To the Run - I love you | Confident Me A&E

In the Confident Me A&E clinic we've seen top tips to boost self-esteem, ways to change your outlook to improve confidence, self-help books on mental health and personal growth and strategies you can start today to keep your goals on track and your work life balance always equal.

This week Eugenia the founder of #runyourmindfree, offers a beautiful, in-depth and personal insight into life experiences that brought her real challenges and impacted on her mental health. But she also gives us the incredible gift of honesty, strength, and hope through her journey into self-discovery and recovery. We both hope you can draw strength from her story, and comfort from her shared experience. I also want to ask everyone reading to hold absolute respect and kindness in your hearts. I encourage you to show support in the comments, and sensitivity for Eugenia and each other.

Thank you so much for sharing Eugenia...

I don't remember a specific event, or a specific time that made me stop having any faith in my own abilities, but at some stage it became default. This is not a pitty party, I'm just introducing you to me, in a way I haven't ever expressed out loud before. Some people know this about me, that I have no self belief, and some people I think don't have any idea and are surprised, considering I have a 1st Class Honours and am studying for a PhD. How can you not believe in your self if you've achieved and previously received 100% in an exam? In all honesty, I don't know.

It started around my GCSE years, maybe when I was 13 or 14. I don't know whether at this point school becomes exponentially more stressful, or whether you just have to really start working hard at this stage, but whatever it was, it hit me like a brick wall. My grades from the age of 13 to 19 made a steady decline along with my confidence. My GCSE grades weren't awful but they weren't great either, and definitely were not what I was capable of. Luckily they were good enough to take my choice of A levels. 

My first set of As levels went quite well, apart from the fact I stopped handing in any work. I think people thought this was laziness and so no one ever really asked if I needed help. The trouble is that I stopped thinking I could do the work, so I couldn't face trying. I would look at the sheets and just blank out and have no idea what to do. Stress and depression is very debilitating sometimes, it freezes you in a sense of helplessness from which it's hard to crawl away, and I'm afraid it dragged me down to it's very depths. 

Everything started looking up when I started applying for University, I had an interview for my first choice, Medicine at Aberdeen University, and I got offered a place even with a reduced grade requirement. I remember feeling so elated when I opened the letter and my mum was so so proud of me. But the elation didn't last long. Shortly after I received It my grades started falling. I kept telling my friends that I couldn't do it and that I didn't understand but everyone, I think, just thought I was being my normal worrisome self and that it would all be fine. 

It wasn't. 

I failed many As level exams in the summer term and ended up having to take retake after retake, sometimes doubling the exam load I already couldn't cope with. 

I came out with grades that were no where near the A level requirement for Aberdeen. I told my mum before hand that I was worried I was going to fail to prepare her, but with her undying belief in me, she still thought I would make it. I will never forget the disappointment on her face when I told her the results. She loved me and never held anything against me, but that raw disappointment is impossible to conceal. It broke my heart. 

I went through clearing in the end after rejecting a course I got offered and took an entirely different path. I switched to Physics, my highest graded A level. 

You'd think that heart breaking look of disappointment would have been enough. My mum believed in me, and maybe she was right, maybe I just needed to get on with it. But it wasn't enough. I failed 4 exams in my first year of uni and had to resit the four failed exams in the summer or face resitting the entire year or dropping out of uni. I couldn't face dropping out. I couldn't quit with nothing to show but debt. So I spent my entire summer working, and actually working hard this time, through the blank panic stage and kept going, with eventually things starting to sink in. I went into those exams and I still felt as though I had done badly, but was astounded to come out with ~70% in all of the resits. It's almost funny, that I remember actually being shocked, thinking, 'really? I can get these kinds of grades?!'. 

That didn't give me my confidence back so to say but it allowed me to realise that if I worked hard enough, I could actually do OK. I worked very hard throughout the remainder of my degree steadily increasing my average year by year (along with my stress levels). Despite this, and getting over 80% in many exams, I still came out of those exams feeling as though I had failed, to the point I would leave as soon as possible or go to the bathroom before people saw me break down in tears. It was bizarre, people would get agitated with me because I would be extremely stressed, crying, claim to have failed and then get grades higher than them. I just couldn't understand how I felt as though I didn't know what I was doing and coming out with 1sts. My mum passed away in my final year, which was the first year my average grade dropped. I still got a good first average grade for the term but the grade was significantly lower than it had been. On reflection, of course my grade was going to drop, I couldn't concentrate, I was very depressed and I wasn't giving myself any breaks, but at the time I took it personally, and saw it as me declining. 

I finished my degree with a 1st and an award from my masters project, but even then, I couldn't help but think. Did they just give me an award because they felt sorry for me because my mum passed away in my final year? 

I started a PhD straight after my integrated masters and from day one I felt hopeless. I'm still here now, in the final stage writing up my work, still feeling hopeless. I've never felt a sense of achievement from my PhD studies, and in reality I'm concerned that I'm not even proud of what I've done. I want to finish, because this was what me and my mum talked about, me doing a PhD, and I've invested so much time that I want to finish but whether I will actually feel proud? The jury is still out. 

Anyway the above is a long waffle of my past & my issues with self belief. It seems from my degree grades that I never had an issue with abilities, but I've never felt like I can rely on myself. I get very flustered sometimes, and people actually are surprised sometimes when they learn I'm not actually stupid, I'm just anxious. Although some people in previous years have implied I'm at least 'a bit slow', which is never very helpful.

So where does running come in to this? 

Well I think it's one of the reasons I fell in love with it. Running. 

From that first run I felt like I had achieved something substantial. Maybe that sounds strange. All I did was put one foot in front of the other and run for half an hour. But I did it, and from day one that was the first sense of achievement I had had in over a year - since I graduated from my degree. 

I run now to pick myself up, and remind myself that I am capable of something. That I alone can step out of that door and I can run. No one can take away those miles, those footsteps and those heartbeats. I did it by myself and for myself. The speed doesn't matter either because a 10 minute mile is the same distance as a 6 minute mile, and no one can debate that, because it's a fact. You can call me slow, you can call me sweaty, you can tell me my face is red, you can tell me I look like a slug (thanks martin), but you can't take those miles, footsteps and heartbeats away from me. Those are mine alone, and mine to keep. 

Running saved me, it saved my mental health, and hopefully it saved my PhD (only time will tell). In the end though me and my mental health are more important than anything else anyway. I don't think really understood that before I ran. 

Through running I'm beginning to believe in myself again and realise that I am capable, as are you. It's helping me look in the mirror and be proud of myself. Proud that my body can take me on that run. Proud that my mind is capable of enduring those hard, hot and long runs. Proud that I can step out of that door (even in shorts these days!). Proud that my lungs don't fail me and most importantly, proud that I am me and you can't change that. 

I love you running, and I think you love me too.

For more from the #ConfidenceMeAandE series you can catch up below or find or the articles using the twitter handle too!

Confident Me A&E

If you like what you see then don't forget to share with the hashtag#ConfidentMeAandE, share with us your experiences in the comments that have helped you through challenges in life, or helped you to better understand yourself and your ambitions.

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