Exercising for a better mental health

Saturday 14th May 2016 (10.44am)

I was at David Lloyd before it even opened this morning. I did a 2 mile swim and a 5K run. I am physically feeling good, and mentally, I am ticking along at about 6/10. I am now just relaxing with a hot chocolate to bring me back to life. I am not quite sure of todays plans; I guess I will see where my mood takes me. Once again, I got chatting in the changing rooms and the conversation naturally drifted to me being off work and the reasons why. I was honest, and once again this led to someone opening up to me. It felt good to chat to someone with an understanding. Even though we do not see each other all of the time, knowing about each other will hopefully mutually increase the support we can provide. I am learning how incredibly important it is to open out to people as if you don’t, you may never know who else may suffering around you.

Friday 13th May 2016 (12.12pm)

5/10 – If I had written my mood score earlier then it would have been lower. I am in a cant be bothered mood and haven’t been to the gym. I have had some text messages from friends which I have replied to and I have even made plans to meet up with them next week. Again, lacking inspiration so no point bumbling on.


I thought I would try and give this writing another go. This afternoon, I went to local coffee shop and finished the book which I started yesterday “Adventures in Human Being”. It is so nice to have the time and opportunity to read. I really need to make more of an effort to do it when I go back to my busy routine. Ideally I need to spend less time on the internet looking at mindless crap!

I had a lovely text from an Inspector who I have recently met and done some work with from another department. I have also been made aware of many people sending me their regards from work. I have received so much support over the last few months from unexpected people. By this I mean from people on Facebook who I have not seen for years; and also from people in work who I have not been close to over the years and just know them through the the job. It is strange how circles of friends change and I am extremely thankful and grateful of the people who I have around me. I have also made friends at David Lloyd; people who I have randomly got chatting to in the changing room or in the gym. I have opened up to some and it is surprising how many have been in a similar situation. I know that I will never have to go through this alone. It is just up to me to let people in to my life, as difficult and uncomfortable as that may be.

I received a lovely photo earlier of my mum and nephew in the park. Part of me wished I had gone but the other part shouts out for quiet time. You may argue that I have had 6 weeks of quiet time, but I have now acknowledged that this is going to be a lengthy process.

Whilst I continue to find myself on this journey, I am learning more and more about myself and depression. I know in time that I will turn this around; in the meantime it is all about finding me and becoming a stronger and better person.

Thursday 12th May 2016 (10.14am)

5/10 – Feel that I am lacking any inspiration to write. Bike and swim session done and now contemplating what to do today. Not sure if I am just tired, fed up, or both?

Live update

Just leaving Kensington Palace. This is how my life has changed.

Wednesday 11th May 2016 (11.30am)

4/10 – Not quite sure that I can describe the way I feel today. I had a GP appointment at 8.30 and I have been signed off work for at least another two weeks, this does not surprise me. I feel like I am very up and down and my head feels fuzzy and tired. Not even the gym has improved my mood. I managed to run for the first time since the bolts were taken out of my leg (14th March) so that is good progress.

The weather has been wet the last couple of days which means that I feel couped up and I do not want to go out walking. I read a lot and I am currently reading a book called “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. Paul was a successful neurosurgeon who developed cancer and sadly passed away before finishing the book. I am half way through and I do look at my life and realise how fortunate I am. I usually read from a Kindle but at the moment I like the physical feel of a book in may hand. Many of the books I read are science / medicine based as that is what interests me. If I had my time again then I would look to become a Doctor. If it wasn’t for the financial implications then I would give it a go. I did apply to study Physiotherapy two years ago and ended up getting two conditional offers at University but turned them down in favour of my police career and the circumstances at that time. I have itchy feet and I have no idea where I am going or what I am doing. I am studying Human Biology at the Open University so I guess I will get through that first.

There is also the matter of my frozen embryo. Myself and my partner at the time (who I will refer to as ‘A’) started IVF early in 2015; however we were not successful. Thankfully I have a spare egg of excellent quality currently being stored in the freezer at the private clinic. Our plan was to use the egg towards to the end of 2015; however, our relationship broke down and we split up a week before Christmas. We had our civil partnership in 2012. Fortunately we still get on well.

Legally, the embryo is now all mine and when I am ready I will go through the process on my own. Ironically, all of the legal stuff was going on at the same time as the Inspector ‘boards’. In addition to this, I had knee surgery a week before which makes me think no wonder I failed. No excuses though. I certainly put the work in to pass in difficult circumstances and I should really have smashed the ‘boards’ but this time it was not meant to be for whatever reason…..

