Mental Health Awareness Week

As I’m sure many people are aware this week is mental health awareness week, also if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with depression over the last couple of years. It has been quite severe at times, to the point where I admitted on this blog that I was suicidal. I thought this would be a good reason to try and get up a few posts this week, to share some experiences and as an update on my journey through recovery.

A large part of the reason why I have posted about my own mental health on previous occasions is I hope I can provide a starting point for a conversation about mental illness in order to help break the stigma that is attached to the subject. I feel once we as a society overcome this hurdle, we will be a big step towards making it an easier burden to bear for those who are suffering.

Depression an all-consuming, oppressive illness that poisons everything in a persons’ life, it can be all they ever think about, it swallows them whole. I have found that there is little warning for when a depressive episode might occur, even if I might be in a “good period” I know it will never last. Medication really only works in conjunction with other things, in order to get the most out of it, in my personal experience, it needs to be paired with other treatments like CBT or other forms of counselling and therapy. I have found having a neutral person to talk to be very helpful.

Every person will experience mental illness differently, some people will regress and others won’t. Either way please be pantient with those that are experiencing any sort of mental illness, recovery is not a straight line from A to B. As with most things in life, things don’t go to plan due to any number of factors, mental illness is expecially complicated, because it is your brain that is sick.

Depression will always be with me I reckon, I see myself as permanently damaged goods and I’ve kind of come to accept that I will probably feel this to a certain extent for the rest of my life. Does it suck? absolutely, will it get easier to bear? I hope so.

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Describing Depression

It can often be hard to describe to depression to those that have never suffered it, I hear people often describe it as a black dog and after thinking on that bit in the last week or so, I find myself think that a dog isn’t the best way to describe it. To me describing depression as a dog suggests that on some level it has a friendly or loving side and it’s something that a person can learn to live despite its quirks and unusual behaviours. Depression is more of cunning, evil and predatory “animal” if that’s the theme that we’re going with.

Depression uses your own mind, thoughts and voice against you as it twists and bends them to its own will, it prey’s on any weakness it can sense and uses your own inner monologue to convince you that you don’t deserve to live or be loved or to have friends. It uses your own voice to convince you that the world would be better off without you and that you should do yourself harm. It can clutch in fear of doing the simplest things, it sucks you dry of motivation and impedes your concentration.

Depression can make things you used to love doing into hateful chores and make essential tasks painfully unimportant. Jobs and chores become smothering and oppressive you avoid them because you know there’s no point to tackling them in the long run. You begin to lose sight in doing any different from what you currently do, so depression brings you with it down the dark downward spiralling path into its shadowy den and it keeps you on a short leash to break your will and to keep you as a slave to keep it fed.

The black dog image, to me, gives the sense of something you can grapple or wrestle with, something that can be taken on and can be taken on alone, depression isn’t that though, hence why I’m wary to depict it as an animal, an animal gives it a physical form that can be fought or taken on. Depression is like more like a cloud or a mist something that’s clearly there but hard to get to grips with. Depression is vague and ever-changing dense and smothering but something you carry everywhere you go.

Depression is like fighting through deep water whilst walking on shifting ground, trying to reach a target that is constantly on the move. When it’s bad it’s almost sickening, it all you can think about, the only choices are either to try to keep going or to give up.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, some days are good and there are more of them coming.

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World Mental Health Day

As it was world mental day yesterday I feel an update from my last post would be appropriate. In the weeks since that post I have resumed treatment for my Depression I have restarted taking medication and I have also started having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

As I understand it CBT is a “reprogramming” of your thought process in order to try and get a more positive and constructive thought process. It’s still early days in terms of the CBT so what effect it will have in conjunction with medication will become clearer later on.

In terms of how I’m feeling, it still feels like I have a long way to go to get better. At best I feel kind of flat and everything is a sort of dull and fuzzy, with the occasional spike of something other than depression. These spike are sporadic and not very often.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is things are different but not necessarily better. I still have more than a few bad days and they seem more intense on than before. The voice that says I should kill myself seems more convincing, more regular, more insistent. Some days I think today is the day that I’ll do it.

Paradoxically I believe I can get better but at the moment I’m not doing it for me or because I want to get better. I think I want to get better for the sake of other people. This is what I must hold on to, it is my only driving force at the moment even if it is struggling.

