Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Marathon Diaries #1: 13 weeks to go...

I probably use Instagram now more than any other social media platform. It’s the first app I open when I wake up and the last one I check before I go to sleep, so it’s where I’ve been documenting my marathon training the most. 

‘Marathon training’. Every time I say it, or type it out, I choke. MARATHON. TRAINING. 

I like posting photos on Instagram of my new running gear, running routes, progress, good meals, and connecting with other runners so we can spur each other on. Instagram is pretty, and Facebook and Twitter are definitely not pretty. 

But I’m a writer by trade and by passion, and as this marathon *CHOKES* gets ever closer, I need a bigger outlet. I need to write about the fact I’m RUNNING THE FECKIN’ LONDON MARATHON IN 93 DAYS’ TIME. 

So, here I am. Hello, welcome back to my blog. Welcome back to my breakdown; this time of my feet/legs/hips, and not my head. A nice change. 

If you don’t know the story of how I came to agree to run the London Marathon, here’s what you missed:
  • In April 2016 I ran my first parkrun, and thus, 5k. 
  • Also in April 2016 I was featured in Mind’s GetSetToGo campaign where I banged on about how running is incredible for your head. 
  • ALSO ALSO in April 2016 Heads Together (formed by The Royal Foundation - the charity of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry) announced they were to be the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017’s charity of the year, bringing together eight partner charities to improve the conversation around mental health, including the charity I work for - The Mix.
  • *deep breath* ALSO ALSO ALSO in April 2016 I was asked if I’d be The Mix’s head runner. I thought about it a LOT, then said yes. For my sins. I ended up on TV in this film during the 2016 London Marathon as part of the Heads Together announcement. There was no going back now…
  • In July 2016 I ran my first 10k race.
  • In January 2017 I started marathon training.

And here we are.

I’m following this 16 week training plan. I knew I had to follow a plan this time instead of winging it, but didn’t know which would be right for me nor which one to trust, so I chose the 'first-time finisher' plan on the Virgin Money London Marathon website. A quick google of other plans, tips, and nutrition support just ended up in me cowering under my duvet as all these websites shouted different things at me. If I’m going to do this marathon, I’m going to do it in the calmest way possible. I just want to cross the finish line, damn it. Slow and steady. 

It’s going… well. I’m coming to the end of week three and I’m feeling good. I’ve stuck to the schedule, I'm actually IMPROVING (I knocked a full 10 minutes off my initial 7km run time today - pretty smug), I’m eating well, and I’m trying to swim amongst all the running which feels awesome on my poor legs and feet. 

But it’s only the beginning, and I’m very aware of that. From February, the long Sunday runs are going to ramp up quickly. I’ll be nearing a half marathon before I know it. And boy did I struggle with October’s half marathon race. But I feel more prepared now, and this is NOT a race. I go slow. I learnt lessons during that half marathon (mainly that I needed new shoes, so I got my running analysed at Runners Need over Christmas and treated myself to some beautiful, comfy, mildly expensive new Saucony Ride 9s) and I’ll remember them during training. I won’t beat myself up. I won’t compare myself. I won’t overwhelm myself. I’ll have fun and remember why I’m doing this: to support my head, to support my body, and to support others. To prove that I am, and you are, in control and can do anything…

…and to get more selfies like this one but that’s a minor point:


I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be so involved in this year’s London Marathon. Over the last nine months I’ve attended some wonderful events, chatted one-on-one to the Royals about the importance of this mental health campaign, had my voice heard in national media interviews, and soon will be giving my own speech in front of A LOT OF PEOPLE at a Heads Together event in February. 

There’s a lot more to this marathon than running, and I’m ready for it all. 

Bring it. (After a sleep, I'm exhausted.)

Monday, 19 December 2016

Twenty Fixteen? Sure, Jan...

Well.

Oh boy.

That was um… something, wasn’t it? 2016. Mmm. 

As this year has been slowly, painfully, dragging its sorry sore arse to the bitter end, I’ve been thinking about the 'Twenty Fixteen' post I wrote at the end of 2015, all about how WONDERFUL and BADASS and PRODUCTIVE and PROGRESSIVE 2016 was going to be. I wrote some resolutions and I had dreams and goals and unfathomable amounts of hope to achieve them, and as I sit here now, in my crumb-filled dent of the bed where I spend most of my days, I’m hovering over that post with held breath and eyes squinted because…

MY GOD WASN’T 2016 FUCKING AWFUL? JESUS. FUCK. I MEAN, REALLY, GOOD GOD WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT??? WHO SENT IT??? SHITTING HECK. YOU BASTARD. 