I have got the opportunity to go to Brighton this weekend to visit my brother, his partner and my nephew. My parents are going down but I have declined the offer. Though it would be lovely to spend time with everyone, I feel that I kind of need my own space and time. This is me isolating myself again and hiding from the world. I know it would probably be good for me but I just need to go on how I feel at the moment and on what I want to do. I will have a think and maybe I will see things differently tomorrow.

My GP advised me this morning not to isolate myself from people too much. I am aware of what I am doing, yet I want to be on my own; besides I quite enjoy my own company! Looking back on when I first saw my GP on 31st March 2016 I can now see what what an emotional wreck and mess I was. Friends (only a few knew) in work had been telling me to take time off for a while, but then I could not see why as I did not think anything was wrong. I would often shut my office door and cry. I was becoming irritable, snappy and increasingly tired. I was trying to deal with my marriage break up, the unknown of the frozen embryo, a knee operation and the Inspector ‘boards’. This was on top of the daily demands and pressures of my day job. I did not let onto management as I did not want to appear weak or not up to the job. I had a lot to prove and a wanted to succeed, I wanted that next rank.

My training focus remained as I saw this as ‘me time’ and it helped me to keep my mind off reality and off my drain of a life. There were times when I was on the bike in the gym in tears. Thankfully, the tears were hidden in the drips of perspiration.

It took alot for me to go the the Dr and talk about what was going on. My usual GP was not available so I saw whoever I could. I went in with physical symptoms of being worn out and tired. Fortunately, the Dr understood me from the start, she got my personality, my ambitious nature and my drive to succeed to be the very best. The Dr ordered blood tests (which were fine) and told me to take some time off work. I did not want to take time off and went into work the following day. I lasted half a shift before telling a diluted version of events to management and walking out. I knew I was making the right decision even though it was hard to accept. I think I got to the point where I did not care anymore about anything.

The GP prescribed anti depressants which felt like my worst nightmare. I was given Sertraline and my reluctance to take them was evident. I searched the internet regarding their benefits, side effects and reasoned whether they would actually work or not. I questioned whether I needed them as I thought that I could ‘do this on my own’. I eventually started taking them after arguing the positives and negatives in my head and decided that I had nothing to lose.

The GP advised that I carry on with my exercise, but recognised that I may be using it as a form of self harm. Yep, right again Doc and that I have ‘an all or nothing attitude’ …. right again! If I have a timetable, a programme or a goal then I have to stick to it. If I dont then I regard this as not being good enough and the end result will be failure. Whilst this may not necessarily be the case, it is something that I have to reframe my brain around. I acknowledge that I need to slow down and switch off but I find that very hard to do. I find it difficult to sit down and watch TV and do nothing. I always find that I have my phone, iPad, or laptop on, at times I feel a slave to social media as it eats away at my time. I am glad that I now have time to read again, I need to make the most of it.

Before going off work on the sick, my brain felt like it was constantly going around at a million miles an hour. It has calmed down, but still races around at times. Since being off I have gone on holiday. I took myself off to Tenerife on my own. I spent time reading, relaxing by the pool and going to the gym. I had times of reflection down at the marina and often in the late afternoon I would spend time sitting on a rock at the beach. I did find it difficult at times as me and ‘A’ had lovely holidays, and reality kicked in that from now on it was just me. Friends at home contacted me, but I just felt that I needed to be left alone. I did not want to speak or socialise with anybody, but I did find that people approached me and made conversation. They probably felt sorry for me as I was on my own.

Last week I had a telephone call from the Primary Mental Health Team. I was encouraged to continue doing the things I enjoy such as exercise and I agreed to to attend two courses locally on stress and action for living.

On 6th April 2016 I completed the online ‘Be mindful’ quiz and my stress score was 31/40. I will repeat later in the year. I have been given relaxation exercises and offered a mindfulness course but I do not feel ready for this at the moment. My negative head and my wired body will not embrace it.

Tuesday 10th May 2016 (10.56am)

6/10 – I did not feel too bad waking up this morning. I guess I was looking forward to going swimming and having a day of reading and writing. You will notice two things about me. (1) I like to spend time in coffee shops, even though I dont like coffee. My drink which is well known in my locals is a soy hot chocolate, extra hot with extra chocolate. (2) I spend a lot of time in the gym or out on my bike. I have always been fit and active, not even the 11 operations on my knees can stop me. I strive for a challenge and as such, next month I will enter my first triathlon.

I have had a couple of messages today from friends which I have replied to, admittedly, not in my usual depth or style, but I guess that it is better than my last week of ignoring people and isolation. I could not be bothered to reply, I just thought it was polite to.

I have posted on both Facebook and Twitter which has encouraged conversation and ‘likes’ but I am not after that. I have not directly come out on social media regarding any mental health issues, but if people ask then I openly say. I am not ashamed, but at the moment I need it to be right for me. I have linked into many mental health groups and have started sharing posts.

