How do I progress and maintain my health?

In some ways 2018 was a fantastic year. I turned 40, which was a bit of a life shock, but that said I was lucky enough to be treated to a wonderful holiday and party by my wife. I had some great weekends away and quality time with my kids, family and friends.

When I was in control of my mental health, usually when I was busy and not having time to dwell or think, it was great. But every 2-3 weeks I would sense the trigger and then the thoughts, the panic attacks, anxiety, stress and worry would overtake me and I would lose control of my mind. Yes granted it was not constant and there was respite, but it was annoying and frustrating, especially as I would always have a dull thump in my head.

When I decided that enough was enough, I threw myself fully into trying to control this 'thing' in my head. Apart from seeing my GP, I spoke to Occupational Health who were excellent, I got valuable support from my colleagues, and most importantly I decided to get fit and stay fit, and not give up after a month or two. Now I try to cycle, swim, run regularly and I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. It is hard and some days I do not want to do anything. I try and do all my exercise in the morning so I don't have the chance to talk myself out of it. I also eat as well as I can. I keep a constant record of everything I eat and drink.

I try to burn more calories than I consume. I usually have an off day on a Saturday where I eat a bit more and drink some alcohol. I am in no way medically trained but after years of mental illness I believe that I have experienced enough to be able to comment and pass my theory on. I do not believe that you can fully control mental illness by one thing alone. I believe that it requires good GP advice, counselling, fitness and nutrition along with trying to get to the heart of the problem, it is about well-being. This is not an easy combination, it requires motivation and time. The problem being mental illness does not care about time or indeed money, wealth, fame, age, sex, or race. It can beat the best of us, and you just need to get to a point when you think enough is enough. You only get one life, so you need to make a plan and decide to fight back.

Within the last 6 months I have often looked out the window seen the dark wet cold mornings and thought no way am I running, but then I remember, the dark days, the depression, the anxiety, pushing people away and the isolation, so I think stuff the weather, lets get this done. I get past the hardest part which is getting my running gear on, I open the front day, brace against the cold and wet. I leave the house, a slow jog away with my head down, thinking what the hell am I doing, my bed is warm. I jog along on the well trodden path, car lights burn my eyes, but then my heart and lungs get warm, my legs and arms rejoice in the stretching of muscles. I open up my stride and I feel alive, the Rocky soundtrack is playing in my headphones, and I feel pumped. The endorphins start to pass around my head and the adrenaline kicks in. I run and I run, it may only be 3k, it may be 5k or 7k, it does not matter, I am out and I feel good.

It's 6.30am when I get home. It feels like a win, I have battled the enemy within and it’s a win. I then kick on with my day. I have put myself in a good mood and I feel I can win. Yes there will still be challenges throughout the day, but for me even when I was in a bad place the day always seemed to get better. Now it seems to run just that bit more smoothly from beginning to end.

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