Category Archives: recovery time

What Is Recovery?

In glancing through search terms which people have searched to find my blog, questions about Postpartum OCD are the most common.

The biggest question, and the one I dread the most asks, “Do intrusive thoughts go away?”

My heart breaks when I am asked if the thoughts go away because I know where they are – how they’re feeling. How FRUSTRATING it is to want to be with your child and not have any intrusive thoughts flit through your head as they snuggle close to you and  drink in that sweet angelic baby smell in the dusk of the evening.

I know it goes away.

I know it fades.

What stays, and what is difficult for those of us who have OCD to differentiate, are typical parental fears – the nagging fear that something might happen to your child when you’re not watching. THAT stays forever. It’s not intrusive, it’s a normal heightened awareness which comes with parenting. When you have survived OCD, however, it is extremely difficult to keep these normal heightened awareness type thoughts from spiraling into intrusive thoughts. We constantly battle to keep them from growing into giant monsters.

Recovery, at least for me, is not a cut-off date. It’s a constant involvement in awareness of my feelings, reactions, and coping methods in regard to the ever changing world around me. It’s ensuring that in addition to my daily requirements, I’m taking care of myself as well. Recovery is not a discharge notice from a hospital, nor is it the last pill swallowed at the end of a prescription. It’s not the final therapist visit nor is it uttering the words, “I’m okay.”

This is how the dictionary defines recovery:

Recovery Definition

What is recovery in the living world?

Recovery is life.

It’s living and moving forward with a tenacity learned in the depths of hell, a grip on enjoying all the little things and a determination to not go back. It’s knowing that even if I do go back, I have a road map to lead me back out again.

Recovery is self-care, self-compassion, and self-respect.

It is knowing that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Recovery is celebrating both the ups and the downs. It’s getting to know yourself SO well that you recognize the difference between yourself and depression/mental illness. Recovery is knowing exactly what to do when the ugly beast stirs to keep it from waking completely. It is about arming yourself with a cadre of weapons guaranteed to slay the succubus.

Recovery is acceptance.

It’s being okay with the tough days and providing a soft place to land when they happen. It’s having a support system in place for the bleak days, one that will also be there for the good days. It’s understanding that sometimes, you’re gonna feel angry about your mental health and that’s okay. It’s learning the range of healthy and unhealthy emotions and knowing when to reach out for help.

Recovery is being imperfectly perfectly you.

According to Alexander Pope, “To err is human.” Perfection is a fallacy (so is control). It is an impossibility we set up in our minds, a standard most of us will not reach. Do the best you can with what you have. There’s a special kind of joy (and peace) to be found when you let go of any expectations you, life, or anyone else may have forced upon you. When you are truly yourself, you shine.

Recovery is personal.

We cannot compare our journey to that of others. There are similarities, sure, but we each carry our own luggage and travel our own road. Our stories are as different as we are from each other. Knowing someone else has traveled a similar road helps. But it is absolutely important to remember that just because someone was at point X by a certain point on their Y timeline does not mean you will also be at point X at the same time. There are SO many variables to every story. It is impossible to compare so stop doing just that.

Recovery is…..

Your turn. What is recovery to you? Share below.

Question From A Reader: “Will I Ever Feel Like This Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me?”

A reader emailed me earlier this morning to thank me for my “fabulous blog.” But she also had a question about her current experience with her journey through Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

Below is her question and my response:

Her Question:

“I’m over three months into recovery – having therapy and taking anti-depressants. Although I have much improved – I’m more bonded with my son, my sleep and appetite is better, my anxiety attacks are reduced etc – I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever feel that true elation, true joy that despite everything becoming a mum is the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Should I still be hopeful that this will come as part of full recovery or should I be finding a way to accept that although, I now know I love my son, life is always now going to be a little more miserable?”

My reply:

“Sending hugs, first and foremost.

Second, I’m glad to read that your symptoms have lessened just three months into your recovery and you’re feeling more bonded with your son and your appetite and sleep have improved as well. Those are HUGE things.

Think of recovery this way – first, we have to take care of the essentials – the basic things which keep us going – like eating, sleeping, etc. After those things have sorted themselves out, we can then focus on secondary things, such as mood, etc. Mood can absolutely disrupt the primary but as we heal from mood issues, we must heal the primary first.

It took me a long time to get back to being able to truly feel elation and joy, but that journey and the length of it is different for every person, just as physical recovery is different for every person.

Just as with a broken bone or a severe injury, there will always be a “scar” or “phantom pain” but eventually you regain full use of the complete spectrum of emotions, even if it takes some time.”

