Tag Archives: PPA

Climb Out of the Darkness 2014

2 Apr

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I’ve written extensively about my experiences suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, and antenatal depression and anxiety.  I don’t shy away from telling how devastating my first couple of years as a mother were, both for me and my family.  And I’ve told you how I found myself severely depressed when I was only 7 weeks pregnant with my second baby.

Today, I’m asking for your help.  I’m asking for you to support my work as an advocate for moms, for babies, and for families.

Postpartum Progress, and its founder Katherine Stone, were instrumental in my path to wellness.  Because of Katherine, I found an amazing doctor who gave me the tools (and the medications) to make my second pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experiences joyful.  Because of Katherine, I found support from mothers just like me.  Because of Katherine, I found my voice as an advocate and writer.

Postpartum Progress is growing, taking on new challenges and projects, and is as dedicated as ever to decreasing stigma and increasing awareness of antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  And that?  Takes money.

15-20% of all women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. That’s 1 in every 7, more than the number of women who will get breast cancer.  That’s your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend.  And quite possibly, you.

Please help me help new moms by donating to my Climb Out of the Darkness hike!  I’ll be climbing Mt. Washington with a team of women from Massachusetts and New Hampshire in June!  Yup, climbing a mountain.  Me.  Because that’s how much I love Katherine and believe in what Postpartum Progress is doing for women all over the world.

If you can’t donate, please pass this along.  Ask your friends, family, neighbors.  Let them know there is an army of Warrior Moms hiking in solidarity in June on the Summer Solstice.  Together we can drop kick despair.

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.

Purple Crying and Click for Babies

1 Sep

NOTE: The Click For Babies site has been hacked and is down.  The other links work.  The NCSBS hopes to get the main hat donation site back up soon.  Because the site is down, I have added information below from their site with instructions for making the hats and the address you’ll need to send them in, as well as a link to a PDF file with FAQ.

Any mother knows THAT cry.  The one that stops you in your tracks.  It makes you see your baby through tunnel vision and takes over your brain, rendering you incapable of rational thought.  All you want is some quiet.  For her to stop screaming.  For you to be able to make it better.

It’s frustrating, upsetting, and for some of us, very triggering.

Both of my girls were PURPLE criers.  PURPLE in the sense that they fit the acronym coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS):

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While I believe my girls’ PURPLE crying was in part due to their severe milk protein intolerance, many babies  cry during their early months without explanation.  As mothers, our instinct is to respond to the crying and to want to make it better.  And if you’re anything like me, being unable to stop the crying left me feeling helpless, frustrated, and like a failure as a mom.  My inner-monologue whispered, “If you were a better mom, you’d know how to soothe her.”  My frustration combined with my postpartum anxiety led to rage with my first baby.  I would find myself bouncing her with tension in my arms and anger in my breath.  I am so thankful I never shook her or hurt her but I regret each and every moment I spent feeling fury toward my newborn girl.

I distinctly remember the signs in my hospital room on the postpartum floor where I spent two days after my youngest was born.  I stared at them while holding my newest girl and took great comfort in their information.  They described PURPLE crying and explained that having intense reactions to it is normal for parents and caregivers.  Biologically normal.  They went on to assure me that asking for help or stepping away when the crying got to be too much were signs of strength and not weakness.

And I knew I was not alone.  I was normal.

Because of my psychiatric and psychological care postpartum, in addition to my education about PURPLE crying, my response to my second child’s crying was much calmer.  I was able to hand her to my mother or my husband and step outside for a break.  I was able to put in earplugs and continue to rock her in the nursery.  It wasn’t that I was able to prevent the emotional stress or frustration, but that I was able to process and respond to my feelings with caution and responsibility.  No small feat for someone with a history of mental illness.

And now that I’m on the other side, with two children instead of two babies, I’m glad to be able to contribute to the education campaign.  The NCSBS is collecting PURPLE knit and crochet hats for their yearly Click for Babies campaign.  Their website has information about contribute a hat, has patterns for hats, and has buttons and more for sharing on social media.

From the NCSBS:

The NCSBS will be collecting purple infant hats for CLICK for Babies 2013 through October in an effort to generate awareness of and decrease infant abuse. Knitted or crocheted caps will be given to newborn boys and girls in hospitals throughout November and December to help educate parents about the evidenced based Period of PURPLE Crying, a normal, but frustrating period of increased crying all infants experience in the first few weeks and months after birth.

