Category Archives: blogger

If Postpartum Mamas Banned Bossy

“Shhhhhhh. Don’t talk too loudly and don’t let anyone hear you.” the woman whispered as they chatted in the vestibule at church. Her companion had just expressed concern about a young new mother in the congregation who looked a bit exhausted that morning as she wrestled with her six week old and two year old toddler.

She patted her grey curls and adjusted her purse as she glanced around and leaned in to speak. “Don’t say anything but I heard from Ethel that she’s struggling with…” she lowered her voice to barely a whisper “that postpartum depression stuff.”

Her companion gasped and put her gloved hand over her mouth.

“No… not that. Why, in our day, we didn’t have that sort of thing. We just made do. These new age mamas and their excuses not to do the work mothering requires of them. Why it just makes me so angr…” Susan wagged her finger in front of her mouth as the bedraggled topic of their gossip approached.

“Well, hello there, Beth! Just how are things with you these days? And ohhhh… look at the new little one! Isn’t she just precious?” Beth sighed, glanced at the baby then back at Susan. She forced a smile and said “Just fine, come on, Ethan. Let’s go find Daddy.” As they started to walk off, Susan made a knowing eye contact with Joan, motioning after Beth, as if to say “I told you so.”

They stood there for a few more minutes, dissecting every aspect of Beth’s behaviour, dress, and choice of clothing for her children but not once did they discuss how they could help Beth as she learned how to navigate her way through this brand new motherhood of two children. Instead, they simply stood aghast and whispering at her apparent failure, ignoring all the signs that something was amiss.

Sadly, this still happens to many mothers. We are judged. Discussed. Analyzed. Dismissed. All because so many fail to discuss what is actually going on inside our heads. Because not enough of us get BOSSY about it.

What if, when Beth finally heals, she grabs the bull by the horns and starts a support group at her church? What if she dares to get up in front of the congregation and admits to her experience and educates those sitting there? What if she dares them to do more for new mothers and therefore changes the lives of new mothers touched by this church? But if we ban bossy, the Beths of the world won’t do this because well, they’ll be sitting down and not doing anything to blaze a path because SHHHHHHH. We dare not be bossy.

If I had not been bossy with my maternal medical care, things would have gone unnoticed. Hell, even though I was bossy the first time, I still went untreated because I was seen as “wrong” even though I knew myself better than anyone else. My “bossy” hormones should have slid magically back into place at four weeks postpartum so it wasn’t possible for me to have PPD. Shame on me for daring to say anything about not feeling well and daring to expect the doctor to actually, oh, I don’t know, DO SOMETHING. I slinked away, disappointed at not receiving help and resolving to stand up for myself down the road if necessary even if it hadn’t gotten me anywhere the first time around.

I got bossy the second time around too after my docs scheduled me for an induction WITHOUT MY CONSENT after noting that my first baby had been “big” at birth (she was 8lbs 3oz, thank you very much.)

What would happen to women, to all the progress we have made in the birthing world – hell, in the postpartum world, if we banned bossy?

There would be no Katherine Stone.

There would be no #PPDChat.

There would be no ample supply of kick ass doulas.

There wouldn’t be a chorus of PPD advocates or breastfeeding or formula feeding advocates. Or Attachment Parenting advocates. Or…. do I really need to go on?

What about NICU Parents? Where the hell would they AND THEIR CHILDREN be without the bossy trait?

Bossy is necessary.

Bossy saves lives.

Banning bossy is akin to telling someone to sit down, shut the eff up, and take whatever life shoves their way. Maybe that’s not what this campaign is about, maybe it’s about taking charge and finding a more positive way to spin it but dammit, no one gets to tell me what word to use to describe myself.

Words are powerful things. They incite strength, they spark revolutions, they can make us cower or they can give us power. But the beauty of words is that WE get to decide what they mean to us, not those who are spewing them at us. We define them. We can take them and twist them into the most beautiful and amazing things ever seen by mankind. It is up to us to choose how to process that which is spoken to us, about us, by us, and for us.

No one should ever put bossy in the corner.

No one.

Instead, we should grab it by the hand, drag it out to the dance floor, and flaunt that baby like there’s no tomorrow. Own it as if we are in the spotlight with Patrick Swayze himself, getting ready to dive off the stage into his arms.

The idea that we are to ban this word to encourage young girls not to be afraid of being “leaders” scares me.

Are we really empowering girls by doing so or are we further protecting them from the big bad world out there waiting to swallow them whole? Bossy gets you places. Bossy starts inside, it drives us forward, and it ENABLES us to be leaders. Not the other way around. If we ban bossy instead of embracing bossy, we are further shaming the word and the attitude. Hell, motherhood alone requires a certain level of bossy, does it not? As does fatherhood.

I am bossy.

I am not afraid to say no.

I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs. I am not afraid to stand up for others and the rights they have. I am not afraid to tell someone “No, that’s not right. This is the truth, and you need to listen to it.” I am not afraid to protect and defend mothers who suffer from Perinatal Mood Disorders.

I will be bossy about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders until the day I die.

No social media campaign (or anything else for that matter) will ever change that.

Let’s not ban bossy.

Let’s make some noise…and make some history while we’re at it.

Because “well-behaved women seldom make history” yanno.

Here’s to all of us bossy women – rocking the world, taking names, and kicking ass.

Stay bossy forever.

2014 State of the Blog

Today I finally did something I have wanted to do since starting this blog.

An editorial calendar!

YES!

I have all my weeks planned out through the end of the year.

I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely awesome this feels.

My next big goal around here is to clean up the blog – minimize and streamline tags and categories, redesign, and in May, go completely self-hosted. Maybe even start Vlogging. EEEEEEK. I have BIG goals this year and even better, I AM going to achieve them all and then some.

My sole goal today, as was noted in my post yesterday, was to make it to the gym and sit in the hot tub. I made it to the gym but the hot tub was closed. No idea on when it will be open again but it doesn’t matter because this week’s weather, well, according to R2D2′s severe weather alerts, I wouldn’t make it to the gym unless we had a Tauntaun on the back deck anyway.

Speaking of crappy weather, today’s weather was cloudy yet surprisingly warm. We hit a balmy 48F today and I drove home from the grocery store with the windows down. Crazy? Perhaps. But when you have been in the middle of Hoth for the past several weeks, 48F is a tropical heatwave, baby, and begs for you to ride with the windows down with the tunes blasting because baby, that’s spring.

It’s a new month, a new year, and I have started it off the best way possible with this new habit of writing every day. I should warn you, however, I plan to start working on my book this month and won’t be blogging AS much because my words will be going there instead of here. I hope to have some guest posts for you but that’s going to depend on some serious participation from you, the readers.

For this month’s schedule, the theme is, of course, Love. This week, we’re focusing on things you can do to show love to yourself (get your mind outta the gutter!), next week, your child, the following week, your partner, then the last week will examine extended family. Don’t worry, we’ll be examining healthy boundaries as part of this series too. If you have a piece that would fit into this topic, feel free to send it to me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “FEBRUARY SUBMISSION” in the subject line. It’d be fabulous if Perinatal Mood Disorders were somehow involved but it’s okay if it isn’t so feel free to submit if you have a great post about love for couples or parents without the PPD aspect. We are human too, after all.

March’s theme will be “Spring” and focus on the rebirth which comes with the season. We’ll be examining Light therapy, Vitamin D, Getting Out and About with Baby, Renewal, and Alternative Therapies. Again, feel free to send any guest posts my way.

I’m also looking for guest hosts for #PPDChat all the time so if you are interested, let me know. All I ask is that you be somewhat familiar with Twitter (even if you’re not, I will take the time to help you learn the ropes).

On that note, and I will mention this again, I’m seeking some awesome people who have been through the hell that is PPD to join me as part of a #PPDChat Brain Trust. You’ll be volunteering to help promote, brainstorm, and organize upcoming #PPDChats as well as possibly help moderate the FB Group. I am completely flexible with whatever your schedule allows as I know life can get very hectic. So if you are interested or know someone who would be a GREAT fit for this volunteer opportunity, send them my way!

Stay tuned for more updates about the editorial calendar and other exciting upcoming announcements. My word this year is ENGAGE and I am absolutely determined to get this party started!

31 Days of Writing Down, Only 334 To Go

The month of January has been awash in words with some of them thrown into the public arena, others, held close to my heart. It has made a difference this flood of words. Even on nights I did not think I had anything in me, I somehow managed to dredge 500 and then more up from the very depths of my grey matter.

I started this month a writing weakling. People threw hefty words at me as I walked by them in the snow, laughing at me because I was not writing. But now? Now I get to throw the words around as if they are weightless.

Lessons learned, teeth gnashed, eyes burned by glaring white screens, space deeply analyzed as I stared into it whilst brainstorming, and my Spotify account nearly imploded as it massaged my brain with inspiring beats.

Lesson 1:

Don’t ever stop writing. So many nights, I would write 100-200 words then get stuck. So I would delete my progress and start over with something else until I broke the 350 word mark. The issue here was that instead of just writing, I was paying attention to my word count. I don’t look at my word count as I write any more. I just write. I don’t stop. I keep writing until I run out of something to say then I conclude my piece. It’s just like when I go to the gym. If I go regularly, it gets easier because my muscles are getting the exercise they need. Same with writing. I feel my brain changing (as weird as that sounds) and my thought process is more fine-tuned than it was at the beginning of the year. I find myself looking at things and wondering how I can write it.

Lesson 2:

Every single thing in your life has a story. Yes, every single thing. Even the computer, tablet, or smartphone on which you write. Or the pen & paper. Whatever you use, there was a human effort which went into creating it and wherever there is humanity, there is a story. Even where there is not humanity, there is a story. Seek the story. Write the story. Be open to the story. If you are not open to the story, you might just let the story meant to be YOURS pass you by. Always, always be ready to write. In order to do this, you must always write. See the first lesson.

Lesson 3:

Define your boundaries. What, for you, is comfortable to include as potential topics for writing? How personal will you allow yourself to get? Writing is spilling your soul to the world, it is getting on a stage in a stadium filled with millions of people (even if that many people don’t read your writing, it sure feels that way, doesn’t it?) who are waiting for your words. Choose them wisely, be ready to handle criticism, opinions, and people who will hate you for what you say. If you are not ready to handle criticism or hatred for something you want to write? Write it to get it out but don’t put it on the stage for everyone to say. It’s okay to not put everything out there.

Lesson 4:

Write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity. It’s okay if you don’t know who you are right now. All that matters is where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Life, as Tom Cochrane put it, Is A Highway. The people going your way will find you and relate to your story. If you write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity, your story will carry the weight of truth and have an impact. Yes, you can do this even if your journey is shaky and undefined. As long as you’re honest about where you’re at in your journey, you’ll have authenticity. Writing with anything less is bullshit.

Lesson 5:

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better. Perfection is bullshit. Perfection is something we all aim for but always, always miss. When we practice, we grow stronger, we get better, but none of us are perfect. We may execute with skill, we may narrow the margin of mistakes, but none of us strike perfection. But wait, aren’t there athletes who get perfect scores? People who get perfect scores on the SAT’s? 100′s on tests? Yes. But I guarantee you they are not “perfect” people. We are human and to be human is to err. Accept this, hold yourself to the standard of the best you have to offer instead of one of perfection, and constantly practice to maintain the standard of the best you have to offer and you will come out ahead with less stress, less guilt, and less disappointment than those who constantly aim for perfection.

Lesson 6:

Have fun and be able to laugh at yourself. Some of the best stories come from stupidity, don’t they? When we have let our guard down completely and let ourselves do something absolutely ridiculous. Instead of getting angry, laugh at it. Write it down and flip it into funny. If it weren’t for my mother instilling the skill of laughing at everything, even the horrible no good things, I think I would have broken into a zillion pieces like the Death Star a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.

Lesson 7:

Write what you know but research what you don’t and write about that too. The best thing about writing is that we get the opportunity to continually educate ourselves about new subjects. We get to poke around in different aspects of life and morph into subject matter experts about everything, anything, and maybe like Seinfeld, nothing at all. We are fans of the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. They are all fields of potential stories, pieces, and posts. Seek them out, write about them in your voice, and stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Lesson 8:

Let the things which interest you seep into your writing. I am happiest when I relate something to another topic about which I am passionate. Like last night’s post when I related A Knight’s Tale to PPD or another post earlier this month when I took a Star Trek Episode and related it to PPD as well. Or this post where I have already mentioned Star Wars, Donald Rumsfeld (Known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns), Tom Cochrane, and Seinfeld. Letting your interests in shows the real you, directly relating back to the whole authenticity thing we have already discussed.

Lesson 9:

Write fiercely. Words are your friends, not your enemies. Repeat this to yourself a few times. It will matter at some point because sooner or later, they won’t want to cooperate and you’ll want to pull your hair out. Instead, close your eyes, put your hands on the keyboard, and type for a few minutes until it clears and you have tamed them. Find a topic which stirs your soul and dedicate your deepest pieces to it. Make a difference. Writing well is a gift, not one everyone has. Sure, anyone can write words, but only a few of us are blessed enough to be able to manipulate words in such a way which makes the reader feel as if they are sitting across from us at a cozy coffee shop. Don’t throw that gift away.

Lesson 10:

Learn how to accept compliments. As writers, we are our own worst critics, aren’t we? The grammar isn’t right here, I misspelled a word, oh crap there’s a comma out of place, I should have used this word instead of that one, etc. See Lesson #5 about practice making perfect. Practice makes perfect in this situation too. Say thank you and nothing more. Be humble. No one likes a smug snooty writer. If someone interprets something in a way you didn’t mean for it to be interpreted, remember that people bring their own language to your writing, seeing things within you may not. It’s okay – it’s what makes reading and writing such an intimate experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed these past 31 days and I hope you did too. I was going to go through my posts and see just how many words I wrote but I didn’t because it’s not about the word count. It’s about actually doing the work.

Thank you for sticking with me for 31 days.

Here’s to 28 more.

See you tomorrow!

PS. Wil Wheaton just put up this great short post about his process. I’m sharing the link because it shows that all of us are different in what we need to write and how we write. Maybe that’s lesson 11 – using your own method. Go read his post, it’s a short but good read.

Meeting Enemies Undaunted

Last night, when I took to my keyboard to write “Finding Life at the End of My Comfort Zone”, I did not need to write it to complete my 500 words for the day. It was just time to admit what had gone on in my life for the past year and how I was coping. After I hit publish, I exhaled. Finally. It was all out. For me, part of healing is being open and transparent.

Not more than a couple of minutes after hitting publish, the post received a comment from someone who has never commented here. It was held in moderation, and I will not be publishing it as a comment. I am, however, going to publish it here, addressing why it is a highly inappropriate response to my post yesterday.

The entire comment is as follows:

Hi! I think that it’s great you’re taking medications to help yourself but I am so sure that you can do so much more awesome things than taking medicine. I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward. You should try meditation it’s not religious at all too. It’s a practice to obtain peace and can really reduce stress. I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I wish you good luck of your journey! :)

You ready to analyze it? I am.

