Sunday, 13 May 2018

My 1st 26.2 - the highs lows, and everything in between

I haven't written a blog in a while, and my life has moved on quite a bit since my last entry - I've moved home, finished my PhD (officially a Dr. Price!), I've started a new job and I've run my first marathon, so I thought it was about time I wrote another blog. I've missed writing down my ramblings more than I realised.

So it's been three weeks since I RAN MY FIRST MARATHON(!!!) and I still can't quite believe it. I signed up for the ABP Southampton Marathon on the 15th October after receiving my commiserations email from London. I thought if I was willing to run London - then I should take on the challenge anyway. So, without any idea of where I would be living, if I would have passed and finished my PhD, what job I would have (if any), I had in my head that at least I would know where I would be on the 22nd April 2018 - running my first marathon.

One of the reasons I had decided to take on the challenge of the full marathon was to mark 5 years since loosing my beautiful mum to Mesothelioma in November 2012. When she passed I had just started the final year of my undergraduate and in all honesty I wasn't in a great place for a few years after (but that discussion is for another time), now, looking back, running really helped me find myself again after a couple of years of numbness, and I will be forever grateful for what running has done for me.

After deciding to run in memory of my mum I decided to raise some money for Mesothelioma UK. Whilst I was thinking about fundraising I realised that a lot of the time diseases become alienated by their name. People may not have heard of a disease, and it almost immediately becomes impersonal. I think frequently we forget that behind every disease and illness, there are people. People that should be remembered. Not remembered as being defined by their disease but remembered for the incredible fight the disease put them through and their courage and determination to keep going.

For one, my mum was given 2 weeks when she was finally diagnosed and fought for 5 months. The will and determination for life that she expressed, even in her last weeks, was something I could never imagine. 
I decided I wanted to start a campaign - the people of mesothelioma - to honour and remember all of the past and present mesothelioma warriors. The idea was that I would carry all of their names on my running kit while I ran Southampton Marathon.

I didn't expect much of a response but was over whelmed by the response the campaign received. I carried 32 names of past and present fighters over the finish line. A moment I will never forget.

In the lead up to the marathon, in all honesty I was just terrified. Terrified I couldn't do it. Thinking I was stupid for even trying. Scared of failing, scared of the heat expected on the day having trained in winter, scared of not fuelling properly, scared of the crowds, scared of the hills and if I'm honest, scared of pooping myself (not the most graceful first marathon appearance). The one thing that got me to that start line was the support from all of the people that put names of warriors forward. I can't thank them enough for the support they gave me. 

The night before the marathon I sat in a hotel room with one of my biggest supporters (my sister), and looked through photos that people were tweeting me of the people I would be carrying the next morning. I couldn't help but well up, how much this all meant to me was hitting me right in the chest in a way I could never have imagined. 

The morning of the marathon I woke up, feeling incredibly tense and terrified but I put my Mesothelioma UK vest on covered in the names of #thepeopleofmesothelioma and was taken over by an intense feeling of determination. There was no way I wasn't finishing. 

With fear in my stride I walked to the race village in silence with my sister and partner along side me chatting. I couldn't deal with that now. My way to deal with anxiety is to become silent and as still as possible (minus the shaking ;)). As I was about to go into the baggage tent to drop my change of clothes off, a woman approached me and asked if I was Eugenia - I had her dads name on my top. She thanked me, along with the people that were with her. I couldn't speak. I can't at the best of times due to my social anxiety, but this was even more intense, I said thank you for coming up to me and held in the tears. As soon as she left I just looked at my sister, and we both cried - I needed this. After seeing the family of people I was running for, I was more determined than ever. I dropped off my bag, went for one last loo stop and went to the start line.

The wait for the gun to go off felt like a lifetime, I was surrounded by people, and they were all getting closer and closer, squishing me. I tried to just keep my breathing calm and kept looking at my hands where I had written 'you've got this' and 'yes you can' - something to remind me that I was capable when my mind started faltering.

