#PPDChat 08.18.14: Self-Care – Lists of Three

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I started this thing awhile back on Twitter, #listof3. It took off and I use it when I get down. Thing is, I haven’t used it in awhile so it’s been stuck on the backburner of my brain. Others have used it, however. It warms my heart to see others using it even if I am not because it’s comforting to see someone else lifted up because of you.

I was reminded of this #listof3 by a #PPDChat Volunteer late last week when I asked for suggestions for chat this week. I sat with it for a few days and decided to run with it today. Her suggestion read as follows:

“Name 3 things you’re thankful for, 3 things you wish your family knew, 3 things you want your kids to remember about you, and so on and so forth. I come up with 3 different things each time.”

We’re heading into that time of year when mamas are sending older kids back to school and schedules are drastically changing. In the midst of this chaos (regardless of whether or not you’re celebrating or missing your little ones), it’s important to remember to take care of yourself and focus on the positives in your life instead of all the little things running you ragged or pulling you down.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight as we discuss our own #listof3, finding gratefulness tucked away even in the most chaotic corner of our lives. Who knows, maybe attending chat will end up on your list!

In the meantime, what are you grateful for today?

I’m grateful for coffee, sunshine, and sleep.

Your turn:

Fighting The Battle Against Suicide

The post below may be triggering for some. I blatantly discuss suicide and my own brushes with it as well as the recent news of the loss of Robin Williams. If you are fragile, you’ll want to skip this post. If you need to find some happy, go watch this video. It’s all of the awesome and then some.

The sun floated above the house in a swath of the kind of blue sky I long to see when I wake in the morning. The wind played with the trees, swishing the leaves and branches to and fro as birds and butterflies danced along with the melody Mother Nature played for them.

I stood in my bedroom, staring out at the phenomenal glory just beyond my physical reach and well beyond my comprehension. I stepped closer to the open window, staring down at the retaining wall at the edge of the house, calculating the angle necessary to hit it with my head. As my fingers brushed against the roughness of the screen, I drew back suddenly, as if I had been shocked into reality. I scurried downstairs, to a room well away from the retaining wall, and texted with a friend until the thoughts faded away.

I was not interested in beauty that day.  I was interested, suddenly, as I stood in my bedroom all alone, in leaving this world.

My divorce was final. I was no longer with my children. I could not find a job. Nothing seemed to be going my way. There was no sense in continuing with things. It was not the first time I felt like ending things and it turned out to not be the last. I dance with these thoughts from time to time but thankfully, so far, I have managed to fight them off. Believe me, the battle to fight them off is FAR HARDER than anyone who has never experienced them could possibly imagine. Sometimes, it is a daily battle. Some days, it is an hourly battle. Then finally, sleep, only to wake up and battle all over again. But I fight because my will to live is powerful and I am not done with my work here yet. I fight because my kids deserve a mother they can reach out and touch or talk to on the phone. I fight because I matter, I love, and I am loved.

There has been a lot of discussion this past week about suicide. The causes, the loss, how to cope, how to survive, and most of all, the matter of making the choice to go through with it.

Is suicide a choice?

Yes.

It is an easy choice?

Hell no.

If you wade through research, the average amount of time it takes from initiation of “I’m really going to do this” to completion is 10 minutes. I wish I had the link to this research but unfortunately, I don’t. (But there is this article you can read which references it.)

10 minutes to save someone’s life.

10 minutes to convince them they matter. That they are bigger than whatever demon is swelling inside of them and convincing them they are better off on the other side.

10.fricking.minutes.

In the grand scheme of life, 10 minutes is but a millisecond, but it is a millisecond with a number of chaotic screaming thoughts flooding your brain in an attempt to convince you to stop the life you know because it has toppled over and there is no other way to fix things.

In those 10 minutes:

It is not a matter of joy.

It is not a matter of prayer or faith.

It is not a matter of therapy.

It is not a matter of medication.

It is not a matter of love.

It is not a matter of religion, resources, and whatever the hell else you want to throw out there as a simple answer to the complexity that is suicide which is, frankly, a sandbox full of all the demons you have ever carried at any point in your life fighting each other for ownership of your soul.

In the throes of the “choice of suicide”, it is all about YOU and that huge ass demon screaming at you that yes, you are better off on the other side as it hacks away at any sense of self-respect, faith, or common sense you previously possessed. The bastard wears you down until finally, there is only one way out.

We all know the story of David and Goliath. It’s like that only sometimes, David doesn’t win.

It’s like Frodo vs. Sauron but all on his own.

