Mental Health UK

Aisling: Running for better mental health

23 year old Aisling is a supporter of Rethink Mental Illness and a keen runner. She was diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder which led her to take up exercise as a form of therapy. Here is her story.

I went undiagnosed for ten years; battling on and telling myself I could defeat 'this' on my own. This was when I found myself sat in A&E during my second year at university after a difficult summer at home, and I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to tell myself that I was asking for help but deep down I think I knew I had all but given up, and this was just a last hurrah for me to prove to myself that this too, wasn't going to 'fix' me.

Fast forward a year, (that I had never thought I'd see) four different hospitals, countless amounts of doctors, psychiatrists and medications and I am sat in a charity run group therapy session, surrounded by others like me who have come so far, thought as well that they were alone and were learning to be happy again.

Happiness was all I wanted and I had long forgotten what that felt like.

I hate to admit it, but all the people who told me that I needed to try new coping methods and find a healthier vice were right. I don't know what came over me but one morning I just woke up, put on my trainers, looked at myself in the mirror and said goodbye to the person I was looking at.

Goodbye to an unhealthy lifestyle, goodbye to my negative and blasé attitudes to life and goodbye to a determine-less, un-driven person who had let herself become the label given by doctors; after telling myself for years that I would never be that person.

I can’t describe in good enough words how much my life has changed, all from taking that first step. If I could give anyone going through their own journey some advice, it would be to take a walk outside; even to the end of the road and back and if you can, go for that run. It was the best decision I have ever made.

If I am having a stressful day at work or I need some me time, I look forward to going on my run and it always amazes me at how good my own personal therapy session is! I put on a great playlist and just go - I have time to think but the pounding of my feet on the road somehow enables me not to dwell on a thought I'm playing over in my head, but to healthily think about it, accept it, stamp it out and get rid of it, and then the endorphins kick in and they really are something.

I truly believe that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Not only do I feel better but I'm starting to really love myself and my scars again because regardless of the story behind them, I know how far I've come. I know that I can never get rid of my depression and BPD but by learning and embracing exercise as a coping strategy, I think I'm five steps ahead of all my triggers.

I can’t thank the people that have helped me enough and knowing that there are so many others out there in the same boat, it just made perfect sense to me to combine my new love of running and raising money for a great charity. That's why I ran a half-marathon in Edinburgh this summer on behalf of Rethink Mental Illness (one of the founding charities which form Mental Health UK).

None of us are ever alone and for all the people who think that they are and who can’t seem to find their way just yet; there is a silver lining and the sun will shine.