Earlier this year, Postpartum Progress Inc. planned an amazing event. The event was called Climb Out of the Darkness and according to Katherine Stone’s blog (Postpartum Progress), the event was created “to raise funds for Postpartum Progress Inc. & raise awareness of postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to being a new mom, including postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, antenatal depression and postpartum psychosis.”
Postpartum Progress planned for Climb Out of the Darkness to take place on June 21st, the summer solstice, and the idea was for women to hike, climb, run, cycle or walk in honor of their triumphant climb out of the darkness from a perinatal mood disorder. According to the Postpartum Progress Facebook page, 170 teams signed up with Crowdrise to participate in the climb and fundraiser. Postpartum Progress also reports, “There were 106 Climbs (that we know of) in 40 states and 7 countries,” and as of August 6, the event raised $42,085
You can still donate to this cause. If you care to do so, go to http://www.crowdrise.com/postpartumprogress/fundraiser/postpartumprogressin. Click in the large orange box that reads, “DONATE TO THIS FUNDRAISER.”
It is pretty amazing that this event was so successful. It is also wonderful because I’m certain the funds raised will go toward the crucial work needed in this field. And on a personal note, I’m happy to have participated in this special event. When I heard about this climb, I immediately planned my climb. I intended to hike at a nearby ski resort on June 21st when many other others would be doing their climb. In my eager excitement to be part of this worthy and inspiring cause, I forgot that I was also participating in a Relay For Life event that day and doing a few other things as well. June 21st came and went and although I read about the many women who completed their climb, I couldn’t find the time to make the hike I had planned.
However, the weather finally cooperated and my schedule opened up so my husband, my son and our two dogs took our climb. While hiking, I took photographs that reminded me of my struggle and my recovery. Enjoy the beauty!
The Challenge Ahead – Much like my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety, my climb seemed huge and intimidating at first. (The literal climb was especially challenging due to the toddler on my back.) But, in both situations, I knew I could do it. And in both situations, I had great company (dogs, husband, and of course, my son). ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
Murky Mind - This murky water reminded me of how I felt when I was dealing with postpartum depression. My mind felt cloudy, and it was hard to see beyond my condition. However, there was hope and I forced myself to remember this. I like the sparkling sunshine in this picture because it reminds me of the hope and light that exists even when things seem cloudy, murky and unclear.———————————————————————————————————-
Run Away & Hide – When I had postpartum depression, I felt such an intense sadness. I continually wished I could run away and hide from the world, myself, and my feelings. I fantasized about going into the woods and finding a spot like this where I could hide under a tree and be the woman I was before this crushing disorder hit me. In retrospect, I think the fresh air and active excursion could have helped me, but it wasn’t a realistic desire (winter baby; body still healing from birth). Plus, even though I wanted to run away from the sadness, I knew it would follow me. Instead of hiding under a tree in the woods, I sat with my sadness, accepted it and sought help.
Shadow Path – I am so fortunate and grateful to write that my recovery was fairly quick, and every step forward felt triumphant. I think this is because the hard part was so terrifying, isolating and confusing. So, when I began feeling like myself again, I felt really great, yet recovery did not happen overnight. It took some work and some time. The path towards wellness had some dark moments, but I chose to focus on the light and I think this helped me tremendously. ——————————————————————————————————————
Coming into the Light – (I apologize if the metaphors seem overdone. But I don’t think writers try to write in metaphor. I think life is full of true metaphors and writers write about the truth.) That said, read on…
After getting through the darkness that postpartum anxiety and depression had left me in, I found myself back in the light of life. I liked this part of our hike because I noticed the trees and their shadows had created a tunnel effect, and passing through it reminded me of everything this climb represented: growth, recovery, promise and resilience.
