By Pat Robinson
Key Themes: self esteem, well-being, self-help, depression, addiction, recovery
Depression is one of the most common health problems of modern times. At least one in six of us will suffer from it at some point in our lives. This book is about ordinary people who have enhanced – and in some cases transformed – their lives through regular exercise. The contributors to this anthology talk openly and frankly about their experiences and their triumph over depression, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, grief, HIV and low self-esteem. Their stories are positive and inspirational, demonstrating that even if you have reached rock bottom mentally, there is a way upward and it can be as simple as looking after yourself physically.
About the Author
Pat Robinson lives in Nottingham where she works primarily with clients with learning difficulties and/or mental health problems. She has also worked in prisons and with drug and alcohol abusers, using drama as a form of therapy. Having suffered depression since the age of thirteen, Pat took up running in her early fifties to help her get through a particularly bad patch. Amazed by the incredible sense of release that it gave, she is now a dedicated athlete having completed thirteen marathons and four triathlons to date. The ‘black dog’ as she describes depression, has never completely disappeared, but when she sees it coming Pat knowss he can chase it away! She compiled this anthology in the hope that others might be inspired to take up exercise as a cheap and effective way of combating many of the symptoms of depression
Nothing will ever stop me feeling the pain of losing my son. I am still grieving, but running and keeping fit has given me so much focus, enjoyment and a sense of achievement. I never went into it thinking it would be a cure but it has given me a big step forward and I am beginning to live my life again.
Competitive running has completely changed my attitude towards competitive sports and teamwork. Besides getting me really physically fit, it has also strengthened my character, given me a more positive and resilient attitude, and it has helped me remain totally free from alcohol and drugs.I have learned the hard way that real, genuine pleasure comes from overcoming life’s numerous hurdles and difficulties. Vigorous exercise can be hard to begin with but the rewards are immense and so the effort is well worth it.
My life for the last nine years had just revolved around HIV and it was good to set myself a new positive challenge. Taking up running has changed my life and my way of thinking. My immune system has improved and my body is coping very well. I have now joined a running club and can’t wait to continue with my new-found fitness.
I was the podgy kid at school that was always picked last for the football team. When I was thirteen one teacher wrote on my school report, ‘Ben lacks sufficient impetus to achieve anything worthwhile.’ In 2004 I became the youngest person to ski solo to the North Pole and in doing so I broke the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton. I would encourage everyone to have dreams, to take risks and to not fear failure.
There have been many times when I would just withdraw into my room and would have to struggle to get through each day. I can genuinely say that regular exercise and training (I took up running quite late in life, just nine years ago) has changed my life.
As an adult, my doctor referred me to the YMCA gym because I was depressed. I found it hard at first, but I persevered. I’d nothing to lose. I’d tried everything else. Anyway, it got easier. Now exercise is part of my life. It’s so true that a fitter body will make you feel more confident and this will make you have a ‘fitter’ mind. I would definitely say that exercise has changed my life, for the better.
Through circumstances in my life I had a serious mental breakdown earlier this year. I even tried to get myself sectioned. I just totally lost control. Taking up exercise was a great help in getting me back on my feet again. I started climbing and cycling. Cycling is great. I take out my stress and frustrations on my bike pedals! The faster and harder I ride, the better I feel afterwards. It calms me down and clears my head.
I would often take to my bed and would be literally paralysed with depression. Eventually I went to my GP and I started to take anti-depressants about eight years ago. I did the London Marathon after the six months training and I can honestly say that taking up exercise, and running, has completely changed my life. I feel so much more positive now and want to continue feeling like this. There is no looking back – the couch potato is long gone! I’ve gone from a size 16 to a size 12 and I feel so much more confident.
I regret very much the fact that I spent so many years being obsessed with food and calorie counting and being unhappy with my physique. I wish that I had discovered sooner the ways in which exercise can transform your body shape. I actively encourage other members of my gym to persevere with their programme, as I am proof that you can achieve your goals through dedication and hard work. I would strongly recommend anyone with a negative self-image to join a gym and discover happiness through exercise.
If not for exercise, who knows what might have become of the young man with little self-confidence? I know of not one of my friends that would have believed for a second that this could have been me.