I may as well just come out with it. In a nutshell, throughout 2018, I suffered with depression and anxiety. It just happened. A number of things contributed. Family matters, my lifelong friend moved away after living on the same street as me all of our lives, a couple of other friendly neighbours placed their properties up for sale, I was struggling badly at work. Everything just accumulated to the extent that, by January, I found myself in a deep, black hole. I also had next to nothing going on from a social point of view.
I've always been a worrier by nature and endured some low moods. I get stressed about all sorts of things. However, this was seriously bad. Try to imagine, if you can, the feeling of getting up for work on a cold, dark Monday morning in the winter. I felt like that every day of the week. If I was not in employment I may not have got out of bed in the morning. It's a miracle that I managed to hold down my job. I never sought medical help but was on the cusp of it. My local health centre has an online facility where you can describe your symptoms and submit them for a GP to consider. It's designed to free up appointment space so you can receive a prescription without needing a face to face meeting. However, the most serious cases still get seen in person. There is no doubt that I would have fallen into this category. I completed the form more than once but every time I came to the final submission page I bottled out of it.
I continued to run though my training regime and form dipped badly. I missed the odd run and session. It's a negative cycle. When you feel terrible, you don't want to train. When you don't train, you lose fitness, your race performances slump and your bad moods worsen. I went through this cycle a number of times. My 2018 training diary makes for grim reading in places.
I started to develop problems in other areas of my life. My diet suffered. My usually careful dietary habits gave way to comfort eating- fizzy drinks instead of healthy ones, having sweets or chocolate bars with my lunch at work. I have always strictly enjoyed a drink socially and at the right times but, during this period, alcohol had a detrimental effect, simply making me more depressed.
Things came to a head in May 2018. During a work night out in Paisley early that month, I simply drank too much. I missed the last train, somehow managed to get a taxi home, not even remembering what time I got in. I had a horrible hangover the next day and could only manage a 3 mile jog. I was self destructing.
The following week, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, I finally made my situation known publicly. I just couldn't take any more. I ran the Monklands Half Marathon. The race also took place on the second anniversary of losing my Gran so I was in a heightened state of emotion. Barring a disaster, I had the race won by 10 miles and spent the last 3 planning in my head what to say. The outpouring of support received was overwhelming and had an instant effect. My problems still existed but, for the first time, I felt that there were people out there who cared about me. The two tonne weight on my shoulders eased a little.
That said, things got worse before they got better. At the end of May, I travelled to Watford for a 5000m at the British Milers Club meeting. I was in the A race, something the old me would have relished. Not this version of myself. I was like Superman laced with Kryptonite. 6 laps into the race, well off the pace, struggling and feeling drastic, I stepped to the right and off the track. I felt lonely and humiliated. This was rock bottom for me, as bad as it got. My Dad just wanted to see me home the next day.
While progress has never been a straight line, that weekend signalled a turning point. The Monday (the race was on a Saturday) was a Bank Holiday. I got back to basics and spent the day down the Ayrshire coast with my parents, enjoying a 15 mile run in glorious sunshine.