Stop and Re-Set

So, time to try and hit the pause button for a sec, time to stop the self-sabotage and re-set. I’ve been thinking that for a little while but of course my brain is sluggish and muddled with depression so doing that is easier said than done. As you know running hasn’t been going to plan at all and one of the side-effects of not running enough is a real dip in mental well being. And of course the dip in mental well being makes it much harder to go out and run. Thanks Universe for that cycle of nonsense.

Yesterday I had a panic attack which I guess was pretty major except that it was nothing compared to the old Bradford panic attacks and I knew what it was so just rode it out. My train was cancelled and then the next two trains coming through were cancelled too so 4 trains worth of people eventually tried to get on the next one. I was squished in a corner next to the toilet with a bloke’s rucksack sticking sharply into my chest. It was airless, noisy, uncomfortable and a bit smelly and within minutes the oh so familiar blood rushing in my ears, jelly legs, inability to breathe and racing heart kicked in. I tried to distract myself on Twitter and I tried to consciously ground myself and breathe. I sort of tumbled off the train in Leeds and sat on a bench for 15 minutes or so before I trusted my legs to take me to the office.

At work I sat and stared at my screen for a while mostly close to crying for no apparent reason. I was close to tears all day and my heart rate stayed high. I had a lovely PhD meeting and briefly felt better. I had two other meeting though during which I did my usual high functioning, perfectly on the ball keeping it all together act and then I left the last meeting and walked from our beautiful Headingley campus to the station with tears streaming. When I got home I should have run but I felt exhausted. When the alarm went off this morning I should have run. I know I should, well let me change the should. I want to. I want to be out there running but I am struggling to convince myself. It’s hard to explain.

Instead of running I’ve been eating crap, craving sugar mostly, drinking too much coffee, eating out, eating mindlessly, putting on weight, moving less and less… I’ve been faffing with work and worrying about things I should just leave alone. I haven’t been good at holding myself to my own standards of sensible working hours, not engaging with idiocy and prioritising work based on what is important to me. And the thing is I know I’m doing it. Depression tells me it’s easier and trying to do anything else is pointless anyway. It tells me I can’t run, it tells me doing the things I want to do at work will make no difference. Depression is all about the insecurities hiding in the background all the time and pushing them into consciousness and then into the foreground. Depression lies but it does so convincingly.

As I was struggling to breathe on the train yesterday morning I decided I needed to re-set. I haven’t managed that today but I have made a start! I didn’t manage to be more positive at work really but once home I really wanted to try and get out for a run. I lost the battle though and only managed to cover a mile and a half and had to walk most of that. Of course my brain is being bitchy and reminding me of how useless as I am. But I’m trying. I got out even if for a little bit. Then I managed to cook a relatively healthy meal and I am trying to be kind to myself and take things an hour at a time. I still feel tearful and a bit useless but also that maybe I’m beginning to turn a corner. Writing this takes some of the power out of it. The panic attack yesterday was a clear sign that things are not ok and I think maybe I needed today to spiral a bit before hitting pause and re-set.

I will try and run more – I want to and it’s hard to explain why I haven’t and even harder to explain why I’ve been eating crap, spending too much time on the sofa, too much time behind a screen and not enough time outside. I don’t know why I’ve been drinking too much coffee and eating too much sweet stuff. That’s depression for you. Nothing really makes sense.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I am aiming for neutral with a healthy sprinkling of self care or at least a lack of self sabotage

Today just is!

Well everything is hard fought today. After a lovely chilled weekend with our friends that was filled with wonderful cuddles and giggles from the kids and just easy togetherness, my brain started misfiring at some point last night. I went to bed. I slept in that uneasy way you sleep when you don’t quite trust your brain to get things right.

