Tag Archives: recovery

Be Well – Your WAY

I want to talk about an old childhood game tonight.

Go get your pillow, a sleeping bag, chocolate, popcorn, a stuffed animal or a doll, and slip into some cozy PJ’s. I’ll wait.

Seriously. I will.

*hums Jeopardy theme a few times*

Do you remember playing the telephone game when you were a kid?

Whispering something ridiculous into the ear of the person next to you who would then repeat it to the person next to them and so on until it got to the last person who would say it out loud?

It was never the same thing that it started as, was it?

(If it was, your friends had amazing hearing or no sense of humour).

The goal of this game is to show you how something you say can be twisted by others. It is a practice in watching what you say – thinking before you speak.

In this electronic age, it is still important to watch what you say but even more important to keep that filter in place when the keyboard and therefore the Internet is your outlet. It is easier, when you are behind a keyboard, to judge, to proffer advice, and to act as an expert.

Here’s the thing – we are all still human. We have hearts, we have brains, and we live and breath. It is difficult to remember that the personas we talk to on a daily basis through our keyboards are PEOPLE.

I have said this time and again on this blog, in my chat, in my groups, on my blog’s FB page – but I believe in treating people as adults regardless of their situation or condition. I am part of a community. I am not a dictator, I am not a medical professional, I am not at all capable of making a care decision for anyone other than myself. I find it heartbreaking when some people behave as if they are capable of making decisions for others.

Mental health is just as subjective as physical health. We all have our own baggage. However, our baggage is not a road sign for anyone but us. It does not grant us carte blanche permission to tell someone else who has articulated their own issues to a professional care giver they may want to give it a second thought. Ever.

One of the things I adore most about the #PPDChat community is their ability to function in a way that is uplifting and supportive without being judgmental regarding the treatment choices another mama needs to make for her own sanity. Not all communities are like this. I am beyond grateful the #PPDChat community embraces this concept.

The road into Perinatal Mood Valley is a steep one. The road out is curvy with plenty of blind turns and potholes. There are multiple ways out, not just one path. It is important to listen to your internal GPS as you navigate your way out of your personal darkness. Listening to someone else’s GPS will result in driving in circles as you attempt to free yourself from the mind-boggling vortex.

You can do this. You are not alone. You will be well.

Your way.

What Is Recovery?

In glancing through search terms which people have searched to find my blog, questions about Postpartum OCD are the most common.

The biggest question, and the one I dread the most asks, “Do intrusive thoughts go away?”

My heart breaks when I am asked if the thoughts go away because I know where they are – how they’re feeling. How FRUSTRATING it is to want to be with your child and not have any intrusive thoughts flit through your head as they snuggle close to you and  drink in that sweet angelic baby smell in the dusk of the evening.

I know it goes away.

I know it fades.

What stays, and what is difficult for those of us who have OCD to differentiate, are typical parental fears – the nagging fear that something might happen to your child when you’re not watching. THAT stays forever. It’s not intrusive, it’s a normal heightened awareness which comes with parenting. When you have survived OCD, however, it is extremely difficult to keep these normal heightened awareness type thoughts from spiraling into intrusive thoughts. We constantly battle to keep them from growing into giant monsters.

Recovery, at least for me, is not a cut-off date. It’s a constant involvement in awareness of my feelings, reactions, and coping methods in regard to the ever changing world around me. It’s ensuring that in addition to my daily requirements, I’m taking care of myself as well. Recovery is not a discharge notice from a hospital, nor is it the last pill swallowed at the end of a prescription. It’s not the final therapist visit nor is it uttering the words, “I’m okay.”

This is how the dictionary defines recovery:

Recovery Definition

What is recovery in the living world?

Recovery is life.

It’s living and moving forward with a tenacity learned in the depths of hell, a grip on enjoying all the little things and a determination to not go back. It’s knowing that even if I do go back, I have a road map to lead me back out again.

Recovery is self-care, self-compassion, and self-respect.

It is knowing that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Recovery is celebrating both the ups and the downs. It’s getting to know yourself SO well that you recognize the difference between yourself and depression/mental illness. Recovery is knowing exactly what to do when the ugly beast stirs to keep it from waking completely. It is about arming yourself with a cadre of weapons guaranteed to slay the succubus.

Recovery is acceptance.

It’s being okay with the tough days and providing a soft place to land when they happen. It’s having a support system in place for the bleak days, one that will also be there for the good days. It’s understanding that sometimes, you’re gonna feel angry about your mental health and that’s okay. It’s learning the range of healthy and unhealthy emotions and knowing when to reach out for help.

Recovery is being imperfectly perfectly you.

