Monthly Archives: August 2011

A few tips for emergency preparedness for Mental Health

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast of the United States, it’s important to also remember to prepare for your mental health if disaster were to strike. Much of the Eastern Seaboard will be closing down as the storm continues along it’s current path.

While making your preparations don’t forget to include your mental health issues.

  • Check your prescriptions. Make sure they’re filled or you have at least a two week supply left. See if you can get your pharmacy to refill early for you if you’re close to low. Or call your doctor’s office and see if you can get samples to get you through.
  • If you have to take your meds with food, make sure you have non-perishable similar food available to you. MAOI’s, remember, require a specific diet. Watch what you have available to you in case of power outage and be sure it won’t interact with your medicine.
  • Write down and keep with all your important paper work the name of your prescribing physician and/or therapist. Check with both offices to see what the availability will be during the storm. Write this down along with their contact information. Also be sure to write down any emergency contact information for the office as well.

Disasters of any kind can be triggering. In addition to gathering necessary survival supplies, plan for some non-tech self-care as well. You’ll need to make sure that in the midst of the stress of the situation you have a space in which you can breathe and feel safe. Self-care is at the center of survival.

Need to know how to prepare for a hurricane? Click here for a great guide.

Stay safe out there and don’t forget to plan ahead for your mental health and well-being as well.

Whatever Wednesday: Finding Happy

When I was 5, my Aunt died. Then several other relatives passed away at an alarming rate. Much of my childhood filled to the brim with memorial services or talk of how yet another relative succumbed to the ravages of cancer. Some relatives I was very close to yet other relatives, like a distant cousin named Keith, I barely knew. But still. Death. Always peering over my shoulder. Always there.

School wasn’t any easier. I grew up in a small mostly white town at the Jersey Shore. On the walk home, it wasn’t unusual to see a Lotus, Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, Benz, or BMW. And yes, I mean on the same day, not throughout the week. We had a Dodge Ramcharger and a Datsun. The Ramcharger was rusted out. It’s special feature was that we could watch the pavement slide by as our parents sped up and down the Turnpike and other badly paved roads. This was awesome unless.. roadkill. Then EWWW. The other kids weren’t nice to me. They teased me. Called me “Corroded” whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. Yeah, I was even bullied with intellectualism. Awesome, right?

In the 6th grade, we moved to VA. Given the opportunity to reinvent myself, you better believe I did. I had friends the first day. Things were awesome until High School when I bloomed. Yes, I mean BLOOMED. The ensuing sexual harassment sucked. I endured it until I graduated because, well, I was a kid, and my memories of bullying as an elementary kid came flooding back.

Then? College.

Wow, college. No more sexual harassment but there was that time in my dorm room when an acquaintance tried to force something on me. Thankful for strong legs and a good aim, I survived. He did too, but believe me, he never spoke to me again.

During college, I drove a lot. I sat at a local state park and made friends with ducks. I stood in the middle of a lake during a thunderstorm and let the rain beat down on me, praying for a lightning strike just a month or so after my grandfathers died within 19 days of each other. Clearly I survived.

I found myself then, deep under all my pain, all the crap which had been buried on top of me. Strong. Beautiful. Amazing. I promised never to lose myself again.

Only I did.

I fell back into a hole, dug by myself. I sacrificed myself for what I though I wanted. For the life society trained me to believe was mine. Only it wasn’t and I was drowning just like I wanted to do that day when I waded into the lake.

I needed to breathe.

I’m breathing now. It’s taken me 9 years and a few months to get here, but I’m breathing. I’m smiling. At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t smile. Once I started smiling, my face hurt. For two weeks. Yes, my FACE hurt from smiling. That pain, though, the pain in my cheeks, my jaw, my head, was a pleasant and welcome pain. Yeah, this summer has hurt. It’s hurt like hell. But I’m welcoming the pain. Because the pain means I’m feeling again. It means I’m no longer numb. It means I’m living. Loving. Embracing.

If living my life requires that I go through periods when walking on shredded glass would be preferable, I’ll take it… and I’ll smile despite the blood and tears. I’ll take the pain. I’ll take the happy. I’ll take the joy of finally exhaling surrounding it all.

In this moment, no matter what, my life is beautiful.

It’s beautiful because I am living it.
No more apologies. Just me. Living. Outloud.

Only human

Dear lovely readers and #PPDChat members:

 

It’s been a heck of a week. I’m tired. Drained. Worn the heck out.

I’m always preaching to you about self-care. About filling your own tanks and making sure you put yourself first.

This week, I sucked at that a little.

So I’m taking the weekend off.

I’m uninstalling Twitter from my phone.

I’m turning off my email alerts except for a super secret email address only released to a few chosen people.

I won’t be on Facebook either.

I need to just be.

To soak in the jacuzzi.

