Running, Mental Health & Me: Vicki’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Vicki Merrin has run with our Pill mums since 2017. She opens up about the effect that an unplanned third pregnancy, emergency c-section and making the transition to being a stay-at-home mum had on her mental health.


After an unplanned pregnancy and c-section with my 3rd daughter, I felt desperate when I brought her home. We were in the middle of renovating our home, and this, coupled with a business expansion during my pregnancy, meant that I was already struggling more this time around. The shock of an unplanned c section, illness and not going back to work left me feeling out of control and unable to cope.

This affected my relationship with my husband and children and I felt distant and separated from those I loved.

I eventually contacted my GP about how low I was feeling about 6 months post delivery, and was referred to counselling – I refused medication – with a diagnosis of anxiety and mild postnatal depression. The counselling certainly normalised things for me and helped with how ashamed I felt.

Joining This Mum Runs in November 2017, 7 months post birth, was life changing for me. Having something just for me, the endorphins that exercise gives you and just the camaraderie that TMR offers you made such a huge difference to my mental health. I don’t think the girls even realised what they did for me but I didn’t need them to.

I think there’s still a huge stigma about feeling ‘down’ after having a baby, as I certainly felt it. However, I feel that was more through pressure I put on myself than how I was treated by medical professionals. The GP and counselling I was referred to were all understanding and caring. I think TMR needs to be referred to by the NHS!

Running, Mental Health & Me: Sarah’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Sarah is relatively new to TMR, and runs with the Thornbury group. She shares her story of depression that began in pregnancy and has persisted long after.


My mental health issues started when I was pregnant with my first son, and got worse when he was born. At this time, not much was said about mental health problems, and there was a strong sense of stigma, shame and misunderstanding in admitting to them; a family member even proposed I did not seek help in case my baby was taken away from me.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and prescribed medication. I was very ill and extremely anxious about issues such as cot death and being an inadequate parent. My son, probably sensing my emotional state, was a very fretful baby and cried for most of his first year (or so it seemed) until he started to walk and become more independent.

Physical activity, and especially being outside and running has made the biggest difference to my mental health, and I cannot imagine being without it now. I trail run 4 or more times a week, and find the release and challenge to be mind and life changing. I regularly enter trail races which gives me a huge sense of achievement.

As an organisation, TMR in my experience so far, has been very supportive of women, many of whom are happy to discuss their mental health (perhaps because I am open about my own issues, and that may give “permission” for others to feel able to discuss their own). The TMR community feels inclusive, honest and open about mental health issues, and that’s great.

I believe there is still a way to go to make talking about mental health and getting help for mental health conditions equal to how we would treat and talk about physical health conditions. There are women who I believe are shamed into being silent in their struggles when there is help available. There are women who ask for help and are offered only medication and a very long waiting list for any further support.

As women I believe there is so much we can do to support and build up other women experiencing these struggles, and I’d love to be a bigger part of that process. There are midwives and other professionals who could be better at having the conversation with women; an antenatal midwife, when I confessed during my second pregnancy that I was feeling low said “Oh don’t start all that nonsense again.” Not that helpful!

I find Postnatal Depression a somewhat meaningless term; for me, depression started before babies were born and has persisted long after! There is something minimising about the term, as though it’s somehow less serious than depression or anxiety that is not related to having a child. That needs to change.

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Running, Mental Health & Me: Alice’s Story

As part of our series on Maternal Mental Health Awareness, we’re sharing five incredible stories from Mums in our community, who have battled with perinatal mental health issues. Each of these amazing ladies has bravely agreed to make their story known, in the hope that it might encourage someone suffering the same symptoms to speak up, seek help, or even just get the headspace that they need to process how they feel and what’s going on.

Alice Tanaka runs with our Wandsworth mums.  When her son was born at 28 weeks, Alice’s world was turned upside down and she was faced with an entirely different experience of becoming a mum from the one she had imagined. She shares her story, and explains that it’s never too late to seek professional help.


My first (and only) son was was suddenly born 28 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy, with only stomach cramps as a warning sign. He weighed under 3 lbs. As there had been no complications for me during the birth, I was discharged from the hospital after 3 days.

Leaving the hospital, no longer pregnant, without a baby, on the day my milk came in, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My son had all the usual issues for a premature baby born at his gestation, chronic lung damage, jaundice, brain bleeds, a PDA (hole in the heart that usually closes soon after birth – his didn’t) and obviously, he was just so small.

He also had other complications: a chemical burn from a procedure that went wrong and he got sepsis. The scariest part was when our son frequently forgot to breathe and his heart rate would drop to dangerously low levels (again, a common issue for premature babies). This set off all the alarms on his incubator with nurses and doctors rushing over to wake him up. Luckily, my son grew well and with that he grew out of many of his issues from being premature. He came home, on oxygen, just before his due date.

I hadn’t realised at that time, the emotional strain of visiting him everyday for 12 weeks, most times wondering if he was still breathing.

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During the time my son was in hospital, I was incredibly anxious and stressed all the time. I also thought I was to blame; I mean, it was my body that had pushed my son out too early. I felt guilty that I’d ruined my husband’s first experience of becoming a dad, that he had to get used to his new role under the watchful eyes of nurses and doctors. So I stopped talking to my husband about how I really felt.

I also just felt so angry. Angry that we weren’t able to have the “normal” first time experience most parents do. I didn’t feel able to connect with other mums. We had missed meeting new parents at NCT class as my son came before our classes started. Once my son was home, we couldn’t go to playgroups as he was at a high risk of infection and then when that passed, I found it hard to pick up where we should have been.

After my son’s first birthday, I couldn’t understand why I still didn’t feel better. My son had grown to a normal size for his age, was hitting regular milestones and didn’t seem to have any lasting damage from being premature. But, I was still so anxious all the time and I couldn’t relax. For a long time, I thought maybe this was how I was a mother, that all mums get anxious about their children.

When I went back to work, the additional stress of a project I was working on just pushed me too far. I cried everyday in the toilets at work, I was drinking every night at home, I wasn’t running.

I tried to hide this all under a smile that I was doing fine and loving being a mum! But, the thing that made me get help was my anger. I had never felt so much rage before. I finally called an anonymous advice line at work and then went to my GP. I felt a massive relief just to admit how I was feeling, as I was exhausted from trying to hide it from everyone.

The GP diagnosed PTSD, anxiety and depression and I received 12 weeks of CBT therapy. The therapy was amazing. Talking to a stranger allowed me to be completely honest about how I felt as I didn’t need to be concerned with their feelings. I finally voiced some of my darker memories from my son being in NICU. I realised that although the trauma was over, I will still living in that state. The therapist also helped me identify a negative pattern of behaviour I often get stuck in and we worked on things I could do to break the cycle.

Around the time I was getting therapy, TMR started in Wandsworth. I had run a lot before I got pregnant and knew running made me happy, but it was so hard to start again. However, I found TMR so inclusive. I am a slow runner and I think back then, as I was still building up my fitness, I was even slower.

At TMR someone would usually hang back and run with me and the loops meant I never felt like I was too far behind the speedy runners. The Sunday runs and wanting to meet up with everyone motivated me to go for a few runs in the week. I loved finally being part of a “mum” group too. As the mums all had children of very different ages, I didn’t feel the same pressure as other mum groups where it can descend into a competition about what your child can/can’t do.

Before I got pregnant I ran to lose weight, now I realise, I run for my mental health. Running with a lovely bunch of people on a Sunday is even better for my mental health! I now notice such a difference to my mood, my outlook and my energy when I’ve been for run outside.

This Mum Runs meets Jasmin Paris

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International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a societal issue. The pressure is now on for a gender-balanced boardroom, government, media and sports coverage.

Collective, bottom up and top down action and shared responsibility is the key to real and lasting change. International Women’s Day is such a significant moment each year, an opportunity  to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, political and sporting achievements of women – while also acting as a clear call to action for accelerating gender balance.

This Mum Runs is a community powered, purpose driven organisation with a vision that aims to redress the balance when it comes to women and sport; to empower women everywhere to be healthier and happier through community and running – with a particular focus on mobilising women who are completely inactive.

Here are some stats that might (should) shock you;

2 million fewer women than men are active

I don’t know how this makes you feel, but reading stats like this has the power to make me weep.

And yet, this is not a new conversation.  It’s been like this as long as I can remember; I was the sporty kid at school 30 years ago but can remember how painful it was to watch friends who loved being active, not making the school sports teams and then slowly switching off from exercise completely. Many of them have spent the past 30 years completely inactive.

In more recent years, social media has added a myriad of pressures on women and girls who are persuaded that if you don’t look a certain way (ripped abs anyone?), don’t wear the right things, can’t (or don’t want to) ‘get faster’, then sport just isn’t for them.

Even the team behind the much lauded This Girl Can campaign admit that while the campaign changed attitudes, and women were inspired by the ‘real women’ shown in the campaign, the insight still shows that there “must be something about those women’s lives that is different to mine and enables them to exercise because I still don’t believe I can”.

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Add the very real pressures on Mums of time and childcare and the impact of childbirth on their bodies and what chance have we got of actually changing things?

As it happens, we believe change is coming.  And we believe that Mums are at the heart of it all.

Whilst on the surface we may appear to be just a “running group for Mums”, we are driving the narrative hard to change the decades long status quo for women everywhere, forever.

We’re proving that if exercise is about how it feels, and about how it makes you feel, then it really is for every women everywhere.  And we’re using the power of community to make this a life long change for good.

 

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Through the work we are doing – with hundreds of free runs led by specially trained volunteer Run Angels in cities across the UK and a thriving online community – we are positively impacting Mums lives: as well as the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise,  we’re impacting on women’s mental health, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, increasing confidence, creating connected local communities and cascading healthy habits that affect the entire family.

The added bit of magic is that when Mums are active, their daughters are 80% more likely to be active too, so imagine the impact we can have on the horrendous statistics at the top of this article as a global community of active Mums?

What better way to celebrate the game changing work we are doing to #BalanceforBetter on International Womens Day, than a run in the Edinburgh hills and an interview with Mum and Ultra Runner, Jasmin Paris.

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Jasmin recently took the world by storm when she won the infamous Montane Spine race – a brutal 268 mile, non-stop, winter mountain marathon that encompasses the entire Pennine Way.

Jasmin not only won the race, she beat the entire field of runners – both male and female. She was a day ahead of the first male competitor and broke the course record by a whopping 12 hours.

All this and she stopped at every checkpoint to breastfeed her daughter or express milk for her.

Just think about the epic-ness for a second….

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What makes Jasmin most impressive to us is how she describes her relationship with running – a “hobby” – and why she gets up every day at 4am to run “because I love how it makes me feel”. 

In our interview, we explore how she fits it all in, how she handled the post race questions about “beating all the men” and what her message is to women and girls who think “I can’t” when it comes to sport.

Grab a cuppa, get ready to be inspired and watch Jasmin’s interview We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.

If you want to join our 50,000 strong global community that is working towards real and lasting change, sign up for our weekly email

And if you’re keen to get more involved, want free community runs in your area, are a funder or brand that would like to work in partnership with TMR to accelerate our impact, you can contact Mel and the team

#thismumruns #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter

 

I joined TMR and fulfilled my dreams

I have been running with This Mum Runs in Wandsworth for a year and it is the best thing I’ve ever done!

I had always wanted to start running but was deterred by a lack of courage – that I would be slow, that I was not fit enough and worst of all, that I wouldn’t be able to finish. But one summer day last year, four months after I have moved to London, I decided to gather the courage and give it a go.

The first run was hard, and as expected, I could barely finish the 30 minutes. Michele, Emma and Man-yee were my Run Angels and would always run at my pace so that I was not left out, and thanks to the fantastic looping, I usually finished around the same time as the others.

I still remember the smile on Michele’s face when I finished the first run, and the three simple words ‘YOU DID IT!’ – the the most powerful thing I had heard for a while.

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Since then, I would always try my very best to make the Sunday run (and of course, the bRUNches and TMR social as well!).

Gradually I have seen myself getting fitter, the runs became easier and I could start chatting during the run. We chat about everything, from running to kids, from holidays plans to festive dinner recipes.

Taking part in the London British 10K – and the medal at the end – was the best gift to celebrate my first anniversary in the country, and it would never have happened if I had not joined the This Mum Runs community!

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Mine has been such a journey of personal empowerment – because now I know my dreams are achievable. This Mum Runs is a place where there is no judgment, no pressure, just love and support – and I will be forever thankful for the difference it has made to my life.

