Mental Health Awareness Week with guest blogger Jess Robson

With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, we have asked our dear friend and ex Bain and Gray colleague Jess Robson, founder of Run Talk Run to be our guest blogger. Jess shares her own experience of suffering from mental health, her incredible journey to building Run Talk Run, and how the skills she acquired as Office Manager at Bain and Gray have been pretty integral to the success of running a non-profit organisation.

 

I’ve always been a massive empath. Putting it bluntly, I care a LOT. I care a lot about so many things. I'll often cry when I see someone crying, and I'll wince when I see an animal in pain. I soak up the energy around me like it's fuel to my very being.

Caring a lot, and "feeling things" to an intense level, has in the past, placed me into depression and anxiety. I've either cared too much about what I could and should have done differently and tortured myself with rumination on the past (depression)... or I've cared too much about what will happen in the future (anxiety).

Caring too much has led me into some strange and disordered coping mechanisms. Like overeating and throwing up my food (bulimia), and/or finding myself in toxic relationships which I deem at the time to be "helping" my mental health, but are only serving as a distraction.

This has been my operating method for as long as I can remember. And running, quite simply, has been the healthiest coping mechanism I have found to date for handling such intense bursts of emotion. Creating a global movement from these intuitive and empathetic qualities was never really part of the life plan. It just transpired that these qualities would help me create something beautiful when the time was right.

I started Run Talk Run in October 2017, after some significant life changes had me spiraling into a spell of depression that I quite simply wasn't shifting. I was struggling to open up in therapy and found myself lying to my therapist about the reality of my thoughts (often suicidal) out of fear of being judged. Running unexpectedly gave me an alternative space to be honest about my mental health, and it was through traversing local trails with my mum in Sussex that I was shown just how liberating it is to share your truth when you don't have eye contact to deal with. Run Talk Run is a reflection of that space I found with mum.

I started it just as one weekly support group, running from Monument Station (London) every Thursday evening. It is a gentle 5km jog, where you do not have to be fast enough, fit enough, chatty enough, ill enough, well enough... you just come as you are. We remind our runners at the start of every run that this is a mental health support group first, and a running group second, and then we walk, jog, talk our way through the streets.

It isn't group therapy, and it's not a fitness session. It is simply peering support for people who "get it" when it comes to mental health. It is for people who need a less scary space to talk about how they're doing, which isn't quite as formal as professional therapy.

Almost three years later, Run Talk Run is now facilitating 85 support groups worldwide, all led by volunteers who want to make a difference to the community they operate in. We are ALL for all abilities, all 5km, and all a safe space to talk about your mental health without fear of judgment.

My career before Run Talk Run was in Office Management, with my administrative journey actually beginning at Bain and Gray! I often wonder how things might have been different had I chosen to take a different path after my A-Levels, but the skills that I acquired as an Office Manager have been pretty integral to the success of running a non-profit organisation. As Office Manager for a small company you're expected to wear all of the hats... a little bit of marketing, a little bit of HR, a little bit of accounts... you name it! The autonomous style of working under your own steam coupled with this dabbling into "all areas" of the business was the perfect grounding for being able to juggle all of the components of running an organisation like Run Talk Run. I wouldn't trade a single day that I spent working in a more traditional 9-5.

Running hasn't saved me from the intense emotions I experience, and nor has Run Talk Run, but they are most certainly the most healthy coping mechanisms I have found myself to date and I will continue to love them with all of my heart.

 

 

You can find out more at runtalkrun.com

Or on our Instagram - @runtalkrun