Have you ever had a negative run or ran when your mental health was very low? There’s a saying that goes “The only workout you regret is the one that you skipped” and when you hear people telling you that exercise is one of the the best anti-depressants, one would assume that the majority of your problems go away if you just “run it off”.
Mental health is something that I talk about on the blog sometimes but in general, I try to keep my “online presence” very positive, or as positive as I can be. I made the decision over the last year to not be so open about my negative mental health because it’ s very personal to me and because it can be very hard to deal with, I struggle to share that with the people around me, never mind the Internet.
Today I’m going to open the lid of that box and share my experience of what it was like running when I was at a very low point.
Scott had planned out a run for us but I didn’t know where it was or how long it was going to be. It was a Friday night so while I should have been happy that I had finished work for the week, I could relax and enjoy my second run of my 5K training; that reality couldn’t have been further from the truth.
He was my only motivation getting ready because I knew he was looking forward to it, and I had been all day up until that night but all I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry until I fell asleep. He brought me down to where we were going to run and it’s actually a really nice towpath that we’ve walked before so I was familiar with the scenery.
I’m a tracker. I like to track my progress in almost everything I do and running is no exception so when my fitness tracker wouldn’t work, that made me feel slightly worse that in the end, I gave up with it. It came round eventually but I really didn’t care at that point, I just wanted to run.
(This part of the path is further on down but I took a few photographs from our last visit.)
People say running is good for your mental health, it clears your head and helps you gain perspective on what’s going on negatively. Mentally, running made everything worse. I can’t describe when you’re in such a negative place how many little moments, big moments, negative thoughts, self-critical thoughts and imagined scenarios pop up in your mind. I lost count; it’s a very scary place to be in because you feel out of control and that night I was. I tried to control my breathing but then my breathing started to get so short and quick that it was almost turning into a panic attack. I cried quite a few times on that run, and I really tried to hide it but I don’t think that worked on Scott.
I knew I was running faster than the first time and because I was embarrassed of my time last time, running faster gave me that motivation to not get that time again. I felt like I was running away from everything; I was running away from my responsibilities’, my past, my scenarios that I made up in my head that had become so real, my thoughts, my emotions and I thought the faster I run, the faster my head won’t be spinning with these thoughts. It’s like being in a trapped room that you can’t get out of.
He stayed quiet for most of the run which is what I needed. I know there are the type of people who want the comfort, the cuddles and the supportive words and I admit, I can be one of those people sometimes. More often than not, I just need to be on my own, in silence while I try and let the very negative emotions pass, and if I need to cry, then I cry.
I started to crack almost half way through thinking I couldn’t do it anymore, I almost just sat on the ground and cried but I felt like I would have disappointed myself if I didn’t finish the run. I continued with Scott until less than a mile away and I was so close to saying “can we just stop now?” when his phone lit up and said “only 0.85 miles to go until your destination”, and I just knew I couldn’t quit then.
We finished the run and Scott asked me did I know what pace I was doing or did I even know what time we had hit. I didn’t know because I wasn’t paying too much attention to my watch or even the time. We had knocked off six minutes from our overall time, so almost two minutes from each mile which was incredible considering how disappointed I was with our Monday night run. It was actually around the 36 minute mark from his phone but I didn’t hit my watch off at the 5K mark, so I did in fact do the run in faster than this. He kept saying how proud he was of me and how well I done, and it was genuinely so lovely, I’m glad I made him proud despite how I felt.
So did I feel better once I finished my run? Physically, yes. When you finish something like a run or a really stressful workout, you do get this wave effect that passes through your body and physically, it feels like it’s breathing a sigh of relief. How did I feel mentally? Nothing; zero, zilch. I still felt sad, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to control the way I reacted to my feelings. I was tired but it wasn’t from the running.
I understand that this training series is meant to be about my running progress and how excited I am about my first trained 5K but I would feel like an absolute fraud if I either didn’t tell you about the run at all like it didn’t happen or I decided just to leave out how I really felt. My mental health is something I’ve struggled with for over a year now and this was one of the many days where it bared everything, so while it might not be the nicest thing for me to type out and relive, it’s an experience I got through, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing?
If you want to catch up on the first post, that was based around my first run and it was a general introduction into what I’m training for, so you’ll find that right here. Thank you so much for reading, I know it wasn’t my usual content, but I appreciate you listening to what I had to say.