Suffering from a mental illness is something I thought would never happen to me. As a cop I have dealt with hundreds of people experiencing some sort of mental illness. I have taken people threatening self-harm or suicide to hospital, I have talked somebody down from the top of a car park and I have attended suicides and had the heartbreaking task of breaking news to relatives. Whilst, there is a scale or continuum that we are all on, I always believed I was at the low risk, low suffering end. How wrong was I?!

Looking back, it is only now that I see or recognise periods of depression, low mood, anger, suicidal thoughts for many years. It has literally taken this long to realise. Perhaps because it has hit me full force and I have had to accept, admit and face up to it that I can only now see it. The fact that I have taken time out of work which has forced me to slow down, think, reflect on things has also been positive.

The problem I see at the moment is that I have a fear of failure or you can call it being unsuccessful – call it what you want, it still feels the same. Whatever it is I cant seem to deal with it. What is the big deal with failing? Surely you can learn from it, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and become a better, stronger person? Yes….. but I sense a BUT ….

Monday 9th May 2016 (6.31pm)

So why have I decided to put pen to paper and write about me, my current state of mind and my journey. Today I have had counselling, in fact it was my fourth session with my counsellor at work. It was she who suggested that I record how I feel on a 1 (low) to 10 (high) scale, three times per day, morning, lunchtime and evening to see if I can pin point any mood fluctuations. I thought it would be good to write about how I feel as well.

I am not sure how this will work or even what I will call it. A diary? Blog? Journal? What is the difference? Anyhow, I thought I would give it a go. I dont know what form this will take or how long I will keep it going. I am hoping in years to come, I may be able to look back at this time with an understanding of why and what it was all about. It feels kind of strange, as I am a person who historically has not liked to talk about feelings and emotions, so this could either be extremely boring or interesting. Whatever the outcome, I am hoping that it will benefit me and hopefully be of use to others – who knows?

It feels strange writing, by that I mean I type everything and save things neatly into computer files (compartmentalise) be it in work or at home. So why write? Well I thought that this notebook can come with me wherever I go, it is easy to quickly jot down some thoughts and feelings (even though I was having difficulty in distinguishing between the two in my counselling session earlier). I also feel that physically writing at the moment is more personal.

I am not a writer, my pen does not have a spell check, I appreciate that there will be some errors and imperfections. This will annoy me, the reasons why will no doubt will become clearer later.

So who am I? Well, my name is Georgina (George) and I am 41 years of age. I am a Police Officer and I am very proud of what I do. I joined the police 4th November 2002 and I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. I have seen change in this time, I have built up excellent working relationships, I have laughed and cried with colleagues and many will be friends for life. I am a Detective Sergeant within the Public Protection Department. I got promoted to Sergeant in December 2012 and this was one of the proudest days of my life. The promotion process was difficult, I experienced disappointment as it took me three attempts to get though the ‘board’ process. Looking back, I can see that it was not the right time on previous attempts and it gave me further opportunities to develop. I write about this time because it forms part of where I am today and how I feel. It has also probably made me the person I am.

Last September, I began ‘acting up’ to Detective Inspector (DI) and in December I was temporary promoted. Once again this was a proud moment and it gave me the opportunity to learn and develop in preparation for the Inspector ‘board’ process. My local ‘board’ was held on Tuesday 22nd March 2016. Whilst I thought it went well, I was not successful. I am trying not to use the words fail, failed or failure (or any connotations of) but that is how I see myself. I am awaiting feedback but this will have to wait until I get back to work.

I have been off work since Monday 4th April. Initially, I was diagnosed with emotional exhaustion, which has now changed to depression. Whilst I make no excuses for not getting through the ‘board’ process; not being successful has put me where I am today and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not just the disappointment with the ‘boards’, in fact I view this as relatively minor. It is a number of significant events which have occurred over the last 14-15 months and not getting through the ‘boards’ was the last straw (so to speak).

Last week I felt very flat and isolated myself from people as I Just wanted to be on my own. On Saturday, I completed the CARTEN100, which is a 106 mile bike ride from Cardiff to Tenby. Being from Tenby and cycling home gave me a sense of purpose, achievement and wellbeing. It was demanding but I felt great and it was nice to see family and friends. I am grateful for my GP, counsellor and Community Mental Health counsellor who have all encouraged me to continue with exercise as at the moment it is what keeps me going and focused.

I would base my current mood as 4/10. This may be low due to having a good weekend, being overtired and I feel emotionally drained from counselling. My passion for cycling, swimming and running will all become apparent as I progress.