#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?

 

#PPDChat Topic 06-23-14: Kicking The Summer Blues to the Curb

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We associate winter with the blues. Everyone stays inside to stay warm.

But summer is the opposite – some of us stay inside to stay cool. Or because it’s too much trouble to tote the little ones outside because OMG WE HAVE TO PACK ALL THE SUNSCREEN and everything else in the house just to go to the pool and dear sweet lord don’t forget that we need swim diapers, formula, a nursing swimsuit (OMG – nursing at the pool…)…the list goes on and on and on and on…you get the point.

Summer blues are just like Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’re supposed to be happy and carefree in the summer. Cheery. WHOOOO!! Water! Camping! No responsibilities. (Have you ever been a parent with three small children home for the summer? HAVE YOU?! I’d rather..well, anything.)

This chat will be chock full of tips and mamas chatting about how to manage the issue of parenting/adjusting to a newborn in the summer months. Summertime creates an entire extra set of issues, issues we all seem to just dance around. Well, tomorrow night, we’re gonna stomp on them and figure them out.

Join me on Twitter at 830pm ET. See you there!

#PPDChat Topic 06.16.14: Faces of #ClimbOut

#PPDChat Topic 06.16.14: Faces of #ClimbOutLast week, A’Drianne (@addyeB) hosted #PPDChat. She shared all about the upcoming #ClimbOut for Postpartum Progress (which, by the way, has surpassed the 100k goal!). If you’re interested in finding out more about this event, which happens this Saturday worldwide, you can read all about it here.

Tonight’s #PPDChat welcomes leaders of various Climbs throughout the world. Get to know the women who have fought through their own battles with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders and are now doing something to help raise awareness of this insidious issue which affects 1 in 8 new mothers.

The two primary leaders joining us tonight are:

Susan Petcher, who is leading a COTD team of 6 up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire on June 21st.  She blogs at Learned Happiness about motherhood and mental illness, writes for Postpartum Progress, crochets compulsively, and loves Minecraft. (You can find her on Twitter @learndhappiness)

and

Courtenay Petracca, leading the COTD Team Rhode Island. She is a mother of a 2.5 year old girl. Suffered from perinatal depression silently until my daughter was born. The best decision of her life was to call the hospital and get help when her daughter was 5.5 months old. (You can find her on Twitter @Cxs918)

I am SO excited to chat with all these passionate women tonight. I sincerely hope you’ll carve out an hour to join us at 830pm ET. See you then!

 

When the Awareness Month Ends

Where does the awareness go?

Does it get tossed in the trashcan? Do we save it and recycle it for next year’s shindig?

Or do we raise the banner and keep it waving for the entire year?

Awareness months are fabulous things.

But there’s a fault with them – they last only 28, 30, or 31 days.

Everything has an awareness month these days, it seems. We are all screaming about them from the social media rooftops. Pay attention to this, do that, say this, share that, use this hashtag, find this picture on Instagram, enter this, like this, donate here, etc.

It can all lead so very quickly to donor fatigue or the inability to comprehend anything regarding any of the topics we are supposed to give our all to because well, it’s the topic du mois.

Do you go home when it’s the first of the next month?

Or are you still there, in the stands, in the midst of the mess, yelling at anyone who will listen that this is something we should still give a damn about?

We need people who will stay and fight. People who will give their all for more than 28, 30, or 31 days. The people who scream and shout even when there’s nothing left – the people who sacrifice their entire heart and soul to save those around them – those are the people who make the difference. THOSE are the people I want to surround myself with as I move forward in life.

We all matter. Do we need to be ramped up even when it’s not THE MONTH for our cause? Yes and no. Advocacy is a shout in the sunshine but it’s also a quiet whisper in the dark. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing your story. Other times, it’s far more complex and exhausting.

Whatever the form your advocacy takes, don’t drop it just because it’s no longer the right month.

Carry that flag with you throughout the year. Hold your head high, be a shining example and move others toward your cause by exemplifying the type of person you are inside – a fierce warrior capable of surviving anything life may throw your way.

