#PPDChat 10.20.14: All Stories Matter

ppdchat-10-20-14There was a brilliant piece on October 18, at The New York Times, in the Opinion section, by Peter Kramer. The title is “Why Doctors Need Stories” and it came to my attention via the Facebook page of The Postpartum Stress Center.

Peter makes some excellent points in this rather lengthy opinion piece but this paragraph, found near the end, sums it up nicely:

“I don’t think that psychiatry — or, again, medicine in general — need be apologetic about this state of affairs. Our substantial formal findings require integration. The danger is in pretending otherwise. It would be unfortunate if psychiatry moved fully — prematurely — to squeeze the art out of its science. And it would be unfortunate if we marginalized the case vignette. We need storytelling, to set us in the clinical moment, remind us of the variety of human experience and enrich our judgment.”

Psychiatry treats the mind. The mind is what drives us, it is where our stories reside, where our choices are made. So it would seem obvious to keep the stories of our lives as part of the study, yes?

As research moves more toward numbers and the data including them, however, stories are being – as Kramer puts it – squeezed out. The art is fading. But it is, at the same time, making a comeback, fighting for breath in a stranglehold of data.

This is why our stories matter. While our words may not ever appear on the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine or be held in the hands of a renowned physician, they will be held and read by mothers who are walking the path we once walked. Every single story, every single word – it matters.

Tonight’s chat will explore the art of storytelling – multiple aspects of choosing to do so. It’s not easy to share our stories but we do it because we wish we had been able to read stories like ours when we fought in the dark.

Join me on Twitter at 830pm ET as we explore the art of storytelling as it relates to Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’ll cover all the standard questions – the who, what, where, why, when, and how. See you there!

#PPDChat 10.06.14: Art of Self-Care

ppdchat-10-06-14Guilt over what we should be doing for ourselves often translates into a serious lack of self-care. We forget to gift ourselves the grace we so often extend to everyone else in our lives to those who need it most – us.

I am constantly saying how important self-care is to the journey of motherhood. We HAVE to fill our own pitchers before we can pour ourselves to those around us. If we don’t, we will have nothing to pour into the cups of those we love and soon we will turn to dust.

Join me tonight as we chat about the art of self care through the art of self-grace.

Gift yourself grace, and steep yourself in the self-care you deserve.

See you on Twitter at 830pm ET!

#PPDChat 09.21.14: When Darkness Falls – SAD & PPD

ppdchat-09-22-14Fall Equinox.

When I was a kid, I loved those words. It meant the leaves would soon change colour, setting the landscape ablaze in yellows, oranges, reds, and the sunlight would carry the newly found rainbow into the sky as it sank beneath the horizon earlier and earlier every night.

It also meant my birthday was only 4 days away.

But now, as I have journeyed several days down the path of life, I don’t enjoy those two little words as much any more. In fact, they make me sad. I strive to find the joy in autumn and not focus too much on the shorter days and looming increase in hours spent in the dark, away from the sun.

I moved back to the northeast United States a few years ago. The first year I was here, Sandy hit. I have not been right since. The cloudy days, the shorter days, the snow (dear LORD, the snow), the dark – it has me sinking into the depths of my couch in the winter, fighting for any shred of happiness I can find. I finally had a discussion with my doctor about it last year and we realized it may actually be a combination of PTSD from Sandy and the settling in of SAD.

So now, this year, I am prepared. I fought back last year with medication (finally) but after doing everything else I could do as well – a therapeutic SAD lamp, Vitamin D, socialization, etc. But this year, I’m still on my meds, I use my light every morning as I drink my first cup of coffee and catch up with friends on social media, easing myself into my day.

Tonight, we’ll discuss not only the very real issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but how that may complicate PPD and things you can do to battle both at the same time. I hope you’ll join us.

See you tonight at 830pm ET!

PPDChat 09.15.14: After Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

ppdchat-09-15-14There is such a range of experience with mental health after the birth of a child. From the expected baby blues to the much more serious psychosis. But most of us expect the healing to come within a reasonable amount of time.

For many of us, it doesn’t and we find ourselves fighting a mental health battle we never saw coming. For others, it’s a battle which started before we became mothers and is continuing.