Add your thoughts, experiences, or support below. Time to rally!

On Caring for Your Emotions After a Tragic Event

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to be close friends with Erika Krull. She’s an amazing woman and we have a total blast during football season. (Well, except this past year when our teams who RARELY play each other actually played each other. That was painful. But I’ve digressed.)

Erika writes over at Psych Central and is a practicing mental health counselor. We occasionally chat about mental health issues. This week has been no different and I was glad when she asked me, after I posted something on Facebook, for permission to share it with her readers at Psych Central.

I shared tips on how to take care of yourself after a tragic event, specifically in response to the events in Boston on Monday. Turns out they really apply to this entire week because it’s been a doozy.

To read Erika’s article and get some really helpful tips on how to care for your emotions after a tragedy, go here.

Thank you, Erika, for a wonderful piece, and for turning my struggles with Sandy into something meaningful. I sincerely hope it helps someone.

Who’s that girl?

“When you see her, say a prayer and kiss your heart goodbye
She’s trouble, in a word get closer to the fire
Run faster, her laughter burns you up inside
You’re spinning round and round
You can’t get up, you try but you can’t”

 -lyrics, Who’s that Girl, Madonna-

Innocent enough lyrics, right? Of course, given that they’re Madonna lyrics that’s an arguable statement. Yet these lyrics are so very applicable to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

As a mother with Postpartum Mood Disorder, we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning after a lengthy internal argument between “have to, able to, and want to.” We stumble into the bathroom where we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Raw. Unkempt. Barely awake. Depressed. Anxious. Angry. Petrified. Unrecognizable. So we hide her. We hide the girl in the mirror behind make-up. Behind a forced smile. We tuck her away in the corners of our mind and pretend to be okay for everyone else.

It works for awhile.

But then the mask begins to crack. Chips fall to the floor. We can’t replace them. The cost is too great. Exhaustion sets in, keeping us from fixing the veneer we have worked so very hard to replace. Our hearts and broken minds spill out into public view. We crumble as the pain of exposure overwhelms us. Frozen with fear we become deer trapped on a country road as vehicles race past us.

Until finally someone stops, gets out, and approaches us with compassion. They hold us and walk us back to ourselves, allowing us to lean on them along the way. As we awake each morning thereafter, the girl in the mirror begins to look a bit more like us. Sure, we still have our raw, unkempt, angry, sad, depressed, exhausted days. But in between those days, we cautiously regain our glow. Our eyes once again transform into a beautiful stained glass window to our soul instead of the broken window to the dark soul of the depression or anxiety which has gripped us for so very long.

But the window to depression or anxiety which exists in our eyes, jutting deep into our souls, will never fully close. It stays open, even if just a centimeter. Each time we falter, fail to live up to our own impossible standards, our mind will scurry to that window to measure the opening, to see if it’s widened. We will check and re-check, not believing original measurements equal to the original. Eventually we walk away somewhat satisfied but never fully believing we are recovered.

Depression and mental illness thrive on doubt. They thrive on suppression, stigma, and questioning of our own abilities whether from others or the internal struggle for sense of self. Even without mental illness, we question ourselves our entire life. Grab onto the positive. Grasp tightly onto balloons of hope when they float by. Marvel at the flame of a beautiful candle when it shines light onto your path. Find your light where you can, when it is offered, and let it flood your world. Don’t hide it behind the darkness in the soul of your depression.

Let go. Allow the light flood into your world until you recognize the girl in the mirror again as beautiful. It’s not that she disappeared. It’s that your perception of her was stolen by Depression, a sly thief. Steal her back.

Reanimating my past

Reanimation

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago, I blogged about how brushing my hair triggered my PTSD from the birth of my second daughter. Not too long after her birth, I chopped all my hair off. It’s long again and I am finally okay with brushing my hair but still mindful of how long I brush. I make every effort to brush only as long as necessary, forcing myself to put the brush down and walk away.

Today, for the first time in over five years, I am listening to Linkin Park’s Reanimation.

Why is this significant?

This is the album I listened to the day my five year old daughter had surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. I took the MP3 player into the sleep room at the Children’s Hospital right outside the NICU, curled up, cranked it up as loud as it would go, sinking blissfully down into the rhythm of the pulsating beats and the angst of their screaming voices. Thing is, I sank so far down I did not want to come back. I yearned to stay there, hidden, safe, with their angst. Lost in the darkness. Because there, there I did not have an imperfect newborn. There, I was just a soul moving to the rhythm. Nothing was wrong. I was not angry. I was not sad. I was NUMB. I wanted to be lost forever in the solitude of peace which existed amidst the digital beats, the persistent piano tones and haunting echoes behind the remixed rhythms. My womb, my saviour, my peace. I clung to the MP3 player until my knuckles were stiff, refusing to let go, closing my eyes to sink deep beneath the surface of reality.

