Tag Archives: compassion

Unlabeled

We begin to wear a label at birth. Before birth, actually, if an ultrasound reveals our gender.

Boy. Girl.

Our first label determines what colour clothing our parents buy for us, whether or not we play with dolls or trucks, whether we play football or take high tea with stuffed animals, you get the idea.

Then there’s school.

Gifted. Not gifted.

Let’s not forget all the labels leveled upon us by our well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning classmates.

Slut. Four-eyes. Dork. Dweeb. Jerk. Moron. Faggot. Fat. Ugly. Cheater. Bastard.

Gorgeous. Wonderful. Fabulous. Bright. Intelligent. Honest. Promising. Compassionate.

We, as humans, crave labels. It’s what helps our world make sense.

Girl. Sister. Woman. Girlfriend. Fiance. Wife. Ex-Wife. Aunt. Artist. Writer. Mental Health Advocate. Multiple episode PPD Survivor. Christian. Music fanatic. Bacon fanatic. Football fanatic. F1 Fanatic. MotoGP Fanatic.

The above labels have described me, somewhat, at various points in my life. Sure, there are several other labels I’ve worn over the years but I choose not to claim them anymore. Some labels just never felt completely comfortable yet they were tossed in my direction anyway, and I was forced to wear them, much like Ralphie was forced to wear that horrendous Pink Rabbit costume in A Christmas Story.

One of the biggest labels tossed my way was that of “Co-dependent.” It jumped in my lap at my first meeting with my ex-husband at our Recovery group. He’d just admitted to an narcotics addiction and we were scrambling to save our marriage. According to the Recovery group we chose, any spouse of a recovering addict is automatically a “co-dependent.”

Why?

It felt like a wool sweater, to be honest. Itchy, uncomfortable, and impossible to ignore even once the fabric was removed from my skin.

Had I really become a co-dependent? Is that what my life had been reduced to while I wasn’t watching? How could I be a co-dependent when, in all honesty, I truly had NO IDEA the extent of his use? Was I still responsible for his behaviour? Had I enabled it? Condoned it? How could I have enabled or condoned it if I was unaware? Did his lack of control truly feed a need within me to be the “strong” and “responsible” one?

Yet, there I sat. In a single group of combined women, addicts and “recovering” co-dependents, forced to introduce myself as a “grateful believer in Jesus Christ and a recovering co-dependent” if I chose to speak at a meeting.

I cringed EVERY TIME I SPOKE THOSE WORDS, “Recovering co-dependent.” Denial? Maybe.

Maybe I was co-dependent and so far gone the label was like dunking my head in cold water, thus explaining the uncomfortable nature of even discussing the possibility.

But, I think, what bothered me, was that without even knowing my story, without hearing anything about how we landed in group, I had a label affixed to my soul, a label I then felt forced to use for the remainder of my time there.

What if, what if we refused to label others without hearing their story first? What if, even then, after hearing their story, we still refused to label others and instead allowed them to choose their own labels? Eventually we grow up and are able to dress ourselves, right? Why can’t we also label ourselves if we so choose?

People with mental illness are not crazy. They’re simply people who face more daily challenges than the rest of us.

People with cancer or any other illness/physical ailment? The same.

Your skin colour is different than mine? You’re still a person, right?

Gay? Still a person.

A bigot? Still a person.

Buddhist? Still a person.

Christian? Still a person.

Muslim? Still a person.

Breastfeed? Still a person.

Formula feed? Still a person.

Parent? STILL A PERSON.

Not a parent? STILL A PERSON.

Bottom line?

People are people.

We are not our gender, our sexual preference, our colour, our experiences, our talents, our gifts, our illnesses. WE.ARE.PEOPLE.

You are me and I am you.

End of story.

My goal is not only to live…but to do so unlabeled.

I dare you to do the same.

 

 

When a Blog Goes Silent

I’ve been quiet this summer, save for a few posts here and there.

As I’ve blogged before, there has been a lot of change flowing through my life lately.

