Sunday 17th July 2017 (9.13pm) – LIVE BLOG

I thought that as I have that ‘Sunday evening, back to school tomorrow’ feeling I would write it out. Not that things are bad, I just don’t really know what is going on or how I feel. I worked 3 days last week, 4 hours each day. With the other 2 days a week I am taking my last years annual leave. All I can say is that I am grateful for the 2 days off! It is nice being back in work with friends but I found it hard being around people for 4 hours a day. There is no pressure or demand on me at the moment as I settle back in. I could not cope with it anyway. I am finding my way around systems and my mobile device again. I used to whizz around everything, now I seem unsure of what I am doing. I suppose this is natural considering the amount of time I have had off.

I found my days very tiring and I found it hard to concentrate for any length of time. I started reading through a HMIC report on harassment and stalking. Again, usually I would have eaten it up quickly but I found that I kept reading over the same thing and drifting away from it. I feel distant and not tuned in to it. A million miles away from police work. I have changed massively, I had to for my own head to survive. I feel that I have gone back to an environment which is alien to me and I am not sure which direction I am supposed to be heading in.

I made sure that I left on time and it was always nice to get home to Olly Dog. As for tomorrow it is planned that I work for 5 hours a day. Not quite sure how I feel about that or how it will go. One thing I am sure of is that I am in the right department with a good support crew around me. No mood score as I really don’t know.

Monday 11th July 2016 (7.56pm)

**Last years Tenby Long Course weekend**

Ok, lets see how different things were this time last year?

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A really demanding few days both physically and mentally and only now am I able to sit and write about it.

I arrived in Tenby late morning then headed into town to collect my race packs. I mentally wasn’t feeling good but knew I had to be as normal as possible. If there is such a thing? I am not sure if this was being out and around people after having my own space and time or what. Had a good look around the expo and came away with some goodies then watched the tennis in the afternoon before getting ready for not only my first event but my first proper sea swim.

SWIM

The swim started at 7pm, so after taking my sea sick tablet an hour before we headed to the North beach. After the compulsory pre dip and race briefing I batted with my ear plugs whilst waiting in the pen with 2000 others. I did not feel nervous, probably because I had not really given much thought to what I was taking on. The sea looked calm and I knew that if I did not get sick then I should be able to finish. The 2 lap course, each 1.2 miles in distance gave me the option of dropping out half way around if things were not going to plan. I had no race strategy apart from to stay alive and get back to the beach.

When the gun went off I walked with the crowd to the water, which felt colder than what it did in the pre dip. It took me a while to settle into it and get used to the conditions, tide and sheer volume of people swimming around and on top of me. I struggled to breath for the first 5 minutes and so did breaststroke to establish a breathing pattern. I knew there were lots of people behind me as I did not want to be last. I got bumped around, smacked in the head but nothing was going to get in my way once I realised that I was not going to suffer from sickness. My thoughts often drifted between ‘A’, survival, a jellyfish attack and at times I felt lonely in my head.

I completed the first lap in 45 minutes. To start lap 2, we had to get out of the sea, and run back around to the start. Though I was wobbly, I did not feel too disorientated. There were hundreds of spectators who encouraged and motivated me. Lap 2 was not as crowded but at times I felt like I was swimming backwards against the tide, but my head just pushed me through to finish 2.4 miles in a respectable 1hr 35. Medal one of the weekend collected. I wanted to do well in the swim as for me it was unknown territory. For some reason I still felt subdued even after what I had just achieved, with a mood score of 5/10.

I finished the swim with a wetsuit injury which resulted in a nasty rub/burn on my neck. Unfortunately this gave me a painful restless night. Not ideal preparation to tackle 112 miles on the bike.

BIKE

When I woke up early Saturday morning, I knew it was going to be a tough day. I was not in the game mentally, my neck was painful and I was tired before I started. To make things worse, the wether was wet, windy and foggy and I reluctantly made my way to the start line. I knew in the first few miles that it would take everything I had to both mentally and physically to complete the course. I was hating it, I was on on my own and at times I felt lonely and sad. I usually love cycling. This did not feel right. I felt like I was in a constant battle with my head not to give up, not to fail. The hills were fishing me off and I had nothing in my tank. At about 20 miles I made the decision in my head to do the shorter 66 mile loop. I actually lost the mental battle. I was done. I was wet, cold and grumpy. In the circumstances completing 66 miles was some achievement but I was gutted that I did not not complete the 112. I have cycled over 100 miles before, so did I have anything to prove? I reasoned with myself that it wasn’t meant to be on this occasion, as hard as it was. I collected my medal for 66 miles. Maybe I will try again next year. Mood not great, tough day 4/10.

