Monthly Archives: October 2011

Postpartum Depression & Faith: There will be a day

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le-TG4sRRiQ]

I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting…

(lyrics sourced here)

For more than a few months now, I’ve comforted several women struggling with Postpartum Depression who have also found themselves struggling with fitting their experience into the constraints of their Christian faith. Over the past few years, stories shared with me have ranged from uplifting and powerful to heartbreaking when the church has literally turned their back on a woman as she struggles with the very real condition of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. These experiences have led me to write this post today for World Mental Health Day. Please start the video above as you read…it adds a powerful aspect to the post.

Pray Harder

Depressed? Christian? PRAY HARDER. Fall to your knees. Lie prostrate on the ground. Weep. Wail. Gnash your teeth. Live for Him and nothing else. Beg for mercy. Pray. Read your Bible. Lean on Him. He’ll save you. You’re not leaning hard enough on God. There’s nothing wrong with you beyond a distorted and failed relationship with God. Don’t believe in a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s malarky. Your faith isn’t strong enough and that’s why you’re struggling.

If I had a dollar for every woman who has ever shared any of the above anecdotes with me? I’d be rich. Okay, well, maybe not rich but I’d be able to afford Starbucks for quite awhile. Yes, falling away from God may cause issues in your life but a psychiatric disorder after childbirth is NOT one of those. Hell, a mental health issue period is not one of them. There is no shame in a diagnosis. Not to shame them for taking medicine. Not to shame them for admitting to struggle.

Jesus walked the Earth to love those who were lost. As Christians, we are to follow in His example. To love people WHERE THEY ARE. Not to judge them. Not to guilt them into shame. Not to further add to their already overburdened lives. But to Love. To relieve their burden. To help. To accept. To LOVE.

The Bible is filled with people who struggled with depression for a number of reasons…. Cain, Abraham, Jonah, Job, King Saul, Jeremiah, David, Paul… and God still loved them. He guided them out of their darkness and into their light. Now granted, they didn’t have Xanax or Prozac back then, but God still loved them WHERE THEY WERE. They were provided for during their recovery.

I don’t view my episodes of Postpartum OCD as punishment. Instead, it is a point in my life during which I learned a lot about the depth of my strength and about the grace of God. I learned to lean harder on Him, not because I had sinned, but because He was there. I learned how to pray, not because I had forgotten, but because He was there. I learned how to live for Him, not because I had failed, but because through living for Him, I found solace and hope. In Him, I found hope, solace, and love.

God creates us in His image and knows what our life holds well before we do. He loves us even when we don’t love Him back. He knows where and if our path returns to Him even if we do not. When I first struggled with Postpartum OCD, my path was far away from God. But through my experience, I found my way back to Him. I crawled up into His lap much as an exhausted child does at the end of the day with a parent. I rested my weary body and soul in Him so that I might heal. He did not judge me. He accepted me. Did not question my past. Forgave it. Loved me just as he did before.

I hope against hope that one day, within the faith community as a whole, there WILL be a day when all will be accepted equally. When those of us with mental health struggles will not be told we can solve it with simply praying harder. That we will not be told medications are evil. That there will be a day when, instead, we will be loved, accepted, cherished, and given a place we can rest as we heal.

There will be a day.

But to get to that day?

We must not let our voices be silenced. We must speak up. We must share. We must tear down the stigma of mental illness within the Church. Within the walls of our faith. We must refuse to accept the judgment of those in the Church against us. We must rise up and love them even when they do not love us. It won’t be easy. It won’t make our journey less difficult. But one day, for someone, somewhere, it will lighten their load. It will make a difference in the life of someone else. And one day? It might make a difference in yours too.

There WILL be a day… “with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears.”

(If you are a woman of faith struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, please visit Out of the Valley Ministries. I would also highly recommend picking up a copy of The Lifter of My Head: How God Sustained me through Postpartum Depression by Sue McRoberts.)

I blog for World Mental Health Day

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @zrecsmoms’ Missing a Friend Today

A year ago this past Saturday, on October 1st, 2010, the world lost a wonderful person. A mother. A wife. A friend. A daughter. A passionate person dedicated to fighting for inmates on death row in Texas. How did we lose her?

To Postpartum Depression.

