Tag Archives: mental health

#PPDChat 12.08.14: 12 Things to Say to New Mothers

12 things to say to new momsRiffing on the 12 Days of Christmas in a nod to the holiday season, I invite you to join me tonight on Twitter at 830pm to share words of wisdom for new moms facing or possibly facing a Perinatal & Anxiety Mood Disorder.

I’m sure we will end up with more than 12 things to say but I will bring 12 points on which we can focus our advice.

See you tonight!

#PPDChat 11.17.14: Holidays & PPD

ppdchat-11-17-14

As the holiday season rapidly approaches and social appearances are greatly expected, those of us who struggle with mental health issues store up excuses to bow out of gatherings. While saying no is a phenomenal practice, there may be some gatherings which are required. We grit our teeth and bear it, hoping to repair our anxiety once it is over.

Tonight’s chat will focus on coping mechanisms for surviving the holiday season. Learning to say no, surviving when we are sucked into the vortex of family and work gatherings, and building self-care for our souls into the holiday season. ‘Tis the season to give of ourselves, but also TO ourselves. Be kind to yourselves these holidays – refill your pitcher as you pour to others.

Join me tonight at 830pm ET on Twitter. See you at #PPDChat!

 

In case you missed the chat, here’s the transcript:

#PPDChat 09.21.14: When Darkness Falls – SAD & PPD

ppdchat-09-22-14Fall Equinox.

When I was a kid, I loved those words. It meant the leaves would soon change colour, setting the landscape ablaze in yellows, oranges, reds, and the sunlight would carry the newly found rainbow into the sky as it sank beneath the horizon earlier and earlier every night.

It also meant my birthday was only 4 days away.

But now, as I have journeyed several days down the path of life, I don’t enjoy those two little words as much any more. In fact, they make me sad. I strive to find the joy in autumn and not focus too much on the shorter days and looming increase in hours spent in the dark, away from the sun.

I moved back to the northeast United States a few years ago. The first year I was here, Sandy hit. I have not been right since. The cloudy days, the shorter days, the snow (dear LORD, the snow), the dark – it has me sinking into the depths of my couch in the winter, fighting for any shred of happiness I can find. I finally had a discussion with my doctor about it last year and we realized it may actually be a combination of PTSD from Sandy and the settling in of SAD.

So now, this year, I am prepared. I fought back last year with medication (finally) but after doing everything else I could do as well – a therapeutic SAD lamp, Vitamin D, socialization, etc. But this year, I’m still on my meds, I use my light every morning as I drink my first cup of coffee and catch up with friends on social media, easing myself into my day.

Tonight, we’ll discuss not only the very real issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but how that may complicate PPD and things you can do to battle both at the same time. I hope you’ll join us.

See you tonight at 830pm ET!

PPDChat 09.15.14: After Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

ppdchat-09-15-14There is such a range of experience with mental health after the birth of a child. From the expected baby blues to the much more serious psychosis. But most of us expect the healing to come within a reasonable amount of time.

For many of us, it doesn’t and we find ourselves fighting a mental health battle we never saw coming. For others, it’s a battle which started before we became mothers and is continuing.

But tonight’s chat will focus on the continued, unexpected battle. Those of us who go on from a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder into a full blown life long battle against a variety of mental health diagnosis. What then? How do we cope? How do we keep from constantly falling down the rabbit hole? How do we fight the exhaustion? The parenting while fighting our own minds? It’s all too much sometimes and we retreat into ourselves, leaving our partners to hold the reins. What if that partner isn’t supportive? What if we can’t find the space we need to parent within the boundaries of these challenges? What then?

So many questions, different from the experience and transient nature of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’ll touch on them at tonight’s chat. I hope you’ll join me at 830pm ET on Twitter. See you there!

#PPDChat 08.18.14: Self-Care – Lists of Three

ppdchat-08-11-14

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 06.30.14: The Art of Journaling

ppdchat-06-30-14

“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

ppdchat-06-23-2014

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!