Monthly Archives: October 2011

Once upon a time

Once upon a time I was just a girl with a dream. A little girl who shoved stuffed animals under her Mickey Mouse shirt as she toddled across the living room. Then I’d pretend to have my baby, love it, and eventually abandon it in a corner for a different toy.

Then I grew up.

Had a real baby.

Learned really quickly there’s no abandoning a real baby in the corner. Even when I wanted to because every new scream or shriek caused debilitating anxiety or a new flood of intrusive thoughts.

No, real babies, unlike the stuffed animal variety, demand and require attention. They need to eat, they need to have their diapers changed, they require love and interaction. It’s hard stuff for a mom without a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Even harder for a mom struggling to keep the mental illness wolves at bay. By the time baby is ready to finally settle down for the night (even if it’s 2am in the morning), our brains are so fried from all the self-talk we’ve done throughout the day just to convince ourselves “Yes, I CAN make it for just 60 more seconds,” all we can do is sit there and stare at the wall. Like Zombies. Sure, moms without PPD are Zombiefied every once in awhile too. Motherhood is HARD.

I look back at the depths of my hell and wonder what I could have done differently. I examine it, searching for the one thing I did wrong – the one thing I should have done differently. What if I had asked for help here or what if I had educated myself as intensely before my first two pregnancies? Built in more social support? What if…

Here’s the kicker… even if I identify the ONE thing I could change? Would it matter? Who would I be today? Would I still be the Mama Bear I am today for families with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders? If I changed just one thing to clear my PMAD experience, would I be doing more damage than good?

Hindsight sucks when we look upon it with a longing to change things. Hindsight can be a beautiful thing if, instead of looking upon our past with a longing to change it, we look upon it with a desire to understand why we are where we are and how we’re going to get to our next place in life. Our past is full of building blocks regardless of how dark and negative. When we learn how to slide them all into place like a Rubik’s Cube, we solve the puzzle of our life and empower ourselves to move forward with an unparallelled strength.

Don’t look back in regret. Look back with a desire to understand and then launch yourself into your future. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go.

Love for @signingcharity

When #PPDChat started, all I wanted to do was provide a safe space for moms to connect with each other. To learn about Postpartum Mood Disorders and find support. Over a year later, the community it has come to be so much more than my original vision. We talk, we laugh, we go well beyond support and education. We truly are friends. So when a friend is struggling, we band together to support her.

Many of you are close with @signingcharity and know she’s been struggling this week. So I emailed you. And asked you to support her today. Without hesitation, so many of you accepted. Said yes immediately. That? Is Love. And that is why the #PPDChat community is awesome. You are so full of love and nothing but love. You GET where she is, you know how she’s struggling. And I know each and every one of you will have good things to say for her. Things she needs to read and hear. I know today will be a blessed day.

Charity – you have come so far since we first began talking. You are strong even when you don’t feel like it on the inside. You are among the first to dive in when someone else is struggling. Offering advice even if you’re struggling yourself. Your self-care and self-advocacy has grown by miles. You are rocking it, mama. You are an inspiration and I am honoured to call you friend. One of these days we’re gonna meet and hug. I may not ever let you go when that finally happens. Seriously. I may not. We may need a crowbar. Or a greased cat. You’re that awesome.

And now, I’m gonna let the other mamas who have good things to say for you speak. Because well, they want to and they love you too.

Without further ado, I give you our link up for today:



When Marketing forgoes facts

This past Tuesday, an article by Sheryl Paul entitled “Three Tips for Navigating Motherhood” was published at Maria Shriver’s website. After public outcry regarding the contents, the article has subsequently been removed. But for 48 hours, the article existed and was accessible to an enormous amount of traffic. Maria Shriver has just over 900k followers on Twitter and is well known as an activist and celebrity. When she speaks or shares something, a lot of people listen.