6 minutes or so after the first wave of runners I finally crossed the start line and I was off! Around 1/2 a mile in to the run I saw a running friend, Jonathan. We've been friends on social media for a while but never met in person. I saw him and my nerves almost got the better of me, but I shouted 'Jonathan!' and I'm so glad I did. We had a friendly chat (and of course a sneaky selfie c.o. Jonathan) and this gave me a boost of positivity I carried with me throughout the run.

Southampton marathon route. Find it on strava here.
Southampton marathon elevation profile. Find it on strava here
The route was fantastic - although a two lap course I have to say this is one of my favourite races so far, and despite all the horrors I heard about the Itchen bridge prior to the race, it really wasn't that bad (until you're going up it for the fourth time XD!). 

The course takes you through the town, over the Itchen Bridge, around the seafront, through a bit of housing, through the stadium, past the harbour and through parks. The course features really diverse scenery - just what you want to distract yourself. 

The run was going surprisingly well until the second loop, just after the half way point. At the start of the loop I started laughing hysterically at a woman next to me asking 'are you regretting doing the full now too?!' having already endured the heat and hills for 2 hours. 

At this point I saw my supporters for the second time and they ran a little bit with me cheering me on like I was Mo Farah. At first I thought all was going well - over 13 miles in and I was still doing OK. This lasted until I went up over the Itchen Bridge for the 4th time.

I had to walk. Something I never did in training and didn't intend to do on the day. But it was the only thing keeping me going. I was pooring water over myself at every station, soaking myself, but I was still way too hot. As soon as I was a hundred meters away from the water station I was roasting again. 

I had to keep going so I convinced myself that if I ran for another 10 minutes I could walk for 30 seconds. This went on from miles 19 miles to 23.5.. playing a to and fro mental game with myself to keep going. Around 19.5 miles I started crying, I couldn't contain it, I don't know why. I was hot, I was tired, but I was OK,  I just couldn't stop the tears. I managed to keep it in for a while and then I saw my sister and boyfriend again at around 20 miles. This would be the last time I saw them until the finish, and unlike the first time I saw them at the same place (at 6 miles) where I flung my arms up in a peace signs, I couldn't even properly look at them. I tried to smile but instead floods of tears came out. What I was managing to keep in was suddenly an open dam. The thought that I had over an hour left to run was tearing down my defences. I ran on with huge shouts of 'DO IT FOR THE PEOPLE OF MESOTHELIOMA' behind me egging me on for the final 10km as I wiped the tears from my face. 

When I got the 38km mile mark I knew I could do it. I had 4km to go and the managing director of the company I work for was waiting with her family at 25 miles to support me. Knowing that this final boost of support was a mile or so ahead and that there was half an hour left I had a new lease of life. I put one foot in front of the other, grinned and waved as I passed Elaine and her family, and just kept running, I passed the 25 mile marker, the 26 mile marker and suddenly I was in the finish tunnel madly searching right to left so I didn't miss my sister and boyfriend. I needed to see them, to know they were there with me.

It wasn't until I was steps from the line that I saw them - my sister shouting her lungs off and martin grinning and cheering next to her. I threw my arms in the air and was filled with a huge surge of pride, like something I had never felt before in my life. 

I was done. I had ran a friggin marathon! Thousands of steps, breaths, tears, heartbeats and 26.2 miles in 4 hours 39 minutes. I carried 32 names across the line and I'm sure that all of them were there with me. I had no doubt my mum was looking down on me with so much pride (I hope so anyway).

All I can say, is a marathon is another beast compared to any other race I've run. I had emotions I have never experienced before while running, and it's something I will never forget. People told me that it would be a few weeks before I wanted to run another, it was a few moments. I will be back marathon - you're a beast I can't wait to tackle again - and maybe next time, I can be mentally stronger and run every single step. 

Looking back now, one thing I want to say is if you want to run a marathon DO IT! I have incredible amounts of self doubt at the best of times (I'm working on it), and if I can do it - so can you. Hell or high water, if you want it enough you can do it and I will be with you every step of the way.

