Keith is a regular contributor to Bring Change 2 Mind’s blog, and to the Good Men Project. If you are interested in working with Keith feel free to reach out. Contact WL if you want to be a Guest Blogger.
Worth Living Ambassador Brie Koons
Brie Koons is a writer and artist based in Northern, CA. She’s working on getting into freelance writing, and currently runs a mental health blog at Resilient Brie. She plans to create fine art photos with a mental health theme that she will eventually exhibit and sell. Brie has been a mental health advocate for 2.5 years and plans to work in the mental health field one day. She currently shares her story with the public through Stop Stigma Sacramento.
How I Overcame My Mental Health Challenge
I remember the day I had my first episode. It was a beautiful day, and I had class at Sac State. I remember it felt like I was in a fog, but I still packed my car full of all my favorite things and drove to school. I managed to get to school in one piece.
Once I reached campus, I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do, so I simply wandered around. I felt like I was in a trance. Voices were speaking to me, not very loud, but in a high whisper. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from. I thought they were telling me to follow someone, so I did. Then they told me to go into a classroom, so I did. I sat down in a chair and began talking back to the voices.
No one was around. The voices didn’t seem to be listening to me, so I got up and began to wander again. In the back of my mind, I knew I was supposed to be doing something, but I couldn’t remember what, and the voices were too loud. Eventually I found myself on the other side of campus.
There was a school bus there, and children were getting on. The voices said I should go with them. So, I started to get on the bus. Someone stopped me. He told me I couldn’t get on. I was confused and told him I was supposed to go with them. He directed me to a nearby bench and told me to wait there. The voices continued talking. I wasn’t always able to make out what they were saying.
Two men dressed in police uniforms came over to me and began asking me questions. Have you been doing drugs? One said. They were very polite. I shook my head. I remember they escorted me to the police station, and after that everything is hazy……
The next thing I remember is sitting in a doctor’s office, but I don’t remember the conversation. He gave me pills to take home. This period of time is very foggy for me. I vaguely remember people coming to visit, sleeping, eating, and trying to read, which was almost impossible. I couldn’t watch TV at all.
One day, everything was clear. I was able to watch television and read again. Things made sense again. When I asked my parents what happened, they said I’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and had had a psychotic break. I didn’t understand what that meant. In the coming weeks and months, I began to research my condition.
What I found online bothered me. Lifelong condition, no cure, working would be difficult for me, relationships would be difficult, there’s a possibility of suicide, and I might end up homeless. I was devastated. I cried. What had I done to deserve this? I wondered. Nothing that I could recall. I looked up causes and couldn’t find any information. I found myself depressed.
Eventually, when I felt better, I decided I wouldn’t let this condition ruin my life. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I was determined to work and go to school like everyone else. So, I did. A couple years later, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I struggled off and on with wanting to take my meds. They made me tired, and unmotivated. I noticed I was gaining weight.
I had two more episodes, then finally committed to taking my meds consistently. After that, things improved. Over the next several years, I worked a variety of jobs, went to grad school, and traveled to New York, Europe, and Israel. I accomplished things I never thought I’d be able to do. If there was something I wanted to do, I kept working at it until I achieved it. I’ve done commercial photography and exhibited my work locally. I attended a single’s group and made friends. I enjoyed life, all while living with a mental health condition.
And I realized, bipolar disorder was not the end of my road. It was the beginning. There’s no limit to what I could accomplish. Yes, I would relapse. Yes, I would struggle. Yes, I would have good and bad days. That’s life. But I would go on. I would get through my bad days, and my life would continue. Just like yours will.
Don’t be afraid to get help. Do what you need to do for your mental health. There is no shame in getting help, taking meds, going to therapy, or having a mental health condition. The world will tell you otherwise. But you don’t have to listen. Listen to yourself, and trust that you can get through this. There is hope for mental illness. You will find your way. Hold on, because your journey isn’t over yet, and your life is worth living.
