Spring of 2016 has been one of the most difficult and dark times of my life besides my battle with postpartum mental illness in summer/fall 2014. One of the few beacons of light during these months has been co-leading Climb out of the Darkness with my dear friend, Cheryl Hart, and the anticipation of sharing this event with other mamas and families.
The climb will be strenuous but with great reward in the end (in the form of food, drink and reuniting with our partners), not unlike the battle through mental illness. There was much that I needed to learn about myself in the world as I became a mother and started on this journey. Although I would never have chosen to suffer as I did, every day I am grateful about what I have gained from this experience. One of the reasons that I want to take part in the climb is to have a physical representation of my voyage through treacherous waters. To feel myself sweat and the burn of my muscles propelling me to the finish. To celebrate at the end because the journey is complete for the day, although recovery is not a simple path and may never be completely finished for the rest of my life.
I also climb to have the joy of other spirits beside me; those who are just starting their own battles with mental illness, those who feel that they have left the darkness down in the valley and those who are just lost and don't know yet what phase of the pilgrimage they are traveling. Never did I feel more alone than when I did not yet understand what was happening to me...that I was sick and would need to learn how to take care of myself in a whole new way. I looked at social media and saw only pictures of happy babies and moms. I read books on parenting and sleep and saw only ways that I was failing. I turned to friends and family and was told that I was strong, that I needed to get used to things-to "move on" and "not let anyone talk me into seeing one of those psychiatrists", that my baby was a "helpless, sweet little worm" who needed me to hold and breastfeed him all the time. I made myself walk around the neighborhood with my baby every day, looking at all the closed doors and windows, thinking that surely someone must be home, that surely I wasn't as lonely as I felt. Some days I sobbed in the sunlight park, many times I panicked in the quiet of our cool house.
But I was never truly by myself. 20% of moms were suffering right along with me, and many dads, too. Eventually I found them. Slowly, I kept searching for answers and information, and eventually I found specialists in mood disorders and the Postpartum Progress community. I decided that someone had to start ending stigma, and it might as well be me. I found that even in speaking out, I was not alone, and if I am not afraid of my own story, it helps others be less afraid of theirs.
This brings me to the last part of why I climb-to support my fellow Warrior Mom Ambassadors and all of the amazing work that Postpartum Progress does. From a friend who is a midwife and got most of her family to donate, to one of my employers, who surprised me with a donation at the end of our performance season, to the families of our community who have responded to my climb promotion with relief and excitement-being part of this inspiring event will pay forward the healing and love that I have experienced in so many ways. The more of us who climb and who support organizations like Postpartum Progress, the more of us will know find the love and support we need during the most difficult of times. If you aren't climbing with us already, check here to find out where you can: