Alicia Hopper is a nurse who has always encouraged openness about mental health, but when it came to her own mental health, she initially struggled. Alicia describes how she came to terms with her mental health and got involved at parkrun to help manage it.
In my mid-twenties I was diagnosed with clinical depression.
It was at a time when things were really good in my life. I had a wonderful job, a beautiful fiancé and we were planning our wedding. I should have just been happy, but instead, other than going to work, I couldn’t get off the couch. I finally realised it wasn’t normal so I went and saw my GP. I was diagnosed with depression and started on anti-depressants.
Even as a nurse who would always talk to patients about how there’s no shame in mental health or mental illness, I still had shame about being on antidepressants, feeling like I’d failed in some way.
However, when I acknowledged to myself that I had depression and had the diagnosis, there was this huge weight off. Once I knew there was something wrong I could do something about it.
As a result, I started to focus more on my physical and mental wellbeing. parkrun has been a huge part of me maintaining good mental health.
parkrun has provided consistency, it’s every Saturday morning, it’s at the same time and because it’s such a safe and welcoming community if I’m not in a good frame, I can still go along, and sit with my friends, and walk with them. There’s no judgement. It’s a safe space.
I will always have depression. I think of it like a chronic illness, like somebody with diabetes or heart disease or kidney disease. It’s something that I need to think about and manage with a multitude of tools in the toolbox.
There have been days over the years where I haven’t wanted to walk, so I’ve just been able to sit with the volunteers. I’ve just said ‘look, why don’t I help sort tokens’ or ‘I’ll do the coffee run for the volunteers’. This means I’m still around people but I don’t have to explain myself.
At the end of the day, parkrun’s about community.
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