RUN

Thankfully I woke up refreshed and looking forward to the half marathon. I took the pre arranged bus to Pembroke and waited with the others at Pembroke Castle. There was a good atmosphere with the other runners and the course was amazing. People were shouting out my name who I had not seen in many years and once again it was great to finish off in Tenby. My mum and dad were at the finish line where I collected medal number 3. My finish time was 2 hrs 15 on a very hilly course.I really enjoyed the run, though I would say the swim was my best achievement. Overall, not a bad weekend of activity and next year I will know what to expect.

My concern now is that apart from Cardiff half marathon I have no other events in the calendar. I like to have a goal as it gives me motivation to train. There is a sprint triathlon in September in Saundersfoot the day before ironman so I may do that. I really want to keep up the training at the same intensity. Not only is it good for my mental wellbeing but I am probably in the best shape physically which I have ever been in.

Though I had a lovely weekend and it was great to be back at home, my low mood concerns me and I am not quite sure the reason for this. 5/10.

Sunday 3rd July 2016 (2.01pm)

6/10 – I got to the pool at 7.30am for an early swim in the outdoor pool. When I woke up I felt tired and any form of exercise was the last thing I wanted to do. I know that if I did not make the effort then I would be really annoyed with myself. As usual, I am so glad I made the effort. The pure feeling I get from moving through the water is exhilarating. I may not be the fastest but I have the stamina and fitness to keep going.

I learnt to swim at the age of 3 or 4, helped by the fact my mum was a swimming teacher. My early years were spent at the local swimming club, Tenby Dolphins. I loved swimming, I built up some good friendships and it taught me many skills, not just the essentials of staying alive in the water and life saving. From an early age I have been involved in sports and competition, perhaps this is what gives me my competitive drive. As I got older and moved in to comprehensive school, my swimming gave way to amongst other sports, hockey. Whilst I am not going to blog here about my sporting achievements, up until recently (and after about a 20 year break from it) I started swimming again. Why? In a moment of madness I decided to enter Tenby Longcourse weekend, whilst other distances are available, I entered the 2.4 mile (sea swim), 112 mile bike ride and the the half marathon which takes place over 3 days. So after entering on 6th January 2016 I thought that if I am going to stay alive in the water then I best get my butt training in the pool. Since this time I have spent hours in the pool, swimming many miles. When I was in work, this meant getting up at 5am a couple of times a week to get my training in beforehand. The triathlon last week was my first real test and my first experience of outdoor swimming. Whilst this has given me some confidence for Friday, I just need to sort out the small matter of seasickness! So this is why I swim and I am pleased that I have got back into it. It has been great for my mental health. I have met a new group of friends and my fitness has greatly improved. I may be saying something different this time next week.

I got chatting to a lady at the gym who knows about my depression. She has always regarded me as someone who ‘has it sorted’. By this I come over as someone is chatty, confident, I have a good job and I am athletic. It is amazing what you can hide behind. I said that whilst I portrayed that person, deep down I was experiencing a lot of pain and suffering.

I cannot quite work out why I have only scored 6/10. I have had a nice day, I feel like I am making progress, I feel positive about what I want to to with regards to my own mental health experience to help others, but there is sill a gap in my life.

Saturday 2nd July 2016 (7.14pm)

5/10 – For some reason I feel lonely tonight. Not sure what is causing it but I am sure I will get over it. I had an early hospital appointment, another MRI scan of right knee. I am not quite sure why they are scanning again as I only had one done at the beginning of the year. I could have easily just headed home after that but ended up going to the gym. I am glad I made the effort to go as I did a good 30 minutes on the Wattbike before having a run. Legs felt good running today. I did not hang around in the lounge after as I felt like I needed space and time away. I just felt that I wanted to read or write away from people. I have started reading ‘Sane New World – Taming the mind’ by Ruby Wax who herself suffers from depression.

For the last week all I have seemed to do is eat and I don’t want to. I feel quite fat (but I know I am not). I need to cut down on my food, that is after I have eaten the massive bag of crisps and bag of Aero bubbles which I have by my side.

Thursday 30th June 2016 (7.32pm)

6/10 – I felt a bit flat today even though I can see and feel that I am making improvements and heading in the right direction. Physically I do not feel great but I still went to the gym to do what turned out to be a good 45 minute Wattbike session. I met up with a friend from work at lunch time. It does not appear that I am missing much at work. It is strange but I still feel that I am not ready to return to the real world. I do not think I am strong enough; yet I am conscious that I have been off 3 months already. I never anticipated being off this long; but then again I underestimated how big my depression had become.