In this case, the danger of deciding to post Sheryl Paul’s article lies within the manner in which Ms. Paul treats Postpartum Depression. According to Ms. Paul’s article at Maria’s site,

“Pregnancy anxiety and postpartum depression are avoidable and preventable! They both result from normal thoughts and feelings that are pushed underground because we don’t realize that they’re normal, where they then grow into an unmanageable state.”

While I agree that most pregnancy anxiety and postpartum depression is avoidable and preventable, some cases are not. These cases more than likely do not result from normal thoughts and feelings which are pushed underground. Research over the past years has proven a biological and chemical link to more severe cases of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Cortisone levels, etc, are often higher in those who experience Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Research continues into the root cause of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders so we can better help those who struggle with this difficult condition. Ms. Paul also stated these emotions are rooted in a deep sense of loss which accompanies any transition, emotions we push aside in order to “focus on buying the right car seat.” These emotions then “mutate into anxiety, and your doctor suggests anti-anxiety medication.” Really, Ms. Paul? Because Hippocrates wrote about PMAD’s and I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks didn’t need to purchase car seats.

First of all, shame on any doctor who prescribes an anti-anxiety med just because. Secondly, some women truly do suffer from anxiety. From depression. Regardless of how intuitive they are with their own emotions. Failure to explore yourself emotionally at every stage of a transition is not the root of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. To tell a woman in the throes of a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder such sets her up for even more guilt and anxiety in my personal opinion. Time and time again, we must defend our experience with this issue. Time and time again we are told by too many our experiences are not real. If we had only done this or done that, we would be fine. It’s all in our heads. We need to buck up, just get over it, snap out of it, look inward, pull ourselves up, grin and bear it.

I call bullshit.

Some of us have true issues. Mental Illness is not some facade. It’s not some excuse we use to get out of Motherhood. It’s not something into which we collapse willingly because Motherhood isn’t all we dreamed it would be once we arrive. It’s not because we don’t know ourselves. It’s not because we didn’t get in touch with our inner “woman” before giving birth. It’s certainly not because we didn’t accept the loss of self prior to and/or after birth. There are physical causes in which some cases of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders are rooted – thyroid issues, iron deficiencies, Vitamin D deficiencies, trauma, etc, all of which cannot be cured by simply “emotionally exploring oneself during transitional phases.” To quote Rene Russo from Lethal Weapon 4: “THIS IS NO GODDAMN ASPECT OF A TRANSITION PHASE!”

Yes, there are transitions involved with Motherhood. There is a loss of sense of self. Many struggle to adjust. But even those who are the picture of perfection may fall into Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. You see, PMAD’s are non-discriminatory. They don’t recognize emotional health, societal status, natural or medicated childbirth, breastfeeding or not-breastfeeding, traumatic or non-traumatic birth, etc. I’ve known professional therapists, psychiatrists, and OB caregivers who have struggled with a PMAD and not recognized what’s going on with them. People in the know, people aware of what’s going on in the transitional phases. And yet, they still end up with a PMAD. Yes, some pre-existing conditions do put you at a higher risk but overall, Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders are the number one complication of childbirth regardless of your monetary or social support bank account.

When you recognize the signs and symptoms of a PMAD within yourself or a loved one, you seek answers. Solutions. That answer or solution should never discount your feelings or emotions. The issue at hand is not easily solved in 10-15 minutes per day as Sheryl Paul claims about her courses within a video at her website:

“If you follow this road map, which isn’t hard to do, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, you will prevent Postpartum Depression, you will feel empowered as a new mother, and you will be giving your baby the best possible beginning for emotional health.”

The above quote preys upon vulnerable mothers who desperately want a better life for their “baby.” It’s irresponsible marketing, pure and simple. The only goal here is to get $200 into Sheryl Paul’s pocket – a bargain, she says, at her website, because the course is easily worth $1000 but because she wants everyone to have access, she only charges $197 for it. You can also opt to pay for it in two installments. So you see, for about the same price as a car seat, you can buy your way into avoiding Postpartum Depression but avoid shelling out money for anti-anxiety meds.

