For Keris Ellington-Brown, 28, fitness is a way to manage her feelings of depression
‘I was always quite a sensitive child and suffered badly with migraines. Initially, the hospital thought I had glandular fever and I was out of school for about 18 months but, after months of tests and negative investigations, they thought I might be making it up because I didn’t have any other symptoms. It was only when I went to the London Osteopathic Centre tor Children (OCC) aged 13 that the head of the centre confirmed the pain and darkness in my head was a manifestation of depression. Under the NHS, I went ‘About this time I met my boyfriend and we started going to the gym together. When he went to work at Pyscle, I started going to classes. My first ride was with a woman called Tameka and she was honestly incredible.
Comments about me being mixed race and questioned if I was having an identify crisis. He thought I was seeking attention because I didn’t know who I could identify as, so we left and my mum and I managed the headaches with painkillers, drinking lots of wafer and seeing a nutritionist and doctor with the OCC.’
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‘When I was at university, the migraines started to come back. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself as I wanted to get a first, but inside I just felt numb. I got my first, but I was on antidepressants for about two years. It was hard to get a job after uni, so I ended up working in property. In that field, you have to be the life and soul of the party. I drank a lot, put on a lot of weight and ballooned to 13 and a half stone.’
‘But then, at 24, I got my first gym membership, at Fitness First in Carnaby Street. I started using generic cardio and adductor machines twice a week and no longer went out drinking with people from work. I’d found something that made me feel good and that was mine. I soon began to see the difference – I wasn’t as tired all the time, I was noticeably thinner and I could walk up an extra flight of stairs without getting so out of breath.
If you want to do something, you can – you just have to put in the work to more classes. From someone who felt a bit lost, I started to feel proud of how hard I worked in class.
‘Soon, fitness had become my life, and one day I realised I didn’t want to work in my job any more as it wasn’t making me happy. A few days later, I came out of a Psycle class and thought, “I want to do this”. I’d learnt through the gym that, if you want to do something, you probably can – it’s just a question of puffing in the hard work.’
‘Training to become a Ride cycling-class instructor is a real test of who you are. My fitness and cardio levels were nowhere near where they needed to be, so I had a lot of work to do, but I did it and got through. That was my biggest achievement, because there were times when I was really stressed and anxious, and didn’t know if I could do if, but I realised my mind is way stronger than I give it credit for. There was a time when
KERIS’ TOP TIPS
‘Surround yourself with people who support you.’
‘Move daily, so you can feel something other than your emotions.’
‘Acknowledge your feelings and respond to them. If you hide them, they stay for longer.
For example, if you’re feeling low; instead of just glazing over it, sit down and reflect.’
‘If possible, understand why you’re feeling sad, then accept it and consciously move forward, including your feelings as you do so.’
I didn’t feel much apart from sadness, but now I feel more alive – I feel fitter, I feel healthier, I feel happier.
‘I’m still quite sensitive, and I still have periods of feeling anxious and sad, but I know I have to move every day. Moving makes me feel better. I notice if I don’t teach for a while, I feel very down, so I ride for myself or do some classes or a bootcamp. I’m also a personal trainer now, so seeing other people achieve their results gives me a high as well.’
‘What I enjoy most about teaching is helping people feel strong, feel proud, feel exhausted. I like helping them be in control of how they feel. I know there’ll probably be a period where my depression will flare up again, but I now know it doesn’t last. This year, I’m going to start counselling sessions. I want to make a change, and I don’t think I can make a change to other people if I haven’t made the change for myself.
‘When I’m about 50, I’ll probably go and train abroad as a yoga teacher, and have a new path..