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My Life Running

My 2017 Jigsaw: Mental Health & Marathons

December 28, 2017

“I realised I was far more determined than I ever thought possible.”

As if I’d let 2017 slip by without writing something about this rollercoaster of a year. I mean, I know I’ve been really really crap at blogging recently, and that’s all about to change (don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m serious, I’ll get better) but I couldn’t end the year without writing a big ol’ sappy self-indulgent narcissistic reflection post could I? A bit like this 2016 travel montage video, it’s a blogging must-do (in fact, writing this has been very therapeutic).

It’s been a hectic year; some of the highs including moving back to London after a four month absence, winning my first ever blog award, and of course, the birth of my absolutely beautiful baby niece, Alice, who I am utterly obsessed with.

But with all the highs come the lows. And yes, the lows are just as important. I especially think the lows are important to discuss if you are a blogger or have an ‘online life’. As much as I’d love to paint 2017 as a perfect picture of success and happiness, that would be absolute BS and we all know it. Far too many people try to portray the perfect life online and I’m here to tell you it’s just not true: there are lows … and that’s okay.

For me, 2017 has had two very important themes: Mental Health (the low) and Marathons (the ultimate highs). But in a plot twist, these two themes are actually kind of linked and I might not have had one without the other. So, here goes, it’s time to reflect mofo’s…

Runner Girl, Training for Marathon on Crosby Beach Liverpool

“…it was just me and the negative thoughts that would cloud my mind, not letting me think or see clearly … Has anyone else ever felt that way?”

My Mental Health
2017 kicked off slowly and drearily for me, with a big fat dollop of depression (woohoo happy new year to me). As mentioned before, this time last year I was unemployed, I was broke, I had moved back to my homecity, a city I hadn’t lived in for 11 years, living with my parents and was very much still dealing with heartbreak following the split from ex six months earlier. I was going through a whole load of insane emotions and I felt utterly lost.

My ex fiancé and I were actually still on/off/on/off when the clock struck 12 on January 1st 2017. One day we would be declaring our love for each other, the next day we were back to hating each other. At this point I also felt miles away from the friends and the life I had spent a decade building up in London only to dramatically abandon it all. I was dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness that I had never ever experienced before (feelings I never ever ever ever want to feel again *shudders*) whilst trying to hide it all behind smiley insta posts and funny tweets.

The longer this went on, the more my anxiety worsened. I became insanely paranoid, nervous and sad. I was so miserable. I can’t even begin to describe some of the low points, especially throughout the month of January, some I’m actually too ashamed to talk about.

Whilst some of these issues will never fully go away – anxiety being the one that has decided to cling onto me like a child clinging onto it’s parent on the first day of school – what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?

(Ahem, key change)

In January I began running again. I had optimistically signed up for my first Marathon back in the October and now had just three months to train for it. Being unemployed, broke, and lonely, meant that I had all the time in the world to run. Literally. My schedule was as clear as a Summers day. And so I started running, nearly everyday, each week my distance getting further and further.

As difficult as that time was, I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I’d stayed indoors, if I’d not headed out for runs by the canal, or jogs along the beach. I began to feel a bit trapped when I was indoors, it was just me and the negative thoughts that would cloud my mind, not letting me think or see clearly what was real and what wasn’t. Has anyone else ever felt that way?

But putting on my trainers and stepping out into the brisk cold coastal air, well it was like a release. I’d choose some awesome music, pop my headphones in and set off. I very rarely planned a full route, I’d just let my feet take me wherever they wanted, deciding as I went.

Of course I know it’s not that easy for everyone who suffers with mental health issues and it wasn’t always a piece of pie; some days I’d get three minutes from my house and be hit with a wave of anxiety and sadness and immediately turn around and run back, my demons defeating me. Some days I wouldn’t even get out of bed, I’d push myself to get up and instead find myself rolling over, not wanting to face reality.

But every day that I did manage to run, every day that I did train, I always felt better, both during and afterwards. I probably didn’t realise this at the time, but looking back, every single training run between January and April was like a piece of a jigsaw; I was building myself back together from this broken mess into something new.

