Category Archives: Postpartum Anxiety

Saturday Sundries: Is Postpartum Depression only tears?

Happy Saturday, y’all!

It’s been grey here all day. Within the past hour, we have had torrential downpour, thunder, no lightning, and the sky is now a bright white instead of a dark lingering grey. I have been down for the count since Thursday night with Strep. I’m on the mend though, and managed to go for a drive this morning to escape the house. I ended up in a little town named Good Hope. Lately it seems to be where my car likes to take me when I need to get out and breathe. You can read more about my journey there at The 3six5 Project tonight at 8:00p.m.

There has also been an air of tension over my hometown for the past few days. The situation has resolved as of early this morning and we are all breathing much easier today. I’m not disclosing the reason because I would hate to trigger anyone inadvertently. All that matters is that it resolved without any further tragedy and all is well once again.

Today I am grateful for local law enforcement, tylenol, ibuprofen, and antibiotics. And I cannot wait until I can hug my children close again!

As always – the answer below is not meant to be complete or professional in any sense. Always seek a professional’s opinion in regard to your own situation. Everyone does not always have the same experience.

Today’s Question: Is Postpartum Depression only Tears?

No. It’s not.

Sure, tears may be involved somewhere. But they may not be involved at all. I have had so many mothers share with me that they didn’t think they had PPD because they were not crying lumps. Thing is, there are many different Mood Disorders on the Postpartum Spectrum. These include but are not limited to:

  • Postpartum Depression
  • Postpartum Anxiety
  • Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
  • Postpartum Psychosis

You’ll notice that I did not include the Baby Blues in the above list. It’s not there because it’s not considered a psychiatric disorder. The Baby Blues happen to many mothers – up to 80%. When the blues last longer than a few weeks and/or go beyond simply weepiness or moodiness, it is time to get checked out by your doctor.

Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency. Postpartum Psychosis has a fast onset. It may involve hallucinations (both auditory and visual), an incapability of making decisions for oneself, and delusional thinking. A mother with Postpartum Psychosis should NOT be left alone either by herself or with an infant. This means not even in the next room – someone needs to be with her at all times. She should also be admitted to the ER as soon as possible.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the disorder with which I struggled, involves what are called intrusive thoughts. These thoughts often include visualizations of harming our children or ourselves, but unlike Postpartum Psychosis, we are immediately repulsed by these thoughts as soon as they flit through our heads. We struggle to control them and often will create a blizzard of IT’s with no end in sight as we get lost in the ever expanding tunnel of negative “what-if” thoughts. I recently wrote a post about whether or not these thoughts go away. They fade and get easier to control but they never really go away, a difficult reality for many to face. I am a little over 5 years past my last PPOCD episode. I still have the occasional thought but I am able to stop them quicker and they do not happen nearly as often.

Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome can be triggered by a negative birth experience or anything within the birth/newborn process which is perceived to be traumatic by the mother. The worst thing you can ever say to a mother with PP PTSD is that she’s silly for being so upset over such a small thing. Clearly, if it is causing her issues to the extent that it interferes with her daily living, it is not a small issue for her. Mothers with PP PTSD will avoid the place at which the triggering event took place – such as the hospital, doctor’s office, midwife’s office, etc. She may also struggle with graphic triggering dreams, intense anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, and flashbacks. It is important to note that PP PTSD can occur in conjunction with any of the other mood disorders, and may even be the triggering point for the development of other disorders such as Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is my own opinion because I believe I had PP PTSD with my first and second daughters which then led to my OCD. My first birth was very traumatic and my second birth led to a month long NICU stay for our daughter.

Postpartum Anxiety is marked by constant worry about things which don’t need to be worried about, hyper-vigilance, overwhelming sense of doom, inability to sit still, racing thoughts, and possible physical symptoms such as dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea. There is help available for Postpartum Anxiety and you are not alone in struggling with this.

Postpartum Depression, while involving symptoms of crying and sadness, also involves feelings of anger and irritability. Not many people think of depression being angry, but for many, this is how it manifests. You may also become overwhelmed with feelings of shame, sadness, and guilt. Motherhood is supposed to be a happy time for us mothers. For those of us who develop a Postpartum Mood Disorder, we become ashamed for not feeling how society expects us to feel. We struggle to ignore these feelings, leading only to a more serious and urgent situation down the road.

Bottom line, Postpartum Depression is not just tears. It might be anger, irritability, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, hallucinations, flashbacks, panic attacks, shame, guilt, and hyper-vigilance. Just because your wife isn’t weeping her way through her postpartum period does not mean she does not have a Postpartum Mood Disorder. There are so many varied ways in which this can manifest.

Please also remember that Postpartum Thyroiditis may masquerade as a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It is important to get your thyroid levels checked to rule this out as if it is Postpartum Thyroiditis, an entirely different type of medication will need to be used to treat the condition. In fact, anti-depressants may make things worse if a thyroid issue is the root cause.

Don’t tell her to snap out of it. Tell her these things. Tell her you love her no matter what. Be there for her. Let her cry on your shoulder if she needs to do so. Encourage her to see a doctor but know you can’t force her to do this UNLESS she is a clear threat to herself or to others (ie, threatened suicide or harm to others). Recruit help for housework. For childcare so she can rest. Having a baby is hard work. Raising one while struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder is hell. We need all the help we can get. She may not say thank you immediately but one day, in the future, she will be ever grateful for all you did for her when she needed you most. She will say thank you. One day.

Protecting yourself: Coping with Negative News & Current Events

I experienced a traumatic birth with my first daughter. When I came home, I ever so brilliantly watched CNN Headline News most of the day when my husband was at work. I also watched a lot of movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation but the CNNH was my default setting.

For the most part, it was background noise.

Until the reporter would start talking about something absolutely horrific. Or they would show graphic pictures. Or they would obsess over the same negative news for hours at a time. Which, let’s face it, happens a LOT on the news these days.

I remember Hurricane Katrina. I was depressed, pregnant with our second daughter, and more than likely should not have turned on the Television. But I did. BAM. Triggered.

After the birth of our second daughter though, I turned off the news. I turned off any medical dramas. She spent almost an entire month in the NICU. For me, my life turned INTO a medical drama. Without the appearance of George Clooney or Goran Visjnic, unfortunately. I did not need to leave the hospital to come home and watch ER or Grey’s.

I limited my exposure to news. I did not go to CNN’s website or watch their channels. Same with Fox, MSNBC, local news, etc. I was safe.

But then I found Social Media.

On Social Media, it is HARD to ignore current events. Especially on Twitter where the majority of stories take off before any news outlet even picks them up.

I follow one news outlet on my feed. Only one. I may even drop them. If my Twitter feed is blowing up with news I find triggering, I close my laptop, shut off my Twitter app on my phone, and focus on the kiddos, myself, and laughing. Sure, I could let myself drown in the speculation, the negative spirals downward, and the ebb and flow of drama. But I choose not to do so. It is not because I do not want to be informed. I very much want to be informed. I just want to be informed on my terms, not on the terms the news outlets seem to think I need to be informed upon.

Much of the time, news is sensationalized in order to turn a profit. It’s meant to make you gasp, elicit an emotional response, and stay glued to your TV or buy the newspaper. There is a reason you do not see happy, non-sensationalized news very often. It is because frankly, it does not sell papers.

If news and current events trigger you, turn off your TV. Cancel your newspaper subscription. Think of other positive things you can do with the money you’re spending on that paper subscription – like a massage or even therapy!

If you MUST read news, go here: http://www.happynews.com/

Think of turning off the news as a necessary step in self-care as you move toward recovery from your Postpartum Mood Disorder.

What other triggers do you find you need to protect yourself from? Share your trigger and coping method below!

 

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Pamela via 2 much Testosterone

For those of you who are still fragile, watch this Sheryl Crow Video. Don’t go read these posts. Seriously. They’re good but not worth risking your mental health over.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIYiGA_rIls]

 

Usually for the Postpartum Voice of the Week I write an intro, point out the strong points, admire the authors writing.

I’m not doing that today. Not because there’s a lack of either one of those things but because I would end up sharing the entire post.

What has happened to Pamela (@lotsospermies) this past week is beyond inexcusable. It speaks to the level of disregard for those who live among us and struggle with mental illness, especially mental illness related to the postpartum period.

We are human. We deserve dignity and respect. We are not stupid. We are not morons. We are you. We are hurt. We are fighting to be well. Respect that. Listen. HELP US. Do not lock us away. Don’t tell us to be silent. We refuse to suffer indignities in the dark any longer. We are here. We are not afraid to speak up. We are not afraid.

Pamela courageously and in a raw honest voice shares her experience with her readers.

I’m sharing it here.

Go. Read. Share some words of hope with her.

Based on a True Story (Part I)

Based on a True Story (Part II)

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On the First Day of PPD Dismissmas: A Wailing Mess in a Pear Tree

On the first day of Dismissmas,

Postpartum sent to me

A wailing mess in a pear tree.

 

Many mothers struggling with Postpartum Depression are not weeping, wailing, messes. Instead they may find themselves struggling with anxiety, irritability, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, jealousy of the other parent, a loss of desire for previously held hobbies or interests, etc. Also important to note here that a mom with a Postpartum Mood Disorder may be perfectly capable of putting on a mask to fool others (and herself) into thinking she is perfectly normal.

The baby blues may cause random bouts of crying or mood swings for the first two to four weeks after delivery for some new moms. If these symptoms get worse during or do not dissipate after the first month after giving birth, please reach out for help. 1 in 8 new moms go on to develop a full blown Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. You can get in touch with an ever growing network of knowledgeable moms and professionals through Postpartum Support International. PSI can be reached via their website or their warmline at 1-800-944-4PPD.

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Postpartum Voice of the Week: Label me and put me in a box

I received the following via email yesterday. I read it as my son ate his lunch. I let it marinate overnight. This morning I decided I couldn’t keep it to myself. So I emailed the author and asked for permission to share her words with you, dear readers. Her words are powerful, descriptive, and captivating. Here’s a mom who had a glowing first pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The second time around things did not go quite so well. Here is her story in her words.

 

This is my story.

 

Label me and put me in a box. Then tell me how to get out of it…

That is all I am asking

Please … PPD is killing me from the inside out…

Getting Pregnant, with my first little girl was easy; I got pregnant so quick I could not believe it. I had the most wonderful experience being pregnant with her. My hair was glowing; my face was rosy; I was able to exercise right up until her birth and only gained 23 pounds.

Carsen came into this world flawless and was absolutely beautiful. I felt that connection right off and was enamored by her. She was everything, she was my little mini me.

Eighteen months later we decided to try again. We knew we wanted one more whether it be a boy or girl. We couldn’t care less as long as she/he was healthy.

I was never thinking about Postpartum; it never crossed my mind. I just knew it was going to be just as easy as the first, no doubt.

Wow, was I wrong.

Started trying in December of 2007 and every month without fail I got my period up until June 2008. So me being a worrier thought the worst and went to my OBGYN.

She suggested I try fertility pills. So I tracked my cycle and tried it and I thought it had worked the first month but did not and I got my period again… By the middle of August I was exhausted from worrying and not being pregnant.

