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Week 14: 'I was crying all the time but Aware helped me get back to my old self'

My name is Karen McCann and I’m from Artane in Dublin. I have an 18-month-old baby boy called Max. After Max was born, I was in a very bad place with regards to my mental health.

It was such a shock to the system to have this little person who was depending on me, 24/7. I thought it was normal that I was feeling so down all the time. People were telling me: “It’s just the baby blues… it will pass.”

When Max was three months old, I was in a really bad way. I couldn’t socialise with my friends or family, being in a crowd of people made me have panic attacks, and I was crying all the time for no reason.

I wasn’t eating and I was getting very little sleep.

I went to my GP and told her what was going on. She was amazing and supportive.

She told me that I had many of the symptoms of postnatal depression and that we would start to treat it immediately.

I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I told my family and friends and they could not have been any more supportive.

Gradually, over the next few months, I found it easier to get out and about again.

A friend of mine said to me one night: “Sure depression is all in your head.” It really shocked me that, in this day and age, people still think that depression is not an illness.

It was a long road for me, but in the last six months, I have really started to feel that I’m back to my old self.

I would not have been able to get through this last 18 months if it hadn’t been for the support of my family, my friends, my amazing counsellor and my beautiful baby boy.

I think there is an awful stigma attached to depression.

I always thought postnatal depression was when a mother didn’t bond with her baby. In the last 18 months, I have opened up to people about my depression.

I couldn’t believe the amount of them who have sent me encouraging messages and said that they themselves or someone close to them had been in a similar situation.

It made me realise that more needs to be done to help people who have mental illness.

AWARE does amazing work and the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon is a great opportunity to do my bit for such a great organisation.

As someone who works in the health industry, I understand how important exercise is for our mental health. The hardest part is getting out and doing it!

I have taken part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon four or five times, and this year, I will be doing it for AWARE.

I have great support from my mam, my sister and my sister-in-law this year. As soon as I asked them, they were up for it!

I love the atmosphere in the city as soon as you get off the bus on the day. There is always a great buzz with the crowds from all over Ireland.

I love reading all the different t-shirts to see who is supporting which charity, it really is just a great day out for everyone.

For more information on AWARE, go to www.aware.ie