#PPDChat 07.21.14: Self-Care & Motherhood – Finding Balance with @story3girl

ppdchat-07-21-14Hey y’all!!! It’s Monday! You know what that means!!!

Another installment of #PPDChat on Twitter! YAY! *Throws confetti and rattles noisemaker*

Don’t mind me – it’s just been a crazy weekend and I haven’t had coffee yet but have already been out and about. I KNOW.

Speaking of crazy weekend, no coffee, already running errands (with lots more to do before the day is done), you better believe I am going to take slices of time here or there for myself. Sit down, read a bit of a book, play a game on my phone, maybe nap at some point (I hope so because WOW I AM TIRED), and I may even watch something on Netflix in addition to making sure I get a decent night’s sleep tonight even if I have to take Melatonin.

Self-care is what puts water in our pitchers so that we can keep the glasses of those around us filled. It’s important. It’s not something we put off until tomorrow. It’s something we work into our schedules, even if it’s fragmented. Lately, as busy as I have been, I have made sure to do my work then take a break and do something just for me (I’ve been binge watching Friday Night Lights). Then, I get up, and do something else that needs to be done, and then something else that is just for me.

One of my favourite exercises to have folks do when they’re not used to self-care is to have them sit down and make a list. Write down all 5 of your senses. Taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Then, for every sense, write down five of your favourite things. Post this list somewhere and keep at least one thing from every sense in your home or near you/accessible at all times. This becomes your “emergency sanity” kit and BAM. Instant self-care.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of self-care because let’s face it, humans are complex and life can get crazy in the blink of an eye. But when it’s BUILT in to your daily routine via baby steps? Totally achievable. This is what the exercise in the previous paragraph does for you – it empowers you to build self-care into your life in tiny fragmented pieces. Sure, sometimes you need to just sit down and do nothing for a couple of hours but let’s face it, with little ones running around, that doesn’t happen very often. So fragmented self-care becomes our only option. It’s a heck of a lot better than none at all, wouldn’t you agree?

Tonight, join @story3girl on Twitter to chat about this very important topic. Explore your own habits, your needs, and maybe figure out how to get started mothering the post important person in your life – YOU.

#PPDChat Topic 07.14.14: Chatting with @addyeB for Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

ppdchat-07-14-14This evening’s #PPDChat will focus on women of colour and mental health.

Why does this matter?

A quick visit to the Health & Human Services Department’s Minority Mental Health Statistics page for African Americans drives home some scary points right away:

  • Poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 3 times more likely to report psychological distress.
  • African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as are Non-Hispanic Blacks.
  • The death rate from suicide for African American men was almost four times that for African American women, in 2009.
  • However, the suicide rate for African Americans is 60% lower than that of the Non-Hispanic White population.
  • A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 – 1995, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of Non-Hispanic Whites.1

I’ll give you a few minutes to read those statistics over and realize what they mean. Then I want to highlight two specifically.

“Non-Hispanic Whites are TWICE as likely to receive a prescription for antidepressants than Non-Hispanic Blacks.”

“African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.”

Taking those two statements alone, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites BUT are less likely to receive a prescription which would help them deal with said psychological distress.

How is that even close to okay?

Mental health affects more than our minds, too. It affects several systems in our bodies with the stress it causes, it affects quality of life, it affects everything. Without it, we are not complete.

So join me tonight as we chat with the fantastic @addyeB, as she, in her own words, will be:

“…sharing what it’s been like for me, as a woman of color, to fight through & recover from a postpartum mood disorder. I’ll be talking about the stigma surrounding mental illness in minority communities and how it impacts awareness, education, and folks seeking treatment…barriers to treatment/access to resources in our communities…and various resources that women of color can find and use for support-especially online. I’ll also be asking other women of color to share their experiences and ask questions as well.”