“All those demons I’d battled, all of it was worth it because I felt like I had won…”

My First Marathon
It’s such a strange concept isn’t it? People willingly signing up to run a painful and exhausting 26.2 miles! But I felt like if I ran a marathon, I could prove something to myself. If you can run a full 26.2 mile course, without stopping, without giving up – then surely you can do anything, right? Surely that would prove I am strong and I am determined, instead of being this lazy failure I felt like I had become.

By April, the month of the Marathon, I had moved back to London, bagged myself a job, and was already feeling like I was at least on some sort of track in the right direction, even if it wasn’t the one I’m supposed to end up on. My anxiety was still there, and my emotions up and down, but the painful isolation was slowly subsiding. I had opened myself up to a whole community of fellow runners online and on instagram and was speaking to more and more of you who had been in similar situations where running had saved them from something. Having others to talk to about this with, even if it was just friendly IG comments or sharing memes, it definitely made me feel less alone.

Soon enough, it was time to head to Paris, to run my first ever marathon.

This was by far the highlight of my entire year. My family came with me to Paris to support me which was amazing, and the feelings and sensations that coursed through my body over the entire day, including fear, love, panic, more fear, exhaustion and triumph, all made me feel so alive. Crossing that finish line I was literally hyperventilating and had tears streaming down my face; it was one of the best moments of my life. All that training, all that running, all those miles, all those thoughts, all those demons I’d battled, all of it was worth it because I felt like I had won, I had conquered them, I had proved I could have what I wanted as long as I wanted it badly enough. That I’m not nothing. I am something.

I realised I was far more determined than I ever thought possible.

Rebranding
Feeling like I had already been on a bit of a crazy personal transformation since January and running a marathon, I began to wonder whether I should rebrand from ‘Tink Jayne’ (Jayne being my middle name for anyone whose new here and confused) and instead blog and write proudly as Hannah. I felt at that point my blog had taken a much more personal approach anyway, so it made sense to share my real name. As for the Banana bit, it kind of made sense too; it was a nickname at work that had somehow stuck, and with running and training being a topic I was now blogging about more and more, I felt like Banana gave it the sporty flavour it needed.

And so with that Hannah Banana was born. The jigsaw I had unknowingly been building was well and truly on it’s way to becoming almost complete. Almost.

Modern Dating & Me
Something did change in me after my marathon, whether it was self-belief, I’m not sure, but I felt my anxiety cling less, I felt a return in my confidence and a boost in my self-esteem. And so by early Summer 2017, I felt good enough to do something I hadn’t done in six whole years…

…date!

Exciting, right?

Well, no, not really.

Dating for me, or should I say ‘modern dating’ (ahem, Tinder) unfortunately meant the return of anxiety (yup, that clingy bitch returned with full force and came with me on every bloody date).

Talking to guys on Tinder and then actually going on (the very few) Tinder dates, was a horrific dating experience like no other I’d had before. I’d be in a complete state of panic on the day of the date. My mind would be telling me the most horrific things about myself, all the reasons why this person wouldn’t like me, as well as all the worst ways this date could go. I never felt excited, just terrified. I never used to feel like this when I was dating before my ex. I used to look forward to going on dates. But now I wouldn’t be able to eat, I’d be a sweaty mess, I’d have the shakes, and thus most of the dates got cancelled last minute. The final date I went on I had to get drunk before it just to have the confidence to turn up and talk.

So I stopped dating. Modern dating at least. It was a brief stint but it knocked my confidence, in fact it damaged any faith I had left in dating (I don’t like this whole, lets judge on looks, swipe right and THEN meet up, is this how people find love these days? pfft!) and the knock in confidence lead me to stop running too … and instead I started drinking more.

Whilst on one hand I look back at the Summer of 2017 and I can admit I had an amazing summer with all my friends, going out every weekend, hanging in beer gardens during the week, living in the moment; I’d felt so isolated and alone in the first half of 2017, that for the rest of the time I just wanted to be surrounded by people and parties. But from a mental health perspective, I wasn’t doing myself any favours by swapping summer runs for summer pints. Especially when I had Marathon no.2 to train for….

“I literally poured my heart and soul into making myself feel good and into thinking positively.”

My Second Marathon
At the end of October I ran my second marathon. This time in Dublin, Ireland. I should have spent a summer training hard, but I didn’t. I was running so much less than my first round of marathon training at the beginning of the year. I did more than 300 miles of training for the Paris Marathon, and for Dublin, I didn’t even come close to 200.

