running blog

Clive Whaley

Facing the Day

Marathon Training Day 7 - 6 miles easy (photo: back from a soaking)

I ran a touch over 7 miles, taking in the village of Burton Bradstock and back along the beach under the iconic East Cliffs at West Bay. It was raining pretty heftily most of the time and I took a soaking. I was feeling pretty low but it wasn't the weather that was getting me down but the mental struggle that had gone on earlier that morning.

I had set my alarm for 7.30. I woke at 7 and switched it off and was still in bed at 9.30. It was a return to the 'bad old days' albeit in just a mild way. I was putting off the day a little longer and I felt a little down but not in a full blown depression like way. Just enough to make it a bad start to the week and to feel the first hint of demotivation in my running programme.

I have spent the last 5 or 6 years battling with various episodes of depression. 'Battling' sounds a bit tabloid and dramatic but it will do for now. And one of the key features of it (and I suspect for a lot of people) is the inability to get out of bed. At times it has been a fight, a struggle, a game of mental torture wrapped up in guilt and conflicting pressures. Feeling bad about staying in bed and criticising myself for it but being totally unable to override this and have the courage to face the day.

I suppose it's hardly surprising that a lot of people feel this way. Two of the key symptoms of depression are an overwhelming fatigue and a loss of hope for the future. What better strategy for dealing with these two evils than to get into bed and stay there. You are going to minimise your tiredness and if the future's shit, you don't have to face it at all in bed. It's a pretty logical and sensible approach if you put it that way. The trouble is, if you're like me (and I'm sure a lot of people are) it's not a neutral or calming or satisfactory solution. At my worst, I used to lie there wide awake, sometimes shaking and sweating a bit and feeling SO guilty and useless. Having no earthly ability to climb out from under the duvet and yet finding no comfort there and beating myself up mentally for laziness, weakness and shame.

(It was nothing like that today. It was just the faintest echo of earlier times but just enough to make me nervous. No room for complacency here mate!)

Although it took me a year or so, I found a partial solution to the problem via something of a contradiction. The way to address the problem of not getting out of bed was … wait for it … to not get out of bed! BUT most importantly to not get out of bed but stop feeling BAD and GUILTY about it. I had come to associate being stuck in bed with depression and, to be honest, I think it also linked back to my childhood upbringing where 'lying in' was frowned upon and associated with laziness and lack of ambition.

As I started to get better, I found I could give myself permission to stay in bed a bit longer - I didn't have to rush off anywhere - I could treat myself to warmth and comfort - maybe read something and have some breakfast and a nice coffee. This is not a sign of illness or weakness, this is looking after myself and saying, 'What the Hell, there's no rush and I deserve it today!'

To be honest, I spent the best part of 2016 spending a good hour or more in bed after I'd woken up, before I properly started the day. I developed a routine that I became fond of and truth is, it has probably become a bit of a habit, maybe even an addiction. But I'm largely in control of it and there is a big BIG difference between this and the feeling I used to have when in the depths of depression.

I must admit, I used to get up early and go running before breakfast quite regularly and that's not something i've been able to force myself to do much for some time. I did do it on the first day of my Marathon Plan and I was going to do it today but just some faintest feeling of sadness floated in and settled on the duvet. I'm going to try again tomorrow.

I didn't actually get out running today until about 1130 and my punishment for the delay was to get soaked. If I had run when originally planned, I would have been completely dry. I hope my sins have been washed clean.