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Beyond the finish line:
Alex’s story of mental
health and support

Read how Alex, one of our senior leaders here at HMRC, has learned to manage his mental health. From running, to his supportive working environment, he celebrates his achievements.

Mental Health Awareness Week is here again with a message close to my own heart, movement!

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 about 8 years ago and I back then realised it was time for me to make some changes. I had always struggled with my mental health but never been able to get to the bottom of the scale of the problem. The cycles I would go through would feel like 2 steps forward and 3 steps back, meaning I was never quite where I wanted to be, and kept falling into worse positions.

My diagnosis, although hard to accept at first, was an opportunity for me to understand myself, my illness and to focus on being a better person.

During my journey of “figuring myself out”, which unfortunately, wasn’t packing up and going travelling, I continued to work hard in my career, my relationships and on the most important thing, me!

I started working for HMRC, where they have been incredibly supportive towards my well-being, offering flexible hours and encouraging me to take advantage of professional development opportunities.

One of the most significant changes I made since my diagnosis was running. I’d always hated running, it felt monotonous, pounding pavements, and nearly getting run over in the city centre was never fun! Then, I discovered trail running! Yes, it was still putting one foot in front of the other, but this was different. Hills and mountains became a challenge, the excitement of running through a forest trying not to trip over rocks and running downhill made me feel like a kid again, arms flailing around as you try not to fall over! Then there was the sense of achievement, running further, climbing higher and that moment of wait, did I just do that?!

So, I decided to book a race that was 53 miles. Yes, you read that right, 2 marathons back-to-back! Oh, and to throw in an extra challenge, there was 7500ft of climbs as well! I increased my distances, 10k, half marathons, 30k and then onto marathons! Getting a medal at the end of each race was an added bonus!

But what did I learn?

My biggest lesson was at about mile 40 of the ultramarathon, when I realised, not once had I doubted that I was going to achieve finishing this race. I had expected to doubt myself, tell myself I couldn’t do it. And it almost would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy! I was going to finish, if it took me 5 hours, 13 hours (which it did) or 24. The end was in sight and that’s what I was going to do.

This got me thinking, whatever you are going through in life, this too shall pass, you are stronger than you know, and you can achieve whatever you set your mind to!

In the face of challenges, I now approach them with the same unwavering focus, a testament to the lessons learned on that long run. And I’m grateful to HMRC for fostering a supportive work environment that empowers me to bring this same resilience to every aspect of my life.

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