How Fitness Saved Me from Myself – Part 1

Daniel Munroop opens up about his struggle with poor mental health and how fitness played a part in saving him.

In order to be “successful’ you must have a university degree.

This is was a big part of growing up for me. Although those exact words may not have been said, they were certainly engraved in society.  “Go to school, get good grades, go to university, get a degree, buy a nice house and start a family.”  If we’re being real, growing up, most of us thought it really was that simple. For some it might be, but my upbringing heavily emphasised and more so acknowledged those who followed this path, both in my family and church life.

Pressure is a word that comes to mind when I talk about my intense struggles with mental health. Pressure can either make or break an individual, which is something I’ve experienced.

See, under pressure, the human being can perform tasks beyond the average level that they wouldn’t have been able to do without that extra push. This can be seen in various athletes and an everyday target driven work environment. However, without other components, pressure can develop and cause serious implications to a person’s mental state.

Fitness gave me the mental strength I needed to use the pressure that was breaking me and transform it into building me.

Image by Mac Kenzie from Pixabay.

Who am I?

I’m 19 and about to start university. At this point I’ve managed to go with the flow.

I look back now and I definitely winged it! I wasn’t a genius but I was good with my books and got the A-Levels I needed to study Criminology with forensics at the University of Portsmouth. I had no plan for my life and simply picked the degree that looked most interesting.

A degree in forensics would set me up for a job as a forensic scientist was pretty much my thinking. Within a few weeks, I had settled in and was getting used to the typical university life – go to lectures, late night library submissions, socialising and partying.

Everything was good, but there was still that cloud in the back of my mind. That cloud reminding me everyone I came across was better than me somehow. Social media a constant reminder of what I’m not. Everyone around you expecting nothing but their definition of “success”.

Each day that goes by, my self-confidence slowly fades.

Little did I know not addressing this would come back to haunt me. The lack of self-belief, stemming from keeping up a fake appearance, pretending I knew exactly where I was going. But really, I saw no path for me. This is where the suicidal thoughts started.

Sometimes we allow life to move swiftly and forget to focus on ourselves. We are rarely taught growing up that you should spend time to think. Spend time on personal development. Spend time improving your mental state, in turn giving us a better chance of dealing with the harsh pressures of life.

Building self-confidence and self-worth is everything in a world that is so digital. You have to be the best YOU that you can be and try not to compare.  Personal development is not something I understood properly until that mental battle in my head escalated and I hit rock bottom.

Image by Raphael Love and used under Creative Commons License.

Darker days to come…

Around four months into university and I’m still able to keep up the “appearance”.

I’m still attending lectures, still doing my essays, and of course, still partying. Drugs and alcohol are starting to become a regular thing. The dark thoughts pushed deeper the more I take and continue as normal.

One night, before going to the club for my birthday, me and a few of my university friends all pre-drink, then head downstairs to make our way to the club. As we are rounding everyone up to wait for cabs, I feel something. There’s an ambulance parked outside. A cold chill goes down my body, the hairs on my arms raise and my heart starts to race. Everything slows down.

The paramedics come out of our halls with a stretcher. On the stretcher is a body bag zipped up. I don’t know why, but for some reason I know. I know it’s suicide.

Why was that the first thing that came to mind? It could’ve been anything, but I specifically knew what it was. Maybe I’m crazy but I believe it was something I needed to see. Something that was going to help mould my character and give me direction.

The next morning, we were told who it was.

This was the beginning of a downward spiral of years of serious mental health issues. From that day, the university experience was no longer the same. I became detached from reality.

The months and year that followed only got worse. I was mentally done by this point. In my head I was living for other people, for my family. I was battling with that image thinking, “I should’ve been in that bag instead”. I told myself I had no ambition, no talent and more importantly, me not being here would be the best option.

Read the conclusion of Daniel’s story in Part 2.

Image by yunjeong from Pixabay.

Daniel is a personal trainer, who uses fitness to spread positive energy and inspire those with mental health issues, and has recently partnered with Herbalife Nutrition.  Stay updated with what he’s getting up to by following him on Instagram (@daam_fitness).

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