You can read of Brie’s writings at her blog Resilient Brie
Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores
Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores
How to Cope with Depression and Cerebral Palsy during Quarantine
I want you to imagine this:
You’re 24-year-old, You’re in college, you enjoy writing and reading like any other person would, so you’re quite typical on the inside but on the outside, you have to use wheels as your legs in order for you to see the world.
That’s my everyday life as a woman with cerebral palsy and it has been for the past 24 years. I also struggled with depression on and off throughout my teenage years and adult years but with the outbreak happening it makes it harder for me to cope with cerebral palsy and depression together.
Luckily though, I found three ways that have helped me cope with depression and my condition
- Avoid as much social media as you can – I know this could be hard because social media has become a part of our everyday lives and it has become the way we communicate with our loved ones during this time but if you can avoid it since everyone’s has too many opinions and it could be stressful.
- Find things that you could do indoors – Believe it or not, there are plenty of things you can do indoors for example, I’ve been reading, writing and drawing to help pass the time.
- Take a Step Back– if you feel overwhelmed and stressed out, or just tired then take a step back and take a mental break. There’s nothing wrong with that. My favorite thing to do is watch Urban Cowboy and relax my mind until I’m ok.
Ultimately having a disability during this pandemic could be tough but I hope with these tips, it will help you learn how to cope with the situation more.
Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau
My name is Katie Campeau. I am 23 years old and have recently completed my Master’s degree
in sociology at Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia). My research focused on mental health
and severe mental illness. I live with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and an eating
Living with OCD in the Middle of a Pandemic
We’re living in the middle of a nightmare—otherwise known as a pandemic. There is global
panic. Society is changing from day to day, hour to hour.
Yet, in my case, my OCD treatment has prepared me for this very event.
I know that sounds strange. How am I prepared for a pandemic? It’s not that I’ve anticipated
the COVID-19 outbreak. What I mean is that I have been trained to deal with uncertainty.
Right now we are living in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Will I get COVID-19? Will my loved
ones get COVID-19? What if I die? What if they die? What if the pandemic goes on for months
or years? What if out of food? The list goes on and on. As human beings, we seek control. Right
now, COVID-19 is completely out of our control, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.
I have spent my whole life seeking control. I had (and still have) intrusive thoughts about my
parents and loved ones dying. These thoughts began well before the pandemic started. I was
terrified that “the Universe” was against me and going to steal my loved ones. After four years
of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I learned that life is incredibly random and scary. I have
control over very little. My compulsions were not going to change whether my parents and
loved ones were actually going to die—those compulsions would merely alleviate the anxiety
that came with those thoughts.
I had to learn how to be okay living in a constant state of uncertainty.
Living in uncertainty is uncomfortable and inevitable. We have been living in a state of
uncertainty before the pandemic began. It’s important to remember this. We never had control
over whether or not we could get sick. We’ve never had control over our loved ones being safe.
In some ways, there is nothing new about our circumstances regarding uncertainty. The rise of
COVID-19 has heighted our sense of helplessness. But we never did have control over the state
of our mortality. Yet, somehow many of us have made it up until this point in time. I’m one of
That is why I am feeling okay in the middle of this pandemic.* A lot of people expect me to be
more panicked because OCD is strongly associated with fears of contamination. Don’t get me
wrong, I have some fears of contamination, but not everyone does. My contamination related
fears are not as severe as other people’s OCD. With this in mind, there are many people with
OCD (and other mental illnesses) that are struggling, regardless of whether they’ve been in
treatment or not.
I am not trying to downplay anyone’s struggle. I’m just here to highlight how living with OCD
has been helped me to manage my own concerns about COVID-19.
For those of you who are struggling, I encourage you to focus on things that you do have
control over. Maintain your routine (to the best of your ability) and following the COVID-19
guidelines. Make sure to self-isolate, wash your hands (when necessary), keep your distance
from others, and so forth. By focusing on what you can control, you can start to reduce the
“what if” mentality.
By being mindful about uncertainty, you can get through the panic you’re currently feeling. I
know this isn’t a solution to the pandemic. It’s only a solution to diminishing your distress
during a stressful time. Challenging uncertainty and being mindful about what is within your
control will not happen instantly. It takes a lot of time and practice to be okay with what is not
within your control. I had four years of practice, so I’m aware that mindfulness is much easier
said than done.