Watch the clouds.

Swing on a playground.

Watch the Blue Heron hunt for fish in the lake behind the house.

Sink into a hot bubble bath.

Also? Chocolate. Maybe.

Know that I’m okay. That I’m taking care of me which is precisely what I want each and every one of you to do this weekend.

Take care of you.

I’ll see y’all on Monday at chat.

We’ll be talking about Triggers and how to cope.

What better way to get ready than to practice all weekend?

Love all of you so much.

All my heart,

lauren

Dear #PPDChat Army: An Open Love Letter

Dear #PPDChat Army:

You are the most amazing moms in the entire world.

Your heart, your fire, your compassion, your wicked strength, your wisdom, your drive to not let anyone else suffer alone is mind-boggling.

This week, one of ours struggled publicly. You didn’t run away. You ran toward her. You held her. You listened. You reached out. For her. For yourselves.

So many of you dove into her maelstrom right along with her. You were there for her when it mattered most.

At the closing of every chat, I always say that help is only a tweet away. To use the hashtag and an army will be at your disposal.

This week?

You proved it beyond any reasonable expectation.

This week, you were an army. This week you bonded together, rallied around one of our own. This week you brought tears to my eyes. To the eyes of everyone involved. (HUGE thanks to the BAND for giving our mama a safe place to vent)

Thank YOU.

But now, now that she’s safe, in the hands of professionals and hopefully receiving the care she so desperately needs, we need to focus on ourselves. Turn the army toward ourselves.

When we support others, we often push aside our own fears. We push aside the scary, the hard, the sad, the bad. We suck it up because we don’t want the one to whom we’re reaching to think we are anything but strong.

It’s okay to exhale.

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay not to be okay right now.

It’s okay to collapse.

It’s okay to say “Hey, #PPDChat? That was hella hard and I need support.”

We will be there.

It’s what we do.

It’s who we are.

It’s how we run things.

We’re strong, each and every one of us.

We’re beautiful, each and every one of us.

But we’re fragile too.

Together though?

As an army?

We are unstoppable.

We are here.

Together.

You, just like her, are not alone.

If you feel triggered by this past week, USE the hashtag.

I promise, an ARMY will be at your side instantly.

Because that’s how we do it.

I love each and every one of you so much it hurts.

You all ROCK.

Today, the #PPDChat Army walks into a hospital

Today, one of our own is taking a deep breath and walking into a hospital.

She’s not going alone.

We are all going with her. The whole #PPDChat army. Because that’s what we do… we go wherever we are needed. Today, we are needed at a hospital.

Pam, we love you. All of us. We are proud of you for taking this step. Proud of you for the courage we all know too well required to take this step. We know those doors are heavy, frightening, and full of all we don’t want to admit is wrong with us. But you are not pushing them open without us. We are all there, helping you push. Helping you heal. You’re not alone. You are loved. You are supported. By the Army. By the Band. You ROCK.

Also, #PPDChat Army & The Band? We totally rocked it this week – the love we showed Pam is a true testament to the power of social media – and proof that friendship doesn’t have to just be in person to be real. Thank YOU for helping to save a life.

Go leave Pam some love to read when she returns… read her blog post about checking in.

For those of you reading who are part of the #PPDChat army or the Band or just want to show love, @d20Blonde has brilliantly suggested we send Pam a gift to show her our love. Please find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing or leave a comment stating you’d like to contribute. We’ll be collecting the money via Paypal. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated. Update: A gift was ordered and delivered to Pam today. Thank you to everyone who contributed. I’ll be checking into getting a virtual card for us to all sign for her as well.

Whatever Wednesday: Embracing Life

Life is capable of handing you some extremely sour lemons. They crop up when we least expect them to and carry the ability to completely ruin our day.

But life is also capable of throwing some really sweet fruit your way too. Like ripe juicy strawberries on a summer day. You know the kind… the ones that make you sigh and sink down into your chair when you take that first bite. You don’t even realize there’s juice rolling down your chin because you’re hopelessly lost in Strawberry Blissville.

I know it can seem like all life is tossing you is sour lemons. I’ve been there more than once. But I’ve also had those super sweet strawberries. Learn to enjoy them while they’re around regardless of the stains they may leave on your heart. There is no larger sour lemon than missing out on a handful of joy simply because you were too worried about the what if’s and the consequences.

Live life. Don’t judge it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t miss it, regret it, shun it, or critique it. Live. Embrace your joy. Embrace the pain. But live no matter what. We deserve nothing less.

Sold Out? Kendra Wilkinson & Postpartum Depression

In March 2010, the media wrangled the story of Kendra Wilkinson’s struggle as a new mother into tabloid stories about Postpartum Depression. Kendra pushed back, claiming she was never diagnosed with Postpartum Depression but that she did have depression. The following excerpt is from a post I authored on the topic:

“She didn’t brush her teeth or hair. Didn’t shower. Finally looked in a mirror and was mortified at the reflection. Even remembers stating she “had nothing to live for.”

