I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Brendan Farrell who talks about his journey with anxiety and depression, and how running has helped rid him of his demons. Please check out his blog by clicking here.
There are so many motivational quotes over the years that compare achieving goals to some sort of uphill task, a mountain or a series of steps. While this comparison works for some people to a large extent, my experience with anxiety and depression can somewhat be the opposite of this. Why? Because that top step is where I sat, in the middle of the night, dozens of times because I couldn’t sleep. I was deeply depressed. That is the hardest point. The loneliness is overwhelming. Every house noise and creek comes with huge hope that it’s someone getting up to help. It never was. Who gets up at half 3 in the morning? Other days those steps would be climbed immediately after work. This was for the sole purpose of lying on the bed not to be around anyone, feeling absolutely numb. So that top step didn’t represent anything positive.
It was the bottom step that did. That bottom step means you’re willing to be around people. It means you can get out and be with the world. Not alone. It shows courage, passion and a desire to give it everything to get through it. And you will.
My name is Brendan Farrell. I’m 31 and from Templeogue in Dublin. I have been working in finance since 2006. It’s deadline, accuracy, bureaucracy and fear driven and the reason I suffered from anxiety and depression. I initially loved working full-time and earning a salary. At 22 there was a large element of innocence and naivety which wasn’t recognised at the time. Getting the job in the first place meant a lot. How times have changed. After 2 years there, some friends were spending a year in Australia (a very common thing for an Irish person in their 20’s). They had been gone a few months when things started to become very stressful in the job. At this point, physical fitness was very low. I weighed 15 stone and running for the bus was an issue (I’ll get back to this later. Turns out these are quite important points).
This started to affect my sleep and confidence in the ability to do my job. It clouded my brain completely. I began to get extremely nervous at the thought of going in, being around all those people, not being able to understand the work and completely obsessed with getting a good sleep. This carried on until I decided to pack it in and join my friends in Australia. I spent 6 of the best months of my life there. We got a point where there was a choice between going to New Zealand or going home. The budget was another issue so returning home was the path chosen.
A month after returning I was to start work again in the same office. I knew deep down that it didn’t sit right. The night before I started, the tears rolled down my face from the pure nerves. Things kicked off. Like a tonne of bricks. Therapists, tablets, hypnotherapy, coming off anti-depressants cold turkey and having crippling panic attacks, loneliness and silence. A long course of CBT chipped away at the negativity and the clouds slowly but surely began to clear. I won’t dwell too much on the CBT because it wasn’t the only factor in my recovery.
At this time, another tonne of bricks hit me. Except it was one of the most positive of my life. I trained for and completed a 5 mile charity run. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from it. I got hooked. The feeling of having a clear head was hugely relaxing. There’s a science behind it. Exercise releases endorphins which reduce stress. It’s that simple. Plus with physical fitness comes mental fitness. To tell you the truth, you wouldn’t believe the impact it can have. Some days when I get pissed off, I go running. It feels like taking on whatever is pissing me off and smashing it to pieces. It’s amazing.
So I took up a spinning class for a few months. This is a tough form of exercise but so effective. I went into it with still a low level of fitness. I didn’t care. What’s the point in thinking like that? Everyone knows there is a reason you’re there. People often say to me, “Oh I won’t be able to keep up”, or “I’d be petrified of how I’d look”. Who cares? What’s gonna happen if you can’t keep up? Nothing. You went. You feel great and you’ll do it again because you’ve got the heart for it. Once you see the fitness levels increase, that’s my nicotine. I lost 3 stone doing it.
I have also found a huge comradery in running. The people are the best part. The support from onlookers as you plough through the streets of a town or city is enormous. There is nothing but positivity in races, online groups, running clubs. I just wanted to be involved. Last September I ran my first marathon. It meant so much that I remember the date and my race time to the second. I erupted into tears but I thought about the first time I did that in this whole process. The night before I started work after Australia.
There are many other things I have achieved but I would hate for this to be a self obsessive article. That’s not me. I simply want to highlight the importance of physical fitness in mental wellbeing. I want to help. Somebody asked me recently what my ideal job would be if money was no issue at all? I immediately said it would be owner of an athletics club. Imagine the amount of people you could help. That’s the dream.
Right now I don’t have depression. I don’t see myself ever having it again. But I will never forget it. It made me the person I am today. Strong, physically fit and happy. I love people and being with my family and friends. After reading this, some people might think why am I still working in that office today? The truth is that I won’t be for much longer. I’m changing careers. I’ve been trying to change jobs for a few weeks now. It’s long, tedious and there are days that it gets the better of me. It still makes me nervous but I have running. I have cycling. I have boot camp. If I didn’t have them, things would be a lot different.
So what is my actual message here? Don’t ever EVER be afraid of that bottom step. Don’t look up and say, “look how much I have to do”. Always look straight ahead, grit your teeth and do it. Achieve something. Absolutely anything. Run a mile. Join a gym. Prepare and have a healthy meal. After that ALWAYS look back and smile at what you have done. If you did that, then why can’t you do everything else?
Exactly. There is no reason and there never will be.
Thank you so much for reading.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice.