A Ryde woman is set to run 10 miles in memory of her mother who tragically passed away 10 years ago.
Kayleigh West, 30, will run the Simplyhealth Great South Run on Sunday 21 October to honour her mother’s memory and to raise funds for Mind.
Kayleigh’s mum, Kari Paxton, suffered from depression and anxiety throughout her life but hadn't always sought help. This led to her taking her own life at the age of just 37, after she suffered a breakdown caused by stress at work.
Kayleigh said: “My Mum was my best friend and my hero. She was strong, brave, intelligent, incredibly funny and she had a beautiful heart.
“She'd brought me up as a young, single mother and had worked hard to build a career for herself, earning a business degree along the way.
“If Mum had reached out for help earlier and if the right help was available to her when she did ask for it, she might still be here today. But she struggled in silence, afraid to speak up and by the time she reached out and we knew she was suffering, she was very unwell.
“Unfortunately the care she received wasn't good either and within six weeks of us knowing she was poorly, I came home and found Mum had taken her life.
“I can't describe the pain I felt and still feel to this day, it broke my heart. My life was never the same and I will never be the same person I was before she died.
“I coped by surrounding myself with people who loved me but I was masking my own problems, I didn't deal with my grief or the trauma of finding Mum. I was battling grief, depression and anxiety and despite what I'd been through with Mum, I didn't recognise the signs and I was in denial for a long time.”
Kayleigh thanks running for helping her cope with the tragedy. She started running to get fitter but noticed significant positive effect on her mental health too.
She added: “Running really helps with my anxiety because my body takes over from my mind. I can't worry about anything because I'm concentrating on moving forward, it distracts me from the worrying thoughts and every run is an achievement.
“Depression is kind of like a devil on your shoulder, telling you that you're not good enough, but when your mind is telling you that you can't do something or that you're not good enough, by going out for a run you're proving it wrong.
“That sense of achievement at the end of a run is like nothing else, it doesn't matter if you've gone two miles or 20, it doesn't matter how sweaty you are, how much your face is the colour of a tomato. When I finish a run, I never feel bad, I have this overwhelming feeling that I can do anything I set my mind to, that I am good enough and I can beat this.”
Now she is determined and excited to run at the Simplyhealth Great South Run in memory of her mother and to raise more money for Mind. She is looking forward to the sense of achievement when crossing the finish line and hopes that increasing awareness of mental health and her mother’s story will encourage others to seek support.
Kayleigh continued: “I can't bring my Mum back but I can honour her memory and raise awareness and money to help other people struggling with mental health.
“I hope that someone who is struggling reads my story and it encourages them to open up, seek help or perhaps get out there running themselves and find it as healing as I have. There is so much support out there now – don't be afraid to speak out!”
She will be joined by 20,000 other runners at the Simplyhealth Great South Run in Portsmouth, which celebrates the historic and iconic sites of the city across a virtually flat 10 mile course, including the Historic Dockyard and Spinnaker Tower.
The weekend also includes the Simplyhealth Great South 5k and the Simplyhealth Junior and Mini Great South Run, taking place the day before on Saturday 20 October.
For more information about the Simplyhealth Great South Run and to enter, visit: Greatrun.org/South
To support Kayleigh’s fundraising campaign, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kayleigh-west2