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*

#PPDChat Topic 05.19.14: Once Upon A Time – Expectations vs. Reality

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Remember that moment when you first found out you were pregnant? It may have been a joyous one or it may have been which freaked you out thoroughly, depending on the circumstances. Pregnancy and new motherhood are wrought with expectations either way.

Will I be able to handle this?

It’ll be a breeze, I’ll bring home baby and then x,y,z will happen.

But for many of us, our expectations slam into reality and that reality involves a perinatal mood disorder. As we struggle to merge all of this into our “new” reality, we find ourselves fighting the greatest battle of our lives not only for ourselves but for our families.

Tonight, we’ll be discussing our expectations, our realities, and how we managed to coalesce the two into our “new” normal – a process which seemingly starts anew every day.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us tonight at 830pm ET on Twitter! See you there!

(If you can’t join us, stay tuned to this post for an update which will include a transcript shortly after chat ends at 930pm ET!)

Dear Mom,

From the very beginning, you knew I would do things my own way. You encouraged that spirit in me – raised me with boundaries and manners but somehow also managed to foster a free and wild spirit without taming it.

You insisted on open communication. Talk no matter what, even when you don’t want to. I remember doing just that with you, for hours, sitting on your bed and talking about everything yet nothing at all instead of napping.

You held me as I wept when your parents passed away, soothing me and reminding me to focus on the silly and ridiculous. But always, always encouraging emotion and never shaming me for letting them out.

You gave me books. Lots of books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Required we read them before we saw movies. I buried myself in those books and loved every second of them. They opened my eyes to so many worlds, so many words, to the ups and downs, and a multitude of emotions.

You chased me around the house with a naked, dead chicken, squawking as you ran toward me while I ran away, shrieking. Or the time I sprayed you with the kitchen sprayer and got it all over the kitchen. Or the times we worked ourselves into hilarious giggles because we were simply having inane conversations. I loved the laughter you brought into my life and the devious sense of humour I culled from you. (Although I know that we take it WAY too far for you sometimes but you, dear mother, are the root of my fabulous sense of humour – that is truth!)

And now, back to seriousness….

Your faith is strong. I see the quiet peace it has brought you even when you have felt like falling apart. I know it’s what keeps you going and it’s that quiet strength given to you by God which makes you the center of the family.

It’s your mode of motherhood – the quiet strength, the hilarious insanity, and the compassion which has so greatly influenced my own mode of motherhood.

You’re still there for me when I need you. Always ready to listen and offer your opinion (even though you know I’m gonna do my own thing). You are more than my mother, you’re my here for putting up with me and the boys. I don’t know how you managed to get through raising all of us and stay as sane as you …wait… that may explain a lot! ;-)

I love you more than I can ever possibly express, Mom. And today, this Mother’s Day, I am sending a great big hug down your way along with a huge thank you for your role in shaping me into the woman I am today – for being my fearless cheerleader when I thought I was completely lost – and for being there for me even when you didn’t necessarily agree with what I was doing. I am beyond grateful for everything you have done for me and can’t imagine life without you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Love,

Me

#PPDChat: 05.05.14 – The Beast We Don’t Fear with @Alycianeighbour

Alycia is the kind of person every one deserves to have as a friend. She’ll laugh at all the inappropriate things with you, scoop you up when you’re down (even if she’s down too), and then take you to the park where you stomp at pigeons to keep them away. Seriously though, the woman has a very deep heart and has been through quite a bit (you can read her fabulous blog here). She’s the type of friend you can call even if you haven’t talked in awhile and it’s like you never stopped talking. Alycia’s spirit is grounded in her faith in God. It’s constantly challenged by her large (occasionally, okay, mostly chaotic) brood and her menagerie of pets, and soothed by her amazing husband and friends. Somehow, she manages to write and sorta stay sane enough to be friends with the likes of me.