Let’s start with the greeting and the first sentence:

Hi! I think that it’s great you’re taking medications to help yourself but I am so sure that you can do so much more awesome things than taking medicine.

Notice the cheery greeting, complete with exclamation point. She’s HAPPY! She thinks it’s awesome that I’m taking medications to help myself BUT.. wait…. what’s this? She’s sure I can do so much more awesome things than taking medication? Really? Based on what sound evidence? Is she a physician? Has she discovered some amazing new way to deal with situational depression brought on by an insane amount of stress in a short period of time?

*GASPS* Wait – I know! I should have stuck with just my HappyLight, regular rest and relaxation, supplements, and prayed harder, right? Right? *smacks forehead* I totally failed that one, right?

She then goes for the “I relate to you” sentiment with this line:

I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward.

Oh really? Preach on, sister, preach on. That’s how it works, huh? After two episode of PP OCD, an episode of antepartum depression, post-divorce depression, I had NO clue that the first couple of steps were the hardest. I’ve been through the “gradually you’ll become stronger” thing and know that it’s a hard process. I also know that pushing yourself forward is necessary for progress. Of course, these are all things I thought I addressed in my post which, clearly she read because she commented, right?

Perhaps there’s a solution of which she’s aware that I haven’t thought of yet?

There is!

You should try meditation it’s not religious at all too. It’s a practice to obtain peace and can really reduce stress.

Aaaaaaand here’s where it gets fun, people.

Never mind the call I made to a medical professional after fighting on my own for months against the beast inside me, a beast egged on by the stress of living with very negative neighbors who attacked us verbally or intimidated almost every time we stepped outside and wild children who screamed and yelled outside our condo until the wee hours of the morning, interfering with any chance of sleep at night in addition to an insane amount of anxiety through the day.

Never mind the discussion I had with her during which I stuttered, nervously spilling all the details of the hell in which I found myself, fighting back the urge to completely lose it as I did so.

Never mind the years of school and practice my Nurse Practitioner has under her belt which allowed her to have a very compassionate discussion with me about my current state of mind and what my options were to fix it while calming me down at the same time.

We discussed the possibility of therapy but we cannot afford a weekly therapy session right now because we are not insured. But meds which have worked before were an option. So after two weeks of working my way up to making the call, I walked into a pharmacy and picked up a bottle of pills, feeling as if I were less than a toddler’s forgotten cheerio stuck in a couch cushion.

Apparently, what I should have done instead was head over to YouTube and find a meditation video. Boom. All better, right?

An article in Forbes earlier this month touts the benefits of meditation as rivaling that of anti-depressants. The study in the article specifically focuses on “mindfulness meditation” as the preferred form. If it works for you, fabulous. Kudos. I am a huge fan of doing whatever works for you.

Here’s the thing about depression and mental health issues, however: there are a myriad of treatments available because we are not all built alike nor do we all arrive at our diagnosis via the same path. We also do not find our road to wellness along the same path.

Don’t even get me started on the entire religious aspect of this comment. Let’s leave that out of it because we wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we? (Which is clearly why she specified that meditation is not religious, right?)

Since my brush with Postpartum Mood Disorders, my life is increasingly mindful. In fact, over the past year, I am healthier mentally than at any time in my life. How can I make that claim despite being on anti-depressants now? Mental health does not always mean happy. To me, what it means is a deep understanding of why things happen and accepting what you need to do in order to move beyond them. It means the capability to examine events in your life and hold a healthy response even if it does not lead to joy. The path back to joy, motivation, and yourself is a personal road and no one beside your physician has the right to tell you how to get there. It is YOUR road map, not anyone else’s.

Of course, blogging about my mental health opens me up to criticism and suggestions like this. Some might say that I “deserve” to have comments like this. No one deserves to be told what to do, not even if they’re asking for advice and particularly not if they are opening up about their choices they have already made.

Telling someone that they SHOULD do something other than what they have chosen to do with the help of a medical professional is beyond reprehensible. Making the decision to reach out for help  – to admit you are not okay to a medical professional is an absolutely nerve-wracking experience.

I cannot help that someone who would dare to judge someone else’s road has never traveled down a similar road. Because if they had traveled down this road, they would know how detrimental it can be to be judged for their decisions as they fight to get well.

She wraps up her comment with a much better outlook:

I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I wish you good luck of your journey! :)

Yay. Cheerleading! RAH RAH SISK OOM BAH!

Had she skipped the whole rigamarole about “more awesome than medication” and “try meditation instead” this would have been a perfectly awesome comment. THIS is a perfectly acceptable response to someone admitting they’ve settled on a method of treatment for a mental health issue. It empowers, supports, and encourages without judging the decisions of the person.

So, after all of this – how do you perfectly respond to someone who is struggling and has settled on a method of treatment? It’s hidden in this very comment.

Like this:

“Hi! I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward. I wish you good luck of your journey! :)”

Now this is how you support someone!