However, I can say with conviction that everything gets better with time.
*Just to be clear, I am young and do not have an immune-deficient illness, so I recognize that I am also in a state of privilege here.
Worth Living Ambassador Jennah Lay
My name is Jennah Lay and I am currently living in Vancouver, British Columbia. I struggle with anxiety, depression, and the aftermath of a psychosis. I believe that mental health is the most important part of one’s well-being and am in full support of creating supportive communities that are aligned with this platform.
When Nightmares Come Back
The demons in my mind crept out of their hiding place and made themselves known
While my anxiety heightened, my hands tightly held my head, rocking back and forth
between my knees
I couldn’t shake these nightmarish thoughts, the worst dream imaginable became my
living reality, and this time I couldn’t wake up from it
As my parents cradled me and hugged me as tight as humanly possible, and reassured
me, my unhealthy brain had taken over once again
I cried uncontrollably and tried to calm down, but this was harder than usual, this
episode was uniquely damaging
Thoughts of an intrusive nature entered my mind with no filter and I believed all of them
That which was the nightmare of my life in 2013 returned in 2019
There are things I could never tell my own mom, thoughts of an unhealthy brain that
would be too hard to recover from.
Worth Living Ambassador Shaelynn Baxter
Hello, my name is Shaelynn Baxter. I graduated from the Social Services Program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and I am now enrolled at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Bachelor of Arts Combined Major with Family Studies and Psychology. I’m working towards obtaining a Social Work degree. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and that’s how I began to dedicate my time to helping others in need. Mental Health has had a huge impact on my life and I’m happy to be able to finally start sharing my own experiences.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side
I graduated from the Social Services Program at Nova Scotia Community College in June of 2019. I applied and was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts with a Combined Major in Family Studies and Psychology program at Mount Saint Vincent University for September 2019 to continue my education to become a Social Worker.
I always dreamed of leaving my little town in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and always told everyone how I “couldn’t wait to leave this boring island!”. Turns out, I was wrong.
After leaving Cape Breton to move to Halifax so I could attend MSVU, I came to the realization of how beautiful Cape Breton is and how badly I wanted to go home so I could be with my friends and family again. I moved to Halifax alone and not knowing many people so my depression and anxiety started to creep back into my life even though I was doing so well months beforehand. I started isolating myself, yet again, and barely spoke to friends or family.
If I did happen to call my mom, it was to cry about how much I hated it here and how all I wanted to do was quit university and drive the four hours back home. But I stuck it out and finished my first semester at University with decent marks and now I’m almost finished my second semester!
It slowly got better, I started to put myself out there to make friends in my classes. My boyfriend moved from the UK to Canada and now we’re living together, and I go out more now to see friends who lived here before I even moved to Halifax.
I ended up changing my major for second semester because I realized what I currently signed up for was not what I wanted to be doing. So instead, I changed my major to Family Studies and Psychology and now I’m more interested in what I’m doing in my current classes and that alone has had a huge impact on my mental health.
I changed my mindset, I realized that this is what I need to do for a while so I can keep going and be able to get a Social Work degree in the future. Leaving my hometown, missing friends and family, and struggling with mental health issues are hard, but I know that it’s only for a little while.
People think you automatically have to attend university as soon as you graduate high school or you’ll “fall behind” other people your age. What I’m here to tell you is that isn’t always the case. It took me five whole years to go back to college after I graduated high school in 2013.
I had my own mental health issues to deal with and I didn’t even know what I wanted to do regarding a career choice. You may feel pressured that you absolutely have to choose what you want to do at the age of 18, but I’m 24 years old and still have a few years to go before I get to where I want to be. If you’re unsure as to what you want to do, there’s no harm in taking a year off of school to figure it out. If I went straight off to college when I was 18, I wouldn’t be where I am at 24. Even though I was dealing with my anxiety and depression during those years, I wouldn’t change it for the world because I found something that I love doing and was able to realize that I am meant to help others who are struggling with their own mental health issues.