We were going to run 11 miles today. After a cup of tea in bed I got up and put running gear on and then I couldn’t move. I was quite clear in my mind that I could not possibly go outside. I could not, under any circumstances leave the house. Yes I do realise that’s ridiculous and not exactly a healthy response to anything but there I was, rooted to the spot. The 11 mile run was quickly abandoned and I managed to persuade my grey matter to shut up for long enough to go downstairs and make some breakfast. Then I set about the slow and so often futile task of having a conversation with myself about how this is all a little silly and the world is no scarier and fucked up today than it was yesterday and that sitting on the sofa is not going to solve anything, it won’t get shit done and it won’t allow me to just be and enjoy the bank holiday either. I wasn’t really listening

To try and do something useful at least Kath and I compared diaries, planned meals for the week, wrote a shopping list and then Kath went shopping. I stayed on the sofa. Where it’s safe. I read posts on the #run1000miles facebook group and enjoyed the photos people had posted of their runs. Other people’s adventures big and small distracted me enough for the chemicals to settle a little and I began to really like the idea of a run. But then there was the door to negotiate with, you know actually leaving the house. I’d also posted about how I was feeling and the comments I got back where so lovely and supportive and I began to feel a little less scared of the world.

When Kath got back we got changed. Then I stood in the kitchen a while pretending I wasn’t really putting off going OUTSIDE. Eventually Kath gently nudged me towards the door and then through it and then stood on the step between me and the door while I figured out if I really wanted to go back in and hide. Once outside I was ok. We didn’t linger for both watches to find the GPS but set off as soon as one had it. I left my run/walk intervals on so I could drop into them if I wanted to. We ran easy. I didn’t want to find out if I had any mental strength to push – it didn’t feel like I had anything at all mentally. Physically though I felt fine. We ran our sheep loop. I slowed off even more than usual on the downhill not wanting to give my persistent black pup any excuse at all to get involved. I still felt physically good so we extended the loop by turning right across the canal and going to the stone bridge and turning round there.

We were talking on and off and Kath had just finished saying ‘We haven’t seen the kingfisher for a while’ when we saw a flash of blue and orange and a kingfisher flew out on the opposite side of the canal just in front of us. You can’t not smile when you see a kingfisher. A little further along there was a heron on the edge of the towpath and we ran past it slowly, hoping not to scare it off – I could have touched it if I’d stretched my arm out. A little while after that it got tough. Probably not actually physically tough but mentally I was beginning to really want to stop. We went post to canal boat to tree to patch of nettles to bush to bench to post….. Before I knew it we’d reached a tarmac section and then the bridge towards home. 3.75 miles run and another just over half a mile walked home on a day where it looked like making it downstairs might be a win. I’ll take that and I’ll celebrate it.

I have no idea why today is like today is. There are no obvious triggers. Sometimes there is no reason, sometimes it just is and that’s ok and most importantly it doesn’t mean that the rest of today has to be like that or tomorrow or the rest of the week.

Happy Running, or just running or not – whatever you need today

Running might have helped today

Today has been one of those days that pushes my buttons just enough to have been a really exhausting and crappy day but not enough to actually tip me over the edge or for there to even be anything specific. The alarm went off and instead of getting up I hit snooze several times, had a shower and a cup of tea, then breakfast and eventually left the house – about 15 minutes after I’d planned to be at work. Button number one pushed. By the time I got to Leeds, it was busy. Lovely.  Our book is late. We’re making progress but I’m unfocused and I keep making mistakes and having to re-do bits. That’s another two buttons pushed. This morning we had a staff meeting, I’m not good with staff meetings, they’re full of people for a start and they are mostly so totally pointless. This one also took over two hours out of my book writing time. The research ethics committee this afternoon was similar, though perhaps a little more upbeat. I have an inbox full of a mixture of stupid and reminders about things I haven’t done and then I was supposed to go out for a drink after work but that didn’t happen and I found myself struggling with the change of plans. I wondered whether I should just stay in the office but in the end I came home, had some food and sat down to work on the book.