You support by offering encouragement, compassion, and empowering the person who is fighting like hell to be themselves again.

If someone proffers judgment on your treatment choices, do not let it deter you from your healing. You are in the driver’s seat and decide what exit is yours on this interstate of life, not anyone else, and definitely not a stranger who knows absolutely nothing about why you’re in the car to begin with.

A friend of mine said it best on FB, typos and all:

“Hugs. Love. I Get Its. And no judgement here. Take your meds. Meditate if it helps ON your meds. But fuck everyone else and their well-meaning yet severely judgmental opinions. Just do what’s fight for you.”

That’s what I’m doing – fighting for me, always.

Finding Life at the End of the Comfort Zone

On our refrigerator, there is a simple black square magnet with white words in English sprawled across it. This magnet blends in with our refrigerator, making the words even more noticeable as it rests at the top of the freezer door, right in the center. What are these words?

They say this:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~Neale Donald Walsch~

J purchased it for me on a dreary Sunday last winter during a visit to a local art museum. Of all the colorful things in the gift shop, the simplest thing, devoid of any true colour, caught my eye.

Why?

Because the words spoke to me. They challenged me to push myself further than I was comfortable. For the first time in weeks, I felt hope. When we bought the magnet, it was not too long after Sandy roared through our area, leaving me more traumatized than I wanted to admit.

Over the past year, I have pushed myself past my comfort zone. I auditioned in NYC for Listen to Your Mother (and am auditioning again this year, only for Northern New Jersey), I joined an in-person mom’s group, and I am back to pushing myself again after a setback with former neighbors which left me afraid to set foot outside by myself, even after we moved.

Within the past month, I started going back to the gym, I’ve ventured to various places by myself, and I plan to start walking around the neighborhood once it’s not covered under a ton of snow and the temperature won’t turn me into an instant popsicle. Oh, and I am learning how to drive in the snow. Slowly. Don’t laugh, most of my driving years were spent in the deep south where it does not snow often. Yes, I am a Jersey girl and perfectly capable of tolerating the cold but that doesn’t mean I know how to drive in the snow. It’s not that difficult to do, I’m realizing.

I owe this diving out of myself to the courage in asking for help.

I made a phone call back in December to our nurse practitioner to follow up with her about the situation with the neighbors. I saw her back in August due to extreme anxiety because of the situation – anxiety which left me afraid to open the blinds, turn on lights, or do anything beyond sit on the couch and watch TV for nearly 5 days straight. My sleep even suffered and my appetite vanished. I refused to leave the condo, in fact, unless J was with me. I needed help. In August, she prescribed something for anxiety. It worked and got me through the remainder of our time there as well as through our move.

But my prescription ran out.

We were happier at our new place. It was quiet, no screaming children at 11pm, no neighbors calling us names, no trapped in a dark condo. Instead, there was peace, quiet, and a lot of sunshine as all the blinds were opened and the light poured in from every possibly window. I still found myself triggered by certain situations and sounds despite the new tranquil environment. Shell-shocked from the former residence.

Then J was suddenly let go from his job and we faced losing our brand new place. With some careful maneuvering and help from family and a few wonderful friends, as well as some well-timed freelance work,  we managed to hang on. He found a job, and has been working steadily. I am still trying to  get freelance work going but haven’t lost hope.

While he was unemployed, I was the rock. I did not panic, I held fast and trusted that he would get a job. Once he did, I unraveled – fast. I was wildly unprepared for the roller coaster exit.

J sat me down one night and quietly shared his observances – that he was worried about me, I wasn’t myself. He suggested I call our NP. I struggled with the suggestion. I made it so far without medication. So far. Through a divorce, through the struggle of job-hunting and never hearing anything back, then through Sandy. All of this by myself. I was not sure I wanted to take a pill to get by again. I couldn’t. Could I?

Finally, after realizing every possible option but taking medication had been explored yet I  was still struggling, I made that call in December. We talked about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), situational issues, and what medications had worked for me before. I talked quickly, fighting the urge to just hang up. She was wonderful and very non-threatening, telling me that she would call in the script and I could pick it up if I chose to but did not need to feel beholden to it.

I picked it up the next day.

It has been almost 6 weeks and I have picked up a refill.

The medication is helping quite a bit. I am focusing, I am laughing, and I feel more like me.

Going back on a medication felt like defeat. It felt as if I was calling it in, giving up. But I know that I tried everything I possibly could before making that call. Making that call? WAY outside my comfort zone. It is the most uncomfortable thing possible to call your doctor to tell him/her that you are not emotionally stable. Yet, if it were a broken bone, I would have rushed to the ER. Stigma is a pervasive bastard – I hate it.

Every morning now, I swallow hope, in the form of a small white pill.

One day, perhaps I will get to a point where I will simply hold hope in my heart and mind, not in my stomach or blood stream.

But for now, that is where my hope lies, intermingling with my stomach acid and my blood cells flowing through my veins.

I’m okay with that because I know it is without a doubt, what I need to be the best me I can be right now.

Be Well – Your WAY

I want to talk about an old childhood game tonight.

