On Saturday June 18, 2016, I had the honor of taking part in one of the most amazing events I will probably every witness in my lifetime. From the outside it probably appeared to be a simple gathering of moms, ranging from pregnant to trying to corral a toddler or 2. Probably something you’ve seen every day in malls, parks and playgrounds alike. But, it was so much more.
My wife, who many of you know runs the page MamaChakra, recently became a Warrior Mom Ambassador for Postpartum Progress. With this title came the responsibility of putting together and organizing the yearly #ClimbOut of Darkness event for our area of Alexandria, VA.
Climb Out of the Darkness is a yearly event where women come together in a show of support to raise awareness about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) – these include, but are not limited to PPD (postpartum depression), anxiety, PTSD, psychosis, and depression during pregnancy. This is done by raising money and educating others, and then coming together locally for a walk or climb.
Through my writing I’ve talked a little about my wife’s battle with PPD, and how she has fought hard to overcome it; even completely switching careers and starting her own business as a birth educator, doula and yoga instructor. While I’ve watched my wife climb and grow over the last 4 years, and am in constant awe every day of her strength and determination to help others, I could not have been more moved by the walk on June 18.
My wife asked me to help set up the event, but also invited me to participate in the walk. While the walk is open to all participants who support PMAD awareness (women and men), the participants are probably 99% women (just guessing). I was beyond honored my wife wanted me there as a participant.
The turnout was amazing. I was so moved and inspired to listen to many of the women openly talk about their experience with PMADs, and support one another during the walk. I was also surprised to and excited to see another dad at the walk, because more men need to be part of this conversation and journey of awareness.
This is in no way an attempt to ask for recognition for me, or men/dads in general; lord knows we get enough whether it’s due or not. What I am saying though, is that we still live in a society where a great deal of the lawmakers, doctors and heads of corporations (like insurance companies) are men. And these men have a tendency to tell women what’s best for them, or how their bodies should be seen, and that’s just not right. So if more men started joining in the conversation, recognizing symptoms, started supporting the women in their lives by asking questions, and then finally standing up and saying, “Hey!! My wife, my mother, my sister, ALL women, deserve better than this”…then maybe, just maybe we can affect some change. Depression is genderless, color-blind, and has no age requirements. The bottom line, it has touched every single one of us, whether you recognize it or not. And we all need to be involved in fixing this issue.
I also bring this up because today I read an article (posted on the Postpartum Progress Facebook page) called 13 Things Every Grown-Ass Man Does When His Partner’s Suffering From Postpartum Depression. First, I want to say, that while I won’t link to the article (we’ll get to why in a second), it contained a lot of great information on how anyone, not just spouses or partners, can help be a good support person for someone experiencing PMADs.
There are two reasons I take issue with this article…#1, the author only focused on talking directly at men. In fact, in the article she directly points out how “cisgender males” (ie men who identify as men) will never understand what a woman goes through during PPD. While true, the subject of support and lack of understanding is much broader of an issue to only focus on men. Lack of empathy can come from anyone, men, women, gay, straight, family members, and even other moms who never experienced PPD. Which leads me to me #2 reason I take issue with this article; the author only saying What a Grown-Ass Man should be doing. How about instead, we all, as a society, become better supports?
Yes, I know the term is most likely being used to only gain clicks by being provocative. But it’s cheap, unneeded, and does more harm than good when it comes to getting more men to pay attention. When it comes to PMADs, or any type of depression, we need to be lifting each other up, not kicking each other. Especially not kicking those who are actively trying to help.
Watching my wife, and being her supporter during her journey with PPD was hard, but worth it. As someone who has lived with deep depression my whole life, I can relate and empathize with what she was going through. Not completely relate, as I will never know the feeling of being pregnant, or all that comes after, like struggles with breastfeeding, but I can definitely relate to feeling lost and inadequate, and just needing someone to be there for me and support me, no matter what.
While I’m disappointed with the title of the article, it made very good points, and one of those is that men need to step up as support people when it comes to PMADs. Men don’t need to co-opt it and make it about us in order to affect change; stepping up and standing next to your partner in a show of support, saying they deserve support, is a GIANT leap in a the right direction.
It saddens me to know that their are spouses out there who either are not supportive of their wives efforts to bring this conversation into the light, or pressuring them not to share their stories on PPD based on what others might think. I could not disagree more. These stories need to be shared, and these women need to be lifted up. And I will always encourage my wife to share her story, and continue to lift up others to share theirs, because the only way we’re going to get out of this hole of depression, is if we all #ClimbOut together.