Today’s #PPDChat is based on a post Alycia wrote for me, which appears below. She discusses her dogs (yes, it’s applicable) and how their personalities convey the type of people we might find in our lives. She urges us to find a person like one of her dogs, Tuesday. You’ll have to read the post to discover the details.

This is a chat you don’t want to miss. You’ll laugh, you’ll snort, and most of all, you’ll get some hard truth from both of us about life. See you tonight on Twitter at 830pm ET, 730pm CT, and 530pm PT!

Without further ado, here’s Alycia’s post:

The Beast We Don’t Fear

In our home of 8, there are a lot of beasts we deal with. Recurrent Depression, PTSD, ADHD, and a host of other beasts that show up, because this is Life and sometimes it gets really messy.

This is going to seem like a side note, but is essential in us learning to not fear when the beast shows up.

I have 4 dogs. Their names are Fat Tuesday (160lb English Mastiff) Black Friday (wanna- be alpha male husky 70lbs) Lady Monday (35 lb Shepherd recovering from a broken leg and tentative) and Walter (40lb total mix and MY dog)

I observe them a lot and do a lot of training with them, but never to take away from their inherent nature. The dogs also serve as emotional conductors in my house where nerves get raw and sometimes we need to snuggle and pet something.

(Yes you are seriously reading about dog posturing on a blog that focuses on mental health – hang with me)

Friday has a tendency to get mad easily and will try to take it out on the two smaller than him. Monday will cower and pee on the floor unless cornered and then she takes the teeth out. Walter won’t take his crap at all. But he’s outweighed. So both of them have learned to avoid Bad Mood Friday.

Unless Tuesday is around.

(This sounds like a three stooges routine huh?)

Tuesday is our negotiator and protector when there is a problem, or she perceives an impending problem. Children or dogs beginning to argue, she physically puts herself between them and will nudge the offender or bigger away from the innocent or weak. When someone new is around, she stands guard and on the ready for the unexpected and her services are needed.

Not much gets past a 160lb mammoth dog that is clearly ready to put you in your place.

We all need a Tuesday. I don’t mean we all need a dog as big as a horse, but we need people who will be our Tuesday as we sludge through our mental illness.

We need that one person (or a group is better – but a group dynamic can add emotions which confuse the initial purpose) who we know when we are having a weak day, getting picked on or having an angry day; will lean on us and steer us away from the attack (real or perceived – hurt is hurt, pain is pain – no sliding scale of judgment).

But as great as online groups are and their support can be immediate, we need to find someone tangible, someone who can hold us. Perhaps a relative, friend, family, counselor, etc. just somebody you can touch. Never discount the simple act of your hand on someone’s shoulder who is about to cave.

Alycia & TuesdayGo find yourself a Tuesday and give that person orders to protect you in your fight. You won’t be shunned, I can guarantee that despite your bleak view of the world right now, you will be embraced and you will be safe.

 

#PPDChat Topic: #Semicolonproject416 – Life Goes On

#PPDChat Topic - ; and Life Goes On There’s a fabulous group bringing attention to those who live with mental health issues – The Semicolon Project. Their mission statement:

“The Semicolon Project is a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to presenting hope, help, and support to the people and communities suffering from mental health issues. We are here to address depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction, and suicide. We aim to inspire and encourage people to do one of the hardest things imaginable: ask for help when they need it most.”

These are similar goals to #PPDChat. We are here to encourage people to reach out, address issues, and educate those who are fighting against this specific set of mental health issues. Our passion is dedicated to helping new families thrive as they find their way through new parenthood and for many of them, a new struggle with mental health challenges along the way.
According to The Semicolon Project’s Twitter profile, the meaning behind the semicolon is this:
“A Semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Life is challenging with twists and turns. The toughest challenge, however, is to place a semicolon where you feel like there should be a period. Join me tonight as we talk about choosing to move past the tough and continue the sentence into the rest of our lives.
If you, or someone you love, are in crisis right now, there is help and there is hope. Reach out, seek help. If you need to call someone who understands and can help you, dial 800-273-TALK (8255). You are never alone.