Category Archives: Just Talkin Tuesday

A Mother’s support is key during mental illness

According to an article over at Scientific Daily, what Mom thinks of her child’s mental illness matters when it comes to that child’s self-esteem. The study, carried out by a sociologist at Northern Illinois University, found that more than any other family member, what a Mother felt and communicated in regard to her child’s mental illness (in this study it was specifically schizophrenia), carried the most weight with said child, especially when these views were negative.

What researchers also found was that the greater exhibited levels of initial symptoms and therefore lower self-esteem in relation to symptoms, the more likely the mother was to reinforce popular yet stigmatizing beliefs about the child in relation to his/her mental illness.

Despite the small size of the study (only 129 mothers of adult schizophrenics were followed over an 18-month period), I find this study interesting from a Postpartum Mood Disorder perspective. All too often, I hear about women struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder who have chosen not to share their diagnosis with their mothers specifically. Or have shared their diagnosis with their mothers only to be told to “snap out of it” or that “it will pass.”

Family is often our first line of support and defense when it comes to any illness. But when it comes to mental illness, for many, family is the last line of defense because we fear stigmatization and exile from those we love the most. This study also reminds me of another study which concluded after fMRI’s of both depressed and non-depressed women that  a Mother’s criticism caused distinct neural reaction in formerly depressed women.

Is all of this related to the intricate female to female  relationship? Do we really care so much about what another woman, especially our own mother, thinks about us that we are willing to allow it to so definitively shape our own self-view? I realize we grow up wishing to please our parents but why is it what our Mother thinks of us that tends to matter most?

As women, should we not always strive to be the best for ourselves, not caring what any other woman thinks of us, not even our own Mother? How do we break out of that mold? How do we grow past attacking each other, past the guilt of having let another woman down? How do we learn to live for ourselves in a society which preaches competition and rewards those who achieve so much on a daily basis?

When the Mom wars begin to affect how the mentally ill view themselves, it’s gone too far. When the Mom wars delay other mothers from healing and finding the support they so desperately need, it’s gone too far.

A mother is where you go when you need a hug. A mother is where you go when your soul needs to be soothed. A mother is peace. A mother is love. A mother is not harmful. A mother is not hateful. A mother is not a source of shame about oneself. A mother is home.

When a mother ceases to be love, solace, compassion, and peace, we have made a wrong turn. Even mothers who are struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders are all of these things—they are simply unable to elicit the reaction within themselves without a bit of help and healing.

When a Mother, who, for no other reason, sees her child as stigmatizing and reinforces low self-esteem in her child simply because of that child’s mental illness? We as a society should be ashamed.

If you’ve struggled with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, I would love for you to leave a comment about whether or not you shared your diagnosis with your mother—if you did or did not, why? What was the reaction?

Let’s get to Just Talking.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Boundaries & Burnout


The above video is of flight attendants on a flight from the Philippines. They have a very creative approach to help their passengers pay attention to the safety measures one needs to know while flying. At 1:38, you hear the voice making the safety announcements begin to say, “If you are traveling with a child, first put on your own mask and then your child’s mask.” All too often we find ourselves, as mothers and women, caring for everyone around us except the one person who matters the most – ourselves.

For quite awhile, my three year old had an infatuation with The Velveteen Rabbit Story. He wanted us to read it to him at nap time and bedtime. So we did. In reading this story to him, there was one section of the tale which truly epitomizes the lengths to which we go as mothers to please our children and those around us. Rain suddenly started falling and the little boy in the story had to rush inside after playing out in the yard. In his hurry, he forgot the Velveteen Rabbit. The little boy goes on with his afternoon and does not realize the Velveteen Rabbit is missing until it is time to go to bed. As his mother tucks him in, the little boy asks for the Velveteen Rabbit. In our version, the mother gets a flashlight and goes outside to fetch the lost rabbit. After searching in the rain, she returns with the drenched Velveteen Rabbit, handing him to her son. The boy is happy as he clutches the soaked toy close to him and quickly drifts off to sleep. The official version of the story reads like this:

And once, when the Boy was called away suddenly to go out to tea, the Rabbit was left out on the lawn until long after dusk, and Nana had to come and look for him with the candle because the Boy couldn’t go to sleep unless he was there.