WAYS YOUR FOLLOWERS CAN HELP

KNIT or CROCHET infant caps using any newborn baby cap pattern. Caps should be made using any shade of soft, baby-friendly purple yarn, be at least 50% purple in color, and free of straps, strings or other potential choking and strangling hazards. For baby boys, please remember to include blues, browns, grays and other “boy friendly” colors in your cap designs.

Organize and host a “KNIT IN” or “CROCHET PARTY” …which really is just our fancy way of saying get a group together and make some hats. These make for fantastic service projects in an array of settings: school, club, community, church, family, Scouts, etc.

POST FLYERS around your school, neighborhood, work, community, church, gym, etc.  To receive flyers please contact the NCSBS.

SHARE this information! Know someone who knits or crochets? Know someone in a position to organize a service project? Give them a CALL or send them an EMAIL.

Help us spread the word through SOCIAL MEDIA. The campaign not only involves making hats, but also educating others through word of mouth and active discussions on social media: PIN, SHARE, TWEET, and YOUTUBE (see http://clickforbabies.org/spread-the-word.php).

Please drop off or send hat donations to the NCSBS at 1433 N 1075 W Suite 110, Farmington, UT, 84025 or see our website (www.clickforbabies.org) for donation sites closest to you.

CLICK FOR BABIES Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll be crocheting hats to send in and would be more than happy to teach you to do the same.  I promise you can do it!  All you need is a crochet hook and a skein of PURPLE yarn!  It’ll cost you less than $5 at your local craft store!  I’ll post a video below and will  be more than glad to answer questions on twitter or meet you on a G+ Hangout for a quick private lesson!  Just ask!  And if you can’t contribute a hat, it would be a huge help if you just share a tweet, facebook status, or post about PURPLE crying and the efforts of the NCSBS.  Thanks so much!

“CLICK FOR BABIES” PURPLE BEANIE PATTERN

Purple Beanie for Click for Babies

Using worsted weight yarn and a 5.5 mm hook (I hook)

ROW 1: 6 single crochet (sc) into a magic circle, join with a slip stitch (sl st). Chain 1

ROW 2:  2 sc in each stitch from before (12 stitches total.  When you get to 12, stop.  It will look like you need to keep going.  Don’t.) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 3:  2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the second stitch.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches. (18 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 4: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the second stitch and 1 sc in the third stitch.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (24 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 5: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the 2nd, 1 sc in the 3rd, and 1 sc in the 4th stitches.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (30 stitches total)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 6: 2 sc in the first stitch.  The next 4 stitches get 1 sc each.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (36 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

This completes the crown (or the top) of the hat.

ROW 7: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROWS 8-18: Repeat row 7, Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 19: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches).  Join to the top of the first single crochet and tie off.  Weave in ends using hook or yarn needle.

For a ribbed edge, stop at row 17 and use this for ROW 18: fpdc (front post double crochet) in first stitch, bpdc (back post double crochet) in second stitch.  Repeat pattern around.  Join to the top of the first fpdc and tie off.  Weave in ends.

Video Tutorial: How to make a magic circle to begin your hat.

Great YouTube Channel with easy-to-follow crochet lessons. This channel has everything you need to learn to crochet!  From how to hold your hook to how to single crochet (sc).

How to Slip Stitch to Join in the Round

Additional Links for More Information:

http://purplecrying.info

http://dontshake.org/

http://clickforbabies.org

https://www.facebook.com/NCSBS

Talking Climb Out and PPD With My Oldest Daughter

20 Jun

If you’d like to donate to our hike, head on over to Crowdrise!

Climbing Out of the Darkness

3 Jun
As you may know, I do a lot of work with Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit that helped to give me back my life when I was suffering from postpartum depression after Emily’s birth and to get quick and successful treatment for the antenatal depression that struck during my pregnancy with Sydney.

Climb Out of the Darkness

Thanks to Katherine Stone (the founder of the nonprofit and blog) as well as the community of women I met through Postpartum Progress:

– I was connected to one of the top perinatal psychiatrists in the country.
– I’ve made lifelong friends & have built a solid support network both online and off.
– I’ve become empowered to write about my experiences and help other new moms who may be suffering.

I’ve recovered from postpartum depression, and even though I still live with an anxiety disorder, the support & resources I received through Postpartum Progress continue to benefit me today.   My battle with PPD was hard-fought and that’s why I’m committed to helping moms learn the facts about perinatal mood disorders, removing the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness, and making sure moms who are struggling have a reliable place they can go to for support and resources.

