Thomas Dunning: The Mental Health Runner

Thomas first began to struggle processing his emotions when he lost his brother to cancer. It had serious and long-lasting effects on his mental well-being, to the point where he developed auditory hallucinations. Since being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, he has been able to access the right medications, and now feels more in control of his symptoms.

I’ve suffered with PTSD ever since 2014 when my studies had finished, it was really the only time I was able to mourn for my brother who passed away 5 years previous; I was so emotional that the smallest thing would set me off, and I’d suddenly feel powerful. I’d destroy a room because that’s what I felt needed to happen. Whilst it was uncontrollable, the rage that I felt was always directed against myself rather than others.

The voices then started to develop slowly at first, but they steadily built up. They sounded so real too, as though I could have a conversation with it across a table.

Even when I started my job the hallucinations remained. I’d walk through the warehouse and I’d hear someone shout something derogatory from behind me up on the gangways. The voices were always so negative, underpinning what I was already feeling about myself.

Negativity can take a toll on the mind, and my hallucinations meant that I never had a moment to myself. One day I was working on top of one of the gangways and found myself looking down. I had the realisation that if I really wanted to take my life, all I’ll have to do was jump. I knew there and then that I wanted to attempt it, but I didn’t want to end my life at work.

Instead, I sought help from my doctor, who acted immediately. I had a talk with a crisis team, and I was given a year off from work to recover. Over the course of that year I attempted to take my life several times.

At one point early on, I tried to confide in my friends. I thought that I had a good set of friends that could help to support me, but they reacted badly to my admission. They set up fake Facebook pages to send me nasty messages and abuse me. It was a terrible time, and the bullying only reinforced the thoughts of worthlessness that I was already having.

My parents were aware of my problems and tried to provide as much support as they could, but my mum lived abroad and my dad lived in another county. They were so worried, but their worry weighed heavily on me. I hated the idea that I was a burden. I remember thinking to myself; if I end it now, they won’t have to worry anymore.

One day I needed to get out of the house so I went to the cinema. On my way home in the car, I looked down at my hands to see that they were covered in thick blood. I didn’t know what to do, so I first pulled over and began to cry. I had to call my wife to come and collect me.

We went straight to the hospital where I was given enough anti-psychotic medicine to get me through the weekend. Unfortunately, I was still in the middle of a psychotic break, so I took all of the medication in one go, resulting in an overdose. I ended up in hospital for the second time that day.

Later in the year I received a call from a worried friend. I’d been posting a lot on Facebook about my current mental state, but my friend told me that people weren’t taking it seriously; they thought I was joking.

I was crushed. If people couldn’t see that I was in trouble even now, then what was the point? I resigned myself to take my life again. I went into the garage and attempted to hang myself. Thankfully the beam above me broke. I didn’t know what else to do so I just sat there.

My wife found me and took me to hospital. It was this incident that made it click into place for her how desperate my situation was.

It was a turning point for me. I was given access to a therapist, and then escalated to a psychiatrist. I was prescribed anti-psychotic medicine, which helped me to control the voices in my head. I was also formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

My life has improved immeasurably since then. I’ve returned to work, and have found that my employers have been very understanding. I know that when I go into work, I don’t have to feel any shame for who I am or how I feel.

My wife has been an incredible support throughout all of this. She has been there through everything, helping to care for me when many others wouldn’t.

I later found how physical exersize is an outlet and how it helps regulate how the mind works. I started off eating my emotions and my weight rocketed to 23 and a half stone. Taking up running as a positive way of releasing my stress regarding the PTSD, BPD and Anxiety Disorder, i lost 7 and a half stone! now im trying to share my story with the world in a way to break down mental health stigma. I want to tell those suffering that it’s okay to not be okay.

Thomas is scheduled to do a TEDx Talk in November, and you can follow his journey on Instagram @mental_health_runner.