He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron.

I admit, I will search down a toy for my child. But to go out into the rain with a flashlight or a candle? Not in this house. There is a line I refuse to cross.

Yes, it is our job to care for our children. It’s our responsibility to ensure they have the basic necessities of life and feel comforted. It is also our responsibility to ensure that the care we give them is of the highest quality. If we consistently drain ourselves day in and day out, we have nothing to give to ourselves those around us. Our children deserve more than fumes. Our husband deserve more than fumes. And our friends deserve more than fumes. Above all else, WE deserve more than fumes.

This week’s #PPDChat was about Putting on your oxygen mask before putting on someone else’s. While helping others through their pain is helpful and allows a great distraction, it can also be draining. You may be more on edge, more likely to over-react if there is a crisis, and more likely to put that person before your own needs. There are fine lines which need to be respected, lines which need to stay firmly planted between you and others as you heal. It is important to be able to step back from the issue at hand and soothe yourself. Recognizing when you need to do this is hard to do if you are running on fumes.

According to, you may be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

They recommend using the “Three R” method to cope with burnout:

  • Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout
  • Reverse – Undo the damage by managing stress and seeking support
  • Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health

Down the page, they also examine stress v. burnout. Definitely worth checking out.

I impose boundaries on myself. Some of them should probably be stricter and I am working on that. In order to preserve my own mental health these are the things I currently do:

  • Take a mandatory nap on Sundays (Although I skipped this past Sunday’s nap – first one in ages)
  • Go to sleep early if I’ve had a rough day
  • Listen to music
  • Eat Chocolate
  • Turn off my computer when my kids get home from school until they go to bed
  • Don’t watch newscasts
  • Say NO if it’s going to overload my plate
  • Watch a lot of comedy
  • Laugh
  • Love

I have even been known to put myself in time out with my kids in the room if I am getting too on edge with them. I have started asking myself if I am upset with them because they’ve been doing things I’ve asked them not to or because I’m being selfish and doing something I want to do and instead, ignoring them when they legitimately deserve my attention. I’ve been amazed and shamed at how often it’s because I’m selfishly taking time to myself when they genuinely need me to help them with something. As I’ve been closing my laptop and leaving Social Media behind when the kids are home and awake, these times have decreased and our relationships have been soaring. I’m glad to be plugging back into what really matters – my family.

Do you have boundaries you refuse to cross? Things you do to recharge your batteries? What are they? Let’s get to just talking.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday 01.25.11: Buried under Mama Guilt


Original Graphic by Lauren Hale, Author, MPV

Mama Guilt.

What does this mean to you?

In your life, right now, what invokes this emotion within you?

Is it when you work? Is it because you don’t work outside the home?

When you do something just for YOU?

When something goes wrong? When you lose control? Fail at perfection? Compare yourself to another mom who is perfectly wrapped and coiffed?

Yelling at your kids instead of gently guiding them toward the desired behavior?

Sleeping when you should be up at the crack of dawn because it’s just not motherhood unless you throw yourself under the bus every second of every day?

Wondering if your child is missing milestones because of something you did or didn’t do?

Are you enrolling them in enough extracurricular activities? Engaging them?

Or are you sitting on your computer chatting on Twitter, reading blogs, commenting at blogs? Judging other moms?

Chiding your husband? Wishing you could stay home with the kids instead of going to work?

Doing ANYTHING without your kids?

Loving bedtime?

Loving naptime?

Mama Guilt.

Dangerous ground, this emotion.

This week’s Just Talking Tuesday isn’t really a conversation starter. Perhaps it is – but I want to issue a challenge along with it.

This week? Pick ONE thing which causes you the most Mama Guilt. Write it down on a piece of paper. BURN THE PIECE OF PAPER. TEAR IT UP. DESTROY IT. LET.IT.GO.

