There is no capital ‘i’ on that, so I am not referring to a character from Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Visit’ either.
I am poor at being ill and I hate it too. I hate not being able to do what I want to do and, with particular reference to sporting activities, feel I need to do.
Since I am planning to run my 210 mile challenge next year for Rethink, I should probably start to be more open, if only online. I, like most people, carry a few hang ups inside my head. The first is linked to an unhappy period of my life when I was in my first marriage. And yes, I do now refer to it as my ‘first’ marriage suggesting a high likelihood of a ‘second’ marriage. Discussions of a third are not greeted so well however…
However, when I was in my first marriage, I was fat. I tried to convince myself it was to try and help the rugby, or it was part of me getting stronger with weights in the gym. But actually, I was simply eating too much crap for the exercise I did do. It was both a cause and a symptom of my unhappiness at the time. I felt trapped in a number of conditions which I could not overcome. I should add, that at the time, my ex-wife was not one of the conditions I recognised, though with hindsight I would now differ.
One thing I am certain of is that I am in a much better place all round now and I do not want to slide back into that place. This is one of the drivers behind me always wanting to train and push myself to train more. Regrettably, I appear to have contracted something akin to body dismorphia disorder. I am never happy with what I see and spend most of my time upset at my physique. On occasions when I can be rational I know it is usually because I will be looking at a poorly posed position (bending over slightly and slouching my back) and often straight after eating, so my body is at its worse. Even so, it does not stop the frequent revulsion in what I see.
But then other times I think I am doing OK, though usually only after severe exercise, and then it is as a work in progress; I think I am heading in the right direction with plenty of work to go.
The darker flipside to this is that if I don’t get to exercise I can rapidly head into a cycle of depression as was evidenced by the start of this year. If my illness prevents me exercising then it makes me feel lower on an emotional level which seems to prevent me fighting off the physical infection, or at least simply ignoring it and getting on.
Now like many who suffer from such internal insecurities, I am a good actor. When I get to work or find myself in any social situation I can turn on the happier me before regressing afterwards. Very few people at work would have the opportunity to witness any of the symptoms.
However, I do not want to sound too melodramatic. Whilst I have some low points, I can almost guarantee I spend most of my time in a better frame of mind than many. I have a job I love, I live somewhere I enjoy, I have a loving partner with whom I am just starting out on an amazing and love filled new life adventure. Who knows, perhaps it’s some of the classic “Manic Depressive”; most of the time I am in the happy mania phase but occasionally there are the depressive lows.
But it is not as serious as the above can sound.
Which is somewhat neatly one of the things I will try and focus on for my challenge. For me it is not so much about raising the awareness of any specific mental illnesses and the problems faced by the sufferers and their families (who themselves become the sufferers in the tragic cases of suicide) but rather to make more people think of the phrase ‘mental health’ in the same way they would as normal physical health; not as something that is only mentioned to deal with serious disorders, but something to be aware of and to accept that sometimes it will be better or worse than others without having always to contemplate a trip to a specialist. Rather than awareness of mental health disorders or mental health illnesses, I would people were simply more aware about their own mental health.
And the worst thing? Now I have typed this and put it on the web page, I am reticent about posting it. It will be out there and people will be able to read it. Is it because of a fear of being considered weak, or simply because of an unspoken taboo that you don’t discuss mental health unless you have hit rock bottom and on your way up, at which point we can consider you a plucky fighter whilst safely acknowledging we have not got the same issues as you?
I don’t know. But I am going to hit post and then go and buy some shoes in an attempt to complete some retail therapy!