The fighting force that the warriors of every disease carry with them in their spirit is something we should all strive to embody. I truly believe that if people like my mum can fight a disease for 5 months, fighting for every step, every breath and every moment, any of us can run a marathon. It may be a fight, but it will be nothing compared to what many people are fighting every day behind closed doors.

This has been a long one - so thank you for reading and finally, thank you to everyone that has supported me, through donations, sharing my posts, spreading the word and getting involved.
I couldn't have done it without knowing so many people were willing me to finish.

Live strong, live happy, live free.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Putting Lapasa activewear through the run test - Gear Review

Firstly thanks to @theasthinkings for introducing me to Lapasa. I won a giveaway on her blog that put me in touch with the company and now I'm doing my own! Read to the end to find out how to enter :).

My pet peeve with running kit is when I buy some new gear that looks great but just doesn't pass the run test. So I've put Lapasa through the test!

Lapasa describes itself as a customer oriented athletic brand that focuses on providing comfort, premiere quality, high-tech apparel & customer satisfaction.

They kindly sent me a sports bra to review along with the yoga pants that I won in the @theasthinkings giveaway.

One thing I immediately loved is that their sports bras and leggings come in a great variety of colours:


I went for some full length navy leggings and a multicoloured blue/pink/purple sports bra.

First things first what are the top 5 things I look for in running gear? 
1. The kit must be completely opaque & squat proof (still opaque when squatting)
2. Wicking (sweat evaporates quickly) & Minimal sweat patches
3. Enough support (keeping the wobbly bits comfortably stable)
4. Temperature moderation (warm enough for cool runs & not too hot for warm runs)
5. How well they wash

So how did Lapasa stack up?
1. The material is just the right kind of thickness and 100% opaque. Despite this I would probably opt for seamless underwear if you don't want an underwear line.
2. I had no visible sweat patches! This is a massive positive for me. Wicking also seemed quite good - nothing out of the ordinary but standard.
3. Here I felt like Lapasa was lacking slightly on the sports bra front. Although the support wasn't awful I definitely think this is more suited to low intensity exercise as I didn't feel 100% supported even when just jogging. Not a deal killer though, just something to be weary of if you're mostly doing high intensity exercise. 
On the leggings front I really like the support they provide. They have a nice high waistband that helped support any wobbly stomach bits.
4. I've only had the chance to wear these for coldish runs but I've had no issues. I often overheat and didn't experience this at all with these and didn't feel as though they were too thin either.
5. They've been through the wash and come out fresh as a daisy with no lingering workout smells.

I'm a size 10/12 (medium) leggings normally and I followed the Lapasa sizing charts and went for a medium that seemed to fit me quite well. I would say they were possibly on the slightly larger size than normal but nothing that would make me change my choice.
For the sports bra I chose a small, again my normal size. I have to say that I think I could have gone down a size and this might have improved the support. For a 5k run the support was fine and I was comfortable but I would have liked it to be a bit tighter.
In general I would say go for your normal size but if you're in-between sizing definitely go for the smaller of the two.


In conclusion the Lapasa kit is definitely some of my go to run wear now - especially the leggings as the colder nights are drawing in. For the sports bra though - in future I will only use this for lower impact sports and will have to try going down a size if I want to wear this for high impact sports such as HIIT.

As part of this review Lapasa has also offered to giveaway an item from their range to one lucky person! The Lapasa range also includes capris:Lapasa Capri Leggings, tech t's: Lapasa Performance Tshirt, and seamless underwear: Lapasa Women's Seamless Briefs, in addition to a similar range for men.

To enter the giveaway follow the rafflecopter instructions at the bottom of the page. Remember to do as many things as possible to give you the best chance of winning! Good luck!

If you don't fancy the giveaway but want to try out Lapasa for yourself use my discount code mindfree for 10% off.

Let me know if you try them out and what you think in the comments below!

