Tag Archives: postpartum depression

#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.

A Different Breed

She sighs, in the dark, as her baby snuggles closer to her neck, his chubby fists opening and closing as he exhales and relaxes his body with a small whimper. She waits, supporting him, waiting for that moment when the weight of sleep brings a random tingle or two to her forearm. Stands up slowly, using muscles in her thighs to lift her upper body as she does so, careful to not a muscle touching her now sleeping infant. Eyes flutter shut as she puts one foot in front of the other, heading for the crib. Baby shifts, stutter sighs, and moves, nuzzling further into her neck. She moves her hand to the back of his head, rubbing it softly as she hums their song.

She manages to lay him down and leave the room. As she crawls into bed, her calves sink into the mattress first, then the exhaustion surges upward until her eyes slam shut until morning, all of an hour and a half away when she will wake up to a hungry baby, a dog with a full bladder, and a toddler who has probably strewn cheerios over half the house because she needed to feed the dog.

Motherhood.

It changes us.

Mentally.

Physically.

For some, motherhood is a warm field on a sunny day filled with laughter, babbling brooks, playful deer, and an intoxicating joy.

For others, motherhood is a dark room in the bottom of the keep, covered with bars, the key well beyond our reach. We fight, we scream, we rage against the thick door but it won’t budge. We see the warm field in the sun from the window a the top of our room and long for it – long to talk walks with our little ones as the sun beats down upon our faces and a smile spreads across our face but instead, we are trapped inside our own special hell.

Motherhood without a mental illness is not the easiest road to tread, either. Heck, life in general requires some level of tenacity. One of the most frustrating things I am faced with is not discounting the struggles that each of us go through – respecting the journey of every single mother without demeaning the journey of another. And yet, it’s my goal.

Over the past several years, I have been privileged enough to meet some of the most amazing and resilient parents. Parents who fight for themselves, for their children, for their relationships, for life. Parents who work through even deeper hells than I can even imagine and still manage to parent their kids, all the while, worrying about how their experience will affect their kids, their marriage, their jobs, their lives. Yet, every morning, they wake, get out of bed, and take another step forward toward healing, even if they are absolutely exhausted.

A friend of mine posted on FB a quip about hockey players being a different breed. He was commenting on Rich Peverly’s alleged desire to get back into the game despite having experienced a cardiac event on the bench. Any other sport and the player wouldn’t be thinking about getting back in the game, right?

The same is true of mothers battling against mental illness, whatever form it may take for them. We want to get back in the game. We want to play, we want to laugh. We want to be free to just…be…without the burden or restraint of our mental health on our souls. This is why we cherish the good days and wade through the bad ones. Why we hold on so tightly to every single glimmer of hope crossing our hearts.

We are a different breed.

We aren’t worse.

We aren’t better.

We’re just different and we want to be loved for who we are, not what you think we should be or could be.

We just are.

Love us anyway?

Reblogged: Honesty Is The Best Policy

There are people on Twitter I seem to have “known” for quite awhile. As it often is with Twitter, I am never sure how we “met” but there are a few I feel a stronger connection to than others. We may not talk often, but they are the ones I check in with from time to time. This post is from one of those people and it’s a really insightful and honest post about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

All too often we do not reach out for help because of stigma or because we think this is just the way things are supposed to be. This time around, she’s doing it differently. Go show her some love as she steps out into her brave new world.

#PPDChat Topic 02.03.14: The Five Senses Challenge

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Life is lived through the senses, isn’t it? Memories are not just thoughts put on shelves in our brains, they are remembered best through sights, sounds, tastes, touch, and scents, right?

I remember my grandmother’s perfume. I could not, for the life of you tell you the name of it (I want to say Charlie, but I think I am horribly wrong) but whenever I briefly smell something similar, I think of her. Well, that and bouillabaisse but perfume is far more common.

The scent of ink takes me back to my childhood spent in the family print shop. That’s a cascade of memories – the sound of the presses whirring, the cutter chopping stacks of paper, the cement in the alley outside, the giant cardboard boxes and pallets of paper we would hide behind. Or the darkroom filled with massive amounts of chemicals I’m sure weren’t safe for me to be around but bring a dizzying memory of darkness glowing in the bath of a red light to the forefront of my mind.

Ocean waves crashing make me smell the salt spray drifting through the air, I hear the seagulls overhead, and the warm sun slowly baking me into a loaf of human bread. If I focus just enough, I hear the chatter of other people playing at the beach over the humdrum of the ocean waves.

The wafting scent of a cigar reminds me of my grandfather. He always had one chomped in his mouth as he puttered around outside, it seemed. Mix that with the scent of wet leaves in the fall and the memory of my grandfather is complete. Weird, yes, but that’s him.

