Olivia Ponsford, runner and fundraiser for L&S Mind, explains how running has helped her through her recovery from an eating disorder
In 2017 I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I found it to be one of the most testing yet rewarding experiences of my life. The support and strength that I got from the people around me was so encouraging and made me so much more confident in my ability when it came to doing the race!
Taking part in a run on behalf of a mental health charity like L&S Mind is something that is very important to me. I’ve had an eating disorder for nearly four years now and I deal with the struggles that occur from it on a daily basis. Although I was diagnosed with bulimia just last year, it has had control over my life for a long time. It led to a wide range of other consequences for me, some of which put me on a path to self-destruction.
Running gives me a sense of release. I get completely lost in the moment when I run and I don’t worry or think about anything negative. Today, I still deal with suppressing thoughts, so it is nice to have a little time to myself when my mind is not completely consumed by them.
It’s vital to spread the message that L&S Mind are there to help people, especially when professional help isn’t always available immediately. I wasn’t taken seriously by my GP at a time when I really needed help. When I finally got a referral after multiple A&E visits I got lost on the system and was subsequently left confused as to why I couldn’t get any help. I was told I had to wait six months for specialised eating disorder therapy.
It was very difficult for me to sit and comprehend that I had to get through such a long period of time with no help when I couldn’t even face getting through the next day.
I owe thanks to my family and friends for helping me fully enter the recovery process, and it’s because of them that I am in a better place now than I was over a year ago.
In the year since the run I’ve learnt that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I feel more able to openly talk about it now than ever before.
In the future I want to run for those who have suffered – and still suffer – and spread the message that although it may feel like you are fighting the biggest battle alone, the best way to deal with it is to turn to friends, family and charities like Mind.