I’m still running #PPDChat but increasingly quiet on Facebook and Twitter as well. I haven’t had a video chat in what feels like weeks. Between visits with my kids, falling in love, and re-defining myself (again), there’s been a lot of time spent in my head and focusing on what’s really important to me these days – actually LIVING life.

In the dust though, I’ve been ignoring this place, this blog which kept me sane during my pregnancy with my third child and has allowed so many women to feel supported and less alone as they too navigate the trails of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

I’m silent here because I’m not sure what to say in this space right now. I know that working with women through the Postpartum period is something I want to continue doing. But right now, I’m not sure how to fill this space, how to speak about Postpartum Mood Disorders when my experience and understanding of my experience has literally been redefined over a lot of internal re-evaluation over this past year.

Sure, I can discuss the latest news, issues, etc, but that’s what Katherine Stone over at Postpartum Progress is best at and I certainly don’t want to duplicate her work. What I do here is my thing – it’s filled with heart, compassion, understanding, and my goal is to put forth the feeling of the comfort of reading a letter from a girlfriend who GETS WHERE YOU ARE and can assure you that there’s a light at the end of your tunnel. I freeze when I don’t feel as if I am writing with all of my heart. I freeze if I am not giving things my all. I know what it’s like to not get support and don’t want to give you anything but my very best. Because when you’re hurting and lost in the vortex of a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, you deserve NOTHING BUT THE BEST COMPASSION I CAN GIVE YOU.

Right now, as I let the dust settle (again), in my life, I hope you’ll be patient and understanding. Know you can find me on Twitter. Or if you aren’t on Twitter, go follow my FB  page and drop me a message there. Or email me. It may take me longer to get back to you via email though, so please be patient.

My words are somewhere out there, my passion is still burning deep inside me. It just needs a vacation as the scaffolding and remodeling continues within.

Here’s to looking forward to a grand re-opening and here’s to hoping that it’s right around the corner.

#HAWMC: If I had a superpower

I have a superpower.

It’s compassion.

When you hear the word “superpower” you think of a super hero able to leap buildings in a single bound or swing from building to building with just a web, fly at top speeds or change the weather to defend themselves.

Compassion is a superpower. Not everyone has the capacity for compassion. It’s a combination of things, really. The ability to listen beyond what someone is saying, to hear what they’re saying, and to make them feel safe in saying whatever they need to in order to help the hurt disappear. Compassion is making someone else feel heard, loved, and safe. It’s not judging their journey or their thoughts about their journey. Compassion is a skilled art, honed over time, but only if the person working toward this goal is blessed with the capacity for love and understanding to begin with.

I use my superpower every day to help new mothers as they struggle along the road of Postpartum Mood Disorders. I empower them to seek help, enable them to realize they are not alone, and provide a safe space in which they can flop down, sigh, and pour out all their worries, concerns, and questions.

I’m grateful for my superpower.

 

 

 

Whatever Wednesday: I am not my @klout score

If you’re at all active in the Social Media realm, you are familiar with Klout. You either have it or you don’t. You either joke about it or you take it very seriously. Klout defines some. It confuses others. It depresses many more because try as they might, they just can’t get their Klout score any higher.

In the interest of full disclosure, my Klout score is 62. It’s been that way for months now. Not terribly bad for someone who has a niche blog and mostly socializes on Twitter. Thing is, my Klout score means nothing to me.

The people over at Klout lay out how they determine your score on their Understanding the Influence Metric page. From their page: ” The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.” They then go on to describe how they test, retest, use machines, etc, to determine your Klout score.

My Klout will never be determined by a machine.

I will never be defined by my Klout.

Ever.

When I started blogging over four years ago, it was for a very selfish yet not so selfish reason. Unexpectedly pregnant with our third child, I needed to reframe my pregnancy after two very serious episodes of Postpartum OCD, depression, and a case of PTSD from our second daughter’s NICU stay. After ferociously reading “What am I Thinking: Having a Baby after Postpartum Depression” by Karen Kleiman in which she suggested reframing your pregnancy in a positive light, I decided to start blogging. I was already active in Postpartum Advocacy and had been for a few months by then. Blogging seemed  a natural evolution for my advocacy. So I went to WordPress, snagged a blog, and began to write.

