Tomorrow I am doing a 20 mile race. Which, even though I’ve done 5 marathons, still seems like a REALLY stupidly long way, and I’m quite nervous about it. Especially since I had a horrendous half marathon experience a couple of weeks ago. I’m doing Draycote 20 as a training race for Manchester Marathon, and will be doing it at long slow run pace rather than any laughable attempt to ‘race’ it. It will, as we always say, be a PB whatever, because I’ve never done a 20 mile race. Although as I said to a buddy that I am doing both the race tomorrow with, and Manchester itself, I have an A and B plan for tomorrow. Plan A is to do the first 15 miles (three laps of the lake) at LSR pace and then do the last 5 miles/lap at marathon pace. This is what the coach in me would say.
However I also have a plan B, which is to do the first 5 miles at LSR pace then get slower and slower bitching and moaning the whole way, walking when I feel like it and crawling over the line an ugly crying snotty mess whilst the others are already in the restaurant drinking cider.
SO I think it’s possible that I may need some extra motivation, and as I’m also trying to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably – a suicide prevention charity), and people have been asking me why that particular charity, I thought I’d break my blog silence to write about CALM, mental health and why it’s important to me.
I’ve written a fair bit about how running helps with my mental health. Although I don’t suffer from frequent debilitating depression, or bi-polar or OCD or anxiety or any of the things that some of my fellow runners deal with, I have had episodes of depression in the past, which led to self-harming and some very dark thoughts and I do suffer from bouts of PMT most months which have made question my grip on reality and occasionally go to quite a dark place and get really paranoid and have massive mood swings reminiscent of Tyres from Space on a come down. But all of this is mostly manageable. I very rarely feel truly hopeless, and if I do it doesn’t last. Often the way I manage is to get out for a run, even when I REALLY don’t feel like it, I’ve built up enough experience to know that even if it’s chucking it down, or I’m tired and feel fat and ugly and worthless, a run outside – if possible somewhere beautiful, and I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with easy access to beautiful nature spots – it will put things in perspective and the exercise and fresh air will make me feel physically better almost instantly. And if that doesn’t work I have really needy and attention seeking cats who sense when I’m feeling crappy and stick their smelly faces right into mine demanding cuddles, putting snag holes in ALL OF MY RUNNING CLOTHES.
But not everyone deals like that do they? And I know my minor mental health issues are a drop in the ocean compared to what I see with my therapy clients as well as with my friends and family.
I’m not sure I wrote about it for the blog, in fact I haven’t really blogged properly for a while because last year was a pretty crappy one. If 2019 was a film, for me it would be titled “five funerals and a separation”. My very much loved cousin died of a heart attack the day after his birthday. Three friends took their own life and my therapy supervisor – who was also my mentor and friend, who I had known since I was a teenager – also died, and I haven’t taken on a therapy client since. But will be getting back on that horse very soon. So 2019 was pretty shit. Managing the shock of those deaths one after another was like being punch drunk. The hits kept on coming. And with suicide you have the “WHY?” on top of the guilt, and sadness and the wishes that you could have known, could have done something, could have helped in some way.
So the urge to DO something in the face of feeling so helpless was huge, and the only thing that I could think of to do was to try and raise money for a suicide prevention charity. Thinking that for every few quid I might raise, the phone-lines would be kept open that might literally be a lifeline to someone.
I can’t fathom the existential crisis that leads someone to take their own life. The conversations I’ve had with people since then, strong amazing friends who – as usual – it would never occur to me had felt like this. That’s the rub quite often – the people that talk about it on the whole aren’t the ones that follow through with it. I cannot conceive of the darkness that can descend, where the pain of living overwhelms a person to that extent that there is really no alternative.
But what I can do is to raise awareness, to hope that my friends and family KNOW that I mean it when I say the can call on me, that I care, that I love, that I will listen. And if that is not what is needed, if there is too much shame there or too much pain to talk to someone they know, then perhaps the money I have raised will mean that CALM is there for them, and they can pick up the phone to them instead, and that that might pause the darkness for long enough for some light to break through.
SO my friends, THAT is why I am going to be slogging my guts out bitching and moaning in my BRIGHT ORANGE CALM vest that to be honest, is VERY unflattering and makes me look like a weeble (it does set off the blue hair beautifully, and no I won’t be dying that orange, because I don’t think ‘beaker’ is a good look on me) for 20 miles tomorrow, and probably again the week after, and then on the 5th of April for 26.2 miles round Manchester. And if you have a few quid to spare then please follow this link to my justgiving page and give me some extra motivation. I will dedicate a jelly baby to you or something.