Then Post here. Tell us what you destroyed, how you destroyed it, and why. Let us know how we can help you keep moving away from your guilt. Alone, we are powerless. But together? Unstoppable.

Let’s do this.

Just Talking Tuesday: What is your solace?

I often wake up to the sounds of screaming children. Not just children playing, children screaming. And actually, it is more than often. I would say 90% of the time we wake up to screaming and arguing children. Given that I am not a morning person, having to dive right into mediating World War III does not usually go well. One of the first things I do after things are settled is make coffee. The scent of freshly ground beans mixing with boiling water soothes my soul. It takes me back to my grandparents.

I also love to cook. This morning I made myself an egg white omelet with baby portabella mushrooms and swiss cheese. Not only was it delish, but it was very soothing to make.

Music soothes my soul too. I listen to quite a range of music these days – a lot of things I’m willing to bet most people would never picture me listening to, even if they follow me on Twitter and are privy to my random music tweets. I love upbeat pop music, hip hop, latin, alternative, rock, classical and flamenco guitar, you name it, I’m there. Except for the Rolling Stones. And the Beatles. Although, today, for the first time ever, I heard a Beatles song that did not annoy the ever loving tar out of me. There’s hope yet for those young lads from Liverpool in my life.

Making loose leaf tea is also soothing for me.

I also like to drive on the open road, windows down, music blasting, nowhere to go, nowhere to be…. just me, the road, and some awesome tunes.

Sitting on the front porch while staring at the birds, rabbits, the cows and goats across the street at the farm, the zillionth cars getting lost in our neighborhood, breathing the fresh country air – I love all of these things.

Reading. Watching movies.

Going to church. Reading my bible (which I need to do more!)

These are healthy solace practices for me.

I lean toward the unhealthy when I clean. Or brush my hair. Or clean. Mostly clean. I don’t clean a LOT because I get afraid I will go overboard and cross that inappropriate line. And no, it’s not an excuse to keep a messy house. I have to go slow when I clean because if I don’t, I won’t sleep, I won’t eat, I’ll just clean. Which is great for the house, not so great for me.

What about you?

What are your healthy solace practices?

Your not so healthy practices?

Let’s get to just talking!

Just Talking Tuesday: How did Postpartum change your view of Mental Illness?

To be honest, before Postpartum crashed into my life, I had no clue what a real person with mental illness was like.

I watched Girl, Interrupted in college. I took a Psych 101 course to meet requirements for my undergrad degree. I knew the terminology. I had seen movies.

To my knowledge, I had never known someone while they were depressed. No one had ever talked to me about the possibility of mental illness in the family.

I went through a lot of grief as I grew up. I knew pain. I knew heartache. But I had not equated myself with someone who was depressed at any time. I had no idea what depression looked like on me because no one had ever talked about the possibility of it happening to me.

And then I got pregnant. I had a daughter. I became trapped in hell. Furious thoughts darted through my head. I couldn’t keep anxiety out of my life. I closed all the shades in our home. I refused to leave the house unless I had to do so. I felt our neighbors judging me. I felt the people in the grocery store judging me. But no, I wasn’t crazy. Not me. Crazy was for everyone else. Not me.

But maybe.

The maybe is what got me to the doctor’s office. The doctor who told me I didn’t have Postpartum but agreed to set me up with the in-house therapist anyway. The therapist who kept rescheduling. Then I cancelled.

Then we moved. I relied on myself. On the internet. I thought I healed. We got pregnant. Had another daughter. She was born with a cleft palate and needed to go to the NICU immediately. I totally lost myself that day. I continued to slip further until Day 56 when I was hospitalized for a nearly psychotic reaction to medication. It was in the hospital that I realized Mental Illness is NOTHING like what the movies showed us. Nothing like what mainstream media shows us. Nothing.

People with mental illness? Are PEOPLE, people. Humans. Like you and me.

