“I’ve signed up for a half marathon”. I could not quite believe it myself, let alone convince my wife that I wasn’t being a wind-up merchant as per usual. Impulsion is not usual for me and so I was surprised that I had signed up for something so far out of my comfort zone.
A host of emotions came over me that evening. Anxiety, regret, lack of self-belief and motivation, and I seriously considered getting in touch with Mind CHWF and cancelling my place. However, the main thing that kept me from picking up the phone was two vivid memories.
The first of these was in 2015, and was the day after my final exam at University. I was relieved and proud to have finished a mixed bag of a sometimes brilliant, sometimes torrid student experience. I remember walking to the fluorescent red door, expecting to open it to a triumphal entry of “Well done” and “We are proud of you”. What I opened the door to was my wonderful parents looking crestfallen, in shock and despair, telling me that my uncle had taken his own life whilst I had been doing my finals.
The usual feelings, or so I have since been told, immediately kicked in. Disbelief, confusion, an avalanche of sadness, questions, and a simple desire to hold and be held by my family. Trying desperately to figure out “Could I have done more?” and “Why?”, whilst also wanting to push this horrible news to the back of my brain. Since then, time has been a helpful healer but hasn’t necessarily answered these questions.
The second memory that’s inspired me to run the half comes from the end of my second year of university, on a trip in Hungary with a good friend of mine. I wouldn’t have termed or acknowledged it at the time but it was the year leading up to the trip that I had a mental breakdown. I lost around 3 stone in weight, I became irrationally irritable and angry, and I seriously contemplated quitting Uni and going back home.
I distinctly remember lying on a cold, hard patio in Budapest, overcome with depression and just managing the words “I don’t want to live anymore”. I was in a heap and couldn’t see a way out of the darkness. Thankfully, due to loving family, friends and my revived faith, I have come a long way from 7 years ago and I am now committed and passionate about telling my story.
What’s the point in all of this you might wonder? It’s a good story for a talent show, but what do you want me to do with it, you might ask?
Running for Mind CHWF has not only given me a new challenge but an opportunity to give back to a cause that is very close to my heart.
There are millions of people in the UK and across the globe affected by their own mental health issues or those of close family and friends, and Mind CHWF is a brilliant charity that provides hope and comfort for those who are struggling.1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health condition, and suicide is the most common cause of death for men under 50. These figures were recorded before the Covid 19 pandemic, so it may well be more by now.
Every donation that comes in, each supportive message inspires me to get back out there, even when my feet are sore and lungs say “No thank you!”. However, the biggest thing that has come from this challenge is the empowerment to tell my story and to open up about experiences that seemed irredeemable and impossible to turn into something positive.
A huge thank you to Matt from everyone at Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest for their support and for sharing their journey with us