I love being an advocate for maternal mental health. I love raising awareness about postpartum depression and doing things to crush the stigma of mental illness. I love finding ways to help moms who are struggling. This is my passion. But that does not mean it is always easy to be an advocate.
Actually, sometimes it is downright terrifying.
Over a year ago, I designed a tote bag that says I believe in iced coffee, cute tote bags, and talking about postpartum depression. Carrying that bag around? Actually exhilarating. I never know who is going to see the bag and be helped by the message.
I also used to wear my Climb Out of the Darkness t-shirt to the gym. I wore it so many times, the fabric stretched and got wonky. Between the tote bag and Climb shirt, I assumed I was over the fear part of being an advocate for maternal mental health.
Months ago, I bought a beautiful blue t-shirt designed by Tabitha Grassmid. It says “1 in 7 Women will experience postpartum depression.” I was so excited to wear my new shirt to the gym, preschool, the postpartum support group I run — everywhere!
But it stayed in the drawer day after day, week after week, as summer turned into autumn, and the Halloween frenzy turned in the Christmas hullabaloo. I always had a reason to wait another day. It’s too hot today. It won’t look right with these leggings. I’m not in the mood to talk about PPD today.
Yesterday, while I was getting dressed for the gym, I could not stop looking at the shirt in question. I took it out. I put it on. I looked in the mirror. And I thought, fuck it. Today was the day I was done with inventing excuses. I was wearing the postpartum shirt to the gym.
That’s when I realized I was actually terrified to wear the shirt.
I love my tote bag, but it is a bag. I carry it, I hang it off the back of my stroller, but it is not actually on my body. It’s an accessory. There’s an emotional distance between my bag and my sense of self.
My Climb Out of the Darkness shirt is not obviously a shirt about postpartum depression. Even though I wear it on my body, it does not scream POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.
The blue shirt, though, says it loud and it says it proud: “1 in 7 Women will experience postpartum depression.” That’s not exactly a declaration that I had postpartum depression, but I think most people who see me wearing it will jump to that conclusion.
Me! Wearing the shirt!
As I left the house and took Pippa to preschool, I felt the terror. My skin tingled. I was very aware that I was wearing The Shirt and had transformed my torso into a billboard for postpartum depression. As I walked past my fellow parents for the preschool dropoff, I felt ALIVE.
Terror is terrifying, but it is also invigorating. I’m not saying you need to update your entire wardrobe and only wear clothing that says something about postpartum depression. But I am saying that sometimes the things we avoid doing the most are the things we really need to do.
Today, for me, that meant wearing a shirt I had stuffed to the back of my drawer. In the grand scheme of things, wearing a shirt about postpartum depression is not a huge deal. It’s not as if I ventured into a dark cave to slay a monster.
But wearing the shirt today helped me practice being courageous. When I have to venture into a dark cave and face a monster, I know I’ll be ready.