In February this year I used my blog to talk about my racing and my current health situation, as I wanted to provide an update on why I wasn’t racing at the moment. At the time I explained that I hoped to be back racing in May. Since then I’ve used my Twitter and Facebook profiles to announce my withdrawal from various individual races and with May now nearly upon us I wanted to explain publicly the current situation and where I see things progressing this year.
Unfortunately further medical investigations have meant that treatment for the pain I’ve been experiencing to my cochlear implant site didn’t progress as quickly as had been anticipated by either myself or the medical professionals who were treating me at the time of my last blog post. At the time it was believed that the pain was caused by an infection around my implant site however it now appears that the cause is more complicated, and as a result the treatment will be too. Whilst I don’t have exact timescales I know with certainty that I can’t expect any progress until mid-May at the earliest, which is obviously devastating. Furthermore I’ve also had confirmed that some of the medication I’m on to control my pain can affect the medication that is controlling my lungs after the problems I had back in 2015, which completely eliminates any chance of even partaking in light training until this situation is fully resolved.
With this in mind I’ve had to think very carefully about the rest of my racing season. I have to be realistic about the lack of fitness that I’ll experience when I am allowed to train, and the fact that it will be a slow process working back up to full training. With all of that in mind I’ve taken the decision to pull out of all races I had lined up until the end of July this year, where my season was due to take a natural break anyway. My aim, as long as medical investigations and treatment progress how I hope in early summer, would be to race in this years Bury 10k in September – it’s a distance that gives me something sensible to work towards, and as a race I enjoyed winning last year it gives me a clear goal to focus upon. At this moment it’s unlikely that, even if I manage Bury, I’ll race the Great North Run, a half marathon I’ve wanted to complete for a long time, as I want to stick to races I know and am confident with the courses when I do return to racing, but this is a decision I’ll finalise nearer the time.
I know it will come as no shock to some of you that I’ve been struggling with my depression quite severely over the last few months, which is perhaps no surprise, and I want to be honest in saying this has played a significant part in the decisions I’ve made. I recognise that I’m in a fragile state of mind at the moment. Over the last year since I’ve been able to talk more openly about my own mental illness I’ve grown to understand some of the triggers of my depression and I know that to rush back into training if/when I get the OK from doctors later in the year, and compete before I’m really ready to, could make me feel much worse than I need to. This isn’t a risk I want to take.
Many of you will know that this year I teamed up with Right To Play until the end of 2017, to promote their work and raise funds for them. The reason this came about was plain and simply because I felt passionate about the work they do as a charity and I wanted to support them in any way I could. This hasn’t changed, and they are still a charity I care deeply about. When I return to racing I will work with them to continue this partnership for as long as is possible, and hope to continue to work to support them throughout 2018 when I hope to race a full competitive season. I’m delighted that I’ll also use some of my free time in July to support the fundraising Right To Play will be doing at the London Stadium as they have once again been chosen as the official charity partner of the Anniversary Games.
Finally, I wanted to talk not about my racing, but about me. The last few months have been some of the hardest of my life. Some of you who know me well will have picked up on this through my writing, but hopefully most of you are unaware because I hope I’ve hidden it well. After the difficulties of the last 18 months, and the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on, I genuinely believed that 2017 would be ‘my year’. Everything seemed to be going right in training, and I was excited about the year ahead. Clearly things haven’t worked out the way I had hoped. The medical challenges I’ve faced, and watching more dreams come crashing down around me, have been one of the toughest things I’ve faced mentally.
I posted a short update on my social network profiles a few weeks ago talking about some of the attitudes I’ve experienced over the last few months which have made things tougher for me – having an illness that people can’t see seems to make some people feel they can pass judgement on how you cope with it, or how you deal with it. Dealing with being in intense pain on a daily basis and knowing that some people have the audacity to make their own judgements about the pain you’re in is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced and as I said at the time has regularly left me to break down in tears. I want to address this again one last time. The constant pain I’m in is leaving me not only incredibly uncomfortable but is leaving me physically exhausted. Unfortunately despite my best efforts some days that becomes evident in the way I act.
However when I’m in the middle of one of the hardest spells of my life it would be mentally detrimental to put my whole life on hold. Not being able to train is the hardest news I get, every time I get it, and things like football, and going to live music, are the things that keep me going, and give me the mental strength to continue day by day. That doesn’t mean I’m not in any less pain, it just means I’m dealing with everything that’s going on in the best way I can.
Over the next few months my priority is to get back to full physical health, as well as to improve my mental health as much as possible. I believe that being realistic about my return to racing will help both these aims, and I hope you’ll support me in that.
I’ve got a few things planned for the next couple of months that I’m really excited about and I want to share with you as a final thought. Many of you will have seen the blog I wrote last week about how I believe country music has helped my own mental health. I was overwhelmed with the response to that. I received a staggering number of messages from people who expressed their thanks for what I wrote, who said it had helped them, and much to my amazement I also received a message from one of the country artists whose music has helped me so much, encouraging me to keep writing. Over the next few weeks I hope to do just that. I want to get back into blogging about some of my favourite topics, and I’ll be using this platform for that.
I’m also super excited to have a number of great gigs lined up that give me something to focus on and look forward to, including getting to see Sheryl Crow live for the first time – one of the two artists who I attribute as responsible for my love of country music thanks to her music being regularly played when I was young!
Finally, if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’ve been playing about with my own music again recently, regularly using my guitar and keyboard, along with the wonders of iPhone apps, to play my own music. It’s a really helpful outlet for my emotions, and further reinforces the deep emotions in many of my favourite country songs, so I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time developing that.
So whilst it’s not been the most eloquent piece of writing I’ve ever done, I hope this blog gives you a bit of an update on where I’m at right now. I hope that you’ll understand why I continue not to race, and what’s going on in my mind right now. I hope it will serve to answer any questions about what’s going on medically, and hopefully explain to those who think they know better why I’m not curled up in my bed every evening getting angry about my situation, even though there’s days when that’s truly all I want to do. And I hope also you’ll see that I’m desperate to get better, both physically and mentally, and everything I’m doing right now is a part of that process.
Thanks as ever for your support