Kate McAllister: A mile in my shoes

Kate is a student at University of Sheffield studying an MA in Historical Research. She splits her time between studying, family, friends, volunteering and baking. This month she tells a story which shows us that support can come from the most unexpected places.

Sunlight streams through the circle of obscured glass, warming us up after a long night huddled together. We hear light footsteps overhead, a tap running, a toilet flushing. The footsteps move closer, and the door behind us opens.

“See you later!” she calls, bending over and reaching towards us. We glimpse a flash of the red front door as it swings open, and can just make out a jangle of keys as she locks up.

It is a dry yet unceasingly grey day, and instantly the cold envelops us. The wind is bitter, and this time she has worn her gloves. Good choice. We bet they are happy to see something other than the inside of a wardrobe. It is getting towards that time of year after all.

We are lifted into the air as she raises her knees, higher and higher each time. She is warming up and we are glad: we were out of action for weeks after the last strained calf muscle. She moves onto star jumps, and we count with her: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Today will be good, we can feel it.

It wasn’t always like this though. There was a period when she didn’t use us at all, and in fact she didn’t even leave the house except to go to work, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. We remember the muffled sobs which would go on throughout the night, when she thought nobody was around to hear her. We also remember the silence, when she spent her weekends in bed not moving except to use the toilet or occasionally to eat. We were worried about her. She had stopped doing the things she enjoyed; her friends stopped coming around, her phone went unanswered, and she stopped taking us out. We felt sad because we knew we could help her, but it was almost like she had forgotten we existed. She stopped running.

One day, something shifted. We remember the doorbell ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Normally she just ignored it, but this person was not going to give up. Eventually, she came downstairs and answered.

“I am worried about you. You don’t seem yourself at the moment” the man at the door said, stepping inside.

“I am not going to be brushed off any more” he continued, “tomorrow, we will call your GP and I will come with you to see him. I am going to help you through this.”

She was silent for a moment, her gaze fixed on the floor. “Okay,” she said softly, “alright.”

Things did not change overnight. Depression is not something you can just snap out of, but the man at her door that day helped her to reach out, and things did start to get better. It took her a long time to use us again, but once she did the effect was almost immediate. We gave her confidence. We helped her feel as though she was achieving something, and whenever she ran a little further or faster, we helped her feel proud of herself.

Every day when she goes out for her run we are there with her, feeling the pavement beneath us, pushing her along, cheering for her. She still has bad days, and we wish we could support her more.

Truth is though, there is only so much we can do, after all we are only a pair of trainers.

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