Heifers! He's back again with his next blog post - welcome Brett back for his latest post...
THE WHITE RABBIT
This week’s been tough. What am I saying; the last month has been tough. Without going into too much detail, I have an overbearing, highly critical, unpredictable boss. Needless to say this doesn’t make for a comfortable working environment, which in my case is education.
I think it’s fair to say my self esteem has taken a battering and I’ve noticed the anxiety sweats have started to return. They are my tell. I used to fear them and honestly even now I don’t like them but I do understand them and that, in many ways, is enough.
But they are back and they need to be listened to, they need to be acknowledged and they need to be respected for they are a sign that something clearly isn’t right.
For a very long time now I’ve pondered at what point did something inside me ‘snap'. As Trinity whispered to Neo, ‘It’s the question that drives us’. She was right. Over time the questions we ask (and are asked) change and change itself is perhaps one true constant.
It’s hard to describe what searching for the answer to ‘the tipping point’ question has been like. Imagine a run where you never seem to quite hit your stride. Or leaving the house thinking you’ve forgotten something or waking up with that niggling feeling in the back of your head.
Imagine that, all the time. Why has it been an important question? Because, try as I might, I still fear going to that dark place in my mind and perhaps understanding what got me there in the first place is a way of preventing a repeat performance.
Is this about control?
Perhaps, but control and self presentation are surely bedfellows to a degree.
If you read any book on how the mind deals with trauma you will inevitably come to a ‘window of amnesia’. If you suppress a memory, research is suggesting that you are interfering with the brains natural mechanisms with one side effect being other memories will also be suppressed.
In my experience suppressing anything can only lead to one inevitable conclusion – stress. Things have a way of bubbling to the surface although how they appear may lead to confusion and anxiety with no logical reason in play. The initial reason having been suppressed.
‘You take the red pill – you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes’.
I took the red pill.
Until now, my blog has been relatively hidden with no visibility on my LinkedIn or Facebook account. With a new found confidence and a deep routed desire to be congruent I decided to truly go live.
My intention hasn’t ever been to gather followers but to reach out to as many people as possible with a simple message; you are not alone, it’s okay to share. With a few clicks it was done. Such is the beauty and savagely crystallising simplicity of online media.
I’m not sure if it was coincidence or my profile flagging a change but my LinkedIn account received a small spike in views. One in particular caught my eye. I decided to drop them a line, which quickly turned into a lengthy paragraph and in turn an apology. They had inadvertently witnessed the ‘tipping point’ and the mêlée that followed of my withdrawal from society in all its clinically unforgiving efficiency.
I never expected a reply. But a reply I got. And, perhaps not surprisingly given their incredibly kind nature my apology was accepted.
I felt a sense of relief that cannot be explained. Not because I feared ridicule, far from it, but because I had acknowledged what had happened and in doing so had unknowingly unlocked a hitherto closed door.
At the time I had absolutely no idea how far I had gone. I had no idea I’d hit the tipping point (or what it would mean to me) or indeed how much I would try over the coming months to suppress it. It bubbled up but always as anger, resentment, frustration and fear, all laced with an ever growing level of anxiety that would become crippling. Not once was I able to accept or understanding. Not until therapy.
However, therapy only went so far. Wonderful and enlightening as it was I started down a path that I still tread. A path that has led me to where I am now; a realisation.
I’ve stopped chasing the PB, because the PB was never mine.
Like many, for me, running has become so much more than a pastime. The act of running has aided my mental health in so, so many ways. However it was also a mirror image of the very lifestyle I now see as fundamentally flawed.
Yes I ran for the pure pleasure of running, to connect with nature, for the solitude, for the peace but some of my motivation, until recently, has been about the speed, the distance, in short – the PB.
Running in France (Runknown in France) made me acutely aware of the sheer pleasure in just running. Thank you oh lack of gps.
Strip away all the paraphernalia and running is: verb (used without object), ran, run, running. 1. to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground. If ever there was a tattoo to have (albeit a very long one), this is it.
If we ignore the legal definition of madness the commonly held definition is: ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
I realise now my career, in many respects, was built on a ‘need’ to push for the promotion, which came with the higher salary, and the company car, and the expense account.... for this would lead to happiness. This is what society dictates (behold the high lord consumerism) and this is certainly what I was told. A high salary equals security and security equals self reliance and self reliance equals safety.
“I am a rock, I am an island.”
Yes, I had progressed in so many ways because I was running for me. But, there was still a large part of me where the programming was still intact and still churning through the eternal loop of constructs and algorithms that would only ever lead to one inevitable conclusion – unhappiness. I was chasing something, some ideal that was never my own.
My running was following the same trajectory as my career. But why wouldn’t it when I was doing the same thing – but expecting a different result.
Like Neo it was time to follow the white rabbit.
As my career hits a crossroads with my current contract drawing to a close I have no fear. Instead, I am excited.
I am stepping out of the game – or stepping into the real game.
The last time I was in the game THAT’S when everything truly went south. THAT’S the realisation. I honestly have no idea what my career holds going forward. That’s not to say I don’t have plans, or a direction in mind but having nothing concrete fills me with excitement.
Running mirrors life.
We get runs that go well, we get runs that we find tough, and we get runs that hurt. By not chasing a PB that’s not to say I won’t push as hard as I can on some runs or I won’t train hard but I will run because I want to. Period. The PB goal was never mine.
My blogs usually flow. That is to say I start a blog and before I realise it, it’s written. I can see the words and paragraphs in my mind’s eye all fitting together often with twists and turns but always drawing to a neat conclusion symbiotically with my thought process.
This blog has been different because this blog has been a free flow of process which has been the niggling thought at the back of my head for so long.
How do all these threads fit together? How did I end up falling apart? The recent revelation that unlocked the door has been both enlightening and ‘calming’. THAT niggle has stopped but I have realised that I may never know all the answers because everything is incomprehensibly interconnected. The question of my mental health will probably still leave me feeling pensive but I know now that I am in the driving seat.
I’ve stepped out of the game.
‘Welcome, to the real world.’
ABOUT BRETT: Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47.
He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health.
You can follow Brett on Twitter HERE.