I knew nothing about social media when I started blogging. Twitter was brand new then and FaceBook wasn’t yet on my radar. I blogged away. I found it helped with the tough days. Knowing I would be able to sit down at the end of it or whenever I needed to and just pour my heart out made the hard things easier. My mind began to rework the hard things into funny things. Karen’s idea took hold. My pregnancy began to be positive despite the initial depression which, quite frankly, made me wish at my first few appointments that they wouldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat and I could go on without being pregnant. For the first three months of my pregnancy I was delusional in thinking that the pregnancy was not real and was instead, just a dream. I did not begin to fall in love with the idea of this unexpected pregnancy until nearly five months along.

Eventually I joined Twitter. I do not remember what I talked about in the early days. I do know that @MommyGeekology was one of the first friends I really made there. (We STILL have yet to meet in person – we SO need to remedy that!) From there, my friends on Twitter grew. I shared my blog posts, found other parents to whom I could relate, and was absolutely not shy about discussing the hard stuff with anyone.

A year ago I really embraced the power of Twitter. I started #PPDChat on the third anniversary of my blog. I had no high hopes for attendance nor did I have any expectations for how things would go once chat started. Would I be talking to myself? Would others want to talk about the hard stuff with me? Who would show up? Would I lose followers for talking about nothing but Postpartum Mood Disorders twice a day once a week? Taking a deep breath, I dove in to the first chat.

Our first chat was small and cozy but the sharing blew me away. The evening chat was slightly bigger. I’ve tracked the numbers with TweetReach after each chat. But again, for me, it’s just a way of keeping record. The world likes tangible. I’m not a fan of the tangible. I measure chats by how many people I’ve reached. By how many people asked me questions. Or how many people took a deep breath and said “Hi. I’m hurting. Can you help me?”

My online presence is not about the numbers. It never has been and it never will be about the numbers.

My online presence is about the love and comfort others feel when they talk to me. About the way people mention me to people they know are or might be struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It’s about the heart. My heart as well as the growth and change in the hearts of those who talk to me. Watching people heal and grow stronger is an amazing thing. Knowing that you’re a part of it is even more amazing. It’s humbling.

One year after #PPDChat started, we’re still going strong. In fact, to speak to just how much I don’t pay attention to the numbers – I started a closed FB group for the #PPDChat ladies this past week. It’s a safe place where they can express themselves in more than 140 characters outside of chat. (Note here: you MUST be an active member of #PPDChat to join.) In less than two days, there were 50 members. There are now 61. I’m astounded. I had no idea so many were chatting. I truly love each and every one of the moms and dads who come to me for help. I care deeply for them. You can’t put a number on love. You can’t put a number on heart. You can’t put a number on networking that level of compassion.

Yes, I understand why so many put the emphasis on Klout and why it’s necessary. It’s a tangible measurement of your reach. According to Klout, my true reach is 1k. In my heart though, I know it’s so much more – it’s limitless… and it’s only limitless because of those who have reached out to me, found solace, and then shared me as a resource with others.

I am humbled and grateful for all who have sought me for solace and compassion as you navigate the very dark place filled with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. I can only pray I’m allowed to continue to be a shining light in that dark place for years and years to come…. outlasting even Klout.

Humbled: Seems I inspired a PSI Fundraiser in TX

Back in August, there was an email to a Postpartum Mental Illness group of which I am a member. This email stood out. It was from a Dad. He sounded desperate. His daughter was struggling with Postpartum Depression. His words echoed with concern and worry.

Despite that I was at Wal-Mart, on my cell phone, and had screaming kids in the backseat, something told me to respond right then and there. My husband was with me and I asked him to drive so I could respond. By now, he was very used to this scenario.

