Mental Health My Story

How Running helped Me with my Mental Health – Ditch the Label Marathon Runner, Sarah Knight shares her story

Running to Feel Better

In 2007, I was diagnosed with anorexia – I think that is the first time I’ve actually typed those words! It was the same for me as it is for most people who suffer with any form of addiction; the anorexia was always there, bubbling under the surface waiting for a trigger, giving it permission to rear it’s ugly head. I also suffered from anxiety and a good helping of OCD, so mentally I wasn’t in a good place. The main trigger, though, was work. My job was very stressful, and I suffered from confidence and self worth issues relating back to my childhood (I’m dyslexic, and found school a massive struggle.) Finally, over Christmas in 2006, things came to a head. I was so miserable things just couldn’t carry on the same way, and I made the decision to resign from my job and to seek help to get better. Thankfully, my GP was brilliant and referred me to the Phoenix wing of St Ann’s Hospital – a special unit for eating disorders.

So what’s all this got to do with running? Well, running has always been my “thing”, but back then I wasn’t using it as therapy, I was using it as a weapon of mass destruction – so much so, the tests they ran in hospital showed my body had started break down the muscle to use as protein. Effectively my body was eating itself. While I was getting better, all exercise was off limits, but thankfully over time and with regular therapy sessions I did get better and finally I was allowed to lace up my trainers and get back out there again. This time, things were different. I wasn’t running to destroy my body, I was running to preserve my mental health.

“Running gives me headspace, time to think…”

Running gives me head space, time to think and sort out my mind trash, work though problems, rationalise the intrusive thoughts and use all the techniques I’d been taught in therapy. Running is something I can be proud of; something I’m actually good at. Then there’s all those magic endorphins; the legal mood lifters! If I ever go out running in a bad mood, I never come back in one. There’s no denying I still have issues with food and I don’t think that’ll ever go away, but over time, I’ve learnt that food is fuel – especially while training for the Brighton marathon! Gone have the fasting runs; I have to eat otherwise I can’t run and a life without running would be a horrible place for me.

I’m running the Brighton marathon to raise awareness and funds for Ditch the Label but I’m also running it for myself, to show how far I’ve come. The one thing I’ve learnt over the years is to believe in yourself.

You’re capable of more than you know…

Support Sarah

Sarah is running the Brighton Marathon for Ditch the Label on the 15h April 2018.
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