Moral of the story is that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, you may think leaving your small little town will be the greatest thing you could ever do but you start to miss the little annoyances, the people, your friends and family.
You may think you have to choose a career path right away, but you don’t. Take your time, figure out what you truly want to do in a further career path and go from there. However, the old saying goes “the grass is green where you water it”.
I could have stayed negative and upset that I was living away from my hometown. I could have stayed angry and I could have let my depression and anxiety win, drop out of university, and move back home, but I didn’t. I’m making the best of the situation I’m currently in and I’m going to further my education until I get where I want to be.
My mental health issues could have completely ruined the progress I’ve been working so hard on, but I didn’t, and I won’t allow them too. I’ll get to where I need to be, even if it takes me a little while longer.
Andrew Younger – Worth Living Run Ambassador
Andrew spent 13 years in politics at the municipal and provincial level, including time as a cabinet minister in Nova Scotia. Before, during, and since this time he worked supporting people on mental health journeys. While Andrew often spoke about mental health, it was having to manage his own mental health journey in public as a politician that started him on the road of speaking publicly about his personal experiences. Andrew has used this experience to help others understand and overcome the stigmas and encourage people to leave judgement at the door. Andrew has spoken at schools, and to business and government organizations about mental health issues. He has also participated on local and national radio programs about mental health, sharing his own journey and the experiences.
Andrew currently is a sought after speaker and a regular guest on media programs. An award-winning journalist and facilitator, Andrew is the host of a television program about our relationship with dogs, and is also a consultant, author, and director of two television series. He’s well known on the local running scene, a sport he took up to help manage his own mental health. He was named an international Paul Harris Fellow for his work supporting international and local communities and was named an honourary member of the Nova Scotia cabinet in 2017.
Reach out to Andrew:
How Running Is Changing My World
Running is like life. We chase a goal. Run to something. Run from something. There are ups. There are downs. We don’t always know the course. Sometimes we know it all too well.
For two years in elementary school, I ran cross country. Later running became part of my flat water kayak training regime. Early in university a friend said “let’s run”. I was 20 and for six months she and I would run five laps once a week around the Halifax Commons in Nova Scotia. Solving all the problems of the world. She left for California. I stopped running.
As I got older, I realized I’d been struggling with occasional depression and anxiety for years. You didn’t do much for it in those days. You were just having an “off” day. Suck it up.
I didn’t see that my running and other physical activity had kept much of the darkness back. As life went on, work would become more and more a priority. Physical activity became almost non-existent. My best friend committed suicide. I spoke at her funeral. I blamed myself and was left in a dark hole for years. I could have saved her, I was certain. I didn’t talk about it. I moved on.
I thought I pulled myself out of it. Travelled the world doing consulting, giving speeches, doing photography, writing, and making documentaries. Work became all consuming. Over the years I’d occasionally move the boxes off a treadmill and run. Or go to a gym (or at least have a membership). But physical activity was a lacklustre and rare process. Even a walk in the park brought an eyeroll of the effort it might entail. This from someone who grew up spending all day in the forest exploring, imagining, and playing, or kayaking, swimming, doing any number of activities.
I got into politics. Or the 13-year prison sentence as I sometimes call it. Politics was strange because I went in believing people could rationally discuss any issue. I felt, as in life, people may not agree in the end, but can and should talk through any conflict or disagreement to understand each other, remain friends and be respectful to one another. Thing is, that isn’t politics. Or, sometimes, life.
It was also strange because while I’d hosted TV shows, and given speeches, I actually find being the center of attention an enormously anxious experience. Being on TV or giving a speech is fine, you don’t need to interact, you put on a show – it was acting. I hated having my photo taken or being given accolades. Hated going to doorsteps to sell myself or work a crowd. No one knew the real me. Because all politicians want attention, right? Social media arrived around the same time. I became able to hide in plain sight as others managed the visual social media presence that had very little of the real me or my life. I learned to be ok with it and that has stayed with me, even if my own pictures on social media still make me cringe.