In responding to this Dad, I identified myself as a Postpartum Support International Coordinator and offered to email off group with him. We began to email privately within 24 hours. He opened up completely to me and I referred him to Coordinators in TX but let him know I would remain available for any questions he had as the situation proceeded.We continued to email back and forth for a few months. At one point, I had not heard from him in a few weeks and he popped into my head so I emailed him to see how things were going. This is the way things went between us.

This father was James Stanley.

Turns out he’s on the Diversity Council for Luminant Technologies, a subsidiary of one of the largest Energy Companies in Texas.

So moved by my compassion, James approached Luminant Technologies about a fundraiser for PSI.

It’s in August.

I have been oh so humbled by all of this. I did nothing beyond what I do every day and what I wished someone had done for me. James told me this fundraiser is the least he could do. It’s SO much more though. So very much more.

Each day, I arise with thankfulness in my heart for having made it so far. I wake with a simple goal – to help just one mom or family understand or get help with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Since I’ve started reaching out, I have never failed. This is a daily goal I never intend to lose.

You can read his story at Postpartum Progress.

I’ll be in Texas for the golf tournament.

The best part? I get to meet James and his wife. And THANK him for his very compassionate heart.

According to the post at Postpartum Progress, here’s how you can help sponsor this event:

Luminant’s Sandow/Three Oaks Diversity Advisory Council 2nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, August 7th at the Golf Club Star Ranch in Hutto, TX (near Austin).  The entry fee is $75 per player and $300 per team if you register by July 27th.  The entry fee includes lunch, golf cart, range balls and drink coupons.  Mulligans can also be purchased.  Prizes will be awarded to top finishers, and random drawings will be made for additional winners.  To learn more or to register, click here.  You can also contact Debi Mikulencak at 512-446-8992.

To help Luminant support PSI, your company can help sponsor this event.  There is a wide variety of sponsorship options.  To learn more, click here.

Also, we welcome assistance from PSI supporters who would like to donate a gift certificate or gift card from a national chain for use as auction items or prizes at the golf tournament.

James – Thank YOU, sir, for your dedication and compassionate heart. You have humbled me.

And thank you, God, for putting the two of us together. You have truly blessed this in every way possible.

The importance of seizing teachable moments

Today, Janis over at Sneak a Peek at Me blogged about Teaching your Children about Differences. Sadly, this post is rooted in an experience she and her son were affected by today. During a trip to a local zoo, several children stopped and stared at her son. Their parents did not seize this opportunity to teach their children about differences. So she’s blogging about it to bring attention to this serious issue.

I agree with her.

As the mother of a special needs child, I have had to field questions about my own daughter. But my daughter’s issues are not clearly visible to those around us. So the challenges I face are different. It’s when my daughter speaks that we get questions. You see, she was born with a cleft palate, recessed jaw, and a floppy tongue (glossotopsis). This is officially known as Pierre Robin Sequence in her case because there are no other genetic syndromes along with her diagnosis. She’s had six surgeries, the first one at just 9 days old, the most recent one just over a year ago.

Her speech, while improved, is far from the normal expected speech. We have to constantly remind her to speak slowly. To enunciate. And yes, my four-year old KNOWS what the word enunciate means. And I know way more about speech therapy than I ever imagined I would when I started down Parenting Lane.

Our daughter tries her best. She does get frustrated because she’s terribly bright but more often than not, her ability to use her voice and words gets in the way of what she wants to share with us. She gets worn out and doesn’t want to try. Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand her. And sometimes it’s hard for others to understand her. She worries about being teased. And it happens. Someone asks her a question, they can’t understand the response, and voila. We get a question.

While it’s not the same as Janis’ situation, I understand the basic emotions. Immediately I worry they won’t understand or that they’ll make fun of her. The only place I’ve had to field an insensitive comment about her condition has been from a fellow kid in her special needs pre-k class. And I answered it appropriately. I seized it as a teachable moment by explaining to this child that issues with speech were what Charlotte needed help with because of the way she was born. But that she was trying her hardest at making her speech better each and every day. The child nodded and went back to his coloring. Charlotte shot me a grin (she had overheard the child’s question) and went back to her coloring as well.