I had counselling this afternoon and I was more positive than my last session. I explained that I had been relatively stable over the last week, but still had some way to go to be happy. I talked about how I felt that I had completely emptied my brain and was starting to fill it back up again. I explained how I wanted to use what I had been through positively to help others and discussed the 999 blue light scheme. Confirmed that it is not yet available in Wales. I threw some ideas around such as support groups like ‘mental health mates’ as set up by Bryony Gordon. The counsellor has referred me to Mindfulness. So lets see what this is all about.

Wednesday 29th June 2016 (no time recorded)

7/10 – Thankfully I am felling better than yesterday. This morning I had an enjoyable swim in the outdoor pool in the rain. It was lovely and refreshing and for most of the time I had the pool to myself. I sat in the lounge afterwards and somehow got chatting to a guy about my mental health and he also opened out to me. It surprises me how many people have suffered or also suffer. Until you start the conversation, you never know.

This afternoon was part 3 of my ‘Action for living’ course. Prior to the session I spoke to the facilitators about the ‘blue light’. They believe that it is only run in England and had not heard of it. The session today was on mindfulness and how to put oneself into the here and now by getting rid of or defusing the negative thoughts which come into our minds. We were taught techniques on how to do this.

I have felt more stable over the last few days and my motivation for certain things is returning. Tomorrow I have a counselling session and I am hoping that it will be more positive than last time.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 (9.47pm)

6/10 – Yesterday I felt physically drained with a sore throat and ear ache (probably poisoned by the brown water). I went to the gym this morning but I did not do much. I felt that I had to even though not great. I finished my book ‘Mad Girl’ by Bryony Gordon which I really enjoyed. This evening I have been doing some research around mental health in the emergency services. I have come across the ‘blue light’ scheme run by MIND. It looks as though it is in England only. It looks great and I wonder if it will come into Wales. Since I have been suffering, I have noticed gaps which this support could maybe fill. I will look into this when my head is in a better place.

Sunday 26th June 2016 (6.57pm) – Cardiff Triathlon

7/10 – I do not think my writing is going to make much sense tonight, not that is usually does. It has been a long day on the back of 3 and a half hours sleep. I was too excited about today’s tri. I arrived at Cardiff Bay early with my support crew (mum and dad) behind me. All of this tri stuff is new to me and putting on my race tattoos was a task in itself.

With my bike racked and my kit laid out next to it in transition I made my way with the others to the swim start. The brown murky water of Cardiff Bay was warm once I got moving. I knew I could swim the 1500m in under 30 minutes in a swimming pool but I thought it would take me a lot longer whilst battling through the other bodies and red hats who set off in wave 4 with me. Whilst it was congested at the start I soon got my rhythm; however it wasn’t long before I started to feel sick. I had not planned for this! I tried to keep my focus and it enjoy it, but at about 50m from the end I became very disorientated and was glad to wobble my way onto the pontoon and into transition. Whilst I managed the swim in under 30 minutes I struggled to stay on my feet whilst preparing for my 40k cycle. I was glad not to be sick in front of everyone. I have no idea how I managed to get on my bike and after about 200 yards (outside Cardiff Bay Police Station ironically) I stopped and threw up.

Not letting this bother me (as there was no way I was pulling out) I jumped back on my bike, before nearly falling off and joined back in the race. Within 5-10 minutes I regained my head and I was back in the game. After 1hr 22 minutes on the bike, I headed back into transition and set myself up for the 10k run. After a quick change into my fast daps, baseball cap (helmet head) I wobbly started off on my run. It took me at least 15-20 minutes for me to find my legs, but I finished the run in a respectable 54 minutes. At one point I actually thought I was shuffling backwards and the words ‘slow and steady gets you to the end’ echoed in my head. I only have one pace (slow) anyway.

I finished with an overall time of 2 hours 52 which I am well chuffed with for my first attempt. After crossing the finishing line I went straight to the snack bar where I shoved biscuits, crisps and cola bottles in my chops.

For 2 hours 52 I was able to think about something else. I was doing something for me and I enjoyed it (well most of it). This is why I exercise – to give my brain a break.

A good day with great support. I am feeling happy and I may even take a day off training tomorrow?

Thursday 6th July 2017 (3.47pm)

LIVE BLOG

8/10 – I thought that I would actually blog about my day today. With my previous blogs I have been on catch up from my writing and journals from last year. I have some way to go to get up to date and don’t want to spoil the story of what happens too much (smiles).

