William’s Thanksgiving “I’m In”

Thanksgiving: not such a big deal in the UK but semi acknowledged. I thought that it was about time to truly put it on my personal map and live the day’s namesake to it’s fullest. After having a personal day of reflection on world mental health day (October), I had a timely conversation with my American colleague in the UK who said that for Thanksgiving she would get out and run a half marathon distance for herself. I instantly committed to doing the same. I am no expert in psychology or fitness, but I am sure that if you hold yourself accountable to someone else to do something then there’s a better chance you will do it. Additionally, like so many others I feel better mentally if I look after myself physically. Running and sport has always been an outlet for me, so I thought I would share my message about my battle with OCD and the sense of accomplishment I feel with running. At times I feel like I am running off the bad thoughts! So I put this message out to my network and said that I would try and raise £500 for Lambeth and Southwark Mind, the community that I live in, and welcomed anyone else to get out and move that day- regardless of distance or speed. From that ‘I’m In For Thanksgiving’ was born- a day of communal fitness to reflect on tough times gone by but the defiance that prevails in overcoming them.

Having experienced OCD for the whole of my life, but only realizing it in the last few years, has led to an interesting journey. Self-labelled an overthinker or worrier as a child as I felt overwhelmed with uncontrollable thoughts when not being able to sleep or going to crowded social spaces, I would become consumed with dread, and this lasted into my teens. In my twenties, after a series of intrusive fears around health and passing on the disease to those I loved that was often based on irrationality and the guilt that went with that, as well as identity obsessive thoughts around sexuality, I was diagnosed with Anxiety. Finally, I felt thankful that this bizarre ‘worrying’ had a name for it, however as my mid-twenties became my late twenties, I met many others with anxiety, but none quite like mine. I always found this a little baffling. Why did I have such vivid thoughts about hitting a cyclist with my car? Or scaring an older person into shock as I passed them on my evening runs? These intrusive thoughts and there have been many more, compelled me to check; check the roads, check taps, check light switches and more. Learning about OCD- an acronym that has been misused more than most in our language- I was able to get explanations that I had hoped for.

As humans, I think that we find it remarkably comforting when we put a label on something. Suddenly we have an identity for this cause of distress, it becomes a condition that we can read about and confide in others. Through self-education, therapy, communal support and exercise I have been able to live a “pretty normal” life in conjunction with OCD. However, as a doctor recently and wisely reminded me; Just because you understand OCD doesn’t mean that it won’t affect you’, and she was right. OCD very much still affects me. After this, I thought for my own sake and the sake of my family, friends and colleagues that I would give therapy and CBT another go.

Race day came on 28th November and I saw that we had 1200GBP in the fundraiser and I knew that at least three of us would be doing something, my colleague and I and my lovely girlfriend who took on a kind of Tour De France support team role as she pedalled alongside us. By the end of the day, I was quite overwhelmed as we finished up our half marathons, and saw pictures come in from all over the world, from 5km to 42km runs, cycles and swims too. We probably had about 30 people take part in the end and raised over £2000 for L & S Mind’s critically important work. The day was a win but on Sunday as I woke up with sore legs, and a head full of intrusive thoughts, I reminded myself that this was one win in a much larger battle, one that is so personal to so many, but with repercussions that can be felt collectively. So, I will continue to run and continue to make noise about mental wellness, because you never know who you might help by doing so.

Check out Will’s JustGiving Page here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thanksgivingimin