Monthly Archives: July 2011

To be Anonymous or Not…

Tonight I participated in the #hcsm chat over at Twitter. I love this chat. It’s full of passionate healthcare providers and patient advocates discussing the role of Social Media in Healthcare. It’s moderated via the account @HealthSocMed and lately by the wonderful @danamlewis.

The topic tonight debated the existence of anonymous doctors as well as patients within the Social Media world. Is an anonymous source authentic? Credible? In choosing to be anonymous, do we have to work harder to earn credibility? What is the motive for remaining anonymous? Can opening up about your condition as a patient hurt you when you seek employment? Why would a patient choose to not be anonymous?

As a patient who has chosen to be authentic in my presence online, I am here to tell you I do not regret the decision at all. My audacity in revealing my identity from the beginning has emboldened other mothers and families. It’s provided an honest insight into my journey, given a face to Postpartum Mood Disorders. If I had chosen to remain anonymous, the results may have been the same but if, down the road, would everything I worked for be instantly discredited if it were discovered I had used a pseudonym? What if I had done so but had been honest about my reasons for doing so from the start? What then?

Sure, I risk a LOT by using my real identity. I risk future employers reading about my experience in a psych ward. I risk judgment. I risk labeling. I risk my identity. But it’s all worth it when my authentic boldness saves lives. When a mom knows I am REAL and have been through the hell she is experiencing. When a dad knows I understand where his wife is and can offer invaluable insight into her journey. When a sister seeks me out on Twitter because she’s at her wit’s end.

Authenticity is the biggest stigma-buster in the world.

Can you be authentic and anonymous?

YES.

Some of the most authentic journeys shared here at My Postpartum Voice were submitted by those who wished to remain anonymous. Anonymity lends an empowering shield when it comes to mental health patients. It allows us to speak up with such detail and courage we may otherwise shun if we were forced to stand on a stage with a spotlight trained upon us, knowing our words will be broadcast to thousands upon thousands, forever memorialized on the Internet.

My refusal to be anonymous has saved lives. My compassion, respect, and understanding of those who wish to remain anonymous has also saved lives.

Anonymity can be a good thing. Authenticity can be achieved within the realm of anonymity. Credibility – possibly, but you have to work for it as well as be prepared for future fall out if you’re not honest about your desire to be anonymous from the start.

When it comes down to it, we can only decide for ourselves how comfortable we are with letting our stories out of the bag. We can only decide if WE choose to be anonymous or fling our true identity into the ring.

I’m in the heart of the ring. I love it here and wouldn’t leave for the world.

What about you? Are you anonymous in sharing your story? Or have you also thrown yourself into the ring of authenticity?

Thoughts on Amy

Three years ago I warned you I would occasionally post about addiction. I have not posted much because what I have been through as the spouse of a former addict is very personal. I am still coming to terms with most of it as I type this. Three years later, yes, and I am still wading through the hole ripped through my life in just seconds when my car slammed into the back of another vehicle. I had no idea my night would get worse. Today is one of those days when I feel compelled to post. 

Yesterday, Amy Winehouse died.

Twitter lit up.

With speculation.

With accusation.

With assumptions.

Without compassion.

Without understanding.

Without realization that Amy Winehouse was a person. A friend. Someone’s daughter. She was real. She breathed. Just like you and me.

Was I surprised to hear she had died at a young age?

No.

You play with drugs and as Russell Brand states, there’s always a phone call. There’s the one you hope to get. There’s the one you don’t want to get. But there’s a phone call.

I got the phone call you hope to get the night I wrecked my car.

The one with the addict on the other end admitting that Hell yes, there’s a problem and I want to fix it. Please let me fix it. Stand by me as I fix it.

So I did.

Despite his habit which landed me in jail. Despite the anger which swallowed me whole. Despite knowing I could walk away without judgment.

I stood by his side for three years as he worked to change. As he walked forward without looking back. As he proved time and time again that we, his family, were far more important to him than any substance.

Today, he’s still sober. He is active in his recovery.

In the maelstrom though, I failed to work on myself. Family, spouses, friends… we are all affected. We need support. We need to work on ourselves. We should not put ourselves behind the needs of our loved one with an addiction. WE MATTER in this. In this, I failed. I’m finally working on this part of me now but it’s far too late for me. Don’t let it be for you. If you know an addict, don’t wait for them to get help before YOU get help. Addiction is a pebble in a pond. If you’re there, the ripples will affect you. They’ll toss you about and swirl you around until you can’t tell which way is up. Get help. The stronger you are? The better equipped you are to help the addict in your life. The stronger you are the better off you’ll be if you end up getting the call Amy’s family got yesterday. No, it doesn’t make loss easier. But it makes standing back up after a little easier. Recovery isn’t just for the addict. It’s for the ones who love them too.

