* Climb Out of Darkness 2014 is scheduled for Saturday, June 21. More information is available at postpartumprogress.org!

Maybe you’re like me and never even considered a coping strategy for a postpartum mood disorder, because you never really imagined it would happen to you. Maybe you’re just now coming out of the traditional “baby blues” period and are realizing that those blues are something different, something darker. Maybe you and your child are well into your first year together and you still don’t feel yourself — too sad, too anxious, too angry, too desperate.

I won’t get into the statistics of PPD/PPA here, nor will I try to refer you to helpful medical information. (I will assure you that helpful information is out there, but it’s imperative that you reach out to someone you trust — your doctor, your midwife, your therapist — to help you find and sort through that information.) Suffice it to say that too many women suffer from a postpartum mood disorder without medical professionals recognizing it, despite the standardly implemented screening procedures (which have been deemed inadequate by more than one professional in the field – Karen Kleiman’s Psychology Today article is a great introduction to the topic).

What I want to pass on instead is a resource that I still find invaluable as I begin to climb out of my own postpartum depression. If you haven’t visited the Postpartum Progress website, please do yourself a favor and scroll back up to the link at the top of this post. Trust me. During my first few months home with my little birdy, when the “baby blues” came and went and I had days so black that I couldn’t leave the house, the information and experiences offered at this site were my lifeboat. It took another month or two before I could bring myself to mention it to my therapist, and a bit longer until I realized that this wasn’t something to hide. Depression thrives on shame, guilt and secrecy. For me, pulling back the curtains and letting the light in was the trigger that helped dissipate the worst of the darkness, and gave me the strength to start climbing out.

It is the strength and victory of this upward momentum that is commemorated in the annual Climb Out of Darkness event. On the summer solstice, the Northern hemisphere’s longest day of sunlight,  Postpartum Progress organizes an international climb to help “raise awareness of all mental illnesses related to pregnancy, childbirth and being a new mom” (you can check out Katherine Stone’s full commentary on last year’s kick-off climb here). But to me, it also represents the journey that so many women face, the harrowing and often lonely odyssey out of the darkness of mental illness and into the light of one’s true capacity for joy as a new mother.

Last year’s summer solstice saw me in the depths of postpartum depression. But now, as I begin my second year with my birdy in a whole new environment of mountainous green, I am so looking forward to my own climb in the hills of Washington state — a hike that will hopefully capture the strength and victory of my own personal climb out of darkness.

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