxiety will often trigger a case of major depression – in my case rendering me in a state of what they refer to as ‘double depression’. At my lowest points I have had to make emergency visits to the hospital to help dig me out. I am incredibly grateful that this expert care exists and is available when I’ve needed help the most.
My mental health issues have impacted my life in a huge way because I’ve spent much of my life quite home-bound, with very infrequent in-person contact with other people. In fact, I often questioned whether I really even had any friends anymore, as I had become such a recluse. I have also been unable to settle into a career, and previous job experiences gave me so much anxiety that nervous breakdowns caused me to leave. (Though I was always complemented by managers on what a great employee I was, due to my anxiety-driven people-pleasing skills!)
I was amazed that it was running which finally brought me out of my darkness. Growing stronger as a runner in turn helped me build up a confidence in myself that was never there before. At the age of 36, I am now able to leave my home, get out there and do things on my own.
I have made so many amazing new friends in the running community too, who have been so warm and welcoming that they really do feel like family to me. My friends at run club have supported me and helped me grow in immeasurable ways – both as a person and as a runner.
For the first time now I feel a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm about what’s out there in the world for me to explore. With just enough confidence to get out there and risk pursuing my newfound dreams. So far my aspirations are still very centred around running and various other athletic endeavours, but it is my hope that I can develop that into finding a career path well suited for me too.
The sense of accomplishment I have built up over these past two and a half years I’ve taken up running has been incredibly instrumental in helping me grow into the type of person I want to be. I am learning more about myself, my capabilities and my interests. I am slowly developing a sense of identity, which I know will help me feel like more of an actual person and less like a ghost passing through this world.
As I continue to write about mental health and my experiences, I hope to inspire others who struggle as I have, and help them see that there is always still hope. I want people to realize that they are not alone, and that so many people out there can relate and do care deeply.