I get asked for my story a lot. I don’t really think its necessarily that interesting or very different from a lot of other people’s stories really. Basically, I got ill and my live changed forever in both very good and very bad ways.
I was at my friend’s house one day back in 2011 and we were watching Eastenders when I suddenly started to shake and then I froze. I couldn’t move at all, it was like my brain forgot how to tell my body how to do it. My friend thought I’d had a stroke. It was scary to say the least. It kept happening again over the next few days so I went to the doctors and then the months of different tests at the hospital. It got to the point where I couldn’t work. I’d shake and freeze and my shoulders would refuse to relax then days when I wasn’t shaking or freezing the pain in my shoulders would be so unbearable that I had to painkillers to be able to sleep.
The shaking and freezing got worse as the months went by, I’d be dizzy all the time, my eyes started struggling to focus, I often didn’t know which way was up or down and it then it began affecting my speech. I discovered that I couldn’t deal with patterns any more. If I heard a song that repeated itself over and over it would get stuck in my head and it’s all I’d be able to hear and my head would want to explode. My latest thing over the past year has been noise. My ears are so sensitive when I’m ill now that I have to wear earplugs because everything is so loud. My poorly due to husband can’t even listen to music half the time. My illness super skills are that I can hear the tiniest noise from quite far away and I can tell you when you when we’re on something that’s moving even if it’s only very slightly because the movement seems much bigger to me.
I joke but it’s all very frustrating. I think one of the worst things for me was my loss of logic. Before I got ill (BIGI) it was probably one of the few things I was good at. I was at a work away day once where had to solve logic puzzles. I could solve them all, so much so that my boss told me off because I couldn’t explain how to solve them. I just knew the answers without having to go through the steps. Now, it’s like trying to swim through a water fog. Every step painstakingly takes forever and you need to write them down because I’ll have forgotten what the previous steps where a few minutes later. The water fog covers everything when I’m ill. To get a fork of food to my mouth is maybe a process of 20 different actions that I consciously have to go through. Constanltly having to tell yourself how to do every little thing is pretty exhausting and seriously frustrating. Especially when you get half way through the process and freeze or you shake and the food falls off. Then you have to start all over again.
I could go on and on about this thing I have that no one knows what it is but that’s pretty boring so let’s talk running instead. I think I’d always been a runner. When my friends ran races I’d go and volunteer but I thought 10k was impossible and I’d never in a million years be able to do it even though I secretly wanted to. I started running briefly when I quit smoking but I didn’t really get passed 5k before I gave up. When I could no longer work I moved from Derby to Warrington to be with my now husband. I didn’t know anyone so I just sat at home all day and put on loads of weight. I was pretty miserable and struggling to adapt to the ‘new me’. So my husband took me to Disney World and it was amazing. Whilst we were there someone told me about the Dopey challenge. I’ve been a serious Dopey fan for a very long time and so I became obsessed. I was determined I had to do it. I’d never ran more than a few miles and here I was adamant that I was going to run a 5k, 10k, half and marathon over 4 days. I downloaded a couch to 5k app as soon as I got home.
The rest really is history. To date (14 October 2019) I’ve ran over 500 races. 88 of them marathons, 50 odd halfs. I completed Dopey in 2016 and 2018. I’ve done 7 marathons in 7 days. 10 marathons in 10 days. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have reached my 100th marathon and completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks. I’m just 13 marathons away from completing it now. You might think that sounds very determined, focused (or just plain crazy) but before I got ill I literally never finished anything. I never gave anything my all because I thought it was better to be able to say that you didn’t really try as an excuse for failing. I had a note for most PE lessons at school, when I was there. I never really revised for exams. I found it quite easy to be average so that’s what I was. I never worked at or tried to achieve anything that required effort.
My first four years of my Open University degree is a perfect example. I did all the work last minute, never did more than I had to and got slightly above average marks for my lack of effort. My last year was after I got ill. I had to work my ass off seriously for everything I got that year. My illness made to so much harder that I had to give it everything to maintain what was so easy before but in return it made the victory so much greater. I cried when I went on stage to collect my 2:1 in Social Science because it was the first thing I ever had to work for.
The strength and sense of self belief I got from this is how I run marathons. Marathons in return gave me a positive mental attitude. I learned very early on that my race is very much dictated by my frame of mind. Bad attitude bad race, good attitude and it might still be a bad race but you’ve enjoyed it so who cares. I’m very much a (seriously sarcastic but) positive person now. Most likely to the point of being annoying. I have my illness to thank for that. It’s also taught me not to judge people and to aim to be kinder. I’ve had my fair share of judgemental and unkind people treat me like I’m less than since I got ill. I don’t dwell on it any more other than to remind myself to be and do better. You can’t control anyone but yourself and the actions of others usually have more to do with their own issues than yours so if I allow it to make me bitter than I lose out not them. Being ill has made me wise in my (not so) old age.
I don’t really think about much when I freeze now, I find if I shut off my brain and don’t fight it then it passes quicker and doesn’t get worse. In the past though I used to sit there and think that when I can move again I’m never going to stop. I’m going to keep running and throwing myself at the world and never take life for granted. My philosophy to life is pretty much my philosophy to running, why settle for one race when you can run every race on offer. I’m very much a Dopey.