Cabin Fever

It’s dark outside. The sun roams about behind grey mist trapped in the sky, mist which expands and sighs, drifting about aimlessly and casting shadows upon the ground beneath them.

I sit, inside, my HappyLight beaming artificial light upon my face. Our cat rests next to me, basking in the warmth of the same light infusing my soul with cheer. (Who said money can’t buy happiness?) My tea slides down my throat as I wearily glance outside at the muted colours of autumn draped in the tears of the sky.

Voices chatter from the television, the dishwasher hums in the background, and life goes on around me.

Yet here I sit, on the couch, trapped by some horrible autumnal cold accompanied by a hacking cough for good measure.

I suppose it would be worse if it were a bright summer day full of promising things to do across the countryside. But this…this seems almost worse. As if the world outside is closing in upon me much as the universe seemed to close in upon Dr. Crusher in Star Trek when Wesley’s warp bubble swallowed her whole.

The chill sneaks into my heart, worms its way up to my head, and settles there. The mist follows soon after, bringing with it a torrential rain, which if not properly prepared for, will lead to a great depression.

It is this against which I fight once the days grow shorter, the skies infinitely darker with the storms which swirl about in the midst of autumn and winter. Although spring carries with it the promise of allergic reaction, I welcome the sunshine, the warm breezes, and the sprouting of new life.

For now, I sink back into the dark brown couch, sip my tea, and stare at the raindrops sliding down the glass window separating me from the darkened world.

#PPDChat 11.17.14: Holidays & PPD

ppdchat-11-17-14

As the holiday season rapidly approaches and social appearances are greatly expected, those of us who struggle with mental health issues store up excuses to bow out of gatherings. While saying no is a phenomenal practice, there may be some gatherings which are required. We grit our teeth and bear it, hoping to repair our anxiety once it is over.

Tonight’s chat will focus on coping mechanisms for surviving the holiday season. Learning to say no, surviving when we are sucked into the vortex of family and work gatherings, and building self-care for our souls into the holiday season. ‘Tis the season to give of ourselves, but also TO ourselves. Be kind to yourselves these holidays – refill your pitcher as you pour to others.

Join me tonight at 830pm ET on Twitter. See you at #PPDChat!

 

In case you missed the chat, here’s the transcript:

#PPDChat 11.10.14: The Odd Couple: Gratitude and PPD?

The Odd Couple: Gratitude & PPDGratitude and PPD. These two concepts might seem like an odd pair.  But in my experience, they are closely linked.  I’ve read some posts and articles in which women actually stated that they were grateful for PPD. They explained how it helped turn their marriage around, led them to care for themselves better, showed them how strong they could be in difficult situations, and uncovered an underlying issue that needed to be addressed.  On the other hand, other women responded to these statements, stating that they were not at all grateful for having had PPD. They explained how it was a miserable time and that nothing positive came out of it.

I want to honor those two differing perspectives regarding PPD and gratitude.  Obviously, neither opinion is right or wrong, but I do want to bring up another point about PPD and gratitude.  I found that gratitude was my saving grace as I pulled myself out of the panic and fog PPD led left me in.  When I managed to make it through one day without obsessively worrying about something, I would congratulate myself for this progress and count it as something to be grateful for.  When the insomnia settled and I was able to fall asleep easily, I was eternally grateful.  When friends helped out by taking my dogs for walks, I thanked them profusely.

For some reason, even though I was so sad and scared about my illness, I was able to recognize my small steps towards healing and cherish small acts of kindness.  While the depression and anxiety I experienced when my son was first born has lifted, my gratitude has remained.  Though I wouldn’t state that I am grateful for having had PPD, I do believe I am a more grateful person now than I was before PPD hit. I am grateful for compassionate friends. I am grateful for my wonderful family. I am grateful for a clear mind. And most of all, I am grateful for my strength which carried me away from the dark clutches of PPD and has guided me through many experiences since then.

Has PPD affected your gratitude? Please join #PPDChat tonight at 830pm to chat with us about this topic!

-Ana Clare Rouds

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone with LTYM

Life beginsSee that refrigerator magnet there?

J bought it for me a couple of years ago. A couple of months after he bought it for me, I auditioned for LTYM in NYC, something which was way out of my comfort zone.

I wasn’t chosen for the cast.

The following year, I auditioned for the Northern NJ LTYM. Outside my comfort zone again.

I wasn’t chosen for the cast.

This year, however, I stepped even further outside my comfort zone and apply to be a Director/Producer. In doing so, Ann Imig connected me with the amazing Kirsten Piccini. She had been working to bring the show to the Lehigh Valley but hit a hiccup. Once we were connected, we pulled together our application (mostly completed by her) and I brought in Kristina Grum. We sent it off and waited patiently.

The official announcement was yesterday. We are absolutely thrilled to bring the amazing thing that is Listen To Your Mother to the Lehigh Valley.

We’re sure we’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll be overwhelmed. But, it’s a roller coaster we’re excited to be riding.

We’re ready to do this – and it’s gonna be EPIC.

 

#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!