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For me better than any pill....
Posted by clarebear
26th Aug 2018

I’ve always been overweight and that has to me had a big impact on my mental health, at school I was picked on because of it and was always chosen last for sports games except tug of war obviously. Because of this I felt unwanted and useless which I didn’t know it at the time that was probably the first signs of my depression. I was left feeling lonely and isolated and because of my size I felt unable to do the same things as my friends and again this resulted in me being alone a lot. At home things weren’t great, I’m an only child and my dad didn’t treat my mum very well so I spent most of my time at home in my room listening to them arguing.

Things went on pretty much the same until I left school, after working for a couple of years I discovered like a lot of people the fun of talking to people online. Long story short I met a guy online and grabbed the opportunity to move away and be with him so I moved from Colchester to Lincoln, we got married and got a mortgage but let’s just say he turned out to be slightly less than the knight in shining armour I was looking for. After a miserable six years we called it a day after he cheated, we went our separate ways and I spent the rest of that year wallowing, believing everything he had told me about myself.

In the new year I decided enough was enough and I Googled Zumba classes in my area and it turned out there was one just across the road so I dragged three friends along. It was so hard, I hadn’t done any proper exercise for so long it took me nearly a full week to recover but I loved every second of it and that’s where it started. We went again and again, week after week and slowly but surely it took less time for me to recover, my fitness was improving, I was losing weight and was making new friends which meant my confidence was increasing. My friends stopped going but I carried on and my instructor suggested I join in with her kettlebell class which I did and that’s where I really start to see a difference. I was losing more weight and toning up, I was seeing parts of my body I hadn’t seen for years. My confidence was further increased by the fact I was becoming more social with my classmates. But my depression was still there lurking and waiting to pounce just when I least expected it although at that point I still didn’t know that’s what it was I just knew that sometimes I became very sad and I didn’t know why. And after a really good day one Saturday where I’d been doing a Zumba demonstration I came home and took an overdose of painkillers and ended up in hospital, I felt a little patronised by the nurse which was horrible but what was good about it was that it made me realise that I didn’t want to go through that again so I sought help from my GP.

This was just over five years ago and I know things have moved on since then but at that time I felt totally disbelieved and made to feel like I was wasting his time. I felt like he prescribed me anti-depressants to get rid of me. I did take them but found that I was constantly worrying about the fact that I might become dependent on them, I decided to wean myself off of them and see if I could deal with it another way. I carried on with my exercise and with the support of my classmates and instructors I was coping with it more or less. The next step was to join a gym and that’s where I met who would turn out to be a really good friend and through there I signed up to a twelve week challenge which involved three personal training sessions a week and by far the biggest benefit was that I was introduced to weight training. Like a lot of women I guess I thought until that point that lifting weights was for guys or that it would result in me getting bulky but that’s simply not true. I loved lifting weights as part of my new routine and as a result of the twelve weeks I lost a lot of weight and had totally fallen in love with this new way of exercising. It had done so much for me mentally and I had fallen in love with the process that I wanted other people to be able to experience that feeling so again with support I qualified as a gym instructor followed by a kettlebell instructor and personal trainer along with mental health qualifications and now I’m lucky enough to work with people that suffer from depression and anxiety. I get good feedback from them because they appreciate the fact I’ve been there and can testify how much being active has helped me. 

Being more active and exercising and especially lifting weights is definitely my ‘me time’ and I will always make time to do that, getting in the gym with my headphones in is where I can totally distress and forget about everything else that’s going on in my life. It makes me feel calm and more able to handle whatever life may throw at me, it also makes me feel strong which for me makes me feel great.
It’s by no means a one size fits all solution, it won’t work for everyone that’s going through mental health illness’. For some people taking medication is the best option or talking therapies such as CBT will work or it may be a combination of treatments but for me exercise has by far had a bigger impact than anything else.

I do still suffer and have bad episodes from time to time, it would irresponsible and foolish of me to say that exercise has completely irradicated my depression and anxiety but I am certainly now more in control of it rather than it controlling me. I understand it much better and understand what triggers my episodes and have coping strategies in place of which exercise is certainly at the top of my list. I honestly don’t know how I would be right now if I hadn’t discovered it.

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