Category Archives: Postpartum Thyroid Disorder

NIMH Gets Failing Grade for Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Chat

Last week, a friend of mine tagged me in a link on FB to give me a heads up about a NIMH chat this week about Perinatal Mood Disorders. Of course we were looking forward to it and hoping it would be a worthwhile discussion. I nearly missed it on Friday morning (May 16, 2014)  thanks to a nasty case of food poisoning which knocked me off my feet for the better part of this week. But, I managed to dive in just 10 minutes into the chat.

It was…….awful.

Stilted.

Non-engaging.

Spouting of facts and just the facts, according to the NIMH. (They managed to screw up a few things. Don’t worry, I’ll go there. Oh, yes, yes I will.)

Self-promotion and only self-promotion. No real response to the powerful Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Advocates who showed up until we started really pushing back. Even then, their response was still stilted.

Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the NIMH began repeating tweets from the beginning of the chat instead of answering the flurry of questions coming in from those participating.

If NIMH handed this chat in as a graded project, it would have received an F.

When I asked what was being done to encourage medical professionals to become better educated about PMAD’s, this happened:

NIMHChat Congress

Yep.

Congress MANDATED we pay more attention to PMAD’s. In fact, it got shoved in with the ACA. And we all know how well that’s going. After this response, I asked a follow up question asking how that was going – asked for hard numbers. Did I get numbers? Nope. BECAUSE THE ATTENTION MANDATED BY CONGRESS LACKS FUNDING AND THEREFORE ATTENTION.

I’m okay, I’m okay. *deep breath*

There was also this lovely moment in chat:

NIMHChat Snafu

I know, right?

Because we ALL got better by staying in bed thanks to depression, right? Right?

Instead of urging moms to get up, move, and care for themselves, the NIMH  provides them with excuses to stay in bed and well, suffer. Way to go, NIMH. WAY.TO.GO. *slow claps*

While I realize it is difficult to manage a large scale chat with several participants (something I have done myself, when #PPDChat was very well attended), there is absolutely no excuse for the following to happen during your chat:

1) Blatantly state misinformation/misleading facts about your topic. Particularly if said topic is subject to entrenched stigma and misinformation (which is why you are having the chat to begin with, right? Not because it’s a hot topic and you’re using it to draw people in…)

2) Not engage those who are participating – this is SOCIAL media, y’all. SOCIAL. ENGAGE. Like Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise. Even if you’re just going at impulse speed, ENGAGE for the love of ALL that is..well, you know.

3) Don’t repeat yourself word for word. It lets people know you’re unprepared.

4) Share resources other than your own. (see number 2 about social media).

5) Do NOT TREAT those participating with disdain, contempt, or as if they are idiots. They are attending your event which would be nothing without participants. Respond accordingly unless they are clearly bashing you (which we were not) and if they are bashing you, ignore them before you stoop to the level of responding with disdain.
Things to do during a Twitter chat:

1) Engage. Be Social. Greet people. Be happy and upbeat. SMILE through your keyboard.

2) Be knowledgeable and approachable.

3) Treat everyone as if they are your equal. They are there to learn, not to be kicked. Acknowledge their words, their struggle, their questions with the same respect you expect from them. You know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

4) Offer insight through connections and share resources from others in addition to your own. The only answer is not yours. Crowd-source and use the media at hand to enhance your chat.

5) Do your best to make everyone be heard, even if it’s through just RT’ing what they’ve said. Again, I realize this is difficult on a LARGE scale but if you have known experts participating, acknowledge them.

I truly hate when things like this go wrong because there is such a tremendous opportunity for exposure when a government agency holds a chat like this. I want to say I’m surprised at how things went but sadly, I am not. Instead of raising awareness and building hope, NIMH decimated the chat with a lot of tweets about nothing, leaving at least one person (and possibly more) with the idea that there is in fact, nothing a mother can do to prevent a PMAD:

NIMHChat PPD cause

And that, dear friends, is NOT the taste you want to leave in the public’s mouth when discussing PMAD’s. Because there is hope. There is help. We are not alone.

Go to Postpartum Progress to find women who are fighting back.

Or Postpartum Stress Center’s website.

Or Beyond Postpartum.

Or find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing. Or search the hashtag #PPDChat. Message me for the private FB group full of women who KNOW this is hell and yet are fighting back against it with everything they have.

We’re all here for you when you’re ready to reach out for help.

(And THAT is how you end a chat about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders).

*drops mic and hits publish*

Dear Sting, Postpartum Depression is No Joking Matter

Sting played a small venue in Chicago last night to promote ‘Last Ship’, according to this article written by Scott C. Morgan.

The article discusses the process Sting went through to bring ‘Last Ship’, a Broadway musical, to life.