It was not until my mother told me “Janna you are so blessed, you had a wonderful pregnancy and you have a healthy daughter maybe that is what God intended for you.” It hit me and I just let it go and gave it to GOD. If I was never meant to have another child I was happy and blessed.

Then in November my period was late, but I was not even thinking about it; so on a whim I took a pregnancy test and It was positive. We were elated.

This was the beginning of my descent…

Because the election was going on, that was all that was on TV and I kept hearing about and seeing Sarah Palin’s son who had Down syndrome. Well my anxiety kicked in and I worried myself to death that the baby might have DS.

I had a CVS test done in January 2009. Everything came back normal and we found out early on we were having another little girl, we had already picked out name a year and a half ago; Marley after Bob Marley. What a relief…? No…

The next month I was upset because we were living in this little town home with no room. I spoke with my husband and we decided to put our home on the market in the worst economy since the 80’s.

I stressed myself out so much, because we could not sell our home yet we had to keep it so clean all the time and my poor sweet daughter could not play with her toys like she wanted because mommy was so scared she would run into the walls and make a mark.

We spent so much money on staging and getting the place fixed up to sell. We were still in new construction and competing with builder prices and being the smallest town home in the neighborhood was hell………

I would go to bed crying myself to sleep calling my mom and brother all the time… I did not realize how much stress I was putting on myself or my baby until I put myself into preterm labor.

I was in the hospital for six days in June of 2009……

My husband was another story.

We had been having problems since January of 09. I was dishonest with him on something and finally came clean and he was just being a jerk to me about going into pre term labor; saying I did it on purpose so he could not go to Bonnaroo (it’s a hippy thing). He went four days without speaking to me.

On top of everything else, I was gaining so much weight with her, I put on 50 pounds with her and began hating myself………daily I would look in the mirror and want to puke from the sight of my reflection………

I could not be on my feet for very long so I had to lie in the bed and watch hours of crap on TV ……… I was miserable and she was kicking me up in my rib cage so I was in pain as well…… I wanted her OUT OF ME……and during all of this we were having several showings on our home…

I look back now and think why didn’t we take this stupid thing off the market… Nevertheless, I was on a mission; I wanted out of that place.

After sitting for 45 days I was angry at my home; I was finding things to dislike about it everyday… I wanted out of that place and it was about to get worse.

Finally on July 16th Marley was born, healthy but had two birthmarks at the time both on her leg… It bothered me but not too much then.

Came home from the hospital and was on a high; however she cried all the time and we knew she cried way more than our first born. At first it was ok…… tried to breast feed plus take care of a 3 year old…… some women can; I cannot……I was not made to be super mom…… We barely slept, I was up every 2-3 hours pumping and feeding, and during the day Marley would not take naps and she cried incessantly………

Finally in August the doctors told us she had Colic. I pumped until September of 09 and finally let my boobs dry up……very painful and hard to do…

Still during all of this I was showing the house and handling a colicky baby and 3 year old… I would sit at home with Marley and stare at the walls because I was too afraid to go anywhere because she had this horrible cry that would not stop.

I was embarrassed by her for crying and she had developed two strawberries; one on top of her head and one on her forehead for all to see…

I could not stand them, did not take pictures of her. I was worried people were staring at it and also I was irritated when people would ask me what it was and say “ I hope it goes away….”

I hated it… Then I decided I wanted to start losing the 50 pounds I had put on while I was pregnant so I had a brilliant idea of starting on Phenteremine and also cutting my Zoloft in half because I felt I did not need it………

Realizing I just gave birth less than 2 months prior… BIG MISTAKE…

At that point I knew something was different with me emotionally. I was yelling at the pharmacists and crying for no reason, trying to compare myself to all the moms who looked great right after giving birth, and hating myself and my body…

By the end of September we finally got an offer on our house… crappy offer, but we accepted and it was SOLD; funny thing was that I was not happy about it…

I knew I was going further down emotionally… I started to not want to be around Marley as much… Her strawberry on her forehead was getting bigger and I hated it and did not like the way she looked… how horrible for a mother to have those feelings.

On top of all this, she did not stop crying she cried all of July, August, September and October… it was painful and draining… I did not feel close to her at all and was regretting even having another baby at that time.

I felt lost and lonely… My husband told me I was a horrible mother and that I couldn’t care less about both our children; I felt like I was being kicked while down for the count, my own husband was against me.

He could not understand the pain inside of me. I wanted to get in my car and drive to somewhere till the road ended and never turn back… I was scared to be left alone with both kids, I started having horrible, painful thoughts in my head, I knew they were wrong but they wouldn’t stop.

I was having continuous anxiety attacks, my primary doctor upped my dose of Zoloft and my therapist was nice but I don’t think she got the pain I was in.

Friends and Family started to notice that I was crying from the drop of a hat and just staring off into space for no reason… I could not sleep … Thank God I had Ambien at the time because I would have been committed and not voluntarily… And to top it all off I was the maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding in October… I was running on empty…

Oct 24th 2009, My best friend got married, I looked like an overweight smurf…it was horrific. I did not smile or even try to help my best friend get ready, I could not concentrate, I knew I was at the top of the hill and after that wedding I fell and fell hard.

Driving home from the wedding I had my first anxiety attack… I felt like my skin was turning inside out. Thoughts encompassed me. I was actually on the verge of insanity (at least I thought)… what the hell was wrong with me?

I walked in the door and my husband was like “What is wrong with you?” I tore my 300.00 bridesmaid dress off and threw it in the trash…… I could not sit down, I was sweating, I was crying, I was shaking. I was confused; I didn’t know what was going on with me. My husband was just sitting there watching me pace back and forth with this disgusted look on his face.