As a government minister I refused to let staff call me “Minister” because I craved being equal and anonymous, not put on some pedestal. The higher we are, the further we can fall. That applies to our own mental health. I remember meeting the Queen and was introduced with a title. I blurted out “It’s just Andrew”. I’m someone who is just as happy to step back and do my own thing or be around the very few people in the world who know me. But that public persona made many think otherwise.
This sort of thing catches up with you. Around 2011 I realized there was an issue. I went to see someone. I was diagnosed with PTSD. Twice. Why twice? I didn’t believe the first diagnosis. Soldiers in battlefields have PTSD. Not me. But as they went through my life they noted assaults I’d been victim of, including a stabbing, my work on an air crash where there were no survivors, work alongside dying children – and adults – as well as child soldiers in Africa. Even the sudden death of my father, and by this point the suicides of two friends (yes it happened again). It was a long list of trauma. I’d blown off each event but in combination it was something.
The impacts on my life were real. Suddenly they had a reason. Over the years it had become very rare for me to trust anyone. It still is. The sudden deaths of people close to me deeply impacted me – frightened me even – forever creating fears those I allow close will abandon me. So I’ve let few get close enough to matter. I learned I can handle almost any situation, but to avoid triggering depression and panic attacks I find it difficult to let issues go without understanding them, and feeling people can move on together in harmony. Otherwise it is always a spiral.
I’m deeply private. Even writing this is difficult but maybe it helps someone else, and that’s the point of being a Worth Living Run Ambassador. Repeatedly specialists have told me over the years that one of my challenges is being too empathetic. It hadn’t occurred to me that was even possible. Empathetic to the point where I’ve even refused to physically defend myself when attacked – because I can’t process the idea of using violence to defend myself. It’s not new. When I was a kid I would stop to rescue and nurse back to health wildlife injured or hurt in the yard or forest or feel sick when kids would torture jellyfish along the shore. I routinely ignore my own personal boundaries to help and be there for others, which opens me to feeling taken advantage of, even if that was not what someone intended. Deeply hurting myself.
Then came a particularly bad time in 2015. I was sitting with a race director friend of mine, Stacy Chesnutt, who joked “running fixes everything”. I signed up for a 5k race in my hometown called EPIC. Naively trained for a few days and ran in 12-year old shoes. I set a random goal of finishing in 30 minutes and did so in 28:35. I looked like I would die. I was overweight and just stubborn enough to finish in that time. But something changed.
I realized I could challenge myself. I could race myself, not others. I could do something for myself. Running seemed to be so difficult at times that it made me not able to think of the bad things in my life. Or the things that were going wrong. I signed up for more and more races. And packed on the kilometres. Running became my therapy. Such that when I had a car accident in December of 2018, I felt myself falling. I rapidly gained weight, and felt I’d never get to where I was. Running goals seemed impossible. Work goals didn’t matter as much. Fortunately, people who came to be the closest to me pulled me through it. Dragging me out for runs and encouraging me to sign up for races. And there it was. It wasn’t perfect but it was a start again. My physiotherapist said, “you need to find the joy in running again”. I found that through the many people I lived the running experience with over the past year, rather than the results. As Stacy had said four years before, “Running fixes everything”.
Maybe not everything. I still have trouble listening to myself when I have panic attacks. Instead, I’ll listen to other people tell me how to solve problems during times like that, sometimes making situations worse, not better. My own voice is often the right one in those situations, but I doubt myself at times like that. I just haven’t quite figured out how to listen to myself, when others scream so loud.
Like running, life continues to be a journey. Some days I’m running away from something. Some days running to something. Sometimes its a struggle. Sometimes a rush of success. Like running a race, I have the highs. But I still suffer the pain. Just like an athlete, the pain of things not going the way I envisioned when I thought everything was settled, planned, and on course for a spectacular finish. I still feel a sadness or pain in ways it feels others don’t really understand. I’ve had people tell me, “just don’t go for that run”. Or “find something else”.
