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'I run to boost my mood'

Liz Gardiner

Liz Gardiner, 32, is a GP in Leicester. She describes her own experience of depression and how a combination of medication, CBT and exercise has helped her.

Scroll down to watch a video about CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)

"I’ve had depression since I was a teenager. It was really bad in my early teens but I didn’t seek help until I was about 15. My GP was really helpful and supportive.

"Over a period of a couple of years I tried five or six different types of antidepressant until we finally found one that worked for me and that I still take today. It really seems to sort my brain chemistry out.

"I’m quite happy with the fact that I’m probably going to take antidepressants every day for the rest of my life. I’ve tried to stop a couple of times but my symptoms come back. If I don’t take them, I feel like I can't cope, whereas if I do, I feel normal.

"I had various different talking therapies when I was at medical school in my early twenties, including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and general counselling. I found both very helpful and I still use the positive thinking strategies I learned.

"CBT teaches you to change the way you think and to question your negative thoughts.

"For example, if you’ve arranged to meet a friend in town and the friend doesn’t turn up on time, somebody who’s not prone to depression might think it’s a pain and then go and get a coffee while waiting to hear from the friend. 

"But if you’re prone to depression, you might start thinking, ‘Is it because they don’t like me any more?’, ‘Have I done something wrong?’, or ‘How could they do this to me?’.

"One of the strategies I learned through CBT is to identify the thoughts that make me feel bad and to question them. By questioning my negative thoughts, I would realise that it’s probably not that my friend doesn’t like me any more and more likely that his bus was late.

"It helps you to be more rational. Instead of assuming that you’re a terrible person and the world’s awful, you look for alternative explanations, which make you feel less negative.

"Having supportive friends has also really helped me. In the past, I wouldn’t ask for help from other people if I was feeling low. I would try to deal with it on my own and pretend to everyone else that I was completely OK.

"Over time I’ve learned that it’s really helpful to explain how you’re feeling to someone close and get some support. I’ve realised that it’s much easier to talk to other people than to try to cope with your thoughts on your own.

"I’m lucky to have a fantastic group of friends. We met in the first year of medical school and we’ve helped each other through all the ups and downs of training to be doctors.

"For the past four years, running has been a big part of my life.

"I’m a different person when I exercise regularly. When I run two or three times a week my energy and my motivation lift. I think running really does help protect me from depression. When I don’t run regularly I'm more prone to feeling low. 

"I used to have a gym subscription but would only go once a month. I always intended to do more exercise but hardly ever got round to it. Then a friend of mine ran the London Marathon and I decided I wanted to do the same thing the following year. I ran the London Marathon in 2006 and every autumn I do the Great North Run in Newcastle.

"To make sure I run on a regular basis, I find that I need to develop a structured exercise programme for myself.

"On Tuesdays and Thursdays l take my running stuff with me to work and on the way home I’ll stop at the local park and go running. If I go home first, I sit down and then don’t feel like going out again. I’ve tried to build exercise into my routine. That way I don’t have to think about doing it. It’s part of a normal day.

"I haven’t been unwell with depression for five years now. Although I know I could slip back into being depressed, I feel I have several options to help me if my mood starts dipping.

"Doing exercise and keeping my body healthy keeps my spirits up. CBT makes my brain work in a different way: I stop and question myself now instead of falling into a downward spiral. I get lots of support from friends and then there’s the underlying treatment with antidepressants." 
 

Coping with depression

If you’ve been feeling down for more than two weeks, visit your GP to discuss your symptoms. They will be able to tell you about the choice of treatment available for feeling down and advise you what is most suitable for you.

 

 

CBT expert

A cognitive behaviour therapy expert explains how this psychological treatment works and who could benefit from it.

Last reviewed: 28/08/2009

Next review due: 28/08/2011

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itsme73 said on 27 February 2011

this is a really inspiring article and a very courageous matter for a GP to talk about as I believe that mental health even within the heath profession has stigma. I hope more people can talk about their mental wellbeing more in future like this.

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chris r1 2009 said on 17 September 2010

hi well done on the last 5 years
i have depression and find going to the gym and meeting certain friends help a lot
that was good how you are trying to involve running into your daily routain
you carry on running next year london marothan
keep it up

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