What I wish my illness could do in my absence

Brain Training Part 2

Following on from Brain Training Part 1, I’ve put together some techniques that I personally use to a greater or lesser degree (depending on variables such as intensity of project and current mental episode).

Some people naturally focus while others need a little nudge to know where to begin. I admit that when I first came across things such as mind-mapping and positive self-talk, I shunned the advice given and just assumed I had to grin and bear it, as I had to figure it out for myself to truly understand…and eventually I would come full circle to the original advice. But that’s life, and that’s how some of us learn best.


imagePreparation is key, but my head can become quite a quagmire of ideas, so I use mind-mapping to spread out my project ideas and inspirations, and work through things with a little more attention and focus. With this I sometimes use a technique learned via my Illustration tutor known as stream of consciousness writing. Writing out words continuously without checking to make sure that they fit into coherent texts. Can be fun (or mildly frustrating).

Repeat – Review – Revise

IMG_4589Edison says it takes 10,000 hours of repeated practice for something to become second nature,so I keep repeating what I am training for – running, with/without water, with/without food, before/after yoga – and I build a repertoire of understanding and knowledge of how I perform in different circumstances. If something doesn’t work, I review, it, and revise it. Then I repeat that process again. This starts to create an imprint on my brain that will eventually become my second nature.

Drowning out the negative chatter

imageDealing with negative chatter – not just from my own mind but from other people’s mouths or written words – can suck the energy right out of you. I’ve had days where I have been dressed for a run, ready to go, and then something has been said or written and I’ve just crawled fully-dressed back under my duvet and not moved for two days. I have to fight hard when that happens, because there’s no one to pass the baton to who can do the training miles for me, and so I have to be able to remind myself of WHY I am training, and what I am training for. Some days that WHY clarity is strong, and I can remain steady on my feet and still make it out the door. It may be that I argue in my head the entire time, especially if the weather is miserable, but the mileage has still been banked which is better for my confidence than not going at all.

Surrounding myself with the positive chatter

IMG_9423Honing in on the people, the ideas, and the situations that will boost your positive mind-set is good for your soul, your plans, and most likely the planet. I do this by turning my training runs into micro-adventures. I go with the intention of capturing photos of nature, beautiful clouds, lights, hills, snow, frost, puddles, flowers, birds. I never run with music. I listen to the different calls of nature – be they sheep, cows, donkeys or birds, or the best is pheasant!

If each of us were able to focus in such a way, there would be better collaboration and cohesion. Being around positivity will always inspire me to re-sharpen my training tools, work harder, dig deeper, and strive further because the human being is ultimately capable of so much more than we think is possible.

Just breathe

Some words need life breathing into them, others just drip off the tongue like honey.

img_0800It’s a peculiar time right now. Nothing appears to follow any order, routine, sequence or plan. Each day, in fact each hour, is a different story to tell, a different emotion heralding a seemingly different outcome. It’s confusing.

Keeping a focus on running now is harder than it was five months ago. Back then I was running to free myself from the shackles of a shame, a stigma—self-created no doubt—and a sense of loss. Loss of who I thought I was and what I would end up doing if only I just kept on…keeping on?

img_0834It all seems so much more complex than I wanted it to be. I’m still getting to grips with being social on all sorts of social media. It’s unnerving. I’m still petrified of using a phone and yet for every tweet one part of me says – get involved, make it sassy, make it witty, be casual, be bright & bubbly – then before I know it the other half is whimpering with fear that someone will take offence, that someone will not understand and confront me and I’ll be forced to retire from social media altogether. It’s a situation that isn’t making my task to campaign loud and proud easy by any stretch of the imagination. Some days the social bit is so overwhelming that I take naps to climb down from the ceiling.

This whole sense of mirky-jiggly-ness is part of my condition. I understand that now and I need it to run its course. But it’s flipping hard. I rested yesterday, but for the rest of the week I have mileage to gain. I’m also going to shoot a little video of what I’m doing to help my running. Some of them I am honing in on to build my resilience, such as yoga and meditation.

Focusing on the running alone would be very welcome right now.

img_0829My head is at war, it’s a little like a part of me has discovered mutiny, things just aren’t adding up, I’m not sure why I ever thought this was a good idea, I’m rubbish with numbers anyway. Organising lodgings, getting my kit across the country, having some support on the road, it’s all starting to weigh on my mind. I haven’t figured out food yet. I’m resigning myself to flannel baths. And so far my current Hoka One Ones have about two weeks running left in them before they need to be retired. My mind is screaming to jack it in. Why bother?! Why do this when no one cares! Everyone has their own issues, everyone is raising money for something, why on earth would what I do make a difference to anybody when I can’t even manage to make a living.

I am honestly asking myself, “why don’t I just close up shop, say I can’t, and head back under the duvet until the episode has passed? Or even stay there?” Is that unreasonable?

img_0801I don’t know what it is exactly that is keeping me going on this tightrope of a course, but whatever it is it’s pushing me. It’s reminding me of the primary school in Enfield where small children needed help. It’s making me think of my friend Gavin Zibe who took his own life just when he needed help the most. It’s a feeling that is stronger than me.

It’s telling me, like a quiet whisper, that this can make a difference, even for just one person.

And so the fight goes on.