Careful, Sheryl, if someone buys your course and still experiences Postpartum Depression? Under the Lanham Act, she can sue you. She can also report you to the FTC. The Better Business Bureau. Also? Instructing a severely depressed mother to “explore her feelings” may lead her to conclude suicide is the only way out. Is that something you really want on your hands? What about Psychosis, which is a medical emergency? Should a mother “explore” those feelings as well? If you are going to mention Postpartum Mood Disorders, you absolutely need to be responsible in regards to all aspects of the spectrum, something this piece and your website fail to do, which is extremely dangerous.

I have zero respect for any caregiver treating Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders as a fallacy or claiming to completely prevent the experience. For those of us who have fought the battle, it feels as if we have been discounted. As if we must stand up and defend ourselves. It tears us down. Angers us to see our difficult journey dismissed. It makes us feel we failed because we didn’t prevent our experience. Would you tear someone’s cast off and beat their broken bone? No. You wouldn’t. Don’t do the same to those of us who have experienced a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder.

Birth is a powerful event. Every woman has a different story, a journey which is all her own. No one, anywhere, should ever discount the story of another. If you’ve avoided a PMAD, I’m happy for you. I’m happy you were not subjected to the many circles of hell so many mothers (including myself) have been. I’m glad you found something which worked for you. Don’t claim to cure my situation with your solution. Don’t ignore the facts. Support me as I find my own, regardless of what that may include. I may need to take medication. I may need therapy. I may need hospitalization. And that’s okay. It’s also okay if you found success with natural approaches.You have to do what works for you. Be open to the fact that my path may be different than yours.

Bottom line here: People who claim to completely prevent Postpartum Depression are dangerous. You can do everything Sheryl tells you to and still end up with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. And yet, you won’t be educated about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. You’ll be educated instead in how to explore your emotions instead of what to do when you can’t get out of bed in the morning or brush your teeth, or even make small talk with another adult. You won’t know how to recognize Psychosis. You won’t know that an intrusive thought isn’t Psychosis. You won’t be empowered to go to your doctor for help because well, Sheryl’s program more than likely doesn’t cover such a course of action.

If you or someone you love is struggling during pregnancy or after birth with a possible Mood Disorder, go visit Postpartum Support International for information and support. If you’re suicidal, there’s a helpline at the top of the sidebar here at My Postpartum Voice. If you want a powerful community at your fingertips, go visit Twitter and use the hashtag #PPDChat for moms just like you. Our moms range from those who have been hospitalized to those who have used natural methods, etc, to battle Postpartum Mood Disorders. We are all over the world and there is always someone watching the hashtag. You’re not alone and we’ll give you more than 10-15 minutes of our time every day if you need it. Best of all? It’s FREE.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Postpartum Thoughts – The Postpartum Trifecta

One of the least discussed aspects of the Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder experience involves intrusive thoughts. Those of us who struggle with these nasty beasts are afraid to admit to them because we fear it will result in our children torn away from us. Some of us fear these thoughts mean we’re stricken with Psychosis. So we suffer silently until they have faded into the distant past.

Intrusive thoughts are not Psychosis. Instead, they are more closely related to Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Women who struggle with Intrusive thoughts are immediately horrified by their thoughts which involve harming themselves, their infants, or harm coming to either of them. They are violent flashes which jet through our brains. We are unable to control them. They leave as quickly as they arrive. Psychosis on the other hand, involves thoughts which make logical sense to the person having them regardless of the lack of logic. There may be auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and a belief that if these actions are not followed through, a worse harm will swoop down upon the affected parties. Psychosis is a medical emergency. No mother suffering with auditory or visual hallucinations should ever be left alone with her infant and should be placed in medical care immediately. ER, people. Immediately.

In today’s Postpartum Voice of the Week Post, the author explores her experience with intrusive thoughts. She describes how severe intrusive thoughts can lead to OCD (which they did in my case as well) and mentions Emma Pillsbury from Glee but digresses to point out: “But let me tell you that in real life, coping with intrusive thoughts is not cute and fun like an episode of Glee.”

