These past two years have been the hardest of my life. Not for any obvious external reason; I have an wonderful partner, a loving family, some amazing friends, and a stable job. But because I suffer from major depression; my black dog - an invisible companion who drains me of my energy, esteem, and enjoyment.
This time last year, things reached their worst. My drugs weren't working. My therapy had failed. Yet, in a curious last moment of defiance, I tried going for a run. It wasn't pretty. I'd spent most of my adulthood wobbling on the edge of obesity, and the nearest I'd previously been to 'running' was 'running late'. But those first five minutes of sweating and wheezing symbolised something. That I wasn't ready to give up.
I've been running ever since. I'm not a natural runner, and my enduring fatigue means I still find it extremely challenging. But with the running, some new drugs, some more therapy and the unwavering kindness and patience of my partner, friends, and family, I am finally starting to enjoy life again.
As my own circumstances improve, however, I've become increasingly aware of the millions of others whose struggles continue; invisible behind the veil of stigma. Which is why inspired by a dear friend who ran it last year I've decided to run the Great North Run half marathon dressed as my black dog (Fido). As well as symbolising my own journey to recovery, I'm hoping #BlackDogRunner can be a symbol of all those other black dogs that are tragically hidden by misplaced shame and avoidable ignorance.
My place in the run was kindly provided by Mind (the UK's largest mental health charity) who I am hoping to raise lots of money for. Mind provide advice and support to those experiencing mental health problems, and campaign to improve services, raise awareness, and promote understanding. These are especially urgent because funding for UK mental health services are being cut at a time when they're already under enormous strain!
So please PLEASE - friends, family and generous strangers - give what you can spare to help Mind fulfil their vision that 'everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect'. Even if all you can spare is a single pound, I promise this hound will be forever grateful! Thank you so so much!
P.S. If you get the chance, please also visit the #BlackDogRunner blog (which, aside from the usual monthly posts will also be outlining my preparation for the run), and/or follow me on Facebook (/blackdogrunner) or Twitter (@bdogrunner)!