In the first of a new series of blogs that focus on mental health awareness, we speak to GTC member Jane Grant. This month marks Mental Health Awareness Week.
Jane’s story is one that may well be familiar to many others and starts with issues of anxiety and periods of depression in her 20s and 30s.
In her 40s, she resolved to be more active because she was aware of the benefits of exercise. But, again, her mental health suffered when she was affected by symptoms of peri-menopause.
Joining GTC several years ago, is described by Jane as a critical turning point.
A history of anxiety
Jane, who is married and has two grown up sons, says: “Anxiety has been part of my life for as long as I can remember and it has caused me to struggle with social situations. I have always had feelings of low self-esteem and little confidence.
“I have also suffered with bouts of depression, although it is the anxiety that has caused the most problems for me.”
While counselling has helped throughout her life, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Jane discovered that one of the best ways to cope with mental difficulties is exercise.
She says: ”I had done some swimming when I was younger but in my 20s and 30s I didn’t do a lot of exercise.
“In my 40s, I decided I wanted to do more and I started playing tennis, returned to a bit of swimming and took up cycling.
“It all helped a great deal. Exercising helped to give me a different perspective and to feel more relaxed.”
The discovery of triathlon
It was at this point that Jane decided she would like to try triathlon as a sport. She says: “I became interested in triathlon and I heard that Glasgow Tri Club had a reputation for being friendly.
“It did take quite a lot of courage to join but I was immediately impressed and I knew I had made the right decision. Everyone really is so friendly.
“I discovered that I liked the swimming sessions and I was introduced to open water swimming, which I really like now. The club has many supportive members and great coaches.
“Before lockdown, I even made it along to the strength and conditioning sessions on a Monday morning run by Fiona Maurer. This felt daunting to start with because I was worried about my fitness and ability compared to others but it’s not like that. We all work to our own levels.”
Frustratingly for Jane, 49, there was another obstacle to face. She says: “I suddenly started feeling tired and I had really bad brain fog. This really affected me at work and I found it so hard to concentrate.
“The lethargy stopped me doing the exercise I wanted to do and this was difficult because I knew that if only I could get out of the house it might be better.
“I also had some really heavy periods and I then discovered that this was all the cause of the peri-menopause. Honestly, I had not even heard of peri-menopause and all the many symptoms until it happened to me.”
Jane’s GP recommended HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Jane says: “The HRT has really helped and I feel much more like myself again. I have also read more about peri-menopause and menopause and all the effects both mentally and physically. I read the menopause posts by club member Fiona Russell on her website FionaOutdoors as well. These have been very helpful.
“It’s now even more important to me that I continue to exercise and thanks to the HRT and the tri club I feel much more confident and fit than I have ever done before.”
More lessons learned
Jane has learned other important lessons. She says: “I listened to a podcast about sports psychology by Vicky Begg during lockdown and it was so interesting. She said we should get to know our own minds and how we feel.
“So now I am learning to be kinder to myself. If I feel tired, I might choose to stay at home and relax with a book rather than being hard on myself for not exercising. Mostly, however, I know that getting out of the house and doing even just a little exercise helps me.
“I have also learned not to compare myself to others. There are many amazing athletes in the club but I choose to think about my own fitness and health. I want to improve my own level, rather than being in competition with others. This has greatly helped my self-confidence.
“I might not be as fast or as fit as others but I have improved in my own terms. I have lost some weight and I am fitter and more capable than I as before.
“The tri club is filled with people of all ages, background and people are part of the sport for different reasons. It has been a great place for me to meet new people and for me to overcome a lot of my previous anxieties.
“I am so pleased that I found the confidence to join GTC. It has made such a difference to my mental and physical well-being.”
- If anyone else would like to tell their story of their mental health please do contact email@example.com. It doesn’t need to be related to triathlon and outcomes might not always be positive. We are keen as a club to raise awareness of mental health issues. Each story will be treated with sensitivity and the case study will read their stories/post before it is published.