Don’t even get me started on the deliciousness that is Entenmann’s or an Eggplant Parmesan sub because YUM. Oh, and delicious saltwater Taffy. OH the memories as it would melt in my mouth and stick to my teeth. Gah, I miss being a kid.

Right now, there is snow falling outside, floating and dancing as it drifts to the ground where it has collected en masse to add up to a minimum of 7 inches for now. It is a good healthy wet snow which means we get to make a snowman at some point. But for now, it is quite peaceful to just sit here and watch it silently and gracefully cover the entire landscape as if it were a bride preparing for her groom. Everything is draped in white, laden with heavy snow.

This week’s #PPDChat will focus on the senses and how living life mindfully helps you navigate your view away from the negative toward the positive. There is beauty in everything, it just takes a few extra minutes to tune in to the heart of it all. Once you do, you will find, however, that you can’t possibly miss the beauty in even the smallest of things.

I hope you will join me at 830pm ET tonight for this fabulous chat. Stay tuned for the worksheet to go along with tonight’s chat – I think you’re gonna love it!

In the Spirit of Temba, His Arms Wide

The past week or so, the Star Trek Next Generation episode, “Darmok”, has weighed heavily on my mind. In this episode, Picard heads to the planet of El-Adrel IV to connect with an alien species known as the Tamarians.

The problem?

The Tamarians only communicate in metaphor. Picard and the captain of the Tamarian ship, Dathon, beam to the surface of El-Adrel IV to face a large beast. The Tamarians beam Picard against his will. According to Tamarian metaphor, this action rooted in a significant situation in their past – “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”

Darmok arrived at Tanagra alone as did Jalad. On Tanagra, there was a beast which threatened them both. Working together, Darmok and Jalad defeated the beast and left Tanagra together, friends instead of enemies.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra could also be a metaphor for parenthood, could it not?

Darmok is a parent. Jalad is a child. Tanagra – life.

Darmok speaks one language, Jalad another all together, one which is not understood by Darmok at all sometimes. The same is true for Darmok – Jalad does not always understand the words he hears or the meaning of the sounds uttered by Darmok as Jalad is still learning the vast meaning of language.

Darmok and Jalad, however, must work together, even in the simplest of ways, to survive Tanagra. The goal is to thrive in Tanagra, to create happiness and joy.

But what happens when the beast of Tanagra is a Perinatal Mood Disorder? Jalad cannot help fight this beast at the start, but as time goes on, Darmok may find a successful source of joy within the simple moments with Jalad.

If the beast of Tanagra is a PMAD, it is a fierce beast with an insatiable appetite for chaos for that is what PMAD wreaks upon Tanagra, particularly with Darmok & Jalad.

“Shaka, when the walls fell” is a phrase used in the episode to admit defeat. There are days when Darmok will scream this with every fiber of her being. Perhaps Jalad is uncooperative, or maybe the beast is ravenous, having not fed in a while. When you feel the urge to scream “Shaka, when the walls fell”, do it. Let it loose, let it escape the depths of your soul, let it run free instead of bottling it up.

Tomorrow is a new day. Start it anew, with the philosophy of finding “Temba, his arms wide” in your life. Open your heart to receiving help and fill your life with people willing to provide it. Start little if you need – someone to help with meals or childcare. Perhaps you need a break from Jalad to recoup and draw up new battle plans. Whatever it is you need, keep the attitude of Temba close to your heart, ready to accept help as you need it.

At the end of the episode, after Dathon succumbs to the wounds levied upon him by the beast of El-Adrel IV, Picard’s crew beams him back to the Enterprise. The Tamarians fire on the ship until Picard hails them and speaks to them in their metaphorical language, explaining the breakthrough to them. The ships then part, no longer enemies. Not quite friends, but no longer enemies.

This is exactly how I feel about my experience with my Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder episodes. We have long parted ways but I now speak the language. We are neither friend nor foes as it taught me plenty, some of which I learned specifically through my experiences with my Jalads on the island of Tanagra (motherhood/life).

Through my experiences at Tanagra, I now am able to carry my wisdom to those around the world with my words, sometimes metaphorical ones. For this, I will always be grateful, particularly as I travel the sea of life together with others who have fought the same beast as I did on Tanagra.

(If you’d like to read a fabulous summary of the Star Trek episode on which this post is based, you can do so here.)

#PPDChat Topic 01.13.14: Leaving It All Behind – Embracing Emotional Minimalism

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Today’s chat will focus on a concept I introduced in a post last night, emotional minimalism. The idea behind emotional minimalism is not to be completely numb to feelings but rather to process them in a timely, mindful, and healthy manner thereby traveling light with your emotions instead of dragging a ton of unnecessary baggage along with you. 

