Clare Worgan’s story

The inspirational and wonderful Clare Worgan has been a Tuff for just over a year. Those of you that know her have probably heard some of her story: the truly awful death of her daughter Alice at birth, how she moved to Sussex to train as a midwife so that she could support others who have suffered the trauma of a still birth and her campaigning and fund-raising for SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. Clare has also been a supporter of #not2TUFF2talk and so we asked Clare to write a piece for us on her mental health journey. And when the email arrived, we realised that we did not know the half of what she has been through. Here is Clare’s story: brutally honest, utterly inspiring.

Fact file

Name: Clare Worgan

Date joined: April 2018

Swim, bike or run?

  • I love swimming
  • I’m still trying to find a love for the bike (not easy!)
  • I love to run in the sunshine (I do not like running in winter!)

First ever Tuff session: Wednesday night track

What made you take the plunge and join?

A good friend of mine is a member of a triathlon club where she lives. She knew I was having a tough time so recommended I join my local club.  I was nervous for many reasons, so I emailed Clive. His reply was reassuringly friendly so I decided to take the plunge.  I opted for Track as my first session because I reasoned that if everyone is running in circles then I couldn’t get left behind?!?

Clare’s mental health journey

Driving to work on a Monday morning in May 2017 I had a meltdown.  It was my normal morning commute and I started crying and shaking, a full-on panic attack.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t do life anymore, everything just seemed too much.  I have never been very good at asking for help but that day I really had no choice. I pulled over and made three phone calls, the first to my boss to call in sick, the second to the GP to make an emergency appointment and the third to my sister who is my rock.  What happened after that is quite hazy (my brain basically shut down) but the GP gave me antidepressants and I went to stay with my sister in Sussex for a few days. 

My rock bottom came a couple of days later when I found myself in A&E talking to a psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist there helped me realise that I was unwell.  It’s strange to say that now because I’ve always been aware that mental health and physical health are interchangeable but I really didn’t recognise it in myself.  Mental ill health can be frightening, it effects the sense of self and the stigma around it can make it a very lonely place. I talked to the psychiatrist about the traumas I had experienced over the previous 5 years and he reassured me that mental illness is not uncommon, this made me feel a little more “normal” and I left A&E with a cocktail of new medications and an appointment for talking therapy. 

I was like a zombie for a few months; however, looking back I can see the medicated haze gave my brain time and space to process everything I had been through.  Counselling helped me massively. Speaking to someone who understood but was on the outside of my life meant that I felt safe to open up and I started to feel less alone.  That summer I moved to Sussex, read all the self-help books I could find, started running and with some amazing support from my sister began to rebuild my life.  I’ll always have good days and bad days but I’m developing tools that help me enjoy the highs and ride out the lows, in fact Tuff Fitty has turned out to be a key tool in my wellbeing toolbox.

How does being part of Tuff Fitty help?

Everyone knows exercise helps with physical and mental health but being part of Tuff Fitty adds a social element to exercise which is just as important to me.  Sometimes when I’m having a really low day, I turn up to training, see friendly faces and feel much better.  Being a Tuff means that I am surrounded by people who influence me in a good way and I can feel myself getting stronger both physically and mentally.  I still can’t believe that I have actually completed a marathon and a triathlon!  Plus, I appear to have become a morning person with the Saturday morning Tuff run now a highlight of my week.

I am grateful that there are people at Tuff Fitty I can talk to, but just as importantly, I like that there is no pressure, so when I’m with Tuff Fitty I can relax and have a laugh. They say that laughing good therapy and that is certainly in good supply when Tuffs get together!

Any advice for potential members who might be struggling with MH issues?

Be kind to yourself.  Everyone has mental health and everyone has physical health, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s poor.  A very few lucky people go through life with no health problems at all. My top recommendations are Talking & Self Care. I’ve learnt that these are essential to living well whether you are struggling with mental health or not.

Talking really does help. It’s not always easy and sometimes it’s difficult to recognise when you might need to talk but I suggest to just go for it. Find someone you trust, it could be a professional, a friend, a family member, a support group or even a stranger (some of the best advice and support I’ve had has come from people I’ve just met, I think them being on the “outside” of my life helps).  It doesn’t have to be face to face, I know some people prefer to talk by text for online, find what works for you.

I’m a big advocate of Self Care.  Self-Care is different for everyone so I think it’s important find what works for you. I suggest starting with self-help books/audiobooks/podcasts, I can recommend my favourites but discovering the self-care wheel was an eye opener for me…