It was World Mental Health Day yesterday and I saw so many stories all over the internet from people sharing their own stories and offering understanding and love to other people. I am a huge advocate of mental health being taken as seriously as physical health and we need to talk about it. The shame and stigma surrounding mental health is dangerous and harmful. But talking about my own mental health is something I have never done. So in this post I am going to talk about it and believe it will be OK. DEEP BREATH.
I have been to two universities in my life: one for my BA and the other for my MA. For my BA I went to the University of York and read PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics). Every single day there was hell and I hated it more than I ever hated anything.
It was the first time I wasn’t surrounded by friends and I realised that making friends was very, very difficult. I have kept into touch with none of the ‘friends’ I made there.
It was the first time I wasn’t surrounded by family. Before I started university I blamed my parents for a lot of things but when I moved to the halls their absence was like a hole in my soul.
Primary school and high school were both inner city state comprehensives. It was only when I went to university that I actually became an ethnic minority and realised how alienating that could be – people couldn’t say my name, and made assumptions about me ALL THE TIME.
I look back on my time there and I have no idea how those three years passed. They weren’t the ‘best years of my life’. York was not what I expected – the city or the university – and I just wanted to go back to London and back home. It was a black hole and only now do I realise that I was suffering from depression. I didn’t talk about it or tell anyone. I just stayed.
I smiled all the time I was there and it meant nothing to me. I felt so little of anything.
When people ask me about my time there it’s always easier to say ‘I loved it’ because it’s what they expect. I don’t know if i will ever tell them the truth.
I try to not live with regrets but that is one of the biggest regrets of my life – I should have left. But the fear of ‘failure’ kept me there and now I realise that I did not have to stay there and suffer. I also wish I had discovered running while I was there. Nothing has given me such joy or mental equilibrium like running. Running isn’t a solitary sport and in university making those connections with other runners would have really helped.
I run to be with people and love it.
I run to be alone and love it.
I run to know I can succeed.
I run to try and accept the person I was then and accept the depression.
I run to never be that person again.
I run because it’s OK to not be OK.
I run to smile and mean it.
World Mental Health Day made me think about my silence. It is so, so important to talk about what we are feeling. The Foundation’s theme for this year is to provide psychological first aid and how to support those in distress. The World Mental Health Day website has some amazing resources: have a read of this, this, and this.
They have listed their top 10 ways to look after your mental health:
- Talk about your feelings
- Keep active
- Eat well
- Drink sensibly
- Keep in touch
- Ask for help
- Take a break
- Do something you’re good at
- Accept who you are
- Care for others
Running has changed my life.
I will always wish I followed those 10 steps earlier. But it is done and it is in the past. I am going to try and live by them now.