As I return from the PSI Conference in Houston in July and we enter into the last month of summer, I wanted to take a chance to introduce myself as your new board President and highlight some exciting things going on in PSI-CT right now.
Since becoming President this past May (2018), it’s been a wonderful experience working with our amazing board and members from every committee. First, a little about myself since I may not be familiar to everyone. I am a married mom of 2 boys (2 yo and 7 yo) and a clinician in part time private practice in Bloomfield, CT. Like many of you, my own experience postpartum after my first son was born brought me to this work and ignited my passion.
I’ve been involved with PSI-CT since we were the CT Alliance for Perinatal MH, a grassroots alliance of people trying to increase support and services for moms and families in CT. I am a founding member of PSI-CT (the first state chapter of PSI!), and was formerly the Treasurer and Chair of the Membership Committee. I remain Chair of the Fundraising & Events Committee though this is an interim position (if anyone is interested in this board position, please contact me!)
It has been one of my great joys to see this organization grow, develop, and have wonderful successes. For instance, for this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness, we increased the number of chapter affiliated climbs from one last year to 4 this year! And our teams raised over $5000 for PSI-CT!(A great big thank you to everyone who climbed or donated).
On June 23rd I participated in my first fundraising climb-the “Climb Out of the Darkness” climb benefitting the Connecticut Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI-CT). There were three climbs throughout the state that day, and one climb in Fairfield County was postponed until July 14th due to thunderstorms. From our climb at Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, we raised over $3,000 to raise awareness and support for families struggling to overcome perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). While this may seem like a small amount, when it comes to battling a PMAD, any little amount helps.
I know, because I have needed help. As a new mom, five years ago I was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of my first child. At the time it was not something that I wanted to admit. Trying to tackle it independent of help only made things harder. Admitting I was suffering at the time to me was like admitting defeat; and being sucked into a category of being “crazy”. When I finally came to terms with myself and sought help through therapy and a support group like those which PSI-CT works hard to develop, I was finally able to beat it. With help I was well. I realized that my own fears too in tackling this obstacle were tackling social stigmas. The enormous mountain of expectations and social criticisms that accompany motherhood and parenting soon became surmountable.
For more than two years now I have been running free support groups as a volunteer facilitator to help moms through the challenges, the good and the hard. I want moms and families everywhere to know that postpartum depression is temporary, and it doesn’t happen with every pregnancy, and things do get better!
This climb was for me symbolic of the struggles we face as parents and those who suffer terribly from a PMAD. The Simsbury hike was categorized by avid hikers as an “easy climb”. But when you start the trek on the yellow path to the tower at the top it starts as a relatively steep incline. Hiking with my husband, five- year old daughter and six-month old in carrier, we very soon stopped to catch our breaths. My daughter claimed that she was tired when we only just began. The two of us commenting on the steepness, best footing to reduce slippage on rocks, and how we wished we were a little more fit or a little more prepared for the exertion (for again an “easy climb”), only paralleled the conversations of so many people we heard along the way, including our fellow hikers. The more we cheered each other on and encouraged each other to get to the top “just a little more to go, you can do it”, “when you get to the top you will see the tower,” “we’re almost there,” the easier it became. It really became easier, and as the rain lightly cooled us we were able to stop along the way to take in the view.
The payoff at the top was a tour of a beautiful historic home, an open sky (albeit a little wet at the time); and knowing that as a family we had made it. Surrounded by others who shared in the journey feels like a success. Moms and dads, kids, families, friends and strangers all hiked together for one cause. It is much like a parent’s life. You’re never fully prepared for the obstacles that pregnancy, delivery and parenthood bring. You have days when you are at the bottom of a mountain and getting to the top seems impossible, or days when you scale it with ease. For those who suffer from a PMAD, know that there is a light at the top of your great big mountain, and we are with you every step of the way.
You can still donate! Click the links below to donate and support PSI-CT supporting Connecticut perinatal families!
PSI-CT will leading a climb on June 24th as part of PSI’s fundraising “Climb out of the Darkness”. Climb Out of the Darkness® is the world’s largest event to raise awareness of the real challenges of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Postpartum Progress began this event several years ago, and has now passed the baton to Postpartum Support International. I want to tell you about the event, why I am so passionate about PSI-CT pursuit of the mission to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment for perinatal wellbeing throughout Connecticut, and how you can make a difference.
My own and Andy’s personal “Climb out of the Darkness” began almost 25 years ago after Rachel’s birth, when I was so afraid of doing anything wrong, so anxious about the awesome responsibility of this precious new life that I became more and more anxious and depressed. I include Andy because together we quickly joined the statistic of 3 out of 5 couples who experience decreased relationship satisfaction after a baby, as we dealt with the multiple challenges of more decisions, more work, and interrupted sleep with no rhythms. Luckily, we were able to get help and we regained our balance.
I am passionate about preventing and treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) because it is one of the best intervention points to change the world. OK, I know that is ambitious to say the least, but bear with me. When a baby is born, parents are born, a family is born. When moms and dads are suffering from anxiety, depression, or (rare) psychotic symptoms, it interferes with bonding, with babies getting their needs met, and with healthy family development, which can lead to increased adverse childhood experiences such as lack of bonding, neglect, divorce, and even abuse.
We know that adverse childhood experiences have tremendous impact upon the health and well being throughout our lifetimes: four to twelve times increased risks for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts alone. More adverse childhood events also increased the risks of smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease.
Despite all of the glowing photos of smiling parents with laughing babies and children, every experienced parent know that there are at least as many moments where crying, sadness, and whining are happening (and that’s just the parents:) The challenges of a baby can be overwhelming! If we can bust myths and address fears such as “it is all good”, “you must be inadequate if you can’t do it on your own and be happy about it”, “only moms who want to kill their kids suffer from postpartum depression”, and “if I seek help they will take my baby away from me”, then families can get the help they need, which will lead to decreased adverse childhood experiences, healthier family functioning, and decreased addictions and serious health problems!
This is why I ask your donation in support of “Climb out of Darkness”. You will make a difference! With your donation, our local chapter can spread the word to increase knowledge and decrease the stigma of PMADs and of getting help, improve access to resources, and help train more individuals to support families. My personal goal is to raise a minimum of $1000. If 50 more people give $18, or 25 give $36, or 9 give $100, that goal will be met. DONATE HERE! Want to join our team on this climb and participate in the fundraising? JOIN US HERE! Want to volunteer in other ways to help PSI-CT, (we need you!) VOLUNTEER INFO HERE!
Thank you so much for your support of PSI-CT, and please contact me at any time to discuss PSI-CT!
Sharon Thomason, Ph.D. PSI-CT President PSICTPRES@gmail.com