Go read last night’s post here and get ready for a challenging chat tonight. See you at 830pm ET!

A Simple Dream

A mum in the UK recently took her own life. Fellow PPD blogger Ivy Shih Leung wrote a very long and insightful piece about it here.

While I have not read anything beyond Ivy’s piece, I want to address one of the issues Ivy touches on in her post. For me, it is one of the primary reasons women who struggle with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder still fight so desperately with reaching out for help and then with actually receiving the proper help.

Our battle has multiple levels. Were PMAD’s a video game, we would have to survive level after harrowing level before finally reaching a properly educated doctor or therapist. Some of us may be lucky enough to skip all these harrowing levels but for most of us, we are destined to fight with all we have while we don’t have much just to get by in a world expecting us to be super mom while we are at it.

First, we have to fight with ourselves to acknowledge that there is a problem.

Then, we fight with loved ones for help with every day tasks and with reaching out for help.  We fight the argument that we are “faking” or “pretending” just to get out of housework or parenting. We are, some of us, told to suck it up and get over it. Move on. We’ll fall in love with our children eventually. Worse yet, some of us are told depression is some sort of luxury the former generations did not have time with which to deal.

Next, we fight with the front desk folks at the doctor’s office who may tell us such things as “If you’re not suicidal, don’t call us until you are.” (And yes, shamefully, that DOES happen in real life).

We then level up to arguing with a doctor who may brilliantly tell us that our hormones should be back in order by now so of course it can’t be Postpartum Depression despite the fact that we just admitted several high risk symptoms to them. So we are referred to the therapist who calls and reschedules until we are exhausted and cancel altogether.

So we suck it up and try to make do on our own until the next baby when we completely fall apart and start the entire routine all over again. Only this time around, there is a little less resistance from family members and friends because they have seen you go through this before and realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t making it up this time around.

But we have to stay off the Internet because it’s a dangerous place for a woman with a PMAD to be – we will be judged for breastfeeding while taking medication or for giving formula because we have to medicate. We didn’t try hard enough to protect ourselves, there is something wrong with us. Damn straight there is something wrong with us – it’s an illness, it’s real, and it is hell.

Psychiatric stigma is bullshit. The divisiveness motherhood brings to a woman’s life is bullshit. Hell, sometimes just being a woman altogether is bullshit. Why we judge each other so harshly for our choices is so beyond me I don’t even know how to begin to understand why we do this. I’m serious – I truly do not understand the in-fighting or bickering.

It comes down to understanding one simple truth:

Each mother needs to do what is best for HER and for HER family. As long as she is doing just that, we do not need to judge, we do not need to place blame, stigma, guilt, or any other negative blanket upon her or her family.

The Internet can be a fabulous place for support if you end up surrounded by the right people and ignore the wrong people. It’s finding the wonderful people that is the challenge.

I have a simple dream, in closing. It’s a dream that one day, mothers of all sort of different beliefs, will be able to have a discussion about parenting without inadvertently reducing each other to panic attacks and/or tears because they’ve judged someone for doing something outside the realm of *their* comfort zone.

One day, right?

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#PPDChat Topic 11.4.13: Developing Self-Care Strategies

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With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to revisit the topic of self-care. As women, we so very often forget to mother the most important person in our lives – ourselves. If we do not take the time to refill our souls and our bodies, we are useless to those around us. Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless for it allows us to give others more when we are giving from full capacity. Just as it is impossible to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher it is difficult to pour ourselves into others if we are empty.

Go check out this worksheet and rate your level of self-care. What areas are lacking? Where are you thriving? Then I want to challenge you to doing what the worksheet says at the top – commit to improving at least ONE thing from each section every week. Baby steps matter and with the busy holiday season right around the corner, it is important we all remember to give the gift of ourselves to ourselves. While the small things are not at all a FIX for your issues, they matter and they add up over time.

It is also important to remember to care for ourselves during the winter months, particularly if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Having moved back north where there is less sunshine during the winter, I am finding this a challenge. Feel free to jump in and share any strategies you may have to combat this common issue as well as discuss the challenge struggling with SAD in addition to PPD may bring.

Looking forward to chatting about the importance of self-care during the fall & winter months at 1pm ET & 830pm ET. See you on Twitter!

How the @BostonGlobe got Postpartum Depression Wrong

With more news stories mentioning Postpartum Depression these days, it is becoming painfully obvious that reporters are scrambling to get their facts straight. Bless them for trying but sometimes, even with the best of intentions, they fall short. Like Karen Weintraub’s article “When the ‘baby blues’ are something more” at the Boston Globe on October 21, 2013.

Karen defends herself in the comments (all two of them at time of writing) about the term “baby blues” by saying that in her researching for this piece, she discovered there is such a thing as baby blues:

Boston Globe Comments

Kudos to Ms. Weintraub for doing enough research to realize that baby blues ARE distinct from depression.