Then at the end, is the kicker.

Though Sting is writing the score for “The Last Ship,” he won’t be appearing in the show. So Seller asked the singer how it will be for him to see other people performing his songs onstage.

 

“I imagine I’m going to have postpartum depression,” Sting joked.

 

Oh, Sting.

I have been a fan since I was a pre-teen and had to sneak off at my grandmother’s house to watch videos on MTV. Yanno, back when MTV actually showed videos.

You’ve been a source of solace for me in my dark times. I used one of your songs in a playlist of mine as I healed from my own bout of severe Postpartum OCD. The rhythm was just right and I liked the emotion it evoked within me.

But now?

I can’t do that.

Because you’ve said this.

In eight words, you have managed to completely undermine the seriousness of what I experienced. What millions of women experience every year. In eight words.

Do you see how easy it is to marginalize someone else’s experience? How easy it is to compare the hell that is a Perinatal Mood Disorder by saying you’ll go through the same thing as you watch other people perform your songs? While it may not be easy to see other people perform your art, I guarantee you that it is a hell of a lot easier than the depths of hell I and millions of other women witness as survivors and warriors in the trenches against PMADs.

We fight, Sting, for our fields of gold, fragile as we are. We fight because maybe, just maybe, tomorrow we’ll see a brand new day filled with hope. We don’t want to be the shadows in the rain, never coming home.

Please, think about what you are saying before you say it. Because when you do not think before you speak, you end up hurting people, minimizing their experiences, and comparing their hell to something which is not even close to their experience.

For now, I am gonna have to do the opposite of Rick Astley and give you up because you let me down.

Postpartum Health Activist Writer’s Monthly Challenge 2012

Hey y’all!

Over at WEGO Health, April is their Health Activist Writer’s Month. They host a 30 day writer’s challenge to go along with this month. When you sign up, you’ll get prompts via email for 30 days. If I remember correctly from last year, they do send them out in advance so you’re not scrambling to write posts at the last minute.

I will be writing a post a day for all 30 days. I hope you’ll join me in writing every day about health. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’d love to see what you have to say about each of the topics, too. Of course, I’ll be spinning the topics to relate to Postpartum Mood Disorders. I really hope you’ll jump in here with me!

All you have to do to join is click the banner below to sign up and you’ll be able to start posting once April rolls around.

Looking forward to writing with you! Let’s make sure Postpartum Mood Disorders are well-represented!

Giving up BACON for Mothers & Babies

Bacon Sacrifice Campaign for Postpartum Progress

To donate via credit card:

DonateNow

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

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!

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.

Tips on Identifying Reliable Health Information on the Internet

If you’ve landed here as a result of a Google, Yahoo,  Bing, or other search engine, you already know how many results you can get in mere seconds and even sometimes nano-seconds. Thousands! So you wade through the results hoping for reliable and trustworthy information. Unfortunately, not everything out there is reliable and trustworthy. And even if it is reliable and trustworthy, you should ALWAYS check with a professional prior to implementing or stopping any treatment.

Here are some general tips to help you tell the good from the bad (source: Medical Library Association):

1. Sponsorship
  • Can you easily identify the site sponsor? Sponsorship is important because it helps establish the site as respected and dependable. Does the site list advisory board members or consultants? This may give you further insights on the credibility of information published on the site.
  • The web address itself can provide additional information about the nature of the site and the sponsor’s intent.
    • A government agency has .gov in the address.
    • An educational institution is indicated by .edu in the address.
    • A professional organization such as a scientific or research society will be identified as .org. For example, the American Cancer Society’s website is http://www.cancer.org/.
    • Commercial sites identified by .com will most often identify the sponsor as a company, for example Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical firm.
  • What should you know about .com health sites? Commercial sites may represent a specific company or be sponsored by a company using the web for commercial reasons—to sell products. At the same time, many commercial websites have valuable and credible information. Many hospitals have .com in their address. The site should fully disclose the sponsor of the site, including the identities of commercial and noncommercial organizations that have contributed funding, services, or material to the site.
2. Currency
  • The site should be updated frequently. Health information changes constantly as new information is learned about diseases and treatments through research and patient care. websites should reflect the most up-to-date information.
  • The website should be consistently available, with the date of the latest revision clearly posted. This usually appears at the bottom of the page.
3. Factual information
  • Information should be presented in a clear manner. It should be factual (not opinion) and capable of being verified from a primary information source such as the professional literature, abstracts, or links to other web pages.
  • Information represented as an opinion should be clearly stated and the source should be identified as a qualified professional or organization.
4. Audience
  • The website should clearly state whether the information is intended for the consumer or the health professional.
  • Many health information websites have two different areas – one for consumers, one for professionals. The design of the site should make selection of one area over the other clear to the user.

