Naheed’s story - living with PTSD
“First and foremost, listen to your body. It’s connected to your mind and mood.”
Naheed, aged 53
“At school, I loved PE. Netball, tennis, rounders – that was my little escape from a troubled home life. Throughout my adult life though, I never really escaped from the trauma I had experienced. About four years ago, I had a breakdown and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For the sake of my family, I knew I needed to sort out my mental health.
“Even now, I find that keeping and staying active is the best way to manage my symptoms, which include flashbacks, anxiety and stress. Feeling better for me always comes back to physical activity.
“My mental health is directly linked to how I feel in my body. As soon as I’m active, that makes me much better mentally – much, much more positive, even during lockdown. Now I go out of my way to make time to be active. I try to do some physical activity almost every day, just to keep myself feeling better.
“Before lockdown, I had just started playing ‘walking netball’. Obviously, that got cancelled. But even in the new normal, I’ve found new ways to stay active. I’d never done online classes before but when I joined a class with chair yoga, it really helped. We’re the same group of people getting together 2 or 3 times a week, virtually. It’s nice to see people like you being active together. You get a sense of community. I was feeling a bit down but, after two weeks, people said I sounded and looked much better.
'Start small. If you’ve got 5 minutes to sit down on a chair and just move one part of your body, your arms or legs, that’s great. You can build from there. Also think about why you want to do it. What’s your big reason? Have you got someone who relies on you? Do you need to be fit and healthy for them? Do you have children or grandchildren? Would it make their lives better if you were more active? Would you have more fun too?'
“I also enjoy a bit of friendly rivalry with my husband. If he’s had a run and I haven’t done anything, even the children notice. They laugh and ask, ‘Is that why you’re grumpy?’ It motivates me to stay active and it sets a good example. My son became a personal trainer and my daughter took up jogging during lockdown, and I’m very proud of them.
“One new thing I did recently was join a cycling group I saw on Facebook. I get a real sense of escape, stress release or and freedom in cycling. I enjoy my other activities, but I find cycling so exhilarating. There are just a few of us in the group but it’s wonderful. I’ve found there are lots of cycle lanes in Liverpool, so it’s safe too.
“The good feeling that I get from being active, it's instant. Even if you’re on a little bit of a downturn, being active is kind of like therapy. You can get out and feel that sense of ‘this is what I need right now’. I know what it’s like to feel really down. You don’t want to be in that mental state. When I feel fitter, it directly impacts how I think and how I feel. That’s what keeps me motivated, that’s what keeps me going.”