Happy running :)

Please note this post is not sponsored.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

My 3rd 13.1 - Ealing Half Marathon review

The day started the best way it could have - smoothly. I got the tube to the recommended stop, Northfields Station, that was a supposed 10 minute walk from the event village (actually more like 5 minutes). There were no delays on the tube, I was running on time, and I got to Lammas park, the location of the start and finish, by around 8. Plenty of time before the 9am start.

The immediate atmosphere was awesome from the moment I stepped into the park. The event village was full with so many people with smiley faces, warming up in the luscious greenery of the park. It seemed really relaxed and laid back and despite my ever present nerves, the atmosphere definitely didn't make my nerves any worse. As starts go, this has to be one of my favourite locations I've had so far. There was no long walk to the start line, no rushing, and no horrendous queues for that essential pre-race I'm terrified loo stop.

There was a pre-race warm up at 8:30, but I chose to miss this for a second panicked loo stop before the event (as anxiety goes, not being able to find a toilet quick enough around any race is top of my list).

Around 8:45/ 8:50 I wandered over to the start area and slipped in to where I would normally put myself for a half, between the 1hr50 and 2hr pacers, and before I knew it we were 30 seconds from the count down to the start of the race. 

Here is where it started going down hill for me. Moments before the whistle blew I wiped my eye, and my contact decided to abandon ship, luckily I managed to get it back in in a mad panic, but not before putting it in the wrong way first. 

Pro Tip : don't risk wiping your eyes before the race - it's not worth it when your contact isn't dedicated to remaining in your eye.

Anyway, post contact near disaster, the gun went off and we were off! The support was great in the first few miles, especially the church group at around mile 1 with their loud music, cheering and happy faces.

Ealing half marathon is described as undulating and the hills seemed to start right from the beginning. Despite the hills the route is lovely and takes you around the streets and parks of Ealing with a couple of loop back sections. You can find the Strava segment here.

Ealing Half Marathon Route
Ealing Half Marathon elevation profile

For the first 5 miles or so, before I was over taken by a guy pushing his child and running in flip flops (yes you read that right - running in FLIP FLOPS), I was doing OK. Not my normal pace, but OK. After mile 5, I was over taken by the 2 hour pacers, the hills got the better of me, and I really started to struggle with the combination of hills and hotter weather than I was hoping for (it was around 19/20 degrees). Even so, I kept going and pushed through.

One thing I didn't know about ealing is that it is beautiful - we went through a couple of local parks on the route and for me they were a definite pick me up. At around 15km we passed through a park and then had about a 1km section where we rejoined an earlier part of the route. Normally I don't like loop backs, but there was something about seeing such a vast quantity of runners (there was around 7000 entrants) that really gave me a boost. I had been mentally struggling to keep going but after this section I knew I was going to make it. 

Despite the struggle, I felt the entire way around that I was in it together with the other runners, sure people over took me, but there were also other people struggling, and I felt as though we were at least in it together. This is not something I always feel in races and really appreciated it.

The final 3 miles were mostly flat/ decline and this was a life saver. At around 18km we passed the awesome drumming church group for the second time who gave me a shout out and gave me the last boost I needed.

1km from the finish you enter Lammas park for a final lap of the park to the finish. Normally this last km is hellish, but I'm so glad to say that the immense support along the entire loop in the park made it fly by quicker than any last km in the past. I loved it and had an amazing sense of relief as I crossed that finish line knowing I'd just completed my 3rd half marathon.

Yes - I was slower than ever before. Yes - I even walked a bit (for the first time ever). But most importantly, Yes - I had finished and I was proud. 

Highlights: Orange slices being handed out along route, the numerous seamless water stops (with small perfect sized bottles), all of the locals standing outside their homes to cheer us on, the scenery, 'eye of the tiger' being blasted outside someones house, the enthusiastic church group, a great medal (coming from someone who isn't a massive medal fan this is a big deal!).. and the list goes on. 

What you get for entry: number in the post (my preference), water stops, chip timing, medal & water at the finish.