And now, if I don’t allow my body to run, guess what happens?

My anxiety goes crazy!

Whilst running has obviously helped hugely with my anxiety, it’s like I’ve made a deal with the devil. If I don’t run, my anxiety can hit all time manic lows. So sometimes, in my stupid dramatic way of thinking, I blame my anxiety on running. Would it even be this bad if I’d never ran in the first place? I often think.

Of course the best way to shake that feeling off is to just put on my trainers and head outside for a run. But of course any of you out there reading this who also suffer from anxiety, will know it’s never that simple. Never.

By October I felt like I had completely let myself down. Marathon no.2 was on the horizon and I was supposed to be attempting to up my game, train harder, gain a PB. Instead I was feeling so unfit, so unwell, and I wasn’t even looking forward to running the dam thing because I was so disappointed in myself. Three weeks before the big day I ran an 18 mile run and timed myself. My time was shocking. Having ran Paris in 04:47 I was now looking at 5+ hours for Dublin.

Gutted.

I spent the next two weeks taking the upmost care of myself. My level of self-care was ridiculous (more on that in another post). I literally poured my heart and soul into making myself feel good and into thinking positively.

And somehow it worked!

For my second marathon of the year I got myself a PB! It wasn’t the PB I had initially wanted, I only shaved off a minute, completing the 26.2 mile course in 04:46. But still, I was astonished. I’d not only stopped for a wee, stopped to briefly chat to friends and ran a very unexpected hilly course, but I’d done it quicker than my first marathon which I had trained twice as hard for.

This is when I realised – you really can do anything you put your mind to. Anything.

ANY-BLOODY-THING!

F*** my anxiety. When I really really want something, I shouldn’t doubt myself, I shouldn’t put myself down. I shouldn’t tell myself I’m too sh** to do that, I should, in the words of Nike: JUST DO IT! If on a daily basis, I had all the self belief and the determination that I have when I run those 26.2 miles, can you imagine all the things I could achieve??

Runner Girl, Training for Marathon on Crosby Beach Liverpool

So, to reflect *clears throat* It’s crazy to look back at the lonely, isolated and terrified person I was on January 1st 2017 and realise how far I have come. Back then I felt like I would die without my ex by my side, I felt like the feeling of uselessness would never go away, I felt like my life had no meaning! But battling these mental health issues, alongside the strength and pure determination to complete not one, but two huge physical and emotional challenges has changed me. It’s made me stronger and it’s made me realise how much determination there is inside me, even if it is buried underneath my clingy nasty anxiety, it’s there and that is the most important thing, I just have to let these two feelings battle it out, feulling the determination to win.

I may not have bought a house, made a shed load of money, fallen inlove or gotten married in the year of 2017. But that doesn’t matter, not all significant life events resemble pieces of plastic you collect around the board when playing The Game of Life. I’ve gained so much more. I’ve made new friends, re-connected with old. I’ve set myself incredible challenges and been able to successfully tick them both off. But above all, 2017 has been the year I have gained a lot more respect for myself. I’m still working on it, and I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m a shadow of the girl I was in January, who barely had any respect or love for herself. I’m learning NEVER to let myself think I can’t do something, I’m learning NEVER to settle, I’m learning to stop wasting time on people who don’t care about me or who use me. I’m learning to start putting myself first and I’m learning to, or at least trying really really hard even though it makes me uncomfortable to like myself again.

I’m not sure if my jigsaw will ever be fully complete, maybe there will always be a piece missing, always a dream in place, a PB to chase, a love unfound, but at least I can finally see myself and THAT is the most important thing. And I’m soooooooo ready to see what 2018 has in store, for all of us.

Bring it on!

**

If you ever want to talk about Mental Health issues, running, marathons, or even just have a chat because your feeling a bit down, I am always happy for people to DM me on my Instagram page, it’s the best way to contact me.

However, please note I am in no way a health care professional. To talk to a professional please use the below contacts.

MIND: Call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463
Mon – Fri: 9am to 6pm

For out of hour services please call NHS 111 or the Samaritans on 116 123

 

Happy New Year gang – I hope 2018 brings everything you hope for (and a little extra)

Want to work with me in 2018? Find out how we can collaborate here

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