As I traveled this journey finding wellbeing (with all its potholes), I choose to believe everyone is good at heart. We must choose to see that goodness. Too often we focus on the things people do wrong and let that overwhelm our thinking. I believe we should always choose compassion over anger. We must accept that people experience things in ways we might not really understand. We shouldn’t judge. We have no way to know what is going on for others or what pressures we may be unaware of. I still struggle when people don’t approach situations with the kindness to try to understand that, whether in me, or in other people.
The best way I’ve found to cope with my triggers for mental health struggles, is to strive to remain amicable, and almost always friends, with those I’ve had conflict and misunderstandings with. To take the time. Step back. And agree to put the past behind and move forward. It often surprises people to see who I remain friends with despite challenging pasts. If I choose to hold onto judgement over someone else’s actions at a difficult time, how can I ask them to not hold judgement over me? I can’t. So I choose not to hold grudges. I used to. That always hurt me more and made me a worse person more than it hurt them. So I’ve come to accept my own role in my feelings (and their feelings) and accept others may have felt pain and confusion too. There is a depth of closure and peace which comes with understanding each other. It is a much more harmonious way to live when you have one life to live.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Linda Fulton-Burges
Hi, I’m Linda. A 53yr old survivor of anxiety and depression, who likes to run….A LOT! LOL
I Run a Lot
I guess, I have been on the fence for a long time about sharing my story and mental health struggles. I mean, don’t we all have baggage, issues, challenges in life? Some people have so little, been through so much, and seem so happy……..
They seem to cope so well with things and feel so confident, I have never felt that way.
I have always felt alone…… socially awkward. I lacked confidence and didn’t realize why or how. I do now. I was diagnosed with GAD, Generalized anxiety disorder, depression about 12years ago. But I have been on medication, on and off for about 20 yrs. I do better with medication and exercise.
I have suffered a lot of loss and drama in my life too. My parents split up twice and my brother and I lived in an apartment away from our home, Dad and friends. I married young and divorced, raised a daughter, who I don’t see. Lost my Dad, and only sibling. My mother is all that is left from my birth family, and she has mental health issues, and refuses to get treatment. I don’t have cousins, close relatives here in Nova Scotia, so I am all my mom’s got! And, sometimes, the responsibilities and worry with my mom can be overwhelming……..
Anxiety can take over. I was on blood pressure medication, anxiety medication, but it didn’t seem to be working. Doctor told me I had to make some changes. I listened. I used to run a bit in high school and decided it would fit my busy schedule. I wasn’t committed to any class, I could just fit a run in whenever it was convenient. I started running from telephone pole to telephone pole, walked a bit and continued. Before I knew it, I was entering my first race, The Berwick 5miler! I struggled to finish it, but I did! I surprised myself! My husband and son were there to cheer me on. It was an amazing experience, and I felt so proud of myself and grateful for the family I have now. I decided then and there, I had to keep running.
I felt WELL, happy, relaxed and excited about the future! I was so lucky to meet a special friend at that race too, Stan Sarty, of Mountain View Runners. I joined their running group, and so did my husband and son!.
Now we are training 5 days a week. We are on running plans from an amazing coach, Amanda Austen Nash. We got help from a great nutritionist, Helen Macdonald and changed our diet. Learned to fuel our bodies healthier. We have done many races in the past 2yrs. Now my husband is training for his first full marathon! And I am doing the halfs. I hope to do my first full in the spring of 2020.
Life is extremely difficult sometimes and many of us don’t have the support system of family and friends. We don’t understand ourselves and what we need to be healthy and happy. We isolate ourselves and become victims to mental illness. If I have learned anything, it is to TALK! Find someone who understands mental illness, a teacher,counselor, doctor, friend, family, anyone who will love and support you. If your family doesn’t support you, find an adopted family. You have the right to be well, and take care of yourself. Find YOUR tribe.
I still have depression and anxiety, but it doesn’t control me. I have learned to manage my symptoms: worry, heart palpitations, panic attacks, headache, stomach issues etc… with therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. I do still take medication, but a lower dose and seem to control my anxiety much better with exercise and running. If I feel overwhelmed, I take a break, and do what I have to do for myself. Even if I offend others, I look after myself and have learned that is not selfish. Self care is necessary to be well!