What scares us about mental illness, I think, is that it shows us that any one of us is vulnerable. Our mind, the one thing over which you think you have control, is compromised in mental illness. But therein lies the issue. Those who have struggled with mental illness – whether themselves or alongside loved ones, know there is no snapping out of it. Those who have not are convinced that those who have mental illness are just acting. That we can turn it off at our every whim. Thing is? Most of us would love nothing more than to do that very thing. But we can’t. It takes time to heal. Even then, there are mental illnesses which persist a lifetime. Mental illnesses which are severe and debilitating. Mental health treatment and therapy has made some progress. But in the same vein, the stigma existing within American culture is deeply ingrained despite an increase in education efforts by mental health advocates.

What has to happen before we accept the mentally ill as part of our society? Before we jump to conclusions and rush to stigmatize the experience and diagnosis of others?

Just today, I read a story over at Strollerderby about the tragedy in Arizona. Do you want to know what they used as a picture? A straight jacket. Yes. A straight jacket. I tweeted the following in response to their tweet about the story: “Shame on @strollerderby for their story about Jared Lee Loughner. SHAME. A straight jacket as the photo? Really? #STIGMA” I never received a response. In going to get the link for the story, I noticed the photo has since been changed. The tweet was never retweeted. No other tweets were directed at them about the story under a search for @strollerderby. I’m grateful they have changed the photo.Thank you.

One of the biggest reasons I speak up about my experience with Postpartum Depression and OCD (and honestly, probably PTSD after my daughter’s NICU stay) is because when I was at the hospital, a Psych Nurse told me I did not have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. Even then, in darkest of places, I knew it was not right to hide my experience. Even then, as a struggling new mom with a special needs child, I knew I had to find support. Staying silent would get me nowhere fast.

I raised my voice. I was open. Honest. Brutal. Raw. Insistent. Firm. Empowered.

Almost five years after my second daughter’s birth finds me here today. Blogging. Hosting #PPDChat. Freely supporting other mothers who have also chosen to speak up about their experiences. Encouraging new mothers to speak up about their experiences as well.

Mental illness changed my life.

It changed the lives of those around me as my advocacy empowered me to educate them about my experience and the experience of others.

Mental illness may well have saved my marriage as my own struggles with mental illness enabled me to better cope with my own husband’s depression and subsequent admission to addiction.

For me, mental illness was not a negative experience.

When I gave birth to my daughters, I also gave birth to a mental health advocate. It just took me some time to find her.

How did Postpartum change your perception of mental illness? Did it change the lives of those around you? Have you changed the lives of others as a result of your Postpartum? Let’s get to Just Talking.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Reflections

Everyone seems to take time at the end of the year to look back toward events which transpired in their lives. While it’s important to look back to remember the past, it’s also important to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. You are where you are. Not where you have been, not where you will be when your journey is done.

Rather, you are where you are in this very moment.

Part of recovery involves realizing from where you have come and to where you will go as you heal.

Today, I challenge you to not only look back at the past year but to look forward to the coming year.

2011 is YOUR year. It’s a year during which you can make the best of anything heading your way. It’s a year during which YOU advocate for yourself, don’t take no for an answer, set small goals to reach recovery. You can do this. You can.

I know you feel alone. I know you’re scared. I know you feel lost down there in the dark.

You’re not alone down there.

No matter what your story, no matter what your history, no matter what you think is holding you back, we have all been where you are. We have all felt that something holding us back. We have ALL felt swallowed by the bottomless black pit filled with Postpartum Mood Disorders.

We care. We are many. We care. Let us care. Lean on us when you hurt. Lean on us when you don’t hurt. Lean on us when you can’t get up. Lean hard. We are here. We are love.

Now that you’ve gone through an entire box of Kleenex, I would love it if you would share your hopes for the next year. Keep them small and achievable. But keep them filled with hope.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’.

Just Talking Tuesday: On PPD, Work, & Motherhood

This week’s #PPDChat focused on PPD, work, & Motherhood.

Turns out it was quite the hot topic as both chats were very lively.

Guilt was a primary theme. Seems that nasty Guilt monster has infused himself into every aspect of Postpartum Depression. I hate that little bastard. I know you do too.

