Before I start my blog this week I need to warn you that it considers some effects of my ongoing injury. This involves a discussion of mental health issues. However, the blog has a positive ending. I am going to share some ideas about why I initially let my injury get so on top of me and what has helped me to begin recovering. I am sorry if the issues discussed here upset anyone but I hope you understand that writing and sharing down my thoughts helps me and marks an important step along the road to recovery.
I last ran on 6th December, and I wasn’t running as well as I would have liked in the preceding months. Before discussing the effects of this, I think it is important that I explain how important running had become to me. In the 2014-2015 cross country season I had exceeded my wildest dreams and gained an England vest. Running had become a massive part of my identity. I don’t know whether other people saw me like this but I definitely saw myself as a runner before all else, and judged myself depending on how well my running was going. This meant that when my running was going badly, and I eventually had to stop, it felt like I lost my identity. I was confused and had gone astray. I had lost what made me, me.
I had struggled with anorexia in the past but in late 2015 things spiralled out of control again, in correlation with my running going downhill. Once I had to stop running things only got worse. Running had become my coping mechanism for keeping things beneath the surface, and losing this allowed everything to bubble up again. The majority of my friends were runners and I initially felt I couldn’t open up to them about my struggles. I was their ladies captain after all and therefore I was supposed to be the one supporting them! Instead I turned back to abusing food for comfort. This time I began binge eating and over about a month from mid-December to mid-January I gained 15kg in weight. I cried every day, very nearly dropped out of university and really struggled with motivation, anxiety and depression. Things got so bad that I would wake up in the morning and my first thoughts would be on different methods of suicide.
I realise that some people may read this and think something along the lines of ‘don’t be so silly, it is just an injury’. Injury certainly wasn’t the only thing I was concerned about but, in my experience, a central factor in mental illness is its inexplicability. I can search for reasons and try to explain why things got so bad but, in the end, I cannot explain why I got so depressed, I can only tell you that I did.
However, as said above, this blog has a positive ending and, although I am not totally better, I am far better than I was. I still can’t run and have black days, but they are far fewer in number and sometimes I can laugh and smile. So what changed? I am currently on anti-depressants and, I think more importantly, I also changed my attitude towards my friends and family and began to open up to them. I cannot emphasise enough how supportive everyone has been and I am incredibly grateful to all the people who have prayed for me and checked up on me. They have been wonderful!
You may have noticed that I thanked people for prayers and I want to finish by telling you that the single person who has helped me the most is Jesus Christ. If you are not a Christian I realise that may sound a bit odd but I promise you that everything that follows is completely true. I in no way want to minimise the help friends and family have given me but Jesus knows everything about me, he knows the deepest recesses of my heart, he knows things about me that even I don’t know, and therefore he knows exactly how to help me. I became a Christian a year and a bit ago but it was only in February, that I really began to understand what this meant for me personally. I heard a wonderful talk on identity which made me realise that my identity is in Christ and his wonderful saving sacrifice rather than in anything else. This was so helpful to me, I realised my self-worth was not in how well I ran but in the love of Jesus, something that is so perfect and so secure that it will never fail me. I have been regularly praying to Jesus for help in my struggle and he has answered me, he has helped my mood to improve and, several times, has prevented me from binge eating.
A Bible passage I have found to be very helpful is 1 Corinthians 6, verses 19 and 20 – ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies’. This passage teaches that every single one of us belongs to Christ because it is he who has saved and redeemed us upon the cross. Due to this we need to honour God, and that includes not abusing the bodies he has given us.
I cannot emphasise enough how much Jesus has done for me. Since I heard that talk in February my suicidal thoughts have stopped. I still have bad days but Jesus always answers me out of the darkness. I will get back to running eventually but I know that Christ loves me, he died for me and that I am secure in his love.
John 3, verse 16 – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.