The media took immediately jumped on the express to Postpartumville. Postpartum Depression hits ex-Playboy Bunny Kendra Wilkinson. See? Even the perfectly beautiful people have drama and struggle! Cha-Ching!

Yet this week, the week her show premieres, Kendra is pushing back at the media.

According to Kendra, she didn’t suffer from Postpartum Depression as she was never officially diagnosed. And she should know as she’s been in and out of therapy her whole life. Kendra admits it was indeed depression but not postpartum.”

Instead of calling it Postpartum Depression and educating her fans, she labeled it as “Post-Pregnancy Sadness” and moved on with her life.

Think I was upset then?

Try now.

Kendra has a new memoir coming out next month which chronicles her life as a new mother. One of the terms being used to promote the book?

Yup.

Postpartum Depression.

You know, now that Gwyneth and Bryce Dallas-Howard have chic’d it up, Kendra seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. Am I judging, something I repeatedly say I’m not cool with? Hell yes. Why? Because I am absolutely against using the term Postpartum Depression solely to move merchandise.

Yes, she may have had Postpartum Depression. Yes, she may have ended up diagnosed and perhaps her story is indeed detailed in the book. Maybe I should give her some wiggle room. But when you have a celeb vehemently deny the usage of a term and then suddenly embrace said term, it’s a bit hard to swallow. Yes, I realize there is denial involved in Postpartum Depression. All of us have struggled with denial related to PMD. I really want to feel like giving her a break but given her prior behavior in shunning the entire issue, it’s hard to feel compassionate right now. It’s hard not to see this as anything beyond a publicity stunt.

If she did indeed struggle from Postpartum Depression and has since recovered, I’m truly happy for her and wish her all the best with her continued success. I hope she learned a lot as she journeyed through Postpartum Depression. It’s a dark valley but there are many lessons there.

But if this is merely a marketing ploy, I am deeply saddened and disappointed to see we’ve reached this point with Postpartum Depression. Maybe I shouldn’t care so much. Maybe I should just be happy the term is being used. Perhaps I should hope someone among her fans will identify with the term and research it.. find help.. save herself. Any publicity is good publicity, right? I’m not able to come to good terms with this one right now. Maybe one day, just not right now.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE

Yesterday afternoon, the tweet you see to your left was sent out by a friend of mine. Of course I clicked. Then I waited for my phone to fully load the page. Once it loaded, I scrolled through the article. With each new point, my rage increased. Not until the end of the article did the author even begin to show a shred of compassion for mothers who rely upon formula in medically necessary situations. Even then her compassion was thin and failed to mention mothers struggling with postpartum depression. A few back and forths about the article then Karen Kleiman posted a rebuttal. So did Ivy Shih Leung over at Ivy’s PPD Blog.

And now? I give you mine.

My mother nursed my brothers and I for 18 months each. Or that’s what I’ve been told. I’m sticking to it. I grew up thinking breastfeeding was normal. I grew up used to seeing my mother nurse my brothers. It was how they were fed. It wasn’t weird. Or strange. I wasn’t scarred by the experience. I was six years old when my youngest brother stopped nursing. Closer to seven, actually.

When pregnant with my first child, I knew I would nurse. Because breastfeeding is how babies eat. She, however, had other plans that first day. Not interested in the boob. Didn’t eat at all in the hospital. We were sent home with barely any instruction but by god, they sent a bag with free formula samples. Which I used when she was screaming at 10pm that night and I couldn’t get her to latch. We used three of those samples the first night. I woke up the following morning determined to make breastfeeding work. For us, it did. She latched and we didn’t look back for 16 months when she finally weaned. Breastfeeding was the ONLY thing I did right with her in those early days. I failed at everything else. I couldn’t handle her screaming. She nursed for an hour every two hours so I stayed on the couch. No outside support. I was modest, didn’t want to nurse in public, etc. Quick trips in between nursings became the norm for us. At three months postpartum, my doctor asked me how important breastfeeding was to me as my daughter screamed in her carseat next to me. Seriously? I left his office even more defeated than when I walked in. I left with no help. Clearly I had to do this on my own. She thrived, I broke down.

My breakdown continued into my second pregnancy, leading to an early delivery. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate. Once again, I expected to give birth, nurse, and go home. I had higher hopes for starting nursing this time. Instead, later that evening, I was trained in how to use a Medela Symphony and clutched cold hard horns to my poor not yet full breasts. No one explained colostrum’s small production to me and the nurse even laughed at what I got that first try. Again, I was defeated. My biggest moment of defeat? When the nurse asked me what kind of formula I wanted our daughter to have.

