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Bridget's Story - Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Bridget's Story - Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

What a 12-months. Here I am, just starting now to emerge, blinking into the daylight after a long, hard, very dark winter lockdown. It was a difficult time but strangely, I along with a number of friends and family have found returning to the gym this spring as difficult and unnerving as leaving it was just after Christmas.

Even November’s limited lockdown daunted me. I didn’t think there’d be a SECOND lockdown, but at least it was ‘only’ four weeks and so, perhaps, manageably finite.

Fitness to me is vital, but I’m not a motivated gym bunny and need one-to-one PT with Sharon to stay focused, and to piggyback off her mojo when I lack my own.

Through November I just about clung on by the skin of my teeth. With Sharon’s help, I managed to get off my knees and back onto my feet, when BAM! Gyms closed again for the long, cold, crushing, indefinite lockdown 3 closure. This time I had no skin left on my teeth to cling on by. Exhausted by the first two lockdowns, I had no ‘fight’ left and I sank to the bottom.

“Can’t wait to get back,” I’d say as lockdown 3 continued. But when, after 4-5 months house arrest, there was just a week to reopening time, the reality of facing the world again was too overwhelming. Many stress markers appeared – tears, sickness, cold-sore rash.

On the first day back, my husband came for moral support to get me through the door and upstairs. Once in, I sat and cried for a while before running home.

But I’m no snowflake: Since turning 70, I’ve abseiled down Roseberry Topping and Souter Lighthouse, been paddle-boarding and sand-yachting… and yet I couldn’t walk through the gym door and say “Hello” to my friends. But WHY?? Ridiculous! Such was the power of this third Lockdown to mess with the headspace.

Next day, I slipped back into the gym on my own for ten minutes; a bit shaky, but I did it. Next time was a one-to-one PT session with Sharon to ease me back into physical action, and it served to restore some normality to the mindset. Now, after the first two weeks or so – I’m back!

So what is the point of me sharing all this? Well, I really want to say that it’s OK to find it a struggle.

I’d like to encourage anyone else who felt that they were drowning and all at sea to know that it’s OK to be wherever you’re starting from right now – just as long as you’re facing the right direction.

From there, there’s nothing wrong with just baby steps going forward. This is major rehab! Even young, fit-but-wounded military casualties start their rehab with baby steps.

Don’t despise the tiniest improvements in either attitude or achievement. Make sure you acknowledge and celebrate small victories. You’ll find you soon build on these and be surprised how far you came. It doesn’t have to be all about giant strides and world records.

Take heart from the wise words of Winston Churchill “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts!”