BRUNSWICK – When Faith Szczepinski brought home her newborn daughter, Kinsley, 18 months ago, she thought she was losing her mind.
While most first-time moms are familiar with the constant anxiety, the emotions Szczepinski, a Hinckley Township resident, was feeling at the time were “overwhelming” and on many days, “debilitating.”
“I was having so many scary, harmful thoughts,” she said. “I was always afraid of hurting myself or the baby and it caused so much anxiety.”
After weeks passed, Szczepinski began to realize her new frame of mind was more than the baby blues, prompting family and friends to urge her to seek the advice of a physician.
Days later, she was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which helped her to realize that all the emotions weren’t just in her head.
“When you think of postpartum depression, you think of women as being sad all the time,” she said. “But in my case, that wasn’t the matter at all. It was much different.”
As Szczepinski would come to find out, one in seven women are diagnosed with some form of postpartum depression shortly after giving birth and the condition can take on many forms.
“In my case, it just caused so much anxiety and I knew I didn’t want to have to live like that,” she said.
Szczepinski’s physician prescribed antidepressants to help her cope with the mood disorder, as well as several rounds of exposure therapy. Together, she said, the treatment worked and she is now in the process of weaning herself off the medication.
In the months since her diagnosis, Szczepinski has started a group page on Facebook – Christians Suffering from Postpartum Mood Disorders – to give those suffering from postpartum disorders a forum where they can ask each other questions and seek out support.
“It’s been so successful,” she said, noting the page now has upwards of 300 followers. “And I’ve met so many wonderful women going through the same thing as I did.”
Despite her own successes, Szczepinski knows so many women continue to suffer – many in silence, not knowing if they need help and where to turn if they do.
To help bring the subject of postpartum depression into the forefront so that women no longer have to suffer alone, Szczepinski has organized a walk around Brunswick Lake at 1 p.m. June 18.
The local event is part of a national movement known as Climb Out of the Darkness and similar walks will be taking place nationwide the same day, including another walk in Akron.
Though Szczepinski and several of the friends she’s made along her journey took part in a similar event in 2015, she said she is hoping that this year’s event will be bigger and better and touch more women suffering from the disorder.
“It is my hope that this only gets bigger and attracts more women year after year,” she said. “What I want women to know is that (postpartum depression) is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, it can be super scary, but it is also super treatable.”
Szczepinski said all participants are asked to raise funds to take part in the event and that all proceeds will be donated to Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit organization dedicated to provide support for struggling mothers.
In addition to distributing free, educational materials relating to postpartum mood disorders, the foundation also sponsors an award-winning blog, private support forums and an annual conference that attracts visitors worldwide.
“It’s a great place where moms can come together so they don’t feel so alone in their struggle,” Szczepinski said.
To take part in the walk, interested individuals are asked to register at www.crowdrise.com/COTD2016.