“But, but.. I’m going to nurse her. She’s getting breastmilk.” I stammered.

“Honey, until your milk comes in completely, she needs to eat. What kind of formula? We have Enfamil or Similac.” the nurse stated.

“Enfamil.” I sighed and cried when she left.

And that was just the first day.

Let’s visit the day I was in the pumping room at the NICU and my daughter’s nurse started a feed with FORMULA just minutes before I exited with well over 8 ounces of fresh Mama milk. I made her stop the feed, dump the formula, and start a new one with my milk. Oh hell yes I did. Or what about the day of her G-tube and ear tube surgery when the nurses spilled 5 oz of her milk as they tried to get the Kangaroo pump to work? I was not nice.

At the same time though, I had to be okay with my daughter getting formula in those early days. Yes, I thought formula was evil. But when I couldn’t be there or have enough stored breastmilk at the NICU, if my daughter didn’t receive formula, she would have DIED. We had a toddler at home. The NICU was over an hour away. I couldn’t be there 24/7. So formula had to be okay. It wasn’t evil. It wasn’t non-nutritious. It was saving my daughter’s life. I needed to not feel guilty about what my daughter received. I needed to not think about how it was changing her gut flora. I needed to not be judged because damn it, I was trying as hard as I could but the pump only removes so much milk. I pumped around the clock – every three hours except for a luxurious 5 hour stretch in the wee hours of the morning when I let myself SLEEP. Sure, I could have stayed awake around the clock and made more to avoid the evil formula but again, I had a toddler. One needs sleep when attempting to care for a toddler. Or they win. Everything. And that, people, can get ugly fast.

I pumped exclusively for our second daughter for seven long months. During those seven months, I was hospitalized in an Acute Flight risk Mixed-Gender ward. I pumped every three hours there too. Pumping fed into my OCD. Clean, sanitize, run the kangaroo pump, pump, repeat. Every three hours. On top of caring for a toddler. On top of a husband working 70+ hours in the restaurant industry. On top of two dogs who ALWAYS waited to need to go outside until right after my let down whilst pumping and usually had an accident in the house. I made peace with a lot of things – lowered my standards for a lot of stuff. Because my daughter needed my breastmilk. I threw myself down the rabbit hole and wallowed there. I resented her. I hated her for what I had to do.

At seven months, I stopped. For my sanity, for my relationship with my family, for my daughter. We weren’t bonding. I was going crazy. When it’s a question of my sanity vs. breastmilk? My sanity will ALWAYS win. I cried when I bought formula. Expected to be judged and would have had a serious conversation with the person judging me. Possibly would have offered to invite them to my home to see just what it was I dealt with on a daily basis.

As I stated in Don’t Judge me, the manner in which baby is fed doesn’t matter. As long as everyone is thriving, that’s all that matters. Yes, we should be educated. But education does not have to come in a harsh form as it does in the “Pushing Formula is EVIL” article. State the facts. Be honest. Forthright. Respectful. Don’t make me feel guilty for my choices. If you have to preface an article with the following:

NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I’m not a therapist but a researcher in child development.”

Chances are you shouldn’t be writing it. I preface things with “vulnerable” here. But never with guilty or overstressed. And based on the article, it’s clear the author isn’t a therapist. If she were a therapist, she would have been far more compassionate and understanding. If she had read recent research stating “Postpartum Depression and difficulty Breastfeeding often go hand in hand” she may have been more compassionate.

Depressed moms may use formula more often than other moms. Breastfeeding is tough for us. We struggle with touch. We struggle with throwing ourselves under the bus because quite frankly, we already feel run over by the damn bus.

Motherhood is about making the right choice for our family. Not making the right choice for someone else’s family. Not about judging others for their decisions. Not about filling people’s heads with unresearched facts in a demeaning manner.

For the record? My daughter is extremely bright. She tested almost off the charts in verbal comprehension at four. So did her sister.

When their brother was born, he nursed like a champ. But then I had emotional crisis at 3 months. My medication combined with my stress killed my supply. He was diagnosed as failure to thrive at six months having gained only four pounds since birth. The pediatrician suggested I pump. I knew where that road led. I closed the milk factory and he switched to formula in just two days. He gained weight, I was less stressed, and we thrived.

Formula worked for my family. It wasn’t evil. No one pushed it on us. I made educated decisions to use it. It saved my second daughter’s life. It saved my son’s life. It saved MY life. The author states that if one cannot breastfeed, a wet-nurse or milk from a milk bank is an acceptable substitute. I agree. But at the time, I couldn’t even get my insurance company to pay for what I felt was a “medically necessary” hospital grade pump. How on EARTH would I get coverage for milk-bank breastmilk?

Don’t ever tell me Formula is evil. It saves lives. The end.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE.

BOOM.