Tag Archives: postpartum depression

I’m Back

11 Jun

Recently, I stood in a public space for four hours and advertised my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. You would think that after years of blogging about how I suffered, I’d be used to speaking about PPD, but there’s something unique about face-to-face interactions.

b.good benefitMy local b.good restaurant was kind enough to host a benefit night that my new friend and fundraising partner, Candice, cleverly named “Take a Bite Out of Stigma.”  We felt so professional, with our glossy signs and our fancy raffle tickets, and I’m convinced we appeared professional as we greeted customers, shared b.good tattoos (fake, I promise!) with the kids, and spoke about PPD.  But deep down?  There was a part of me that wanted to shrink back from the arena, that wanted to hide behind the 15 latex balloons that announced our presence.

But then?  Then my local bestie walked through the doors and I found myself squeeeeeeeing and running to hug her.  An older gentleman stepped through the doors only to walk back out and stand at our poster, reading carefully through the information, returning later to hand me a twenty dollar bill with only a few words exchanged.  I met moms who had a multitude of questions about PPD.  I saw old friends and heard about how I was inspiring people.  And I sat with Candice and we talked about our common hell over milkshakes and strawberry lemonade.

We walked out with over $250 for Postpartum Progress, a new partnership with a great local company, and a feeling of empowerment and sisterhood.

And now?  Now we have a new video promoting our Climb Out of the Darkness and the faces of our warrior moms, with an up-and-coming musician.

Special thanks to David Gray for the use of his beautiful new song.  It speaks right to the hearts of the Warrior Moms.  We?  Are BACK.  I have watched this as least 2 dozen times and it still gives me goosebumps.

You can donate to Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.  Those are the faces of your wives, your sisters, your daughters.  You neighbors, your childrens’ teachers.  Your mother.  Honor their recovery by supporting the recovery of moms just like them.

————————————-

All local donors can be entered to win our amazing local raffle, including a night tour of Wallace Observatory!

All non-local donors are entered to win a $20 gift certificate to my Etsy shop, Crocheted Happiness!

Therapy, Spring Cleaning, and An Update

23 Apr

Doodlebug

Almost 2 months ago, I wrote about taking my eldest daughter to counseling.  It’s a hard thing to start, counseling – at least it was for me 5 years ago when I began treatment for my postpartum depression.  All I knew of therapy was what I had seen on television and in pop culture, and neither was particularly flattering.

I believed that seeking therapy showed weakness.  Deficiency.  Now I know it shows strength.  It takes courage to admit that things are not as they should be as you want them to be.  What surprised me was the amount of bravery required to see the process through.

For me, it was kind of like cleaning out a long-neglected closet.  First, you take everything out.  You dig to the bottom of boxes and bins.  You spread the clutter throughout the room and it feels like you’re going backward – making more of a mess instead of cleaning up.  It’s at that precise moment you consider just scooping up armfuls of momentos, lost buttons, and dirty socks and  closing them back in the boxes they emerged from.  Maybe you can pretend you never saw them.  But instead, you take a deep breath and make a conscious choice to move forward.  As each item crosses you hands, you make a decision.  You process what it means to you and you decide how to let it further affect your life.  This goes in the garbage.  That gets put away on a shelf.  And maybe this other thing was something you had been desperately searching for.

It’s laborious.  Tedious.  Emotional.  And some days, I left therapy feeling worse than when I went in.  And then?  One day things started to feel less overwhelming.  It was like that moment when you place the last organized bin in the neglected closet and the doors shut for the first time in years, and you think maybe, just maybe, you can tackle another room.

So.  I was prepared for a process when my daughter began working with her counselor.  I was prepared for things to get worse before they got better, and I was ready for it to take a while.  As it turns out, she’s made incredible progress in the last 8 weeks.  Her outbursts are fewer and less intense.  She can identify her emotions and use her words to share about them.  And most importantly, she’s learned to ask for help.

It’s honestly been an amazing transformation, and I can’t rationally give all the credit to 6 therapy appointments, no matter how much I like and respect her therapist.  At the recommendation of several friends and family, despite my intense skepticism, we substituted almond milk for cow’s milk in our house.  Some of you suggested that a food allergy or intolerance could manifest as behavioral problems.  Doodlebug suffered from MSPI as a baby, and I assumed she outgrew it as the physical symptoms disappeared after about 18 months.  Because of her history with milk intolerance and her sister’s current inability to drink milk, I thought it was worth a try. She’s well-nourished, so what could it hurt?

Now, maybe the counseling gave her a sense of connectedness and belonging that she was missing.  Or maybe, like many things, her behavioral changes were just part of a phase.  Perhaps she matured neurologically in the last 8 weeks and everything I’ve done to help her only appears to have worked because of coincidence.  This is not hard science, and I’m not prepared to test my theories by handing her a giant glass of milk and waiting for the fireworks to begin.  I’m happy to just be glad things are better and to be mindful of what may have helped.

We’re taking a break from therapy for a while – she and I both know it’s there if we need it.  And my daughter knows it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to fear.

What a gift I’ve given her, normalizing something that was so traumatic and stigmatizing for me.

