BENEFITING: POSTPARTUM PROGRESS
EVENT DATE: Jun 20, 2015
Climb Out of the Darkness™ is the world’s largest event raising awareness of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis and pregnancy depression.
The event was created by and benefits Postpartum Progress Inc., a registered 501c3 nonprofit that raises awareness and supports pregnant and new moms with these illnesses. Women around the world participate in this grassroots event by going on a hike outside on the longest day of the year to shine a light on maternal mental illness. Climb Out of the Darkness is open to anyone and everyone who supports a healthy start for new families.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression are the most common complication of childbirth. Fifteen to twenty percent of all women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. That’s 1 in every 7, more than the number of women who will get breast cancer. What’s more, only 15% of those hundreds of thousands of women ever get the treatment they need to fully recover.
I was 1 of the 15 - 20%!! I read every what to “Expect during Pregnancy” chapter, my husband and I attended all of our prenatal classes, I read all of the mommy blogs (well as many as I could). I was well prepared to become a mommy, last year…some would even say, I went a bit over board with the newborn checklist. However, if you know me you know I am bit of an overachiever!
Just days after the birth of our son, I thought I had made a mistake. I couldn’t get the hang of things. Although my husband, my parents (especially my mother who practically moved in to care for our son), and mother in law, were the best support system anyone could ask for, I was still struggling. I couldn’t breast feed my son, I was fatigued, I couldn't sleep, I was scared and I felt trapped. I just wanted to GIVE UP! It was the one time in life that I felt it was OK to give up…..
Undoubtedly new motherhood was hard. It was much harder than I ever imagined it being but, I knew something deeper was happening to me. I felt trapped in my own thoughts and body. No matter how fast I would run, I couldn’t out run the odious thoughts, depression, OCD and anxiety.
I thought I was broken…..I recall thinking “no mother feels this way about their newborn.. all of the important women in my life have been awesome moms, I ADORE kids, WHY ME?"
I asked myself questions like: Why can’t I just snap out of it? When will my days not feel like nights? Why can’t I bond with my child? What if I leave my home never to return? I am the person who people rely on to “fix” things…WHY can’t I fix ME? How can I be selfish as God has granted me the desires of my heart? How can I feel this way after losing 3 of our babies (one to a rare genetic disease called Trisomy 18)? I had so many questions and I just couldn’t seem to answer any of them. I was broken...I was in a dark place and I knew that it would take more than prayer to restore me mentally and emotionally.
I isolated myself from many of my friends, I lost over 50 lbs in 2mo. (that was one favorable outcome during my journey ), I couldn’t step out of my home for over 5 months…I was crippled by fear and anxiety. I could only leave the house for a doctor's appoinment..nothing more. My son was not "an easy" baby. He hated to get his diaper changed, he didn't like to take baths, he screamed to the top of his lungs whenever he had to go in his car seat. I remember thinking, "why did God give me this baby and I can't comfort him". I recall the last day, I left my home with my son before I pretty much stopped going out. We had returned from his appointment at Sunrise Pediatrics (side note, Dr. Murnane and Leslie were my life line). Mekhi was crying uncontrollably. For a few moments, I had totally stepped outside of my body. The car was still on and I began to walk away from it. Yup, with my son still in his car seat! I remember thinking "if I can just walk until the sound goes away, I will be ok". Thank goodness I was able to "snap out of it" and was able to go back and take my son out of the car. As I emerged him from the car, I realized I could no longer travel with him alone. The anxiety would drive me to do something horrible...I knew it would. I was like a rubber band that had been stretched to the limit but, with no energy! For the next few months, I was stuck between 4 walls and I was losing a portion of myself each day....each day became darker and darker....
I was ashamed and petrified to share that I was living with maternal mental illness. I couldn’t live out my life's truth.
I thought my journey was some cruel punishment for something that I had done wrong. PPD almost wrecked my marriage. Yep, that’s right…my marriage! Thankfully my husband was with me every step of the way. He understood I needed him for better and for worse!! He suggested I check in to a local Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit. I certainly considered it but, again I was afraid of disclosing my symptoms. I didn't want to appear weak. I was ashamed and vowed that I could get "better" on my own.
I am one of great faith but, even my faith was tested. I couldn’t understand why God would allow me to suffer and struggle. Then I began to reflect on Robin Robert’s wise words: “Everybody’s Got Something" and PPD was my something.
My life lenses are no longer obstructed…I no longer judge other moms…no matter what the situation is.
To other women of color...don't be ashamed. You are not alone!
There is such a stigma around mental illness. Our culture, places a great emphasis on keeping silent about mental illness. Thus, our reasons for not sharing our pain publicly are a significant barriers to raising awareness. The more I share my story with women (in particualry women of color), I discover there are far more women suffering in silence than I ever imagined. We fear others will judge us, we fear losing our "jobs", we don't know where to turn. However, we don't have to face the darkness alone!
After months of anguish, prayers, and intense therapy (Dr. Tammy Moore – YOU GAVE ME HOPE AGAIN) I am no longer ashamed to tell the world "I SUFFERED FROM MATERNAL MENTAL ILLNESS". I am stronger, I am wiser, I am a WARRIOR MOM…and most importantly, I am Climbing out of the Darkness!
Are some days still tough? Yes but, I now OWN MY PPD!
We can’t wait for Climb Out of the Darkness 2015, to be held Saturday, June 20th. Mark your calendars!
#No edits...just my genuine/very real emotions...