But today, I sit here, each song echoing into my ears, my soul, my heart, and I am shaking as I type. Breathing deep through pursed lips and wiping away tears. This is music. This is just beats. Just rhythm. Just voices. This is NOT my daughter’s surgery. This is NOT the pain I felt five years ago. It’s not. Today I am letting all of this wash over me and turning it into the music it’s meant to be, not the hell it used to be for me. Today I am not numb. Today I am feeling. Today I am listening. Today, I’m singing with the words. I’m dancing to the beats. I’m reclaiming the music for joy instead of pain.

Today, I win.

Today, I refuse to let this music trigger me any longer.

It’s taken me five years but I’m finally strong enough to refuse to let this beast control me anymore.

Not easy, but necessary. A step toward the new me. Toward the healed me.

Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that yes, healing takes time. It’s a process with each step presenting itself as you are ready. If you falter, don’t despair. The step will come. You’ll overpower the step with strength from an unknown place when the time is right. It won’t be easy. But it will be powerful. And once you’ve done it, you’ll look back and see just how far your journey has brought you… and how much strength it has added to your life.

Own it instead of letting it own you.

Saturday Sundries: 1.29.11: Meds, More babies, When PPD becomes more

Good mornin, y’all. How’s it going?

I love Saturdays. LOVE. There’s something so cozy about Saturday mornings. Round here, we take things slow and easy, enjoy a delicious brunch, and just hang out. This morning we’re having Turkey Sausage, cheesy scrambled eggs, whole grain toast, mango juice, and coffee. NOM.

That’s what we’re doing here. We’re just sitting down for coffee, brunch, and chatting about some serious stuff, girlfriend to girlfriend. Or friend to friend.

So get cozy, grab your coffee, OJ, or tea, oatmeal, danish, waffle, Cocoa Puffs or Honey Smacks, and prop up your feet (yes, that’s allowed here), and enjoy. This is for you.

As always, I am not a doctor. I am a Mom who has lived through the same hell you (or someone you love) is currently or has lived through. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be alone and not know where to turn. Please check with your doctor before you do ANYTHING mentioned below. What works for one person may not work for another. This disclaimer is brought to you by Common Sense and Covering my, well, you know.

If you have a question, I’d love to hear it. Email it to me at mypostpartumvoice(@)gmail(dot)com. If you want to stay anonymous, that’s fine. Just tell me in your email. You can also catch me on Twitter via @unxpctdblessing or on Facebook at the My Postpartum Voice Fan Page. With any of these, be sure to mention your question is for the Saturday Sundries feature! I’ll answer just about anything including questions about my personal experience with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. What I will NOT do is recommend medications or one form of treatment vs. another form of treatment. That’s for you to discuss with your doctor. I’ll be happy to provide resources and information regarding therapies, etc, but I do not get specific in regards to pharmaceuticals here. It’s an ethical thing.

Now, before your coffee gets cold, let’s get onto the questions!

@walkerKarraa asked: How do moms manage their meds during time in hospital when babies come?

This is really specific from situation to situation. If you are on psychiatric meds during pregnancy and will be on them through delivery and postpartum, this is something you will want to discuss with your provider. Many providers have Mom bring her meds from home. When I delivered my son, I was on medication. I brought it with me and gave the prescription to the nursing staff. They wrote down the information and then gave it back to me. Every morning, they checked with me to make sure I had taken my dose.

I would strongly recommend only bringing as many pills with you as will be needed for your stay in the hospital, if that is where you will be birthing. This way, if there is a misplacement of your prescription, you’re not out an entire month’s supply. This is also a question you can ask at pre-registration. Inquire about hospital policies regarding existing patient prescriptions and how the hospital handles them. Do not assume your hospital will know you need to take Med A at x o’clock and Med B at x o’clock. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have this discussion with your caregiver AND the hospital staff where you will be giving birth.

