Running for my Life
Running, by faith and with endurance, from mental illness to marathon runner, charity campaigner, and brother in Christ

A Dark Reminder - Suicide

“I don't want to hurt you or anybody so please forget about me. Just try. Find yourself a better friend.”

Nina LaCour, Hold Still

I wrote, earlier this year, about looking in the mirror; at that time, it was through a look into the frightened eyes of a young homeless woman, remembering when mental illness had reduced me to seeking refuge and shelter in Victoria Coach Station in the dead of night. It is well known that this was only the beginning of a road which would lead me to seek the end of my own life. Again, I have written about those times and the road of rebuilding.

One of the key factors for me in rebuilding was a peer support group. Knowing that I was not alone, that I wasn't a pariah, leper, gave me hope; sharing the journey with others who understood how it felt to be a small child in an adult body, learning to be well again after being ravaged by mental illness. This was a road which began with empathy from which was borne hope long before full life resumed.

In 2006, eight strangers were brought together in a peer group. All of us had lived through suicide attempts in the previous 6 months, some multiple even beforehand. Eleven years on, as of last Friday morning, only I can tell you what was said in that room when we all made the choice of life. It is difficult to really express my emotions right now; guilt, regret, sadness, sympathy, blessed, determined, angry; there is such a mixture of feeling inside me.

All I know is that for all the progress being made to crush stigma, it counts for nothing, nada, when there is an absolute paucity, scandalously so, of resources available for people crying out for help. Until we change this, all the publicity and awareness is a smokescreen, covering up the real symptom caused by a series of governments who have ignored the mental health crisis and perpetually decimated funding to our brilliant NHS.

Sarah, to me, had been much more than a peer on this journey. She was one of my best friends, someone with whom I had shared so much. Even when I spoke to her last week, I could not for a moment sense what was to come. That shouldn't surprise me, mental illness created Oscar winning virtuosos from those who would never a stage see other than that of a tormented life.

She is free of that torment now and safely in the arms of our maker and saviour. He will not judge her as many still would here. But then again those who would judge would never dare a mile to walk in her shoes.

When I ran the Great Birmingham 10k on Sunday, never had a run been so meaningful yet hollow simultaneously. It didn't matter, it can't bring her back, yet it meant everything to honour her by running quicker than I ever have over that distance. The photographer perfectly captures a moment of physical and mental anguish juxtaposed with thanking God for friendship and for all He gives me daily in my life.

Ciao amica. The fight will go on to change attitudes and change lives. Your legacy will be one to your family and friends of someone who loved with all she had, who fought with all she had to the point where there was nothing left to give. I'll always cherish the friendship you gave me.