So, here goes. Looking back at my resolutions for, what established itself pretty quickly as, the year of the depths of fiery hell.

Finish book.

The big one. The monster. The one that’s been my hidden resolution for the last five years, but the one that now I find achievable and believable. I’m going to finish writing my debut. I am I am I am. 

I mean… I did finish it. I finished writing my first book in April, which wasn’t bad going at all. I won’t go into the absolutely tumultuous, unexpected, horrible carnage that then ensued but none of that takes away the fact that I have written a book. Tick.

Unapologetically write.

I’m bored of letting fear of opinion and/or ridicule stop me from writing. I love writing, and I want to write about anything and everything, everywhere, so I’m going to blog constantly and maybe even try my hand at some more freelance writing in 2016. I can and I will.

Mmm, I did write. I didn’t get back into blogging like I wanted to, but I wrote a little bit here and I actually freelanced! I’ve been writing for betty, a platform full of awesome women writing empowering, funny, and bold pieces for 11-15 year old girls. So that’s pretty cool. 

Keep running.

Running has been the weirdest addition to my 2015, but definitely one of the most impacting. It makes me feel good and it’s methodical. It’s practical and therapeutic. So I want to keep running at least twice a week and maybe even take part in a 5k and 10k. I want medals, damn it. 

Oh, I’m having this one. I’m having this one SO HARD. I ran my first 5k (and my first parkrun) in April, ran the Vitality British 10k through London in July, and… ahem… the Royal Parks HALF MARATHON in October. I smashed it out the park, lads. And in the park, and around the park, and all the many, many parks. TICK IT.

Give less chances and more love.

I’m done with excusing people for shitty behaviour, and I’m done with caring so much about others’ opinions. In the process of focusing on the shits, I end up not giving my all to the people who really matter, so I’m going to spoil them horrendously in 2016. (If my best friends could all message me their favourite type of cake, that’d get the ball rolling a lot easier. Cheers.)

Alas, as was predicted by my many years of having fragile friendships, I still struggle to fuckery with this one. I started the year well by writing love letters to my best friends. I know what a good friend is, what makes a good friendship, and who I can rely on in my life. But I still haven’t nailed how to deal with unhealthy friendships. I’m a clinger-on, man. I don’t know when to let go for my own good. 

Read 24 books.

It doesn’t sound like a lot. Others’ targets are ofte- OH LOOK, there I go again. Thinking about what others are doing. No. I want to read at least two books a month because that’s achievable for me. 

I’m on 23 and have every faith that I will shove another one down my throat before the year’s out.

Go on European city breaks.

I’m not one for going travelling, but I want to up my Instagram game so I need to see some fancy buildings and drop some hashtags… I joke (kind of). I can tell I’m growing up by the fact I DO want to see fancy buildings over a beach and too-clean swimming pool, and I’m willing to actually budget food money instead of relying on all-inclusive deals. Three cities. I want to try and see three cities on the mainland in 2016.

We went to Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic. Not quite three but money is money. England got more of a look-in, though. We went to *reviews Instagram* Bath, Longleat, Wookey Hole, Wells, Bradford-on-Avon, Maldon, Walton-on-the-Naze, Lavenham, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick. Needs more North, on reflection.

Try and come off my meds.

It’s as simple as that. 

Well, I’m off them.

Don’t beat myself up if I can’t.

It probably won’t be as simple as that.

It’s been a struggle since the positivity of my last blog post on this, and if I end up back on them (likely) then I WILL beat myself up. To be continued. 

Cuddles puppies wherever possible.

Or kittens. Or anything fluffy, apart from mouldy oranges. I’ve been in contact with too many of them in 2015.

Always. 

***

2016 will no doubt bring a lot of misery. The world sucks. But it can be the year you deal with it all well and counteract it with beautiful things. Go forth, my son. Drag the shit with you and smother it in glitter. 

It was miserable. Boy, was it miserable. From the deaths of well-loved celebrities gone far too soon, to the sudden and heartbreaking deaths of my boyfriend’s mum and many, many family friends. From grandparents spending half the year in hospital, to their house being flooded and destroyed. From terrifying political choices from both those inside and the public, to the horrendous destruction of war-torn countries with no sign of it getting any better. 

It’s been fucking awful, and when someone asked me to think of three good things that came out of this year, I couldn’t think of one that didn’t include running. Which is the one focus to keep me alive this year. But that’s the thing; I am alive! After all the shit of 2016, I came out of it alive. A bit bedraggled, greasy, spot-smothered, and three stone heavier, maybe, but alive nonetheless. 

