Following a traumatic birth and poor aftercare from my midwife I began to realise that how I was feeling in the aftermath of my daughter's birth, was much more than the "baby blues". I was suffering from Post Natal Depression. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't crippling to such an extent that I couldn't get out of bed but there were a lot of tears, there was a lot of anxiety about my beautiful baby and at times I just couldn't function properly even though I always wore a brave face. Once I was able to separate out the normal feelings of a new Mum, I realised something wasn't right and I needed help. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic GP and a supportive husband and with medication and counselling I soon began to feel better. However, those feelings of helplessness were never far away and that scared me.
By this time I had been running for a good few years and I knew how good it could make me feel so it was running I turned to, to help me through my hardest days. Running was, and still is for me my head space, my stress relief and my "me time". There's lots of research out there about the benefits of exercise for people battling mental illness , about the chemicals it releases which can improve your mood and reduce stress levels and I'm living proof that it's true. When those familiar feelings of despair began to return after the birth of my second daughter I knew exactly what I needed to do and this time I managed my symptoms without medication and counselling. Whenever I felt low would just pop my trainers on and run and during those 30 minutes I could right a thousand wrongs.
I recognise that I was fortunate in that my illness wasn't so debilitating as to prevent me from getting out there. I recognise the irony in the fact that sometimes the one thing we need is the one thing our illness can prevent us doing, and that is the reason why I have applied to become a Mental Health Ambassador for Run England. Through our These Girls Can Run groups. I want to support people who suffer from mental health problems to give running a try or get back to running. I want to raise awareness about the benefits of running and through sharing my story and hopefully the stories of others I want to remove some of the stigma which still surrounds mental health.
#runandtalk is an ongoing campaign supported by England Athletics and MIND and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to support it through our run groups and beyond.
If you are suffering from a mental illness you don't have to suffer alone. There is lots of support out there either through your GP or through community organisations. Don't be afraid to ask for help.