I have learned to love myself , I have learned that there are others like me. I am not alone and I am much stronger than I thought
Hope to see you at the races!
Worth Living Run Ambassador Chantelle Mahoney
I’m a 38 year old running mama of two sweet and active boys with an incredible husband. I have anxiety. I’ve spent many sleepless nights reviewing every single thing I’ve said or done in the run of a day, searching for my mistakes. I sometimes feel like there’s something heavy sitting on my chest making it hard to breathe and my legs are so weak that I cannot move. I’ve woken at 4 am in a panic because I had a glass or two of wine, worried that I may have let my guard down too much. I’m that friend who will text or call for reassurance that ‘we’re still ok’ and that I’m still loved. I’ve been able to cope by running and talking it out when it gets bad. I know it could be worse. It has been worse and it could be again someday.
Several years ago, after only a few months working in a new job, I was struggling terribly. I was extremely uncomfortable with the working environment. I felt 100% alone every single day. It was affecting me more at home than anything had ever affected me before. I was quickly losing weight. I couldn’t cope with the day to day tasks of being a mom to my older son. I cried each night because I had to go back the next day.
The anxiety I felt over spending every single day feeling like I was doing and saying the wrong things at work and having nobody there to talk to was too much to bear. My husband, mom and aunt cornered me one evening and convinced me that I needed help. The hardest thing I have EVER done (even tougher than birthing two children) was call my doctor and say the words…”I think I have depression”. I thought I was weak for not being able to get through a negative work situation on my own.
My husband went to the appointment with me, armed with a list of all of the signs he had seen because he knew that I would struggle to admit just how bad things had gotten. Eventually, by quitting the job and using medication, I was able to feel myself again. I also learned that needing help and asking for it makes a person strong and courageous.
I am surrounded by a large circle of friends and family. Many members of my circle have depression, anxiety or both. I’ve watched some of them suffer dearly, not really knowing what I should say or do to help. Some of them, like me, need reassurance that I’m not going anywhere. One friend needs to be reassured and to talk through her anxiety. We’ve had to retrace her steps through her drive to work, reassuring her that she in fact, she did not hit anyone. One of my closest friends needs her space when her depression hits a low. She needs to work through it on her own. She’s a lifelong runner. Her depression gets exponentially worse whenever she’s had to work through an injury and cannot get out for regular exercise.
Running has been able to keep me healthy, at least for the time being but I know that others cannot simply ‘manage’ their illness on their own. I want everyone to know that they never need to suffer in silence. There is no shame in needing or asking for support. There is no shame and there is no weakness.
Worth Living Ambassador Emily Nuttall
Emily was born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands on September 4th, 1993. She has been a volunteer, coach and campaigner in her local community from the age of 15. She is part of a range of voluntary organisations that she is passionate about and inspired to carry out tasks for. This is for personal reasons and also from experiences she has faced and currently faces as part of being a campaigner and coach. Emily is working to improve local mental health services, raise awareness about young suicide, and eating disorders, as well as young homelessness and those affected by disabilities. Emily wishes to make a long lasting difference and impact to the people in her community and beyond. She ultimately wants to influence change and save lives.