Her best friend, Jennifer, writes:

“A year ago today, Kristi died after nearly five months of torturous depression. She was seeking treatment and had a strong support system, but depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. It’s often a long experiment to see which drugs have an effect on your body while trying to be convinced that the thoughts coming from your mind are not your own.”

Depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. Kristi had a support system too. Depression can kill. It’s not a term to be used lightly as Jennifer points out later in her deeply emotional post. It’s not something we get when it’s raining. Or when our favorite team loses. Or a candidate we’ve been pulling for loses the election. It’s not when a sports season is over. It’s not when Starbucks isn’t carrying Pumpkin Spice Lattes anymore. Depression isn’t some term to be bandied about in jovial conversation. We aren’t depressed because our grocery store was all out of our favourite kind of chocolate. That’s not depression. That’s disappointment. It may feel intense and you may be upset but it’s not depression.

Depression lingers. For weeks. For months. For some, for years. It hangs over you like a cruel fog, blocking everything and everyone from you. You reach out but all you see is the mist. You don’t see the family and friends desperately reaching toward you. You don’t see the doctors. You don’t see the world beyond what’s inside your head. You feel trapped. Hopeless. Lost. You panic. The fog gets darker and thicker. Eventually you break down. Can’t function like you used to – it’s like trying to walk through a pool of molasses. You know you can do it but the energy to push forward just isn’t there.

Some of us are fortunate to survive. Others are not. Those who don’t survive leave behind friends and loved ones filled with guilt, confusion, struggling to wonder if they could have done more. Thing is, we can only do as much as those who are suffering will let us. We can do everything right – get them to the doctor, help with therapy appointments, chores, childcare, medication, we can cross every T, dot every i, mind our p’s and our q’s, and some will still slip away from our fingers regardless of how tightly onto them we hold. Guilt, confusion, and wondering if we could have done more is a natural reaction to losing someone to suicide. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means you’re grieving a loss you don’t understand. A loss you blame yourself for… know this though, the blame is not yours to hold. It’s okay to let go of the blame too. Letting go of the blame doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the person. It means you’re not blaming yourself for their disappearance. They will always live on in your heart and through your actions.

This is where I really love Jennifer’s  post. She’s walking in an Out of the Darkness walk for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She wants to help increase awareness. To make it okay to talk about suicide. So, in her own words:

I’ve found somewhere to start that works for me: Raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I’m going to walk one of their Out of the Darkness walks, because I’m committed to making suicide an acceptable topic of conversation. I’m going to help them raise money for education and awareness. And slowly, as I put the pieces back together, I’ll see what I can do to raise awareness for postpartum depression. Because no one should feel that desperate. No one should see suicide as their only way out. And because babies deserve mothers and mothers deserve help.

To read her post in it’s entirety, go here. Once you’re there, I hope you’ll consider donating to her walking team for AFSP. They’re a terrific organization dedicated to raising awareness and increasing research and education regarding suicide. They support people struggling with suicide as well as educate their loved ones on how to help and how to cope after a loss. I hope you’ll support Jennifer as she strives to continue to make a difference in the world. Show her some love while you’re over there too. She could use it. I remember supporting Jennifer last year right after she lost Kristi. I remember the pain she felt – the pain she could barely express at the time. Over the past year, she’s struggled. She still mourns for Kristi. But Jennifer? You’ve come so very far. You’re doing something I know Kristi would be so very proud of you for doing. I know she’ll be there with you, walking with you. I know we’ve never met but I’m proud of you. Keep moving forward. Through the easy and through the hard. You’re not alone. You’ve got us right there with you and I know you’ve got Kristi too. You are loved. You, my dear, are awesome.

Giving up BACON for Mothers & Babies

Bacon Sacrifice Campaign for Postpartum Progress

To donate via credit card:

DonateNow

To donate via paypal, click on over to Postpartum Progress.

In Support of Strong Start Day 2011 at Postpartum Progress

Postpartum Progress. Those two words inspire hope, community, compassion, and an inordinate amount of other gushing caring words in my head. So many in fact, it would take forever to list the ones in existence and even more time to explain the ones which don’t exist but would after I was through.

