I’ve had a few questions about why I’m putting myself through the intense task (some would say punishment) of running 26.2 miles to raise money for Mind. Why not just give them some money, and support a charity in other, less bone-breaking ways.
Well, let me tell you why….
Firstly, This is the third time I have entered a marathon.
The first time was several years ago, when I decided I wanted to run the Edinburgh Marathon for Macmillan. I raised a fair amount, but never made it to the finish line because of poor planning and lack of proper training. One night after being stuck indoors for longer than I’d planned, trying to get work done for a nasty deadline the next day, I decided to finally go out for a last-minute 16-mile run. My phone died, I got lost in the dark and ended up running over 20 miles. The next day I could hardly walk. That was my first taste of shin splints…
Two years later my friend told me he was running that very marathon (EMF) and our running-centred conversations got me all fired up for a 26.2 mile challenge again. I chose Amsterdam, and this time I decided not to do it for a charity but as a personal challenge. Again, poor planning – trying to fit a training schedule in-between summer weddings and festivals – put a stopper to proper, consistent training. Also, I was comparing myself to the runner I was two years ago and thought starting my first long run with an 8-miler was a good idea. It wasn’t. My shins were screaming in agony for weeks after.
Perhaps also the absence of a goal outside of my own ambition was a reason for the lack in motivation….
So THIS TIME I was determined to succeed. I’d learnt two things:
1)To take training seriously
2)I needed to run for a charity!
Doing something for someone other than yourself is a powerful motivator! Going through this process for the first time is bloody hard work. It makes you look at yourself honestly, it makes you question your own character. When I was running and raising money for cancer research I kept reminding myself that the pain I was feeling was nothing, NOTHING in comparison to the pain of those going through chemotherapy or the last stages of such an aggressive illness! I kept the image of my awesome, beautiful, inspirational Uncle Leif (who died from advanced testicular cancer the year I moved to England, 2001) firmly in my mind every time my energy felt on the verge of running out.
So why then did I choose Mind this time?
The big issue of Mental Health lies very close to my heart…
My mother, an incredibly kind but somewhat bonkers woman, has worked in the Mental Health Service for more than 32 years now. Being an inquisitive child, and Norwegian regulations at that time not being what they are now, I sometimes used to go to the hospital that she worked in after school with excuse of picking up the house key. I liked saying hello to the patients, although I didn’t really grasp at the time what they were ‘hospitalised’ for. Now and again Mum would share a few stories from the ward with me (although she’d never mention names and I was strictly told not to share) and we’d talk about psychology and the differences between human minds. I grew up with a firm understanding of mental health issues.
…At least I thought I did.
When I was 17 I started dieting. I started looking at myself in the mirror and not feeling good enough just as I was. If only I could just lose a little bit of weight, then I’d look better and feel better. I was counting calories all the time, reading diet magazines, obsessing over ingredients, skipping meals whenever I could and exercising at least an hour and a half every day. My bathroom scales became my best friend and I couldn’t sleep unless I knew exactly what I was eating the next day. I became unsociable because visiting a friend’s house or going out meant not being able to control my calorie-intake. The thing was that I loved food (still do!), so those conflicting thoughts and urges would sometimes take over and I’d end up eating ‘something naughty’. Sometimes this just meant eating lunch, when I’d promised myself not to. Sometimes that meant sneaking down to the kitchen in the middle of the night and eating whatever was in the fridge. I’d feel extreme guilt, I’d really hate myself for being so weak and then I’d promise myself to lose more weight by the end of next week. At the time I was also doing very well at school, a type A personality as I was later told. I was competitive, had a constant sense of urgency, would always try to do more than one thing at a time and was constantly very defensive and irritable.
This tight grip of control and the weight-loss that came with it did not go unnoticed by my family and friends. They’d express their concerns, and at first I’d take it as a complement but after a while I started admitting to myself I had a problem. The summer after finishing my A levels I went to my GP complaining about stomach pains and ended up bursting into tears and telling him everything. He advised me to seek help from Steps, an eating disorder clinic based locally, but after one phone consultation I decided against going. However, I did start opening up to my family and closest friends. I started calling my disorder by it’s proper name – Bulimia Nervosa.
However, although I assured everyone I was getting better, I actually got worse. Throughout College and University I started regularly making myself throw up after eating. Not every day, just after a ‘binge’. It helped get rid of the guilt. Mostly I’d just be stuck in a cycle between ‘feeding’ and ‘fasting’, with the occasional ‘purge’. However, I was aware I had a problem…I was slowly, slowly starting to reach out for solutions, for balance, through reading books and seeking support on the internet.
I started to be able to talk about my problems honestly and openly, instead of hiding everything I was feeling in the fear of being judged.
It was only in the year after graduating from university that I found myself letting go of the constant need to lose weight and fit into size 6/8. The more I learnt about the world, the more I became comfortable with who I was, the more I relaxed. I shifted to wanting to be healthy, to thrive, to have a balanced body and mind.
Years on, I still fight demons from time to time, telling me that I’m fat and not good enough. Although I’m not engaging in ED behaviour anymore, like bingeing and throwing up, I’m still a type A personality – although I have managed to let go of some of the competitiveness and most of the irritability, which hopefully has made a more pleasant person to be around. I still go through bouts of having intense feelings of anxiety, and earlier this year it escalated to full-blown panic attacks.
I decided to try therapy again last summer, through the NHS this time. I went a grand total of two times. Hurrah! I didn’t like my therapist and told myself I didn’t want to focus on ‘having a problem’. Instead I turned back to self-help books (there really are some great ones out there, I’ll post about the ones that helped me another time!), finding support on the internet, consulted my amazing friends and have since made some very positive changes in my life. Deciding to run this marathon was one of them.
Many of my closest friends have had their own struggles, from Anxiety and Eating Disorders to Depression and Bipolar. Sharing information and talking about these problems, not keeping them locked away as taboo subjects, is the key to greater understanding and recovery.
Some of the greatest help I’ve had has come through Mind. Throughout my years of struggling with my own thoughts and behaviour Mind have helped me find INFORMATION and SUPPORT when I’ve really needed it! Their website has guided me on my journey to understand myself by providing everything from facts and detailed PDF’s, to useful contact and links to other websites (I found b-eat.co.uk and bemindful.co.uk particularly helpful). Their phone-lines have also been extremely helpful in the past.
You can read all about the incredible work Mind do on their website. Suffice to say here that they work tirelessly to bring support and respect to every single person struggling with Mental Health problems.
When I am running and fundraising for Mind I keep reminding myself that no matter how much of a struggle it might be it’s NOTHING in comparison to the struggle I, and others like me, went through before we sought help. My own journey to a balanced mind and body is now linked with giving back to this wonderful charity.
I hope you will help me do so by visiting my Virgin Giving page ( http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/OdaSonju ) and giving what you can
Lots of love to everyone, and thanks for reading!