This question came in via email. While the reader did not specify to remain anonymous, I’m going to go ahead and respect her privacy anyway. Given the nature of the question, I immediately emailed an expert on this topic, Karen Kleiman. It was Karen’s book which led me to start this blog, actually. I did not know if I wanted to have another baby after our first one. In fact, we started trying for another one, I totally freaked out, we stopped, and then a few months later, we started up again and bam. Pregnant very quickly. I was on that train. After our second, we were once again on the fence. We had begun to lean toward not when we became pregnant with our son in a very unplanned manner. He’s 3 years old now and the happiest little boy you will ever meet. His happiness is infectious. But I am done. Done done done. I did not have PPD/PPA after his birth. I spent a good bulk of the time during my pregnancy focusing on resources and support for me, not for him. It sounds selfish, I know, but it really paid off. In the end, it WAS for him because the happier I was, the better mother I was able to be for him. Without any further ado, here is the question and the answer from the fabulous Karen Kleiman:

I got PPD/PPA 5 months after my daughter was born and that was 3 years ago. How does a mom like me even consider having another biologically? I read about moms who do it and don’t understand how they get there with the fear, and all. Where are the moms who have had PPD and choose not to have another? Where can I get encouraged from other moms who are like me, and not to feel guilty about not “doing” it again? The guilt is horrible for me.

Karen Kleiman’s answer: The decision to have another baby after experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety is complicated by a number of factors:

1) your personal experience

2) your medical history

3) your available support network

4) your course of treatment/recovery and

5) your (and your partner’s) desires, expectations and preferences, just to name a few.

So you can see how complex this decision can be. There are women who decide that having another baby is not worth the anguish of a subsequent pregnancy and unknown postpartum experience. There are women who decide that having another baby after PPD/PPA is worth the risk. It is, to say the least, an extremely personal decision. And one, I might dare say, that is no one’s business, but yours and your partner.

I know there is significant pressure, from society, from friends, from family, etc., but it is perfectly okay for you to determine what course of action is best for you and your family. And the guilt? It can feel overwhelming, to be sure, but guilt can only thrive if you provide the opportunity. You can, with proper support, learn to embrace your decision and more forward with confidence. Find a good therapist, read good books J, find support online, (ppdsupportpage.com, Lauren and her awesome PPD twitterdom, for example). Trust me, there are many many women who struggle with this and there is never one right answer. You will feel better if you can find a therapist who specializes in this area, so you can discuss the pros, the cons, the fear, the guilt, and ultimately make an informed decision that fits your needs the best. Then, take a deep breath, and give yourself permission to stop torturing yourself. All will feel right again soon.

@Zeeke75 asked a question that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. “how do you know when it’s no longer PPD and something else?”

Oh look, a leprachaun – over there! Seriously. Look!

What? You don’t believe m… OOOH! Unicorns! There!

Okay, here’s the deal.

This is a touchy question. This question is really the crux of the current DSM-V debate. It’s very hard to answer. VERY hard.

When I attended the PSI/Marce Conference in Pittsburgh this past October, there was a presenter, Ellen Frank, Ph.D, a volunteer working with the Mood Disorders group. Dr. Frank postulated that due to the lack of research indicating a clear off-set for Postpartum Depression, the current onset of Postpartum Depression and other Postpartum Mood Disorders would continue to show a cut-off date of four weeks. What this means is that according to the new DSM, a woman cannot “officially” have Postpartum Mood Disorder if she presents with symptoms any later than four weeks after birth, something I think is a total crock of BS but hey, what do I know? I’m just someone who did not present with symptoms until 3 months in with my first and was actually told by my physician I didn’t have PPD because I was more than four weeks Postpartum. The DSM’s staff’s argument is that the DSM is merely a reference book and is flexible for interpretation from case to case – well, someone should have told my doc this. He actually pulled out the DSM-IV and read to me.

In the bigger picture, this also means that there is a lack of research in the area of a clear “off-set” of symptoms. This means that it’s really hard to “officially” say that a PMAD has moved from being a PMAD into something else.

Many of us in the field will tell moms that onset for a PMAD is anytime within the first 12 months after birth. We also state that it can take up to 18 months to recover properly. But that doesn’t mean that once your little one turns 18 months you should be running through fields of poppies and floating on clouds.

Recovery time line depends on oh so much. It depends on when you were first PROPERLY diagnosed, when you first received an effective course of treatment/therapy, what kind of support you have, what extenuating circumstances may be present in your life, how cooperative and honest you are in the recovery phase, etc.

How this question is answered from woman to woman varies depending on all of these variables. For some physicians, it’s quite cut and dry. At a certain time, your doctor may consider you no longer Postpartum and into full blown depression, anxiety disorder, etc.