BUT.

There are a multitude of omissions and errors within the article as it stands right now. Let’s go through them:

Ms. Weintraub breaks the Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder experience into only three groups:

  • Baby Blues
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Postpartum Psychosis

Immediately, sirens sound. Particularly because the case study, a Nicole Caligiuri, a first time mother, states she felt “angry and anxious” all the time. While anger/irritability is a sign of depression, anxiety combined with anger is typically (in my non-professional opinion) more closely related to an anxiety disorder. Ms. Caligiuri, however, was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression.

By ignoring the additional facets of the PMAD spectrum, Ms. Weintraub does a severe disservice to those mothers who may be suffering from Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or Postpartum OCD.

Weintraub states that 50-85% of new mothers experience baby blues, 14% experience postpartum depression, and a “fraction of 1 percent of new moms” experience Postpartum Psychosis. If you go by those numbers (at the higher levels), nearly 100% of all new mothers experience one of these three phenomena and none experience Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or Postpartum OCD.

According to Postpartum Support International’s Get the Facts page:

  • Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression. 
  • Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal disorders. It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers will experience these symptoms.
  • Approximately 1-6% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth.

But in Weintraub’s scenario, there isn’t room for the nearly 20-27% of women who develop these particular Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. As a survivor of Postpartum OCD, I find this troubling. Particularly because OCD can scare a new mother into thinking she is experiencing a form of Psychosis due to the horrific intrusive thoughts.

As I have mentioned multiple times, it is beyond important to differentiate the varying aspects of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Why? Because when you lump Postpartum Psychosis sensationalism in with Postpartum Depression, things get murky. You scare new mothers who may be a bit depressed into thinking if they go get help, they will be thought of as potential criminals and have their babes ripped from their arms the instant they admit to feeling anything less than happy.

An additional issue with this article is the strong focus on early motherhood. The logic of this focus is evidenced by the study on which it is centered but a quick mention that PMAD can persist beyond early motherhood would have been a quick fix for this bias.

Why is it important to emphasize that PMAD onset can extend beyond early motherhood?

Often, many mothers do not realize they have issues until they are well into the 6th month or more. I have had mothers contact me at almost a year postpartum to share that they think something has been deeply wrong since the birth of their child but they did not recognize it until now. Many Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders crop up within the first 2-3 months, often immediately after the period of baby blues, but some mothers do not recognize them or even get hit with them until much later. PMAD’s can crop up  within the first 12 months after birth and even then, may not be recognized until much later. But this information is not mentioned anywhere in the article nor are we ever told at what point Ms. Caligiuri sought help.

I deeply appreciate Ms. Weintraub’s effort to reach out to Dr. Katherine Wisner and Dr. Michael O’Hara, respected experts in the research field of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, however, I wish she (or her editor) had taken the time to allow this article to be a bit more clear regarding the wide scope of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. I also wish a side bar had been included to resources for women and families who are struggling with these issues, particularly given that Ms. Weintraub included this quote from Dr. O’Hara:

Social support is probably the most important thing to provide a new mother, who is at a particularly fragile point in life, said Michael O’Hara, a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa, who has been researching and treating postpartum depression for three decades.

 

Postpartum Support International will connect new mothers with social support. Also, specifically in Hadley, Massachusetts, there is Mother Woman, a fabulous organization who is making fantastic strides toward improving access to support and care for struggling women & families. Advocates in the trenches, such as the volunteers with PSI and Mother Woman, recognize how important it is to have peers support each other so they do not feel all alone in the dark. It is an oversight that neither of these organizations are mentioned anywhere in Ms. Weintraub’s piece.

Overall, Ms. Weintraub, despite making a few blunders, seems to handle the issue at hand with a respectable grace. The study at the heart of the article focuses on the development of depression in children born to mothers who struggled with depression but Ms. Weintraub is fabulous in her handling of this issue, particularly with this paragraph:

But parents shouldn’t feel like they’ve ruined their child’s life if they go through a period of depression, Pearson said. The increased risk of depression in their children is small. Overall, 7 percent of teens are depressed, compared with 11 percent of teens whose mothers were depressed early in their children’s lives.

She side-steps the potential onslaught of guilt and gracefully allows parents to breathe a sigh of relief by including this information from the study’s co-author.

As I stated in the opening, coverage of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders is greatly improving. But we still have a long way to go to get to fully informed reporting. For the most part, Ms. Weintraub’s article is generally free of sensationalism, includes quotes from respected experts, and manages to allay any potential guilt a new mother with a PMAD may feel in reading it. However, it is still just a few small adjustments away from being truly spectacular and informative.