A LOCAL mum says she “owes her life” to an Omagh charity which supports women experiencing mental health challenges in the perinatal period.
Ciara O’Goan is an administrative co-ordinator with Support2Gether.
However, she was first introduced to the charity while suffering from depression after the birth of her first child.
Perinatal mental health (PMH) problems are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child.
Ciara says she knew “something wasn’t right” after her son, Jude was born but she “had no clue what it was.”
“While attending an event at my local Sure Start, a member of their team sensed my low mood and slipped a pink card into my back pocket which had the contact details for Support2Gether on it.
“They said to me, ‘Give the girls a call’, and little did I know this bright pink card was the first step on my journey to recovery.”
But it took almost two years for Ciara to build up the courage to eventually message Support2Gether. By then she was pregnant with her second child, Enda, who is now aged six.
“In the very early stages of Enda’s life, my post-natal depression was much worse. I had dark, suicidal thoughts which I hadn’t had with Jude.
“The guilt and shame that I felt made me lock myself away from the world. I felt isolated and wasn’t my usual bubbly self. I couldn’t even hold a conversation with anyone other than my husband, Eamon.
“But on April 4, 2016 (a date I will always remember), I went to my first ‘gathering’ of Support 2Gether.
“There was tea and buns and plenty of laugher and chat – for the first time in a long time I felt safe, I knew I was among people who understood where I was at and how I felt.”
Ciara continued, “Immediately after Enda was born, I was put back on anti-depressants, a crutch I knew was vital to have, but I was still consumed with shame and guilt.
“However, over time being held and heard through my ‘village of support’ at Support2Gether, I was able to develop a second crutch, that being ‘self-help’. Little did I know how important that second crutch would be in my journey of recovery.”
Ciara readily availed of Support 2Gether’s services, such as one-to-one coaching and peer support.
However, just as she was “getting back on my feet”, Ciara became pregnant with her third child.
“I thought to myself, ‘I will never see an end to this’. I had come so far but this pregnancy was such a shock.
“But, by talking through my concerns and fears with Support 2Gether, we devised a programme called Bumps2Gether with the aim to help mummies find their voice and manage their emotions through their journey of pregnancy.
“I was able to talk about all my fears and ‘what ifs’, understand the importance of communication in the knowledge that I had a strong network of support behind me.”
Ciara credits Support2Gether and her doctor for providing a ‘helping hand’ that enabled her to take control of her journey to wellness.
“I couldn’t see a way out and felt I couldn’t continue. But Support 2Gether helped me to see that this was not going to be my forever, that I would once again stand tall,” she stated.
Ciara’s involvement with Support2Gether hasn’t been confined to availing of its valuable services.
She started volunteering with the charity and now, thanks to the recent funding boost, has become an employee.
“Through my journey of recovery, I started helping within the charity, through various roles such as co-hosting gatherings, representing Support2Gether at conferences and roadshows, speaking to healthcare professionals and sitting on the committee as secretary.
“For a long time I was a vounteer, but now I’m actually employed by Support 2Gether.”
She concluded, “It’s a dream come true to be working for them after all the support I’ve received from the charity.
“I was held and heard and now I am able to do this for others.
“I am a proud ‘Expert by Experience’ in the fact that I have walked the walk.
“And I am no longer defined by my illness.”
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