2017 has been a bit of an epic year, so much has gone on and my life has changed so much that I reckon I'd forget it all if I didn't write it down (and even then I imagine there'll be things that I forget!).
I came out about my mental health
In January, after a tricky few months where my anxiety had become increasingly debilitating, I made the decision to start taking medication to help manage my anxiety. It was something that I'd avoided for a long time, but as things became worse I decided it was time to try something different. It was a massive turning point for me and I finally felt like I was taking real ownership of my health, which really encouraged me to start talking more openly about my condition. The other thing that got me to open up was the reaction I had to the first type of medication I was prescribed! At the time I wasn't actually that fazed, probably because I was so out of it, but over time I've really started to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. However, it hasn't put me off medication - nearly 12 months on I am still taking meds to manage my anxiety, and I am likely to continue to do so for awhile to come. The thing about anxiety medication is that it isn't as simple as popping a pill and you're better. You need to work closely with your doctor to find the right treatment for you, including which of the many medications available might/might not be a good fit. I've never been shy about my love for the NHS, but in the last year the treatment I've received has been amazing - caring, compassionate and crucially empowering, and it's that sense of empowerment that has prompted me to talk more and share my experiences, which you can read more about here.
Taking ownership of my mental health has changed my whole approach to life, and in turn that's helped me handle my condition more effectively. I now talk and write openly about pretty much everything, I think about the relationship between food, fitness and mental health and I try to always be an ear for anyone who might feel a little overwhelmed by their feelings. It has also led me to new friends and new ventures, like The Mental Health Podcast. I can't wait to carry this radical honesty into the future and see where it takes me next.
I changed my approach to running
For most of this year running hasn't been a priority. Between finishing up my MSc and starting a new job (plus getting to grips with my health) my mind has been elsewhere, and you know what, that's ok. Towards the end of 2016 I was really struggling with guilt around not running, or not running enough, or not running in the right way, and it massively got me down. Towards the end of the year I'd run into Tom Craggs at an event and he gave me a bit of a pep talk, reminding me that running doesn't always have to be the priority and that for now I need to focus on other things. I don't think Tom has any idea how much those words helped me change my perspective, and that really took the pressure off! By allowing myself the freedom to be ok with not running (despite being a running blogger, shock horror!) I naturally found my way back to it, not least because my lovely friend Alex introduced me to Chasing Lights Collective.
Chasing Lights, my running family! I am so grateful I found this posse of rat bags this year. They say surround yourself with positive people, and this year I've discovered that really works. Community, celebration and support have all been part of my journey back to running, and I cannot wait to see where this community takes me next. Big love.
Although running wasn't the top priority this year I did manage to get one big challenge it - #2x10k! Two races, two cities, one weekend, and it was epic! I had so much fun and really discovered the benefits of strength training as a runner. You can read all about it here.
I found my blogging mojo
While I was studying I found it really hard to balance work, blogging and studying. It wasn't necessarily a time issue, I just didn't have the headspace to think creatively. Much like I did with running this made me feel massively guilty for ages, and then, much like I did with running, I let it go. Giving myself space allowed my passion for sharing to come back, big time, and I'm actually now more invested in my blog than ever before.
I got an MSc
After two years of working my nuts off (to use my Dad's preferred phrase) I finished my MSc. Handing in my thesis in September marked the end of juggling work/studying/life and all the stresses that came with it. I can hands down say that my MSc is my proudest achievement, particularly my dissertation, not just because I scored a distinction, but because it was the first academic research to look at the identities and representations of women in ultra running and there's something really special about being the first!
I moved in with a boy
A pretty significant change this year was that after more than two years together Mike and I moved in together! It was a huge step for me having come out of a really difficult relationship a few years before and not being quite sure if I really wanted to risk moving in with a boy again. However I can say with absolute conviction that it was the right thing to do and we're really happy together (although I do miss living with Emma in the lady cave).
Life feels like it's in a really good space right now. I am happy and I am well (or 'coping well in the world' as my doctor likes to say). I have plans and I'm excited to see what 2018 brings, but more about that next week!
** All image: Anna Rachel Photography