Throughout #RunAndTalk week we’re hearing from a number of people about how running has helped their mental health. This is Liz’s story:
My story about my experiences of running and mental health problems.
I think my issue with mental health started when about 2005 when I fell pregnant. My kids are now 13 and 11, when I was pregnant with Michael (13) I developed benign intercranial hypertension (BIH), which ultimately meant having two or three lumbar punctures a week to reduce spinal fluid pressure and caused some permanent loss of peripheral vison in my right eye. I also had to have a section and to be honest, I never really made any connection between feeling low and my mental health – I just assumed it was ‘being a mam’.
I went back to work when Michael was four months old as I’d had to start maternity seven weeks early due to illness and thought no more of it. When I had Jamie (now 11) whilst I was lucky not to have the BIH return, I developed gestational diabetes (which I probably had with Michael as well but with everything else going on it went undiagnosed). Whilst that resolved itself after his birth, I found myself bursting into tears all the time, feeling anxious about EVERYTHING and quite isolated, I was probably very difficult to live with. We’d moved to a village where I didn’t really know anyone, my dad had died when Michael was 6 months old, my mam was in a care home and due to work and two young kids I found I’d lost touch with my friends.
I eventually went to the doctors and was diagnosed with post-natal depression and put on Fluoxetine. I took that for months, and it did work as I stopped feeling anxious, and stopped crying, but I pretty much stopped feeling anything – I found it rather numbing, I reconnected via Facebook with my friend from uni who had also had PND and she said she started running for headspace. So, seven stone over weight and not able to run for a bus, I put my trainers on and went out for a run. This was about 2008/9. I did the couch to 5K and in 2009 did the Great North Run (badly). It made such a difference that (I can’t quite remember when) I stopped taking the tablets. I never really stuck with the running for any length of time but over the next few years I dipped in an out of exercise. Yoyo-ed in weight and did the c25k a few times.
Spin on to 2018 and I decided to sort my act out properly. I started the c25k again last Jan and in September joined my local RunTogether group Coxhoe Runaways. I’ve dropped five stone so far and the difference in my mental wellbeing is marked. I don’t know how much of that is down to running, it’s a combination of increased confidence from losing weight and the friendships I have made from joining the group (I always ran alone before) and now I actually know many of the people in the village as friends rather than just faces I’d recognise. The biggest difference I noticed was over the Christmas period. My husband plays in a band and the last few years I have spent most evenings over Christmas alone as he had to work, which I found, well not hard, but something to be endured and I was pretty miserable. This year, because I feel like I have more in my life, it wasn’t really an issue. Running has helped me physically, broadened my circle of friends and given me ‘a thing’ that’s mine and that’s what’s helped my mental health. So in a nutshell, I literally ran away from post-natal depression.