Guilt for leaving your children behind. Guilt for not wanting to be a stay at home mom. Guilt for not trusting others to care for your child so you could work.

And jealous guilt when your significant other did the lions share of the childcare because you were at work.

Like I said, I hate that little bastard.

One of the biggest issues I saw come up was that if, as an American, you may use up your Maternity Leave before baby even gets here. Then you’re forced to go back to work. Or, as was pointed out by another chatter, What if you’re the only one who can perform your job and it’s required you be there? Yup. No Maternity leave. FMLA? GREAT in theory. But crappy in execution because honestly – who can really afford to take 12 weeks off without pay? And if the company you work for has less than 50 employees? Screwed because they’re not beholden to FMLA.

One mom made an excellent point to consider when decided whether or not to disclose your diagnosis to your boss. She suggests you disclose ASAP so that all your appointments, etc, are covered by ADA. I would strongly recommend this avenue of protection. Especially if you are concerned about losing your job over required therapy appointments.

Don’t even get me started about Pumping Breastmilk at work. Oy. That needs to be a chat unto itself!

Some folks made it late to last night’s chat so I’m blogging the same topic today in order to give those who were unable to make the chat a forum in which to share, ask, and offer advice to other working moms also struggling with Postpartum Depression.

I hope several of you will comment. I am not a working mom. I worked before the kids and am looking to rejoin the work force (slowly) as I am finally in a space where I can handle the added responsibilities. I’m both excited and nervous. There is one thing I do know though, when I do return to work, it will absolutely have something to do with helping Postpartum families. Anything else would just suck. I am so not interested in going back to mediocrity and frustration. THIS is what I am meant to do with my life.

So… let’s get to Just Talkin!

Need to vent about work? Have a story to share? Did you share your diagnosis? Yes? No? Why? Why not? How did the Guilt monster attack you? Have any advice for working moms struggling with PPD? Share it all right here!


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Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The High Toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Original photo "DSC07197" by poodlerat

#PPDChat tonight got me thinking about the toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

A mom with a PMAD is Ground Zero. Her immediate family is in the blast zone, at highest risk for developing their own mood disorders, depression, or other accompanying issues. Extended family is just outsize the blast zone and quite often bowled down as they absorb the shock which reverberates as she flails for survival.

As Mom recovers, Dad may sink into his own dark pit, unaware of what is happening, unwilling to admit his own demons in the dark. Why? Because Dad is the rock, the hinge on which the moon is hung. His family needs him. Depression is a sign of weakness. It does not happen to real men.

Oh, but it does.

Just as Mom has cleared her last hurdle, Dad sinks even further away. He is angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Lost.

Mom questions her own recovery as Dad lashes out. He is incapable of giving her space in which to grow. Incapable of recognizing her growth, her recovery.

Anger quickly eclipses any rejoicing.

Stress and angst fill the air of the home, adversely affecting their children, their lives, their relationships with friends, families, resulting in isolation.

Their marriage spirals downward. Their children act out.

Their lives fall apart.

Granted, the above does not happen to every PMAD family. But a PMAD affects so much more than just Mom. It truly affects the whole family. My PMAD’s damn near destroyed my own marriage. My husband self-medicated after our second daughter. That did not fall out until after the birth of our third child. What a spectacular fall out it was though. I nearly walked away. Instead, just as with my PMAD, I chose to turn and fight. Fortunately, so did my husband. We were supported by members of our church, our Pastor, and family members as we fought savagely to save our marriage. I wanted to give up several times. So did my husband. We have shared this with each other and in doing so, moved to a new level of communication and trust. It has been a long, bumpy road.

One worth traveling.

While I would not want to do it again, I would not change a thing about my past six years of hell. For they have hewn me into a strong woman, a strong Christian, a strong wife, and a strong Mother. I can finally say I am blessed. God saw me through my storm. I know there are more storms brewing out there. I’m okay with that. Bring it. I am ready to tell those storms just how big my God is these days.

However; if there was one thing I would like to toss out the window it would be the exposure to anger, arguing, and stress for the kids.

