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Why I Climb.

Posted: May 16, 2019 at 5:44 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Postpartum Health Alliance (PHA) is honored to co-host San Diego’s 5th annual Climb Out of the Darkness, the world’s largest event raising awareness about PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders). Please join us for this free, family-friendly event on June 15th at Kate Sessions Park from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Blog post by Julie Lopez, PHA Board member, attorney, a survivor of PMADs, and co-organizer of the Climb.

There are many real barriers to recovery from PMADs, but stigma and shame (although real) should not be one of them. The Climb is the antidote to the shame and stigma associated with PMADs that stands in the way of so many new parents reaching out for help. We get to see with our own eyes, and hug with our own arms, so many other parents who have fought through or are courageously still fighting through, the darkness of PMADs. This is why I Climb.

I had always been an anxious person, but I felt totally overwhelmed with anxiety after my son was born. For the first week, I didn’t sleep more than an hour each night because I was convinced that if I stopped watching him, he’d stop breathing. I felt tremendous pressure to do everything “perfectly,” and I worried about every single possible thing that could happen to him. Somewhere inside me, I knew that this was not normal. But I was ashamed to tell anyone how I was feeling, and I felt guilty for not feeling like the supermom that I was “supposed” to be. On top of the pressure to be a perfect mom, I feared that having a mental illness would affect my career. Mood disorders are common in the legal profession, but—like the new parent population—many attorneys are too ashamed to reach out when they need help.

I did all of the things you’re “supposed” to do to feel better—I exercised every day, meditated, did yoga, ate well, and stopped drinking wine (that was a big one). I was in a car crash when my son was five months old and started seeing a psychologist to talk about the trauma of the crash.  Even with a mental health provider who I trusted implicitly, I was too ashamed to talk about the crushing anxiety I had as a mom, and I eventually spiraled down into depression. I had never been depressed before, and I am telling you, it was torture–in the literal sense of the word. I felt darkness and despair that I would not wish on my worst enemy. It had been over a year since my son had been born, and by that point, I felt like checking myself into a psychiatric hospital would have been a welcomed relief. Every day was an enormous challenge, and I feared I would never feel “normal” again. Despite my efforts, I just wasn’t getting better, so I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Through choking sobs on this stranger’s couch, I admitted all of the things I’d been feeling for the past 14 months. He diagnosed me with postpartum depression and anxiety. I was terrified to take medication for a mental illness, but I also had to figure out a way to get better. The doctor prescribed me an antidepressant, and I told my psychologist the truth, and I got better. Now I look back on the first year of my son’s life, and the thing I wish the most is that I had not been ashamed to get help so that I could have gotten better sooner.

Postpartum and perinatal mental illnesses are totally common and totally treatable, and sometimes the only thing standing in the way of getting better is shame. PHA is honored to participate in the Climb in hopes that new parents know that they are not alone and that there is help if they just reach out for it.

The Climb is a family-friendly, supportive, and fun event.

Songbirds Music, Gymboree, and Pint Size Party generously have donated music, kids’ activities, and a play space for our littlest Climbers. Our “Climb” is an easy walk around the park that is kid and dog-friendly. Raffle prizes from Sugar Night Night, Target, Crust Pizza, Songbirds Music and more; food, coffee, and hugs also provided! The event is FREE, but registration is required either online or at the event. For more information on the Climb, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/climboutsandiego/