Tag Archives: Postpartum Mood Disorders

On Not Wanting To

I’m tired, y’all.

I’m so damn tired of reading about women splashed across the front page because they’ve done something horrible to themselves or their children.

I’m tired of immediately wondering who let her down. I’m tired of wondering at what point did she fall through the cracks. I’m fed up, to be honest.

It happens way too often, these worst case scenarios splayed across the front page for all to read and shake their heads in disgust or sigh in exasperation because yet another mom has lost her mind.

I’m tired of this bullshit.

I get that drama sells and when it comes to sales or clicks, it’s all about the what will draw people in so OF COURSE LET’S SHARE A STORY ABOUT A MOM WHO FAILED.

Where the hell are the stories about the doctors who failed to screen? Where the hell are the stories about the partners who told these new moms to just suck it up? Where are the stories about their loved ones who didn’t show up to help them when they cried out for help? WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE STORIES?

It takes a damn village, people.

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

There was a push for screening but it’s buried in the ACA and we know how well that’s been going with implementation, right?

Then there’s the complication of who will screen. Maternal mental health care crosses so many specialties it’s not even funny. OBGYN, midwives, doulas, Pediatrician, General Practitioner, Lactation Consultants….so who screens? Does the OB? The midwife? The doula? The Pediatrician? The GP? The IBCLC? WHO? Once they screen, what happens? Is the woman informed of her results? Is she successfully referred to the proper care? Is that care knowledgeable about Perinatal Mood Disorders? Will they dismiss her as an exhausted mom instead?

What about the potential physical issues which can masquerade as PPD? Like anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin D deficiencies, etc? Will those be ruled out before she’s put on medication? Or is the doctor just going to toss a script at her and leave her all alone on her skiff in the middle of a hurricane at sea?

Where is this information in childbirth classes? Why are we not informing new moms about this? Why are we not telling them that it can happen, dear caregivers? WHERE ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU FAILING US? WHY ARE YOU GLOSSING OVER THE DANGER???

Wake up.

Women are dying.

Children are dying.

Families are being destroyed.

And you, you are sitting there claiming “It’s not my place.”

But it is.

Your move.

Get it right.

On Walking Through Life as a Postpartum Mood Disorder Survivor

I had a very interesting discussion yesterday as part of an interview with a woman who is putting together a proposal for a book about Perinatal Mood Disorders. Both of us struggled with PP OCD and for the first time, I think we nailed it when we discussed how Postpartum becomes part of your life, even after the initial “crisis” phase passes.

You see, struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder affects your entire life. It affects how you function, how you relate to everyone and everything around you, and it ultimately changes your outlook on life. This change, this transformation, at least for me, is directly related to know just how far down I slid when it struck me from out of the blue the first time around.

Diagnosis is one of the first steps toward healing. Diagnosis leads you to help and regaining your footing on the proper path. We all walk different paths and for some of us, our diagnosis becomes our mask. For others, it becomes just one part of us. Or for others, it becomes the very definition of who we are as a person, a mother, and whatever else we are…some become the personification of a PMAD. One of the things we hit on is how women who do not define themselves completely as their diagnosis find it easier to heal because for them, it’s essentially a broken leg instead of a full body cast if that makes sense. It doesn’t take as long to heal just one part vs. the whole thing. Even then, there are always mitigating factors affecting the pace of individual healing.

When you fight back, you develop coping mechanisms to pull yourself through. These look different for everyone and depend on how defined you allow your sense of self to be by the diagnosis of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. It is also important to note that these coping mechanisms may continue to be part of your life for the remainder of your days. It takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Therefore, it makes sense that if you continue something for longer than 21 days, it will become a habit. Whether this habit is healthy or not is up to you and your physician to decide. If it’s minor, no worries. But if it affects your normal day-to-day functioning, it might be time to evaluate things and consider breaking this “habit” as it isn’t healthy.

Do I still carry some of my OCD habits with me from my Postpartum days? Absolutely. But I know they are not a sign that I am still fighting the beast. They are there because they were a part of who I was for a very long time. There are still signals that speak to me and let me know that I am spiraling down the dark path once again, however. My habits tend to increase and begin to interfere with my day to day living when this happens. For instance, I will obsessively brush my hair, stop listening to music, and start looking for things to be upset about if I start to feel overly stressed. Learning to recognize these is a huge leap forward and learning to accept that little quirks you developed with Postpartum are just that, quirks, is also a huge leap forward.