It's worth noting that yes this is described as an undulating marathon and lives up to it, but, had it been any other time I wouldn't have struggled so much on the hills. They're definitely not as bad as they sound - it was just a bad race for me. 

Hopefully next year I'll come back & show those hills what I'm really capable of! Until then - thanks Ealing Half Marathon CIC - you were awesome. 

Entries are now open for 2018 : enter here.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

10 things running has shown me you might not expect

I haven't blogged in a while but recently I've been reflecting a lot on how running has changed me, my life and my outlook. I think sometimes people just concentrate on the fact that they don't want to have to exercise because all they see is the effort you have to put in, and believe me, that bit doesn't get any easier. So I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on my own journey and a few things that running showed me that people may not be thinking about when they're struggling to motivate themselves to start, and that in the end, make all the struggle and effort worth every ounce.


1. I left the house without make up for the first time since I was around 13 when I was told people don't wear make up to a Tough Mudder and didn't want to look weird.. and now I've learnt not to care so much and do so regularly. Running also encouraged me to wear shorts (because I didn't want to melt) and I have worn them for the first time since I was made to for sports class in school (my legs it turns out aren't quite as trunk like as I thought)

2. You just look happy when you smile with your teeth (not hideous) so grin and bare them :)

3. I am capable of being fully independent and can brave massive crowds of people at races by myself - while still smiling

4. I gained the confidence to meet new people for the first time in years

5. There's a big difference between needing to stop and wanting to stop (the former is rare), when I acknowledge that during runs and keep going I feel strong, capable and in control, and that's exactly what I am (even if I feel like a phoney saying it now)

6. I don't love what my body looks like - but I'm learning to love what I'm discovering it's capable of for the first time in my life - while still working on the first part :)

7. I'm 100% not competitive

8. I can overcome fear - and run full pelt ahead straight into & through it,
it does not have to control me

9. You can choose to make yourself happier - just go for a run and 99% of the time it works

10. I am not alone


That last one is a big thing for me. When we're struggling and feeling a bit lost in any part of our lives, at least for me, there is always a feeling that I am alone. Realising you're not and there's always someone there with you, maybe even running for the same reasons, is liberating. It makes it feel that it's OK to not feel OK, because you're one of many people just trying to get through something, through running. The running community is an amazing thing to be part of. No one cares what your job is, how much money you earn, what music you like or who your friends are. You are a runner and that's all that matters.

My favourite moments running to date has to have been when I have ran with people without any goals in mind but to run. Be a part of a group and soak in the atmosphere of a collection of people gathered together to all do something so inherently natural without any other goals at the end but to enjoy living in that moment and finish the run.

Running provides such an amazing clarity of mind that I've never achieved anywhere else, where I can forget my day, the problems in the world, the anxieties in my head and everything that makes me sad, just run and clear my mind of everything. 

My heart hammers in my chest, my feet hit the ground and my mind is calm.

A clarity that alone is worth every ounce of effort.

All the 10 above are just an incredible bonus.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Monday, 5 June 2017

#try20 challenge weeks 3-5

So it's June which means National Walking Month is over for another year along with the May #try20 challenge. 

Along with thesis writing making sure I stuck to the challenge has been just that, a challenge, and I'm going to be entirely honest when I say I missed a day during the 3rd week.

To me that isn't a failure though. 

Only not walking for 20 mins on one day in a month? That's no failure. To be fair on myself I had just done a Rough Runner event the day before and covered 15km and many many obstacles and my body was in some serious pain (if you've never done an obstacle course race you would not believe how much of your body can hurt all at once without you realising the strain at the time). So considering that was the only day I didn't manage to get out I'm so pleased I managed to keep it up.

If you've read the past posts about the #try20 challenge (Taking on the #try20 summer challenge,#try20 challenge week 1,#try20 challenge week 2) you will know each week I tried a different way of making sure I got my walks in and to make it a bit more interesting.

