Monthly Archives: September 2010

Whatever Wednesday: A bit of exposure therapy

Me, as a Fradoodle

In elementary school, I had ridiculously long hair. After I whacked a bunch of it off in the first grade, my mom chopped the rest of it off. And then she permed it. I looked like a fradoodle. (Frazzled Poodle) That right there is the best photo I can find of my fradoodled do. I apologize for the graininess. It is not intentional.

It eventually grew out. I would waver back and forth between long and short hair for the better part of my life.

When I gave birth to my second daughter, I had long hair. Halfway down my back and Pantene commercial silky. Yes, I had THAT head of hair.

In college, I once had someone reach out and yank pretty hard on my hair as I waited in line at a McDonald’s. Yanno, to make sure it was real and not a weave or wig. And yes, I beat the ever loving crap out of informed her it was real and asked her to keep her friggin hands off please not do that again.

The evening I gave birth to our second daughter, I woke up around 10pm to use the restroom. Before I went back to bed (in the middle of the night at the hospital by myself after 42 hours of labor) I brushed and brushed my hair for 10 minutes. It was the first of many obsessive behaviors to come. It would not be the last time I would brush my hair for no reason at all.

A few months after my daughter was born, I cut my hair off. Why? To keep myself from brushing it so obsessively.

Flash forward to now.

My hair is long again. Not quite as long, but it’s below my shoulders these days. It’s thick, shiny, and silky. Totally enviable again. To be honest, the growth kind of snuck up on me as  I lived life. Sure, I knew it was getting longer but I had no grand plans as for the general direction of my hair and what I wanted it to look like.

A couple of months ago I began to feel some anxiety about my hair. I wanted to brush it. I wanted to brush it a lot. Every time I did brush it, I flashed back. I could see the old me, the hollow, lifeless eyes in the mirror pleading with the vibrant woman inside to come out. But alas she did not. These days, it’s the opposite. The vibrant woman is pleading with the lifeless woman to never come back again.

I didn’t cut my hair.

I decided to let it be. To finally face one of the demons from my past, if you will. I dared myself to brush it and walk away. To be okay if that lifeless woman popped by for a visit because I knew it was just that – a visit. No one can be 100% all the time, after all. It’s OKAY to collapse. It’s OKAY to have hollow eyes every so often. It’s okay.

So here I am. A month after making the decision to not cut my hair. It’s a little longer. It’s still silky, thick, shiny, and I can’t do a damned thing with it because it’s so heavy and silky. (Please don’t hate me)

But it’s HERE. And you know what? I’m okay with that. And seeing a hair brush no longer gives me the heebie-jeebies.

THAT is a huge thing for me. Huge.

I heart my long hair.

Below is a slideshow of my elementary hair and my hair now for those who commented and wanted to see photos:

[slideshow]

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The Power of Peer Support

When I was in the darkest days of my Postpartum, I found myself at the hospital, wandering, wishing for another mom to talk with about the thoughts in my head.

Yet, there I was. All alone. Deflated. Lost. Confused. Worried. Scared. Frustrated. Numb. Angry. Trapped in a giant whirlwind of emotions with no map out.

What the hell? How did I get here? How would I leave? I was drowning.

I knew one thing beyond a doubt though – Moms struggling like me needed to be connected to other moms.

As I began to recover, I searched and searched for a way to begin to support other moms. Through this search, I found the wonderful Jane Honikman and Postpartum Support International. Jane encouraged me. So did Wendy Davis, now the Program Director with Postpartum Support International. These two strong and amazing women nurtured me as I grew in my capabilities and strengthened my skills in peer support. There was a time when I questioned my abilities. Wendy assured me I was a natural at social support. Pec Indman would do the same down the road.

Then, I became pregnant. It was not a planned pregnancy. To be honest, not even a wanted pregnancy at the beginning. As I stated last week, I used to pray my doctor’s office wouldn’t find my baby’s heartbeat and then weep with guilt when I felt disappointment at hearing the normally reassuring thump thump of my unborn child’s heart. What should have brought me joy instead filled me with pain and heartache. Eventually this was replaced with joy and happiness as I blogged, continued with therapy, and medication. One of my biggest turning points was the opportunity to interview Karen Kleiman for my blog. Her book, What Am I thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression inspired me to start blogging to begin with as I attempted to reframe my pregnancy. Interviewing her was almost full circle for me.