MLA’s guidelines are an excellent starting point and should be used by anyone searching for Medical information on the internet. Many caregivers will also tell you to not search the web for information, especially if you have a Postpartum Mood Disorder. If you have a question and feel overwhelmed with doing research on your own, get in touch with a Postpartum Support International Coordinator, your midwife, or your doctor, and ask for help in doing research. Sometimes you may come across research or news stories that are not applicable to your situation that may cause triggering thoughts or increase your fear and anxiety without justification.

Another great way to check the reliability of a website is to do so through HONcode. HONcode, Health on the Net certifies websites with healthcare information. Their standards are pretty high and they certify on a random basis once a website has been accepted. (I’m currently working on acheiving this certification for this blog myself). Through HONcode, as a patient/consumer, you can download a toolbar or search directly from their site and will only be given websites that have been approved by them. Click here to learn more about the safety process at HONcode.

I also want to take a moment to mention that a good doctor or advocate will be compassionate, understanding, and work with you regarding your desired route of treatment. Good Caregivers and Advocates are able to stay objective and not allow personal experience to cloud their aid to those who seek their help. This does not dismiss advocates who have specialized knowledge of certain types of treatment however – what I mean by this statement is that if you approach and advocate with a question regarding an Anti-Depressant, they should direct you to research regarding that particular medication and encourage you to also speak with your caregiver. They should NOT bash said medication because they’ve had a bad experience with it. If the caregiver or advocate is not compassionate but instead dismisses or attacks your desired treatment methods, it’s time to find another caregiver or advocate for support.

As a Postpartum Support International Coordinator myself, I work very hard to support the journey the mother is on and the treatment route that best fits with her personal philosophy. I encourage the involvement of professionals – including her OB or midwife, a psychiatrist, and a therapist. I also encourage Mom to take time for herself, something we all forget to do from time to time, but is very important for our mental well-being.

So please remember to:

Thoroughly check the source of the information you are reading online using the above guidelines from the Medical Library Association as well as searching via HONcode for your information.

Double-check any information regarding starting treatment or stopping treatment with your professional caregiver prior to implementation.

Make sure your caregiver respects your opinion regarding your body. (You are of course, your #1 expert in this area!) If he/she fails to respect you, although it may be difficult, find another caregiver who DOES respect you!

Take time for yourself as you heal.

Sharing the Journey with Helen Ferguson Crawford

I met Helen at Facebook. (Yes, I spend entirely TOO much time there) She’s a wonderfully brave soul who is opening up about her recent experience with Postpartum Depression and Thyroiditis. Did I mention her daughter also had kidney reflux? Helen is one tough chick and I can’t wait to share her journey with you. In fact, let’s get started now!

HFC

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Helen Crawford when she’s just HELEN?

Hey Lauren! I am a happy, confident, empathic soul.

Every day I am a being that is – a mother, wife, architect, artist, advocate, gardener, speaker, and big city lover. Our children, Joe (age 5 1/2) and Nora (age 19 months) are hilarious, engaging little people.

Did your pregnancy and birth go as you expected or were there some unexpected experiences thrown in for good measure?

Both pregnancies were good! You know normal stuff – morning sickness, back aches. I was busy doing things that I love to do both times.

My due date for both my children was the same day, October 16th. Ironically, it is also the day my husband asked me to marry him. Now, were they born on that day? Of course not!

With just about every pregnancy and post-natal period there are unexpected experiences large and small. With my son Joe, it was a c-section, and a lousy bout of mastitis afterward. I did not have PPD following his birth. However, after the birth of my second child, Nora in Oct 2007, everything was great until the fourth month post-partum. I started feeling tired, overwhelmed, and my hair was falling out. I was always cold, and my skin was rashy. I was anxious and sluggish. Thus began a very confusing, insidious spiral downward, a complete descent into more than one post-partum related illness.

You too have tread down the bumpy cobblestone avenue of Postpartum Depression. Just how bumpy was that road for you? How did your journey start out?

Severe bumps. I have seen clinical depression up close many times, as a witness. Depression runs in these genes, and having it myself was one of my biggest fears.

In March 2008, my OBGYN tested my thyroid. The numbers were off and I was sent to an endocrinologist. I was diagnosed with (temporary) Post-Partum Thyroiditis. Post-Partum Thyroiditis mimics symptoms of depression and anxiety. Since I had wacky blood work – that must have been it right? The source of the anxiety attacks and lost feeling? That proved to be wrong. It took 6 months for my thyroid to return to normal, and when it did the panic attacks increased. In late August 2008 when my daughter was 10 1/2 months old, I stopped sleeping and eating entirely. And then I knew, PPD was here. Full, clinical post-partum depression/anxiety had been here the whole time, hiding behind abnormal blood work, an thyroid in overdrive, increasing anxiety about my daughter’s kidney reflux, and my role as a mother and practicing architect.