That night I took an Ambien, I fell asleep but at 1.00am I woke up in a sheer panic… I could not sleep; my heart was beating out of my chest… Fears of my children were surfacing all around… I walked up and down the stairs, Marley started crying and I started to hate her for that… why does she always need something!!!!!!! It was consuming me.

I was irritated all the time, I had no patience what so ever; feared everything. Feared something bad would happen; what if I dropped her, what if I got in a wreck and she was in the car, what if I lost control? It was the scariest feeling in the world. Where did it come from?

What came and took all my confidence away from me and made me so frightened of being alone with my children or not being fit enough to be their mom, of feeling extreme guilt because I felt as if I would never ever get out of this box I was shoved into.

I was in sheer panic, I felt ashamed for feeling this way, I felt alone and afraid because my husband was not understanding at all. I had no one, absolutely no one who understood and that was the scariest thing.

I finally plucked up the courage to call my mother in law and all I said was “I can’t do it, something is wrong with me, I need help.” It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I had to openly admit that I was incapable of being a mom.

I was having such bad anxiety that I could not do anything, and the more the anxiety the worse my derealization got. The derealization is another story in itself. I could not go anywhere or be seen by anyone other than family members. It was debilitating. My sister in law came over to help me for the rest of the week.

My husband was still very much a cause of my anxiety because of his lack of concern or compassion. I could not go to work; I could not function… It took everything I had to get up; not because I was not getting enough sleep but because I was so scared and my anxiety was through the roof.

I tried to find help by searching the internet and seeing what was out there and it scared the hell out of me… The internet can be more of an enemy than a friend… Time was actually standing still.

I felt like I was finally feeling a little better and getting stronger but knew deep down I was still scared to be alone with the children, not because I would hurt them but because I felt as if I was incompetent as a mother and I would never be able to be a great mom and raise them like I saw other people do.

I was seeing a therapist but she did not have children and did not truly understand how I felt… I felt lost and alone in this big city…

I woke up each morning welcomed with fear and anxiety. My mom who was 6 hours away could only do so much over the phone… I was getting worse and worse…

I did not feel this medication was helping me. The anxiety was getting to be too much and I was falling into a depression…

I felt ashamed; I prayed to GOD every two seconds to help me through the minute, the hour, the day, and the week, “Please Lord let me get through this… I will not be able to live anymore if I have to continue to feel and think this way……”

I have never in my life thought about suicide, but I was thinking that if I cannot escape this than why even exist… I could just take a bottle of my sleeping pills and make all this pain go away… My daughters would be better off without me, everyone would be better off…

Of course looking back now I know that was selfish and horrible, but when you are at such a low point in your life; let’s just say I understand.

Your mind is the most powerful thing and it can play such horrible tricks on you.

December 3rd I was admitted to hospital for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

I have actually for the first time in my life reached the absolute bottom. No light exists, I feel like a pariah…I don’t belong but I do belong. I need help and I am getting help. I requested to stay longer so I could attend every group therapy session and all the classes. If I was here than damnit I was going to give it all I got, no matter how hard it is…

I have made a recovery.

I still have my moments of anxiety, and I lost my confidence during all of this… I used to be able to do anything and now some things just scare me… but with the help of the best psychiatrist in the world and my wonderful therapist I am a million times better than I was back in December of 2009.

My PPD started in September-October 2009 and it took me until Feb-March 2010 to start feeling like myself again…

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Media Sensationalism, AOL, and Postpartum Mood Disorders

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Oh, hey.

You’re here. Excellent.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

Why am I counting? You’ll find out in a bit. For now, just go with it.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

In the United States, from October 2008 through October 2009, 4,148,000 live babies were born.

The statistical rate of Postpartum Mood Disorder is up to 20% of all new mothers. And by new, I mean just gave birth, not first time mom. Postpartum Mood Disorder is one of those fabulous non-discriminating kinda things which will walk up to anyone and cold cock them for no reason at all. Regardless of how well prepared said person may be. It’s kinda like getting mugged. Repeatedly.

This means that from October 2008 – October 2009, approximately 829,600 new mothers more than likely struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder at some level. This means 2 out of every 10 moms struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder (hence, the counting).

There is no data which tells us how many of those 829,600 mothers sought help.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

I have been in the trenches with Postpartum Mood Disorders since 2004. You see, I had a very horrible episode of Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first daughter. After her birth, vicious thoughts swirled about in my head. Visions too. Instead of enjoying my brand new baby’s time here, I was swallowed whole with anxiety, shoved into fight mode to protect her from myself, and left thinking the whole world was out to get me because they knew how much I sucked at this whole motherhood thing.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

For the record? I did the right thing. I called my doctor and made an appointment. I had to take my daughter with me because my husband was unable to get off work. So off we went, into the wild blue yonder where this thing called Help lived. We arrived, waltzed through the front door and signed my name with a flourish because dammit, we were there to do the right thing.

Only my doctor was not there to do the right thing.

He was there to judge me. To inform me that all my hormones had slid magically back into their little slots at 4 weeks postpartum and there was nothing wrong with me.

Whaaaa????

Wait a second.

I JUST handed you a scale. On which I answered YES to having thoughts of harming myself AND my child. And YOU, a trained medical professional, are dismissing this? Did I miss something here? I am no professional but.. uh… um…. really?

THEN… oh then… the icing:

“How important is breastfeeding to you?” he asked, quite seriously as he peered at me from behind his large and imposing wooden desk as my daughter screamed her head off to be nursed beside me.

