Five months ago I was in the darkest place I had ever been. I was in a hole so deep that I never thought I could get out of it. I was miserable, sad, bitter....I barely ate and was essentially numb. I didn't care about anything. anyone, and less about myself. But here we are. We made it, P. We're survivors. I know P didn't have PPD, but she is still a survivor by proxy. Too often, children are also victims of PPD and too often these cases can be prevented.
This past Saturday marked the day. This past Saturday was the day I met up with other local women who have been where I was, have felt what I felt, and eventually had to seek recovery to be where they are today. I looked around at the women that attended The Climb for Post Partum Progress and for the first time since my diagnosis I felt safe. I felt safe in my company. These women, their children, their husbands, their friends, were complete strangers to me the day before, but now, here I stand, next to them, with a bond that (it seems) few people can understand, much less talk about. We walked along the trails of the Falls, climbing out of the darkness if you will, and talked about our jobs and our children....we shared our diagnosis and recovery stories....it was uplifting. I talk about PPD/A, I advocate for it, I help run an online support group for it, yet no one had ever really asked me questions about my own experience. And no one felt shame. It was as normal for us to talk about what had happened to us as it was for most people to talk about the movie they saw last weekend. But we did not dwell on this. Instead, we enjoyed the walk, the scenery, the river....we played with the kids and laughed with them.....we were people. We were normal people. And I can't tell you how long it has been since I really felt normal with the people I was.
PPD feels like a secret. It feels like shame, even in recovery. It feels like something that you can't bring up because you don't want anyone to look at you differently, or to think you're still sick after you've recovered. It feels like a sensitive subject that you don't want to bring up to anyone just in case they had their own experience; you don't want to stir up any bad memories.
We need to talk about it. We need to get over it and not be so afraid of it. 1 in 7 women suffer from some type of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, yet just 5.5% of the population is unemployed, and as a society we have no problem offering them resources nor discussing the issue. Why is mental health swept under the rug? Why is it so hush hush?
I wish I could change everyone's minds. I wish I could make everyone understand, and I wish I could help every new mom and dad that is suffering feel okay again. It hurts me to think that there are others out there suffering and are too afraid to seek help. It makes me feel guilty that I was able to get the help I needed, and so many are not. And it makes me feel even worse that I might not be able to make as big of a difference as I had hoped. There is no conclusion to this, but I have to keep trying. Know there are others around you that are suffering. They might look okay, they might look happy, but don't be afraid to start the conversation about mental illness.
Here is my local team for The Climb this past weekend. Check out www.postpartumprogress.org to find yours!!!