I wish I’d gone out to run though. I’ve been slightly irritated about something all day but can’t put my finger on it. Running might have helped. Although my hamstrings are a little tight from yesterday. Anyway, it’s not all bad. We’ve started our half marathon training plan. We had a reboot run at Bolton Abbey on Sunday (which followed my London reboot run last week). It was a lovely run really. Bolton Abbey has gone all festive and further along the trail we saw a heron and towards the end of the loop a woodpecker. It was nice to stop and watch.

Yesterday we picked up the plan with a 3 ish mile run with a couple of hill repeats. It was fine. It was hard but it was fine. I felt flat afterwards though. The post-run buzz never happened. And I don’t really remember much of the run. I suppose non-eventful is good. I’m also getting a little better at doing yoga again, not great but at least I’ve done some. I’ve lost a couple of pounds and I’m fitting in my smaller pants comfortably so it’s all good really… and yet there’s something niggling.

Anyway, the next run is tomorrow – 3 miles with some speed work thrown in. Yay!

Anxiety is a Bitch

I went to a workshop in Birmingham today. More on that in another post if I can find the time to write that. For now I am writing because I need to. Because it focuses my thoughts on doing something. I left the workshop feeling a bit tired and struggling a little with this silly cold that started on Friday. Otherwise I felt fine. I walked across campus in the dark and drizzle. Fine. I got to the station and made my way down onto the platform. A little anxious. So many people. I squeezed onto the train and went right to the end of the carriage. I needed to breathe but the end of the carriage meant being boxed in. Rock and hard place.

The journey from the University to New Street Station is 7 minutes. 7 agonising minutes during which I could feel the panic building. I tried to control my breathing, I tried closing my eyes, I tried my mantras, I tried all the things I’d perfected but haven’t really had to use for such a long time. (I did have a little attack the other week but nothing compared to this). It didn’t work. I got off the train and got swallowed up by a sea of people. I must have had tears streaming because a little while later I noticed that my face was wet.

I had my phone in my hand. I wanted to call but what would I say? And I couldn’t actually lift my hand to dial or anything anyway. I just walked with the mass of people slowly up the steps, too slowly. I wanted to scream. At the top of the steps I ducked right when everyone else seemed to be going left. A tiny little space to breathe just a little.  I asked Facebook for suggestions for a quiet place in Birmingham New Street to sit and breathe knowing that such a place probably doesn’t exist. I couldn’t stay where I was, the crowds were relentless.

Walking helps, walking always helps. Taking deliberate steps and breaths I walked but it didn’t help, it was too slow, too many people. I focused on the ticket barrier, went through, thought ‘out’ would be a really good idea but ‘out’ was so busy, so many people just rushing and just so many people. I froze, turned round and went back. Up, up the escalator was the current path of least resistance. I went up and saw Foyles. A bookshop. Bookshops are quiet. I dived in and walked to the back. I wondered round. My chest was so incredibly tight, breathing hurt. I found myself standing and staring at ‘teen fiction’ for a while. Slowly, slowly everything slowed. I felt less dizzy, less urgent. I looked at my phone – no suggestions.

I walked towards the front of the shop. I still had nearly an hour before my train. Everything was busy and I could feel the world speed up again as I got closer to the door. Then I realised that the middle of the floor I was on had several restaurants sort of open plan popped together. They weren’t busy. It felt a bit like the eye of a storm where it’s calm with all the craziness whirling around the outside. If I could get there I might be able to just sit there, have something better than a sarnie for my tea and breathe. I’m not sure how long I stared at the path between me and the entrance to ‘Giraffe’ but eventually I went.

I don’t remember getting there. I sat in a little booth flanked by the kitchen on one side and empty tables on the other. I ordered a salad and a smoothy, nourishing and yummy stuff although I wasn’t at all sure I could eat. Kath phoned to reassure. I was starting to feel better. But breathing hurt. My smoothie came. I closed my eyes and took a long drag on the straw which induced a coughing fit rather than the calm I was aiming for. I tried again. Now my bubble was starting to build around me. The techniques I learned in the Bradford days when panic attacks were daily occurrences were working. My salad came, I realised I was actually hungry. I sat and looked around. From here things didn’t look too scary. My world had stopped spinning.