I should have gotten her out of her car seat and started to nurse right then and there. But I didn’t. Shock slacked my jaw and curled my mouth into a grin. This “professional” clearly did not have the capacity to help me. I smiled my way right out of the appointment and drove home with tears sliding down my face. You see, the Internet had told me just what to do – to go seek help. To make an appointment with my doctor. The Internet had said nothing about what to do when you are shot down by your doctor.

So there I was……driving baby, me, and my shattered heart all the way home. Alone. Isolated. Abandoned. Scared as hell.

Never before in my life had I experienced a hell quite like the one in which I now found myself mired. Never before had I, a perfectly normal person prior to giving birth to my daughter, given any thought to harming another person. NEVER. And the day on which I discovered my pregnancy? There was no way I would have ever thought that less than three months after giving birth I would want to go back in time so I would never get pregnant. I wanted to run, hide, make this new me go away.

In what state did all of this take place?

South.Frigging.Carolina.

Just a couple of hours away from Orangeburg and less than 45 minutes away from where Susan Smith, well, you know.

Let me tell you a bit about rural South Carolina.

There is nothing in rural South Carolina. Small towns there are devoid of much of anything. Residents in these towns are intent on keeping outsiders out and insiders in. We barely made any friends while there. The town in which we lived seemed to have some sort of an addiction problem as most wandered around mindlessly. The poverty level? Wow. We were on the high end of the scale for living because we: Rented a HOUSE instead of a trailer and owned TWO cars instead of one or none at all. The house we rented was tiny. But that didn’t matter. We were considered to be upper class in the town despite the fact that we were just squeaking by on my husband’s salary as a restaurant manager.

In this town, there lived a family everyone knew to avoid. They didn’t have running water so they never bathed which made them reek to high heaven. If you were fortunate enough to be at the local Wal-mart or Bi-Lo when they were, you learned to walk to the other side of the store if you saw them coming.

High School graduates were also hard to come by as well. Many young people had to go to work early to help support the family. They worked at whatever they could find – sometimes driving long distances for good jobs. Even then it was hard to get good work because the jobs in the city were very picky if you lived too far away. Understandable concern but it really does put a crimp on improving your life when you are living in the middle of nowhere and cannot afford a move into the city until you get a better job which of course, you can’t get because you live too far away. It is a very vicious cycle.

Oh, and the Klan had a central PUBLIC meeting location.

And yes, you read that right.

Bottom line here – South Carolina has problems. A lot of problems. Many states do but never before in my life had I witnessed a perfect storm – poverty, ignorance, and a lack of support for its residents.

Since I have left, there has been the development of a Postpartum Coalition there. I’ve been asked to speak at their annual conference in October 2011. I am really looking forward to coming full circle with my experience and helping to educate providers and citizens alike in a state which so desperately needs raised awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Why did I just walk you through all of that history?

Earlier this week, a mother in South Carolina was arrested for the deaths of her two toddler sons. According to news articles, she was unemployed, frustrated, and had some heated words with her mother the night before the incident. This mother has since confessed to her actions and is now in jail facing court and charges.

For some reason, various members of the media have dragged the idea of this mother having Postpartum Depression into the Speculation surrounding her case. Now, Dr. Arlene Huysman, author of The Postpartum Effect, an excellent book which examines why mothers kill, postulates that Susan Smith and others may struggle with something called Progressive Postpartum Depression.

Here’s how she describes it on page 43 (empasis mine):

“The mother with progressive postpartum depression (PPPD), however, does NOT recover without treatment. She merely experiences a hiatus until her next episode. Subsequent episodes are very often triggered by rejections, separations, and losses, and recur throughout the woman’s life. Usually the next episode is worse than the last. If this pattern goes unchecked, the mother will spiral into a cycle of illness that can destroy her life and her family.

When a mother is in the grip of this disease in its most serious form, she passes beyond reason. In the place of the capable woman is one full of dread, rage, and confusion. She feels unloved and unlovable and loses her ability to distinguish right from wrong. She may hear voices in her head and be listening to them rather than the voices of her family. This is not a symptom of schizophrenia, but rather a reflection of her own obsessive thinking. Death may become a preoccupation. She is in the throes of what feels like an unending despair.”

Yesterday, (Please do not click on the following link if you are still struggling as it may be triggering.) AOL News contributor, David Lohr, published an article about this South Carolina mother at AOL News. In the original version, he included a quote from criminal profiler Pat Brown. Ms. Brown, based out of Washington DC, has been featured in many outlets including CNN, Court TV, and various other sources. Makes perfect sense to get a quote from a criminal profiler for a case involving well, crime.

But David Lohr and AOL news made an egregious error in their publication of the quote by Ms. Brown. AOL news has since removed the quote from the story and appended the story with an editor’s note to this effect. Ms. Brown has gone on the defensive in regards to a very public and viral outburst by many of the women I am proud to blog and tweet with on a daily basis.

The offensive quote:

“Most women who suffer depression after their children are born are suffering from post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life? They may be depressed, but it is their situation and their psychopathic personality that brings them to kill their children, and not some chemical malfunction.”

If most women were truly suffering from “post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life” then all we would need is a personal trainer or plastic surgeon, a nanny, and a million dollars to effectively change our stars. Oh wait – speaking of stars, don’t celebs have this too? Bryce Dallas Howard had it. Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, and many others. Granted, they did not kill their children but they still struggled (even severely) with Postpartum Mood Disorders. And they had access to all the help in the world.

Postpartum Mood Disorders do not just strike poor down on their luck moms.

Postpartum Mood Disorders are NOT the only possible explanation for filicide.

Postpartum Mood Disorders may not be definitively caused by a hormonal or “chemical malfunction” but study after study shows there are differing rates of various hormones of women struggling with PMD’s. Researchers have not yet defined what this means yet but I suspect that with sustained research we will get closer to answers each and every day.