It is important to us Charlotte understand how she was born. That she know we are not ashamed of it and she can do whatever she wants to do with her life. We celebrate the smallest of achievements – like this year – on her fourth birthday? She blew out the candles all by herself for the first time EVER. The first time she blew up a balloon? Squeals! Bubbles? Lots of squeals!

She did not start talking until she was nearly two years old, maybe even older. We talk with her a lot about her speech and why she has problems with it. She openly shares with us when she’s frustrated with it and we work to heal those frustrations together. She’ll be starting a regular pre-k program later this summer and is very worried about other kids making fun of her. I’ve been making sure to sit down with her to talk about her options if that happens. She’s getting very good at asking questions and opening up with us about her worries and concerns. I’m happy to see this development because it means I’ve done my job right in being open with her about what’s going on in her life. I know there are more battles down the road. Right now though, I’m building the base of a very strong building for my daughter. I want her to stand tall no matter what comes her way. I want her to know she’s perfectly okay the way she is because GOD made her that way. That we love her no matter what.

And if we see someone different out in public and one of the kids say something, we are down at their level immediately, explaining to them that GOD makes everyone different, that some of us may need extra help but that’s okay. We tell them we should love everyone the same, be polite to everyone, and that pointing and staring is not okay. We tell them that people who are different are still people and want to be treated with the same compassion, respect, and dignity as everyone else. So far the kids are doing great with this. I hope this is a lesson they carry with them for life and infuse into their own children’s lives. Because acceptance and compassion are half the battle in being the bigger person.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 10.27.09: What’s YOUR Postpartum Mood Disorder Story?

women talking in sunset

Original Photo taken by tranchis @ flickr

This site was started to help me re-frame an unexpected pregnancy after two rather nasty experiences with Postpartum OCD. Turns out that by doing so I not only helped myself but managed to help a lot of other women along the way.

There was a point during my suffering when I dreaded having to retell my story. Looking back I should have just typed the whole thing up and kept copies on hand – kind of like a resume. (Hey – not a bad idea if you end up having to hunt for a decent doctor!) But there came a turning point where my story began to foster a sense of strength and self. Finally I began to bloom.

We’re all at different points on our journey. Some of us are right in the thick of it, some of us a bit further out, others are fully recovered, some have relapsed and are struggling right back out thanks to the path we carved out the last time we fell down. But we are all in it together.

Rather than retype my entire story here (cuz that would take some time!), you can click here to read about “The Day” I was admitted to psych ward. And if you’re brave enough (ie, preferably not in the thick of it or relapsed) you can read another piece I’ve written here about some of the thoughts I had when things were so dark I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.

For me and for many others, telling our story or even venting has become a powerful source of personal therapy. It’s a way to just get some of the stress out of our body, our mind, and even possibly work through issues.

So let’s get to just talkin’ here. I want to hear your stories. I want to know what you’ve gone through/are going through. Speak up. We’re here to be supportive, compassionate, and lend our hearts.

I can’t wait to read what you have to share!

National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding

O Lord, you have searched us and known us

You know when we sit down and when we rise up,

and know our innermost thoughts.

You search out our paths and know all our ways.

Before we speak, you know our words.

When we were knit together in our mother’s womb

You knew us as woman, as child, as man.

Wherever we go, Your hand will lead us.

So guide us along the pathways to hope,

that night becomes bright as day.

So lead us on our walk together,

that darkness is lifted from our hearts.

So encourage us that our sisters and brothers

Who have mental illness shall know that

they never walk alone.

Amen

Grace Awards

Finally! I’m catching up on an entire summer’s worth of stories. I’ve got four good ones here to get us started. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be going through the remainder of my notifications and posting awards here and there. Enjoy!

Grace Award Badge

“Loss of Loved ones reveals powerful strength”

Jackie Friedman, Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota

July 11, 2008

Moving and respectful piece about Becky Lavelle, Jennifer Bankston’s twin sister. Jenny Bankston took her life and her son’s life on December 17, 2007 after developing severe postpartum Depression. Becky went on to clinch an alternate spot on the Olympic Triathlon team. Jackie Friedman does an excellent and respectful job of presenting the relationship Becky and Jenny had and also of the grief Becky has endured.

