A 42-year-old police officer who hails from Tenby has touched the nation with her inspirational story of how she has overcome serious mental health issues whilst training for one of the world’s greatest sporting events.
Georgina Lloyd successfully crossed the finishing line of Sunday’s London Marathon for the charity Heads Together and hopes her plight will encourage others to talk, especially those in the emergency services.
The former Greenhill School pupil was one of 10 who took part in the BBC1 documentary Mind over Marathon which has followed them in their daily struggles to conquer mental health battles.
Now a Detective Sergeant in South Wales Police, Georgina told her story of how important it is to be open and seek help in a bid to breakdown the stigma and barriers which surround mental health.
Working as a Detective Sergeant in public protection, Georgina has dealt with plenty of people suffering from mental health issues, but she never saw herself in the same bracket.
Now, however, she can see that there were three triggers for her breakdown 13 months ago. At the beginning of 2015, she found out her IVF treatment had failed.
“Me and my partner never dealt with it and never spoke about it,” Georgina explained. “We just went on with our own lives. I ploughed myself into my job. I wanted to progress to the next rank, so I just threw myself into work.”
Secondly, that relationship broke down in December after 10 years together.
But at work, she didn’t let on that anything had happened.
“No-one knew what I was going through behind closed doors even though I was suffering,” she continued. “I didn’t open up to management, but only spoke to two friends.”
Over Christmas, she made excuses not to see family and didn’t want to go out of the house.
The third trigger was that she stood for a promotion. Now she admits that was a mistake, but at the time she turned up to the exam on crutches having just had knee surgery. She was both emotionally and physically worn out. She didn’t get the job, but returned to work.
“I felt so low you could have scraped me up,” admits Georgina who has been a police officer for over 14 years.
She went to the doctors with a fictitious physical injury and at that appointment, she broke down on a GP she had never met before.
She ignored the advice not to go back to work the following day.
But it all came to a head: “At midday, I said ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and I told my line manager I had to leave,” said Georgina.
She then hit her lowest point when she had to call her own police force as she stood on Penarth beach ready to end her life.
Georgina says her family and colleagues have been brilliant throughout her struggles.
“So many people have been shocked and surprised by my issues because they never thought it was going to happen to me,” she said.
She is only too aware of the stress emergency services staff are under and despite praising her ‘police family,’ she hopes that by speaking people will open up to each other.
Officially diagnosed as having a high functioning personality, in Georgina’s case that means not being able to live up to her own estimations.
“I can’t adjust to not achieving something,” she said.
She reluctantly took medication and has had counselling and therapies like mindfulness, but exercise has been her saviour.
A keen athlete, she has completed triathalons, but thought 11 knee operations would have ended her running career.
At one point, she was told by her counsellor that she was so hooked on using exercise, it was a form of self-harm.
But she has battled back. And taking part in the documentary, she has learned to control her exercise impulses and follow a disciplined, but achievable programme.
“When I’m running, I am out there on my own, in my own space,” she said. “You’re looking at the scenery and the puppies on the beach and it’s a distraction. For that hour, it’s time out of reality. It’s been a saviour to me, it’s kept me going.”
Georgina became involved in Mind over Marathon after responding to an advert which a friend sent to her from social media.
“The advert was asking for people who use or are interested in using exercise as a therapy for their mental health illness,” she explained. “Exercise has been a big part of my therapy and I knew I had to apply, but never thought I would get it.”
But she did and Sunday’s race day was ‘physically and mentally demanding,” said Georgina.
“There were times, especially after mile 20, where I wanted to stop and give up, but I knew I couldn’t as that would have made me feel worse. I knew I had to get through it and I did, in four hours 55. Having family cheering me along the course was incredible and a massive motivation.”
As part of the documentary, Georgina has been lucky enough to meet up with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who have been spearheading the Heads Together campaign.
“They were absolutely fantastic,” said Georgina. “Their kindness towards me and their passion towards getting people to speak out about their own struggles is truly admirable. They all thanked me for speaking out and admired my courage and after my first meeting with Kate, I actually received a personal handwritten letter from her offering her support.”
The second Mind over Marathon was shown last night (Thursday).
Georgina has personally raised over £1,000 for Heads Together and would like to thank everyone who has sponsored her.
Sponsorship can still be pledged at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/georgielloyd