Coping with intrusive thoughts can be exhausting. It wears you down. Leaves little energy for the end of the day when you finally get baby down to sleep for the night. All day, you’ve waged a battle in your mind with an army of flashing horrific pictures and thoughts. So you sit on the couch like a zombie, exhausted, yet unable to sleep. Many moms I know use mental imagery to stop the thoughts – picturing a stop sign for example – or going to a happy place. Others distract. I know for anxiety I force myself to count backward from 100. In Spanish. I speak enough Spanish to be able to do this but it really forces me to think and distracts me from the issue at hand. I also use music.

At the end of her post, the author asks, “Have you ever battled any of the postpartum trifecta: depression, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts? What helped you to cope?”

Pop on over and let her know, won’t you?

Whatever Wednesday: Like a Vulcan

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
I didn’t know how lost I was
Until I melded with you

I was beat incomplete
I’d been had, I was cold and blue
But you made me steel
Yeah, you made me steel.
Shiny and new

Like a vulcan
Purged for the very first time
Like a vulcan
When your logic rests
Next to mine

Gonna give you all my mind, boy
My emotion is fading fast
Been keeping it all from you
‘Cause only logic can last

You’re so devoid and you’re mine
Make me heartless, yeah you make me cold
Oh your logic thawed out
Yeah, your logic thawed out
What was getting cold

Like a vulcan (hey)
Purged for the very first time (yeah yeah)
Like a vulcan
When your logic rests
Next to mine

Oooh (whoah)
oooh, (whoah whoah)
oooh (yah yeah yeah)
(whoah whoah)

You’re so devoid and you’re mine
I’ll be yours ’till the end of time
‘Cause you made me steel
Yeah, you made me steel..
I’ve nothing to feel

Like a vulcan , hey
(you make me feel like a vulcan)
Purged for the very first time
(Ohhh baby)
Like a vulcan
When your logic rests
Next to mine

Like a vulcan, ooh, ooh
Like a vulcan (yeahh)
Feels so empty inside
When you purge me (when you purge me)
When your logic rests (when your logic rests)
When you neglect me (when you neglect me baby)

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh (yeah)
Ooh, baby
ohh
Like a vulcan

 

(the inspiration for the above rewrite of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” came about after a brief discussion with my mother about how to politely tell someone you didn’t want to discuss emotions – by telling them you wanted to be “Like a Vulcan.”)

A Father’s Insight

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

Changing the World – Want in?

In the four years I’ve been doing this work, there’s one word I’ve heard uttered in response to the question “Why aren’t you in therapy/seeing a doctor/getting help?”

MONEY.

These moms, these mothers stranded in the darkness, so lost that many of them are sure suicide is the only way out, are stopped from getting help because they can’t AFFORD IT. They’re just above the line for assistance. Or their assistance ran out because they’re past 8weeks postpartum (which, by the way, is when most Medicaid for pregnant mothers runs out and ALSO when Postpartum manifests) Or the state they live in (I’m looking at YOU, South Carolina) classifies Postpartum Depression as an EXCLUSIONARY condition within the Department of Mental Health, cutting them off from assistance for therapy and other treatment options after Medicaid runs out.

MONEY, people.

It’s killing our mothers. Impairing their ability to recover. To function. To fully parent their children. To fully be themselves. It’s leaving them desperate and out in the cold without a warm hand to hold. It’s hurting our children’s chances at a successful life. Did you know that when you treat a postpartum mother successfully, her CHILDREN have a better chance at growing up and not developing issues with mental health? Weissman et al in 2006 treated 151 depressed mother/child pairs. Of the mothers treated, 33% of the children improved their behavior. Only 12% did not. This is not just a mom issue. This is a SOCIETAL issue. True mental health care starts with Moms. And we, as a society, are ignoring them.

It needs to stop.

In Karen Kleiman’s book, Therapy & The Postpartum Woman, there’s a bold yet tragic statement made not too far into the book in regards to finances and therapy: “There is no easy solution for this barrier to treatment.”

