Tag Archives: anniversary

Graham Crackers & Peanut Butter served with a side of crazy: Part I

I had planned to post my full story here today. But as I typed, it got long. Really long. I’m at five full typed pages with a few more to go.

(You’ll have to wait until I’m hospitalized for the title to make sense. Just go with it for now!)

In Part I, we’ll work our way from waking up the morning of my hospitalization to later that afternoon when I finally called the doctor’s office.

Tomorrow will offer some background on what led up to the day of hospitalization.

This series is the most brutally honest I’ve ever been with anyone about my experience. Including myself. It feels good. It feels oh so good to get it all out in the open.

As I walked with my family this morning, I thought about this post. And for some reason the movie The Goonies popped into my head. You know the scene when they realize they’re in the wishing well?

Mouth gets pissy and says, “This wish was mine! And it didn’t come true. So I’m taking it back. I’m taking them all back.” Then he disappears under the water as he hunts for his other wishes.

Every mother wishes for a good postpartum experience. Many of us get that wish. Some of us don’t.

This is me. Taking back the power that Postpartum Depression had over me. Taking it ALL back. But I’m keeping my head above the water.

Four years ago this weekend, I visited a mental hospital. Involuntarily. This is how I landed there:

As I stumbled out of our bedroom, I remember looking out the living room window. Blue sky, sunshine, green forest stared back at me. Birds chirped, the dogs glanced at me, I heard our two-year old awake and prayed our almost three-month old was still asleep.

One question repeated over and over in my head.

“What would happen if I let go?” Just let go, they whispered. “You deserve to let go. Let go. Reality is a joke. Just.LET.GO. Let go. Let go. Let.go. let go….let go…..” the soft whispers echoed in my head all day long.

I fed our two-year old breakfast as I pumped. Set up our infant daughter’s tube feeding. Took our two-year old to her room to play. Laid down on her couch. Closed my eyes. Slept through her lifting my arms, dropping them down, begging me to wake up and play.

I did not want to play. I could not play. If I was unconscious, I couldn’t hurt her. If I was unconscious, the voices would shut up. If I was unconscious, visions of smothering them both with pillows would go away. If I was unconscious – no wait, if I was not here……maybe…. maybe…..but how… just.. if I wasn’t here, I couldn’t hurt them.

I dozed as she played. I heard her as she begged me to play with her. Yet there I lay, paralyzed, my mind miles and miles away, locked in a deep dark closet somewhere, refusing to come out just like obstinate toddler.

Our infant daughter’s Kangaroo pump alarm sounded. After a few minutes, I finally stumbled into her room to turn it off and disconnect her. Back to the kitchen to make lunch for our two-year old. I think it was a PB&J.

Let go. Jump. Take a deep breath and fall. The hardest part is just letting go. Let go, they whispered. Over and over and over and over and over……

I clearly saw myself with a pillow, hands tightly gripping either side. If I just made them go away, the voices would go away. The pillow would solve everything. I could just make them go away. Then I’d let go and everything would be okay. Everything would be okay. Everything. Would. Be. Okay. It’d be okay.

I put our two year old down for a nap and started another tube feeding for our infant daughter. I hadn’t pumped since 10:45 a.m. It was pushing 1:00 p.m. I didn’t want to pump. Why should I?

She’s asleep now, they both are. It’d be so easy. So easy.

My thin strand of reality shredding, I turned to the voices. They started to push me toward the brink of the canyon. I didn’t have much fight left inside. Home alone, it would be so easy. The monsters were gaining ground. Their battering ram tediously close to knocking down the last door I had shored up against them, I went to our bedroom and closed the door, disgusted with myself.

Our bed saved my children.

I lay down, curled up in the middle with the phone. I clutched it as a stranded sailor clutches a life ring. Tightly, refusing to give it up even as I rocked back and forth, staring past the squirrels scrambling up and down 200-year-old oak tree swaying softly outside our bedroom window.

As the tears began to slide down my face, my breath shallow and my chest felt tight, I dialed my husband at work.

“You have to come home.” I choked the words out.

“Why?”

“You have to come home.”

“I can’t just leave work for no reason. Why?”

“I’m not doing well. You have to come home. I need you to call the doctor for me.”

“I can’t leave work. Why can’t you call the doctor?”

I gasped for air. The one person I felt safe in reaching out to was shooting me down. I needed help. I needed… I needed…

“Because I just can’t. I can’t… I…. “ burst into tears.

“Call them and let me know what they say, okay?” his voice was slightly softer.

“But I… “ argh. I hung up on him. I had tried to call the doctor’s office for the past four days, dammit. Yet somehow today had to be the day I made it happen. The day I had no strength left in any corner of my mind. Yeh.

I dialed the doctor’s office. And hung up.

I dialed again. Hung up.

