I’ve skipped a lot of days. Many on which, I have had an idea, or have meant to write, but have just made some kind of excuse, or have just been lazy.
Tonight, at run crew, I found out that one of us died. It was not someone who I personally knew, but it was a person who felt, this past week, that the alternatives had become so bleak that the only option left was to take her own life. And despite not knowing this person, I do have some idea of what it feels like to feel so alone, and it is utterly heartbreaking that there was not some way to pull her from this place.
The thing that I spoke about briefly with a running colleague, and that we rarely speak about in running, is that there is a reason that we run. And in a crew like ours, when that reason is not vanity, it can often be to escape some darkness. OBVIOUSLY this is not the case for everyone, but I would wager than many of us struggle, and that running is the non-negotiable part of our week that keeps us away from that darkness and closer to the light. This is why I run. And maybe I’m projecting my own escapism and triumph onto others, but holy hell has it helped.
This is a segue, and I don’t know how else to segue it, so here we go. There was a time in my youth, where every day, I wanted to die. I cried. A lot. And I remember always feeling so alone. Every day was a day long full blown panic attack. And I remember, walking down the street and thinking to myself. This is the moment. I cannot possibly take this any more. Today is the day. Something needs to change, or I am going to kill myself. Because if this is my life… if this is the way that I am going to feel every single day, I cannot fucking take it any more.
And that week, I checked myself into therapy, and began to make a change. BUT I was lucky. By some fluke, there was a program that existed for people affected by addiction to receive free therapy, and by some miracle, I was still a student, so it fit into my schedule. By some further miracle, my brother had gone before me, and so had primed the counsellors at this facility to know that addiction had been a factor leading me to this moment. I had not fully realized that my father was a raging alcoholic, and honestly, if the therapists I was working with had not known this in advance, there is no way that I would have felt that I qualified for their help. I was still living under the keep calm carry on banner, and I had literally no idea that my childhood was a horrific shit show until I was explicitly told by a stranger.
ANYWAYS, the point that I am trying to make here, is that SOMEHOW, for me, the resources existed. And without them, I would not be alive today. I would have gone to this place. I would have felt alone and unworthy. I would have taken my own life. And I would no longer be here.
And even though now, I do not feel suicidal, I do feel many of the feelings that lead me to feel that way. I feel the anxiety, and insecurity, and loneliness. I don’t feel like I’m good enough. For anyone. Or anything. I feel despair.
No. I do not feel these things all the time. In fact, most of the time, I feel loved and amazing and supported, and just the best.
But every time I hear about someone who was not able to find that support, who was not able to ask for help, who did not believe that the darkness would ever pass, I feel the need to talk about this all over again. We need to start taking mental health seriously, and we need to start listening to people who suffer, and we need to remove the stigma associated with darkness and depression. We need to make it ok to talk about mental health so that noone ever feels that there are no options left for them. So here’s my challenge for you – if you are one of those who sometimes suffers – talk about it. Talk about it with your friends; talk about it with your colleagues; talk about it casually and openly like you might any other normal health issues that impedes your day. You wouldn’t be made to feel shameful for seeking asthma treatment, and it should be no more shameful to seek treatment for mental health.
The more we talk about it when we’re well, the easier we make it for others to talk about it when they’re not, and the better things will get for all of us.