Our family joined the local Celebrate Recovery program, based out of Saddleback Church in California. It’s a Christian family oriented program with support for everyone – the addict, spouse, children – it’s a community. It’s not just a meeting. It’s literally a family reaching out to you with open arms. Open arms which won’t judge you even if you relapse. They welcome you right back and start over with you.

I am proud of my former spouse’s accomplishment. 3 years recovered is no small feat – especially with everything we have been through since that horrific night.

I also know he still battles demons. Not as often as he used to, but they’re still there. Recovery from addiction is like remission from cancer. Vigilance is key. You have to check in with yourself. With your support system. You have to be mindful of your life, of the things you let into your life. It’s a daily battle for some.. for most.

Addiction kills.

Addiction destroys.

But there is always hope.

No matter what, there is always hope.

Never let go of this hope. Even if the hope requires tough love… even if it means walking away… cling to hope.

The moment we let go, we’ve lost the battle too.

And there is nothing more tragic.

Memories (A TRDC Post)

The red dress club writing prompt for today caught my attention and the following piece spilled out before I realized what was happening. The Red Writing Hood prompt today involved a photograph. Go here to read the other entries and see the photo on which this piece is based. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

 

Today.

 

Deep breath as I stretch under the duvet. Red and green lights flash at me. Babbles fill the room. Why don’t babies come with a snooze button?

 

I sit up, sighing. Another deep breath as I reach for the drawer. My hand grips the curved steel to pull it open. Inside, my camera. Right. Today. Scooping it up, I sling it over my shoulder as I slam the drawer shut. I stumble to the bathroom. As I pass Simon’s room, I hear him babbling. It’s more a cooing at this age, really.

 

I set the camera down on the bathroom sink for safekeeping.

 

Today.

 

As I wash my hands, I stare at the camera. There have to be pictures. Memories. Things for him to look upon when he’s as big as I am – or bigger. Memories.

 

I stumble back down the hall stopping just short of his room. Lean against the wall and slide down, the dark wood swallowing me. The camera hits the floor with a thud. Simon stops babbling. He’s listening. My breath catches. I know what’s coming. I know what’s…

 

“WWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

 

Shit.

 

I mean, just.. SHIT.

 

Really?

 

How the hell could I be so fucking stupid? Really? The camera, of COURSE hitting the floor was going to make him scream. And I bet I broke the stupid thing too. I reach back to grab the camera – it’s still in one piece. Take the lens cap off and snap a quick picture to see if it sounds okay. Seems fine.

 

But I’m not. He’s not. He’s screaming. My breath is faster than a cheetah running across the savanah. My heart – well – it’s the damn Hindenburg. If I stand up, I’ll fall right back down. So I sing. Collapsed outside his room. I sing.

 

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

 

He’s still crying. I’m still panting.

 

“You make me happy when skies are grey….”

 

I’m scream singing now. He’s whimpering. I tone it down.

 

“You’ll never know dear…”

 

I think I can get up. Hands on the wall, I stand. I reach down to grab the camera and prep it for a shot.

 

“ How much I love you….”

 

He’s silent as the door opens. I stare at his tear stained cheeks below the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

 

“Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

 

Click.

 

Memories.

Whatever Wednesday: Without Music….

Music is so much more than “just” a combination of beats, instruments, and voices.

Music is anything but just.

It’s heart, soul, passion, sadness, desire, admiration, adoration, lust… it’s sex set to the driving rhythm of a drum. Or not. Sometimes it’s just a soulful voice bounding back and forth through the air – playing with your mind – pulling at your heart.

It’s a thought encapsulated with every strum of a guitar. Every stroke of the keyboard… it’s a wish lost to the haunting echoes of a piano or a dream shared through a flute.

Music is our hearts, exposed.

It drives us, pushes us toward peace, fills the silence around us with melodies of the desires of our hearts.

Music.

Where would we be without it?

Seriously.

Think about that for just a minute.

Imagine our world without The Beatles.

Without the Rolling Stones.

Without Beethoven or Bach or Mozart.