According to Alexander Pope, “To err is human.” Perfection is a fallacy (so is control). It is an impossibility we set up in our minds, a standard most of us will not reach. Do the best you can with what you have. There’s a special kind of joy (and peace) to be found when you let go of any expectations you, life, or anyone else may have forced upon you. When you are truly yourself, you shine.

Recovery is personal.

We cannot compare our journey to that of others. There are similarities, sure, but we each carry our own luggage and travel our own road. Our stories are as different as we are from each other. Knowing someone else has traveled a similar road helps. But it is absolutely important to remember that just because someone was at point X by a certain point on their Y timeline does not mean you will also be at point X at the same time. There are SO many variables to every story. It is impossible to compare so stop doing just that.

Recovery is…..

Your turn. What is recovery to you? Share below.

ErikaQuote

Guest Post: Erika Pearson Krull – Ripples of Postpartum Depression

I met Erika online through Katherine Stone over at Postpartum Progress. We were asked to participate in a Mother’s Day Rally together. From there, we kind of clicked as we both have had a similar experience with one of our children and occasionally lean on each other for support in that department. And then there’s our passionate love of college football. I’m humbled to have Erika writing here today about Postpartum Depression. She addresses the after-effects of PPD with power and eloquence. I hope you enjoy her piece and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Health problems sometimes have lingering effects long after treatments are given. For example, I know personally that once you get bronchitis you have a much better chance of having asthmatic symptoms every time you get an upper respiratory illness or the humidity changes a lot. I never had a problem with this until my daughter shared her bronchitis with me a few years ago. I haven’t gotten bronchitis again, but I can’t get too far away from its affect on my life ever since.

The same seems to be true of postpartum depression for me. Between 2000 and 2003, I had postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (like PMS with depression symptoms) following two of my three pregnancies. I eventually got treatment before my third pregnancy, but I still feel the lingering effects of those two problems at times.

During my periods of depression, I had the typical symptoms – crying, low self-worth, negative self talk, withdrawal, etc. Now I find that my anger can burst forth more easily than it used to. When I might have turned inward during my depression, I now turn outward. That’s not an entirely bad thing because my emotions aren’t bottled up. But it can go too far more quickly than I want to admit. I get mad at the dog, my kids, my husband, myself, and so on.

The bigger problem is that this gets noticeably worse during my premenstrual time. Still. After nearly ten years. And I’m using a birth control pill that has helped control the symptoms. I haven’t been honestly depressed in almost a decade and I yet I can’t escape its long term effect entirely.

My point is that in order to get your best quality of life after dealing with depression, you need to really understand how it can affect you after you’ve handled the major symptoms. The stigma surrounding mental illness can be disheartening and confusing. Get it treated, but maybe don’t talk about it so much after that. Or better yet, just get it fixed and don’t pull anyone into an awkward conversation about it. You don’t want to look too selfish or get too much sympathy. Or be seen as incompetent or untrustworthy. And geez, it’s been years, why aren’t you over that?

Here’s the reality – the sooner you treat it the better. And it’s never too late to get treatment because late is still better than never. I firmly believe I would have fewer problems with my long-term effects if I had gotten treatment within a few months instead of waiting nearly three years. The depression would have had less time to make a deep impression on my mind and body. But still, treatment made a critical difference in my life. I don’t truly know how I’d be living if I had to try digging out on my own.

Here’s the good news! These lingering effects don’t necessarily have to make you miserable all the time. I don’t have many conversations about these issues now. I do speak to my doctor at times when my symptoms needed better management, and I find it very helpful to write articles like this or do some public speaking about postpartum depression. I’m also able to handle those tough emotional moments in the moment and recognize what I need to do from there. I don’t allow myself to make my depression history an excuse, but I do recognize the roots of my emotional issues.

Many many women get through postpartum depression and recover well. But it’s realistic for some recovered women to feel ongoing ripples at times. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job of getting through it or that you are broken as a person. That’s just depression for you. It’s a serious condition and requires treatment like many other health problems.

You probably wouldn’t beat yourself up because you had to use a nebulizer years after getting a bad case of bronchitis. You need to give yourself the same break after dealing with postpartum depression. Find what works for you to handle those emotional moments, the negative self-talk, the excess anger, the regrets, or whatever makes you feel stuck again. Develop good self-care habits like regular meals, frequent exercise, lots of social support, and other emotional outlets. When something comes up, you’ll be well-equipped to handle it.

Take care of your mind and body, learn how to recognize your needs, and keep moving forward each day. By the way, it’s mid-October and that means cold season. I’ll be going all out to keep germs away from my lungs, and to be kind to myself when they sneak in anyway.

