March 6, 2019, by Charlotte Gauja

Guest Blog | Ed Tarlton Supporting Men’s Health Active

Ed Tarlton is an Assistant Producer for Premier League Productions, a presenter for Wembley LIVE radio and a University of Nottingham Alum. He is a mental health advocate and in this blog he touches on his personal experiences as a student and why he is supporting our Men’s Health Active Campaign.

Like illness or injury, a mental health issue is something that nobody asks for.

However, whilst the former two situations may render us physically incapable of engaging in sport and exercise, this isn’t necessarily the case with the latter.

That’s not to trivialise the debilitating effects mental health problems can induce. Indeed, I am well acquainted with those – encountering periodic bouts of anxiety and depression since the age of 19.

Then studying at UoN – my first experience of these saw my mind plagued by relentless negativity. So much so in fact, that I would experience searing pains in my head, as though my brain was frying inside my skull. Couple that with frequent delusions of suicide, rather than grandeur and the cumulative outcome reduced me to a social recluse, caught between a state of either sleeping or merely existing.

Other symptoms, like self-harm, hallucinations and frequent panic-attacks all followed, leaving me exhausted, and in dire need of respite.

Now reflecting, I am forced to accept that the ultimate cause of my issues, has become blurred over time, to the point where I’m forced to accept that I will never truly remember.

What I do know, however, is that exercise helped.

A student athlete at the time, fitness was as much a necessity as a hobby and as my eventual recovery process gathered momentum; I began to seek other ways to cultivate positivity.

Performance sport, I quickly established, was not going to be my answer. For though I continued playing throughout my illness, the pressure and expectations weighed heavily, often undermining my enjoyment.

Instead, I was forced to look elsewhere and it was when I increased my sessions in the gym, that I noticed a significant upward trend in my mood.

The benefit, I realise, was the comfort derived from taking back some control, which had felt beyond reach in the deepest throes of depression.

At times like that, it can feel impossible to escape and reset the clock, which causes us to drift rather than act, but with exercise, I was able to take back some of the power I’d relinquished, by choosing to do something, rather than nothing.

Going to the gym, going for a run – even heading out for a walk, all allowed me to escape the cycle of harm that my mental state had inflicted upon my depleted psyche.

Combined with sessions I had with the counselling service, a new phase of thinking emerged – where I was no longer cast as a victim, but a fighter.

The result was monumental. My confidence, shattered by continual internal monologues of self-loathing and doubt, began to increase, to the point where I felt compelled to leave my comfort zone and try new things. As a result, I met new people, I had places to be, things to do and above all, I was living…not just existing.

I could end by saying this was all down to exercise. It wasn’t. The truth was and is, that it was down to me. Why? Because I found the strength to chose action, rather than inactivity – and only when you start making positive choices, will you see positive results.

If you would like to meet Ed, he will be talking on our Men’s Health Active Launch Q&A, 7th March 6pm, find out more about the campaign here.

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