Imagine our world without rhythm. Without guitars. Without Slash. Without Jazz. Without… the silence of a world without music would be paralyzing beyond belief. There is a natural rhythm to life, a beat to our world. We live within this beat, between the percussion of daily activities, we live, we thrive. We start the day with breathing. In, out. In, out. We get out of bed. Walk. Right, left, right left. Water. It rushes. Changes when we interrupt it. The coffee maker. It gurgles, beeps, churns. Traffic. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Vroom. Office. Staplers, copiers, people, chatter, up, down, doors open, close. Our entire day is composed of music we ignore. Music we ignore because we consider it to be just life. It’s not just life. Life, like music, is never just anything. Life is. It’s a rhythm. It should be filled with passion, lust, heart, desires, admiration, adoration, compassion… life should never be just anything. Life IS.

Today, slow down. Listen to your life. Listen to the rhythm. I dare you. Find the beat. Dance to it. Embrace it. Sway in it and lose yourself within it’s warm embrace. If you don’t like it, change the station. Change the rhythm. It’s your life. It should be your rhythm. Find it and make it yours.

Don’t dance to someone else’s rhythm. Find yours.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hrDNGmAigU]

Reanimating my past

Reanimation

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago, I blogged about how brushing my hair triggered my PTSD from the birth of my second daughter. Not too long after her birth, I chopped all my hair off. It’s long again and I am finally okay with brushing my hair but still mindful of how long I brush. I make every effort to brush only as long as necessary, forcing myself to put the brush down and walk away.

Today, for the first time in over five years, I am listening to Linkin Park’s Reanimation.

Why is this significant?

This is the album I listened to the day my five year old daughter had surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. I took the MP3 player into the sleep room at the Children’s Hospital right outside the NICU, curled up, cranked it up as loud as it would go, sinking blissfully down into the rhythm of the pulsating beats and the angst of their screaming voices. Thing is, I sank so far down I did not want to come back. I yearned to stay there, hidden, safe, with their angst. Lost in the darkness. Because there, there I did not have an imperfect newborn. There, I was just a soul moving to the rhythm. Nothing was wrong. I was not angry. I was not sad. I was NUMB. I wanted to be lost forever in the solitude of peace which existed amidst the digital beats, the persistent piano tones and haunting echoes behind the remixed rhythms. My womb, my saviour, my peace. I clung to the MP3 player until my knuckles were stiff, refusing to let go, closing my eyes to sink deep beneath the surface of reality.

But today, I sit here, each song echoing into my ears, my soul, my heart, and I am shaking as I type. Breathing deep through pursed lips and wiping away tears. This is music. This is just beats. Just rhythm. Just voices. This is NOT my daughter’s surgery. This is NOT the pain I felt five years ago. It’s not. Today I am letting all of this wash over me and turning it into the music it’s meant to be, not the hell it used to be for me. Today I am not numb. Today I am feeling. Today I am listening. Today, I’m singing with the words. I’m dancing to the beats. I’m reclaiming the music for joy instead of pain.

Today, I win.

Today, I refuse to let this music trigger me any longer.

It’s taken me five years but I’m finally strong enough to refuse to let this beast control me anymore.

Not easy, but necessary. A step toward the new me. Toward the healed me.

Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that yes, healing takes time. It’s a process with each step presenting itself as you are ready. If you falter, don’t despair. The step will come. You’ll overpower the step with strength from an unknown place when the time is right. It won’t be easy. But it will be powerful. And once you’ve done it, you’ll look back and see just how far your journey has brought you… and how much strength it has added to your life.

Own it instead of letting it own you.

Guest Post: Contentiously Pregnant, Traumatically Delivered

The following was submitted some time ago by a reader who asked to have this published anonymously. Although this is a quick read, it covers so much – the fear and denial of a new pregnancy, the shock and self blame surrounding a delivery gone horribly wrong, and the anxiety enveloping all of these things. Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a very real disorder on the Postpartum Mood Disorder Spectrum. If you think you may struggle with this disorder, there is hope, there is help, and you are not alone. I strongly suggest you check out Solace for Mothers for support or reach out to the #PPDChat community on Twitter. Don’t walk the dark path alone. 

This post contains some imagery toward the end which may be triggering for you if you’ve suffered/or are suffering with PPTSD.

If you are still easily triggered, you may want to skip this piece.

The big day had finally arrived. The day I was to meet this little boy I still don’t want. Let’s go back a year and a half….

I was sent for a biopsy because of an abnormal pap. I was put on progesterone because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). My body was not making enough of this hormone to have a monthly “friend”. I started taking progesterone and within seven days I had a “friend” come to visit, only it was really bad.

