Success stories showing how Fitmums & Friends helped women to deal with postnatal depression.
Claire O’Neal, 41, of Cottingham, is a teacher with two children. She has been running with Cottingham Fitmums & Friends since the launch of the group in 2009. She says running helped her to overcome issues related to her post-natal depression and wants to challenge the stigma attached to the illness.
Claire says: “I suffered with depression with both of my children. Women should be told when they are pregnant that it’s something that happens to a lot of women. But it’s not discussed. So many people must go through it with no treatment and have to handle it on their own.
“The first time I ever spoke about it was when I went to a clinic when my eldest child was about 6-8 months old. A midwife and health visitor asked how I was feeling and I blurted it all out. I went to the doctors, went on anti-depressants and was on them for three years.
“With my second child, I recognised my post-natal depression straight away. I had really bad sleep deprivation this time as she didn’t sleep for a year and I think that made the depression much worse. Now, she’s a brilliant child.
“The idea of having Post-Natal Depression Volunteer Supporters at Fitmums is amazing. It would have been fabulous for me to have someone specific I could have spoken to. Equally brilliant is the fact that someone could refer you to a running group.
“A friend talked me into joining Fitmums because I used to run competitively as a child. The first time I went, Sam Barlow totally talked me through a two-mile run – I couldn’t believe I’d done it. She took my mind off what we were doing.
“For me, Fitmums helped on two levels. It helped me to get back into exercise, which made me feel fantastic. It helped with weight loss and it helped emotionally. I can run up to five miles now. But Fitmums is also about making so many lovely new friends. Everybody is lovely and thoughtful and looks after each other. I can’t wait to see everyone each week. When you get back in from Fitmums, you feel like you can do anything.”
Paula Farrar, 35, of west Hull, is a neighbourhood housing officer with two children,. She has been running with Cottingham Fitmums & Friends for a year. She talks about her experience of post-natal depression after the birth of her first child and how joining Fitmums & Friends has helped her to avoid the illness after her second child was born.
Paula says: “Nothing can prepare you for what you go through, mentally and physically, when you have a baby. When I had our first child, overnight, I was shattered into smithereens. I had no control.
“In my day-to-day job, I could be in control, everything was always tip-top. Depression overran when this child came along. I just couldn’t deal with it.
“My family are fantastic but it was difficult for them to offer me support. My husband started a new job at the same time as the baby was born, my mum had cancer and was going through chemotherapy and my family worked full-time. I didn’t have anybody on tap who could support me when I did start getting down. There was no-one who could stop that from happening.
“The midwife told me it was normal so I didn’t get any medication or counselling. You’re crying out for help and advice and no one can give you a straight answer. You just feel really isolated.
“I used to wake up screaming during the night. I didn’t feel I could be on my own with my son because I couldn’t cope with the demands.
“I didn’t feel like I loved him. I knew it wasn’t right. I resented my husband because I thought he wasn’t doing anything. Actually, he was, but I couldn’t see it at the time.
“I remember going to sleep thinking, ‘I don’t ever want to want to wake up’, because I was so fed up. I used to look out of the window and think ‘there’s a whole world out there’. I think a lot of women don’t tell the truth and hide how they are feeling.
“Now, having children is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
“With our second child, I still felt as though I didn’t know what I was doing but we did things a lot differently: my husband and I did shifts at nights as the sleep deprivation is one of the worst things that makes you the way you are; my family can now give us more support; we spread my husband’s paternity leave out; and we didn’t let visitors come to us – we went to them. This time, when I started having a bit of a wobbler, my husband was very supportive.
“After the birth of our second child, I’d gained quite a bit of weight and wanted to get out of a rut because I could feel that mental pressure building up again.
“When my neighbour suggested I went to Fitmums, I said, ‘I can’t run’. But she told me you build it up, bit by bit. I turned up on my own and joined the one-mile group. Now, I do six miles every Wednesday and I did the Jane Tomlinson 10k for the first time this year, raising money for Cancer Research. I’ve also lost two-and-a-half stone this year.
“Fitmums is very supportive. The group can help people out of a dark place. They can help you through all sorts. That hour-and-a-half out of the house makes you feel so much better. It’s just nice to feel you’ve got more to life than your kids. It is good for you to have a bit of your own time to do something for yourself. It’s freedom.”