Go get your pillow, a sleeping bag, chocolate, popcorn, a stuffed animal or a doll, and slip into some cozy PJ’s. I’ll wait.

Seriously. I will.

*hums Jeopardy theme a few times*

Do you remember playing the telephone game when you were a kid?

Whispering something ridiculous into the ear of the person next to you who would then repeat it to the person next to them and so on until it got to the last person who would say it out loud?

It was never the same thing that it started as, was it?

(If it was, your friends had amazing hearing or no sense of humour).

The goal of this game is to show you how something you say can be twisted by others. It is a practice in watching what you say – thinking before you speak.

In this electronic age, it is still important to watch what you say but even more important to keep that filter in place when the keyboard and therefore the Internet is your outlet. It is easier, when you are behind a keyboard, to judge, to proffer advice, and to act as an expert.

Here’s the thing – we are all still human. We have hearts, we have brains, and we live and breath. It is difficult to remember that the personas we talk to on a daily basis through our keyboards are PEOPLE.

I have said this time and again on this blog, in my chat, in my groups, on my blog’s FB page – but I believe in treating people as adults regardless of their situation or condition. I am part of a community. I am not a dictator, I am not a medical professional, I am not at all capable of making a care decision for anyone other than myself. I find it heartbreaking when some people behave as if they are capable of making decisions for others.

Mental health is just as subjective as physical health. We all have our own baggage. However, our baggage is not a road sign for anyone but us. It does not grant us carte blanche permission to tell someone else who has articulated their own issues to a professional care giver they may want to give it a second thought. Ever.

One of the things I adore most about the #PPDChat community is their ability to function in a way that is uplifting and supportive without being judgmental regarding the treatment choices another mama needs to make for her own sanity. Not all communities are like this. I am beyond grateful the #PPDChat community embraces this concept.

The road into Perinatal Mood Valley is a steep one. The road out is curvy with plenty of blind turns and potholes. There are multiple ways out, not just one path. It is important to listen to your internal GPS as you navigate your way out of your personal darkness. Listening to someone else’s GPS will result in driving in circles as you attempt to free yourself from the mind-boggling vortex.

You can do this. You are not alone. You will be well.

Your way.

Whatever Wednesday: A Drive in the Dark

One of the downsides of being a writer/creative type is seeing the world differently. I don’t see a tree. I see the seed, the person who may have planted the seed, the child who once played in its shadow, the mother who called the child in for dinner, that child leaving for a first date, college, or the family moving away and the entire cycle starting over with a new family as the tree stands there, rooted to the ground, subject to the world around it, unable to move or protest any indignity it may witness.

I do not see just a building – it is everything which went into a building – the craftsmanship of the bricks, the glass, the tile, the wood, the placement of the items inside, the heart and soul of the living, breathing walls. I see and hear the echoes of generations past resounding well beyond that which lies before me now.

Ever since I was a young child, I have peered into the other side of life. That which is dark, unexpected, unexplained, and lives in the shadows just around the corner from the main streets filled with a vibrant chatter and soulful lives. It’s the side of life just beyond a living man’s last breath. It is what fills the landscape around us and gives it heart. Sometimes, the heart is a joyous one. Other times, it is not.

When I was in college, my parents moved to a new house. On a visit home, my mother saw fit to drive me to the new house in well after the sun had set. We drove quite a distance through the country side, roads I knew at first, and then roads I had never visited before. We made what seemed like a sudden turn off the paved country road onto a darkened gravel road.

The air changed. The already dark night drifted suddenly into an even darker abyss as the road in front of us disappeared after passing a row of country houses. We then proceeded through a cow gate, down a hill, with a tangled forest to our right. My breath slowed, my legs shifted, hugging the seat beneath me, my hands gripped my thighs as I glanced nervously at my mother.

At the bottom of the hill, there was a white farmhouse glowing through the impossible darkness, as if it were a beacon, and yet, in the upstairs window, shadows danced ever so slightly with the white lace curtains despite no evidence of human inhabitants.

My mother deftly made a right turn. Pavement again, until we hit the split in the road where, of course, she stayed to the side slathered in gravel. The tires spun the rocks, almost growling as they churned forward into the midnight sprawled before us.

An old tobacco barn stood just to the right of the road, barely visible as the headlights splashed across it. The rusted siding glared furiously back at us, as if we had suddenly  roused it from a deep sleep.

She drove on, through a curve or two appropriately tangled in overhanging trees, then up a hill, down a hill. A shadowy house stood in the night in the middle of the forest. The tires slid slightly on the rocks as they convulsed at the abrupt stop at the front of the large home which swelled up from the ground. My mother got out of the car, announcing we had arrived.

Arrived where, exactly?

I sat in the car for a moment, afraid to open the door, fearful of the banjos which would inevitably greet me. Forcing my right hand to move, I gripped the door handle, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

A burbling creek echoed through the night, surrounded by the loud calls of what I would later learn were bullfrogs. By this time, my mother was already on the porch, unlocking the door. “C’mon,”  she called.

I closed the door behind me and scurried to the porch. Light would be inside. Blessed, heavenly, life-saving light.