It’s like Picard vs. the Borg all by himself. (And we saw how that ended – Locutus!)

I wrote an off-the-cuff status update on Facebook about the passing of Robin Williams. At last check, it had been shared over 200 times. Here’s what I said:

“I want to take a minute (or more) of your time to say something important.

Suicide is scary. It frightens us, particularly those of us who are vulnerable and know these thoughts intimately. These thoughts dance with us and sometimes have done so on a daily basis.

For people who know suicide intimately and have contemplated it, news like the passing of Robin Williams can be very triggering. It causes us to wonder how on earth we will survive if he didn’t make it. He had money. Access to care. He had just been in rehab. Dear Lord. If he couldn’t get better, what hope do “we” have?

Here’s the thing. Choose life. Choose to reach out. Choose light. Choose to fight. Every time you reach out for help, you are choosing to survive. It’s about creating opportunities for hope instead of succumbing to the darkness.

Unfortunately, we don’t know why he chose to leave us, but he did. And we’re left wondering what went wrong.

So if you want to honor his life, honor his time here, take from his death what you can and make it okay to discuss suicidal feelings. Because until mental health is a normal part of every day discussions, we will continue to be shocked when something like this happens, claiming we “had no idea.”

Know this.

There is hope. There is help. And if you are struggling, there are hotlines you can call. Things you can do. Start by reaching out to a friend, then a professional, and stay the course, even when the light fades. It will return.”

I have never had anything shared that much on Facebook before. The comments on the shares are tremendous – people are talking about mental health. But most of all, they are scared.

Because if Robin Williams, a man who had access to it all, committed suicide, then what hope do *we* have in surviving when we don’t have the access to care he did?

I questioned whether or not I should write about this here. I am not writing for page views. I am not writing to take advantage of a horrible situation. I am writing because until we make mental health check ins with each other part of normal, everyday conversation, things like this will ALWAYS shock us. Until we make mental health as normal as physical health, it will always be stigmatized, it will always be taboo, and it will always scare the shit out of us.

My heart has been heavy this week, along with millions of others. Not for the loss of Robin, but for HOW we lost him. I know that pain. I know what those moments of absolute desperation feel like as they strike terror into your very soul. Watching your body and hands go through the motions as your brain screams NO and questions your sanity but you are helpless to stop yourself. I’ve blogged about it before – here, here, and here. The second and third posts references the situation I used to open this post. There have been other times too, times in the car where I wondered what would happen if I just let go of the wheel and let myself drift into oncoming traffic – or into a tree. It’s been awhile since I have fought with these thoughts but the shadows of them are always there, lurking, waiting to spring forth and attack when the darkness threatens to swallow me.

That weight, the weight of sheer terror, isolation, and helplessness, is what spurs me to do what I do – to reach out to mothers struggling with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. No mother, hell, no human, should ever surf the tides of mental health alone.

So how do we change things? How do we make suicide less of a threat to ourselves and to those we love?

I wish I had the answer to that question. I have some answers, but not THE answer. No one does. All we have are suggestions.

We talk about our struggles, we don’t cover it up in polite speech or hide it in dark rooms and beneath whispers or under judgmental tones. We stop sensationalizing the horrors and instead write mindfully about the issue at hand. Let’s start there.

Suicide is not something we should dismiss. It is not something we cover up, and it is not solved by choosing joy, reaching out, or praying harder. It goes far deeper than any of that for it is insidious, tenuous, and a gut-sucking leech upon the soul of many of us who have walked this earth. Our lives, all of them, sooner or later, will be touched by suicide – someone we know, a friend’s friend, or our own. Is that acceptable? Hell no. Can we change it? Hell yes.

Baby steps.

Start here, with how to talk to a friend or a loved one about suicide. Carry resources and hotline numbers in your wallet or program them into your phone. Know the signs. Run toward the chaos and the danger instead of huddling away from it. Bring suicide into the light. Make it okay to not be okay. Not cool, but okay. Let them know you hear their pain, you acknowledge their hurt, and do what you can to encourage them to seek help. Don’t judge them. Don’t act shocked. Be compassionate. Be patient. Be understanding. Don’t justify their desire to end it but instead, talk to them about their reasons to live. Be their speck of light, as my good friend and amazing blogger John states in his own post about depression and cancer. Be the warm blanket they need to survive. Be the hope for them until they can be their own hope.

Will we still lose people?

Yes.

But those we save through our own daring to speak up may just be the ones to ultimately change the world. And in the process, we are already changing the world because we’re breaking the stigma of silence around suicide.

And that, my friends, makes the hell worth fighting through.