I Ran to Meet New Friends & Found Myself

As part of our birthday celebrations this month, we are taking a moment. To reflect and think about all that the amazing This Mum Runs community has achieved over the past 4 years.

As part of this moment of reflection, of course we wanted to tell your stories too. To shine a light on stories of brilliant transformation for women in the This Mum Runs community. To showcase how running has given them new found confidence in other areas of their lives too.

Meet Stacey.

How did you find out about TMR?

I remember hearing about This Mum Runs quite a few years ago when Mel set it up. Back, what feels like eons ago, in my pre-Mum life Mel had done some consultancy work for the company I worked for and we always got on well, so when I saw she had set up the community I was intrigued and wanted to support her. I didn’t think I would ever really have the confidence to get involved with the running or the social media myself though!

What do you love about running with TMR?

I completed the RUN30 course this year and I really enjoyed it. Initially I was really nervous but I decided to push through myself to start it and I loved meeting new people! My Run Maker (Sam) was amazingly kind and supportive and made me feel like I would be able to do it! I loved it so much I cried when the course was over!

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Because of where I live and the hours my husband works I don’t get to go to any social runs so I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it come to TMR runs, but I get so much support through the TMR Bristol Facebook page that I feel like I carry the support of the TMR ladies with me when I pop out for a trundle across the fields or around the village!

Has running with TMR helped you in other ways?

Before joining in with TMR I hadn’t run for years. After doing the Bath Half in 2008 I never really got back into it, then I had my daughter in 2010 followed by my son in 2012 and exercise really took a backseat.

I struggled with post natal depression after having my daughter, who cried all the time, and was very isolated so I would walk for miles. After I had my son I couldn’t do that and I started to struggle with my health generally. I found a class I loved but that stopped and nothing else would stick. I became  anxious and depressed and after finding myself crying for ‘no reason’ a lot decided to go on antidepressants.

After stalking the TMR Facebook page for a long time I decided I needed to start somewhere with exercise again, and that a 10 min walk/run with my daughter was better than nothing!

Running over the past year to 18 months has become a really positive way to support myself mentally and physically. After completing the RUN30 course I kept up my running and at the same time was helping a very small team of runners with moral support to train for the Bath Half 2018. When it was cancelled everyone was gutted. I sat in the bath and cried (no pun intended), but a few days later and a new Half Marathon booked in for the team I decided that I might as well give it a go myself!!

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I posted my runs and my progress in the TMR Facebook group and people gave me the thumbs up, I asked for advice and I got support, I even took pictures involving my bare arms and legs (#freeyourarms) and journey to complete a Half Marathon and to recovery began!! Without the TMR Community I don’t think I could’ve done it! The TMR ladies have me the confidence to carry on!

How your life is now and how you manage your mental health?

I have managed to come off the antidepressants now and when I feel the anxiety rising and the fog of depression re-emerging I know a run will help, either with a friend or on my own. Running has really helped increase both my mental and physical resilience.

When I went to the doctor to ask her if I could come off the medication she asked my what coping mechanisms I have and I said “I run now” and she agreed that running can do wonders for you and as as long as I could keep that up I could give it a go. 

I still have the odd panic attack and my down days but I know there is a way out and that going for a run will help me clear my head and find the solution. Plus I feel like a positive role model for my kids which is worth it’s weight in gold … (or even running medals!!)

This weekend is commonly known as Black Friday. At This Mum Runs we are actively encouraging you to switch off the laptop and the tech this weekend, to get outdoors for a run! Share your pics, tag them #blackfriday #thismumruns and you could be in with a chance of winning a whole load of exciting spot prizes!

We Are Four.

Its now four years since that dark, cold November evening  when I stood nervously outside a Bristol park waiting to see if anyone  would turn up to meet me, following my desperate plea on Facebook for a running buddy – and secretly hoping no-one would come because it would mean I could sneak off home, settle back on the sofa with a glass of wine and Strictly on catch up.  Read More

Free Those Arms

As most of you will be aware, we are running a month long campaign encouraging women to free their arms and legs from long sleeves and leggings, shake off the fear of being judged and enjoy their bodies. You can check out the stories that are being shared across the This Mum Runs social channels using the tags #FreeYourArms #FreeYourLegs

As part of the campaign we asked Body Image Guru, and Global Body Image Movement Ambassador, Lisa Beasley to tell us what she thinks holds women back when it comes to body confidence. Here’s what she said.