To honor my victory over PPD, inspire others who are still struggling, and support the work of Postpartum Progress, the family and I are participating in Climb Out of the Darkness; a national event to raise money and raise awareness. We’ll be joining mamas and their families in 36 states (and 6 countries!) as they hike and climb their way through trails, hills, and mountains on June 21st and 22nd.

Money raised from this event will fund two specific projects:

 1) Create an info-graphic that correctly represents the prevalence of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as well as its impact on society for use with the media and to raise awareness.

2) An info sheet for moms that would be available in doctor’s offices about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and getting help. It can be used anywhere in the world but this first version will be in English — if we raise enough money we will do French and Spanish as well. While there are pamphlets out there, we feel they don’t do enough to educate new parents or get them the real help they need.

I’ll be doing my hike with the girls on Saturday, June 22nd at Great brook Farm State Park near our home – would you please consider making a donation in my honor? It can be any amount.

If you are able to do so, thank you! If not, I understand and all I ask is that you please share this post and info with others who might be willing to help fund our efforts.

If you live nearby and would like to join us on our hike, please let me know!  We have two families already joining us!

Thank you so much.  It’s hard for me to ask for help (and truthfully? hiking is not my cup of tea) but I believe in what Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress are doing.  She changed my life.

Susan

Panic Attack

24 Feb

Two nights ago, I had a panic attack. It was the baby’s 11:45 feeding and halfway through, my entire body got clammy and my stomach began doing flips. In a flash, I could not get the baby off of me fast enough. I needed space. Space to breathe, with no one touching me. I wanted to scream and cry. To shake or squeeze something and I knew that something wasn’t the baby. So I passed her off to Hubs and rushed to the bathroom to sit by the toilet, my head spinning in confusion and panic.

I hoped, “maybe I just have the stomach flu.”. I don’t think I’ve *ever* wished for the stomach flu before. Or maybe it was just the 17 Oreos and the Taco Bell teaching me a lesson. But I couldn’t shake an underlying anger and panic. Irrational and uncontrollable. And the thought of not wanting to hold my beautiful baby? Tortured me.

As I paced to the spare room, the thoughts bombarded me. What if I just stop feeding her. What if we just give her away. Surely somebody else would be a better mom. What if she had never been born? What if I hadn’t passed her off and I did shake her?

Each thought ripped me apart and the panic was overwhelming. I called to hubs and sat for a moment, trying to press myself to speak my truth. “I’m having a panic attack and intrusive thoughts and I can’t be near the baby right now. I’m scared and feel out of control. I think you’re going to have to stay home tomorrow. Please don’t leave me with the kids all alone.”. He put his hand on my shoulder, pressing firmly. “It’s okay honey. I hear you. I’m going to help you.”. Those words snuck through the cracks in the panic. They were exactly what I needed to hear. I lay down in the guest bed and slept, glad to stretch out in a silent space on my own.

When the baby became hungry a couple of hours later, he brought her to me. I took her as if on autopilot and nursed her while hubs lay next to me. He took her back to our bedroom when she was done, leaving me in peace. The next feed was a bit easier and I found myself snuggling her tiny fuzzy head with my chin. And by 5 am, I actually wanted to hold her again.

She slept snuggled next to me from 6:30 to 8:00 while the toddler played in her room, bribed with the promise of toys if she would just stay in her room and let mommy and daddy sleep a little while longer. Baby’s sweet little breaths on my chest helped soothe me back to sleep.

By morning, things were normal again. Although still overwhelmed with the care of a screamy newborn and a evil genius in training 3 year old, I could smile at each of them, even giggle at their antics. During the day, I went to two doctors appointments, the post office, and the pharmacy. I taught a piano lesson and I cooked dinner. I did more than just survive.

I want to be anxiety-free. I want to handle all these hurdles with grace and composure. But since that’s not in the cards, I’m going to settle for being proud of myself for handling the anxiety rationally and calmly. I asked for help, called doctors and friends, shared publicly to alienate any shame, and followed through with my plans.

I’m scared this means the PPA is back. I’m terrified it might be accompanied by some OCD, which I’m not as armed to fight. But I’m holding off on the overreacting. It has been 8 weeks of difficult breastfeeds. Of a screaming baby and tantruming toddler. Any mom would be stressed, and with my history of anxiety, it’s not surprising that I finally cracked under all the pressure. I have a feeling it wasn’t the last anxiety attack or bad night I will have. But whatever the case, I know this is acute and temporary. I will be okay. I’m sure of it.

P.s. a HUGE thank you to my twitter mamas for texting, messaging, and calling to check on me. Thanks to my friends and family for sending your love and understanding. I’m truly so fortunate to have you all helping me fight.

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