But tonight’s chat will focus on the continued, unexpected battle. Those of us who go on from a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder into a full blown life long battle against a variety of mental health diagnosis. What then? How do we cope? How do we keep from constantly falling down the rabbit hole? How do we fight the exhaustion? The parenting while fighting our own minds? It’s all too much sometimes and we retreat into ourselves, leaving our partners to hold the reins. What if that partner isn’t supportive? What if we can’t find the space we need to parent within the boundaries of these challenges? What then?

So many questions, different from the experience and transient nature of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’ll touch on them at tonight’s chat. I hope you’ll join me at 830pm ET on Twitter. See you there!

#PPDChat 08.25.14: Single Parents & PPD

Single Parents and PPDTonight’s #PPDChat is one we should have had a long time ago. Motherhood is often faced alone by women, for a myriad of reasons. On top of facing parenthood alone, many of these single mothers also face the beast of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders on their own as well. With less time, less resources, less energy, they have to find ways to fight back on their own.

A Canadian study showed thatBoth teen and adult mothers were approximately five times more likely to experience PPD if they received no support or minimal support after the birth of the baby.”

FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY.

FIVE.

It’s important for us to support all mothers, regardless of their history, status, etc. Mothers are mothers and babies are babies. We all deserve the best start possible.

I sincerely hope you will join me tonight as @addyeB and I discuss facing PPD as a single mom, what you can do to help yourself and to help single mothers you know in this situation.

Find us on Twitter at 830pm ET. See you then!

#PPDChat 08.18.14: Self-Care – Lists of Three

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I started this thing awhile back on Twitter, #listof3. It took off and I use it when I get down. Thing is, I haven’t used it in awhile so it’s been stuck on the backburner of my brain. Others have used it, however. It warms my heart to see others using it even if I am not because it’s comforting to see someone else lifted up because of you.

I was reminded of this #listof3 by a #PPDChat Volunteer late last week when I asked for suggestions for chat this week. I sat with it for a few days and decided to run with it today. Her suggestion read as follows:

“Name 3 things you’re thankful for, 3 things you wish your family knew, 3 things you want your kids to remember about you, and so on and so forth. I come up with 3 different things each time.”

We’re heading into that time of year when mamas are sending older kids back to school and schedules are drastically changing. In the midst of this chaos (regardless of whether or not you’re celebrating or missing your little ones), it’s important to remember to take care of yourself and focus on the positives in your life instead of all the little things running you ragged or pulling you down.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight as we discuss our own #listof3, finding gratefulness tucked away even in the most chaotic corner of our lives. Who knows, maybe attending chat will end up on your list!

In the meantime, what are you grateful for today?

I’m grateful for coffee, sunshine, and sleep.

Your turn:

Fighting The Battle Against Suicide

The post below may be triggering for some. I blatantly discuss suicide and my own brushes with it as well as the recent news of the loss of Robin Williams. If you are fragile, you’ll want to skip this post. If you need to find some happy, go watch this video. It’s all of the awesome and then some.

The sun floated above the house in a swath of the kind of blue sky I long to see when I wake in the morning. The wind played with the trees, swishing the leaves and branches to and fro as birds and butterflies danced along with the melody Mother Nature played for them.

I stood in my bedroom, staring out at the phenomenal glory just beyond my physical reach and well beyond my comprehension. I stepped closer to the open window, staring down at the retaining wall at the edge of the house, calculating the angle necessary to hit it with my head. As my fingers brushed against the roughness of the screen, I drew back suddenly, as if I had been shocked into reality. I scurried downstairs, to a room well away from the retaining wall, and texted with a friend until the thoughts faded away.

I was not interested in beauty that day.  I was interested, suddenly, as I stood in my bedroom all alone, in leaving this world.

My divorce was final. I was no longer with my children. I could not find a job. Nothing seemed to be going my way. There was no sense in continuing with things. It was not the first time I felt like ending things and it turned out to not be the last. I dance with these thoughts from time to time but thankfully, so far, I have managed to fight them off. Believe me, the battle to fight them off is FAR HARDER than anyone who has never experienced them could possibly imagine. Sometimes, it is a daily battle. Some days, it is an hourly battle. Then finally, sleep, only to wake up and battle all over again. But I fight because my will to live is powerful and I am not done with my work here yet. I fight because my kids deserve a mother they can reach out and touch or talk to on the phone. I fight because I matter, I love, and I am loved.

There has been a lot of discussion this past week about suicide. The causes, the loss, how to cope, how to survive, and most of all, the matter of making the choice to go through with it.