As women, we explain away why we can’t afford to spend money on our own wellness. We can’t afford to miss work. We have bills to pay. Our kids need this or that. The family needs this. I have to ask my husband first. The house.. the car… the …. this… that… STOP. Just stop.

YOU ARE WORTH IT.

And if you truly can’t afford the care, if you don’t have insurance, if the therapist doesn’t take insurance and the sliding scale doesn’t work with your realistic budget, if the therapist doesn’t have a sliding scale – I have a solution. But I am going to need a hell of a lot of help to make it become a reality. Postpartum women deserve a voice. They deserve to have it heard by a trained and knowledgeable professional so they can recover and live life with their children, their loved ones, and themselves to the fullest.

Will you help me?

I have a dream.

A non-profit which helps women pay therapy bills. Helps to alleviate medication costs. Possibly childcare so they CAN go to their appointments. For therapists and professionals to participate in this network, they would be required to maintain certification in regards to Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Guaranteed knowledgeable professionals and financial assistance? We can do this.

This is  idea has been marinating for quite some time now. Not too long ago, I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine. She can’t go to therapy because of the cost. Because it costs to see the doctor. It costs to see the therapist. It costs for the case manager. She can’t afford it. Won’t go on meds because she can’t afford the return visit and would have to go off cold-turkey after just one month until she could afford to go again. She’s applied for assistance but someone is dragging their feet. She’s not postpartum but she’s stuck in limbo and struggling like hell just to stay afloat. It’s not right.

I can’t keep this idea to myself any longer. It’s time to set it free. To make it a reality.

Beyond the above idea, I don’t have a plan. I don’t know where to start. I need help. I need people knowledgeable about setting up non-profits. I need people knowledgeable about medical billing and how we would even begin to provide assistance. Fund-raising. Research. The whole nine yards. I need volunteers. I need professionals familiar with mental health willing to serve on an advisory board. On a board. If you can’t help directly, share this post with someone who might be able to help. Or with someone who knows someone – make this viral. Postpartum women deserve to not have to add “worried about cost” to their concerns.

I can’t do this alone. But together we can drastically change the landscape of hope for women with Postpartum Depression. We can make recovery a reality for so many.

Are you in?

Let’s talk.

Let’s do this.

Write on Edge: Inking mythic power

She stumbled into a dark cave, her breath clouding into the cold mist of the room. As she slid down against the moist rock, a grumble echoed from behind her. A yellow glow filtered into the darkened room, uncovering not one, but two hydras nearly snout to snout with each other. Their eyes slid open as they glared at each other. Blackened pupils wrapped around amber slits speckled with green. Their breath exploded suddenly, filling the cave with deafening roars and flames. Gasping, she turned and ran toward the exit. Flames surrounded her, fanned toward the ground. As she turned for one final glance, a large bird, aflame with crimson and honeyed feathers rose from in between the two hyrdras. The cave opened as the bird stretched and grew, furiously feeding upon the fury between the two battling wyrms. Extending it’s eyes upward, the bird continued the skyward flight, desperate to escape the chaos and carnage. She stared, unable to stop watching even as the flames swallowed her whole.

Sitting suddenly in bed, heart seizing and breath breaking, she gulped deeply of the life still fighting within her. Stumbling to the bathroom, she glanced in the mirror. Resting upon the whole of her back and wrapping around to her hips and shoulders, two angry dragons birthing a spectacular Phoenix caught her eye as she passed the mirror in the hall. She smiled, finding refuge in the brute force impregnanted just beneath her skin.

This post inspired by today’s Write on Edge prompt – Tattoos. The above describes the tattoo I have planned for my entire back, hips, and upper shoulders once I hit my goal weight. I’ve wanted this tattoo for several years now and cannot wait until I finally have it inked on my skin. Given everything I’ve been through, this tattoo will be extremely powerful and meaningful for me. Want to read more stories about tattoos? Go check out the Write on Edge prompt today.