We walked around the house, a giant house yearning to become a home but standing empty, bereft of life and vibrance. The interior walls echoed every step and sound. I stood in the sun room, surrounded by windows on every side, staring out into the darkness just beyond, shuddering. I ran back to the front of the house and demanded to go back home. This, this was not home. Perhaps it was wonderful during the day but at night? At night there was a horde of creatures in the dark, watching us, intently.

I looked down at my hands in the darkness of the car until we were well away from the house, unable to look outside, afraid of what might peer back at me just beyond the glass.

When I struggled with Postpartum Depression & OCD, one of my biggest triggers was when night fell. I felt the same way – as if something were peering in at me through the windows at night. All the blinds had to be closed so nothing could see in and my children and I would be safe.

Until my current residence, I have continued this tradition. Even here, we had to open the blinds in our room upstairs high enough so the cat would not play with them in an effort to wake us at an ungodly hour. I would leap into bed, covering myself quickly in hopes to ignore the fact that the blinds were open.

Last night, however, was different. Last night, not only did I lift the blinds, I left the slats in the open position with the idea of waking with the sun (that part didn’t work out). For the first time in years, I slept with completely open blinds.

Fear controls you if you allow it to control you. Once you make the decision to move beyond fear, you find freedom.

Know what?

Freedom rocks.

A Collage of Words: Answering the Important Questions

Today has been a strange day. I did not get nearly as much sleep as I need to function properly. It has snowed for most of the day, finally tapering off just a couple of hours ago, and I am groggy from an impromptu nap not long ago.

I am determined to finish this challenge of writing a minimum of 500 words every day but sincerely wish the “stick your hand in a bucket, grab some words, and throw them at the screen” schtick would stop. I’m writing because well, I have to write, not because I necessarily have anything to say or want to be writing. But, practice makes perfect and all that.

Tonight, in my struggle to come up with a topic, I asked my friends on FB for suggestions.

Conclusion? I have some weird but deep and awesome friends.

Here are their suggestions, in no particular order, phrased as quirky questions:

1) What do sheep have to do with toast?

There’s a girl with luscious red hair wearing a gorgeous cream-coloured crew neck Shetland sweater, riding pants, and riding boots. She shuffles about the kitchen, waiting for a whistle of the kettle as she slices some bread and pops it into the oven. Opening the refrigerator, she stares at the contents before reaching in and grabbing the butter. A faint whistle starts to fill the tiny kitchen. She removes the kettle from the stove-top, retrieves the bread from the oven and puts it on a plate. Then she grabs a cup, pours hot water into it, adds a tea back, and sits down at the table to savour a quick breakfast before a long day of sheep-herding.

2) Brain fog – how do you clear it?

There are plenty of theories on how to clear brain fog. Menial tasks, for one. Folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning, cooking. Or one could go for a walk (of course, when the windchill factor is in the negative Fahrenheit zone, going for a walk is well, not wise), a hike (again, COLD), watch a movie, listen to music, take a nap, drink some coffee (although I wouldn’t recommend this at 10pm at night). Laugh. Laughter helps a lot. And I think someone named Hemingway drank a lot when he wrote but I don’t know if that helps with brain fog – I would think that increases it.

3) How do you accept your new self after a life-changing experience? 

Wow. We have a tough one here. Let go of the old you. Letting go is one of the most difficult things we ever do in life – letting go of ourselves, of our expectations, of living up to expectations others have of us. But until we shed these expectations, let go and start living, we are simply existing. Should we not have expectations? No. But we should not allow our past to hold us back from becoming the person we are meant to be. Life is fluid and like the trees, we need to learn to sway in even the strongest of gusts without breaking. And if we do break, it’s okay, we will sow seeds and grow into something even stronger. It’s not easy to accept your new self after a life-changing experience because we want to go back to that which is familiar but sometimes, we just can’t go back and instead must embrace that which is new.

4) Can one ever really go home again?

Yes and no. You can physically go home again but as I just stated in the previous question, you’ve changed because life is fluid. Things may be the same but you are different. This question reminds me of this past summer and finally returning to the Jersey Shore after moving away when I was a teenager. Since then, I too, like the shore, had been through so very much. But also like the shore, I too have rebuilt. We are both stronger after our storms, and will persevere no matter what is thrown at us. The final answer to this question is a firm yes and yet also a firm no.

5) How do you lose your regrets?

First, you wrap them all in a box and then you ship them to Papua New Guinea with no return address. But seriously. You live life fluidly. You let go, you learn to say yes or no with conviction. You own your actions, good or bad. Regrets are one of those things you give yourself permission to have, just like guilt or jealousy. Refuse to allow regrets into your life. That’s how you lose regrets. By living boldly and running headfirst into new experiences, reaching deep into the area outside your comfort zone.

On Helping Others

“How do you help all the women you do and not carry their pain with you?” asked my therapist as we sat in her office a little over two years ago.

“I don’t know. I just do.” I fidgeted slightly as I readjusted in the chair, popping my neck and a few vertebrae as I did so.