Why have I decided to let you into my today’s world? Well, I guess that today is quite momentous in that I returned to work after being off for 15 months. The work system will tell me exactly how many days, hours, minutes and calculate my sickness score, but to me that now is not relevant. The important thing is that I got my butt though the door and managed a 4 hour shift. To some, this may not seem a massive deal but to me it signifies the start of something new. A fresh start. A new beginning. When I left last year, I left as a Temporary promoted Inspector. Today I returned to my Detective Sergeant role. This does not bother me, I am in an excellent position and I am extremely grateful for the team of people alongside me. They are friends and not just colleagues. Some who have been with me on this journey and to which I owe them so much.

I never thought I would be off work this long, but I suppose you can never put a time on a mental health illness. You mend in your own way at your own pace and for those who have messaged me about knowing when is the right time to return – you will just know. I did attempt a return in January but it did not work out. I do not want to dwell on that here as that will be blogged in time; all I will say is then did not feel right but today did.

I walked back in today a completely different person to when I left. So many things have happened in this time and I have learnt not to take life for granted. My job comes with daily pressures and stress, I am hoping now that I will be more equipped to handle what comes my way. I know when things are bad, and I am able to identify triggers. I just hope that due to my strong work ethic, desire to achieve, succeed, and do the very best, I can still remain on a mental level. Promotion was what I was driven by and maybe that will come back. As for the time being, I just have to settle back in and enjoy my job again with some stability.

My nights sleep didn’t go to plan, but who sleeps before that first day shift anyway? I put my school uniform and school bag ready in the hall last night as a reminder that I had to go to work. I set my alarm, jumped into bed and listened to my puppy quietly breathing beside me. Unfortunately said puppy, Olly, decided he wanted to go out at 2am, so I put on yesterdays shorts and t-shirt and trundled outside. Thankfully 5 mins later we were both back in bed, with Olly being slightly lighter! I was wrong to think that would be him settled for the night, but at 4.30am he was pawing me on the head again and making funny noises in my face. He must have known that it was a school night! I did not give in, as I knew all he wanted to do was go out hunting for snails. I lovingly told him that my alarm was due to go off in an hour so he could wait until then! Thankfully he listened, whether he understood I have no idea.

I arrived at work to start at 8am. I tried not to think about going in to the office too much as that would have spun by head around and made me anxious, so I just rocked up as normal. The welcome I had from people was lovely, there are many new faces and I am now based in a different office which I think helps if we are talking about a fresh start and moving on. A hot chocolate was made for me followed later by a bagel with Nutella. Love my colleagues. After a chat with my line manager regarding hours and settling back in etc I rang ICT (computer tech people) to have my password reset. I was pleasantly greeted with 1757 emails (many of which I could just delete), I have about 200 more to go through and then I think my trash can will be overflowing. South Wales Police colleagues – I met Bob for the first time!

I enjoyed my day back, it felt good to call myself a police officer again. It felt good to be called ‘Sarge’ again and laugh with colleagues. Yes, I have still got a long way to go. I have lots to learn and catch up on, but I have to go to the pace of my brain. Thankfully the people around me understand that and are fully supportive. I can handle being like the new kid at school (for a while anyway).

I have so many people to thank for getting me back to work today, and I would love to be able to do it individually. I will do by best. Big shout out to family, ‘A”, friends, colleagues, my GP, FMA and counsellor.

I also owe my life to a new group of people who have been significant in this journey, and that is my Mind Over Marathon crew, Jake, Sam, Paul, Steve, Rhian, Claudia, Mel, Poppy, SeSe. Not forgetting the incredible Chevy, Charley, Nick Knowles (who had the cheek to visit my place without a paintbrush – love you Nick), and production crew. You all will never know how much you helped. These friendships continue to grow stronger and the bond we have cannot be broken.

Such experience has saved and opened up my life to new things which I could never have imagined. Who would have thought only months after wanting to take my life I would be casually chatting to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry who all said such lovely words. I certainly never thought I would be running the London marathon let alone as part of a TV documentary. All of this because I knew I had to speak up about mental health. My media life continues. I will be featured in a pharmaceutical magazine next month and I am excited about blogging for Heads Together on something for next week. The fact that this face has been in Hello magazine twice is by the by really (smiles).

My social media world has catapulted and I have met so many wonderful and encouraging people. You are amazing and your words of support also play a massive part in my recovery.

My blog continues to grow, with readers from all around the world. I cannot wait to tell you what went on in my head last year; you may find it boring but I am going to tell you anyway. I find it hard to believe reading it back, but I decided to blog as a healing process and to help as many people as I can.

So what more can I say about today? I am proud of myself, I did it and hopefully further bricks can be built from here. I will continue my blog as I have so much to say (no sh*t) I hear you say. I hope you will all be there with me…… xx

Oh and I am not in work now until Tuesday! Tenby mates I will see you for Long Course Weekend!