I was first diagnosed with depression 8 years ago, although in hindsight I have probably been struggling with it intermittently since my teens. When I initially went to the doctors 8 years ago I didn’t go because of my mood, I initially went with stomach cramps and to cut a long story short was diagnosed with stress. This was the beginning of some self-recognition of my low moods, and when a series of mildly stressful events started to significantly affect my mood, and I couldn’t shake it off, I eventually went to the doctor to request some time off work. Even then, I did not want to be labelled with any kind of mental health issue. When the initial week off work didn’t make me feel better the doctor recommended trying anti-depressants I point-blank refused. Because I did not want the stigma of taking medication. Only a few more weeks later when nothing worked did I finally concede that I needed to try medication. However the first thing I did before taking them was do some research. That was the first time I discovered Mind, the mental health charity. I guess I was vaguely aware of their existence so I knew their website could be trusted in terms of information, but over the coming years the website became my “go to” place for information on depression, both for me and for my family. I used it for all kinds of information not just about medication, but for all kinds of information from what depression is, to how I could help myself, and how my friends and family could help me! It was a really useful resource.
Unfortunately my depression got significantly worse before getting better but I am fortunate enough to say that after approximately 2.5 years of treatment, which included therapy for some long-standing issues from my childhood, I was lucky enough to have a long period of “recovery” from depression. Although I still struggled with low moods at times, I recognised the symptoms creeping up on me and found I was able to self-manage things before I ended up in a crisis.
That was until last summer. I had felt the symptoms of depression creeping up on me. Work was stressful. Home was stressful. I was constantly tired. I considered going to the doctor as my usual strategies weren’t working, but for a number of reasons decided I wanted to try and manage on my own. That was until my marriage started to fall apart. At the same time my mum was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Within a matter of days I went from feeling mildly depressed into full blown major depression. I immediately went to the doctor to ask for medication….an acceptance over time that depression may be something I would have to manage over my life meant I felt less stigma about doing this. I was prescribed a different anti-depressant than I had taken before, so I returned to the a Mind charity website to do some research. I also started following them on twitter, alongside other mental health charities and organisations.
Over the coming months reading about other people who were struggling with their mental health became important to me. I was not brave enough to talk on my own twitter account about how I was feeling, but knowing I was not alone in my thoughts and feelings was helpful. Then in February of this year I stumbled upon a blog post from #BlackDogRunner called “How Are You?” It seemed so appropriate to how I was feeling. I’d taken a long period of sickness from work, followed by an equally long phased return, and I was starting to be asked the dreaded “How are you?” question a lot. I was so pleased to find someone who seemed to articulate exactly how I was feeling that I immediately followed the blog and read and digested his previous blog posts-which I found equally easy to read, funny and insightful. Over the next few weeks it also gave me an idea. #BlackDogRunner had an anonymous twitter feed and an anonymous blog, which meant he could be totally honest about how he was feeling without any stigma, and without any of his real life friends, colleagues or acquaintances knowing what he was saying (unless he chose to reveal his identity). I was feeling very stifled at the time. Many of my followers and friends from social media included people I knew in real-life, and many people knew my ex-husband too. I felt I couldn’t be honest about how low I was feeling about my depression, about my marriage break-up, about my mum’s illness, and at the time all I was doing was existing. Just getting up for work and looking after my daughter took all my energy, I didn’t have much energy left for much else, and whilst I do have real-life friends it wasn’t practical for them to be around for me 24-7. So without realising it #BlackDogRunner gave me the idea for an anonymous twitter account. My previous blog post “How Twitter Helps My Mental Health” explains how important it has been for me to be able to talk freely about how I am feeling, and over time I have become less anonymous (in that I now share my first name).
#BlackDogRunner was one of the first people I followed on my new twitter account, and over time he has become a real friend. He is very kind and considerate, always there with a piece of positive advice-usually about self care and self-compassion. On a personal note, he has become a “virtual shoulder to cry on” but also someone to have a giggle with. He was someone I confided in about “The Thing I Can’t Talk About” before I felt ready to blog about it, and he talked to me and helped calm me down when I was having a major anxiety attack a few weeks ago. I am very proud to call him my friend, and I hope one day I will get to meet him in real-life so I can give him a proper hug to thank him for all the support he has given to me over the last few difficult months. It’s become a running joke that I have turned into #BlackDogRunner’s #NumberOneFan.
Since I found out that #BlackDogRunner intended to run the Great North Run I have felt that I wanted to support him to show him how much he means to me and to show I do appreciate the time he has given to support me. When I found out he was running in support Mind, it felt even more appropriate as he has really helped fulfill one of the charity objectives to “make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone”. He has always managed to make me feel I wasn’t alone, whether it was by writing his blog, or being there for me when I needed someone. So I’ve sponsored him at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/blackdogrunner and I hope you will too.
I also hope you will be cheering him on on 7th September. I only wish I could be there but not only is Newcastle a little far for me to travel, but it’s also my daughter’s 4th birthday so no doubt I’ll be surrounded by 20 screaming children all demanding birthday cake.
So as his #NumberOneFan what will I be doing? I guess I will be wearing this, so he knows I am there in spirit….
I really hope you will show #BlackDogRunner some support to help make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone, so if you can afford it please sponsor him at
For more information on Mind, the mental health charity you can
Follow them on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/mindcharity
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mindforbettermentalhealth
See their Website: www.mind.org.uk