As long time sufferer of mental health issues, life for the larger than life character from Pontypridd, Dean Wright, has not always been easy. After a turn for the worse last year, exacerbated by COVID, Dean was finally diagnosed as suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Since then he has gone from strength to strength, using endurance running and fitness challenges as a way of maintaining a healthy wellbeing. He has completed many ultramarathons, setting many PBs and lost over 6 stone.
Here, Dean shares his story so that you can see how challenges can help us battle our demons and win! It will show anyone going through similar struggles that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Could you give a bit of background about yourself and what has led you down the path of taking on fitness challenges?
I'm a 48 year old ex-rugby player from the Pontypridd valley in South Wales.
I have a long history of mental health issues and unfortunately, in 2020, everything came to ahead. Personal issues coupled with the COVID pandemic created the perfect storm in which my mental health took a turn for the worse.
Following a severe leg injury in 2019, I was told by doctors that I'd never be able to hike again, never mind run. This really got me down I started drinking heavily.
Then the world welcomed COVID. Being locked up inside for such long periods of time put a huge strain on me and my wife (her must not be ignored, lol).
What we didn't see coming was the breakdown and on June 13th 2020, I was arrested for my own safety.
In hindsight, it was the best thing that ever happened to me and after 11 attempts at suicide over the years it was only a matter of time!
Being taken in allowed me to get the diagnosis I so desperately needed. I was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With the diagnosis, I was able to finally get the treatment I needed and I started the road to recovery.
I started hiking again and the weight was dropping off. Soon after I began running again. One year on and I’ve lost over 6 stone. I'm fitter than I’ve ever been and have run 10 virtual ultramarathons and set PB’s at every possible distance you could think of.
I use exercise and fitness challenges as a coping mechanism. They keep me on the straight and narrow, helping me to keep my health and wellbeing in check.
Why do you do it, why do you push your limits?
My why? Simply to be the best version of me physically and mentally. To challenge my mind, to push myself to the limit of physical and mental endurance. The stronger I get mentally and physically the easier it is to combat the demons of the past and whatever the PTSD throws at me.
What impact does taking part in challenges have on your life?
In a nutshell, the impact is massive!
My mental resilience has improved vastly. The benefits of losing over 6 stone and not drinking as often speak for themselves…albeit my bank account isn’t that happy as I had to replace all my clothes!
One massively important thing for me is it has increased my self-worth. For so many years I felt worthless and had nothing to offer but by turning my life around and completing these challenges it’s inspired others to challenge themselves. The “if I can, you can” message I try to spread is getting through.
Men especially are monumentally bad at talking about feelings and it’s a vital message to get out. I know of a few men who have got help from talking after reading my story which is one of the things that keeps pushing me. If we can help just one person in the never ending battle with mental health, we’re winning right?
What were your expectations when you first joined the Team Rokman Facebook group?
My expectations? I was excited about it all….until I realised how evil the Rokman Director, Terry is hahaha
How much value do you put on the Team Rokman group and how has it helped in terms of your challenges and goals?
The group as a whole are massively supportive. The camaraderie on there is brilliant and there are some real characters on there.
What’s been your favourite Rokman challenge and why?
The UK Special Forces series, High Walk. The fast 1.5mile and 5k were a massive challenge as beI'm built for comfort, not speed. But, I surprised myself with those two.
The Long Walk was interesting and a real battle of the mind. The distance wasn’t in doubt but I had a few demons going on at the time….. and I slipped on ice a few days before so ran it with a broken wrist!
Completing it against all the odds was another milestone in my recovery.
What’s your advice to someone who is thinking of taking on a Rokman challenge?
Prepare for hell and don’t expect to like Terry very much! haha
Seriously though. Embrace it, enjoy it and push yourself as hard as you can. You might just surprise yourself!