This piece was sent to us, from a dear friend. An athlete we respect, a winner. We, I, did not realise, not only the depths of his struggle but the strength of his continuing rise.
The honesty, growth and bravery is, not only a fantastic read but inspirational. It also reminds us, that we need to ask, even the strongest of us, the fastest of us, “How are you doing” and to listen to the response.
This is one of the many pieces we have received from people we cannot catch in a race, that we hold a candle too.
Be Fearless… ask
Be Fearless… listen
Be Fearless… share
Something about me
For those who don’t know me and those that do, this isn’t going to be easy! But it will be honest, and that’s the best place to start.
My name is Paul Furness, 46; I live in Rugby, I am single. I have worked for BT as a planner for 27 years. I am an Ex-Obstacle Racer. Currently, a Marathon and Ultra Marathon Fan, a runner at Rugby and Northampton AC, UK Athletics Mental Health Ambassador, a qualified PT and I am an Alcoholic with an Eating Disorder. BOOOM!!! That’s out there now.
I split with My Girlfriend in September 2017, I had a few issues before this, including insomnia and anxiety. Post-split, I had eating and drinking binges that in an evening or afternoon would see me consume 10-12,000 calories in alcohol and calorie dense foods! These mindless binges escalated towards Christmas of 2017, but I was training and thought nothing of it and the effects on my mind and body.
Resolution 1 – Sleep
I’d struggled with sleep for many years, and now at this point, I felt a wakeup call. My sleeping issues used to have a negative effect on my emotional wellbeing, so severely that I had many suicidal thoughts. After 3 or 4 days of 2 hours sleep a night it did get me down. Anyway, I went to the doctors, and she prescribed me an anti-depressant that, to be honest, I didn’t want to take but I had to change something.
I took up meditation twice a day, ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night and, like any training mind or body, this was super hard, but I persisted. I incorporated this into my five pillars.
The Five Pillars
- Mind – Any kind of headspace where I’m doing nothing other than just being.
- Sleep – Getting a minimum of 6.5 hrs. sleep a night. I don’t need 8, 6.5 and I won’t die!
- Water – Two litres of water a day minimum.
- Training/Running – Minimum of 20 mins per session per day.
- Diet – A healthy balanced diet, no excessive calorie dense food or drinking (still struggling with this but it’s getting better, there’s no quick fix as they say)
So 11 months later I don’t have insomnia any more, I don’t get anxiety any more, and I’ve been this way for four months. It’s not that I can stop those “activators”, they stay. More importantly, I have to be emotionally aware of how I feel daily and adapt if I feel the need.
Resolution 2 – Alcoholism and Eating Disorder
You might want to get comfortable here and set aside a little time!
The eating and drinking binges went from bi-weekly to once a week, to two, then three, then four times a week and at its worst seven days!! In for a penny, in for a pound! We have all been there, right?
Each time I would relapse I would battle back, try again through sheer willpower but I was creating bad habits and emotional instability, and I was getting quite depressed with my behaviour. Somedays, it was so easy to start drinking again, to make me “feel better“, then the eating would start, and so we entered back into the circle of pain.
On top of my binges, I was also doing things illegally I should not have been doing and I was hiding from a real fix and had basically given up on life and somedays I’d drink so much and eat so much garbage I’d hope that I’d pass out and die or have a heart attack or something. God knows I was so emotionally unstable!
All of my behaviours, like many addicts, was alone and when I tried to connect with people and admit to having an issue because they never saw it they would say, ‘you don’t have an issue’ which then gave the devil in my mind a reason to say what I was doing was OK!!!
Unfortunately most of my family and friends I connect with mainly on SOCIAL MEDIA! Which, in my new world, is part of the issue, but that’s for another day.
Resolution Part 3 – ‘I can see the Light’
So I decided to take action.
I didn’t want to be the person I had become, I never did, but I was now at a crossroad in my life. I’d tried to fix myself but as frustrating as it was, given all my abilities and knowledge, I was utterly stuck.
I went in search of professional help; Mind Coaches, NLP therapists, Russell Brand’s brilliant book on Addiction and Recovery. Some were useful, some not so much, some extremely expensive and I could not afford it. Some free or cheap, such as a local Drug and Drink service and the SMART Recovery online help service, but the key for me was to shop around and find out what worked/is working for me.
Like any significant change, this was going to be super hard. As humans, we are designed to take the easy option to protect ourselves. It’s not lazy, it’s our human nature, but with time and the correct training and tools, you can make the brain think the hard stuff is easy. Again this is for another time.
One of my first lessons was Understanding My Emotional responses and that my emotions were dictating my decisions. It was very frustrating and upsetting to realise that it was not me making the decisions!
With this information now in hand, I set about finding mental clarity and to remove the worst emotion. NEGATIVE EMOTION, a completely useless emotion that will only harm me. Strange how I thought I was feeling negative towards someone or something, and I thought it might somehow change!
The use of the tools called the ABCs, HALT, and Finding the Triggers (Really deep this one. Needs explaining another day) aided. Reducing time spent on social media was easily fixed by downgrading from a 12MB package to a 4MB one. I now spend more time with Real People at my Athletics Club. I try and chat to people at work more.
When reducing time on social media, I got asked would I not feel isolated? Now, I thought about this a lot, and the answer is “No! How can looking at a screen of peoples’ FB posts connect me with them? Am I connecting with Real people about their real lives? I know I don’t share the real me on FB, like I am sharing with you, here. I’d much rather have one conversation a week with someone so that I can hear/listen/share/discuss their emotional wellbeing and thoughts than a 1000 mindless “likes” about a meal out or a trip to the seaside or a someone bleating about having a headache!
I now spend more, but not all my time just being, growing every day, relaxing my mind. Just sitting analysing my own mental and emotional wellbeing. My troubled days are not over by a long shot. As I type this on 08/08/18, just after a real and inspired conversation with my friend Nick, I remember I had lapsed just five days ago, and I’m still trying to learn and grow from that situation.
So to wrap this up as part of the Okhane community, I’m hoping my experience and growth can be shared, learnt, spread. I have much, much more I can add to this. So much more from my growth over the last 11 months. I’ve learnt so much about Human Mental Behaviours, you could get me talking for hours, and I’d be happy to, if it helps, don’t think we will be sitting down over 4 White Ciders and a bucket of Cadbury’s!
Much of this crosses over into many aspects of life.
Please feel free to contact me; I’d gladly have a real conversation about anything you like. I am an extremely good runner (Nick added this during editing, the git!) and will be attempting a Sub 3 hour Marathon in October after getting so close this year.