I was hemorrhaging. After fifteen days, my wonderful OB decided to perform a D & C. Everything went well; the bleeding and cramping was finally manageable. I was supposed to take the progesterone the first seven days of each month until my body did what it was supposed to do. I lost 65 lbs!

I went to my four month post D & C check up and all was well. I received a clean bill of health and was good to go. My OB said if I wasn’t pregnant by Spring, we would discuss our options (little did either one of us know, at the time of my check-up, I was already pregnant.)

I was under instructions not to take progesterone in November. My OB wanted to see if my body would do what it was supposed to without it. She did say if December 1st came around with no “friend”, I was to take a pregnancy test. If it was negative, start the hormones all over again.

Black Friday came. I am one of those crazy people that is at the stores shopping at an ungodly hour so I bought a test. While at work, I peed on the little stick and before I could blink, two lines appeared. I took six more tests throughout the week at different times, just to verify what the first one said.

I was in complete and utter shock and even denial. It wasn’t Spring and I wasn’t ready to be pregnant. I had just lost a ton of weight, I was a full time student, I worked full time, and I already had a child who was in school full time. I wasn’t ready to have another baby.

The pregnancy was what every pregnant woman wanted, perfect and smooth. As I entered the second trimester, I was still in denial that I was even having a baby. I tried to ignore the movements and the baby’s hiccups. I tried to deny I was carrying in my belly this perfect round shape beneath my clothes.

I wasn’t happy. My days are grew darker and darker. Family and friends said I was aglow and looked wonderful. They couldn’t get enough of my belly. I resented their excitement over this new life I was bringing into the world.

Finally, the end was near. One month before I delivered, I was in a car accident. I was rushed to the hospital because of the cramps, but I wasn’t concerned for the life growing inside me. I just wanted him out. I hadn’t fallen in love with him. I didn’t even want him. I was still not ready. The cramping and contractions stopped. My OB said I would be induced in three weeks.

The day of induction came and family and friends hovered all day long. Labor wasn’t bad. Everything went smoothly. The pain was there, but tolerable. At 9cm, I said fuck this, I am pushing. No more waiting. Maybe that was shame on me, but I was done.

I went from 9cm to crowning in about a minute! My OB arrived and changed when the pain suddenly hit. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. Why the hell didn’t anyone take this kid out of me?

After five minutes of pushing, he was stuck on my pelvic bone and they were losing him and I wasn’t cooperating. I declined the pain medications earlier on. The next thing I could remember was the look between my OB and nurse. The nurse pressed the “Code Red” button and I still couldn’t breathe. All these nurses came running in and pushing everyone out of their way to get to me. They jump up and on the count of three I am to give one good push, while they push on my stomach, 1…2…3…he is out.

I didn’t want him on me. I didn’t want to see or touch him. He wasn’t breathing and was rushed to the incubator. Everyone was crying with joy around me, but I was disgusted that I sucked so badly at this delivery. I hated and blamed myself.

Because of all the commotion surrounding my son’s birth, the time he was born is a bit foggy; no one was paying attention to the clock. He was born not breathing, the cord around his neck and moderate shoulder dystocia. As his mother I felt as though I had already failed!

Most of this is a blur. I wish I could say that I am over this experience and that after a couple of hours all was well and I was smitten with this new baby. However, my hell was really just beginning, but that story is for another time….

Whatever Wednesday: Blank

There are words in my head. Lots of words. Thousands.

They dance about on tables crafted from the finest membranes in the world, flashing through the dark lit only by firing neurons. Clothed in slinky new dresses they sway the night away as they swallow copious amounts of tequila, wine, and vodka.

Then they stumble home, dark circles beneath their eyes, smeared mascara, broken heels, and the facade of happiness floats away as they climb wearily to their lofts in lower Manhattan, desperate to collapse onto feather laden beds. Covered with silky comforters, they sleep until the following evening when they arise, slip into even slinkier dresses and creep out to even swankier clubs in order to dance the night away.

I try to catch them, these words.

They disguise themselves each night in a different mask. Scatter to the wind and hide inside clubs with bouncers larger than the Titanic itself.

So I wait.

Impatiently.

As my words dance the night away, laughing, joking, drinking, as I huddle outside in the hot humid air, parched to the core, unable to reach in and grab an expletive to express my frustration. It’s as if they’re inside some giant claw game and I am forced to spend quarter after quarter yet still come up empty.

I want my words back dammit.