It’s gonna be a good chat, y’all.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Warmest,

Lauren

Guest Post: On Meeting An Angel

PP Blogathon BlingToday’s post in celebration of Katherine Stone is brought to you by Deborah Forhan Rimmler, a member of the board of Postpartum Progress. There’s no intro to do it justice so I’ll just let you read.

I’m always curious about where God might pop up.  You see, I’m the kind of girl who finds a connection to the Divine in random places—a quiet snuggle with my boys, when my husband loves me even when I’m being a jerk, a long bike ride, my dear aunt’s funeral.  You get the point.

Five years ago I was struck with horrible postpartum OCD, the soul stealing kind where you have visions of hurting your own baby.  Even then, I was still lucky.  I had a swanky doula, got a great psychiatrist and slowly got better.  Still, there was this huge gaping hole in my heart that only I knew was there.  I swear you could see all the way to infinity and back that hole was so big.  I was sure I would never really be happy again or be joyful as mother because this terrible experience haunted me.  I put on brave face. I cared for and played with my baby.  I prayed, tried to meditate, did yoga, and watched chick flicks. I did all my happy things.  Only it was still there.  That big gaping hole of fear and sadness over this experience.

Then I met an angel—the working class kind, which in my opinion is the very best type.  You see, she is one of us.  A human with no special wings or privity with God’s plans for the universe.  She was just a very brave mother who had dared to share her story with the world about how she, too, had these intrusive thoughts about hurting her baby boy.  And I mean the whole world—she put in on a blog!  She just put it out there in a matter-of-fact way about how postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis are simply treatable diseases.  And she got other women to share their stories on her blog.  And she gave up her lucrative marketing career, at a significant financial cost to her family, to build this blog day after day.  For. Ten. Years.

Every story was just as beautiful and brave as the one before.  And in these stories there was a divine truth that healed my draining soul.  We women are not alone, and it is not our fault we got sick.  I even felt God’s love for me, my sick brain, and all the other suffering mothers past and present in the community of these stories.  And the gaping hole in my heart and soul got plugged with the honesty and bravery of these women sharing their truth.  And one day I started to feel happy again.  Full of hope for my life as a mother.

Thank you, Katherine Stone, for being that angel.  Day after day you shine the light of goodness and grace on the dark side of motherhood helping to piece our broken hearts back together.  And when that light sparks a sad, tired soul and starts to help it heal, you give the gift that only a true angel can give:  Hope.

Bless you my darling friend and congratulations on the Ten Year Anniversary of Postpartum Progress!

Rimmler Family 09 051Deborah is a postpartum OCD survivor and on the board of Postpartum Progress, Inc.  She is a corporate attorney and lives with her husband and two sons in Western Massachusetts.

#PPDChat Topic 07.07.14: Celebrating 10 Years of Postpartum Progress

ppdchat-07-07-14On July 13, Postpartum Progress turns 10.

Since inception, Katherine Stone has done quite a bit in the world of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. She’s fiercely led us forward, called people out on the error of their ways, and is whole-heartedly dedicated to making the world an easier place to navigate when women are struck with one of the issues on the spectrum of PMADs.

Tonight, at #PPDChat, we’re going to talk about Katherine and what she’s done, what she’s doing, and share memories of how she’s helped us. Did you know she supported #PPDChat when it was just an idea in my head four years ago? She did. She’s supported quite a few of us as we’ve moved into advocacy and we are beyond grateful.

Be sure to join us tonight at #PPDChat as we celebrate the woman, the work, and the sisterhood she has created.

See you tonight at 830pm ET!

#PPDChat Topic 06.30.14: The Art of Journaling

ppdchat-06-30-14

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?

The world would split open.”

 Muriel Rukeyser

The act of picking up a pen, putting it to paper, and forming words with the ink is, as Cynthia Ozick calls it, “an act of courage.” It is spilling the blood of our hearts onto paper, allowing our emotions and thoughts to breathe as they have never done before. It is healing. It is a release. It is a butterfly creeping slowly out of a chrysalis. It’s exhaling after the storm passes.