I dialed again. Hung up.

Dialed. Ring. Ring…..ring… automation. Press 0.

Hang up. Dammit.

And now my husband was calling me back as I tried again. Ring…ring. Automation.

PRESS 0, dammit, said the only sane part of me. Press it! Say something when they answer. SAY something.

“Hello, this is Dr. X’s office. How can we help you?”

“I… I… I need help. My name is Lauren Hale and I’m not okay. I need help.”

It felt good and so horribly wrong all at the same time.

(Click here to read Part II.)

Reclaiming the Anniversary: One Father’s Journey

On April 9, 2009, I posted a moving story from Joseph Raso over at the Postpartum Dads Project. Susan Stone had originally posted this at Empowher.com and I reposted with her permission. The piece stayed with me.

On Wednesday night, I received an email from Joseph. It included a link to a video montage of his daughter, Crystal, set to the Rascal Flatts song, “Why.” Crystal tragically shot herself shortly after giving birth to her second child, Max. No one knew she had been struggling. They simply thought Crystal was being Crystal and worrying just as she always did. No one was let in to help her. Her world turned upside down, inside out, and the only way she saw out was to leave her family behind in the most tragic way possible. Joseph has worked courageously and tirelessly to share Crystal’s story with as many people as he can in order to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. And for that, I commend him. It is difficult work to take such a dark event and turn it into something so showered with light nothing can touch it.

Today, February 27, 2010, marks the second anniversary of Crystal’s tragic passing. Please join me in respectfully remembering her life. Join me in praying for her family, her parents, her husband, her children – praying they will continue to find strength and that God will bless them each and every day. Join me in sharing her story to raise awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Click on the candle picture to light a virtual candle which will burn for 48 hours in honor of Crystal and mothers everywhere who needlessly lose their lives to Postpartum Mood Disorders each day.

I charge you with a simple task today. If you know an expectant or new parent, male or female, make a point of asking how THEY are doing. Encourage honesty. Don’t judge. Listen with compassion. Educate yourself and expectant/new parents about Postpartum Mood Disorders. Feel up to more? Challenge your local L&D to educate new moms if they aren’t already doing so. Please don’t let any more mothers suffer so alone and so silently. It’s just not okay.

(Before you click on the video below, please know that it made me bawl like a total baby after having read Joseph’s piece. And I don’t cry or bawl. Often. If you are not emotionally stable right now, you may want to skip the video. There is nothing graphic in it at all. It’s just very very moving. Kudos to Joseph for putting together such an amazing montage.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYIRZbyXnu0]

The following is what Joseph shared with me via email when he sent me the video:

“This Saturday (02/27/10) is the second anniversary of Crystal’s passing.  Mary, I, and the whole family miss her so.  Seeing her children, Hannah and Max, almost daily is double edged sword.  On one hand, being a huge part of their lives brings such joy, but on the other hand, every time we see them we are reminded WHY we are such a big part…  it is because Crystal is gone.  I thought you might want to keep this video in your library.  Someday you might want to forward it to someone who could be at risk of postpartum depression.  This song “Why,” by Rascal Flatts, not only tells the story of how our actions can affect others, it is also so beautiful, anybody could enjoy it.  When I first heard it, I was  reminded of what we went through after Crystal died.  God Bless You.”

If you, a loved one, or a friend are coping with the recent loss of a loved one to suicide, please read this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you are contemplating suicide, there IS hope. There are people who love you. People who care and want to help you heal. Need someone to talk to right now? Click here for a comprehensive list of resources in the US.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, contact Postpartum Support International‘s warmline at 1.800.944.4PPD. (I may just be one of the people to return your call – I’m a volunteer for the warmline in addition to providing support in my home state of Georgia)

Bottom Line here? There is hope. There is help. And above all, you are absolutely NOT to blame. And above that? You WILL be well.

Please feel free to share any of the above information on your blogs or within your networks. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Below is a button for you to place on your blog in remembrance of Crystal. The only rule is that if you download it and post it, it must be linked to Joseph’s YouTube video.

Here is a list of blogs participating in today’s remembrance event. A big Thank You goes out to all of them for great posts! (If you posted and you’re not listed below, please let me know so I can add you to the list!)

What tips do you have for surviving an anniversary?

Yesterday’s post, The Power of the Anniversary, got quite a bit of attention. Might have something to do with not blogging since oh, December, but it may also have something to do with the fact that the anniversary is not talked about very often and many women feel all the same emotions rushing back at them – confused  as the wave overtakes them because they’re supposed to be healed!

So I thought I would ask what you did to cope with these emotions if they cropped up?

I did not do anything particularly spectacular beyond surviving the day and moving forward. Looking back, I wish I had done something different and special. And I may just start doing that despite being recovered and not really experiencing the full blast of the anniversary anymore.