The Ainsworth motto apparently is “spero meliora” or “I hope for better things (for the better)” so hope I must, hope that CBT works and that those who are willing and patient enough to put up with me continue to do so.

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In light of the recent high profile suicides

With the recent suicides of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, I feel it an appropriate time to talk about mental health issues and illness, as many people have done in recent weeks. I understand that my opinion is but a drop in the ocean and but I would hope that sharing my opinion and exeprerience of mental illness would encourage some discussion on the subject.

As a fan of both Audioslave and Linkin Park, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Their music was part of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so to lose two people who were a part of some important years of my life was a hard loss.

My own mental health is not something I find easy to talk about (this post has been in various draft forms for 3 weeks) but here goes. In 2012 I was diagnosed with depression, I’ve been on and off medication for it, I recently restarted taking the medication, I also have had counselling for it. Now this next bit is possibly going to be the hardest to write about or read, partly because it makes me realise how bad things are, I am suicidal and have been for a while. Even on medication and on the “good days”, I plan out how I’m going to commit suicide, it’s going to be one of two ways that I’ll use to take my own life, the question for me is not if, but when will I do it.

I have felt this way for what feels like a large part of the last two years. I find it difficult to put in to words how it feels to be suicidal or why I feel this way, but I’ll give it a go. Wanting to commit suicide is a constant, oppressive feeling in the back of your conscious, it’s always there, circling other things that you think about, occasionally forcing it’s way to the front and sitting there like are large, dense and heavy fog that refuses to shift on anyone else’s terms. It sucks of all motivation, even small things become difficult to do and the big things become astronomically unimportant and meaningless. It makes me realise how unimportant and useless I am how much of a burden I must be to those around me, how no-one really cares about me and why should they, I don’t deserve it, I’m not good enough.

It is times like these I look for distractions to shift my focus, these are one of three things usually, loud music (usually metal if anyone is interested), excercise or video games. These three things have helped me with the burden of depression, video games particularly because it’s somewhere where I get to be anyone but myself for a while. Loud music helps drown the voice that casts doubt on everything I do, that tells I don’t deserve to exist and that I’m a waste of space and time.

I’d like to say there’s a happy ending to this, that I bounce back to achieve something, but I’m not convinced, in fact the only thing I see is suicide, it is so consuming that I can’t see where my path takes me to whatever future is out there for me, I not sure how long it will go on for, but for now it will go on.

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The Pain and Suffering Round 2

Well this medal was hard to earn, once again The Pain and Suffering lived up to its name. Although I’m relatively new to the concept of Obstacle Course Running (or Racing for more competent athletes), having only done four races in the past three years, The Pain and Suffering has become my favourite (the other races being The Major Series, completed three times, The Wolf Run, once and Tough Mudder a couple of months ago now).

The Suffering Race Series offer a few races and all distances are quoted as “no less than” and those distances are:

  • Five kilometres
  • Ten kilometres
  • Ten Miles

For the bonkers few there is also a challenge called “Suffering Legends” which is all three distances in the same weekend, as the five and ten kilometre races are held on the Saturday and the ten mile race on the Sunday and they also offer a relentless challenge which is all three races on the same day. The Suffering race series takes place at rockingham castle in leicestershire.

The best thing about The Pain and Suffering weren’t the man made obstacles, which I’m not saying were bad, but the use of the terrain, particularly the hills! I still shudder a little when I even think about the idea of running up or down hills, I lost count of the number of time me and my team would approach a hill and hope that we were just skirting around the edge of it, only to be wrong. There were other great uses of the terrain in amongst the grounds of Rockingham Castle in Leicestershire, such as what appeared, or what I assumed, to be jumps designed for horses judging by their height and gaps underneath. There was also carrying aplenty, with logs, sandbag and various things filled with water, travelling, again, up and down hills, as well as pushing and dragging tyres. Of course there was the obligatory walls to clamber over and a water slide, which was probably the only disappointment for me as it could have longer and it seemed like they were having water issues, as there seemed to be no real pressure as it came out of the hose and it was trickling down the slide. Although it was more substantial than last year, I’ll give them credit for that, last year it was a plastic sheet held down by sandbags, which I hit and winded myself on last year, but this year it had inflatable sides and a water trap at the bottom to actually stop people.

It is definitely the hardest run that I’ve done, but running with a two other people was good fun and as it was warmer this time round, it taking place at the end of June instead of the beginning of March, I wasn’t as cold and slightly delirious as I was the first time round but I was worn out and bruised.