The ignorance of Ms. Pat Brown in making such a sweeping statement in regards to an entire population of struggling moms is highly irresponsible. With her reach and popularity as a commentator for several national shows including the Today Show, the CBS Early Show, Larry King, Inside Edition, Nancy Grace, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Joy Behar, and America’s Most Wanted as well as featured on the Court TV show I, Detective, it frightens me to hear her make such a grandiose and untrue statement. The possibility that a hurting mother somewhere may have read her statement and then dismissed her own issues scares the hell out of me.

We, mothers who have struggled with Postpartum Mood Disorders, have issue enough with gathering strength to make that first call for help. We become convinced we are bad mothers. That we have failed and will never get better. We talk ourselves down even further the rabbit hole into which we tripped after we gave birth to children we love more than life itself.

Moms with Postpartum Depression are NOT:

Bad Mothers

Mourning the loss of our previous supermodel body

Tragically sad because now we have a little person stuck with us

Moms with Postpartum Depression ARE:

Madly in love with their children

Good moms who want to heal

Desperate to find reliable help

I can’t even begin to fathom the damage this statement has made. I have had more mothers tell me they are a bad mom because they are sad. It’s not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be happy. I don’t love my son, daughter, husband, etc. What is wrong with me? The confusion, angst, sorrow, frustration, guilt, all adds to their journey with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Then if they are unable to find the help they need (like me), they are left to their own devices for recovery. Unfortunately, some of us never find the right help and are not surrounded by empowering people who can lift them up and guide them toward recovery.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder or hurting, sad, upset, and thinking of harming yourself or others, PLEASE reach out for help. If it’s after the birth of a child, you can call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4PPD. Volunteers check the messages on a daily basis (I’m one of them and these ladies are DEDICATED. We will get you in touch with someone in your area who can help you). If you need urgent help, please go to the nearest ER. If you’re feeling suicidal, you can call 1-800-273-TALK anytime of the day, even at 2am on a Sunday.

I remember that sense of isolation. The need to reach out and talk with someone who has been there and done that was overpowering. The desperation I felt in my incapacity to locate professional help. I tried for four days before I broke down to call my doctor. I hung up as soon as the automation came on the line. Have you ever tried to admit to someone that things are NOT okay when you are supposed to be at your happiest, especially according to Johnson & Johnson? It is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Hands down.

Fittingly, Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud just came on Pandora as I’m wrapping this up.

I thank everyone out there who got LOUD yesterday to let AOL, Pat Brown, and David Lohr know how wrong they were.

AOL, you need to apologize. The quote should never have been published to begin with.

Pat? I challenge you to read Dr. Huysman’s book, The Postpartum Effect if you have not already. It’s available at Amazon. Hell, I might just mail you a copy. Anyone else want to flood her office with copies? It’s about $15 or so. If that wouldn’t get her attention…..

And David Lohr, the next time you need a quote about something related to Postpartum Depression? Try Postpartum Support International. I believe they know a thing or two about Postpartum Mood Disorders.

This week’s Postpartum Voice: Miranda of Not Super Just Mom

Miranda of Not Super Just Mom, is sharing as this week’s Postpartum Voice. She’s been hosting guest bloggers on the topic of  PPD/PPA over at her place this week as part of Mental Health Month and the D-Listed Blog Hop. Miranda and I met via #PPDChat at Twitter (I’ve been meeting SO many new moms there lately!) and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her.

Miranda’s story starts out with disappointment after delivery didn’t quite go the way she had planned. I’ll let her tell her story in her voice now….

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you one thing. I am an over-achiever. I expect my best from myself in all things. I do not settle. I never have. Slowly, however, I’m learning to accept that sometimes my “best” has to be “good enough.”

I began battling depression in late high school. I fought with anxiety and depression off and on for years.  Once I got to college, I had pressure to keep my scholarships, to not disappoint my parents, to make sure I paid my mortgage and car payments and insurance and utility bills on time. To maintain a social life and find the person with whom I was going to spend the rest of my life.

I finally got help during my junior year of college when I broke down and realized I couldn’t continue to live the way I’d been living. What I was facing was something bigger than me. The clinicians and psychiatrist who helped me were amazing and I owe them a debt of gratitude for teaching me how to “deal.” While I was in treatment, I met a wonderful guy, got married, and set out to suburbia. Eventually, we decided to expand our family.

I knew I was meant to be a mother.  I knew that I would be good at this.  It was my destiny.  How could I not be a natural?

So imagine my shock when, two days after having my beautiful plans of a natural, vaginal, med-free delivery shot down due to “failure to progress,” I found myself crying into my meatloaf.  Apparently, someone having an “inappropriate response to meatloaf” has become code-language in my doctor’s office for “watch out for this one.  She’s on the fast-track to medication.” Or something like that.  But see, that wasn’t normal.  And I didn’t know it.

And when I wrote that post, the anger over my C-section was definitely present.  I was angry.  I am angry.  Even now, 14 months later.

And that’s how my PPD/PPA started.  With anger.  And bitterness.  And resentment.

And then the anger and bitterness and resentment turned into sadness over how things didn’t go the way I planned.

And then I heard the words “you’ll have to supplement” at my son’s first newborn visit after being discharged and that’s where the no-no “F” word started creeping in.

FAILURE.

I had only been a mom for five days and already I was a failure.  I’d failed to get him here the way I’d envisioned.  I’d failed to keep him from losing 10% of his birth weight because my stress and anxiety over the surgery (and the pain! Sweet baby Jesus in a manger the pain) kept my milk from coming in.