One thing I always thought would be neat would be to release a balloon with a piece of paper inside listing the warning signs of Postpartum Depression along with contact information for Postpartum Support International. But that’s the advocate side of me.

The mom/woman side of me has other suggestions:

Write yourself a letter for the following year with goals and expectations. Force yourself to focus on the positive. But be sure to include your current emotions in the letter so when you read it the following year, you’ll know just how far you’ve come.

Schedule a 30 minute massage. I know, massage is not a cure-all but it IS relaxing and pampers you. If you can’t do a massage, take a hot bath at home with a favorite bubble bath!

Seek out others who have struggled through Postpartum Depression and talk with them about their anniversaries. You’ll be surprised at how common the feelings you’re struggling with are.

If things begin to slide south well before the anniversary, talk with a therapist or a professional. Seek help. It’s ok to get help. It’s SMART to get help.

Surviving a Postpartum Mood Disorder is no small feat. There will be battle scars. And they will be re-opened. Get your “first-aid” kit ready so you can close those suckers up before they get really nasty!

The Power of the anniversary

"A Floating Red Balloon" by jcarlosn @ flickr.com

Put the past behind you.

Move forward.

Be happy about how far you have come since (fill in the blank).

These are all common phrases people love to shoot off when they know someone is struggling to deal with something which happened in the past. While they are certainly lovely sentiments, the one thing people who give voice to these phrases do not know is that memory is very organic. Sure you can do your best to decide to deal with a tragic event in a positive way but then there are the memories which sneak up on us and scare us to death. The anniversary of the birth of my daughters and the anniversary of my time in a mental ward for Postpartum OCD are a few memories which did just that to me.

I am not alone in this experience.

Many women struggle when reaching their child’s first birthday, their hospitalization date, miscarriage date, or the date on which they lost a child. These are all events that leave more than a glancing blow. The fight to return to the “new normal” is an uphill battle. And once the “new normal” arrives and you’ve unpacked the last box, there’s a looming date trouncing your way ever so cheerfully. Sure you can bob and weave but even the best of us may find ourselves down for the count after a few sucker punches.

A fellow PPD warrior mom, Helen Crawford, shared with me that her 1yr anniversary was very traumatic. She could smell/hear the memories of the year before. “My fingers burned. I talked with my therapist. Surviving severe depression is like surviving extreme trauma. I took the finger burning as a reminder to ‘love myself more’ and say thank you to my body.”

Today my three year old daughter found pictures of herself as an infant. Awwwwww, you say. But these particular pictures included a feeding tube taped ever so gingerly to her less than 24 hour old cheek with cute teddy bear gauze tape. Classic symptoms consumed me – heart in throat, check, rapid shallow breathing, check, rapid pulse, check, dizzy, check. Oh.CRAP. She’s been flashing them here and there for the past week and I’ve been ever so nicely sidestepping the issue. But today, today she wanted to know WHAT that was on her cheek and why it was there. Oh boy. And I thought the hard question with kids was supposed to be “Mommy? Where do Babies come from?” (And for the record, I GOT that one today too from her 5 year old sister – what a day!)

Suddenly, there I was again. Curled up in the hospital bed, crying my heart out, aching, hurting, wanting to go back in time to BEFORE the birth, for someone to warn us about the rabbit hole into which we were about to trip. What.the.hell???

She knows about her cleft palate and knows doctors fixed it. She also knows which belly button came from mommy and which one belongs to the doctors. But we have never discussed the tubes. NEVER. As playfully as I could, I explained to her that because her mouth had a hole in it when she was born, she had to eat with a tube which went in through her mouth and went allllll the way down to her stomach. (I can still hear her laughing because I tickled her as I told her this.) Inside, I was dying. I smelled the NICU. I heard the sounds, the crying, saw the tense faces, the reserved mouths as they asked about worst case scenarios. I thought I was going to pass out when she said she wanted these pictures – the tube pictures – up on her bedroom wall. I softly replied that Mommy would have to think about it.

I thought about it all day. ALL day. Once she got home from her 2 hours of special needs pre-k for her speech, we talked. Honestly and age-appropriately. I told her that when she was born while I was very happy to meet her and get to know her, all of the medical stuff surrounding her birth like the tube feedings and surgeries were very difficult for Mommy to handle. And that it was very hard for Mommy to look at pictures of her with tubes and such attached to her. I promised her we would find some different baby pictures to put up on her wall. I also told her that it was ok she had to use a tube – and I was glad the nurses and doctors knew just what to do to help her grow strong so she could become the amazing silly little girl she is today. She was sad but seemed to take it in stride.

To top things off, 12 years ago today, my maternal grandfather passed away suddenly after experiencing congestive heart failure. Yay for anniversaries, right? (And in 19 days, I’ll be marking the anniversary of my paternal grandfather’s death which left me grandparentless. I was a real ball of joy 12 years ago, I tell you what!)

