Final part in a series of 'Dark Days' posts for Disability Diaries Feature.
Beating depression is a highly personal thing. Unless your mind, your brain, your thoughts want to banish it there is nothing anyone else can do, or say to make any difference. If you are lucky enough to dispatch it out into the great unknown, that does not mean that it is going to stay floating out in space leaving you in peace for the rest of your days.
For me, having suffered with depression for a short period in my life - in reaction to discovering my baby boy had suffered brain damage, with the consequence being he is afflicted with the condition Cerebral Palsy - I feel relatively safe that I can keep depression at bay. I think it would take something pretty huge and grandscale, like what happened to J1 to take me back to that stage.
But I am mindful. I was obviously susceptible to a degree, otherwise I would have made it through that period without anti-depressants. To that end I respect, more than ever, the power of the mind and the need to keep it healthy, as much as the need to stay physically fit in order to be able to care for J1.
I was helped out of my personal 'black hole' with the help of science, but also with the suggestion of some good old fashioned 'Health and Fitness'. From this suggestion I fell in love with running for the first time and decided that I needed to face a challenge. A real challenge that could try and give me some tiny, small insight into what sort of strength J1 would need to have on a day to day basis.
I applied for a Gold Bond place with a charity to run the London Marathon 2006 and was successful. After months of training, that in my opinion now should have been much more dedicated, we found ourselves at that wonderful weekend in April. The roads of London were closed off. The Mall was adorned with Union Jack flags. Hotels were booked up with crazy Marathon wannabes.
We decided to make a family weekend of it. My parents booked us a family room at a hotel for three nights and on the Friday morning, packed like loaded donkeys we took J1 on his first train journey to London. It was exciting from the start. We had a packed weekend, starting with going to the Expo to register at the Excel centre.
It was wonderful. A world of running and adrenaline surrounded me as I went from one stall to another, ate pasta and picked up all of my equipment needed for The Big Day. A chip for my shoe. A running number. A bag for all of my personal belongings with '2006 London Marathon' emblazoned on it.
On Saturday we were invited to a Pasta Party with the charity. It was a fantastic boost as I got to meet other runners and hear their own personal stories of what had brought them to this point. J1 got an amazing reception and many attendees said meeting him reminded them even more it had been worth all the effort of training. It was a beautiful afternoon so we took J1 for his first ever visit to Hyde Park and enjoyed the City of London.
Out of everything, the thing I was most worried about was making my way to the starting point for the Marathon. I have zero sense of direction. I needn't have worried. As I left the hotel I found myself constantly surrounded by other running attired people and at that time of the morning on a Sunday very few others. The tubes were opened freely for travel by runners as part of the Marathon and there was a wonderful, excited buzz on the journey.
Once off of the tube there was a fair walk to the start. It was a unique sight seeing all the different running vests bobbing along. By some miracle, both colleagues who I knew were also running I bumped into on the walk and it was nice to see a familiar face. It helped take some of the pre-start anxiety away.
I decided to be sensible and use the bathrooms before I joined the masses to get through the start gate. That is quite a feat in itself. There are plenty of toilets, but the queues for them are massive. When I see the overhead shot on the TV now it always makes me smile. Again, everyone just found it an opportunity to chat to others. By the time I got through that queue the bulk of people had made their way through the start, so I didn't have to wait long before the big starting arch was in my vision.
With a lurge in my stomach, I checked I had everything where I needed it. Felt that the chip on my trainer was secure for the millionth time. Started, stopped and cleared my own stop watch and gamely set off on my Marathon Quest 2006.
It was still super busy at the start so I couldn't get running until about a mile in, and the excitement of it all; the crowds rows and rows deep full of cheer and support; the television cameras; the bunting and advertising meant I was at Cutty Sark before I realised it. The next marker was Tower Bridge. Half way. They register your time here on your chip so all I could hear was 'beep, beep, beep, beep' of the runners times being captured, a memory stored forever. My next marker was the Charity Cheering point at mile 18. I was starting to feel it by the time I reached this point and was glad to see my family and J1, wearing his 'Run Mummy Run' T.Shirt.
I took the opportunity to change my shirt and pick up extra sweets here. It had rained non stop from the start and I was saturated and chilly. I don't know if the stop was the trigger to hitting my wall, but at mile 19 I walloped into it with force. The next four miles were bleak. It is a pretty dull part of the race with scarce crowd support (it might have been due to the torrential rain which had by now set in of course). I was back to be absolutely soaked to the skin. I was sick of my sweets and Kendal Mint cake. I had had enough and wanted to give up. In the darkness of one of the tunnels I stopped. I wanted to sit down and never run another step again. I wanted to get a lift to the end.
It was here I realised the importance of having a strong mind when doing a distance like the Marathon. I had ignored this element of it and now I was suffering. I had to go back to my key thoughts of 'I have the ability to do this run or walk, my child does not.'
I plopped a tear as I realised that I had no clue where I was. No phone signal to get some moral support and the only thing I could do was carry on. After this low the rain eased up a little. Then I saw it, the magical sign for 23 miles. My final marker before the end. I had trained my mind to repeat the following mantra on long runs - 'Only three short miles to go.' As I crept out onto Embankment the support from the crowd lifted again to the heights it had been at the start. I decided to start jogging again.
Three miles, at 23 miles is not short. But as the two mile marker came into view I couldn't help feeling a buzz. I was looking forward to running up the Mall to the Marathon music and to meeting my family at the end. Just as I was coming into the Mall I heard my name being screamed. As I looked I saw my family had managed to get to the front. They had lifted J1 out of the warmth and dry of his buggy and was waving his arms around. He was in hysterics and loving it and this pushed me to sprint the final 'point two' miles.
Going over the finish line was immense. I donned my medal and spotted a photographer and thought 'I have to have this picture'. Lovely volunteers were wrapping me in foil and giving me drinks and asking how I felt at completing the Marathon? I didn't know. I felt exhausted and elated but it hadn't sunk in that I had actually completed that challenge I set myself the October before.
It didn't sink in for a while either. Everyone else who had supported me were more excited than I was. It felt great to get my photos from the race arrive, and to see my name in the list of finishers in the newspaper. My work did a follow up article about how I did. Nowadays it is something I look back and think wow, what an amazing experience - how did I do that?
After the Marathon I came off of the anti-depressants. I went back to my proper work hours and our life had truly started to have routine, that included all the world of disability and we were coping. As I say, the sadness of it doesn't go away completely. But I had made my way through the grieving process and had finally got to acceptance. That had taken longer than 26.2miles and had been far tougher than the Marathon.