I did not choose to have a PMAD. But they certainly don’t deserve to suffer from the ripples set in motion from my experience. I think this is one of the biggest things I struggle with as a remnant of my PMADs. The anger, guilt, rage over their exposure at such young ages to such a harsh environment. Sure, it could have been worse. But they certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. Neither did I, but they truly are the innocents in all of this. And for that, I am remorseful. Resentful even that my PMAD’s stole their infancy and my enjoyment of their infancies from me. If I could toss one thing in a toll booth bucket and be forever done with it, it would be my remorse and resent over what my PMAD’s did to my kids. I wonder every time they misbehave if it is because I was depressed. Do my daughters have ADHD because I was depressed? What about my son? Are my daughters resentful that he and I have a stronger bond because I didn’t have a PMAD with him? Will they be able to rightfully accuse me of having a favorite? How will I explain myself down the road?

It’s enough to make you blink back tears and choke back anger all at the same time. Nauseating, really.

SO. As I take a deep breath and choke back some of that anger and blink back tears, what remnant or part of your PMAD do you wish you could just toss away and be done with forever? Get it off your chest.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ this Tuesday.

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Just Talking Tuesday: Depression, Super Glue, and Bonding

All too often we are shown over and over and over again those scenes in movies where a mother, who has just given birth, lies in bed in beautiful nightgown complete with a bed jacket. Her hair is perfectly coiffed as she is handed her baby. She instantly knows how to hold this perfectly quiet and peaceful infant. Her face softens as she oooohs and ahhhs as the camera goes all vaseline and fuzzy while sappy music swells in the background.

I don’t know how your births went, but mine were nothing like that. My hair was everything but perfectly coifed, I was wearing a frumpy hospital gown, and I had no clue what to do with this squirming thing now in my arms who was screaming at me like some sort of pissed off Banshee. The second time around, I knew what to do with the little one but she could not cooperate because she was physically unable to do so. The third time around went much much better despite the persistent lack of perfectly coiffed hair and no sappy music.

No one tells new mothers at their baby showers just how hard birth and those first few weeks will be on us. It’s all fun and games, cute frilly or frocky clothes in blue, pink, or some other pastel. Even if we do know what to expect, depression can still slam into us after birth. It is not something we choose. Not something we can turn off at the drop of a hat or just because you want us to be happy again. It takes time to heal.

One of the biggest things depression or a mood disorder affects is a mother’s ability to bond with her infant. The best way to describe this feeling to someone who did not have a problem bonding with their infant is this:

Let’s say you hate cats. You don’t know why but you do. You visit a home with a cat. Said cat decides that YOU are a brand new BFF and relies on you for everything. Meows at you constantly, purrs, wraps itself around your legs, curls up on your lap, and wants you to pet it every second you are there. This interferes with your ability to have an adult conversation with the friend you came to visit. Suddenly your thoughts are sliced in half, then in quarters. You’re distracted, frustrated, your blood pressure rises, you may even begin to itch or manifest physical symptoms as you try to detangle yourself from the cat.

The difference between someone who hates cats and a mom who is depressed and doesn’t bond with her child is that somewhere, deep inside, that woman LOVES her child. She does. Even if she is not showing it, she does. She wants to bond to that child and is desperate to try anything.

Motherhood is something we add to our sense of selves though, not something which should overtake our sense of self. We should not superglue the baby to ourselves and miss out on life because we are a Mother. There needs to be a balance, a sense of old and new. It is a hard line to walk. A hard line to find. An almost invisible line to find if you are a mother with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. But it’s there. You just have to be patient and wait for it to slowly reveal itself.

I struggled with bonding with our first two daughters. Our first because I had not a clue what to do with her, even apologized to her at 7 days old because I did not know how to talk to her. Our second because she was physically separated from me at less than 24 hours old and sent to a NICU in another city over an hour away. I would later find myself wailing that I wanted to leave her at the hospital. We did not bond until she was nearly three years old and back at the same hospital in which she spent time in the NICU.