Is suicide a choice?

Yes.

It is an easy choice?

Hell no.

If you wade through research, the average amount of time it takes from initiation of “I’m really going to do this” to completion is 10 minutes. I wish I had the link to this research but unfortunately, I don’t. (But there is this article you can read which references it.)

10 minutes to save someone’s life.

10 minutes to convince them they matter. That they are bigger than whatever demon is swelling inside of them and convincing them they are better off on the other side.

10.fricking.minutes.

In the grand scheme of life, 10 minutes is but a millisecond, but it is a millisecond with a number of chaotic screaming thoughts flooding your brain in an attempt to convince you to stop the life you know because it has toppled over and there is no other way to fix things.

In those 10 minutes:

It is not a matter of joy.

It is not a matter of prayer or faith.

It is not a matter of therapy.

It is not a matter of medication.

It is not a matter of love.

It is not a matter of religion, resources, and whatever the hell else you want to throw out there as a simple answer to the complexity that is suicide which is, frankly, a sandbox full of all the demons you have ever carried at any point in your life fighting each other for ownership of your soul.

In the throes of the “choice of suicide”, it is all about YOU and that huge ass demon screaming at you that yes, you are better off on the other side as it hacks away at any sense of self-respect, faith, or common sense you previously possessed. The bastard wears you down until finally, there is only one way out.

We all know the story of David and Goliath. It’s like that only sometimes, David doesn’t win.

It’s like Frodo vs. Sauron but all on his own.

It’s like Picard vs. the Borg all by himself. (And we saw how that ended – Locutus!)

I wrote an off-the-cuff status update on Facebook about the passing of Robin Williams. At last check, it had been shared over 200 times. Here’s what I said:

“I want to take a minute (or more) of your time to say something important.

Suicide is scary. It frightens us, particularly those of us who are vulnerable and know these thoughts intimately. These thoughts dance with us and sometimes have done so on a daily basis.

For people who know suicide intimately and have contemplated it, news like the passing of Robin Williams can be very triggering. It causes us to wonder how on earth we will survive if he didn’t make it. He had money. Access to care. He had just been in rehab. Dear Lord. If he couldn’t get better, what hope do “we” have?

Here’s the thing. Choose life. Choose to reach out. Choose light. Choose to fight. Every time you reach out for help, you are choosing to survive. It’s about creating opportunities for hope instead of succumbing to the darkness.

Unfortunately, we don’t know why he chose to leave us, but he did. And we’re left wondering what went wrong.

So if you want to honor his life, honor his time here, take from his death what you can and make it okay to discuss suicidal feelings. Because until mental health is a normal part of every day discussions, we will continue to be shocked when something like this happens, claiming we “had no idea.”

Know this.

There is hope. There is help. And if you are struggling, there are hotlines you can call. Things you can do. Start by reaching out to a friend, then a professional, and stay the course, even when the light fades. It will return.”

I have never had anything shared that much on Facebook before. The comments on the shares are tremendous – people are talking about mental health. But most of all, they are scared.

Because if Robin Williams, a man who had access to it all, committed suicide, then what hope do *we* have in surviving when we don’t have the access to care he did?

I questioned whether or not I should write about this here. I am not writing for page views. I am not writing to take advantage of a horrible situation. I am writing because until we make mental health check ins with each other part of normal, everyday conversation, things like this will ALWAYS shock us. Until we make mental health as normal as physical health, it will always be stigmatized, it will always be taboo, and it will always scare the shit out of us.

My heart has been heavy this week, along with millions of others. Not for the loss of Robin, but for HOW we lost him. I know that pain. I know what those moments of absolute desperation feel like as they strike terror into your very soul. Watching your body and hands go through the motions as your brain screams NO and questions your sanity but you are helpless to stop yourself. I’ve blogged about it before – here, here, and here. The second and third posts references the situation I used to open this post. There have been other times too, times in the car where I wondered what would happen if I just let go of the wheel and let myself drift into oncoming traffic – or into a tree. It’s been awhile since I have fought with these thoughts but the shadows of them are always there, lurking, waiting to spring forth and attack when the darkness threatens to swallow me.

That weight, the weight of sheer terror, isolation, and helplessness, is what spurs me to do what I do – to reach out to mothers struggling with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. No mother, hell, no human, should ever surf the tides of mental health alone.