Today was a huge milestone for me. I cleaned and organized the entire first floor of our town house because it needed it, not because I needed to do it. Yes, the clutter was bugging me but not to the point that it made me twitchy. To clean and not “need” to clean felt fantastic. In fact, I’m sitting here, basking more in the accomplishment of having cleaned NOT because of my OCD and because it needed it than in the fact that the downstairs (including the front closet) is completely spotless.

Our habits stay with us after Postpartum because we have immersed ourselves in them for so long as a coping mechanism. Sometimes we have thoughts that carry us back to those dark days and it is important to recognize them as such – just thoughts, not an actual fall back into the dark hole (unless they persist for more than a week or two – then you may want to seek help). Some of us may move on to a deeper, lifelong diagnosis of a daily fight against mental health. But the thing to remember is that you are YOU. You are not your diagnosis, you are not your habits. You are YOU and YOU are amazing, even when it is darkest.

The Challenge of Moderating A Mental Health Peer Support Community

The world of advocating and supporting those fighting the hard fight against Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders holds within it a myriad of challenges. Moderating a community requires a lot – patience, compassion, understanding, and knowing when to properly apply tough love. The last one gets me every time -it is definitely a challenge and very heart-breaking to apply tough love to a struggling mama- but it is sometimes the only option left.

Within the #PPDChat community, some moms may end up being friends, others may just need me for a short period of time on their journey. I have to be okay with either, learning to let go as the moms who contact me move in a very fluid way in and out of my world.

My primary goal, however, is to keep everyone within the community safe above all else. To ensure that they feel respected, empowered, validated, and treated with all the dignity each of us deserves as humans and as adults, something all of us deserve. When someone within the community fails to meet this goal or feels these goals are not being met, I take action.

When there is a threat/disrespect for the community, a member requires more help than I or other members can provide, or threatens the safety of those close to them, I reach out for additional support. Dealing with threats to themselves or to the safety of the group is not a pleasant situation but it is something which is bound to crop up every so often. I must be prepared to provide solace for all involved – the community at large and the struggling member, without divulging too much information regarding either. Even though I am not legally bound by the classic “client/therapist” privilege rule, I hold myself to it unless threats are made. Even then, I only release information to the necessary parties.

Moderating #PPDChat has taught me a few lessons about dealing with people in general:

1) Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. This one is tough because sometimes, when I would like to be angry at someone, I see their pain. I see the suffering which is causing their anger. I have learned when to dive in and hold a conversation but at the same time I have also learned when to walk away and let them fight their own battles with their dark storms. Sometimes, and this is perhaps the toughest lesson of all, people need to fight the storm on their own and we have to walk away because they are simply not prepared to let others put on their battle armor with them. I have found that if I need to do this, the best way to do so is to leave the door open as I walk out, in case they are ready to have an army by their side.

2) Be kind to yourself, for the battles you face may be harder than you think they are and it’s okay to not be okay. We all do it, tell ourselves that what we’re going through isn’t as hellacious as it should be – a lie. It’s okay to fight, it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to be kind to yourself. I say this often: Self-care is not selfish, it’s selfless. There is a fine line between self-care and selfish, however – it’s importance to balance taking care of your responsibilities with taking care of yourself. In the same vein, it’s okay to say no to extras. Things which are responsibilities take priority over things which are “supplemental” to life. To figure out the difference, make a list and ask yourself if life will go on if you skip something. Meal prep is a responsibility. Gotta eat. Making a ton of cookies for the church social? Yeah, saying yes might put you in the good graces but if it’s at the sacrifice of your sanity, it might not be worth it. Instead, choose to spend that time with your family or with yourself.

3) Everyone won’t be happy with the rules…or with what other people in the group have to say about certain topics. We all come to motherhood with different expectations and beliefs about how things should go. We all walk different paths and need to find the right path for us – in the process, remember that the right path for US may not be the right path for those around us. Judging the choices of others is something I DO NOT tolerate in the #PPDChat community because we are already judging ourselves as women, as mothers, and as mothers fighting a mental health battle. The LAST thing we need to add to that full plate is our support community judging us too. When personal attacks happen, tough love knocks down the door dressed up as a Mama Bear.

4) Treating others with dignity goes a long way. We’re dealing with other adults here, not with children. I don’t even see Teen Moms as children. They are mothers now, with very real adult responsibilities. To treat them, or any new mother, as anything less than an adult with responsibilities, is to disrespect them. You’re not helping if you’re constantly holding someone’s hand and telling them what they can or cannot do. It’s not empowering to talk down to them. Mental health struggles do NOT equal incapable. I was an adult prior to my postpartum issues and I was still an adult when I was fighting the beast. I treat others with the same respect and dignity with which I would want to be treated in the midst of my own storm. I believe it lends to confirming to the woman/family seeking help that they ARE still human, they DO matter, and it provides a sense of normalcy, if you will. It’s possible to acknowledge struggles without demeaning or patronizing the person experiencing them.