So here is what was on the cards for weeks 3-5:

Week 3 (15-21st May)   :
Tip #19 - Power Walk! 

Week 4 (22-28th May)   :
Tip #13 - Lunch Alfresco not Aldesko

Week 5 (29-31st May)    
Tip #6 - Take the Long cut & discover new places.

My favourite of these had to be taking the long cut. Beautiful places are everywhere and I love finding new places that make me feel calm that I've never experienced before. It makes me feel so much happier knowing that hidden behind so many concrete streets are patches of green, where nature is still taking over and holding back the endless concrete miles.

Lunch alfresco is also always lovely, but unfortunately not something that's always possible with the incredibly changeable british weather. Making the effort to get outside on the rare sunny days though is really worth every ounce of effort allowing you to ground yourself a bit more than sitting at your desk or in the office cafeteria.

All in all I'm so glad that I took part in the #try20 challenge and made the extra effort for some time in the fresh air, and in all honesty, just taking an extra 20 minutes for myself without the constant distraction of modern technology.

May may be over along with the #try20 summer challenge but I for one will be trying my best to get out and get those 20 minutes of peace from the hectic fast paced life that modern life has become.

Did you take on the #try20 challenge?
I would love to hear how you found it in the comments below & if you have any tips that helped to get you out on the tougher days.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

#try20 challenge week 2

It's the end of the second week of may,  the second week of National Walking Month and
the end of week 2 of the #try20 challenge!

My second week of the #try20 challenge went like this:
Monday - 20 minute lunch wander (gentle)
Tuesday - 20 minute lunch walk & 20 min run
Wednesday - 30 min walk to running track & 40 min track session
Thursday - 20 min walk to shops
Friday - another 20 min walk to shops
Saturday - 15km Rough Runner Obstacle Course Race (lots of walking, running & 20 obstacles)
Sunday - 30 min afternoon walk

This week seemed harder than the first when it came to making myself get out. I don't know whether it's because it's getting to the middle of the challenge or because it's just been a down week for me, which isn't uncommon, but I still managed to get out - and I'm proud of that.

Ending my week with an awesome time at Rough Runner with friends on Saturday definitely has left my week ending on a high (even if my entire body hurts today).

Conclusion : Week 2 was another success. 

My Week 2 challenge was to include some 'mindful meander' walks and get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week. So during some of my walks I tried to think about the positive things in my life right now & tried to soak in the beautiful scenery and truly appreciate the world around me.

For #MentalHealthAwareness week I was also asked to be part of a blog tour for the book 'Loving the Life Less Lived' a raw account of one woman's struggle with severe anxiety and depression and how acceptance changed her life. A Q&A with the author Gail Mitchell as well as a short review are here - take a look :)!

If you want to see what challenges I'm taking on in the next few weeks check out my first #try20 post and you can catch up on week 1 here.

Are you doing the challenge?
If so how did you get on and how are you making sure that you get the time in?
Comment below and let me know - I would love to hear from you.

If you want to get involved why not start walking everyday from now?
You could still make the rest of may or if you want to take on a full month just carry the days you missed over into next month! No excuses :)!

Bring on week 3!


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Q&A with Gail Mitchell Author of Loving the Life Less Lived for #MHAW17

When I was asked if I would like the chance to read 'Loving The Life Less Lived' by Gail Marie Mitchell as part of a blog tour for this years Mental Health Awareness Week I was thrilled if not a bit wary to get involved.
'Loving the Life Less Lived' is a narrative self-help book for people struggling with mental illness and anyone else that wants to read it.

The wariness I felt came from my past experience with self-help books. 
Although I am a full supporter of self-help books, in the past many I have read I've never completed, finding the majority patronising and un-helpful.

From the first page of 'Loving the Life Less Lived' I knew this was unlike any previous book I have read and was hooked.

