02/05/2018 16:43 BST | Updated 02/05/2018 16:43 BST

Running Was My Saviour During Post-Natal Depression

I believe that physical activity played a huge role in my recovery

Martin Novak via Getty Images

After longing to be a mum for so long, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t fit in to motherhood. It felt like other women embraced it so easily in comparison. Battling with my own emotions left me in an extremely dark and lonely place. I suffered in silence for a long term with what I now know as post-natal depression.

Everything came to a head in one pivotal moment. I remember the moment clear as day and it still haunts me - I was driving home from my spinning class, which I did every week to get some time to myself despite being seriously sleep deprived. As my daughter didn’t sleep until she was almost three, I was exhausted. As I was driving home after the class, a car pulled out on me. I had to slam the breaks on, and for a split-second I wished the car would hit me – I felt so low that I couldn’t deal with life. It was then that I knew things needed to change.

I decided to confide in my sister and my husband who urged me to seek medical help.  This provided me with the confidence I needed to start being open about my feelings rather than bottling it up. Running was my saviour – I believe that physical activity played a huge role in my recovery. Even now, if I’ve had a bad day in the office or I’ve experienced daily life stresses, I’ll grab my trainers and go for a run.

I’m now part of a running club and earlier this year, I started my own couch to 5K programme for mums who had been or are suffering from mental health issues. I am so motivated by and passionate about breaking the stigma which surrounds mental health and I want to help mums realise that it is ok not to be ok sometimes. If I can help at least one other person who’s struggling, it’ll be worth it.

This Girl Can, the campaign from Sport England which encourages all women to get involved in activity regardless of their age, ability and size, has showed me that I’m not alone. I now know that 1 in 10 women suffer with depression in the year after having a baby. If it’s affecting 10% of us, why isn’t it something we’re talking about more? Insight from This Girl Can shows that a quarter of women are scared to return to exercise after having time off – which can really affect new mums.

I can’t emphasise enough how much physical activity helped me to reduce the feelings of anxiety, stress and depression – and I am forever grateful to my family for supporting my need to be active. I find that physical exercise gives me the space to think things over and help my mind feel calmer. If you find yourself in a similar situation as I was 4 years ago, try to find the confidence to put some trainers on and go for a walk with the pushchair or find ten minutes a day for yourself to do some kind of physical activity – it doesn’t matter how slow or fast you go, the main thing is that you’re doing something for yourself. 

For further information on getting back into exercise after having a baby, visit: https://medium.com/@ThisGirlCanUK/getting-your-sweat-on-after-having-a-baby-16f7007a6c61