5) Authenticity is important. Sharing parts of yourself as a peer moderator builds trust. It shows your community that you are indeed human and understand their pain. Particularly online, it is important to not just be a robot spouting self-care-isms, if you will. Mean what you say and say what you mean. My community is perfectly aware of my rather unhealthy obsessions with bacon, football, F1, Star Wars, and a myriad of other things. Why? It humanizes me and therefore humanizes the community as we are able to bond with each other over a myriad of topics. It allows us to talk about things beyond our “labels.”

6) Know when to be light-hearted and when to be serious. There is a fine line between these two approaches, particularly when dealing with mental health issues. Cross the light-hearted line a bit too much and you may end up in the stigma/discrimination zone. That’s never a good thing. We joke a bit more about it in closed group but I am always, always careful about how I phrase things because I absolutely do not put up with any form of discrimination within the community. I see everyone one equal footing – as people fighting like hell to just be themselves, whatever that may be now. We need laughter but we also need respect and tough love. Toeing the line requires finesse, something I work diligently at achieving.

I’m sure there are more lessons I have learned whilst moderating the #PPDChat Community but the six above are perhaps the most important ones.

It is my utmost desire that everyone who reaches out to #PPDChat for support find a community which respects them as a whole person, respects their individual choices regarding child-bearing and child-rearing, and empowers them as they fight with all their might on their journey toward being well once again.

I know people feel that way because I hear it every so often from those who have participated. In fact, just the other day @jenrenpody shared this with me:

“I turned to ppdchat because I felt safe, validated and heard. I needed that validation and support. I found so much more – community and friendships.”

#PPDChat works to do exactly what Jen states and it always will. If for some reason, you have a different experience, let me know and I will do my best to address the issue. You are absolutely not alone, you will be heard, and you are safe. Always.

What would be most important to you in a peer-based community support group and why? Has #PPDChat helped you feel empowered to fight your battle against Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders? Join in the discussion by sharing below!

#PPDChat Topic: Like A Butterfly: Transformational Power of a Perinatal Mood Disorder

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Today, we’re focusing on the ways Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders change us. Many of us know all too well the amount of energy it takes to fight through to ourselves during a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. As someone who is now able to look back at my experiences instead of being caught in the midst of it, I see how that fight changed my outlook on life as well as changed almost everything inside me. While I have been remodeled, some of the old me remains. Isn’t this the way with all trauma and substantial life experiences? We are constantly growing and changing as life ebbs and flows through us, are we not?

The 1:00pm ET chat will be a prelude to tonight’s chat with @WalkerKarraa regarding the amazing transformational power Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders have in the lives of the women who experience them. I hope you’ll join us as we casually explore and discuss the ways PMAD’s have changed our lives during the afternoon chat.

Then at 8:30pm ET, Dr. Walker Karraa will join us. I am excited about her joining #PPDChat as a guest, particularly on this topic as she has been talking to several women about this very thing, allowing her amazing insight into the overall transformational power of PMAD’s in our lives.

To say I am excited about today’s topic would be a huge understatement. I cannot wait to discuss this with y’all!!! For more information about Walker and today’s topic, go here.

See you at 1:00pm ET and hope you will join us at 8:30pm ET as well!

Celebrating Through Giving Back – Today’s spotlight: @postpartumprog

HI!

Today’s the day, my birthday.

I’m highlighting Postpartum Progress today. But I thought that was just a blog, you’re thinking. Nope. The awesome Katherine Stone has turned her work into a non-profit which is making a lot of waves right now. It’s been inspiring to see how much they’ve managed to do so far with the base Katherine developed through her blog. I know they’re gonna go places and make a helluva difference in the world.

I LOVE the description of who they are:

We are catalysts. We are champions. We are instigators. We want change as soon as possible and we’re going to make it happen.”

Go over to the non-profit site here. Check out what they’ve been up to and possibly donate or even volunteer. She’s building an army of Warrior Moms. Go be one.

Keep up the fabulous work, Katherine. Proud to know you, and blessed to be one of those in the trenches with you as we fight against the stigma and misunderstanding of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Keep rocking, lady.

