Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Birthdays

Oh dear, I was 48 yesterday, and that's nearly 50 (and almost certainly past half-dead)!

How did that happen? I'm sure I was only in my 30's a while back. And I was only 40 recently! It's so true what they say about time going faster as you get older.

It's a shame that only in the last few years have I really begun to understand myself; what makes me tick, how I work, how my mind works. And I'm still learning. I wish that I'd had the knowledge that I have now back in my 20's because I would change a lot. But then I wouldn't be who I am now, and although I know I have many faults, many 'issues', I generally pretty happy with who I am, where I am and the way I live my life. So perhaps I wouldn't change anything. I do still, however, need to work on 'balance'!

The older I get, the more I realise that life is a journey. The route, the company, the experience is more important than the end point. I like to refer back to one of my favourite songs 'Happiness is the Road' by Marillion, which I know I've mentioned on here previously. I've edited the lyrics a little:

"The greatest blessing that we have
Is the dawn of each new day
A chance to finish what we started
And made a mess of yesterday
As day comes out of night
A chance to get it right
A chance to start again
A chance to get it right
.........

You're focussing on all of your bad yesterdays
The worry lines are getting deeper every day
And deep inside you
No surprise - there's a crisis!
You might have been to blame
But you can't go on this way
Must I watch and pray?

While you torture yourself with what's behind you
Torture yourself with what awaits you
Draggin' that guilt and regret inside you
Anxious of the goals that always evade you

Your mind will find a way to be unkind to you somehow
But all we really have is happening to us right now
.........

Look around you
Feel your soul inside you
Look inside you
Feel the life course through you
The life that's giving In every thing that's living
The plants and the trees
The birds and the bees
And apes like you and me
.........

Happiness ain't at the end of the road
Happiness IS the road

HAPPINESS IS THE ROAD"

There's so much I still want to do - places to visit, hills to climb, rivers to cross, things to see and do. 

Better get dressed!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Good pain vs bad pain


“Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the spectre  of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough.” 

Hal Higdon



It’s 05:30 on a Bank Holiday Monday morning. I can’t sleep. My legs feel like lead. My knees hurt. My ankles are killing me. My feet are throbbing. My toes feel like they are ready to burst.

Pain is a warning sign; it can signify imminent or actual injury. Hamstring strains, shin splints, ITB problems, Achilles tendonitis. All bad pain.

On Friday and Saturday, I ran 113 miles along the Cleveland Way; through the night across the Yorkshire Moors and then down the beautiful Yorkshire coastline on a gorgeous English summer’s day.

The difference between good pain and bad pain?

Good pain gets you one of these!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Back to running: Up next Hardmoors 110

OK, enough serious stuff.

Let's get back to some of that running thing!

I was originally meant to be running in the GUCR this weekend but had to withdraw as I lost my support team. Jenny is away with work until Thursday evening and then again from Monday so it seemed somewhat unreasonable to expect her to spend the weekend looking after me. 

Instead, I am now running in the Hardmoors 110 - the Cleveland Way. Starting from Helmsley in Yorkshire, the first half goes through the Yorkshire Moors reaching the coast at Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The route then follows the coast through Whitby and Scarborough, before finishing in Filey. The race starts on Friday at 17:00, and Jenny is going to keep an eye on me through the evening, then sleep at a hotel before finding me again in the morning, hopefully somewhere down the coast. She is looking forward to fish & chips at Whitby!!

I've done 3 recce's over the past few weeks. Essentially, I have covered the section from Osmotherley to Saltburn, plus the last few miles into Filey. I've never really been in this part of England before and it really is lovely. Although the route doesn't get much higher than 400m above sea level, there are numerous short but sharp climbs and descents. In particular there is an interesting section after Osmotherley with 4 consecutive 'bumps'. It looks like a great route but equally challenging.

I'm really happy with my post-MdS recovery from a physical point of view, having done 5 or 6 good long runs, as well as some well-paced tempo runs. Several of my Spine and other ultra friends are also competing, so I am looking forward to catching up with them. Obviously, all the other things going on don't ensure the greatest mental preparation, but I am trying to put that out of my mind for a few days (not easy!), and just concentrate on the running aspect and enjoying the experience. The power of positive thought!

Looking forward to it - it's going to be tough, which makes it all the more worthwhile
Looking up from Carlton Bank
I found this sign at Carlton Bank - very moving
Across the moors
Wain Stones
Captain Cook's Monument
Roseberry Topping
Saltburn-by-the-Sea
The end of the Cleveland Way above Filey
Filey

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Poles Apart


So what’s new?

Well, after much discussion with my GP and psychiatrist, I have been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder.

Over the years, I have often pondered over about the possibility of being Bipolar. Although my main symptoms are depressive, I am definitely a bit all or nothing (binary as I call it); either happy or sad, totally in or totally out. There isn’t much middle ground with me.  I do get rather excitable at times, but having never had an episode of true mania, it seemed less likely.

Having researched Bipolar 2 fully, this seems to pretty much cover it (Bipolar 1 is the ‘classic’ bipolar picture). I have tried to summarise the condition here, and I can certainly recall several episodes of hypomania over the years.

