A universal truth is that life can be challenging at times. Those of you who know me well, and those of you that noticed my name change on Facebook, will know that this has been a very difficult year for me personally. I have separated from my husband of over 22 years and am now living with my daughter.
This has been a huge transition and life change for me. Along the way I have learnt some lessons that I am going to share with you. Some, or all of these, you may already know for yourself. At the very least, they will validate your beliefs. Some of them may be new ideas to you. Either way, I hope you find them interesting to read!
The body doesn’t know the difference between stressors.
I have heard this a million times. However, not until I have fully lived it do I know it to be true. I thought running would be a good way for me to escape the stress and difficulties of my life. Instead, it has added to the stress. I have recently been diagnosed with very high cortisol levels. This has caused bone pain, muscle weakening, heart palpitations and weight gain. None of these are conducive to fast or enjoyable running. I am slowly learning that I need to make time to relax and do nothing. Like NOTHING. Not checking out Facebook feeds, not stretching, not even yoga, but nothing, nil, zip. Veg out, it’s good for you!!!
It’s okay to ask for help and show your weaknesses.
I used to pride myself on being stoic and strong. Big girls don’t cry and so forth. I now cry at the drop of a hat. Someone says one nice word to me and my eyes well up. I feel emotionally strained and weak all the time, but you know what? It’s ok. It’s okay to have emotions!! Even ones that I used to find embarrassing.
Also, now if I feel I can’t do something, I ask for help. And do you know what I have found? People are wonderfully, unbelievably and universally KIND. Virtual strangers have helped me out. People I only just know have offered me much needed support and a shoulder to lean on. Good friends have supported me above and beyond the level they should have to. I am in constant amazement of how lovely and wonderful people are.
It’s okay not to do well at races and to run slower than you want.
I have discovered with the huge stress (and lets be truthful, also depression) sitting on my shoulders, my running has nose-dived. At the moment I am running for my mental health. So, my running is slow at the moment; my races, dreadful. But I keep plugging away because I know it will come back and I don’t want to be too unfit when it does. I love running, but it has been incredibly hard to find any joy in it lately. I ran the Hounslow Classic on the weekend, and I was way slower than I would have liked. I could feel my lack of strength. I contemplated DNFing, but thought, ‘No!’ I wasn’t going to DNF just because I was slow, I was going to finish it dammit! And I did, and you know what? No-one cared that I was slow! That’s right, the world didn’t come to a halt, and once again, everyone was kind.
Connect with people.
And I don’t just mean on Facebook! I mean in real life. I admit it, I’ve become a bit of a hermit these last few months. Not catching up with people and becoming depressed with my life and my running. I have been refusing to run with other people because I feel so slow. However, this last weekend being with other people at Hounslow made me realise how FUN it is to be with others, to laugh and forget about the drama of life. That’s what running is for!! So, I might just start running with people again, and maybe they’ll just have to run slower, or wait for me! I will be embarrassed, but no doubt they will be so kind they will tell me not to worry. But one thing I know for sure, it will be great for my mental health!
It’s ok to take medication if you need to.
On the topic of mental health, I have fought taking anti-depressants for a while. I don’t like the idea of taking them. I was prescribed them and started taking them, then stopped (because I don’t need them!!), then started again, then stopped (no, really I’m FINE!! I don’t need them!!), and yup, I’m back on them (I’m not fine, I need some help). And you know what, it’s okay! It’s not a reflection of my strength or capacity to deal with life. I just need some support right now. I won’t be on them for ever, but at this point in my life I need some help. And like I said earlier, it’s okay to accept help!!
Yes, I know everyone thinks I eat healthy! And I do! But even my daughter says I don’t eat enough of a variety of foods, and I get stuck in a rut. A wide variety of food is needed for optimal health.
Also, cutting back on alcohol is important. While I’m not an alcoholic, I do seem to have an addictive personality (hence the running!!), and I noticed I was starting to drink wine to help me cope (self-medicating is not recommended!) It doesn’t help, it only makes things worse.
So a healthy diet is important not just for physical health, but mental too!
This has been a difficult post to write, but I felt I needed to share it, not just for myself, but for those of you out there who are going through the same things. I am sure there are many of you, but because we are all so good at putting on a brave face, no-one knows the truth. But I want it to be known that it’s okay to show weakness.
I have only come to this conclusion after talking with a good friend of mine who is very similar in many of these things to me. Talking with her has made me realise I’m not the only one! There are lots of us out there struggling just to get through each day. Life can be tough, life can be hard, but it can also be wonderful. And the best way for it to be wonderful is to accept your weaknesses and then move forward.
I intend to move forward. I will not be held back by the challenges of my life. I am going to use them to push me on and to do the things I want to do!
If you see me out on the trails, say hi, and try not to run past me too fast!!!
I want to thank all of my sponsors who have continued to support me during this time of slow racing, and lack of social media presence. My sponsors are:
- La Sportiva Australia: the best shoes and apparel, and the best people you could hope to meet!!
- CW-X conditioning wear: for the physical support I have needed!
- Ryder’s eyewear: have hidden many incidences of puffy, crying eyes.
- Injinji toesoscks: my toes have been the only part of my body that hasn’t hurt.
- Ay-Up lights: I could run in the dark easily and thus avoid MORE people.
- Nathan Sports Hydration Packs: because you can’t drink tears.
- Salstick Electrolyte tablets (through Everest Sports): because you lose a lot of salt through tears.
- FarEnd Gear: so I could listen to sad songs and cry more, or listen to uplifting ones and get some energy.
- Rocktape: Once again, I need physical support too! And this is the kind of support that no-one sees as it is under my running gear…and so much of the support I have received has been invisible, but it has still been there, just like Rocktape.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me and, no doubt will continue to help me, throughout this year of challenges. I couldn’t have made it this far without you. xxx