Gail shares here personal journey with anxiety and depression in an extremely raw and true portrayal of how it has effected her life and how acceptance is allowing her to live again. I found this raw approach strangely uplifting, reading the genuine struggles of another human in a way that is not often shared in such an open fashion. 
Throughout the book Gail never downplayed how she felt throughout her experiences and truly made me feel that it is OK to feel the way we feel, and be honest about it. 

As well as sharing her story Gail builds an extensive 'toolkit' of methods that have helped her deal with anxiety and encourages her readers to develop their own with a good foundation of how to do this in place.

Society has a habit of shying away from uncomfortable topics, even when broaching them not truly giving honest accounts of what a huge effect things such as mental health has on many lives.
In truth it's a shame that we shy away from the topic of mental health to such an extent that I believe many people that have, and do, suffer from mental illness almost ignore it to the point that they genuinely believe they have never had a mental health issue. In my experience most people, if you speak them through difficult parts of their lives, will realise that they too have experienced depression, anxiety or some kind of mental health issue. 
It's true that not everyone has a life long battle with mental ill health, but through enabling people to acknowledge their own feelings from past experiences, I believe acceptance of others struggles is just around the corner.

In my opinion 'Loving the Life Less Lived' could be a huge eye opener to many people and an invaluable tool to anyone dealing with a mental illness. I encourage anyone and everyone to pick up a copy if you can. It's well worth a read.


Now to a Q&A with the Author of 'Loving the Life Less Lived', Gail Marie Mitchell.

I love the title - did you always have this as the title or did you have any others that nearly made the cut? Why did the final title make it and if there were others why didn't they?

It was literally a flash of inspiration when I was feeling particularly fed up and hiding under the duvet. I don’t know where it came from but there were never any other titles up for contention. I knew it was perfect and summed up exactly what I wanted to say. 

What question do you wish you had been asked in your time of deepest struggle? 

Probably ‘what can I do to help?’ I wouldn’t have known how to answer but I would have appreciated the question. I think more than any question I just needed people to accept me as just the person I was at the time, even if that person was troubled and imperfect. 

In your book you encourage people to cut ties with people they consider to be 'toxic'. What advice do you have for people who have close family that are toxic (and they can't just walk away from them)? 

That’s a difficult one, and one I struggled with it when writing my book. I always say you don’t need toxic people in your life but sometimes you love toxic people, and/or are related to them and cutting ties with them isn’t realistic and isn’t always the right thing to do. The ‘toxic’ person may be on their own journey and it may not be that they are toxic at all, just not helpful to you at the time. You can give yourself space, while still maintaining the relationship. Either physically taking time away from the person, or mentally by not giving too much weight to the things they say and the way they act. It’s hard work but you can create barriers and boundaries to protect yourself. Sometimes a course (or a book) on assertiveness might help, to ensure your needs are being met whilst still being close to the person. 

Do you regret cutting ties with any of the people you considered to be 'toxic'? 

No, I must say I don’t regret anything. I do sometimes regret the way I did it (which so many times was just to run away and hide!) Life is short and there are any number of people who need your time and attention. That’s not to say I surround myself with ‘perfect’ or ‘together’ people, far from it! I love people who are mixed up and messy and struggling to make it through life, but I look after myself first and I don’t have time for people who are spiteful, judgmental or ‘toxic’. 

Have you found any old 'toxic' friends have tried to re-contact you since you broke ties and if so did you stay away? 

No one has ever contacted me! They probably thought I was toxic too, and it’s true in my worst days I must have been hard work to be around. If someone did contact me in good faith I’d probably reconnect but I’d be wary. I genuinely believe people change, nobody is completely toxic and I’ve changed so the way they react to me would be different. Having said that I’d keep a definite distance between us… just in case. 

Isolating ourselves is something very common in people with anxiety. What's your no.1 tip for getting yourself to step out of the house? 