During all of this, I also became Community Leader over at iVillage’s Postpartum & Pregnancy Depression Board. I had been a CL before but found myself unable to relate to moms with “normal” lives after my own life had suddenly turned upside down and scattered all over the floor. As I scrambled to pick up the pieces, it felt like those moms were busy eating bon bons as they looked down on me scurrying about to pick up the shattered china. I also served as a moderator at the Online PPD Support Page for a bit.

Connecting with moms like me saved me. It saved my sanity. It provided a camaraderie which I no longer had with normal moms. It became my calling and purpose in life.

I wake each and every day with the goal of helping at least one family.

I have yet to fail.

I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

So….

Do you have a special someone in your life who has provided invaluable peer support as you went through Postpartum? Tell us about it here. Have you helped someone? Did it help you recover? Why do you help others? What drives your passion?

Want peer support? Have a question or concern? Leave it in the comments. Someone’s bound to read it and respond.

Did you miss out on in person peer support? Need help finding peer support? Leave a comment. You’re not alone anymore.

Let’s get to just talking!

Twitter Jail: Only for #PPDChat

#PPDChat ended 15 minutes ago.

I cannot tweet right now.

Why?

Because chat went SO well tonight I’ve been locked out of Twitter. I’m sitting in Twitter Jail humming a tune and thrilled as hell to be here for Postpartum Mood Disorders. SO WORTH IT.

If you need to talk with me about anything, you can reach me via email: ppdacceptance (@) gmail dot com.

Just Talking Tuesday Giveaway winners: @momgosomething & @OMyFamily

Ladies!

Given you were the only two to comment on last week’s giveaway, I’ve decided to send both of you a copy of Pregnant on Prozac by Shoshana Bennett.

Please email me @ mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail dot com with your addresses. The books will ship by the end of this week!

Congratulations!

National Day of Encouragement: Stronger Together Online Quilt Project

Today is the National Day of Encouragement.

“The National Day of Encouragement was the idea of a few high school students attending the National Leadership Forum in Searcy, Ark in June of 2007.  The students were challenged to come up with what they believe to be the biggest problem in their school. They decided that at the root of most problems, such as drugs and alcohol, lies discouragement.  So, as one-way to help that, let’s have a day where we focus on encouraging one another.  Get together with students from your church, school, other organizations or just yourself, and find ways to encourage people around you.”

Around here, we’re big on encouragement and support. Yesterday, I received an email from Jenn over at Connected Mom. She’s got this amazing project going on right now that I really wanted to highlight today. It’s the Stronger Together Online Quilt Project. Jennifer is focusing on Birth Trauma, Birth Disappointment, and PPD Awareness. You can get the specs by visiting Jenn’s blog, The Connected Mom. There is no deadline for submissions and Jennifer is hoping this project will eventually have it’s own corner of the web to call home. So spread the word!

I’ll be participating. Will you?

9/11: Remember. Never Forget.

Nine years ago, our lives forever changed as Americans. Generations who had only known peace suddenly had their world yanked out from beneath them. Yet at the same time, the fabric of the spirit of America was forever strengthened as those who lost their lives ultimately showed true courage and patriotism as they struggled to save the lives of so many. Pause today. Wherever you may be, pause. Reflect. Remember. Never ever forget the tragedies of today. Never forget the eerie silence as every single plane landed and no longer flew free through the skies. Never forget the lives and families of those who were lost and torn apart. And may the American spirit of courage always live within your heart just as it did in so many that day. May we all be blessed with such courageous tenacity when faced with desperate tragedy. God Bless America.

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Can you put a price on Postpartum Depression?

Earlier today, someone I follow on Twitter tweeted about the cost of Postpartum Depression.

She stated: “Researcher asked me how much PPD “costs” & I can’t find figure anywhere. Surely, there is a $ amount. #ppd #postpartum.”

