The One Where I Share With You How Running Helps Me Through My Depression And Anxiety After Childhood Sexual Abuse
Last week I re-started the NHS Couch to 5K running programme. Here’s a link, to find out more, if you are unfamiliar with the programme.
I came across it about 5 years ago, before I became pregnant and started a family, at a time similar to now when I found myself overwhelmed and overtaken mentally by stress, anxiety and depression. I found the programme back then, equally as I do today, to be such an amazing tool to help me through my day-to-day challengers, in particular relating to mental health, that I face on my journey of recovery after my earlier experiences of rape and childhood sexual abuse.
I need my running more today than ever, as my tumultuous inner world of post abuse recovery collides with the ever increasingly demanding and challenging role of being a mum to a vibrant and VERY strong willed 2 year old. Without my running, I’m not sure I’d be able to make it through the myriad of emotions and sheer weight of pain, stress and trauma, as well as overwhelm, anxiety and depression which I face most days.
Whatever the weather, rain or shine. I get out there, running. I won’t lie, with the heavy rain, winds and storms that we are having at the moment, it has been tough. But I know each time that I go out there, with each step that I run towards that 5k goal, that I have a better chance of getting myself through the day and out from under the dark weight of depression that would otherwise engulf me. Without my running, it is quite possible that I would collapse more easily into my own dark inner world of memories, pain and trauma that, so easily pull me under into my deeper, darker world of depression.
So much is written about, on the internet and in books about the benefits of exercise and I agree with, and feel, so many of the benefits that are spoken about. But for me, running gives me so much more than those commonly spoken about benefits. Running is a life saver for me and without it, I honestly don’t know if I could survive, the “hell” that I can find myself in on my darker days of deep despair and depression.
Running gets me outside in nature, which I love, (even in the storms, heavy winds and rain!). To be outside in itself is healing to me, not just because of the opportunity that it gives to me to experience a change of scenery but because of the fresh air and abundance of scents, sights, sounds and wonders of nature all around that just seem to naturally calm my overwhelmed and over run mind and soothe, bathe, nurture and balance my exhausted body and fragile nervous system.
Running out in nature makes me feel SO good. There’s something in that combination of exercising and being outside that boosts the endorphins and feel good chemicals in my body. It’s amazing and I love how it makes me feel. Even in the wind and rain, I come back feeling so invigorated, energised and alive.
At times, I can get to a point halfway through my run, when I feel so tired and like I can’t do it anymore but I carry on and get myself through to the end. And at the end, I feel absolutely amazing. As I run, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that the challengers that I face in my running are similar in some ways to those that I face on my personal journey of recovery from sexual abuse. There are many days on my healing journey that I feel like I just can’t go on or do it anymore but, somehow, like with my running, I find the strength from within to carry on for another day. Just like I find when I am running, I find that voice and power of courage, strength and tenacity from within that carries me on that little bit more. I find in running, that I am reminded of, and am able to reconnect to, as well as build on, the inner resources of resilience, strength, courage, tenacity, determination and damm right unstoppable power and will that I have within. All qualities that have helped me, along my journey of self recovery, to get to where I am today and will continue to help me as I journey further along my way.
As a child I never used to like running, not because I wasn’t any good at it but because of the way that it was taught or introduced to me at school. Running cross country in the icy cold wind and rain across muddy school fields shaped the way that I viewed running for many years. My friend Mandy and I would always be at the back huddled in a small group trying to support each other through, what was to us at the time a torturous and unpleasant form of exercise. I hated it. And sadly that is what shaped my view of running for many years. I feel sad about that now, knowing how much running benefits me now and thinking about how much it could have spared me from my mental “hell” of depression that I felt in the earlier years of my life. But I have found it now and for that I am grateful.
After running, I feel calmer in my mind and more grounded in my body. I feel less anxious, less stressed and more energised. I feel more confident within myself and like I am more able to cope. I feel more connected to myself, kinder and loving to myself and more willing and able to self care. I feel more positive and more able to engage with life and others. I feel more present, happier, more playful, creative and inspired and more able to connect to and carry out my creative projects, hobbies and work which I not only love, but which provide me with a deep sense of fulfilment, achievement, purpose and meaning in life. I am also able, through running, to connect more open heartedly and deeply with my daughter, to not only enjoy the amazing moments of her and our life together but also to enable us to cope more calmly, lovingly and compassionately in the moments of challenge that we face together, when greater empathy and understanding is needed.
In addition to the greater sense of grounding and presence that I feel running gives to me, I also feel that it gives me focus…something else to focus on other than the memories, anxieties, pain and trauma that binds me to the past. With that I find myself less caught up in my head and in the mental suffering and stress that can arise from the constant train of thoughts, worries, anxieties and concerns that can permeate through my mind. I feel more focussed on the here and now and more determined to find a way through my daily challenges to break free from the shackles of my past. With a quieter and calmer mind, that that focus, grounding and presence brings, I am also able to find space and clarity in my mind to look, and move forward more in my life. This helps me to continue to build upon my dreams, goals and desires for mine and my family’s future.
Running gives me ‘ME’ and my life back. It gives me back that inner knowing or sense of me being something other than my past and my pain. It helps me to remember and re-discover who I am and all that I am in truth. The person that I am beyond abuse. That’s why I say that running is a life saver for me. For without it, there have been, for sure, days when I have felt like I have been losing myself to my depression, my anxiety and my past.
I need my running, FOR ME, just as much as I need food and water. For my well being, for my survival, and for my ability to simply be able to exist and make it through the day. That’s how it feels to me and without it, it feels like I might lose not only myself but also my chance at life.
The overall feel good factor is what I also gain from running and the knowing that however hard the day’s run may be, that by the end of it, I will, without a doubt, feel so much better than when I began.
One of the things that works well for me, with the Couch to 5k programme is that it guides me through, step by step, all the way on each run so that I don’t have to think about what I am doing and I can just let my mind switch off, rest and relax.
The Couch to 5K programme is really easy to do and has been designed to help non runners get into running. It builds you up in manageable chunks, shares lots of great running tips, offers lots of encouragement and has great music too, to accompany you on your run. I Love the programme and am really grateful for all that it has given to me.
It boosts my confidence and self esteem not just in running but in all areas of my life. It helps me to self care and reminds of the many amazing qualities and characteristics that I have within to overcome and achieve my challengers, goals and dreams in life.
After running I am a better person, a happier person, a more creative person, a more loveable and more loving person. A more focussed person, a brighter, sunnier, happier and more smiley person. A more relaxed person, a more content person, a more whole, confident and self loving person. A friendlier person, a better mum, a better wife, a better friend and in all that….I am… the best version of myself that I can be.
Now that I am running again, I am going to enjoy my runs and all the benefits that they give to me as much as I can. And, I’m going to use them to help me let go of my past and move forward with my life. And thanks to my dear friend Al, as well, I am aiming to do my first 5k Park Run, (click here for more information) , very soon.
Thank you Al, for supporting and encouraging me in my running, from afar, and for giving me that final push of motivation to get back into my running again. xx
With Love until next time
Amelia Ella Hope