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25.04.19

My Recovery Story...

Bethany Robinson

By Bethany Robinson,

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I love the ideology behind the Mental Health Muscle movement. For me exercise was THE change that helped me recover. I am proof that exercise can literally save someone from rock bottom and help them turn their life around and I hope that other people can discover that it can help them in the same way. CrossFit and weightlifting helped me tackle my mental illness head on and to this day it’s an instrumental tool to keeping me on track, happy, mentally and physically strong and healthy.

Although I occasionally do short posts about it on my instagram many people don’t know my full story and assume I was always this weight and in a positive healthy place. I want to open up about my entire journey just to show that recovery is possible and no matter where you are right now, you can get to where you want to be.

Beth

The truth is, in 2016 I hit rock bottom, it was 3am I was in the middle of Redruth with no idea how I got there, where I was or even who I was really, I was paranoid and hallucinating sounds and shapes/shadows coming at me. All I knew was that I was in agony emotionally and I wanted this horrendous pain I was suddenly feeling to stop. I had been suicidal before and I knew that deep down I didn’t want to end it but my head was plagued with suicidal thoughts.

I called the Samaritans…one of the first things they tell you to do…I was met with a dial tone. No logical thought pattern could have led me to what I did next but I was not in a logical state of mind, I thought “the thoughts will stop if I knock myself out” so I whacked my head on a granite wall a couple of times, thankfully one of my housemates then ran down the street (it appears I had messaged her earlier sounding distressed) by this point I was hysterical, crying on the floor that I just wanted to die. She called my dad and they rushed me to A&E. I was having a ‘mixed episode’, something I later learned was part of my mental illness. This was one of four episodes I had already had that month. I was ‘rapid cycling’ through mania and depression with the odd mixed episode in between. I was suicidal three out of four weeks every month at least. It was my own personal hell, caused by an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. After that I received a formal diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder. Bipolar disorder is not what most people think. It’s not “happy one second and sad the next”.

Most of the time I was in a deep pit of depression mixed in with manic episodes that can lead to exuberant spending, excessive drinking, big dreams and reckless behaviour. I was 18 stone (or more), and struggling with bulimia as well. Something that can often be paired with bipolar disorder because of the excessive eating/drinking. I worked with the community mental health team and they tried medication after medication that turned me into a zombie or made me vomit. None of it was working and it felt never ending like i would be stuck in this horrible cycle forever.

Lastly, and this shocks me the most that they told me this so late, they said “you could try and control it by managing triggers through self-care, this involves eating well, exercise, sleeping enough and stress management”. At that moment I thought RIGHT that is exactly what I’m going to do. I will fix myself. I knew what I had to do… but I didn’t know how.

Beth-1

At the perfect moment, I can’t remember how long after because that entire year is still a blur to me, but my wonderful family decided to step in, at the moment I was finally open to it. They came up with a plan to get me to exercise, my sister and now brother in law gently encouraged me to come into the home gym and lift some weights. I LOVED it…I loved how it made me feel strong, I loved the feeling after. Shortly after that we all joined Duchy CrossFit. I was apprehensive, I still weighed 18 stone I certainly wasn’t fit in any way. After one session I was hooked. Dave, the coach was so supportive and encouraging. I remember in one of my first sessions he was literally pushing me from behind while I ran the first mile I had in years.

Stepping into that CrossFit gym started a snowball effect. Suddenly I felt like the more I cared for myself the better I felt. So I started to eat better, introduce more veg into my diet, eat more protein. Track my calories and give my body what it needed rather than excess. The binge eating dramatically decreased. But the most important thing, it helped me manage and tackle my mental illness head on. It surrounded me with people, my Duchy CrossFit family that are so supportive of each other, it got me out of the house, training was at first a distraction from what I was suffering with…but it became the cure. Whenever I had an episode, as long as I got back to the gym, started eating well and slept enough the episode would be cut short and I would be back to ‘normal’. CrossFit became my crisis plan. No matter how I’m feeling if I can just get myself through that door I will feel better.

Beth-2

In one year I lost 6 stone.

I felt fitter, healthier, I was mentally better! The mental health team discharged me as I was completely free of episodes as I had managed my triggers SO well. They told me they couldn’t believe how well it had worked and that I was basically one of their ‘miracle recovery stories’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “fixed” my mood still fluctuates and I will still be the all or nothing person I always was because of this mental illness, but I’m now in control. I just recognise the fluctuations and handle them by getting back to the gym.

I started competing in CrossFit, something that has driven me to strive for constant progress because I LOVE to compete. There is something so empowering about being able to do so many things I wouldn’t have dreamed of in 2016.

During 2017 I decided to start handling my other issues. I still struggled with bulimia and body image, I would also struggle with comparing myself to others and letting my own negative thoughts affect me. In 2017 I started a nutrition program with Rhys Sailsbury (achievement nutrition) and he has helped me endlessly. I have learnt to eat ENOUGH of certain macros and not restrict and restrict with calorie counting. I lost a further stone and now i have started to gain muscle, learn how to recover better and not give in to my impulses and over-train. Every little bit of progress is so motivating for me because I’ve worked so hard for it. It took me a lot longer to get to certain milestones because of my weight but now I know I can achieve anything if I just stay consistent I know I will get there eventually and that is so empowering.

I set positive goals, I use mindfulness to tackle my negative thoughts. I’m now more of a mentally stable person, I can recognise my own issues and unpack them so I can tackle them. My mental toughness that I learnt from battling my mental illness is now a strength in CrossFit, put me in any pain cave and I KNOW I can dig my way out. Your mind can play tricks on you and it does when you exercise, there is power in having the ability to manually override your own thoughts. But it takes time and practice, if you work for it you will get there. Mental health is a struggle for a lot of people. There is no quick fix for anything, whether it be mental health or physical health. If we chip away every day, strive for constant self-improvement…eventually you will find yourself in a place you never dreamed of being. Stable, happy and healthy.

If I can do it anyone can. Be a part of the incredible movement Mental Health Muscle have created; amazing people with phenomenal aims!

Beth-3
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