“But day in and day out, you are seeing people at their worst and helping them solve their problems. How do you manage to do that without internalizing it?” she rephrased, pushing me to answer.

“How do you do it?” I answered her push with a question.

“Nice try. You’re good at deflecting, aren’t you?”

I smiled and recrossed my legs, staring back at her.

“It’s an art, really. As for how I don’t carry their pain and issues with me, I just don’t. Their issues are not mine. I have fought my battles, I am fighting my battles, and I leave their battles to them. I learned, from fighting my own battles, that I cannot fight anyone else’s battles for them. They have to fight them. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hand them the right tools. That’s my job. That’s where it ends.”

“So you have never had a situation that shook you?”

“Of course. Haven’t you?”

“Yes. The difference is that….”

“You’re a trained professional and I am not?”

“Well, no. Perhaps. It is just that it takes a lot to be able to listen to issues day in and day out and not get worn down by that. Given that you are here and still helping other people, it is my job to make sure you are taking care of yourself.”

“I am. I know when to step away. I have people I can hand things off to if they get too intense and I know that I am not equipped to handle crises. I also have people I debrief with after any situation which involves a crisis – people check on me which is wonderful. I am peer support only, something I make very clear to anyone who reaches out to me.”

We wrapped things up shortly thereafter, this particular session not nearly as rough as the one where she pushed me to consider whether or not I had ever shown my true self to anyone at all including myself. But this session left me deep in thought too, which is what a therapy session is supposed to leave you doing – thinking about your issues in a constructive manner instead of just wallowing & ruminating.

Sometimes I would go hiking after my sessions. Other times, I would go for a long drive, music blasting, the windows down. I wish I could say I remembered what I did after this session but I don’t because frankly, the after sessions blurred together.

The discussion in this session though, is one that we can all learn from. While not everyone is actively helping stranger after stranger through what some consider to be the worst time of their lives (most of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood Disorder kindly call it hell), it is important to remember that when we are helping others to not allow their pain to become our own. It is possible to be compassionate without tucking someone else’s pain into a pocket in your own heart. Difficult, but possible. It is also important to know your own emotional limits. Do not ever sacrifice your own emotional well-being for someone else if you can help it. (Remember the whole your glass must be full in order to give to others rule here.)

My goal, when someone reaches out to me for help, is to empower them to deal with their issues on their own with help that is much closer (and far more professional). This should be your goal as well if you are a fellow advocate or a non-professional. Educate, empower, release. I follow up, of course, and some of the folks end up being pretty good friends, but most of the time, it is a catch and release sort of contact. It’s something I’ve grown to expect.

With each person I help, my own personal hell loses just a little more of its darkness, shoving me further into the light, allowing me to help even more people.

No woman or family should ever have to struggle through a Perinatal Mood Disorder alone. This is why I do what I do and why I will never stop.

Because every single one of us matters to someone out there.

Whatever Wednesday: Thinking Out Loud

Stream of consciousness writing is an interesting form of writing, isn’t it? You’d think it would be completely honest one given that you’re supposed to just vomit on paper for the most part, right? But honesty is in the eye and the heart of the author, not the reader. I get to decide which thoughts to share with you and where you go as you wander the maze in my head. Which means I get to keep certain parts behind heavy locked doors.

Privacy. It matters.

To whom?

To all of us, really.

Even those who say they are completely open. You know there is a door somewhere deep inside which remains locked tightly. We all lock different doors for different people, don’t we? Open doors for people we care about and don’t mind being close to – close doors for people we don’t feel a tight connection with or think have the potential to harm us.

Which is why it hurts so much more when someone who has managed to get through all of your doors turns out to be someone who hurts you. And that, getting hurt by someone you have let in, hurts worst of all.

It’s a lot like what I imagine getting punched in the kidney by Mike Tyson would feel like. All the air exits your lungs as you swirl toward the ground, clutching your side. Stars pepper the back of your eyelids as drool flings itself through the air. Another punch lands on your jaw, causing blood to spatter on the ground around you as darkness swoops in to steal the sparkling stars.

Thing is, you will heal from the inside out. You’ll get better, you’ll get back up, and you will live your life. Even if you are currently hugging the ground, unconscious, barely breathing, and vomiting.

Falling down is never about the fall. Ever. It is always about the art and grace involved in getting back up. Art and grace? What about ferocity? Tenacity? Those too. But art and grace make it look good. Falling is also about discovering who will be there to pick you up.

Get.BACK.UP.

Inhale. Put your hands on the ground, and push, dammit. Fight for every centimeter.

Get up on your knees, then get up on your feet even though your legs are shaking and your lungs are burning. YOU GOT THIS.

GET UP.

Dust yourself off, inhale, and put one foot in front of the other.

Repeat.

One foot. In front of the other. Ignore the sweat, tears, and blood streaming down your face.

GET.UP. Walk. Move.

Stare your opponent in the eye, and let them know they will not, under any circumstances, win. You got this.

If you don’t get up on the first try? Start over again. Hands on the floor, push up, on your knees. Then your feet. One foot in front of the other.

When life knocks you down, you learn to live again. If you’re lucky, you learn to love to live.

Make it count.