I’m kind of proud of myself.

Now if I could only find time to work on those closets.

 

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

Click here to donate to my Climb Out of the Darkness Hike!

#DayofLight

5 Feb

Day Of Light

I’m joining the blogging community today to shed light on something many of us keep tucked in the dark. If you’re like me, you experienced it without knowing, assuming that all people lived their lives on an emotional roller coaster, destined, once on top, to roll back to the bottom. Always to the bottom.  For me, it began in college.

At first, it was an added exhaustion, no matter how late the morning classes or how early the bedtime.  In trickled the self-doubt, followed by amateur apathy.  I was too busy to not tend to the activities I loved, but I had ceased to look forward to the orchestra rehearsals and coffee dates.  Last to enter was the emptiness.  Not sadness, exactly, but an inability to feel anything: joy, fear, sadness, love.  The feelings I had for people in my life I knew I loved were shrouded in a fog and out of reach.  I began to doubt I ever loved them at all.  The only emotion that cut through the depression, sharp as a knife, was anger and irritability.  The most insignificant things annoyed me to the point of rage: ice trays left empty, people late for appointments, unreasonable homework assignments.  I look back now and wonder if I didn’t cover the sadness with that anger, afraid of what it might mean to let myself experience the pain of feeling worthless.

All this, and I had no idea anything was wrong with me, or if I did have a suspicion, the denial hid it cleverly with its stories of stigma, perfectionist excuses, and lack of self care.  It took 8 years, the birth of my daughter, and a battle with postpartum depression before I realized I had been suffering from depressive episodes and anxiety for much of my life.

I believe if depression and other mood and anxiety disorders were talked about as openly as cancer and heart disease, patients would have the information they need to identify their struggles as symptoms and to seek help.  I believe that if treating those disorders was not shaded in stigma, that people like me would find that they can get better – that there is hope.

I am living proof that you can survive depression and anxiety.  I am proof that good great people can struggle with mental illness.  And I am proof that you can be open about your mental health and still have people think you are amazing.

Because, guess what?  You are.

———

I’m joining Mama Knows It AllPushing Lovely and Say It Rah-shay, along with a multitude of other wonderful bloggers today for #DayOfLight.  Please won’t you join me?

From Say It Rah-shay:
#DayOfLight was created to shine a light on depression, and share resources for those who are struggling with the mental illness. Bloggers from all over the country are collaborating on Wednesday, February 5th to flood social media with personal stories about living with depression, and accurate information on managing and living with the mental illness.

How Can You Participate?

  • Write a blog post sharing your personal experience of depression and/or share resources to help others. Add the #DayOfLight hashtag in your post title.
  • Watch the #DayOfLight Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5th at 11 AM EST. Tweet and ask questions.
  • Participate in the #DayOfLight twitter chat on Wednesday, February 5th at 9 PM EST. Follow @PushingLovely@NotoriousSpinks, and@BrandiJeter for more information)
  • Turn your social media avatars black and white on Wednesday, February 5th so we can visually represent all of those affected by depression.
  • Share inspiring tweets, posts, and photos on social media to encourage those who are suffering with depression to let them know that they are not alone. Use the hashtag #DayOfLight

 

Bumps in the Road

18 Nov

Going back through all my posts about mental health in the last two weeks was like digging up a time capsule.  Did you ever do one of those in school?  I assembled one my freshman year and when it was returned to me 4 years later, I almost didn’t recognize the “me” I had locked away.  I blog because the words want to spill out of me – because placing them here and sharing them brings me peace.  But looking back, the icing on the cake is that I have a record of my recovery.

When people ask about my experience having a second baby after experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, I tell them that my second baby was the pregnancy and postpartum period I felt robbed of the first time around.  I share how I have never frightened my 2 year old with the rage my oldest had to face.  (On a side note, Robin is writing about rage on Postpartum Progress today.  It’s a must read!)  And I believe my story gives moms new hope that they can have a better experience the second time around.

But reading back?  I had some pretty big bumps in the road after Bean was born.  Periods of depression, a severe panic attack, and continued anxiety management.  I was actually surprised reading some of the pieces from Bean’s first year.  I clearly remember how awful Bug’s first year was.  It was hell.  But memories of my second daughter’s infancy have an overall joy about them.  It’s as if how I feel about my experience didn’t measure up to my actual experience, if you were to judge merely by the blog entries.

Gratuitous adorable toddler pictureI think the difference this time has been that throughout every depressive episode and every panic attack, I never felt hopeless.  I never felt crushed by the lies my brain was telling me.  I knew better and I had a support network around me mirroring that back to me on the days I couldn’t see it.  It’s not that I didn’t suffer from bouts of mental illness with my second baby, but that they were less severe and well-treated.  Simply put, I was ready for them.  And no matter how bumpy the road, I always felt like I was still traveling forward.

Have hope.  Always, hope.

Depression and Anxiety Resources

17 Nov

I’m updating my page about postpartum depression and anxiety with a series of my favorite Learned Happiness posts. My journey to health is not unlike many others in the PPD community and yet it has its own subtle nuances and my story is, of course, my own.