Reflection – This image of the trees in the still water reminds me of the many contemplative hours during my recovery that I spent writing in my journal, talking to someone or just simply thinking. I’ve always believed that in order to move forward, we must look back at where we have been. In order to see who we truly are as we reflect, our minds need to find stillness and serenity.————————————————————————————————————————————————–
Beauty Everywhere - There really is beauty everywhere, and I’ve always been an optimistic person. Despite this trait, when I was dealing with PPD and PPA, I still felt quite sad. Being so sad made me anxious, frustrated and uncomfortable because I wasn’t accustomed to such despair. But, as I fought the darkness that was trying to strangle my soul, I slowly began spotting the beauty all around me. The beauty in allowing myself to take a daytime nap, the beauty in my son’s big pouty frown, the beauty in each small step toward recovery.
Perfect Shmerfect - I don’t like the word perfect and I don’t think the concept exists. But this close-to-perfect daisy reminded me of the perfection I was looking for when my son was born.
A huge part of my recovery involved letting go of the idea that I needed to be “the perfect mom.” I had fooled myself. I had enough self-awareness and experience with perfectionist thinking that I really believed I would not attempt to be a perfect mom. In my mind, perfect moms dressed their babies in pristine clothing, labeled their clothing draws, lost the baby weight before giving birth and could fly. I wasn’t striving for this because I knew it wasn’t a healthy or realistic aspiration. I just wanted to know how to soothe my crying baby, how to nurse, and how to help my baby sleep for long stretches. And I wanted to know how to do this immediately. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was “new” at mothering. In any activity or situation, I prefer to be considered “advanced.” I soon realized that perfectionism had crept up on me even though I thought I had kept her away.
Tough Choices – Whether facing a maternal mental health issue or not, all new moms will encounter some tough choices. Breastfeed or bottle feed? Feed on demand or by schedule? Co-sleep or sleep in the crib from day 1? Mothers facing PPD or PPA in particular might wonder if they should take medication while breastfeeding. They might also wonder if breastfeeding is making the PPD/PPA worse or better. There are countless decisions new parents must make, and during my recovery, I had to make a few choices that I thought would have a lifelong effect on my son. Standing at that crossroad, trying to figure out what is best can be paralyzing. But whatever choice a mother makes (or a father) should be okay. I wish the judgement surrounding the topics I noted above would disappear because it isn’t helpful and it certainly does not help someone struggling with PPD or PPA. What did help me was making informed decisions with my husband’s support and knowing that whatever decision we made was the right the decision for our family.
Incidentally, both of the paths in this picture lead to a beautiful mountain peak.
The View from Above – When we reached the peak of our climb, I could see so much more than I had seen while hiking. I could see where I had been, and I could also see other nearby peaks and mountain ranges in another state. This enlightened view reminded me of the new perspective motherhood had given me. Likewise, experiencing PPD and PPA has given me great insight.————————————————————————————————————————————————-
Safety Net – I include this image because it reminded me of the safety net I created for myself when my son was born. My PPD and particularly my PPA came on quickly and intensely. It began the moment I arrived home from the hospital with my new son. For the next three weeks, we had additional in-home support. My mother spent a week with us, then my mother-in-law and father-in-law stayed a week, and finally my father and his wife helped for the third week. At times,I wanted to send everyone out of the house and prove that I could do it on my own. But in truth, I had really crumbled during my son’s first week home and I needed that extra help. It was like insurance or a safety net that was there to catch me in case I fell. Having that safety net in those first three weeks allowed me to do nothing but sleep and care for my son. It allowed my husband to return to work and it allowed my son to receive extra grandparent love! As I noted before, despite the severity of my condition during the first week postpartum, I bounced back from the dark hole quickly. I know my speedy recovery had a lot to do with the strength I gained while my safety net was in town.
Warrior Mom – I hesitate to use the term warrior mom or survivor because it is such a strong word choice, but I wouldn’t have written my memoir, started this blog or created this post if I didn’t think I had something of which to be proud. When I think back to the growth and recovery I accomplished when my son was so little and I was so new to motherhood, I must acknowledge that I did something pretty amazing. I had bouts with anxiety before, but the anxiety that overcame me when my son was born was like nothing I had ever experienced. On top of this, I was misunderstood and misdiagnosed when I sought help. But in the end, I made it. I made my way out of the darkness and joined the many other warrior moms who accomplished this similar feat. And now I stand on mountaintops with my knowledge and insight, spreading the word about PPD/PPA and offering help whenever possible.