#PPDChat Topic 08.04.14: Getting Pro-active: Facing Pregnancy after a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder

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Along with countless women, I have been in this boat. It’s an intimidating boat, let me tell you what. But, with some preparation, things don’t have to be quite that scary.

My first experience with a PMAD was frightening. I had no idea what was happening in my head in addition to trying to get myself adjusted to motherhood for the first time around. Talk about one helluva screwball. Thanks, life.

I survived. My daughter survived. Did we come out unscathed? No. But I definitely came out wiser. I view my first brush with PP OCD as one heck of a learning curve which prepared me for the second time I found myself in an even deeper valley than the first.

Halle Berry said it best on Oprah: “Once you’ve been through depression, it gets easier to get out because you have a road map.” Each episode, while it may have different nuances and causes, is essentially the same basic experience deep down. You get used to battling your way out of it and yes, you absolutely have a road map. You learn to recognize the curves and know how to adjust for them well before they even appear on your horizon.

Just as with a road trip, preparation is key. While even the best preparation in the world does not guarantee that a PMAD will stay at bay, it does empower you and enables you to seek help sooner rather than later.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight to discuss the importance of preparing yourself and your loved ones for the possibility of another bout of a PMAD after the birth of a sibling. I have experienced both a planned and an unplanned pregnancy after my episodes so there will be lots of insight into both situations, including a very honest discussion about depression and other mental health issues during pregnancy.

Tonight’s chat is an important one. Don’t miss it. See you on Twitter at 830pm ET!

#PPDChat 07.28.14: Talking to Your Children About Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

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One of the most often repeated phrases I’ve heard from friends who struggle with postpartum mood disorders is, “Why didn’t anybody tell me?”  It’s a question I’ve asked myself too.  And it begs the question, did anybody else in my family face this?

As we raise awareness of the important topic of postpartum depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, it’s critical that we educate future generations, which includes our own children.  Though many of us still have very young children who may not understand our struggles currently, there may come a time where we feel we need to be honest with them about what we as their mothers (and fathers) experienced during the weeks and months after delivery.  It’s important for our own story, but it’s also important in order to prepare our children for what they, their spouses, or other family and friends may potentially face.

Talking to our children about such an emotional and difficult topic is never easy.  But someday I want my children to know that their mother faced a real and hard battle–and won.  And that they were a huge part of the reason that I fought to get better.  I hope my own children never have to face this battle, but if they do, or know someone who does, I want them to have every measure of support available, and part of that support is us, as their parents.

Please join me, @DonutsMama, on Twitter tonight for #PPDChat as we discuss how to talk with our children about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  Hope to see you there at 8:30 EST.

 

#PPDChat 07.21.14: Self-Care & Motherhood – Finding Balance with @story3girl

ppdchat-07-21-14Hey y’all!!! It’s Monday! You know what that means!!!

Another installment of #PPDChat on Twitter! YAY! *Throws confetti and rattles noisemaker*

Don’t mind me – it’s just been a crazy weekend and I haven’t had coffee yet but have already been out and about. I KNOW.

Speaking of crazy weekend, no coffee, already running errands (with lots more to do before the day is done), you better believe I am going to take slices of time here or there for myself. Sit down, read a bit of a book, play a game on my phone, maybe nap at some point (I hope so because WOW I AM TIRED), and I may even watch something on Netflix in addition to making sure I get a decent night’s sleep tonight even if I have to take Melatonin.

Self-care is what puts water in our pitchers so that we can keep the glasses of those around us filled. It’s important. It’s not something we put off until tomorrow. It’s something we work into our schedules, even if it’s fragmented. Lately, as busy as I have been, I have made sure to do my work then take a break and do something just for me (I’ve been binge watching Friday Night Lights). Then, I get up, and do something else that needs to be done, and then something else that is just for me.

One of my favourite exercises to have folks do when they’re not used to self-care is to have them sit down and make a list. Write down all 5 of your senses. Taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Then, for every sense, write down five of your favourite things. Post this list somewhere and keep at least one thing from every sense in your home or near you/accessible at all times. This becomes your “emergency sanity” kit and BAM. Instant self-care.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of self-care because let’s face it, humans are complex and life can get crazy in the blink of an eye. But when it’s BUILT in to your daily routine via baby steps? Totally achievable. This is what the exercise in the previous paragraph does for you – it empowers you to build self-care into your life in tiny fragmented pieces. Sure, sometimes you need to just sit down and do nothing for a couple of hours but let’s face it, with little ones running around, that doesn’t happen very often. So fragmented self-care becomes our only option. It’s a heck of a lot better than none at all, wouldn’t you agree?