And I just KNEW that supplementing would be doom for breastfeeding for us.

And then I’d be failing at yet ANOTHER thing and I was BARELY EVEN A MOTHER YET AND HOW CAN I ALREADY BE SO BAD AT THIS?!?!?

When my one-week postpartum check-up came around, Peggy-the-PA and Dan and I discussed my “inappropriate response to meatloaf” in the hospital while Joshua, ever the little stinker he is, slept peacefully in his carseat.  A carseat that he HATED for the first four months of his life (which effectively trapped me in the house because the sound of him screaming would send me into what I now think were mild panic attacks…WHILE DRIVING).

While we were at that visit, Peggy wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant.  She thought it’d be a good idea for me to go ahead and start taking them.

But I didn’t.  Because I wanted to believe that I was stronger than that.  I wanted to believe that this was just the “Baby Blues” and that they’d go away and I’d realize that I was a natural at this.  That I was a PERFECT mother.

But I wasn’t.  I’m still not.  And the “Baby Blues” didn’t just evaporate.

It didn’t help that a mere seven days after giving birth, I was flying solo with this tiny bundle of lungs and poop.  I couldn’t drive because it still hurt to sneeze, so I still needed to take pain medication. But I couldn’t take pain medication and be home all day with the baby because what if he needed me and the medication made me drowsy and I was sent a baby who wouldn’t sleep so there was no “sleep when baby is sleeping” in this house for at least three weeks.

I resented my husband.  I resented the fact that he got to leave every day and go to work.  He got to get out.  He got to see people.  If I tried to leave, even to go to Target, I’d have the baby screaming his tiny baby lungs out the whole way there.  The whole time we walked around the store.  The whole time we drove home.  It just wasn’t worth it.  So I didn’t leave.  And when Dan left for work, I’d cry.

And because I was so mired up in my own grief, I didn’t feel connected to my son.  I’d read blogs written by women who would gush and gush about how when they saw their baby it was love at first sight and they knew instinctively what to do and what their baby needed and part of me screamed “THAT IS BULLSHIT” and then part of me cried.

Because that’s what I wanted.  I wanted that instant bond.  That connection.  That look from my baby that said “You are my mommy and I know this because I have heard your heart for 40 weeks and 5 days and it is the greatest sound in the world and I love you, Mommy.  And I promise to sleep all night long and save all the poop-splosions for Daddy.”

And I didn’t get that.  Even close to a year out, I still didn’t feel that.  Even now, there are times where I look at my son and go “WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM!?!?” because he and I just don’t seem to understand each other very well.

The times that I felt most at peace were the times when my mother came down to spend the day with me.  She’d get here early in the morning and do a load of laundry or dishes or sweep my floor.  And then?  Then she’d hold Joshua while I napped in the bed.  It was glorious.  But it was brief.  My reprieves from the resentment were short-lived.  I knew she’d leave soon, so when it would be time for her to leave, I’d get all anxious in the pit of my stomach and I’d feel the lump forming in my throat.  And then she’d walk out the door and I’d be choking back tears and trying to hold it together.

And in the midst of all of this, Joshua was diagnosed with reflux and a milk protein allergy.  Which meant mixing up little packets of Zegerid twice a day and me cutting out all yummy dairy goodness for as long as I planned to breastfeed.  Me and Oreos became BFFs because they are totally, completely dairy free.  And some days, I’d eat Oreos.  All day long.  That’s almost all I’d have to eat.  Maybe I’d sneak in a graham cracker and some peanut butter.  But I didn’t have much of an appetite, despite the fact that I was a dairy-free dairy cow.

(I think the fact that we finally got breastfeeding worked out is the only thing that helped me keep it together.  It’s the only thing I knew I didn’t totally suck at, even though it had its own set of drawbacks…like growth spurts, and nursing every hour, on the hour, all.night.long. AND GIVING UP CHEESE AND COFFEE CREAMER.)

At my six week postpartum visit, I finally admitted to Peggy, and my husband, and my mom, and myself, that I needed to fill the prescription she’d written me six weeks earlier.  I knew that this was not something I could do alone.  So, I drove to the pharmacy, filled the prescription, and started taking them that night.

And I didn’t feel instantly better.  I still have days where I don’t feel better.  I have days where I just want to cry.  Or where it physically hurts to move my body because I’m just so weighed down with my thoughts.  And there are times when Joshua screams (um..hello…he’s a Tiny Terrorist.  That’s pretty much all he does is scream) and I feel my heart start to beat faster and I kind of lose my train of thought and I become robotic.  GET.DIAPER.ON.NOW.PICK.UP.BABY.NOW. And I just sort of “do” it.

One of the things I’ve come to realize through my battle with PPD/PPA is that I have to take every day as it comes.  I’ve also had to abandon the quest for “perfection.”  Nothing is perfect.  Especially not me.  Which is the purpose behind this blog.  I’m not perfect.  I’m never going to BE perfect.

I’ll have perfect moments, and moments where I go “Hey, I don’t suck at this!” but I’m not going to have those moments all the time.  The “perfect” world of mommyhood that I envisioned for myself prior to actually being a mom doesn’t exist.

And slowly…slowly, I’m becoming more and more okay with the lack of perfection in my life.  And I’m finding something kind of perfect in the imperfection.  I’m finding me.

Miranda can be found at Not Super…Just Mom. She’d like everyone to know that she is not, in fact, a Supermom. But with a cape and a tiara she could probably save the world.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 10.27.09: What’s YOUR Postpartum Mood Disorder Story?

women talking in sunset

Original Photo taken by tranchis @ flickr

This site was started to help me re-frame an unexpected pregnancy after two rather nasty experiences with Postpartum OCD. Turns out that by doing so I not only helped myself but managed to help a lot of other women along the way.