Katherine Stone is a staunch advocate for women with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. She’s, quite frankly, one of my heroes. When I first struggled with Postpartum Depression back in 2004, I think I came across her blog. She was brand new then. I didn’t know how to use the website because well, I was brand new to the issue myself. I browsed, think I learned a couple of things, and then traveled along my way. I wish I had realized then what I know now about Katherine and her site. If I had, I’m sure my story would be changed. But I didn’t and I went on alone. Until much later when I rediscovered Katherine and really understood what she and her site stood for to women like me struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. In fact, along with Karen Kleiman’s call to “Reframe your pregnancy” in her book “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression,” Katherine’s blogging was what made me think “Hey, I can do that too!” So I did. Katherine has supported me every step of the way. She’s pushed me to stay with it when I wanted to throw in the towel. She’s shared with me, treated me as an equal, as someone who mattered. For that, I can never repay her. Katherine Stone means the world to me and to countless other women across the world. And yes, I mean WORLD. This gal’s got some serious reach.

She’s a voice for those who can’t speak up on their own. She’s fearless when it comes to calling the media on a misnomer or a tragedy. She’ll call out doctors too. Society. Anyone. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tromping on Postpartum Mood Disorders. I wouldn’t want to get in her way. Ever.

After yesterday’s post, I find it so very fitting to be posting in support of Katherine’s Strong Start Day today. Go visit her place. Donate if you can. What she does is priceless. And she’s never been paid for her blog. It’s hard work to keep it up, trust me, I know. I also know the passion in her heart is strong and determined. If she can do what she’s done with nothing for 7 years, then imagine what she can do if she’s funded. There’s no limit to the potential. I can’t WAIT to see the changes headed for the world down the road!

SO please. I rarely ask you to donate to anything here at My Postpartum Voice. But today I am. Today I’m asking you to make a difference in the world by donating to Postpartum Progress so Mothers & Babies will have a legitimate chance at a Strong Start.

Go. Now. Be the change.

All alone in a digital world

The following post is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or wonder if they should have leaned on me for support over the past few months. Everything I’ve done to support others has been of my own volition and if I needed to step back, please know I did so. It’s because of what i do that I’m writing to you today.

It’s been a helluva summer over here in my world.

I’ve not talked publicly about the details and will not do so now but I am now divorced. So when I say it’s been a helluva summer, I mean it. Over the course of this past summer, I’ve had a lot of emotional upheaval come my way. There have been things in addition to my divorce, which, I also will not divulge the details of, but these things have shaken me to my very core. I’ve gone to bed in tears. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve wailed. I’ve wondered why I have to wake up. If I wanted to wake up. And yet… here I am.

In Nashville, I arose at 530a CT, made my bed, got dressed, drove to a nearby park and hiked 1.5-3 mi, showered, ate breakfast, made coffee, then onto the job hunt. I didn’t find a job. So at the beginning of July, I moved back home with my parents. Which, hello, humbling.

I lost my drive. My routine. I’ve been job hunting but I’ve also felt frozen. Frustrated. Scared. Rejected. Dejected. Alone.

Me? Alone?

But you’re a well-known blogger. The founder of #ppdchat. Giving. Compassionate. Funny. Awesome. One of the best friends I could ever imagine. Always there when people need you.

Surely you have people.

I have people. But I type to them on the computer. On my phone. They’re electricity, phantoms at best. In person?

I have my parents. People with whom I have been close with from a distance for the better part of the past 11 years. And let’s face it – you really don’t want to sit down and share everything with your parents.

Here, in person? I have no friends. I’ve lost touch with them all and really, at this point, don’t want to reconnect. I haven’t had an in-person best friend (other than my former husband) in nearly 11 years.

Then.

Trey Pennington.

Well known. Over 100k followers on Twitter. Committed suicide.

Alone.

Trey’s death scared the shit out of me.

Why?

Because there have been thoughts. A lot of thoughts.

Oh look. That tree is sturdy. I bet it’d destroy me and my car if I hit it going 70mph. Or… A steep hill… a ravine…. And trees. Surely I wouldn’t survive that.

But the one that scared me into really reaching out to someone?

Standing in front of my bedroom’s second story window wondering if I had what it took to fling myself out of it – at what angle would I have to do this in order to hit the cement wall? How long after I hit the ground would I survive for? Would I feel anything? Surely that pain had to be better than living in constant anxiety and frustration.