The important thing to remember here is that even if your diagnosis changes, you are still making forward progress even if it doesn’t feel like it. I know it’s overwhelming to go back into that dark place, I do. I went back twice. Each time, it was worse than before. But you know what? I had been there before. I KNEW what I need to do in order to get out. Think of it as playing a video game level. Once you’ve played, even if your character fails and you find yourself at the beginning of the game, you know precisely what to do in order to get through what previously were potholes. So you see, you’re already ahead of the game. You can sides step these really dark holes which trapped you before. Fall into one? Okay. Climb out – you KNOW how to do it. You’ve done it before. You can still do it.

And just because you no longer have the official label of “postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD, etc, doesn’t mean that those of us who have PPD labels, etc, are going to shun you. If anything, we’ll just love you that much more.

Also important to note here is that if you develop a full-blown mental illness, expect your family to struggle with this new diagnosis as well. Many times it is just as hard for them to coped as it is for you. Your loved ones may have previously been accepting, understanding, and supportive. But they may now feel that you are out of the woods and this “relapse” is all in your head. If that happens, send them to me. I’ll set ‘em straight.

Those are all the questions we have for today. Don’t forget to submit your questions for next week’s Saturday Sundries. I KNOW you have them!

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away: My PPD Experience

Earlier this week, a fellow member of Twitter messaged a group of us to say she had recently written her story as part of her recovery. She wanted to share it but did not know where to start. I responded and offered her space at my blog. Later that morning, I had her story in my email. Then my week happened. Pediatric appointment with my 4 year old, my 6 year old coming home from school two days in a row and then insomnia hit. I finally got to reading her story and immediately wanted to publish it. I did not want to wait until Thursday. I love the way she breaks down lyrics from “Please don’t take my sunshine away” and writes her story. The story unfolds and unfurls as you feel her frustration, her desperate need to heal. I found myself nodding my head and cheering along with her once life begins to return.

If these words touch you as much as they have touched me and you would like to reach out to her, please leave a message in the comments. I’ll make sure she gets them.

She has asked to remain anonymous for this post and I am respecting this request.

Without further ado, I will step aside and let you read her words.

Update: The author of this post has left a comment and I have verified her desire to share her identity. Her name is Sarah. If you want to reach her, you can do so by sending her mail here: sem55(@)georgetown(dot)edu

She left the following in the comments:

I am the author of this story… what a difference a few months makes. When I wrote this I felt stronger, but still ashamed. My name is Sarah and I have PPD and I AM a great Mom! Thank you to all of the courageous women out there who have reached out to me to share their strength. I only hope I can return a fraction of the support I have received to someone who stumbles upon my story. Thank you Lauren for the opportunity to share, and for all you do for moms!

Thank YOU, Sarah, for revealing yourself. And Kudos to you for taking such a huge step in owning your experience. It’s a HUGE step.

And now, here are SARAH’S words.

 

You are my sunshine

The second you become a mother you are transformed. Your purpose, your dreams and your complete identity change. My son has taught me how to live, love and grow in ways I could have never understood before. His very being keeps me going and give me purpose. It is a love like no other.

My only sunshine

After nearly three years of trying to get pregnant, including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility, in June of 2009 I successfully conceived. I didn’t allow myself to get too excited or attached while I went for weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to monitor my early pregnancy. As the first trimester passed and we saw our tiny bean grow into a perfectly formed tiny baby, the hope in me stirred and I began letting myself feel joy. Anxiety continued, however, as I underwent frequent fetal echocardiograms to evaluate the baby for a heart condition he was at risk of developing. The second trimester came and went and his heart remained perfect; we were in the clear. At 32 weeks, I started having contractions, thus followed two hospital visits for pre-term labor. At home, I remained on bedrest, and luckily made it to the 37th week. My labor was quick and my beautiful baby boy A .N. was born perfect and healthy at 6 lb 1 oz. I felt the biggest relief in my life when I saw my newborn baby. This joy dissolved quickly when the OB began the repairs. I began feeling very funny. I was trying to communicate how weird I was feeling when I found I was unable to speak. Ringing in my ears drowned out the sounds and I began to slip into unconsciousness. This is it, I thought. My baby was born healthy, but the price I am paying for it is to die in childbirth. The next thing I knew I was waking up on the Mother-Baby Unit. The nurses there cheerfully told me I had experienced lidocaine toxicity and my baby was with my husband in the nursery. I ached to see his face and hold his perfect body. When they returned, I instantly felt a jolt of joy and energy as I acquainted myself with my new family.

