Jennifer Mallios knew something was wrong following the birth of her second daughter. She felt irritable, angry, even enraged.
“I felt overwhelmed, and I was struggling with knowing what to do with two kids,” Mrs. Mallios said. “I was feeling sad. I guess the way to think of it is it’s like I couldn’t come up for air. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to be OK again.”
She suffered from postpartum depression, and it took about a year to recover, following counseling and support from Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, Postpartum Progress.
It’s a disorder that many mothers experience.
“Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth,” Mrs. Mallios said. “Depending on where you live in the world, it could range between one in five women and one in seven women who are affected by this. There’s little funding, and it’s more widespread than most people know.”
However, the good news is that perinatal disorders such as postpartum depression are treatable.
“Postpartum Progress was the thing that encouraged me to get help,” Mrs. Mallios said.
She now is the Tyler team leader for Climb Out of Darkness, Postpartum Progress’ fundraising event that raises awareness of postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis and pregnancy depression. It will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tyler State Park. Money raised will go directly to the organization to produce educational materials.
The event, which includes a hike and a walk along the trails as families share their stories, will be held on the day of summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
“The idea is that we’re shining a light on something that’s been stigmatized and showing each other that we’re there to support each other,” Mrs. Mallios said.
FROM BLOG TO A MOVEMENT
Katherine Stone began Postpartum Progress as a blog. She wanted to write about her experiences after the birth of her first child in 2001 in hopes that it would help other women.
In 2011, Postpartum Progress made the move from blog to nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness and provide support through online forums. Today, it’s a community of 1,300 women and the Climb Out of Darkness reaches women in eight countries and 41 states. Mrs. Stone said $138,000 has been raised for the annual event so far.
She described her experience after birth as “pretty horrible,” and said she was unable to enjoy her newborn. She couldn’t eat or sleep and had a constant fear that something would happen to her son. She thought she’d be institutionalized.
“Honestly, I thought, ‘I’ve gone crazy,’ whatever that means,” Mrs. Stone said. “It was severe enough to know that something had gone terribly wrong.”
Mrs. Stone reached out for help, receiving medication and therapy.
“When I got better, it made me angry that when I went through it — this is 2001, we’re in modern times and why didn’t I know more? Why didn’t I know what could happen to mothers and it wasn’t just me?”
Misconceptions persist, and she points out that many people are afraid to seek help because they believe attention is only given to women who have suffered from psychosis, a more rare perinatal disorder.
No matter the severity, Mrs. Stone doesn’t want women to feel ashamed of their condition.
“There’s this expectation that every single new mother should be deliriously happy,” she said. “Even though obviously it’s a completely real illness and there’s nothing anyone does to cause it, it still makes you feel like you’re a bad person.”
See more about Postpartum Progress and Climb Out of Darkness at http://postpartumprogress.org.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Climb Out of Darkness, a fundraiser to bring awareness to postpartum depression and other perinatal disorders.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Tyler State Park, 789 Park Road 16
INFO: Visit http://bit.ly/1l0cseL for information about the local event.