In fact my chasing of extreme events, Ironman in the 1990’s and now ultra’s, seemed to be a major diagnostic clue. More accurately, the fact that I’m always seeking to ‘push the envelope’. My first ultra was 40miles, then 50, then 100, then multi-days. How far is long enough? I don’t know. I seem to be always hunting down a new challenge.

Some of you may remember how unenthused I was prior to going to Morocco for the Marathon des Sables. This actually got worse for the first couple of days of being away. The first night in the desert was miserable; I just wanted to be at home, in bed with my Jenny. However, I could feel myself getting excited the day before the race started, and once we got going I was in my element. I felt alive, at ease, in touch with my spirit. Life was simple. I was running free, uninhibited by the usual stresses of life. But I became very excitable, often loud and boisterous, swearing a lot, always something to say, and having to get the last word in. My mind was firing on all cylinders. Jenny calls me Donkey (from Shrek) when I’m like this.

One of my tent mates actually asked me if I had considered the possibility that I might be Bipolar!

When I left home for the MdS, I didn’t want to go. When it was time to return from the desert, I didn’t want to leave.

Of course once we were back at the hotel, back in civilization, I just wanted to get home to Jenny and the kids. I really missed them. Jenny has been so incredibly supportive over the last year, so understanding of me. I am truly grateful.

So now I’m back being depressed mainly. I have been started on Lamotrigine, a drug generally used in epilepsy but also in my condition as a mood stabiliser. I have reduced my Fluoxetine.

Am I feeling any better? Too early to tell really. Not as flat and lacking in energy as I was last year. My main concern was that I would lose the ‘top end’. I still want to have those moments of excitement and the drive to achieve. I like those bits! Jenny says I’m like a little boy when I get excited about something. Perhaps I could do with losing some of the over-the top stuff; it can get rather tiring, having to keep up the Richard Show.

So far so good!

I fully recognize that a lot of people still have issues with mental illness, and understanding the reasons. After all what have I got to be depressed about? I have a lovely wife, a good job, children that I’m proud of and who cause minimal trauma, a nice house.

My main purpose in being so open about this is that I want to help break down those barriers. I want to help people to understand mental illness and what it’s like to live with it. I know I tend to make everyone around me miserable but, as I often say, I can’t get away from it. I have to live with my head and it’s a complicated place!

I just ask that people accept mental illness as a very real problem, as a problem that affects so many people but is so poorly understood. To have some sympathy, some empathy, because, believe me, it’s actually not a bundle of laughs having it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is bipolar disorder?


What is bipolar disorder?

Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) experiences swings in mood from periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania to deep depression. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times.

Types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar I – characterised by manic episodes – most people will experience depressive periods as well, but not all do.

Bipolar II – characterised by severe depressive episodes alternating with episodes of hypomania.

Manic episodes

Symptoms may include:
  • Feeling euphoric – excessively ‘high'
  • Restlessness, extreme irritability
  • Talking very fast, racing thoughts, aggressive behaviour
  • Lack of concentration
  • Sleeping very little
  • A feeling a sense of own importance
  • Poor judgement
  • Excessive and inappropriate spending
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Risky behaviour
  • Misusing drugs/alchohol
A person may be quite unaware of these changes in their attitude or behaviour. After a manic phase is over, they may be quite shocked at what they've done and the effect that it has had.

Hypomania

Some people experience a milder form (less severe and for shorter periods) of mania known as hypomania.

Individuals in a hypomanic state are extremely energetic, talkative, confident, assertive, and may have flight of ideas. During these periods people can actually become very productive and creative and therefore see these experiences as positive and valuable. Many have a decreased need for sleep, are extremely outgoing and competitive, and have a great deal of energy. Many individuals who experience hypomania become extremely goal-oriented, sometimes to an almost obsessive degree.

However, unlike with full mania, those with hypomanic symptoms are often able to keep these goals rational and concise, can plan around them, and are often therefore  fully functioning.

Hypomania if left untreated, can become more severe, can become troublesome if the subject engages in risky behaviors, and may be followed by an episode of depression.

“You feel like you're a genius, you feel you're the only person in the world who can see it the right way.”

Depressive episodes

Symptoms may include:
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Feeling empty emotionally
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling worthless
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Weight loss or gain/changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in daily life
  • Lack of concentration
  • Being forgetful
  • Suicidal feelings
“The lows, the nothing. There's nothing left in you. You're beyond tears, you're even beyond thought.”


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tomorrow never comes

Lots of things I'd like to write about; my MdS experience, my recce's on the Cleveland Way for the upcoming Hardmoors 110, my first time as a marshall at the recent Dukeries Ultra. However, I just can't be bothered. 

My muse seems to have left me and I'm just not feeling very creative or poetic. Funnily enough this coincides with me not being a particularly good state of mind at present - and there's another thing I ought to write about.

I was recently told I should write a book on mental illness based on my experiences of being on both sides of the fence. Good idea but can't be bothered.........

There's always tomorrow!