Two days later we were discharged and sent home as a new family of three. Our families had camped out at our house but we sent them home to have the space and room to figure out what we were doing. The next few days were quiet, but things did not feel right with the baby. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with him. My milk came in late and A became dehydrated and difficult to arouse. After that crisis resolved, we received a concerned call from the pediatrician. The results from A’s metabolic screen were positive for a rare but potentially fatal disease. They cautioned us that there are many cases of false positives, but I went into panic mode. We stayed on alert night and day to watch him breathe at all times. We had to wait for a week for the news that it was an error, A was fine.

You make me happy when skies are grey

The weeks after were full of relief, bliss and love. I managed through the marathon feedings and fell more in love with my son each day. Parenting seemed to come naturally to my husband. I finally had everything I dreamed of. Then at 11 weeks, A did a remarkable thing, he slept through the night. Usually a cause for celebration, this milestone marked the beginning of my downfall. I felt as though this gift I had dreamed of for so long was somehow a mirage and could be taken from me at any moment. The lines between fear and reality became blurred. First I stopped being able to sleep, feeling the need to rest my hand on the baby’s chest feeling it’s reassuring rise and fall. I started having the most disturbing images in my head. These horrifying images tortured me relentlessly. I felt constantly nervous and on edge. I felt so agitated I couldn’t keep my body still, when I lay in bed to rest my legs wouldn’t stop moving. I had the most intense feeling that sometime terrible was about to happen to A. Something that I had to stop. Soon I was having stomach problems, not being able to keep anything down and then being unable to force myself to eat. I started going days straight without sleeping. I stopped eating solid foods, losing over 20 lbs. in a month. I became weak and fragile. I began having the images coupled with horrifying phrases in my head. All involved seeing my baby harmed. I started having urges to do things like bang my head on the shower wall to stop them. These urges were like the most intense itch you know you should not scratch. I felt if I didn’t give in to them, I would jump out of my skin or
explode. During the day, I was having panic attacks where I would feel as though I was dying; my arms would go numb, my heart would race, I would become sick to my stomach and feel paralyzed. At night, with the baby and my husband tucked safely in bed, I began having urges to disappear. I wondered how fast I could pack everything up and drive off before they awoke. I thought if I disappeared, my baby would be able to grow and thrive and would be better off without me. My husband did not understand at all what was going on and became very angry at me. We began constantly fighting. I had to ask him to stay home from work or leave work numerous times because I didn’t feel safe alone with the baby. June came and his birthday and father’s day came and went and I found myself unable to get out of bed. I wondered if I was dying or losing my mind. I didn’t want to live anymore. I pictured milestones in A’s life without me present. I became obsessed with planning A’s birthday party because I had the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be around by then. The day came when I couldn’t take another second. That was when I reached out to my Mom.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you

I always wanted to get better. For A, for our family. But help seemed so hard to find. Living in X, I had isolated myself. I didn’t want anyone to know what a bad mother I was so I tried to stop visitors and kept phone calls brief. I had been refusing to take the medications I needed because they were not compatible with nursing. Having to suddenly wean my baby was like a final blow of failure to me. After my urgent phone call to my Mom, she left work in the middle of the day without packing a thing, got on 95 and talked to me on the phone until she arrived 3 hours later. She took me to the midwife, who sent me to the ER to be admitted. Because I told them I had no imminent plans to kill myself, they wouldn’t admit me. They gave me sleeping pills and the address of an urgent care psych center. It turns out the place was a partial-hospitalization program, which my insurance did not cover and would require me
to be away from A during the day. I felt helpless and desperate. I didn’t have any hope of anyone being able to help me. I was taking the medication, but it didn’t seem to be doing
anything for me. Things escalated at home with my husband and I really feared hurting myself, so I packed our stuff and we left for Y.

After my Mom and my sister helped me get settled in Y with A, things started to turn around. I moved in with my sister who was a huge support to me. There was family and friends around me constantly. I had the help I needed to care for A while taking care of myself. I sought help at a local center devoted to post partum mood disorders and began to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly. I was given a name for what I was going through: Post-Partum OCD. I joined a local support group that meets monthly and I met the most amazing and inspiring women who really get it and have been there. Their strength was contagious. I starting believing that I could get better. The thoughts in my head became more fleeting. I felt more connected with my son. I still had some panic attacks where I felt myself regressing. Dark thoughts would again invade my brain. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting better at all and there was no point to struggling through this. But I learned to reach out to those who cared about me when I felt this way. During my darkest days the phrase “this will not end well” would repeat itself in my head, this mantra was now replaced by “this too shall pass.”

