Pam’s story:

After suffering months and months of bullying behaviour at the hands of my boss, I was feeling very low, fragile, and mentally exhausted.  No one, including myself, would stand up to this bully and eventually, having decided I could not stay in such a toxic work environment, I walked out of my very senior well-paid job. I walked out on my career, and straight into the doctors’ office as I knew I was about to have a breakdown. I can only explain the breakdown feeling as if I was in an emotional black hole of sadness. I was constantly crying and was experiencing the world as just a bleak place. I was prescribed antidepressants and advised to “drink plenty of water and get more exercise.

Whilst off work, and after a few months of taking antidepressants, I did begin to feel a bit better.  I was less weepy, sleeping better and had the motivation to take small steps and get my life back. I found an online competition to train with 2 personal trainers for 8 weeks to take up the ‘Couch to 5k’ running challenge which they held in the local forest. I didn’t want to go out and meet people, I just wanted to be active again. This felt doable. I entered and won the competition!  

It was then I discovered how wonderful it felt to run, or walk when necessary, through dirt, trees, up and downhills.  The fresh air felt rejuvenating.  Each week I went a little further and felt I was achieving something.  Each time I ran, my mood lifted.  I felt better, more positive, and my husband noticed a change in me. “It must be those dolphins”.  We nicknamed those often talked about feel-good endorphins ‘dolphins’.  Running helped me become stronger both mentally and physically.  It was key to my recovery.

What running also did was teach me to set myself challenges, so six months later,  when I was offered redundancy,  I happily took it as I had no desire to be in a toxic work environment and now, my husband and I gratefully have a successful business.  That ‘little bit further’ I ran each week in the forest motivated me to trek 2 marathons in 2 days in the Sahara Desert. Trekking the Sahara is nothing I ever thought I would do, as it never crossed my mind!  As my spirits lifted, it seemed like a good idea!  The trek was organised by Action Challenge, a company that specialises in creating challenging adventures which allow you to ‘push yourself and find your own personal reward’.  I found mine… a huge sense of belief in myself, determination and accomplishment. I raised money for Mind, the mental health charity as well. 

Since then I have continued to run regularly. I do not take any medication now as trail running is my anti-depressant. When I run, I always feel energised afterwards. It lifts my spirits. I never thought when I was in such a low place that I would ever recover my self-esteem. Running has definitely given me that back. An added bonus is all the lovely people I have met through trail running. Everyone loves those “dolphins!”. 

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