Tonight, join @story3girl on Twitter to chat about this very important topic. Explore your own habits, your needs, and maybe figure out how to get started mothering the post important person in your life – YOU.

#PPDChat Topic 07.14.14: Chatting with @addyeB for Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

ppdchat-07-14-14This evening’s #PPDChat will focus on women of colour and mental health.

Why does this matter?

A quick visit to the Health & Human Services Department’s Minority Mental Health Statistics page for African Americans drives home some scary points right away:

  • Poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 3 times more likely to report psychological distress.
  • African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as are Non-Hispanic Blacks.
  • The death rate from suicide for African American men was almost four times that for African American women, in 2009.
  • However, the suicide rate for African Americans is 60% lower than that of the Non-Hispanic White population.
  • A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 – 1995, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of Non-Hispanic Whites.1

I’ll give you a few minutes to read those statistics over and realize what they mean. Then I want to highlight two specifically.

“Non-Hispanic Whites are TWICE as likely to receive a prescription for antidepressants than Non-Hispanic Blacks.”

“African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.”

Taking those two statements alone, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites BUT are less likely to receive a prescription which would help them deal with said psychological distress.

How is that even close to okay?

Mental health affects more than our minds, too. It affects several systems in our bodies with the stress it causes, it affects quality of life, it affects everything. Without it, we are not complete.

So join me tonight as we chat with the fantastic @addyeB, as she, in her own words, will be:

“…sharing what it’s been like for me, as a woman of color, to fight through & recover from a postpartum mood disorder. I’ll be talking about the stigma surrounding mental illness in minority communities and how it impacts awareness, education, and folks seeking treatment…barriers to treatment/access to resources in our communities…and various resources that women of color can find and use for support-especially online. I’ll also be asking other women of color to share their experiences and ask questions as well.”

It’s gonna be a good chat, y’all.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Warmest,

Lauren

Guest Post: On Meeting An Angel

PP Blogathon BlingToday’s post in celebration of Katherine Stone is brought to you by Deborah Forhan Rimmler, a member of the board of Postpartum Progress. There’s no intro to do it justice so I’ll just let you read.

I’m always curious about where God might pop up.  You see, I’m the kind of girl who finds a connection to the Divine in random places—a quiet snuggle with my boys, when my husband loves me even when I’m being a jerk, a long bike ride, my dear aunt’s funeral.  You get the point.

Five years ago I was struck with horrible postpartum OCD, the soul stealing kind where you have visions of hurting your own baby.  Even then, I was still lucky.  I had a swanky doula, got a great psychiatrist and slowly got better.  Still, there was this huge gaping hole in my heart that only I knew was there.  I swear you could see all the way to infinity and back that hole was so big.  I was sure I would never really be happy again or be joyful as mother because this terrible experience haunted me.  I put on brave face. I cared for and played with my baby.  I prayed, tried to meditate, did yoga, and watched chick flicks. I did all my happy things.  Only it was still there.  That big gaping hole of fear and sadness over this experience.

Then I met an angel—the working class kind, which in my opinion is the very best type.  You see, she is one of us.  A human with no special wings or privity with God’s plans for the universe.  She was just a very brave mother who had dared to share her story with the world about how she, too, had these intrusive thoughts about hurting her baby boy.  And I mean the whole world—she put in on a blog!  She just put it out there in a matter-of-fact way about how postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis are simply treatable diseases.  And she got other women to share their stories on her blog.  And she gave up her lucrative marketing career, at a significant financial cost to her family, to build this blog day after day.  For. Ten. Years.

Every story was just as beautiful and brave as the one before.  And in these stories there was a divine truth that healed my draining soul.  We women are not alone, and it is not our fault we got sick.  I even felt God’s love for me, my sick brain, and all the other suffering mothers past and present in the community of these stories.  And the gaping hole in my heart and soul got plugged with the honesty and bravery of these women sharing their truth.  And one day I started to feel happy again.  Full of hope for my life as a mother.

Thank you, Katherine Stone, for being that angel.  Day after day you shine the light of goodness and grace on the dark side of motherhood helping to piece our broken hearts back together.  And when that light sparks a sad, tired soul and starts to help it heal, you give the gift that only a true angel can give:  Hope.

Bless you my darling friend and congratulations on the Ten Year Anniversary of Postpartum Progress!

Rimmler Family 09 051Deborah is a postpartum OCD survivor and on the board of Postpartum Progress, Inc.  She is a corporate attorney and lives with her husband and two sons in Western Massachusetts.

