By Kirsty McNab, CEO
Maybe it’s because it’s mental health awareness week or because we are signing up to the mental health charter with SAMH or maybe it’s just part of life’s reflections. But every one of the amazing young people that joined to be Active Champions in those early days, and everyone who have joined since, saved me. In 2012, after having a baby I lost all of my confidence, the nurse suggested a mums group at Dennistoun Library to help. I went in, no-one spoke to me so I left, crying outside.
Physical activity has always been a massive part of my life, from being an active child growing up to my degree and subsequent career and though crappy teenage years being part of a team made a real difference. So I mentioned to someone that I really wanted to be exercising again, but with my new baby, she suggested a buggy bootcamp class at Hogganfield Loch that was on twice a week. I cautiously messaged the person leading the group and immediately got a super friendly message back asking me to start the next day, along with some questions about me and my baby, and said the other girls were also fairly new and a lovely group.
I went along, nervously.
She was right, the girls were lovely, and super down to earth. There wasn’t much chat about the babies but how hellish it was being a new mum (I really needed that). I really felt like I had lost myself in this time, and it was only to get worse: a marriage breakdown and subsequent divorce, with a new baby was NOT in my life plan.
When Ella, my baby, was 5 months old I decided I needed to go back to work, to have something for me and was successful in joining Scottish Sports Futures as a youth development coordinator with the new Active East programme. Despite having serious mental health issues at that time, I threw myself into the new role.
And it was the BEST thing I ever did.
The staff team at SSF have also become like a family and that defo helps. I personally know what it’s like to struggle with mental health and have been so some pretty dark places, I also personally know the absolute benefits to being active to try and maintain a positive attitude to being part of something. In all of our programmes young people are at the heart of everything we do. We listen, we ensure environments are welcoming and friendly. We create space to talk and we want every person that comes through the door to feel like they are cared for, because they are.
Looking back, post baby I was absolutely experiencing postnatal depression was maybe too scared to admit it. I went to the doctor a year or so later, was prescribed anti-depressants for anxiety and found it great being able to talk about it all. It took me a few years to even mention it to this group of girls, who have become some of my best friends, and me and my now 5 year old daughter love spending time with the ‘bootcampers’. Now I do something active every day, very much for my head as well as for all the other benefits and when it includes running around with Ella I feel I’m winning at life!