Meet Claire who is running the Middlesbrough 10K in aid of Red Balloons
27 October 2021
27 October 2021
Claire is running the Middlesbrough 10K for the mental health charity she set up, Red Balloon’s. Claire set up the charity after struggling with her own mental health, finally reaching a climax in 2017 when she planned to take her own life. We caught up with her ahead of the main event next Sunday...
Why did you decide to run the Middlesbrough 10K?
Running is my passion, and a massive coping strategy that I use for my mental health, but unfortunately, over the last year due to injuries, illness and life circumstances getting in the way, my running has taken a back seat, and I am really struggling without it.
When I felt able to start running again, I wanted a race that meant something to me. Although I am not from around here, I definitely count myself as an adopted Teessider, and the area has my heart. The Middlesbrough 10km is an iconic run, what better way to celebrate with the community?
Can you give us a little more insight into your mental health journey and how this led to you starting a mental health charity?
Mental health has always been a massive part of my life, from struggles growing up, to post natal depression at just 20 when I had my daughter, to it finally reaching a climax in 2017, when things got too much and I felt that the only way to make things better, particularly for my children, was to take my own life. I planned it down to the last detail, for it to look like an accident so that they would never know what their Mam had done, so life insurance would pay out. I was absolutely certain that the only way they could lead a happy, good life, was without me in it. I can now finally say, thankfully, I survived. It took me a long time to be thankful but now, I truly am and I believe that all the bad things in my life have actually helped me to realise what I should be doing. I started off blogging and volunteering for Mind, they encouraged me to use my experiences and how exercise helped me cope with my ill mental health, to start a peer support group - that I named after my blog - Red Balloons. And that is where my story of recovery really started. From a blog, to a small weekly meeting on a Tuesday evening in a local school, to now being a fully fledged charity, operating Walk and Talks, one to ones, peer support and new projects in the pipeline, with an amazing team of over 10 staff and volunteers, it is just amazing. I want to use this race to publicly raise our profile and to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me be brave enough to talk about my story, and to help me help as many people as possible to truly believe that they ARE worth it.
How has running helped your mental health?
Running is my number one coping strategy for stressful times, and the one thing that I know can work when my mental health is low. I still struggle a lot with my mental health, which I am very honest about, as I believe that although for some people it can be a one off period of time, for some it's a battle that they will have to face for the rest of their life. When I run alone, it is time for me. Where I can drown out all the noise and stresses of everyday life, where I can quiet the voices in my head that tell me I am useless and worthless and disgusting. I put my earphones in, I put my music on (my number 2 method of coping) and I run. I feel free, I feel strong, I feel every part of my body.
On the other side of things, running has brought me a community, and friendships that I cannot begin to express my gratitude for. It has helped me realise that I am perfectly ok being my imperfect self. We celebrate and commiserate as a community, whether it is online or face to face. Running brings people together in a way that nothing else ever seems to be able to, and I love it!
From a personal level, for someone who suffers with Bulimia and body image issues, being able to say that I have ran 3 half marathons and the LONDON marathon is really phenomenal. It is always a struggle, but I can celebrate what my body can do, even if I can't celebrate what it looks like.
Can you tell us about the work Red Balloons does?
Red Balloons works by combining the power of physical activity with talking, to provide a safe, non judgemental place that people can come to simply be themselves. We put no pressure on people to disclose anything, however we are all trained to listen and to support. We are not trained counsellors or therapists, we are very honest about that, but what we have, money and education can't provide. That is life experience. All staff and volunteers have some form of experience with mental health struggles, whether it be a diagnosed condition such as Bipolar, Depression or Anxiety, or whether it is circumstance linked, with things like bereavement, grief, relationship breakdowns, redundancy and long term physical health conditions. Through COVID we had to adapt and change the way we worked, but we never closed our service, in fact we operated more. We started a 7 day a week messaging service, we created a private community group - Red Balloons Wellbeing - where people could chat and share things with each other. We did online fitness sessions, online walks and many other activities. We were a constant form of support, often through people's darkest and loneliest times and for that, I am so incredibly proud.
Why do you feel it’s so important for those who feel isolated post covid to reengage with local communities?
COVID took away not just people's freedom, but their whole support networks, their whole life as they knew it. As humans, we are a social species, we have different circles of people, from work, to friends, to school etc. It gave people a lot of time, too much time, to think and the future was, and still is, uncertain for many. We see so many people suffering from isolation, loneliness, low self esteem and fear. To be able to offer a service that can operate on multiple levels to be able to be person centred, is vital. We offer understanding and we listen to what each individual needs. We work across Teesside with so many other organisations too, as we know that you need a net of support. We can't do this alone and we are proud to be part of such a strong community of fantastic organisations, where we can all work together to create a happier and healthier Teesside.
Do you have a just giving page that we can reference? Is there a specific fundraising target you are aiming for?
I decided not to set a specific target, as this can put added pressure on me and those who want to help but may not have the ability to donate. I do have a just giving page -https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/claire-daff and we will be so thankful for any donations, but what our main aim on the day is, is to raise as much awareness as possible, about mental health but also about our service and how we can help. I will be offering to chat to anyone who may need support along the route, and I will be carrying 10 Red Balloons, floating high above me, to hopefully not only raise a smile, but maybe also raise some hope in those that need it.
Any social channels that people can follow your journey on?
We also have an official website www.redballoons.org.ukShow Claire your support