Brown University Researchers Seeking Participants for Postpartum Mood Disorder Study

I met Laura Sockol at the PSI/Marce conference in Pittsburgh, PA in 2010. We had a lively discussion about the DSM-V and Postpartum Mood Disorders in the lobby of the hotel. I still remember sitting and discussing things with her. Laura is a wonderful woman and very dedicated to researching Postpartum Mood Disorders. She’s reached out to me for her upcoming study regarding “The Role of Maternal Attitudes in the Prediction of Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Among Pregnant and Postpartum Mothers“. Below is the official information Laura sent me. Go check it out and if you’re not eligible to participate, pass it on to someone who is. I’ve been told recruitment closes in the next two weeks.
 
Do you have older children? Are you pregnant again? Or did you have another baby in the past 6 months? Researchers at Brown University are interested in mothers’ experiences when they have more than one child. You may be eligible if you are between the ages of 18 and 45 and live in the United States. Women who complete the full study will be entered into a lottery for a $100 Amazon gift card, the odds of receiving a gift card are 1/50 or better. Interested? Visit www.BrownStudiesMoms.com for more information!

Welcome to #PPDChat Voices!

Hi there!

My hopes for this faded when I hit a tech snafu this past weekend. Granted, I should have recorded earlier than this past weekend but life has been crazy up and down with recovering from a road trip and days full of pain which induce fog-brain so, yeah, I was totally behind. HOWEVER.

I’m having a decent week now, still taking it slowly but I’m thrilled to be introducing this new feature at the blog! We’ll be rolling it out as we get submissions so feel free to send yours in whenever you want. I had grand plans of doing mine first, but recording is just not cooperating over here so I need to get that aspect ironed out.

PPDChatVoicesToday’s #PPDChat Voice is Lindsay, or if you know her on Twitter, @lilloveandluck. She is all sorts of awesome. Her piece is too, despite the fact that she keeps apologizing for all the uh’s and um’s. It’s tough to put yourself out there on camera, yo.

Huge thanks to Lindsay for submitting. (Check your email for your badge for your blog!)

LindsayLindsay’s bio: Powered by espresso and cake, Lindsay is a jill of all trades trying to find her niche in the world. She became a serendipitous advocate after being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in 2011. She lives and breathes New Orleans with her patient husband, sprightly son, and critters. She blogs at www.withalittleloveandluck.com , and you can find her over-sharing on Twitter @lilloveandluck.

A Word (or more) About the Importance of Sharing Our Stories

This week’s #PPDChat went off the charts with a lively discussion during both moderated hours when we pushed the question of blogging the tough stuff without seeming ungrateful for the good stuff that happens along with it.

Suggested by Jamie over at James & Jax, the topic exploded with several people chiming in. The primary concern about bloggers was not the opinion of strangers but rather that of people they know in real life. The concern regarding the random visitor from the web was visited too with the reminder that these folks only see a “slice” of our lives at our blogs, framed as we choose to frame it. The same goes for in-real-life friends, really, as we are writing for ourselves in addition to our regular readers.

Blogging through mental health and parenting can be such a messy place. So many of us have so many different approaches and we all know how much everyone LOVES to dish advice about how we’re supposed to deal with both.

So doesn’t blogging about these struggles open us up for criticism?

Absolutely.

But dealing with that criticism is also an important aspect of choosing to blog. It’s okay to not share your full story. I haven’t shared my full story here at the blog. There are bits and There is Beauty and Strengthpieces I hold close to me because as I stated in chat, these pieces involve other people so I don’t feel they are fully my story.

There are others who choose not to share because they feel their story is not “enough” for sharing. It’s okay to feel that way. The importance and beauty in our stories is that we choose when to share them, how to share them, and most importantly, how much to share of them. No one can force us to share more than we are ready to share. You are no less of a person, a blogger, a mother, an advocate, or a woman simply because you have not shared your story. Your lived experience is more than enough and if you’re led to share it, great. If not, that’s okay too.

It’s not about if your story is enough, it’s about who you might reach – who is living your exact story right this moment.#ppdchat

— Lauren(@unxpctdblessing) May 7, 2013

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The beauty of us all comes from our nuanced differences. Those of us who speak openly and freely encourage others to share our stories. We also let those who are more guarded know they are not alone in their battles, even if we never hear from them. Those of us who choose to be more guarded let others wanting to be just as guarded know it is also okay to be guarded. There is a camaraderie to be felt in every aspect of your choices. And that camaraderie is a phenomenally beautiful thing.

Wrapping this up, I invite you to this blog on Sunday for a few video stories from mothers who have been through the thick of it, myself included. I’m nervous as all get out about being on recorded video (GASP), but given that this is My Postpartum VOICE, I want to leave my comfort zone and use my actual voice. Give a face to the stories here.

