This year Neil is conquering something he has always dreamed of, the London Marathon

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So here I am preparing myself to take part in something I always dreamed of doing, but never in my wildest dreams ever thought I could achieve.

The London Marathon, to me, is one of the most iconic sporting events ever, even growing up as a competitive swimmer, I don’t think there was anything for me that compared.

I love going to watch and being part of the atmosphere, and have always been envious of every single person taking part, even more so the amateurs than the professionals.

Suffering from depression, anxiety and low self confidence, have since my teens, probably longer if I’m honest, given me the belief that conquering something like the marathon, is just not achievable, not only am I just not fit enough, but also, how would someone like me be worthy of taking part in such an event.

Well, now I’m in a position mentally that actually I think it is achievable, and I have some great support that helps me believe that too.

There are a few landmarks in the last few years, that have got me to this stage

Firstly, the girl I was ready to spend the rest of my life with, quite rightly decided she couldn’t handle the pressures of being expected to be the answer to everything, however much you love each other, dealing with mental health when you are unwilling to accept there is anything wrong, and that one person can fix you, is never going to end well!

Secondly, one of my closest friends was a constant in my life, we did a lot together, would see each other a lot and spend most weekends together, but that in my head stopped for no reason, it hadn’t actually stopped at all.

A conversation that was going to be me questioning why I had been abandoned by a friend I felt I could rely on, and from her side, a conversation that was going down the route of, back off or our friendship is over, ended with a feeling of escape, I had finally opened up to someone, properly, something I should have done years before.

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Within days, she had done some research and suggested a potential counsellor, it wasn’t forced but strongly suggested, and I think I had a sudden realisation, that I was close to losing a second relationship that was important to me, and I couldn’t do that again.

This is something, that when Heads Together released a set of videos, showing that first conversation people had, drew a direct correlation for me, and I instantly felt a connection to the charity and their documentary, Mind over Marathon, added to that, the freedom to discuss mental health and have a charity which provides content that helped you discuss it with people was amazing.

At this point in my life, I am coping with my depression and anxiety, but I still lash out, I still have big dips and crashes into darkness. I needed something to focus on and help me cope, and I decided to commit to a fitness regime.

I needed some help, some motivation and someone I was making a commitment too (yeah I don’t like commitment), which is where my amazing PT comes in. She has become a good friend, who supports me and listens to me, not just about exercise but when I’m having a crap day, she is there to support me.

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Who would have thought that exercising 6 days a week would help, but when they say you get addicted to exercise, they aren’t wrong. Every time I exercise, be it in the gym, in the pool, on my bike or out for a run, my mind is clear, I am free.

If I have a rough day, chucking my trainers on and going for a run, makes it all better, points where I would normally spiral, are stopped by exercise.

Not only this, but it has given me a boost in self confidence, and belief that I can achieve things I never believed were possible before.

This drive and commitment has also shown me how much friends and family care, with their encouragement and support, every time one of them tells me how well I’m doing or how impressed they are, it fills me with joy and reminds me, people care, something I spend a lot of my time convincing myself otherwise of.

Leading to me entering the marathon ballot, and now here I am.

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