Running through Postnatal Depression
This week, pretty much 10 years to the day, my first beautiful baby girl was born. It was a life changing moment in so many ways looking into the eyes of this incredible little bundle of potential and loving her so much I could burst, but it would also mark the start of a long, difficult and often all consuming journey through mental illness. It’s a journey which is still ongoing to some extent but with running in my armoury I know I will always fight it and mostly I will win.
Until this point in my life, running had always been about weight loss and fitness and health. When I started running, I was five stone overweight, unfit and too scared of judgement to join a gym. I started running under cover of darkness, slowly building up from lamppost to lamppost, then 5km, next 10km and before I knew it I was a half marathon runner with medals galore. When I fell pregnant I continued to run for as long as I could still then oblivious to the fact that this one thing I was doing to stay fit and healthy was going to save and change my life in the not so distant future.
I still find it difficult to discuss my daughter’s birth and what unfolded after as it takes me to a very dark place, but negligence on the part of the maternity unit and subsequently the midwife who visited us at home triggered a series of events which impacted my mental health to such an extent that I found myself in the black hole of Postnatal depression which threatened to take me under.
Every day I was lost in these conflicting emotions where I loved my little girl with all of my being but it was like I was seeing the world through a thick fog I just couldn’t escape. To the outside world I was functioning. I was getting up, getting dressed, going along to baby classes and to everyone else I was just a new Mum going through all of the normal emotions that come with having a new baby. Inside I knew this wasn’t true. I felt stuck, completely and utterly overwhelmed by life and numb to the core.
One day, after an awful night of incessant feeding, nappies and crying I remember just sitting on the stairs and sobbing until I thought my heart would break. It was the lowest point of my life and the point where depression had me in it’s firmest grip, refusing to let go. Then I spotted the laces of my trainers hanging out of our shoe cupboard. I hadn’t put them on in months. The thought of getting back out there terrified me, but then I thought, what if….? I told myself I didn’t need to go out for a long run, I didn’t even need to run. I would go for a walk around the block and if I felt like running then I would. But I did run, and I didn’t stop because while I was running, the fog began to clear, just a little. Just enough to see a glimmer of hope.
Every single day after that, as soon as my husband came in from work I did the same. Mostly I didn’t feel like it but I always made the same promise to myself - you don’t have to go for long, walk if you must, but go. Please, just go. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I got to the end of the street and came back as some days it all just felt a bit too much, but mostly I would run and sometimes I would run far. For that window of time I loved the fact that I was beginning to see my way a little clearer, that I was me. Running wasn’t about weight loss anymore it was my lifeline which I clung to and continue to cling to to this day.
Depression never leaves me for long. I feel in a way it will be there for the rest of my life tapping at the door, trying to find a way in but I know if I lace up my trainers, go outside and run, that tapping noise will fade until I can barely hear it because the pounding of my feet on the pavement will always be the sound I choose to hear instead.
Because of running I am here today. Because of running I have had the opportunity to build an incredible community of women who run, who support each other and who we allow to talk openly about their struggles with mental health because running means we no longer fear it. Running has allowed me to achieve more in my life than I ever dreamed possible, marathons, 52 half marathons in 52 weeks and this year my first ultra marathon. Running allowed me to face the battle with PND and win.
Thank you to Kim for sharing her story about Postnatal Depression.
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