Tonight, during #PPDChat, we will discuss the act of journaling as part of the healing process of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. We have questions as we heal. We wonder who we are, where we are going, if things will ever be the same, and how we will ever get out of this hell. Journals are a safe way to explore these thoughts and can be complimentary to therapy.

While I never officially journaled, I did blog. Not always about what I was going through but the mere act of writing helped me to see things in a different light, to examine every side of the experience.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight as we discuss “The Art of Journaling” and examine the various ways in which we can use this important tool to set us free and help us grow toward the new woman we are becoming through this experience.

See you on Twitter at 830pm ET!

Seeking Volunteers for #PPDChat Growth & Management

Hey, y’all!

It’s time to start growing #PPDChat beyond the borders of its current space. To do that, I need some help!

I started #PPDChat in 2010 with the goal of reaching out to women and families through a new medium. To bash stigma in the most public of places, on Social Media. It took off more than I ever imagined it would.

The hashtag has gone places, including trending the week of the National Football Championship.

It’s even transitioned into a closed FB group where over 300 mothers have grown into a close knit community.

But it’s time to take it to the streets and really push the boundaries of growing this community which is centered on the principles I hold so dearly and work to strive in my own life after battling against PP OCD twice:

Self-care: It’s important. As a person, as a woman, as a mother. Self-care is what keeps us going, what fills us up so we can give of ourselves to others. We cannot give to others if we are constantly pouring from an empty pitcher.

Self-respect & respect of others: Just because I have a mental health issue does not mean I am not a person. I absolutely am, you absolutely are as well. We’re just walking a road with a bit of fog on it and for some that fog is a bit thicker than for others. Eventually it will lift and the sun will shine. In the #PPDChat community, respect for others as people is one of the highest priorities.

Self-advocacy and speaking boldly: We are our best advocates. We know what’s going on inside our minds better than anyone else because we live there. Honesty with ourselves, our loved ones, and our professional caregivers is what will help us heal. (With the caveat of sharing with toxic people who shoot us down, of course – that absolutely will not contribute to healing). We empower each other to advocate for ourselves through a shared experience, through personal support, and through locating resources. With #PPDChat, you absolutely are not alone.

With these principles in mind, I am seeking volunteers to join together with me to reach out to new sources of women who would benefit from getting involved with the #PPDChat community. Your involvement may be as involved or as limited as you are able…remember self-care is important here so we do not want to drain you. Marketing, outreach, blog posts, sourcing new places to develop partnerships, etc.

Right now, the only conditions for volunteering are that you must be:

  • A survivor or a partner of a survivor of a PMAD episode (this does include antenatal mood disorders as well)
  • Driven & dedicated to help others who have found themselves in the same boat with this beast
  • Have an internet connection or willing to do footwork in your own community
  • Able to respond to emails calling for action and a minimum of 1 hour of action/advocacy a week

That’s it. Pretty simple. Right now, I’m gathering volunteers. First email will go out on July 15th so fill out the form below to contact me before then if you’re interested in diving right into this with me.

Can’t volunteer? Pass this post on to someone who may be interested as well. This is the year #PPDChat breaks out of the shell it’s grown into and really starts kicking some serious stigma ass.

Who’s with me?

 

#PPDChat Topic 06-23-14: Kicking The Summer Blues to the Curb

ppdchat-06-23-2014

We associate winter with the blues. Everyone stays inside to stay warm.

But summer is the opposite – some of us stay inside to stay cool. Or because it’s too much trouble to tote the little ones outside because OMG WE HAVE TO PACK ALL THE SUNSCREEN and everything else in the house just to go to the pool and dear sweet lord don’t forget that we need swim diapers, formula, a nursing swimsuit (OMG – nursing at the pool…)…the list goes on and on and on and on…you get the point.