Please don’t take my sunshine away

Time, therapy and medication have given me my life back. My recovery has been full of ups and downs, good and bad days. I am still working on mending relationships. But as the Autumn came, I felt my old self emerge. I will never be the person I was before I had a child, but I am a stronger, wiser woman. I have found I am strong enough to make it on my own, but that the support of others is essential. I am learning to enjoy the moments without obsessing about what will come next. I am learning to let go of complete control and let my son explore and experience with my guidance. It’s a new way of living, and it’s very freeing. I am able to enjoy every day with A. He amazes me on a daily basis. I don’t know what challenges or heartaches I might face in the future, but now I am healthy and strong enough to face them head-on. And if I’m not, I will still be ok because of the support system I have. And in February, I will be at my son’s first birthday party, celebrating his year of thriving and mine of survival.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday 05.25.10: How long does recovery take anyway?

Lately, I’ve had this question thrown my way by more than just a few of you.

It’s a tough question to answer.

There is no defined recovery time we can hand out. It’s not like going to a deli, pulling a number, having your number called and then walking out the door into the wild blue yonder with your neatly wrapped item. Ok, so maybe it’s kind of like that. If it’s a busy deli and the wait is long. And then they’re out of the meat you need. And then you have to start the process all over again somewhere else or settle for something like ham when you really wanted corned beef pastrami.

Bottom line though – recovery is not something your local deli guy will wrap up neatly in butcher paper and tie off with a pretty bow.

Recovery is messy. It can take a long time. It can go quickly. It can involve lots of starts, stops, and side trips.

And in the end, you may be recovered but there will always be the organic memory of the experience of your Postpartum Mood Disorder to jump out at you and mess with you.

So how the heck do I know if I can consider myself recovered from my PMD?

Here are my three humble signs of recovery (always check with your caregiver/therapist and don’t every stop treatment cold turkey!)

1) You have more good days than bad days.

2) You are able to laugh at things.

3) Your world has returned to vibrant colors instead of the dimmed down twilight you’ve been living in for the last several nights.

I remember the day I saw that brighter world. I was on my way home from my therapy appointment. It had rained that morning so everything had been rinsed clean. The sun shone down and the trees burst forth with new growth as they strained for freedom at the birth of spring. As I breathed in the clean scent of rain and honeysuckle, my heart soared. The trees were greener, the sky was bluer, everything sparkled. And not just because of the rain.

Just a few weeks later I discovered I was indeed pregnant with our third child. Scared to death, I worried all my progress would be all for naught. But it was not. I continued to move forward. Not because I had to but because it was what I wanted. Once I got past the shock of our unexpected pregnancy, I focused all my energy on preparing for postpartum support instead of getting ready for baby. It was time well-spent. I educated those around me, created a postpartum plan, and thankfully I thrived. Not all mothers are this fortunate though.

Every mother has  a different story, different doctors, and different reasons for struggling.

What helped you recover and if you’re fully recovered, how long did it take you to recover? What advice would you give to a still struggling mother?

One of my favorite songs when I was struggling was “Breathe” by Anna Nalick.My favorite lines?

There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout
But you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out.

To me, it means keep on going forward. Because it’s FORWARD motion that’s so very healing.

Let’s get to just talkin’!

Enriching postpartum therapy through at-home activities

In addition to the different types of therapy we discussed yesterday, there are some at home activities you can do (provided your therapist has approved them) to enrich your professional care and journey toward wellness.

First, start a gratitude journal. But I don’t journal. I hate writing! Don’t worry – this isn’t having to write an entire page every day. It’s a simple two entries a day. In the morning, when you first wake up, grab your pen and journal. Write down three things for which you are grateful, no matter how small that thing may be. As your day progresses, focus on what has made you laugh or smile. Once you have retired to bed each night (even if it’s for two hours), write down at least three things which made you smile or laugh during the day. At the beginning, even just barely cracking a smile counts. This activity is two-fold. First, it forces your brain to refocus on the positive things in your life. Second, it provides physical evidence of the positive influences in your life you can look through on the particularly tough days.

Second, write down all five senses on a sheet of paper. Taste, touch, smell, sounds, and sight. Write down five of your favorite things for each sense. Chocolate, silk, a favorite perfume, a cd or song that makes you smile, favorite color or flower or art. Post the list on the fridge. Treat yourself to at least one thing from EACH SENSE every week. Rotate them out. Putting the list on the fridge helps family members and friends to know what to help keep around the house as well. (Sneaky, I know)

Third, take time for yourself. Schedule it if you have to. One thing I love to do is to dress up my lunch. It’s my quiet time of day and I have been known to make a frozen pizza and a coke look like it belongs on a table prepped by Gordon Ramsey. Lean Cuisine never looked so haute. I’ll also treat myself to the routine of making tea. The key is finding one thing you love and making sure you do it at least once a day. Without interruption.