I’ve pieced together my journey from the depths of postpartum depression and anxiety to the amazing place I find myself today – one of balance and mental health instead of mental illness. I will always struggle with anxiety and the depression it brings with it, but it is a part of my life instead of the entirety of it.

Learned Happiness – My original piece on how my depression created a cycle of learned helplessness and how I hope to break that cycle with this blog.
Therapy – A post about how my attitude toward therapy changed during my treatment and why I believe it’s so important.
Lows – Two steps forward and one step back.  Despite healing after my first bout with PPD, I found the lows returning and challenged them with all the self-care and depression tools I had.
Health Activists Writer’s Monthly Challenge – The WEGO Health HAWMC post about what my anxiety is and feels like.
Because I Can – Why I write about mental health.
Mother’s Day Rally – The first time Katherine invited me to write for Postpartum Progress and I went all fangirl and freaked out.  You must read all the Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health Letters to New Moms.  They are inspiring.
Antental Depression Part One – I was seven weeks pregnant with Bean when I began having intrusive thoughts and felt my world collapsing around me.
Antental Depression Part Two – Thank you to Postpartum Progress, the Mother’s Day Rally Letters, and Marlene Freeman at MGH.  This is where my life began to truly turn around.
Rainy Day Letter – Yael Saar was kind enough to host me at PPD To Joy.  This is part of her Rainy Day Letter series.  The other letters?  Worth sitting down with.  Bring some kleenex.
A Rough Couple of Weeks – On increasing medication mid-pregnancy and all the feelings that come with it.
Dog Tired – On my pregnancy progress.  Evidence that with the right medication and therapy, a second pregnancy can be joyful.
Invisible Wounds – Anxiety and depression are “invisible” to the outside world, but they are very real illnesses.
Ready – Feeling ready for the second baby, prepared for possible PPD, and supported by my IRL and online army.
Warning Signs – A post informing my friends and family what to look for after my second baby was born, written just before her arrival.  My PPD went unnoticed the first time around.  I believe the key to my health the second time around was being upfront and honest with my support network about what to look for and how to help me.
Happy Birthday – The joyful arrival of Bean.
Expectations – How lowering my expectations postpartum helped me stay mentally healthy after my second baby was born.
Panic Attack – The panic attack nine weeks postpartum that had me waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Time Capsule – A HAWMC prompt post about what would be in my PPD time capsule.
When We Know Better… – A HAWMC prompt with my favorite quote.  How does knowing better the second time around translate into a better postpartum experience?
Self Care – Another HAWMC prompt about why I write about mental health.  Hint:  It’s mostly for me.
Persistence – My favorite post of all time.  Inspired by a tree.  Yes, a tree.
Haiku – I wrote terrible haikus about mental health.  Seriously terrible.  But the links to Sweetly Voiced’s diabetes haikus are worth the click!
Tweet, tweet. Boom. – One silly conversation with my husband.  That’s all it took to tell me I was really on the way to being well.
Mother’s Day – “To love her more than I feared her.”  That Mother’s Day I had all I really wanted.
Anything – Five months postpartum, the anxiety and obesessive thoughts returned.
PPD, the Second Time Around – On feeling hopeful and full of joy despite the return of my postpartum anxiety.
Giving Up Control – Why does everything mental health-related for me end up being about my childhood?  On seeking out a reason for my anxiety and how that helped me put it in its place.
PPD and Marriage – PPD rocked my marriage.  Hard.  My husband was hurt just as I was.
I Need Your Help – My post for Strong Start Day 2012 in which I admit to intrusive thoughts about falling down the stairs.
When Birthdays Aren’t So Happy – Dealing with the joy of my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday and the trauma of the anniversary of my PPD onset.
Breastfeeding on Psychotropic Medication – Why I choose to breastfeed while medicated for depression and anxiety, with special care to support women no matter how they feed their babies.
Not For Weak Stomachs – A horrid month of health issues, which I dealt with without any mental health complications.  This was a huge week for me, realizing that my mental illness was well-controlled enough to allow me to deal with crises calmly.  Also?  I was carried down the stairs by a team of firemen while wearing only my underwear.  Good times.
So You Think I Shouldn’t Have Had Children – My response to Anderson Cooper’s piece about the “trend” of mothers taking antidepressants and the horrid FB comments on his fan page in response to the story.
Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills” – On medication and stigma and a primer on how my antidepressant and anti-anxiety pills work.
I Am Not Okay (But I Will Be) – My low days and irritability may periodically return, but armed with therapy, medication, and support, they are short-lived.
Talking Climb Out of the Darkness With My Daughter – Doodlebug and I made a video about postpartum depression and why we were hiking in 2013.
A Tale of Five Medications (Or Don’t Lose Hope) – All about my medication journey, why it is so hard to find the right medication formula and how stigma kept me from being treated for much too long.

And that bring us to today.  A day where I am healthy enough to be an advocate with thirty-something posts on mental illness.  Which honestly?  Is humbling.

I’ll be adding them to the resource page and updating my sidebar this week with my favorite blogs about mental health.  The more we talk about this, the more people we help.  I’m proud to be a part of that.

%d bloggers like this: