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Running is my therapy

Cath, the Founder of The Run Box, discusses the link between running and mental health as well as personal challenges...

In what feels like a few weeks, in a world experiencing a widespread pandemic, the population across the globe have come together so remarkably regarding the topics of mental health awareness and fighting systemic racism. 

Both subjects are extremely close to home for me but for my first blog post, I’ve decided to begin with mental health. Anxiety seems more prevalent than ever so here it goes…

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is the technical term for the condition I have lived with as far back as my terrible memory allows. The term doesn’t mean much to me. In fact, when I hear the terms depression, bi-polar, borderline personality disorder and just about any other mental health condition, I have immediate respect and admiration for those suffering. In contrast, the condition of anxiety does not conjure those feelings. Anxiety has always been a failure of mine. Brutal I know. This sounds extremely unsympathetic to other sufferers but do not fear, my anxiety only looks down on me. Everyone else is safe from my harshest inner critic!

In my early 20s anxiety gripped me harder than ever before - panic attacks, depersonalisation, detachment, and no appetite. I spent months feeling completely clouded, barely able to engage in conversation and crying multiple times a day. I was lucky enough to have an amazing support network but during that time, I felt so lonely. I knew it was me alone that could escape this vicious anxiety cycle. 

I managed to gradually overcome the extreme symptoms with the help of medication and therapy. Once I felt an inch of improvement, the road to recovery felt slightly more possible. From then and the other main reason for writing this blog, I began to run. Running became my therapy. I’ve always loved sport and fitness but during this time running was truly my saving grace. The freedom, the ability to think with clarity and the natural endorphins, all contributed hugely to my path to feeling good again! The release I felt from running during this time and until now is difficult to describe in words. The exhaustion of my anxious brain was slowly rejuvenating with every step. Fast forward a year and I was going days, then weeks, then months without obsessing about my anxiety. Running is still my best way forward. 

I’m no mental health expert and my intention with this blog isn’t to give any form of advice but just describe my experience and in turn give the smallest amount of hope to those suffering. Writing this has been another therapy for me, so thank you for reading. I’m passionate about the benefits both physically and mentally that running gives, there’s nothing quite like it. Distance doesn’t matter. Speed doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it can get better.