“Book helped mothers deal with problem”

Memory McLeod, The Leader-Post, Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

July 8, 2008

The story behind the book, The Smiling Mask – The Truth behind Postpartum Depression & Parenting. This book tells the story of three mothers and their struggles with Postpartum Depression. My favorite part about the article? One of the authors is quoted as she points out that women with PP OCD are bombarded with negative thoughts but don’t typically do anything about them. THANK YOU Memory, for using that quote.


“Are you ready for your newborn?”

Lisa Martin, special Contributor to Dallas Morning News

August 05, 2008

While this article is not entirely dedicated to Postpartum Depression, the section on PPD is awesome – Lisa includes symptoms, possible treatments, and what really makes me happy is that she mentions PPD can occur anytime during the first year after giving birth. Kudos to you Lisa for not limiting this to just the first six weeks of the postpartum period!

“Birth Trauma: Stress Disorder Afflicts Moms”

Rachel Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal/Health

August 05, 2008

Ms. Zimmerman does an absolutely outstanding job (and what else would be expected from the WSJ?) reporting on Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Clearly she did her homework, interviewed experts, and the article shows true respect and compassion for moms who struggle with this disorder as a result of challenging childbirth. Thank you, Rachel, for a wonderful piece and shedding light on this rare and often undiscussed complication of childbirth!

Four Years and Two Kids Later…

Tonight we visited with family from Florida. They come up once a year and we really enjoy getting to spend time with them. Our conversation tonight sparked the idea for this post. I finally got asked if I get any time to myself. Where was this question four years ago after Alli? Granted, it may have been asked and my mommy brain may have just forgotten it and now that I’m focused on helping other families, this question may have stood out more tonight than in the past if it was asked.

My time to myself is naptime. The kids all go down for nap at the same time and I usually get a couple of hours and typically I don’t get sleepy until they’re just about ready to wake up. Figures, right? This will all change come Tuesday when Alli starts Pre-K. I am still struggling to believe I have a child starting Pre-K. I am looking forward to this and dreading it all at the same time. Looking forward to the break from having three kids all day long but dreading it because it is a disruption to routine and neither Alli nor I do well with disruptions to our routines. I know we’ll be fine after an adjustment period.

I’ve also noticed lately I’m feeling rather unattached to the girls and over-attached to Cameron. In fact, I’ve even joked with Chris that I’d love to have another baby. Not right now of course – we are struggling way too much in the financial district to even consider that a reality. Down the road maybe. Then I wonder how normal what I am feeling is – Is it normal to feel like this? I had two rough postpartum periods with the girls and this one with Cameron has been such a blissful honeymoon experience (ok, so minus the stuff Chris has put me through but hey, that’s not really related – baby stuff has been great) – has it put me into a lullaby delusion of wanting another? And what’s with the detachment from my older two? I still love them and want to be with them but there’s just something missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it. But yet I can pick up Cameron and feel this instant bond with him. Is this normal? I’ve been struggling with this for a couple of weeks now but finally figured out how to express these feelings today.

As for the time to yourself question – Just because a mom has only one baby doesn’t mean she’s got time to herself. Ask if she needs help with anything – the laundry, errands, meals, etc. Ask if she wants to talk or just wants some company. She’s not going to come right out and tell you these things. Offer to watch Baby while she gets a shower or takes a nap. New moms are struggling to navigate an entirely new world just as awkwardly as their babies  are – Moms need to be mothered too, something we in the US seem to have conveniently forgotten in this era of the Microwave Society, ie., I need it done four minutes ago! When did we get stuck on fast-forward? Slow down. Time isn’t going anywhere but forward and there will be time in the future to do the dishes and clean the house. Right now, focus on YOU. Focus on the new mom who is finding her way and developing her new routine. Be patient with her. Be kind to her. Guide her with compassion and warmth. She will be eternally grateful and you will always be kindly remembered.