What were some of the things you did to get through your darkest days? How were you received when you sought help?

I pulled myself together as best as anyone in the scariest place they have ever been could. Used every inch of energy I had to find a psychiatrist that would see me immediately. I found a great one and also called my therapist, whom I had not seen since Nora’s kidney diagnosis in June. She met me after hours immediately. I saw the psychiatrist 36 hours later and started medication. Medication was and still is necessary for me. On that day I went the the psychiatrist, I called my office and was honest. My office was accepting. And then crawled back into bed to begin recovery, whatever it would become, and is becoming.

Oh – Practiced breathing. Meditation. I accepted what was now – this depression and that I was doing everything in my being to crawl out of it. Once the medication started working and my appetite nourished my strength, I started painting and writing again. I wrote about what it felt like to have this monster. I drew strength from these words and images. Here is a diary entry that I read and reread often:

Dear Post Partum Depression,

After the birth of my daughter, you silently slipped in, and settled down. I recovered from birth, hugged my family, and watched autumn change to winter, while you slowly grew. You hid behind other temporary, post partum illnesses, undetected. You fed on stress. You fed on fear, until I found myself in a black hole so deep, dark and terrifying. The sides were wet, damp and crumbly dirt; the width of my arms. Up far above, the sky was barely visible. Sometimes I could feel the sun for seconds. There in that place, I accepted that you were here. With intense fear, I stood up and gathered my army – friends, family, therapist and psychiatrist. But even at night, when I lay on the cool floor of my porch, listening for anything – birds, trains, wind – waiting for the anxiety attacks to stop, waiting weeks for the medication to work, waiting for sunlight, sleep and appetite to return, I knew you were not me. Depression, you are something that happened along the way – a situation. I accept this. You do not define me. I laugh, sleep, play with my children, talk with my husband, draw, paint, smile, pray, cry, spend days with friends and live. I climb, inch by inch, fingers dug in the sides, pulling myself up. Each inch I climb is a triumph. I am on this path that is life. My light shines from within.”

Support from a spouse/partner or family and friends is invaluable during recovery from a Postpartum Mood Disorder. What was your experience with family and spousal support as you recovered?

Everyone needs an army. My parents came for 3 months to take care of us. My in-laws supported us in many ways. My husband went to therapy with me and took care of the children every night for 4 months, as I was getting stronger. I am truly blessed. It’s been 8 months since I sought treatment, and I am heading towards remission. I’ll still be on medication for a while and that’s OK.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

I overheard the 19 month old say to her big brother, “stop whining Joe Joe.”

A Jon Stewart clip.

My son break/karate dancing like a pro.

What do you find the most challenging about parenting? The least?

The dynamics are always changing – this is the hardest. The least challenging of course is loving the pure joy these two bring us. Beats all the hard work!

Self-care is so important. Often we forget to Mother the most important person in our lives – OURSELVES. Share with us what you do when taking time for yourself.

Every mother knows that this is one of the hardest things to do, find time. I realized with the help of my husband and therapist that I always sabotaged my own free time. I didn’t let free time for me happen, because I did not know how. Now I paint and practice yoga – by myself. I see my friends more.

At Facebook, you host a group encouraging the support of the MOTHER’S Act. Tell us about your support of this legislation.

I am still amazed that there is not much understanding of this illness including in the medical profession. Research and public awareness are necessary! This is REAL. It’s not momentary sadness, weakness or weepy, female emotions. The women whom get through this are the bravest, strongest women in the world. Listen to their voices.

The Facebook group is starting to take off. Its called “Sign This- Post Partum Depression Mothers Act.” All the names are sent to the national petition list that Susan Dowd Stone is compiling. Names are sent per state, so remember to let us know where you live!

On the group page there is an opportunity to contact your individual senators.

And last but not least, let’s say you have an opportunity to share some advice with an expectant (new or experienced) mom about Postpartum Mood Disorders. What would you tell her?

There is no shame in having this illness or possibly having this illness. Sometimes it just happens along the way. It is awful, but treatable, and temporary with help. I would hug her and remind her she did nothing wrong, EVER. She just had a beautiful baby and the body is having bumpy time trying to recover. Speak up, seek help and find peace within, even if it means medication and an army of support. My daughter is the happiest girl I have ever met. As I recover, I laugh out loud about how I gave her all my happiness to go forth in the world. So now I’m in the process of re-growing mine!