Was it harder than Tough Mudder? Yes and considerably so. Would I do it a third time? Absolutely I can’t wait to do it again. I feel they made a step in the right direction with the water slide I hope they continue to improve it and they were a lot more food and water stops which were definitely appreciated, as I only remember one water stop last year.

Overall I thought it was a great race, definitely value for money at less than £40 and they definitely improved on it from last year. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wishing to push themselves.

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Tough Mudder

On Saturday 21/5/16 I ran Tough Mudder, now I’ll share my thoughts on it. The venue where it took place was very scenic and probably would be a nice place to visit if you weren’t there to get filthy and exhausted. One thing I’ll say now is, as good as the venue was maybe it’s not a great idea to pick one that has only one way in and out, on the way out it wasn’t so bad as people get spread out in the waves, but on the way in it took over half an hour to travel the final 100 yards or so and on to where we parked up.

Once on site though you start to see why Tough Mudder has such a big price tag. Lots of sign posting and things setup for runners and spectators, like a live stream of different areas of the course. The event village seemed a lot busier than at other events I’ve been to, granted this is the biggest obstacle course run I’ve done so far, but there seemed to be a lot more available for spectators to do. The after race rinse stations were more substantial than others that I’ve used in the past. Adding everything you begin to get an idea of why it’s one of the more expensive events available, but I got the impression that you got what you paid for.

The run itself was good fun and the obstacles all offered a decent variety of challenges, a lot of them required teamwork, which seems to be the biggest pull to Tough Mudder, the main aim is to work with others and have fun doing it, hence the other big attraction to this event, the atmosphere, pretty much everyone is in good spirits and happy to talk with and help out others along the way. Everyone was willing to help each other over obstacles and support each other if they appeared to be flagging.

A far as difficulty is concerned I would say it was tough in parts, the obstacles that require any kind of upper body strength are always a challenge because it’s something I still need to work on, things like the walls and the monkey bars I was rubbish at, though I did enjoy king of the swingers, basically something you had to swing out on in order to try and ring a bell, even though I was rubbish at it, I’m just going to blame my fear of heights for that. Other obstacles I enjoyed were the cage crawl , where you floated on your back in fairly deep water and pulled you self along on a cage above your head. Of course the obstacles are another big cost for this particular event as they all appear to well built and sturdy, although some did get slippy when wet or muddy which added an extra challenge.

All in all it was good fun, I enjoyed most of the obstacles (that weren’t too high off the ground), the running was great, we went through some decent scenery and terrain. The facilities were fairly good and the event village was packed out with stuff. The obstacles were good. Could have done with better access to the site and the running sections could have been a bit harder. Would I do another one? Maybe I wouldn’t rush to do another, it wasn’t tough enough to justify the price or it being called Tough Mudder, that being said the atmosphere was good and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Anyway, Bring on The Pain and Suffering at the end of June!

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Long Time, No Post

It’s been a long time since I posted anything on here, almost a year, which I don’t have an particular reason for not doing. I keep telling myself I’m going to write more blog posts, then promptly forget and lost inspiration and struggled to find anything interesting to write about, although I was in my final year at university the last time I posted so that took up most of my attention.

But now I have something to write about and the time to write it and in it’s in a similar vein to my last post, as again I will be participating in obstacle course runs for charity. Again the chosen charity is the mental health charity Mind, as it’s a cause that is close to my heart and mind, as I was diagnosed with Depression in May 2012.

So on the two events I’ll be doing, yes there’s two this year and both are close together, the first is Tough Mudder on the 21st of May and the second is The Pain and Suffering (again) on the 26th of June. Tough Mudder is something I’ve wanted to do since I first started to get fit, so I’m glad that I’m finally able to challenge myself by taking part in it. The Pain and Suffering is the event that I did last year when I last raised money for charity, reaching and beating my target of £500 to eventually raise £650.

I almost couldn’t believe that people were that generous and I will be forever grateful to those that donated and gave their support, it meant a lot to me and was a driving factor during the obstacle run last year. This year though I won’t be doing it alone either (mercifully) so I’ll have some more encouragement, but I think using the opportunity to raise money will be a big drive to take part in these events.

With that in mind I have set the target of £500 again to reach over the next three or four months, so hopefully it’s a target that can be reached, people were especially generous last time around, so hopefully I can say the same time this time around as well.