As I reached out to push the screen, I recoiled and rushed downstairs. Too close. Too.FUCKING.CLOSE.

A friend had reached out and told me if I ever felt Not OK, to text. So I did. We talked. He searched for some local agencies and found one for me. Today was my second therapy appointment. It rocked me. Hard. I drove for nearly an hour just to be okay enough to come home.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost a month now. I’ve been lying to myself. To you. To people who love me. I’m not okay. On my good days, I’m okay. But most days? Most days I’m a shell wrapped around shattered porcelain supports threatening to break any second. I rock, I pace, I can’t get my leg or my hands to stay still. I’ve been telling myself I’m okay, that I can do this, that I’m strong, that I have to make it through this because there’s no other choice but through. I can’t get out of this. It is my life. But – I’m alone in my life right now and I’m not so okay with that even though really, I have to be. There I go again.

Why now? Why today?

Because over the past week or so, I’ve had a couple of friends who have been in the same place come to me for support. I’ve watched myself type things to them I should be heeding but haven’t been. Words I need to live by but haven’t been.

It’s so very easy in this day and age to isolate ourselves. To live in an ivory tower connected to the world only with Wi-Fi. There are walls we put up, a lack of contact, a lack of true connection even if we try to impress upon others how much we care, they are, ultimately, still alone in their private hell. Our words are not three dimensional. They’re not hugs. They’re not “real” no matter how real they may seem or feel to those sending them. You can’t hug an email, a tweet, or a comment on a status update. Well, you can.  But it’s awkward. And you’re still alone in the dark. It hurts, y’all. Like hell.

Trey’s death especially hit home because again, here was someone who was not only connected online but in person and yet he felt so profoundly alone and lost that the only way out he could locate was death.What’s really scary is that from initial suicidal thought to completion, time lapse is typically only 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES, people! Which, in the Social Media Realm seems like forever but in the real world? It’s only 10 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to do anything. No amount of Klout in the world is powerful enough to prevent someone from going through with suicide if they’re truly determined.

I don’t want that to be my way out. I don’t want to be a statistic. I can’t let myself be a statistic. I’m fighting as hard as I can but it’s exhausting. Some days, I may be quiet. I may not be able to handle supporting you. I need you to be okay with that. I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with not being okay right now and admitting that I’m tired. It’s a work in progress and I suspect will be such for quite some time to come.

I’m not posting this for pity. I’m not posting this for attention. I’m posting this because the more honest we all are about how we feel and the more truthful we are with facing the hard, the easier it is for us to make strides in healing the hard. The easier it becomes for the NEXT person to talk about the hard, especially when that hard is suicide or a mental health issue.

I’m refusing, once again, to remain silent. I hope my refusal to stay silent about this will help someone somewhere.

Know I’m on my way to my new okay. I don’t have a plan right now and I am seeking help. In the meantime though, and especially right after I post this, I’m going to need some time to myself because wow has this been hard to write. I imagine deciding to hit Publish will be even harder. Because once I hit that button there’s no more hiding this from anyone.  And also? I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be the support. Once I hit publish, that flips. Being on the opposite side of the equation is a bit scary… it’s territory I’ve not been in for quite some time. At least not publicly. Or ever, really, because I didn’t go through my PPD in real-time through my blog or on Twitter. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and click. Like Pin the Tail on the Donkey except this is Bare your heart and soul to the entire fucking Internet and never take it back. It’s a pebble which, once dropped, will create uncontainable ripples.

Also? Make those connections. Online and off. Lean on them. BE HONEST when you’re not okay. Lying about your well-being only hurts yourself. I am SO sorry for not being honest but it’s hard to be honest with others when you’re not even capable of being honest with yourself. Now that I’m somewhat heading toward self-honesty, I will do my best to be honest with you too. I pray you’ll forgive my dishonesty and understand my struggles. I know most of you will. But I do worry some of you will worry unnecessarily about me as well or even wonder if you’ve done anything to add to my issues. Rest assured you have not, I promise.

I love all of you to pieces and hope you’ll continue to support me as I go through this new and not so stable time in my life. I know you’re going to want to help but a lot of this involves things I need to work through on my own. Just knowing you’re out there to support me as I’m moving forward will be more than enough.

I’m working to find my happy again. I promise.