Some other moms will put positive post-its throughout the house and even in the car to help give them a boost when they need it most.

A successful recovery relies heavily on your active participation. If you’re not participating, you’re not getting better. YOU are the most important quotient in the equation when it comes to journeying toward mental health wellness!

How did you actively participate in your recovery? Have any tips for currently struggling moms? We’d love to hear them!


Be sure to stop back tomorrow for the triumphant return of the Friday Soother, my weekly gift to you!

What a week!

Monday was Charlotte’s cleft repair, pharyngoplasty surgery, and ear tubes.

Tuesday morning she got the nasal tube they put in to aid in breathing removed. Then she ate. And ate some more. And drank.

So we were discharged Tuesday afternoon.

She stopped eating Wednesday morning. Stopped talking by the middle of the day. She was also refusing all medication and foods.

We were instructed to return to the hospital.

So we did.

And there we stayed until yesterday morning when her appetite and fluid intake finally picked up enough to make me feel comfortable with bringing her back home.

Our stay was riddled with issues.

The first issue was failure to get written consent for her ear tube surgery. The surgeon took the time to track down where the breakdown in communication happened and did apologize to us but then just a few sentences later admitted that post-consent happens quite a bit in her practice with her adults. Yeah. We’re SO not going back to see her.

Second issue arose during our return to the hospital. The ER had a hard time getting ahold of Charlotte’s doctor to approve admission even though we had been instructed to return by them. We arrived at the ER at 830p but did not get a room until nearly 2a Thursday morning.

Third issue was our day nurse on Thursday. She was a bit flighty and had a propensity for over-explaining things and failed to be prompt in her attention to us. My daughter’s med pump went off repeatedly as did her fluid pump with no response from her whatsoever. She was apologetic and spent some time trying to kiss Charlotte’s behind but I had the nurse replaced. It’s not my kid you have to impress, lady.

Fourth and fifth issue happened on Friday.

Fourth: A tech walked into our room and asked if I wanted to give Charlotte a bath. I said that I did. So she got everything ready and decided we needed to give Charlotte a sponge bath in bed. We had Charlotte lean back over a bowl of water and wiped her hair down. The tech realized she didn’t have water to rinse with so she went and got some while I tried to keep Charlotte calm and still. The tech returned with the water and began to pour it on Charlotte’s head. Charlotte screamed. I reached up and felt the water. It was absolutely scalding. I immediately told the tech to stop and get out of our room. The water she had gotten was entirely too hot! She acted surprised and I had to ask her several times to leave the room. I asked our nurse to make sure she was not allowed back in our room. I didn’t see her again during our stay.

Fifth: At about 1p the phone in our room rang. I answered. It was a prank call. I hung up. They of course, redialed. I was very unsettled (they said horribly mean and rude things to me) and called our nurse. He came right away and handled the situation beautifully. Unplugged our phone and had our phone number changed. A report was filed.

I don’t tell you all of this to complain. I’m telling you all of this to stand strong. I got flustered only twice during our stays. The first was immediately after surgery when we had to hold Charlotte down as the anestethia worked its way out of her system. She was angry, confused, and frustrated. Kept pulling at her IV, her nose, and wanted to be done with all of the pain. I admit that I cried. It took four hours for her to finally calm down.

The second time was when we got prank called. I was very very scared. I didn’t know if it was someone from inside the hospital or outside. I felt very vulnerable and afraid. I even had a plan in place if someone we did not know were to burst into our room. But nothing came of it and I was able to get back to sleep within the hour.

I am glad this past week is behind us.

On a positive note, Charlotte’s speech is ALREADY improved. She’s saying words that we can now understand a lot more often. There are sounds she struggled with before that she is now making with seemingly no effort. We still have quite a bit of work ahead of us but for now, we’re miles away from where we were this time last week.

Last night was rough but I have hopes tonight won’t be as bad. I think she’s got some night terrors and trauma residuals going on as a result of spending the week at the hospital. Teething tablets and a night light finally helped her go to sleep on her own last night but she spent the bulk of the evening in the living room with me. We’re going to have her return to school so her mind will have other things to focus on as well to help leave the memories of this past week behind.