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How moms are climbing out of the darkness of mental illness

On the longest day of the year, women in 40 states and six countries will embark on climbs and hikes to raise funds and awareness for perinatal mood disorders. This symbolic walk represents hope and light in the face of the darkness of mental illness.

Why Climb Out of the Darkness?

I suffered from horrific postpartum anxiety before I’d ever heard of it. My doctor had given me a pamphlet on postpartum depression (PPD), and I knew I wasn’t experiencing that. I figured at the time that PPD only meant suddenly wanting to harm yourself or your baby. I lived with near-constant, crippling fear without knowing that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal. I remember being unable to walk near pictures on the walls while holding my newborn son, because I was afraid the frames would fall and kill him. I didn’t know to ask for help, and I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Climb Out of the Darkness touches me on a personal level because I don’t want women to feel alone and lost while in the grip of mental illness. Women need to know that help is available, and that it will get better.

How the climb supports women

Though awareness of postpartum depression has spread, lesser-known disorders like postpartum anxiety, OCD, PTSD, psychosis and pregnancy depression continue to plague moms. Postpartum Progress began as a blog and has evolved into a crucial resource for women looking for education, support and hope. Last year’s climb raised $40,000 for the nonprofit. This year’s climb just surpassed $100,000. Over 1,000 women are climbing, walking, biking and running to celebrate hope and honor the struggles of women who have faced perinatal mood disorders and anxiety. With the support of donations, Postpartum Progress can continue to provide directories for women to find support and treatment, private forums, educational materials and news.

It’s about community

Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress, actively engages with members of her community on Facebook. Stone promised to get a tattoo of Postpartum Progress’s iconic warrior mom logo if the climb raised over $100,000. With that goal now met, she’s ready to make a permanent statement. I have tattoos that represent my children, and I got them at a time in my life when it felt like I would never escape the stifling clutches of anxiety. Now, the colorful birds on my back are a reminder that I’ve healed. Anxiety isn’t forever, but it feels like it will be when you’re lost in it. Having a community full of women who are in the same place — and more importantly, who have found relief — is a crucial part of the healing process.

When fundraising is about conversation

There’s no minimum goal to participate in Climb Out of the Darkness. Registration is free. By encouraging women to find their own ways to get sponsors for the climb, this event spurs conversation. Women who may have never told loved ones and friends about their struggles with mental illness can bring it up in the framework of fundraising and embarking on the climb. The more we talk, the more we remove the stigma from mental health issues surrounding pregnancy and motherhood. We still have so many mountains to climb.

More on postpartum depression

Symptoms of postpartum depression
Birth disappointment: When things don’t go as planned

Real moms share: How I beat the baby blues

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