My response: What does she mean by how much does it “cost” In terms of what? Treatment? Time lost to illness? Memories lost?

There are some things #Postpartum steals from you on which you cannot put a price.

Her: @unxpctdblessing that is so true. She’s a researcher and is studying that which is measurable. So much can not be measured.

Me: I suppose she could create a hypothetical woman and start by pricing various antidepressants, typical co-pays or out of pocket.

Her: @unxpctdblessing well, all of those are real costs but she’s talking about financial cost in terms of health care, lost work, etc.

Me: I have no idea where you would get those numbers. It would depend on so many things from woman to woman.

Her: very interesting research study! We’ve been using a spectrum approach to talk about the #postpartum period. Thanks for the thoughts! I’ll pass them on!

This conversation took place nearly 5 hours ago. I’ve been consumed with it ever since.

How on earth do you put a price on Postpartum Mood Disorders?

Sure, you can talk about financial cost in terms of health care, lost work, etc. But what about the emotional cost? The lost and missed memories? The heartache and damage it does to marriage, to bonding with your infant, to the anxiety which comes storming into your life as a result? What about the cost of a divorce or family estrangement as a result? Do you measure that with legal costs? How do you put a price on someone’s mental health? Someone’s heart? Someone’s love and life?

My Postpartum Mood Disorders?

Nearly destroyed my marriage.

Severely affected my bond with my two daughters.

Cost me enjoying the infancy of my two daughters which fed into anger during my son’s infancy because I was able to enjoy his.

Missed several family events, etc, because of anxiety/paranoia, breakdown.

Therapy for over a year.

Medication for over two years.

Fed into antepartum depression.

Stole nearly three full years of my life.

How on earth do you put a price on all of that? I know I can’t. I don’t even know where to start. Frankly, there is no number big enough to cover everything I lost during the three years of the first years of my motherhood. No number.


Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Unhappily Pregnant

Derniere ligne droite or Pregnancy Last Days

"Derniere ligne droite or Pregnancy Last Days" by f. clerc @ flickr.com

#PPDChat yesterday focused on Pregnancy and Depression. A lot of questions came up and I wanted to continue the conversation today. Welcome to Just Talkin’ Tuesday.

Have you ever tried to find a photo of a pregnant woman in which she is not smiling or glowing?

It’s HARD.

I found one, but it was not easy.

Everywhere you look there are glowing happy pregnant women. Here’s a page from a modeling agency dedicated to providing pregnant models. Every single last one of them is grinning.

Pregnancy, just as postpartum, is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life. But what if your mood doesn’t match the one you are supposed to have? The one we are groomed to have? After all, even as young girls, many of us spent hours upon hours playing with baby dolls, fantasizing about having a baby of our own one day. I used to shove stuffed animals under my shirt and “give birth.” Oh, if only it were that easy!

No one mentions the natural mood swings. No one mentions that more women may become depressed during pregnancy than after pregnancy. No one tells us the anxiety pregnancy may rain down upon us. No one tells us the immense guilt waiting to consume us as we are overwhelmed and consumed with thoughts of suicide. No one tells us these things. Instead, we are continually bombarded with pictures of perfection, conflicting advice about everything from how to cope with morning sickness to how get rid of those annoying stretch marks to what to buy for our baby’s bedding to what diapers to buy to how to feed our children. Can you say Information Overload? It’s enough to get a mentally healthy mom super stressed at a time when she is supposed to be avoiding stress to begin with!

A pregnant mother’s depression may be triggered by a number of things. It may be an unexpected pregnancy, her partner or family may not be supportive, she may be experiencing unrelated stresses, she may already have children at home and the physical stress of a pregnancy may have her more than worn down, or she may already struggle with depression or another mental illness. Whatever the cause may be, it’s simply not expected for a mom to be anything but happy during a pregnancy.