I also invite you to check out Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress on Sunday. She’s hosting a bevy of writers for her 5th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Mom’s Mental Health. I’m honoured to be participating again. My post goes up at 1am! Early! Katherine does great things for Moms and families with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Don’t forget to check out all the posts. I can’t wait to read them all!

Don’t forget about the PSI Blog Hop for Maternal Mental Health Awareness as well! This month is chock-full of stories. Some of them might be just like yours.

Above all, remember, that there is beauty and strength in your story, even if you can’t see it right now.

 

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Guest Post: Amber Koter-Puline’s “Banding Together Over Books – The Warrior Mom Book Club”

Continuing this week’s theme of celebrating National Book Month, Amber Koter-Puline of Beyond Postpartum shares about The Warrior Mom Book Club. It’s worth checking out! I thank Amber for her dedication to families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders. She truly is an inspiration on so many levels! Without further ado, here is Amber’s guest post:

 

This summer I began hosting a new feature at Postpartum Progress: the Warrior Mom Book Club. Even just since 2007 when I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, so much more information, education, and just plain old sharing around women’s mental health has occurred. From books on personal accounts of postpartum depression to the plethora of rockin’ blogs written by Warrior Moms, we have no lack of reading material right at our fingertips.

I don’t know about you, but with so much out there I often have difficulty choosing what to read, especially since I’m a married WAHM of two young boys. I just don’t have time to keep up with all the blog posts, and my stack of books waiting to be read is enormous (both on paper and virtually on my Kindle list).

As members of the Warrior Mom Book Club, we read and have casual talk about what we’ve read, in the midst of our busy lives. We read books about postpartum depression and related illnesses — approximately four books per year — and as a group we do a review after reading each one, which I then write up for Postpartum Progress so that everyone can read it there.

We began the club with Adrienne Martini’s awesome book, Hillbilly Gothic, which I first read when my first son was about two and then again for the club, three years later. I have to say I enjoyed it as much, if not more, the second time! In case you didn’t get a chance to read along with us, you can check it out on Amazon.

Right now we are reading The Ghost in the House by Tracy Thompson.  It’s a really eye-opening account of maternal mental health and its impact on the entire family from both a genetic and environmental perspective.  While the Book Club is currently closed because we’ve already begun work on it, you can still order a digital or paper copy HERE or do what many savvy mamas did with our previous read and order it from your local library.

The review of The Ghost in the House will probably be up at Postpartum Progress in November and then we’ll announce our third read.  Right now we plan to read Sleepless Nights by .  You are welcome to join us for that one.  Once the announcement is made, you can just email me at atlantamom930@gmail.com and join the Facebook Group “Warrior Mom Book Club” which becomes secret while the discussion is happening to protect the privacy of the participants.

We have nearly 50 moms who have participated so far and I look forward to growing the group as the selections change and time goes on.  Here’s what a few moms have to say about their experience as members of the WMBC:

“Being a part of the bookclub has helped me give words or describe some the aimless thoughts/feelings that I had, especially in the deepest part of PPD/OCD/Anxiety that I was unwilling or more likely, unable to speak about, name, and come to terms with.” ~TM

“I have found it invaluable to read these books. I had not read any of the ones that we have read while I was going through my struggle with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. Reading and reflecting on the books is helping me continue my recovery process. The book club offers me the ability to read other’s perceptions of the books as well which allows me to take different messages and incorporate it into my own recovery.” ~Jennifer Pody Gaskell



”Being a part of the WMBC has been like a life raft for me. I live in area of the country with almost no PPMD resources and no in person support group. This book group has enabled me to feel part of a community of amazingly strong and courageous women (authors and fellow readers). Reading these works has also assisted me in gaining more knowledge about PPMD, which has helped me tremendously in making sense of my experience and continuing my journey to wellness and health for me and my family.” ~Becky Ruess

I hope that reading can be a cathartic experience for you, as well, regardless of whether you join a book club, read a book with a friend, or on your own.  Reading is one of the few self-care activities that I prioritize and tends to be a great source of enjoyment and escape for me.  I personally have found that reading a combination of fiction, non-fiction (self-care/help), and faith-oriented books allows me to balance and blend my reading hobby in a healthy manner.

Thanks, Lauren, for inviting me to write about the Book Club!

Take good care,
Amber Koter-Puline
Beyond Postpartum

Mom and wife.  PPD Survivor/Advocate. Yoga lover. Oh…& coffee, bacon & prayer. Amber also blogs at atlantamom.net- a site devoted to information, inspiration, and networking opportunities for all moms in the Atlanta area.