Read More

Our Mother’s Day Gift Guide

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Listen up hubbies, partners, and children. The 11th of March is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the important mamas in your life feel extra special on Mother’s Day.

As much as us mums love getting breakfast in bed and a hug in the morning from our little ones, sometimes we’d like to unwrap a little something extra too.

So we’ve put together this handy little gift guide to take the stress out of your Mother’s Day shopping and to help you find the perfect gift to show your appreciation this year, full of lots of brand new TMR goodies!

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Here are the 3 things you’re most likely worrying about:

(If you’re reading this mamas, share the guide with your partners and kids to give them a nudge in the right direction this year!). 

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Our New Sweater Is Here!

If the mum you’re shopping for comes back from her runs beaming, if she makes comments like “running makes me feel alive”, or “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t run” then she is one of the many woman in our group who’s fallen hard for running. Which mean’s she’ll love our brand new sweater, which celebrates the greatest romance of all time, that between a runner and her trainers.

Shop the sweater here.

 

Mother’s Day Mugs

Nothing says Mother’s Day present quite like a good slogan mug. We’ve added two brand new designs to our growing mug collection just for Mother’s Day, so there’s something for every running mum out there. View all of our mug designs in our shop by clicking here.

We Know Who’s Boss

Our “I Run The Show” range of cotton tees and sweaters is the perfect Mother’s Day gift. Because let’s face it, we all know that it’s mums who run the show. Click here to get yours.

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Gift her a little slice of freedom…

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Our brand new print bottles up that feeling of freedom and adventure that you get from a run and lets you hang it up on your wall. If the special mum in your life loves to run, she’ll love this print. You can find it on our shop by clicking here.

 

All About The Balance

Our best-selling “Run Miles.” range has a jumper for every running mum out there, whether she’s into gin, wine, or cake (that pretty much covers everyone, right?!). You’ll know which you should choose better than us here! Find them all here.

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You can view our full Mother’s Day collection in our shop by clicking here.

Happy Shopping peeps!

A Small but Powerful New Year’s Resolution

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“I’m a runner.”

How many of you reading this are truly comfortable saying those three little words?

If our experience of talking to thousands of running mums over the years is anything to go by, we’d say not many.

You might say “I run”, if you can finish your sentence with “but not very far”, “but I’m always at the back”, or “but I’m really slow”.

26235825_10155320668362169_1752450905_o.jpgSaying “I’m a runner” – with no ifs or buts – is something most of our community just aren’t comfortable doing. Even to women who have run half marathons, the phrase can seem daunting and unnatural, inviting others to pick apart all of the reasons why you’re not really a proper runner. 

And it’s this fear of criticism and ridicule that holds us women back and keeps us self-effacing in sport.  Research has shown that a fear of being judged is the overarching concern that puts women off exercise.

Ever since we were little girls, we’ve been told that runners look a certain way, and dress a certain way. We’ve been told that they run for speed, distance or PBs. If we don’t fit this mould, we don’t feel that we have any right to call ourselves runners at all. 

18380568_1200026996786395_990978263767580672_n.jpgWell ladies, you have every right.

If you escape a screeching toddler once a week to run for 10 minutes up and down your street in a baked bean-stained pyjama top, you’re a runner. If you take up running aged 65 and half-walk, half-jog around your village once a fortnight to get outside in the fresh air, you’re a runner. If you finish last and red-faced but beaming at your local parkrun, you’re a runner.

Because here’s the simple truth:  your age, size, shape, experience, and clothing don’t matter.

If you run, you’re a runner, full stop.

This year, we want you to make it your New Year’s resolution to say “I’m a runner” out loud (regularly) and to really believe it. No more excuses, no more selling yourself short.

Make your pledge to call yourself a runner in 2018 by posting on our Facebook wall using #RunnerFullStop. We want to hear about whatever’s held you back from calling yourself a runner in the past, and why you’re proud to be a runner now.  2018 is the year that we will all stop doubting ourselves, together. Because we’re better than that!

Look out from more from us on our #RunnerFullStop campaign in the next few weeks.

Happy New Year.