So who should mom turn to? Where should she go? How can she tell the difference between pregnancy mood swings and something more serious? Mom can start with her doctor. If he dismisses her and she feels in her gut that something more than pregnancy hormones is causing her issues, she can (and should) seek a second opinion. Ask your original doctor or friends for a referral to another physician. She can also contact Postpartum Support International and speak with a Coordinator in her area who will help her locate a knowledgeable doctor or therapist. Telling the difference between mood swings and something more serious involves paying attention to your weeks rather than your days. If you have weeks filled with more down days, anxiety you just can’t kick, and nothing you do seems to bring you out of your funk, then it’s a very real possibility you may need to speak with a professional about how you’re feeling.

I found myself depressed during my second pregnancy. My first episode of postpartum was not treated. I believe this fed into my depression during my second pregnancy. I had not learned any coping methods or of the importance of taking care of myself. I drifted further and further into the darkness, swallowed whole by morning sickness (all-day sickness for me), the lack of desire to eat, take care of our 16 month old daughter, and no desire to take my prenatal vitamins because they triggered nausea. I even thought at one time what would happen if I didn’t  take my prenatal vitamins. Then my daughter was born nearly 5 weeks early with a cleft palate. Turns out there was nothing I could have done to keep her cleft palate from occurring as it forms within the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy, well before many women are even aware they are pregnant. Still, I beat myself up about not taking my vitamins. I still do every now and then. But I now enjoy spending time with my daughter.

I also found myself depressed during the first 6 months of my third pregnancy. It was an unplanned pregnancy. I would go to every visit and wish they would not find a heartbeat. If the heartbeat wasn’t there, the baby wasn’t there and this pregnancy would just become a figment of my imagination. It hurts me to type that. As I would lie on the table waiting for the nurse to check the heartbeat with the doppler, I closed my eyes and prayed so hard she wouldn’t find it. Many times she had a hard time finding it and I would get excited. But then she would find it, pronounce it healthy and leave the room. I would cry as I stared blankly out the window, disappointed that once again, the baby had survived another month. I know this sounds horrible. I know it’s harsh and I know there are mothers who try very hard to have children or have angel babies. But there I sat, beyond words filled with heartbreak about this growing gift in my belly. I never talked to anyone about either depression. I wish I had. The difference between the two was that with my son, I was already on medication as I had suffered severe and debilitating Postpartum OCD after the birth of our second daughter (fed, I’m sure, by the depression I suffered during my pregnancy with her).  I was also in counseling. I found therapy very helpful in reframing things. And by the time this pregnancy was underway, I was also blogging here and getting started in Postpartum Advocacy. Things were looking very different indeed. I focused more on preparing for myself and caring for myself which then allowed me to take care of my family and the little one inside my belly. With my son, the fog eventually lifted and once I could feel him moving inside me, things began to look up. I realize I am fortunate the fog lifted. It didn’t magically lift though as it took a lot of hard work on my part and the help of professionals.

Please don’t struggle alone if you are pregnant and suspect you may be depressed. There is help. There is hope. Medication while pregnant is one of the biggest concerns for depressed moms. But there are medications you can take during pregnancy that have a minimal risk to mom and baby. Talk with your doctor about your options in this department.

Have you struggled through depression during pregnancy? Worried you might end up with depression during pregnancy because you’ve had a Postpartum Mood Disorder? Share your concerns, tips, and success stories here. When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Pregnant on Prozac by Shoshana Bennett. This is one of the best resources out there for mamas when it comes to pregnancy and mental illness. I happen to have an extra copy of the book here and want to pass it on to someone who could really use the information within it’s pages. This give away is not sponsored or endorsed by Shoshana Bennett, just something I’m wanting to give away to a mama in need. If you win the book and don’t need it for yourself, perhaps you could share it with your OB, Midwife, or Therapist so they could pass it on to someone who would find it helpful. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment by Monday, September 13 at 8pm EST. I’ll be choosing the winner that night via Random.org. For an extra entry, please Tweet about this post and then leave an additional comment with a link to your tweet. You can also receive an additional entry by subscribing to My Postpartum Voice via Email and leaving an additional comment telling me you’re subscribed (and if you’re already subscribed, that counts!)

So let’s get to talking about Pregnancy & Depression. It doesn’t deserve to live in the darkness any longer.