We’re FOUR DAYS AWAY from the 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness. Four days away from the third year in a row where I’ll join postpartum depression survivors, locally and globally, to raise awareness of an illness which will affect 1 in 7 moms.
If you want to know why I climb, there’s little else to do besides take a walk through my blog history. PPD is a prevalent topic around here, as is general mental health, and those topics are prevalent because I’m a survivor.
I lived that nightmare.
I still battle anxiety and depression. I might always battle them.
I climb because the first year of Joshua’s life is a filled with moments I can’t remember, not because they happened seven years ago but because postpartum depression and anxiety took them from me. My illness prevented me from really being able to soak in each happy moment with him because I was always waiting for the bad moments to hit. I was always waiting for another surge of anger or sadness to engulf me.
But mostly I was numb, and not from the medication I took to help me cope. The dose was small, the smallest possible “maintenance level” for that particular medication. One I’d taken previously in college when depression threatened to consume me.
I loved that child more than life, and in all possible ways I knew that. But I couldn’t always feel it. Do you know how frustrating it is to know something in your bones and not be able to feel it?
If you’ve never been there, you may not know what that’s like, but trust me when I tell you it’s disconcerting, maddening, and surreal.
In fact, that’s the best word to describe Joshua’s first year. Surreal. Like someone else was living it instead of me.
I climb because of women like Katherine Stone and Lauren Hale and Katie Sluiter and Susan Petcher and the countless others I found on Twitter, a full YEAR into my illness, who let me know I wasn’t alone and I never would be again. They became my tribe, my lifeline. My comfort in the bad times. They understood.
They listened and never judged.
That was when I really started to heal.
The first year I climbed, I thought I might actually die on the side of Stone Mountain and my body would just become a fixture there on the trail. It was hot. It was June. I was a year postpartum from having Emma.
Emma’s birth and life and first year were healing in so many ways, but that first climb? That first climb was…wow. I mean, I did it. Figuratively, literally, symbolically, all the possible ways. I did it.
I stood on top of that mountain and I felt the power in what I’d just done. I felt the overwhelming relief of having survived.
It was a literal and figurative climb out of the darkness.
The kids climbed with me the second year, skipping, running, and walking along as we made our way down the path and back again. We sang “Fight Song” at the top of our lungs in the car on the way home. We did it.
The joy the three of us shared as we walked was another climb out of the darkness.
So if you ask me why I climb, I do it for myself and the memory of the mom I was and all I’ve overcome on this journey to become the mom I am.
But I also climb for all the other moms who are there right now, or who will be there. I climb so maybe they won’t be there. Ever.