My name is Tamara but everyone calls me Tammi. I am 39 years old and I live in Leicester with my husband and my daughter.
I’d always been a confident individual but with self-doubt always niggling away on the inside, never feeling good enough for one reason or another.
Just over 12 years ago I had my first panic attack and from there on, I began my battle with anxiety. It all started with negative intrusive thoughts that went around in my head, like a record player that was stuck but with no off button. I was petrified, I remember waking from a doze on the sofa and the panic hit. Heart beating fast, feeling unsure of where I was and what on earth were these thoughts in my head?
Initially I hid away because I was physically and emotionally drained from putting on a front that everything was okay. I was so scared of what was happening to me, scared of what people would think of me. I felt as though I was in a tunnel but with no light at the end. At the beginning every day felt like an eternity.
For a long time I battled between good and bad days. I had periods of time away from work and took daily medication to try and keep me on an even keel. My husband Ady was my rock and gave me support each and every day, encouraging me to keep going.
I realised that talking about what was going on was important. I remember my friend Keeley saying to me, ‘I don’t understand what you’re going through but I don’t need to, I’m here to listen and help in whatever way I can’. And sometimes that is all you need, someone to listen and someone to support you. Slowly but surely I started to feel better and you can too. My advice is to find someone you can talk to, be it a friend, a work colleague, a family member, someone you can trust who will listen. Don’t lock yourself away, pretending that everything is okay. I felt so much better for sharing how I was feeling.
I had tried different techniques and coping mechanisms to help but none have had the impact that exercise has had. I had never really been into exercise, I was happy to take the dogs for a walk but that was about as far as it went. I had read numerous articles about how exercise could help with Mental Health and Well Being, so when I saw that a local running club were holding a couch to 5km programme I decided to give it a go.
The programme started in January, it was cold and dark but around 90 keen and eager newbies turned up ready to give this running malarkey a go! Over the next few weeks I built up my fitness levels and ran that little bit further each week. I enjoyed the challenge and the feeling after each run of the endorphins helping me to feel so much better.
My graduate Park Run was amazing, the support was incredible and my sense of achievement was immense.
From there on I ran each and every week. I began to notice how much better I felt about myself, I slept better, I had more energy and my negative thoughts had all but disappeared! I decided to set myself a challenge and so I entered The Great North Run. My training was going so well that a running friend said I should enter the ballot for the London Marathon. Everybody said that I would never get a place from my first ballot entry, but yes you’ve guessed it I did.
So then the big question, who should I run for? I had always watched the London Marathon on the television and so last year was no exception. I watched the Heads Together Team running at the London Marathon along with their coverage leading up to the event and I was inspired. The campaign resonated with me and so I decided this was the team for me.
A running friend told me that training for a marathon is a journey, one to be enjoyed and so I have embraced it with both hands. Sometimes we need to find a focus outside of our day to day. Something that takes the emphasis away from how we are feeling. I have found strength from within, at times where I may have given up in the past. Not only has my physical strength improved but my mental strength too. The thought processes on those long runs are often intense but each battle won gives me the determination to keep going. This is certainly a positive learning journey that I am thoroughly enjoying and cannot wait for the end goal!
I run and I like to be creative because it gives me a focus. Be it a running goal or learning a new skill, whatever it is, give it a go, it might be just what you need to help you to start feeling better.
It amazes me how talking about my mental health has had such an impact on others. Sometimes people will say what you, never! Others will start to talk about their own experiences with mental health, however the conversation goes it’s a starting point.
I am passionate about changing the conversation regarding mental health. I believe that we should be open to talk freely without judgement of how we are feeling. We should encourage one another to speak and to be heard, to get the support we need to help us to feel better.
Together we can do this, we can make the difference to everyone being heard. See you all on the 22nd April 2018, where I will be proud to be running the London Marathon with The Heads Together Team, raising awareness of Mental Health.