Sarah speaks about using crutches for strength

Being the Dublin City Marathon weekend Sarah shared her story:

Finding my strength


As I have opened the curtains these last few mornings, I have felt strong and lucky. If you’ve ever opened curtains with a crutch, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There haven’t been many other instances of feeling strong and lucky in direct relation to the crutches since we made our acquaintance twelve days ago, but our relationship is definitely improving. I have learnt to move slower. Taking my time has been hugely effective in lessening

  • the frustration
  • aches in previously unknown muscles
  • chances of landing on my tail end

I will probably never get used to the sound of them falling over when I thought I’d put them somewhere sensible. Nothing ruins a moment of quality rest like the sound of a crutch hitting the deck!

Eh no, said my foot

I have no one to blame but myself for my injury. What was to be my second Dublin Marathon is in six days’ time and I had been training by an indoor and grass-based plan of my own invention. My “plan” I thought, would make me faster and fitter than last year, (I’d even borrowed a pacing watch from the nice man in Run Logic, the high hopes I had!) but it actually left the me/road interfaces, i.e. my feet, insufficiently prepared for the whalloping slog on the hard surface. A twenty-mile training run on the pavement has left me with a suspected stress fracture on the outside edge of one foot.

I never need to know what would have happened if I’d injured myself this time last year. It is possible that I would have tried to complete the marathon anyway and done myself some permanent damage. I guess that can happen when people have something to prove, and last year I did. This year I don’t.

My picture of health

This year I have a better view of my big picture. In this picture, admitting defeat is something that there is a time and a place for, when continuing a struggle is going to do more long term damage than short term good. I used to admit defeat before I even tried to do the things I wanted because I had absolutely zero faith in myself, but my relationship with exercise has changed that.

Exercise can be a private challenge where I alone know how hard I’m trying, and how much further and further I’m pushing myself. Targets that I choose and meet can’t be denied or diminished (even by me) and I know that the triumphs, the big and the small, are all my own. I spend a lot less time submerged in self-loathing than I used. It has less power now, and I have more strength.

Life Proud FScott

Image by Anya Kucheryavenko (


What nobody else can do

I’m bipolar and I have recently been keeping my doctors informed as I have eased myself off an extra medication that I neither liked the sound of, (What marketing department approved the name “anti-psychotics”?) nor saw my need for. By doing this, I have increased my personal responsibility to live well and fulfill the immediate goals that I have set for myself.

I’ve thrown away a few crutches this last year, and on each occasion my responsibility for my wellbeing has increased. I’m thirty-five, and if I don’t venture out from the stifling sick role now, it’s not a threshold that any other person can ever lead me across.

I am by no means dissing medication, psychiatry, or any of it. I really value, and like,

  • my GP
  • local pharmacist
  • psychotherapist
  • unconventional new psychiatrist

They work to help me keep my condition under control, but they do not want to control me, or define me. I am free.

When the problem isn’t you

I never would have seen it coming, but defence and protection against unpredictable circumstances have been big themes of my 2014. It is as if this year of my life has been ring-fenced for training on those competencies. Defend and protect, before advancing. It makes sense, like a novice boxer learns to keep his guard up or he will be vulnerable. What threats used to come from within now seem to come from external sources (pavements, people) and this year of defence and protection training has taught me that the external ones are actually lesser adversaries. They’re less personal and therefore less powerful.

We’re stronger than we know

I will be bipolar my whole life, but I think that I might finally be out of the woods. I thank exercise for getting me there. Obstacle course and survival skills comparisons abound, but simply put there is nothing like feeling strong for becoming aware of your strength. Now that it’s so clear that doing difficult things has brought me physical strength, I realise that the battles I’ve fought with my demons over the years must have contributed to a strength of spirit that I’d not previously given myself credit for. I feel lucky to be in a position to see that now.

Now, if I could just get a bit more graceful at all of it.


Sarah Bredin is a See Change ambassador. See Change understands that there is a complex multiplicity of perspectives on mental health problems and the experience of being unwell. See Change encourages the publication of material that promotes understanding of mental health problems, the experience of being unwell, and recovery. The opinions expressed by contributors are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of See Change, funders, or partner organisations.


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