Today is the winter solstice. It is the darkest day of the year. Something cool and wonderful happens 6 months from today, our brightest day. But for today, we have more darkness than light.
A few years ago, Postpartum Progress initiated a rather successful movement known as Climb Out of the Darkness. Recently, Postpartum Support International took on this event, fundraiser, and opportunity for awareness. This is a time for warrior moms (women who experienced postpartum depression or a related illness) to share their stories of strength, recovery, and hope. For me, it is almost a time of celebration. Although my experience with postpartum obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and depression is far from a typical party, my journey out of the darkness is certainly something to celebrate. My story has a happy ending. I can tell anyone (and I often do) about my experience with PPD and how I conquered that big ugly beast. It is a story of triumph and resiliency. Sometimes people tell me that I am brave to tell my story, but it really isn’t that big of deal to share it now. It is in the past. I have climbed out of the darkness, and I’m in the light.
The real hard work – the part deserving of platitudes and awe – begins in the darkness. It begins when everything is broken. It begins when we are desperate and lost and fragmented. And from this dark place, we reach up, we take a step toward the light even when we cannot see its faintest hint. In the moment, nothing about this step feels brave because it’s really hard to say, “I’m not okay.” It’s hard for our loved ones to hear, “I’m not okay.” It’s hard to understand that it’s okay to not be okay. Yet, this is where my journey began. So so vividly I can recall sitting on my couch, telling my mother she needed to call my mother-in-law, “warn her” I had thought, “Explain to her that I’m not okay, that something is horribly wrong with me.” I could barely say it aloud myself, and when I heard my mother relay my feelings, I felt an odd sense of relief, as though my complete and utter ineptitude was now open for frank discussion. Nothing in that moment felt bright or like a courageous climb towards light; it felt terrifying, isolating, and humbling.
It’s entirely possible that you or someone you know is struggling with maternal mental illness, addiction, or general mental health concerns today, right now. The darkness will lie. It will try to convince you that there is no light; there is no way out. So on this day of limited light, remember the hardest work begins in darkness.