It’s Just Me
Fighting my demons
Facing my fears
Something I’m ready to finally forever beat after many years
When I look in the mirror I need to be proud of me
Remind myself Every day that I can break free
Beauty and personality comes in many different ways
And it’s important to remember that’s ok
I’m only human it’s ok to cry and break
After all life is a continuous journey of recovery and learning it’s ok to make mistakes
Never give up when the challenge ahead feels scary and tough
Just like the waves in the sea when unpredictability at times it can be rough
Surround yourself with the people that love and care
Remind yourself that no matter what they’ll always be there
Never give up never lose hope
I promise there will always be a way to cope
When anorexia, depression, anxiety, self harm, flashbacks and thoughts of suicide try and take over me
Remember I am Emily and I can break free
Every day is a new day to give the battle another go
If I stay in this same place then I’ll never no
It’s been 12 years of fighting this continuous hell
And I finally more than ever want to be well
I am Emily and I will break free
I am not going to let my masks, fears, challenges and hurdles stop me
It’s time for me to be my own best friend
The road ahead will be bumpy, scary and hard but I won’t stop till I reach the very end
The darkness will soon be overtaken by the sky so beautiful and bright
Which will every day remind me that I will not give up this fight
It will be worth all these tears and fears
Because the future ahead is going to be healthy, happy and positive years
You are loved and wanted in this earth and place
Be proud of who you are and show your beautiful face
Because you will one day win this running race
So don’t give up when you wobble on your feet
Because this is a battle I am going to beat.
Remember the charities, helplines your treatment teams, family and friends
Who will be right with you holding your hand to the very end
Remind yourself that nearly 2 and a half years out of inpatient is an achievement in itself
That you deserve to be well and have healthy physical and mental health
So stand tall Emily don’t give up this fight
I promise through the hardest, distressing and exhausting of days
You will come out stronger and it will all be ok
You can beat this and break free
And go on to whatever you want to be
The world is your oyster go and grab it with both hands
Because you will reach your beautiful destination when you finally land.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Brett Anderson
Living in the north of England, Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and now ultra-marathon which he completed at the not so tender age of 48.
He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 10 years ago, he has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health. You can follow Brett on Twitter @firstrunlastrun and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.
Warning: Suicide is discussed
To encapsulate 30 plus years of running and more importantly WHY I run initially filled me (to be entirely honesty) with dread. Such was the enormity of the task. However, following a day of reflecting, I think I can bring it back to one simple mind set.
‘Suicide is painless’ was written by Johnny Mandel. It became the theme tune to M.A.S.H. Johnny was 14 when he wrote the song. I remember hearing the song as a child lying in bed as my parents watched the iconic show in the lounge downstairs. Looking back now, knowing what I know what kind of 14 year old writes a song about suicide? The answer to me seems clear. I think a lot would, if they could. My ‘suicide head’ started about that time.
I work in a school. I work with a lot of 11-16 year olds. I see anxiety and depression all the time and what I don’t see is somebody willing to say ‘it’s okay; you can talk about it openly’. If a 14 year old can write a song about suicide back in the 1970’s, why then can’t we talk about anxiety, depression, and suicide now? Is it the religious connotations? Is it that by discussing suicide we have to accept the existence of the ultimate demon? Is it simply because to do so simply hurts to damn much?
Whatever the reason, I’m now 48 and this is my time. Many years ago, my fried committed suicide; for him, it was a choice. When the pain of living with his head simply became too much, he chose to take control. Perhaps that’s what suicide is to some. Control. I will choose to make the decision. I will choose to take that path. When I think of how dark things have become for me at times, I can’t deny that I too have seen suicide as an option, a choice, a method to stop the perpetual noise of self-doubt. Imagine walking along a mountain ridge. On one side you have calm, on the other ultimate chaos. Imagine walking along that ridge every day with only brief moments of respite. It’s the itch you can’t scratch.
Except I can.
I remember clearly a particular run. It was about two years ago. It had been snowing heavily; we’re talking a good 4 inches. I layered up, got out the trail shoes, and ventured out. I had just recovered from illness and I was starting to feel stronger and confident enough that my body would respond even in the harsh conditions.
Within minutes, I settled into the run and the transformation that happens every single time I run happened. That’s the best way I can describe it. A transformation. Every step I take I feel suicide recedes, just one step. It can’t keep up. I say it because it has a presence, it has a sense of being, it has a life force of its own. Yes, its malevolence scares me because I know it won’t go away. Not completely. It drifts way back into my subconscious, only to return when life gets just too damn hard. But when I run, an energy courses through me and shouts “screw you”, I can do anything. Inwardly, I shout this is worth living for. This sense of overwhelming freedom from everything that brings me down.
Suicide can’t run as fast as I. Even when I plod.
If in doubt. Run.