There was a point during my suffering when I dreaded having to retell my story. Looking back I should have just typed the whole thing up and kept copies on hand – kind of like a resume. (Hey – not a bad idea if you end up having to hunt for a decent doctor!) But there came a turning point where my story began to foster a sense of strength and self. Finally I began to bloom.

We’re all at different points on our journey. Some of us are right in the thick of it, some of us a bit further out, others are fully recovered, some have relapsed and are struggling right back out thanks to the path we carved out the last time we fell down. But we are all in it together.

Rather than retype my entire story here (cuz that would take some time!), you can click here to read about “The Day” I was admitted to psych ward. And if you’re brave enough (ie, preferably not in the thick of it or relapsed) you can read another piece I’ve written here about some of the thoughts I had when things were so dark I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.

For me and for many others, telling our story or even venting has become a powerful source of personal therapy. It’s a way to just get some of the stress out of our body, our mind, and even possibly work through issues.

So let’s get to just talkin’ here. I want to hear your stories. I want to know what you’ve gone through/are going through. Speak up. We’re here to be supportive, compassionate, and lend our hearts.

I can’t wait to read what you have to share!

Speaking up across the blogosphere

I’d like to recognize the growing numbers of bloggers discussing Postpartum Depression here at Sharing the Journey. I’ll try to post a list like this each week. If you come across (or write) a great blog that includes a postpartum mood disorder experience and isn’t already on my blog roll, email it to me @ ppdacceptance at gmail dot com.

Today’s featured bloggers are:

Trying to find my way through Postpartum Depression (a newly diagnosed mom sharing her journey! Please go and say hi!)

Willis, Party of 6: Postpartum Depression (military mom shares her journey with four kids!)

Sisters from different Misters (Cassie) shares about “Things I’ve learned from my therapist,” a relationship which all started when she developed postpartum depression.

Jen from Tales of a Southern Yankee (a new favorite blog of mine) shares about her postpartum experience in a wonderful post entitled “Things we do not say”

And while the next link is not a blog, it’s a worthy read. An article from Wales which delves into the postnatal depression experience and encourages mothers not to suffer alone. You can read this article by clicking here.

TIME Magazine misfires debate on MOTHER’S Act

Awhile back, I was contacted by Catherine Elton regarding an article which was to examine Postpartum Depression and the Mother’s Act. The email somehow got buried and I did not get a chance to participate in the discussion.

It seems that it would not have mattered if I had been able to discuss my story with her.

Time published the story this week. While the online version has been modified to correct an error with Ms. Amy Philo’s story, you can still see the original version in the hard copy. (Which by the way, I am personally asking you to boycott – even asking if you can take the copy of TIME home from the doctor’s office in order to keep other moms from reading it! And make sure you ASK – because just taking it would be stealing and that’s illegal.)

The original version, entitled “The Melancholy of Motherhood” includes one quote from Carole Blocker, the mother of Melanie Blocker Stokes, a mother who tragically committed suicide after unsuccessful treatment for severe postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. The quote reflects Ms. Blocker’s confusion as to how someone could oppose the MOTHER’S Act, a bill which is designed to increase public and professional education regarding Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Frankly, I’m confused right along with Ms. Blocker.

The only survivor story featured in this article is that of Amy Philo, one of five recipients of an Outstanding Achievement for Mothers’ and Children’s Rights awards from the Citizens Commision on Human Rights or CCHR. CCHR was founded in 1969 by none other than the Church of Scientology, well-known to oppose the entire psychiatric field.

Amy has tirelessly worked against this bill for quite some time now but continues to be tragically misled. Few discussions with her have led to quite the round robin with Amy unable to come up with legitimate research to back up her claims. When asked for said research, Amy refers to her own websites instead of to specific research articles supporting her claims.

I happen to know that Ms. Elton did indeed interview fellow survivors who support the bill. One has to wonder then, why did their stories not make it into the article? Was it length? Was it editing? Or was it intentional? Regardless, the finished piece as published presents a very frightening and deceiptful picture of what new mothers face is this bill is passed. To begin with, the MOTHER’S Act no longer mandates screening. It requires a study to be completed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius) as well as funds for an educational campaign for both caregivers and the general public.

I agree that just because a new mother shows emotion she should not immediately be diagnosed as having a PMAD. I also believe that a woman should have free choice when it comes to her treatment decisions and should NOT be judged for those choices. I chose to take Anti-depressants. My first prescription did not work out. But my second one did. Just as with any other medication, sometimes they don’t work so well with your system. So you try another one. You don’t suddenly take your own care into your hands – that’s ridiculous. Would you try to heal a broken leg or diabetes on your own? No? I didn’t think so. So why would you rely solely on self-care when it comes to mental illness? Self-care should be part of the picture but it shouldn’t be the ONLY part of the picture.

I am so tired of being judged and accused of not having informed consent. You know what? When I made my decision to go on Anti-Depressants, I had carried around an informational packet about AD’s & Breastfeeding given to me by the NICU Lactation Consultant with me for a week. I read that thing through and through. I was exclusively pumping for my daughter at the time and did not want to jeopardize her receiving my milk if I ended up having to take something. But I couldn’t function. I couldn’t take care of my family, I couldn’t take care of myself, and a lot of the same thoughts were coming back. Negative, scary thoughts about knives and hurting myself and my family. Yet I wasn’t on anti-depressants. I needed to be able to function. So I made a very informed decision to do so, one I do not regret to this day.

TIME – I am very disappointed in your lack of sharing both sides of this debate. Very very disappointed.