So how do we change things? How do we make suicide less of a threat to ourselves and to those we love?

I wish I had the answer to that question. I have some answers, but not THE answer. No one does. All we have are suggestions.

We talk about our struggles, we don’t cover it up in polite speech or hide it in dark rooms and beneath whispers or under judgmental tones. We stop sensationalizing the horrors and instead write mindfully about the issue at hand. Let’s start there.

Suicide is not something we should dismiss. It is not something we cover up, and it is not solved by choosing joy, reaching out, or praying harder. It goes far deeper than any of that for it is insidious, tenuous, and a gut-sucking leech upon the soul of many of us who have walked this earth. Our lives, all of them, sooner or later, will be touched by suicide – someone we know, a friend’s friend, or our own. Is that acceptable? Hell no. Can we change it? Hell yes.

Baby steps.

Start here, with how to talk to a friend or a loved one about suicide. Carry resources and hotline numbers in your wallet or program them into your phone. Know the signs. Run toward the chaos and the danger instead of huddling away from it. Bring suicide into the light. Make it okay to not be okay. Not cool, but okay. Let them know you hear their pain, you acknowledge their hurt, and do what you can to encourage them to seek help. Don’t judge them. Don’t act shocked. Be compassionate. Be patient. Be understanding. Don’t justify their desire to end it but instead, talk to them about their reasons to live. Be their speck of light, as my good friend and amazing blogger John states in his own post about depression and cancer. Be the warm blanket they need to survive. Be the hope for them until they can be their own hope.

Will we still lose people?

Yes.

But those we save through our own daring to speak up may just be the ones to ultimately change the world. And in the process, we are already changing the world because we’re breaking the stigma of silence around suicide.

And that, my friends, makes the hell worth fighting through.

#PPDChat Topic 08.04.14: Getting Pro-active: Facing Pregnancy after a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder

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Along with countless women, I have been in this boat. It’s an intimidating boat, let me tell you what. But, with some preparation, things don’t have to be quite that scary.

My first experience with a PMAD was frightening. I had no idea what was happening in my head in addition to trying to get myself adjusted to motherhood for the first time around. Talk about one helluva screwball. Thanks, life.

I survived. My daughter survived. Did we come out unscathed? No. But I definitely came out wiser. I view my first brush with PP OCD as one heck of a learning curve which prepared me for the second time I found myself in an even deeper valley than the first.

Halle Berry said it best on Oprah: “Once you’ve been through depression, it gets easier to get out because you have a road map.” Each episode, while it may have different nuances and causes, is essentially the same basic experience deep down. You get used to battling your way out of it and yes, you absolutely have a road map. You learn to recognize the curves and know how to adjust for them well before they even appear on your horizon.

Just as with a road trip, preparation is key. While even the best preparation in the world does not guarantee that a PMAD will stay at bay, it does empower you and enables you to seek help sooner rather than later.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight to discuss the importance of preparing yourself and your loved ones for the possibility of another bout of a PMAD after the birth of a sibling. I have experienced both a planned and an unplanned pregnancy after my episodes so there will be lots of insight into both situations, including a very honest discussion about depression and other mental health issues during pregnancy.

Tonight’s chat is an important one. Don’t miss it. See you on Twitter at 830pm ET!

#PPDChat 07.28.14: Talking to Your Children About Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

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One of the most often repeated phrases I’ve heard from friends who struggle with postpartum mood disorders is, “Why didn’t anybody tell me?”  It’s a question I’ve asked myself too.  And it begs the question, did anybody else in my family face this?

As we raise awareness of the important topic of postpartum depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, it’s critical that we educate future generations, which includes our own children.  Though many of us still have very young children who may not understand our struggles currently, there may come a time where we feel we need to be honest with them about what we as their mothers (and fathers) experienced during the weeks and months after delivery.  It’s important for our own story, but it’s also important in order to prepare our children for what they, their spouses, or other family and friends may potentially face.

Talking to our children about such an emotional and difficult topic is never easy.  But someday I want my children to know that their mother faced a real and hard battle–and won.  And that they were a huge part of the reason that I fought to get better.  I hope my own children never have to face this battle, but if they do, or know someone who does, I want them to have every measure of support available, and part of that support is us, as their parents.

Please join me, @DonutsMama, on Twitter tonight for #PPDChat as we discuss how to talk with our children about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  Hope to see you there at 8:30 EST.