Summer blues are just like Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’re supposed to be happy and carefree in the summer. Cheery. WHOOOO!! Water! Camping! No responsibilities. (Have you ever been a parent with three small children home for the summer? HAVE YOU?! I’d rather..well, anything.)

This chat will be chock full of tips and mamas chatting about how to manage the issue of parenting/adjusting to a newborn in the summer months. Summertime creates an entire extra set of issues, issues we all seem to just dance around. Well, tomorrow night, we’re gonna stomp on them and figure them out.

Join me on Twitter at 830pm ET. See you there!

#PPDChat Topic 06.16.14: Faces of #ClimbOut

#PPDChat Topic 06.16.14: Faces of #ClimbOutLast week, A’Drianne (@addyeB) hosted #PPDChat. She shared all about the upcoming #ClimbOut for Postpartum Progress (which, by the way, has surpassed the 100k goal!). If you’re interested in finding out more about this event, which happens this Saturday worldwide, you can read all about it here.

Tonight’s #PPDChat welcomes leaders of various Climbs throughout the world. Get to know the women who have fought through their own battles with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders and are now doing something to help raise awareness of this insidious issue which affects 1 in 8 new mothers.

The two primary leaders joining us tonight are:

Susan Petcher, who is leading a COTD team of 6 up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire on June 21st.  She blogs at Learned Happiness about motherhood and mental illness, writes for Postpartum Progress, crochets compulsively, and loves Minecraft. (You can find her on Twitter @learndhappiness)

and

Courtenay Petracca, leading the COTD Team Rhode Island. She is a mother of a 2.5 year old girl. Suffered from perinatal depression silently until my daughter was born. The best decision of her life was to call the hospital and get help when her daughter was 5.5 months old. (You can find her on Twitter @Cxs918)

I am SO excited to chat with all these passionate women tonight. I sincerely hope you’ll carve out an hour to join us at 830pm ET. See you then!

 

When the Awareness Month Ends

Where does the awareness go?

Does it get tossed in the trashcan? Do we save it and recycle it for next year’s shindig?

Or do we raise the banner and keep it waving for the entire year?

Awareness months are fabulous things.

But there’s a fault with them – they last only 28, 30, or 31 days.

Everything has an awareness month these days, it seems. We are all screaming about them from the social media rooftops. Pay attention to this, do that, say this, share that, use this hashtag, find this picture on Instagram, enter this, like this, donate here, etc.

It can all lead so very quickly to donor fatigue or the inability to comprehend anything regarding any of the topics we are supposed to give our all to because well, it’s the topic du mois.

Do you go home when it’s the first of the next month?

Or are you still there, in the stands, in the midst of the mess, yelling at anyone who will listen that this is something we should still give a damn about?

We need people who will stay and fight. People who will give their all for more than 28, 30, or 31 days. The people who scream and shout even when there’s nothing left – the people who sacrifice their entire heart and soul to save those around them – those are the people who make the difference. THOSE are the people I want to surround myself with as I move forward in life.

We all matter. Do we need to be ramped up even when it’s not THE MONTH for our cause? Yes and no. Advocacy is a shout in the sunshine but it’s also a quiet whisper in the dark. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing your story. Other times, it’s far more complex and exhausting.

Whatever the form your advocacy takes, don’t drop it just because it’s no longer the right month.

Carry that flag with you throughout the year. Hold your head high, be a shining example and move others toward your cause by exemplifying the type of person you are inside – a fierce warrior capable of surviving anything life may throw your way.

NIMH Gets Failing Grade for Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Chat

Last week, a friend of mine tagged me in a link on FB to give me a heads up about a NIMH chat this week about Perinatal Mood Disorders. Of course we were looking forward to it and hoping it would be a worthwhile discussion. I nearly missed it on Friday morning (May 16, 2014)  thanks to a nasty case of food poisoning which knocked me off my feet for the better part of this week. But, I managed to dive in just 10 minutes into the chat.

It was…….awful.

Stilted.

Non-engaging.