Grief is a tough thing to handle. 12 years ago I dealt with it in a very physical and raw manner. I remember crying, screaming, and punching my then boyfriend until I would literally black out. Healthy, right?

The thing is to give yourself PERMISSION to mourn/remember/accept whatever it is that your anniversary centers around. Celebrate how far you’ve come since said event. Honor the event but also do something to help propel yourself forward. One of the last things my maternal step grandmother said to me (in what I now know was her I know I’m dying soon so I better get this out while I can speech) was to always be the best that I could be no matter what stood in my way. Those words have stuck by me. And even in failure, I’ve always strived to do every single thing that I possibly could before giving up. It’s part of what got me through my PPD. I knew I was better than PPD. I KNEW I had to turn and fight. And every time I have an opportunity to help another mom through her struggles, I am celebrating my anniversary. I am celebrating no longer being alone. I am paying forward the help I received. I am choosing to walk the line between remembering the past yet striving for the future. I AM HERE to do that. And for that, I am grateful.

Remember to celebrate YOU on your child’s birthday too. It’s not just your child’s birthday – it’s YOUR own personal Mother’s Day. Don’t rush around for the kid without stopping to breathe for yourself too. Sure, Hallmark doesn’t make a card for this but that makes it all the more special, right? You’ve earned it. You’re worth it. And doggonnit, we like you. In addition, the more positives you make out of a negative, the less power it holds over you. Darkness cannot win when bathed in light. Choose to regain those reins as you approach your anniversary – whether it’s childbirth, miscarriage, hospitalization, recovery – it’s ok to cry. But it’s totally awesome to party too.

One Year Later

We have said goodbye to marijuana.

She hasn’t shown her funky green face here for a year now. She is not missed.

It’s been a hard road. There have been fights. There have been tears. Lies, broken hearts, scars, wounds, screams, regrets – both good and bad.

But there have also been long talks. Good talks. Open doors, open hearts, forgiving souls, forward motion.

We’ve learned some difficult lessons through all of this. The biggest lesson of all is to keep moving forward and not linger in the past. For if you are not careful the past will painfully dig its claws deep into your heart and never let go. You will suffer catastrophic heartache if you cannot leave the past behind.

Philippians 3:13 -15 sums it up well: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”

I know our journey is far from over. I’d be an ignorant ostrich if I didn’t admit that there are many bumps in the road ahead of us. Burying my head in the sand won’t do anyone any good in the long run.

This past week has been rough. I’ve been hashing last year’s events over in my head – the soft rain falling as my fingertips and toes went numb after my car crumpled into another vehicle in the dark night. The rescue worker who spread his arms and jacket above me to shield the rain from my face as I was lifted into the ambulance. Memories of sitting in our living room wrapped in two blankets as I clutched a cup of coffee and with a quiet anger read the riot act to my husband for my three hours in jail.

Last night we had a great talk as we sat on the front porch with a couple of pre-embargo vintage Cuban cigars. I admitted I had occasional regrets about not having seized the opportunity a year ago to leave. As good as it felt to get this off my chest, I am glad I’ve stayed.

I’m glad I’ve been here for the rebirth of my husband. He’s truly come into his own and has shed quite a bit of old skin. I’ve been reborn too – learning patience, forgiveness, peace, strength, and love all over again. I’m excited to see what the next year holds for us. Right now, we’re on Day 7 of The Love Dare. I gave it to Chris for Christmas but we waited until Fireproof came out on DVD to start. It’s making a difference already.

I want to take a moment to thank my husband.

Thank you. Thank you for being man enough to admit you had made a mistake. Thank you for growing. For being brave enough to shed your shell and let people get to know the real you. For not hiding behind the marijuana anymore. For truly accepting God’s word into your life and your heart. For stepping it up and coming into your own as a father and as a husband. For finally being here for our family. I’m so lucky to know you. I’m blessed to be married to you. I’m thankful to be by your side as you emerge from your chrysalis. I can’t wait to see your shining colors. I can’t wait to face whatever challenges lie ahead of us. Together. Forever. Just as we promised on June 15, 2002. All I want is you. It’s all I ask for – the real you. I love you.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to My Blog! We’re One!
I can honestly say that when I started this blog a year ago, I was merely trying to reframe my unexpected pregnancy. I had NO idea what it would become or where it would take me. And here we are, a year later, our son is nearly 5 months old, and nearly 10,000 people have visited my blog since inception. Wow. I hope that I’ve managed to change some lives through sharing my story. If it’s even just one life, it’s all been worth it. I know keeping this blog has been quite a journey for me, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!
Always take care of yourselves!
Warmest,
Lauren