I bonded well with my third though but I did not struggle with Postpartum OCD or Depression that time around. We had all the warm fuzzies and after a few weeks if you listened closely enough, you could hear sappy music in the background.

I know my issues with depression and OCD interfered in my ability to bond with my babies. But today, I try so hard not too look back and be sad. Instead I try my best to bond in the here and now because that’s what matters. I cannot change the past. I can only work to improve the present and make the future even better. (Believe me, it’s taken me almost 6 years to be able to say that!)

Did your PMAD affect your bonding? How? What was your experience?

Let’s get to just talking.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday: How can you tell when “normal” is returning?

Every Friday, I am the volunteer on duty for Postpartum Support International’s warmline. (That’s right – you can call for them for help and I’ll actually call you back on Fridays! It’s staffed every day of the week by amazing volunteers though!) A few months ago, right after I started volunteering, a woman named Joan phoned the warmline. We talked and she used the term “Warrior Mom.” If you read Katherine Stone’s blog, you know that’s how she refers to Postpartum mamas. I asked Joan if she read Katherine’s blog. She said she did. Somehow we ended up talking about my blog as well. Turns out she reads mine as well. By now, we were both practically in tears. I had never spoken to someone who actively read my blog before. To hear the emotion in her voice as she talked about how much it meant to her truly blew me away. Joan and I have kept in touch via email since then. It is with her permission I share her story with you.

Joan emailed me today to ask a question of me. As soon as I read it, I asked her for permission to post her words to my blog. She agreed and I hope y’all will provide some good feedback for her current concern. Without further ado, here’s Joan’s email:

Hi Lauren:

I hope all is well with you. I have contacted you in the past, and I hate to be a burden, but was wondering if you could shed some light or your perspective on something I have been thinking a lot about lately. During the recovery process, how does a mom know if she is getting “better” versus the normal adjustment period to motherhood. PPD/PPA throws you all off and it’s hard to remember what “normal” is, especially when nothing is normal anyway after the birth of a baby. I have started a new med (2 weeks in – gradually increasing and so far – knock on wood- no weird side effects) and I know I need to be patient with it for sometime still, but I’m stuck in that conundrum. Is this PPD/PPA or is this a normal feeling? I think when you become a mother you give up so much naturally of yourself and you become someone else (for example I will forever be Joan plus J’s mom plus working Joan plus friend Joan, etc. etc. ) and need to merge all of those identities together. It’s hard when PPD (and the darn anxiety that about kills me at times) makes life so unbearable at times. It would be hard without the evil beast mixed in to straighten that all out in my head.

If I can ask, what were signs for you that things were returning to “normal”? Or, is there a common theme amongst survivors about when they knew that they were beginning to get well? I have read a lot of blogs, but am looking for any kind of advice if you are willing to share with me (if you don’t mind).

Any words of encouragement/advice/insight you can provide are always appreciated! Thanks for everything you do!

Warmest Regards,


My husband and I cajoled each other about our “new normal” after the birth of our second daughter. NICU, Cleft Palate, crash course in at home neo-natal care, both of us on antidepressants before it was all said and done, yeah, there was no going back to our own normal life. Hell, I think Normal may have even sprouted wings and flown to Jamaica. Not that I blame it at all, just wish it had offered a ride or at least one last romp before bailing.

I know my new normal settled in slowly. At first there was a routine of what I did when I first got up in the morning. Then I would add a new thing the following week. I stopped obsessing about how much milk I pumped because instead I was munching on chocolate. I began to think of pumping as me time instead of “I have to do this” time. I had more days of happiness versus irritability. I began to realize slowly that a bad day did not mean a downward spiral. I knew my signs and triggers and more importantly, I knew how to stop them. The world around me seemed to brighten. For me, recognizing my arrival at better involved my ability to take better care of myself WITHOUT guilt or anxiety about those around me not being able to function if I did take time away from them to do so.

What did “better” look like for you? Do you still struggle with adjustment to motherhood? What’s the most challenging for you as you journey/journeyed to better? Let’s get to Just Talkin’ and help a mama out in the process!