Spouting of facts and just the facts, according to the NIMH. (They managed to screw up a few things. Don’t worry, I’ll go there. Oh, yes, yes I will.)

Self-promotion and only self-promotion. No real response to the powerful Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Advocates who showed up until we started really pushing back. Even then, their response was still stilted.

Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the NIMH began repeating tweets from the beginning of the chat instead of answering the flurry of questions coming in from those participating.

If NIMH handed this chat in as a graded project, it would have received an F.

When I asked what was being done to encourage medical professionals to become better educated about PMAD’s, this happened:

NIMHChat Congress

Yep.

Congress MANDATED we pay more attention to PMAD’s. In fact, it got shoved in with the ACA. And we all know how well that’s going. After this response, I asked a follow up question asking how that was going – asked for hard numbers. Did I get numbers? Nope. BECAUSE THE ATTENTION MANDATED BY CONGRESS LACKS FUNDING AND THEREFORE ATTENTION.

I’m okay, I’m okay. *deep breath*

There was also this lovely moment in chat:

NIMHChat Snafu

I know, right?

Because we ALL got better by staying in bed thanks to depression, right? Right?

Instead of urging moms to get up, move, and care for themselves, the NIMH  provides them with excuses to stay in bed and well, suffer. Way to go, NIMH. WAY.TO.GO. *slow claps*

While I realize it is difficult to manage a large scale chat with several participants (something I have done myself, when #PPDChat was very well attended), there is absolutely no excuse for the following to happen during your chat:

1) Blatantly state misinformation/misleading facts about your topic. Particularly if said topic is subject to entrenched stigma and misinformation (which is why you are having the chat to begin with, right? Not because it’s a hot topic and you’re using it to draw people in…)

2) Not engage those who are participating – this is SOCIAL media, y’all. SOCIAL. ENGAGE. Like Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise. Even if you’re just going at impulse speed, ENGAGE for the love of ALL that is..well, you know.

3) Don’t repeat yourself word for word. It lets people know you’re unprepared.

4) Share resources other than your own. (see number 2 about social media).

5) Do NOT TREAT those participating with disdain, contempt, or as if they are idiots. They are attending your event which would be nothing without participants. Respond accordingly unless they are clearly bashing you (which we were not) and if they are bashing you, ignore them before you stoop to the level of responding with disdain.
Things to do during a Twitter chat:

1) Engage. Be Social. Greet people. Be happy and upbeat. SMILE through your keyboard.

2) Be knowledgeable and approachable.

3) Treat everyone as if they are your equal. They are there to learn, not to be kicked. Acknowledge their words, their struggle, their questions with the same respect you expect from them. You know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

4) Offer insight through connections and share resources from others in addition to your own. The only answer is not yours. Crowd-source and use the media at hand to enhance your chat.

5) Do your best to make everyone be heard, even if it’s through just RT’ing what they’ve said. Again, I realize this is difficult on a LARGE scale but if you have known experts participating, acknowledge them.

I truly hate when things like this go wrong because there is such a tremendous opportunity for exposure when a government agency holds a chat like this. I want to say I’m surprised at how things went but sadly, I am not. Instead of raising awareness and building hope, NIMH decimated the chat with a lot of tweets about nothing, leaving at least one person (and possibly more) with the idea that there is in fact, nothing a mother can do to prevent a PMAD:

NIMHChat PPD cause

And that, dear friends, is NOT the taste you want to leave in the public’s mouth when discussing PMAD’s. Because there is hope. There is help. We are not alone.

Go to Postpartum Progress to find women who are fighting back.

Or Postpartum Stress Center’s website.

Or Beyond Postpartum.

Or find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing. Or search the hashtag #PPDChat. Message me for the private FB group full of women who KNOW this is hell and yet are fighting back against it with everything they have.

We’re all here for you when you’re ready to reach out for help.

(And THAT is how you end a chat about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders).

*drops mic and hits publish*