Approximately 100 people met downtown today for Climb Out of the Darkness – a walk to raise awareness around perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I was one of the walkers.
You know how people list who they’re walking for when they do Run for the Cure and so on? Well…today I was walking for me. And if today, you are feeling anything like I felt this time last year, then today I was walking for you too.
Had this walk happened one year ago, I would not have been able to do it. Sure, I was recovering physically from a c section, but that’s not why. I wouldn’t have been able to do it because I was suffering mentally, emotionally and spiritually in the most unimaginable way.
I had just had a baby, and instead of feeling joyful and blessed, I felt an unmanageable sadness. I felt trapped in my new role—unable to navigate or make the simplest decisions. I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn’t get enough air, sleep, space or perspective.
The worst feeling of all though, was the guilt. I hated myself for feeling this way. My baby boy was everything I’d ever wanted in life and here I was feeling miserable. I told myself to snap out of it. Get over myself. Pull it together. But nothing worked. And the spiral kept spinning and the depression got worse.
When people would visit, I’d act like nothing was wrong. I’d smile, joke and make eye contact. I’d do all the things I thought happy new moms would do. But it was prescriptive. I coached myself to do it. I told myself to ‘be normal’ just until they left and then I could dissolve again.
This led to a terrible feeling of isolation and loneliness.
I was convinced I was the only person to ever go through this. I was certain I was bad—that my heart wasn’t made for this. I thought my baby deserved a better mom. And my husband deserved a better wife.
So where did I turn?
Google. That’s where.
I searched ‘postpartum depression PEI support group’.
And nothing came up.
This assured me I was the first and only person to ever feel this way. I was alone.
At some point, my husband (who was there every step of the way) approached me and guessed every dark thought I was having right down to the details. It was a terrible day, but so very necessary to begin the process of healing. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew it was going to happen. And I knew he was going to help me.
Besides medication and very regular visits with my family doctor, opening up about my state of heart was the beginning of the journey. After telling my husband, we told our immediate family little bits of what was going on. Then I told a very close friend every gory detail. Then, little by little, I started opening up to others. Every time I admitted how I felt, I healed a tiny little bit.
Eventually, I blogged about my experience, and that’s when something profound happened. Almost 900 people read my story and people started coming out of the woodwork in support. Many shared similar experiences. And for the first time in the whole process, I didn’t feel so alone.
Something scary happened too, though. People started writing to me for help. I was at a loss because I didn’t know how to help them. I told people to go to their family doctor. On more than one occasion, women told me they didn’t have a family doctor, or worse, their concerns were dismissed.
That’s when the public campaign for better reproductive mental health services and resources began. I wrote a letter to the government and it was snatched up by Olive Crane. With her support, 11 women sat down and had a round table discussion with Minister of Health, Doug Currie. We told our stories. He listened. We made our recommendations for improvements. He listened.
And now we wait.
We wait and we carefully calculate our next move.
Because we won’t go away.
And while we wait, we do things like Climb Out of the Darkness. We do it to stay vocal on the issue while we put our faith in those who can make the changes we so desperately need. We do it to show solidarity because we are all bound together on this issue. Whether you like it or not! This issue is about you too. And mostly, we do it for the women who are currently lost in the excruciating pain of postpartum depression. We can’t take your depression away, but our walk today is meant to bring you hope… and relief…and maybe a wee bit of strength to begin your own climb out of the darkness.