Eventually I got the bill. I took some deep breaths and took the shortest possible route, which of course I’d worked out as soon as I sat down, to the escalators. Once at the bottom I was briefly disoriented then saw the barriers and my platform and went for it. I got down to the platform and tried to focus. I tried to shut out the world but it wasn’t working. It was too busy and the panic started again. The train took so long to arrive and just as pacing up and down didn’t seem like it was going to be enough a couple of messages came through on twitter and on messenger. The tightness started to ease just a little, just enough for me to function, get on the train, find my seat and focus on typing this. Sharing it with you.

I’m breathing ok now. I think the tightness is now mostly from my cold/cough, I don’t feel dizzy anymore. I just feel tired. Really tired. Anxiety is a bitch and today she got me. She got me without warning. I wasn’t expecting her, I wasn’t ready for her. Why should I be. She’s been AWOL for over a year or at least she’s been in the background. Now that I know she’s back she won’t get me as easily again, not with that force. Time to step up the yoga, the breathing and the running miles. The bitch might be back but I learned a thing or two last time. Bring it.

Running in the Shadows

Putting this weekend of running into words is quite hard. We ran in the shadows of Helvellyn, we ran in the shadows – full stop – there was almost no sun to be seen, we ran in our own personal shadows, fighting our own personal demons…

Let’s start at the beginning. We drove up to Glenridding on Friday afternoon. We stayed at the Glenridding Hotel which is a little odd but absolutely fine. We had our tea in the hotel bar and both opted for Cumberland sausage and mash – I wasn’t entirely sure about that for running fuel but we weren’t running until 1pm so it was going to be fine. We got an early night and I slept quite well. After breakfast (full veggie version) we walked IMG_7812across to the field where the Lakeland Trails marquee was. It was actually just next to the hotel. We couldn’t yet register for our race as they’re busy giving out numbers for the 5km and 10km runs that went earlier. We walked round the little village (didn’t take long) and along the first few hundred metres of the race route. I was beginning to really feel like I shouldn’t be there.

Everyone I’d seen so far was skinnier, looked stronger, looked like runners. It seemed ridiculous for me to be there. We went back to the hotel and just rested and watched the 10k race and 5k race leave and then, after not very long at all, we watched them come back in. That didn’t settle my doubts. I knew that this run was likely to be the hardest I’ve ever done. I’m not confident on tricky terrain and the terrain was going to be tricky. I got changed into my running gear and at about 12.40 we headed over for our 1pm start. We joined the queue for the loos, had a pee and then it was only another minute or two before we were on our way. We jogged slowly along at the back of the pack and for a short period of time it was all ok. It was going to be awesome and I was going to love it. We turned left towards the hills and quite quickly hot a bottleneck as everyone slowed to make our way down a narrow path alongside a little river. Then things opened up and started sloping upwards.

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I started finding it so hard so quickly and had to walk much sooner than I wanted to. I’d only done a mile and I was struggling. My head spiralled and I started to wonder what on earth I’d been thinking – I didn’t belong there. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually the second mile was done. I don’t really remember what came where on the run but I remember the relentlessness of the early ‘up’ and then the section that I disliked most which was a muddy slippy path where a woman behind me fell (not seriously hurt) and I may have whimpered a few times as I lost my footing and just about stayed on my feet. Once through the muddy bit the paths turned to streams for much of the way and it was actually nice to run in the water. We settled into a little running rhythm and eventually passed half way.

The scenery was stunning. I kept reminding myself to look and try and take it in. There was a huge amount of water around with waterfalls coming off the fells all over the place. You could tell when you were running through a stream coming down from up high – it got marginally deeper and significantly colder. I didn’t take any pictures on the run so these are from the day before of the first bit of the route.

Not long after half way we were passed by the first runners doing the race rather than the challenge – they were doing the same route but had set off an hour later. The next bit was horrendous. We kept having to stand in to let people past so it was stop start and I IMG_7784was struggling. I was also a little upset. Kath had been talking me through all the sections, pointing out the easiest path and encouraging me on. At around 3 miles (I think) we’d come down a steep set of stones which basically formed steps and I was doing my best but going quite slow and at that point it sort of felt like Kath was just fed up of me and really annoyed at me. I snapped at her and we continued in silence from there. We said almost nothing to each other until we were back at the hotel. As it turns out, Kath was struggling with anxiety and I just made it worse by not realising, snapping at her and not being able to go faster. If we had been a little faster we would have been off the narrow stretch by the time people started coming passed and that would have helped loads. Kath just withdrew into her own little bubble to get herself through it and I didn’t know that so felt a little abandoned – because, you know, obviously everything is always about me.

At about 6 miles we crossed a little bridge and had a really boggy bit to navigate. As my right leg disappeared thigh deep into the bog and I vaguely wondered if my trainer was going to stay on my foot I sort of giggled. This whole thing was totally ridiculous. I pulled myself out, pushed on, got stuck with my left leg, pushed off again and felt my left calf muscle protest – protest but hold, then I was through. From there the rest of the run was along a wider path and it was easier for people to pass. I managed more running, not enough really but more. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and just over 2 and half hours after we’d set off, we crossed the finish.

We went straight back to the hotel rooms, stretched, and had a bath (I had a proper mud tan). IMG_7814We were both a bit upset and started to talk things through. We went for some food and were grateful when the brilliant little cafe/restaurant Fellbites agreed to serve us from their cafe menu when they’d normally have a break while they set up for dinner. Over food and a little walk we agreed that we would pull out of the Ullswater Challenge we were due to run today. If either of us had picked up a hamstring niggle we wouldn’t even be having the conversation about whether to run and really, an anxiety niggle is no different. Once the decision had been made we stopped at the bar, had a couple of pints and reflected on the run.

Today we went to Ambleside before heading home, had a lovely couple of hours spending money on running gear, books, cards… and then we came home and went for a run. I thought it was important for Kath to have a proper run so we agreed the route and I sent her on her way and followed more slowly. My legs were a little heavy and I could feel my knees and ankles questioning my sanity. Nothing actually hurt though so I toddled on. For some idiotic reason I had agreed to do our trail route through the wood –  who needs comfort zones anyway?! I hesitated briefly as I got to the top of the wood and had to navigate down the hill. I was tentative but I never kept moving. There were a few more sections along that path that defeated me – mainly because the path was covered in fallen leaves and I kept tripping because I hadn’t seen tree roots and stones and of course I wasn’t actually picking my feet up enough. I finished that section and went on to make my way onto the canal – I was determined to keep running which I managed until I saw Kath at just under 3 miles. I stopped as she was talking to someone we know so I had a little breather and then we went on and completed our loop together. With that run I have hit 405.5 miles for the year.

So what I have learned?

  1. I am a really selfish runner. It’s all about me and it never occurs to me that Kath might actually be struggling. It just didn’t enter my head. She likes running, she’s good at running, why would she struggle
  2. I am not fit enough to deal with the uphill and too much of a wimp to go downhill – bit of an issue on the Lakeland Trails
  3. I may have looked totally miserable but I actually really enjoyed much of it and certainly loved the experience overall
  4. In spite of 2 above – I am so much fitter and so much bolder than I was. Not that long ago I would really have struggled to walk that route very steadily in the dry and would simply not have done it in the wet!
  5. Even when we get things wrong and our wires crossed, we’re a solid team. We needed different things from this run so neither of us really got the best out of it but we finished and we learned a lot.
  6. Helvellyn and Ullswater are stunning and I want to go back
  7. Lakeland Trails events are great events and I want to do more
  8. Walt Disney was right, it is kind of fun to do the impossible
  9.  Champagne bought by a wonderful friend to celebrate another achievement is really rather yummy after a weekend of running (thanks Chris!). Cheers!

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