Listening to our two brilliant, blunt and so truthful interviews with Gayle and David this week I feel totally inadequate to talk about this subject. Their words are so powerful, stories so raw and most importantly their advice is so so so important. If you haven't taken a listen, do!
I thought I would discuss a couple of things from the interviews which I thought were really insightful and worth thinking a little more about:
We ALL have mental health. We are all entitled to have good days and bad days. Mental health is a muscle, just like our legs as runners it's something we need to exercise everyday. Some days that's easy, freeing and multicoloured and other days it feels dark, enveloping and endless. But it's something we should exercise every day. We should check in daily with how we feel.
Sometimes acknowledging we feel low is a huge help and allowing ourselves to feel like that.. David talks about just Being and this really touched a nerve with me. In this days and especially at the moment it's so hard just to BE and to switch off. David says he doesn't listen to music/podcasts (and I realise the irony of this coming from a podcast!) when out in nature and just allows himself to be with himself. I thought this was really important. Giving yourself time to face yourself and work through how you truly feel has been lost nowadays. It feels almost self indulgent to just sit and listen. But it's not. And you should never feel guilty for making time to do this.
Gayle talks about getting the balance right...and I see this a lot in runners, especially in the sport we do where pain and dealing with pain is to be celebrated and it is those who deal with the pain the best, do the best. But this need to hurt ourselves and to be celebrated for doing that can be skewered and hide a mirage of other problems. Stopping and dealing with problems and making sure that running is used to aid recovery rather than as shadow to cover it is so important. Of course this is such a fine line to grasp, but I thought it was worth a highlight. Many many of us use running as our escapism, our time out, our hit of endorphins and release of stress, but it must remain in the healthy parameters of knowing when to pull back.
What should we do if we do feel low or we see someone who is struggling? Talking is the agreed absolute most important thing you can do. As Gayle says, it doesn't need to be a big confession, just saying, ‘I don't feel right.’ Starting the conversation is a huge step in the right direction. I know, especially in the last 10 years of having a family, dealing with 3 small children, juggling the highs and lows of huge changes in our lives, the most important thing I have done is to say to my husband. I don't feel right. And the minute I voice it, I feel better. David talks about the close relationship he has built with his counsellor and how this has given him the tools to deal with his feelings, but also the huge importance of having someone on the other end of the phone. Someone to just listen and to reassure you that you are not alone and this too will pass. Please never ever suffer in silence, there is always light, but you might just need some help to find it.
We thank Gayle and David hugely for sharing their story.
If this touched you or anyone you know in anyway the numbers for MIND are below plus some helpful advice. Know you are not alone.
MIND 0300 123 3393 https://www.mind.org.uk/need-urgent-help/
C.A.LL 0800132 737