The donation page is here Fundraising page any donations would be so greatly appreciated, currently £80 has been generously donated and I’m thankful for that. I will promise to post updates on how it’s going.

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The Pain and Suffering Obstacle Course Race

This Sunday just gone I took part in The Pain and Suffering OCR which is advertised as a 10 mile obstacle course, this particular one of the series of races, that they hold in different parts of the country,took part in the grounds of rockingham castle, in leicestershire. It is, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever done, probably ever, let alone along the path of getting fit.Everything along this course is designed to hurt and make you suffer, hence the name, boy I don’t think a name has ever been so apt. The running wasn’t the hard part, as I thought it wouldn’t be, but all the obstacle and the “reapers” (the nickname of the race marshals) are designed to suck all the energy out of you either by physical exertion or getting you freezing cold and wet, as well as generally being mean.

In the end, I managed to do the 12 miles as it turns out, in 3 hours 41 minutes and 24 seconds, coming in 70th out of 114, which considering I had no idea what to expect and massively underestimated how difficult it was going to be, I’m quite happy with how it went. I now have a marker set down to beat for next time.

On the fundraising front, my target of £500 was beaten by £50, which is beyond awesome. I thought when I first started £500 was a bit ambitious, but people have been incredibly generous. I really believe helping to get support to people with mental health problems is important which is why I chose Mind, as supporting those with mental health issues is what they do.

As a finish I want to say my mum came with me on the day to support me and she was great, especially towards the end. her just being there and shouting words of encouragement were fantastic and did actually help in the end.

Edit- The amount raised now stands at £650 as of 23rd of April 2015. I never thought it would get that high and I’m so happy that people have been this generous.

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Fundraising Update

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was taking part in The Pain and Suffering obstacle course run and raising money for the mental health charity, Mind and I thought I would write an update on how its all going. Here is the link:

I’ve managed to raise £195 pounds of my £500 target so far which is great! With just over four weeks to hopefully I can get closer to achieving my target. My training so far has been going ok I’ve done some long distance running to get used to the idea of running long distances between obstacles. I’ve been doing other things like British Military Fitness to help with my overall fitness which appears to be working, so that’s all good.

I’ve got a bit of a way to go yet and hopefully nothing terrible happens between now and then. I’m getting more and more excited about it as it looms closer to the day that I do it. I’ve been looking at videos and getting general a lot of decent advice from people who have done it before, in order to better prepare myself for the event, so hopefully it will be a good experience. Looking at the videos it looks like it will be a lot of fun but challenging at the same time and I’m looking forward to it.

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The Pain and Suffering Race

On March the 8th I will doing another obstacle course race, called The Pain and Suffering. It is a 10 mile obstacle course race in and around the grounds of Rockingham Castle in Leicestershire. This will be the first 10 mile one that I will have done so I will probably be doing a bit of extra training to get used to longer distance running as it’s about 4 miles longer than obstacle course runs I’ve done in the past, I’ve done 10km obstacle course runs before which roughly equates to 6 and a quarter mile.

So that will be challenge one, being able to cope with the distance, I’ve not been a strong runner, until recently I used to get really bad shin splints which slowed me down a lot. Not to mention that up until christmas day just gone the longest I’ve ever really run continuously is about 4.5/5 miles. I don’t know just how much running will be between each obstacle but I hope if I do a bit more long distance running in order to get used to it anyway.

I think I may well and truly have the “obstacle course race bug” hopefully I’ll manage a few more in the next few years, it’s good to have a challenge and something aim for in fitness, it makes all the effort worth it. Plus it’s a lot of fun, the three I’ve done so far have been great fun to be a part of, the people doing them have been very friendly, so there’s usually a good community spirit to them. I’ve put in a video I found of the event, I know it’s an advert really but I think it gives a good sense of what is to come. I also now have a GoPro camera myself so hopefully I’ll manage to video it as a I progress round.

There is another part to this story and that is, I’m raising money for Mind, a mental health charity that supports people with a range of mental health issues, having had depression myself, I know how much having a good support system in place means. I think treating mental health problems is as important as treating physical illnesses. I will also be doing the race in memory of my Uncle David who sadly passed away in 2011. I have set-up a justgiving page with the aim of raising £500 by march, hopefully this target can be reached by then. The link is below:

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