#PPDChat Topic 07.07.14: Celebrating 10 Years of Postpartum Progress

ppdchat-07-07-14On July 13, Postpartum Progress turns 10.

Since inception, Katherine Stone has done quite a bit in the world of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. She’s fiercely led us forward, called people out on the error of their ways, and is whole-heartedly dedicated to making the world an easier place to navigate when women are struck with one of the issues on the spectrum of PMADs.

Tonight, at #PPDChat, we’re going to talk about Katherine and what she’s done, what she’s doing, and share memories of how she’s helped us. Did you know she supported #PPDChat when it was just an idea in my head four years ago? She did. She’s supported quite a few of us as we’ve moved into advocacy and we are beyond grateful.

Be sure to join us tonight at #PPDChat as we celebrate the woman, the work, and the sisterhood she has created.

See you tonight at 830pm ET!

#PPDChat Topic 06.30.14: The Art of Journaling

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“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?

The world would split open.”

 Muriel Rukeyser

The act of picking up a pen, putting it to paper, and forming words with the ink is, as Cynthia Ozick calls it, “an act of courage.” It is spilling the blood of our hearts onto paper, allowing our emotions and thoughts to breathe as they have never done before. It is healing. It is a release. It is a butterfly creeping slowly out of a chrysalis. It’s exhaling after the storm passes.

Tonight, during #PPDChat, we will discuss the act of journaling as part of the healing process of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. We have questions as we heal. We wonder who we are, where we are going, if things will ever be the same, and how we will ever get out of this hell. Journals are a safe way to explore these thoughts and can be complimentary to therapy.

While I never officially journaled, I did blog. Not always about what I was going through but the mere act of writing helped me to see things in a different light, to examine every side of the experience.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight as we discuss “The Art of Journaling” and examine the various ways in which we can use this important tool to set us free and help us grow toward the new woman we are becoming through this experience.

See you on Twitter at 830pm ET!

Seeking Volunteers for #PPDChat Growth & Management

Hey, y’all!

It’s time to start growing #PPDChat beyond the borders of its current space. To do that, I need some help!

I started #PPDChat in 2010 with the goal of reaching out to women and families through a new medium. To bash stigma in the most public of places, on Social Media. It took off more than I ever imagined it would.

The hashtag has gone places, including trending the week of the National Football Championship.

It’s even transitioned into a closed FB group where over 300 mothers have grown into a close knit community.

But it’s time to take it to the streets and really push the boundaries of growing this community which is centered on the principles I hold so dearly and work to strive in my own life after battling against PP OCD twice:

Self-care: It’s important. As a person, as a woman, as a mother. Self-care is what keeps us going, what fills us up so we can give of ourselves to others. We cannot give to others if we are constantly pouring from an empty pitcher.

Self-respect & respect of others: Just because I have a mental health issue does not mean I am not a person. I absolutely am, you absolutely are as well. We’re just walking a road with a bit of fog on it and for some that fog is a bit thicker than for others. Eventually it will lift and the sun will shine. In the #PPDChat community, respect for others as people is one of the highest priorities.

Self-advocacy and speaking boldly: We are our best advocates. We know what’s going on inside our minds better than anyone else because we live there. Honesty with ourselves, our loved ones, and our professional caregivers is what will help us heal. (With the caveat of sharing with toxic people who shoot us down, of course – that absolutely will not contribute to healing). We empower each other to advocate for ourselves through a shared experience, through personal support, and through locating resources. With #PPDChat, you absolutely are not alone.

With these principles in mind, I am seeking volunteers to join together with me to reach out to new sources of women who would benefit from getting involved with the #PPDChat community. Your involvement may be as involved or as limited as you are able…remember self-care is important here so we do not want to drain you. Marketing, outreach, blog posts, sourcing new places to develop partnerships, etc.

Right now, the only conditions for volunteering are that you must be:

  • A survivor or a partner of a survivor of a PMAD episode (this does include antenatal mood disorders as well)
  • Driven & dedicated to help others who have found themselves in the same boat with this beast
  • Have an internet connection or willing to do footwork in your own community
  • Able to respond to emails calling for action and a minimum of 1 hour of action/advocacy a week

That’s it. Pretty simple. Right now, I’m gathering volunteers. First email will go out on July 15th so fill out the form below to contact me before then if you’re interested in diving right into this with me.

Can’t volunteer? Pass this post on to someone who may be interested as well. This is the year #PPDChat breaks out of the shell it’s grown into and really starts kicking some serious stigma ass.

Who’s with me?