And hey, going through this year’s resolutions wasn’t so bad. I worked on all of them, and certainly improved on them if not fully achieved. Maybe some good did come out of this year. But also, for you, maybe it didn’t. And I’m so sorry if it’s just been plain horrid shite with no glitter in sight. We can only hope for good things and an abundance of good luck for 2017. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Keep looking after yourself and those around you, focus on the little things to keep you sane if not happy, and don’t give up on keeping on. 


I wrote this while listening to my 'Your Top Songs 2016' playlist from Spotify, which was pretty decent. Thanks, Spotify.

                                                        

Monday, 31 October 2016

I’m off my antidepressants. We’re now long distance pals.

** Disclaimer: Not a medical professional. My views based on my experiences only. Please visit your GP, mental health professional, or Mind for more expert advice! **

I’ve not been taking my medication for a month now. GP approved, for immediate clarification. I would never endorse taking yourself off your medication without talking it through with your GP first. Sorry to be ya mum, but… do as you’re told. 

It’s been… ok? I think. It’s hard to self-reflect, especially when you live with different forms of anxiety. I try to differentiate between ‘me’, ‘me with anxiety’, ‘me on medication for anxiety’ and ‘me having just come off medication for anxiety’ which is a whole new territory. 

I came off them for a few reasons, some of them good and some of them bad. I felt ready to try and come off them, primarily. That should always be the main reason. Do it when you’re ready. But I also came off them because some of side effects had started to make my anxiety worse: I put on three stone in a year and I had absolutely no sex drive. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. IT WAS SO SAD.

I know that those reasons are trivial compared to the fact that I could now function, but them being relentlessly thrown in my face when I couldn't fit in my clothes anymore, or when I saw a flash of my boyfriend's bum and didn't start growling, was getting tiresome. So when I felt confident and comfortable to try and come off the medication, those particular side effects made my decision much easier. 

I started to cut down at first. I skipped taking them on weekends, then I only took them every other day, then I only took them every three days… then I didn’t take them at all. This was definitely the best way of doing it. The withdrawal effects weren’t strong but they were definitely there even at the start of the slow process, so I’d never recommend going cold turkey. 

The withdrawal effects I’ve had so far have been:

  • Mad dreams. Like… really weird. Baffling. Could-consider-for-a-Tim-Burton-movie dreams. 
  • Slight trouble sleeping. Courtesy of above, mostly. But I’ve been super nervous of going to sleep and haven’t slept through a lot. 
  • Weird appetite. One week I wasn’t hungry at all and the next I was reaching for the pregnancy test because surely I was eating for two? 
  • Irritableness. Sorry friends.

Aside from the simmering anxiety of being off them, I think that’s it. For now, anyway. No, the weight hasn’t just dropped off but I’m hoping that I can have a better relationship with my body now that I feel more in control of it. And yes, my sex drive back. Bangin’. Literally. 

I feel good. The anxiety is definitely there but my eye's on it. I’m happy I made this decision and, to be brutally honest, I’d be absolutely gutted if I needed to go back on my medication. But I know that that’s a possibility and I shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed at all if it came to it. But one step at a time… 

Antidepressants are wonderful things. I’m definitely pro-medication, and I’m also pro-doing what’s best for you. If you don’t get on with medication, that’s fine. If you need medication for the rest of your life, that’s fine too. There are many different treatments for mental health struggles for a reason; one type won’t work for everyone. I, personally, hated counselling. But medication turned my life around, and once that was working in my system, I then learnt how to self-care properly and the combination of the two worked marvellously.

For me, medication gave me a boost in confidence and a gap between something triggering my anxieties and my anxieties acting upon them. It gave me time, and it gave me hope. It let me sleep, it let me believe in myself, it let me go out, it let me learn and adapt, and it let me improve my relationships. 

It also gave me weird appetites, made me put on a lot of weight, beat up my sex drive, made me twitchy, and sometimes made me clumsy, forgetful, and ‘not with it’, but those last effects only happened when I had to up my dose earlier this year. That dose didn’t last, needless to say. 

I still keep my trusty Sertraline on my bedside table. Just having it there in my sight makes me comfortable. I know it’s there if I need it, though I desperately wish I won’t. I don’t feel scared of ‘going at it alone’. I did, at the start of this year. The thought of not taking medication terrified me and made me so vulnerable. But I depended on it then. I relied on it to get me through the day. But I can get through days myself now. Weeks. Months! Look at me go. I’m far from over with my mental health struggles but, for now, I’m keeping up with them. We’re friends.
 
Images by Freepik