If you had told me last year that exercising would help my mental health, I would have politely told you to go away and that I didn’t need your help. I was stubborn and I was adamant nothing was wrong with me. But that’s when things started to escalate.
I was a mess for a long time last year; I didn’t want to see anybody and I shut off people I loved. I hated everything about me including my job, my uni and most importantly myself and the way I looked. I have always been very self-conscious and hated the way I looked in the mirror. I put on weight easily and have suffered from really bad acne for years and these have always had a really bad effect on me. When I looked in the mirror I would cry easily because I was just so unhappy with how I looked.
Something had to change and I knew this, I also knew that I needed professional help which was a massive step. I had to admit that I had a problem and had to deal with it. I was put on a high dose of antidepressants and had monthly check-ups with a doctor but I knew this wasn’t how I wanted to live the rest of my life. These did help though, and I started making progress with how I felt and I saw the old me start to creep back into my life. It wasn’t till around April time that I decided I wanted to change the way I looked as I had been making such progress with how I felt. I started going out walks during lockdown and then eventually with a friend, who encouraged me every day to get up and do something even when I didn’t want to (no lockdown rules were broken, I promise), I started watching what I was eating and cut out alcohol. I saw small changes quickly and started to feel better. However, I get bored easily and without my friend telling me to get up and go out I struggled still. That’s when things got bad again and I hit a wall and started to think what was the point of all this?
In July I was going through Instagram stories, just like most of my Sunday nights, when I noticed a friend was starting to do PT sessions. Instantly without thinking about it I messaged her. I’ve never been a massive ‘gym person’ but I knew that I wanted and needed to try something new especially with how I knew I could slip into bad habits easily, and I was desperate to change the way I looked. I started that week and I can safely say it has been the best decision I have made this year.
I started weekly personal training and at one time I was one of those people who laughed at people saying their mental health got better when they worked out. I know there is science behind how exercising can help your brain and how you are feeling but you are better asking a professional about that, and not me – a marketing executive. But I cannot explain how much better I felt with even one session with my trainer, Morgan. She motivated me in and out of the gym, she set aside time to speak to me every day and she knew how I felt and never let me down. She’s pushed me beyond my limits, proved to me that I can do anything that I want, she’s helped me feel better mentally and most importantly I’m fitter than I have ever been.
I enjoy working out now and I enjoy everything she puts me through. I’d even push the boat out and say I now enjoy feeling sore every Tuesday morning from the workout. It makes me finally feel motivated and alive, and I get excited seeing myself get better after every session. When I come out of my training I feel like I am on top of the world and it sets me off for the rest of the week. My trainer also motivated me to keep going with my workouts out of the gym, she’s encouraged me to continue my healthy eating and not to feel too guilty when I go off plan. In the end, it was worth it.
I’m not saying that if you have a mental health problem that working out will help you but I know from personal experience that I have been at my lowest and been able to build myself up, and became a new person. I’m still anxious about many situations but I feel like I’m starting to feel happier about how I look which was a massive part of why I hated going out, as I was scared what people thought about me. You’ll know yourself what is good and what is bad for yourself but I just want to tell you that trying out something new doesn’t have to be a big scary experience, it can be as simple as getting a little bit of help. I know that if I’m having a bad day I can work out my anger and different emotions, whether it be a walk, run or a full-on kettlebell exercise.
In a matter of months, I’ve shed the pounds and went on to a lower dose of medication which is a massive achievement for myself. With everything going on in the world it’s hard to not get caught up in all the negatives in life. It’s hard to not give up when the world may be falling apart around you. I see my workouts now as my self-care and that I’m looking after myself, especially when I let myself go for such a long time. I didn’t look after my body for years and I abused it. Now I see the importance of making sure I’m fit and feeling good. You have to remember that you matter and that you can turn things around, If I can, you certainly can. So maybe try that exercise class you’ve always wanted to go to, go to the gym (nobody cares what you look like! Everyone has to start somewhere), set those goals you want to set and go for it.
Instagram: @auldy _