Small steps. That’s how I did it. At first I’d just walk to the post-box and back, or I’d go out with a friend or my Dad so I wasn’t alone. Then when I felt up to it I’d go a little bit further, say to the swimming baths which were just around the corner, or I’d go to my friend’s house because I felt safe there. Also congratulate yourself for your progress, it’s all too easy to focus on what you can’t do, or give yourself a hard time if you have a setback. It helped me to have a list of ‘steps’ which I ticked off as I achieved them, this way I could see how far I had come. Even now I have phases where I’m tempted to hide, it doesn’t last long but I am quite gentle with myself and just stick to ‘safe’ places like our local country park. I don’t avoid going out now when I feel like this, because I know where that leads, but I am more aware of my anxiety and I know when to go easy on myself. 

It appears that you've always excelled in academia and professionally despite your anxiety. Did it not affect your self confidence in that area of your life? 
What advice would you have for someone with impending exams or assessments? 

Just do your best. That’s all you can do. I was very lucky that my Dad always encouraged me just to do my best. Remember you are not being judged as a person, failing an exam doesn’t make you a failure. It might mean you have to change your plans or adapt but sometimes that can be wonderful and liberating. Do your best today, by taking time to work, but also to rest and play. I always found that the people who did well in exams were those who knew when to revise but also knew when to stop. Exams never gave me anxiety, I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet of sitting writing! However if they do give you nerves I would recommending practicing mindfulness in the run up to the exam period. If you read the question and panic take 2 or 3 minutes to concentrate on breathing slowly and listen to the sounds around you then look at the paper again and do your best. Panic is great when you are being chased by a tiger, not great when you are sitting your A levels, it takes all the blood from your brain so you can’t think straight, so just slow down, breath and just do your best. 

Do you have any tips on standing your ground when you see a GP about getting help if they are dismissive and just offer a website and no further support? 

Oh that is such a nightmare. I always encourage people to visit their GP knowing full well that some GPs will try to fob you off with a website or a library book. You really need to be persistent and go back if you’re not happy or go to see a different GP. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression though just visiting the GP once can be a herculean task, let alone going back if it didn’t go well the first time. I would advise writing down what you want to say to the GP, if all else fails you can just hand him the piece of paper, even better take someone who you trust who can advocate for you, and be more assertive than you feel able. Just be persistent. You could also ring 111 for more advice, sometimes it’s easier to speak to someone on the phone and you can speak to them immediately. They will probably tell you to visit your GP but they might also be able to give you advice on what to ask for. Remember we have a wonderful NHS in this country which is there for everyone to receive support and treatment, just because your illness is mental rather than physical doesn’t mean you have any less right to support. 

Did the process of writing the book re-open thoughts about parts of your life and make you re-think the way you processed events at the time? 

In parts, some of the more recent events especially the ending. I do tend to reflect and think about my anxiety a lot (too much?) so I had processed a lot of the events already but certainly looking at them from the distance of time, and trying to describe them to someone else, tended to put a lot into perspective. Sometime now if I’m tempted to panic or over-react I do think ‘how will I write about this in a book five years from now?’ It helps me realise that things always pass. 

If yes - do you think people should reflect on certain parts of their life that were difficult and how should they approach it?

 Carefully, and for most people with the help of a counsellor or therapist. I don’t think we learn and progress without looking at our failures and disappointments but it isn’t an easy process and there is a risk of opening old wounds. It’s really important to be gentle and kind with yourself and recognise that everyone makes mistakes, has weaknesses and goes through bad times. It’s human. 

Will you be writing another book? 

I’m finishing the first draft of a young adult fiction novel which has the themes of self-harm and suicide (cheery!) I think child and teenage mental health is a huge problem in our society, I have toyed with writing a version of Loving the Life Less Lived for young people, I may still do that, but for the time being I am turning my hand to fiction.

I for one will be keeping my eye out for the next book!


Thank you to Gail and RedDoor Publishing for the opportunity to read the book and get involoved with their #MHAW17 campaign with this Q&A.

If you'd like to see a full response piece about the book, head over to @theasthinkings, she's also running a giveaway as part of the blog tour!

This Mental Health Awareness Week remember, it's OK to not be OK.
Don't stand alone.


Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.