On October 5, 2011, Ryan & I welcomed the most perfect, cuddly, beautiful baby girl into our lives. We didn't know it yet, but that date also marked the beginning of one of the toughest journey's we've ever been on.
Our adjustment to life as a family of three was probably what most people would consider normal: exhausting, emotionally trying, but in awe of this tiny person we had created. I worried a lot, but chalked it up to hormones & a major life change. It wasn't until several weeks later that my worries took on a life of their own... What if we died in a car crash? What if Emma never slept? What if we didn't hear her in the middle of the night? What if Ryan never came home? What if, what if, what if. Those thoughts, coupled with the deep-seeded knowledge that Emma absolutely deserved a better mother - one that was not me - became my life.
Five weeks postpartum, unable to physically dress myself after taking a shower, my family rescued me. For that, I will be forever grateful. It is because of them that I can write this today. It is because of them that I am alive, here on this earth, still a mother to the most wonderful, sweet, vivacious, speaks-her-mind, little girl. They banded together to care for both Emma and me, 24 hours a day, for months. I am so lucky.
You see, I had postpartum depression (PPD). It manifested itself heavily as postpartum anxiety - lots of worries & an inability to turn my mind off to sleep. Ryan & my parents (Pam & Russ) recognized the signs & got me the clinical help I needed. I was set up with a wonderful therapist in addition to a psychiatrist &, together, they gave me the medication & insight I needed to get better. I had not previously had any mental health diagnoses. I did not show any signs of antenatal depression. This beast - this horrendous, evil, dark place - had never reared it's head until that moment.
January 2014 marked the date when I officially became a PPD "survivor". For me, that definition means I am no longer on any medications. I didn't realize that my journey would take two years to come full circle, but now I am ready. I am ready to share my story with anyone and everyone. I am ready to reach out to others who may be struggling in silence to give them a face, a resource, a small glimpse of hope. I am ready to look PPD in the face and, well, kick it in the junk.
To mark this journey, I will be participating in an event called Climb Out of the Darkness. On June 21, 2014 (the longest day of the year) I will walk with many other people to bring awareness to all perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Collectively, we will climb out of the darkness and into the light. We will shine a beacon on this seemingly shameful, disgusting, embarrassing, why-can't-you-get-it-together disease to encourage the world to pay more attention to the diagnosis that will hit 1 in 7 women. Climb Out of the Darkness is a world-wide event created by Postpartum Progress (a non-profit org) and any proceeds donated will benefit this top-rated organization which raises awareness & supports anyone who has, is, or will experience maternal mental illness. It connected me to others who knew exactly what I was going through - that in & of itself is priceless.
If you are so inclined, I invite you to support me. There are a couple of different ways:
1) Walk with me. Stand with me. Be a face, a supporter, a pillar for moms around the world. The Madison-Wisconsin team will likely be walking the Pheasant Branch Conservancy Trail around 9am on June 21. Every participant is asked to register (it's free). Be sure to join our local group climb, or search for one in your area: http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/find-a-climb/
2) And/Or Donate through my Crowdrise page: https://www.crowdrise.com/emilybarrruth-COTD2014/fundraiser/michellekipp. All proceeds will benefit Postpartum Progress - an amazing online community of Warrior Moms like me to sustain the programs/resources they've created to support moms around the globe.
Together we can make a difference. Together we can help other mothers recognize the signs. Together we can point them towards health & healing. Join me.