Erika Krull is a freelance writer and part-time therapist in central Nebraska. She has been married to her college sweetheart for 17 years, stays busy raising three energetic girls and a bouncy puppy, and is still learns so much every day. She writes for the Family Mental Health on psychcentral.com and does local public speaking events about postpartum depression upon request.

Who’s that girl?

“When you see her, say a prayer and kiss your heart goodbye
She’s trouble, in a word get closer to the fire
Run faster, her laughter burns you up inside
You’re spinning round and round
You can’t get up, you try but you can’t”

 -lyrics, Who’s that Girl, Madonna-

Innocent enough lyrics, right? Of course, given that they’re Madonna lyrics that’s an arguable statement. Yet these lyrics are so very applicable to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

As a mother with Postpartum Mood Disorder, we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning after a lengthy internal argument between “have to, able to, and want to.” We stumble into the bathroom where we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Raw. Unkempt. Barely awake. Depressed. Anxious. Angry. Petrified. Unrecognizable. So we hide her. We hide the girl in the mirror behind make-up. Behind a forced smile. We tuck her away in the corners of our mind and pretend to be okay for everyone else.

It works for awhile.

But then the mask begins to crack. Chips fall to the floor. We can’t replace them. The cost is too great. Exhaustion sets in, keeping us from fixing the veneer we have worked so very hard to replace. Our hearts and broken minds spill out into public view. We crumble as the pain of exposure overwhelms us. Frozen with fear we become deer trapped on a country road as vehicles race past us.

Until finally someone stops, gets out, and approaches us with compassion. They hold us and walk us back to ourselves, allowing us to lean on them along the way. As we awake each morning thereafter, the girl in the mirror begins to look a bit more like us. Sure, we still have our raw, unkempt, angry, sad, depressed, exhausted days. But in between those days, we cautiously regain our glow. Our eyes once again transform into a beautiful stained glass window to our soul instead of the broken window to the dark soul of the depression or anxiety which has gripped us for so very long.

But the window to depression or anxiety which exists in our eyes, jutting deep into our souls, will never fully close. It stays open, even if just a centimeter. Each time we falter, fail to live up to our own impossible standards, our mind will scurry to that window to measure the opening, to see if it’s widened. We will check and re-check, not believing original measurements equal to the original. Eventually we walk away somewhat satisfied but never fully believing we are recovered.

Depression and mental illness thrive on doubt. They thrive on suppression, stigma, and questioning of our own abilities whether from others or the internal struggle for sense of self. Even without mental illness, we question ourselves our entire life. Grab onto the positive. Grasp tightly onto balloons of hope when they float by. Marvel at the flame of a beautiful candle when it shines light onto your path. Find your light where you can, when it is offered, and let it flood your world. Don’t hide it behind the darkness in the soul of your depression.

Let go. Allow the light flood into your world until you recognize the girl in the mirror again as beautiful. It’s not that she disappeared. It’s that your perception of her was stolen by Depression, a sly thief. Steal her back.

Reanimating my past

Reanimation

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago, I blogged about how brushing my hair triggered my PTSD from the birth of my second daughter. Not too long after her birth, I chopped all my hair off. It’s long again and I am finally okay with brushing my hair but still mindful of how long I brush. I make every effort to brush only as long as necessary, forcing myself to put the brush down and walk away.

Today, for the first time in over five years, I am listening to Linkin Park’s Reanimation.

Why is this significant?

This is the album I listened to the day my five year old daughter had surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. I took the MP3 player into the sleep room at the Children’s Hospital right outside the NICU, curled up, cranked it up as loud as it would go, sinking blissfully down into the rhythm of the pulsating beats and the angst of their screaming voices. Thing is, I sank so far down I did not want to come back. I yearned to stay there, hidden, safe, with their angst. Lost in the darkness. Because there, there I did not have an imperfect newborn. There, I was just a soul moving to the rhythm. Nothing was wrong. I was not angry. I was not sad. I was NUMB. I wanted to be lost forever in the solitude of peace which existed amidst the digital beats, the persistent piano tones and haunting echoes behind the remixed rhythms. My womb, my saviour, my peace. I clung to the MP3 player until my knuckles were stiff, refusing to let go, closing my eyes to sink deep beneath the surface of reality.

But today, I sit here, each song echoing into my ears, my soul, my heart, and I am shaking as I type. Breathing deep through pursed lips and wiping away tears. This is music. This is just beats. Just rhythm. Just voices. This is NOT my daughter’s surgery. This is NOT the pain I felt five years ago. It’s not. Today I am letting all of this wash over me and turning it into the music it’s meant to be, not the hell it used to be for me. Today I am not numb. Today I am feeling. Today I am listening. Today, I’m singing with the words. I’m dancing to the beats. I’m reclaiming the music for joy instead of pain.

Today, I win.

Today, I refuse to let this music trigger me any longer.

It’s taken me five years but I’m finally strong enough to refuse to let this beast control me anymore.

Not easy, but necessary. A step toward the new me. Toward the healed me.

Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that yes, healing takes time. It’s a process with each step presenting itself as you are ready. If you falter, don’t despair. The step will come. You’ll overpower the step with strength from an unknown place when the time is right. It won’t be easy. But it will be powerful. And once you’ve done it, you’ll look back and see just how far your journey has brought you… and how much strength it has added to your life.

Own it instead of letting it own you.

An Angry Sea

For so many the sea can be a source of calm, peace, relaxation, meditation. It is in the sea that many find their anchor. I am one of those people. I grew up at the beach as I noted in a post from the other day. The sights, smells, and feel of the beach trigger so many wonderful memories often locked within my heart. Memories which are the foundation of my life.

But even the sea, the tranquil sea, gets angry.

Today is one of those days.

A storm system is traveling through the area. Filled with lightning, thunder, threat of tornado, the clouds are moving swiftly over land and out to sea. As a result, the ocean is reacting to the forces placed upon it by nature.

Soft and gentle waves are replaced by short and choppy waves as far as the eye can see. They crash harshly onto shore, pulling more sand angrily back out to the depths of the seabed with each new crash. A red flag declaring no swimming is raised tall in front of the lifeguard stand. No one is meandering along the beach except for a few brave souls.

So here we sit, waiting for the storm to break, the rain to fall, and planning alternate activities for the family so as to maximize our last day here at the beach.

And that’s when it hit me.

That this, this storm, this angry weather, is just like a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

Sure, we can predict to whom it MAY happen.

We can identify the jet streams which may swoop it into the lives of certain people. Identify the environmental factors which ripen the possibility of occurrence. But until we get pregnant or give birth, we don’t know if it really will happen to us.

Then when it does, we seek shelter. We make alternate plans. Hopefully we have an emergency kit ready to go in our shelter which should include a list of resources to which we can turn if the waves of emotion get short, angry, and choppy. If the waves decide to reclaim us bit by bit. If they do, we hedge ourselves in until we can heal, seeking respite from the very storm which threatens to tear us apart.

Just as we sit to wait for a storm to pass, we also must wait for a Postpartum Mood Disorder to pass. Some storms pass through quickly, a mere blip, other storms linger and take days to pass. Of course, a Postpartum Mood Disorder takes longer than days to pass – for some it may be months. For others, it may take a year or more. Again, this is in direct relation to your risk factors, level of support, contributing circumstances, proper professional care.

We may feel helpless as the storm whirls around us. But we are not as helpless as we believe ourselves to be in the midst of this vortex. Others always stand ready to come together as a community to support us, to join hands with us in this shared experience.

We must also remember our loved ones become trapped in this vortex with us. They too, need support, love, and understanding.

As I sit and listen to the angry sea, I find peace in knowing that soon, this too, will pass. So the angry waves crashing upon the shore bring solace and strength. The sand will one day be replaced, the beach will grow stronger, and once again, we will play in the waters of the ever-changing sea.

Know too, that one day, your Postpartum Mood Disorder will pass, and you, you will be stronger, able to play in the ever-changing sea of your life.

An Open Letter to any Media outlet Exploiting Charlie Sheen

Dear members of the media including but not limited to ABC, TMZ, NBC:

You make me sick. Sick, angry, and sad.

A celebrity is in the midst of a dire emergency and you’ve erected circus tents around him replete with cameras.

ABC? You get a special mention here because you even allowed his CHILDREN to be present at one of the many interviews you filmed with Charlie Sheen. His children.

On what planet is it okay to be cool with nearly two year old children around someone who claims to have “tiger blood?”

But it’s okay, you say.

Okay because Charlie says he’s okay.

Right.

You drug tested him. Drew blood.

Nothing there.

Guess what, ABC?

Mental illness?

Yeah. That’s not diagnosable via test tube or pee cup.

Now that you’ve “ruled out” drugs, are there plans for you to play Psychiatrist too as America watches?

I feel heartbroken for his family. For his ex wife, Denise Richards, who has now had to assure the American public that her kids have not been with Charlie these past two weeks. I feel for Brooke who is clearly in a state of confusion. I know where she’s at …. somewhat. I’ve been there. It sucks. You don’t know which way is up or down. It’s a vortex in which you do the best you can do just to stay afloat but mostly you want to collapse and scream and ask WHY?!?! But instead you go numb and trudge forward toward safety. You hope.

Charlie, a father with four children, is clearly struggling with a multitude of issues.

Instead of offering help to Charlie, you’re putting on a show for the rest of us with him as the star. You ask him things like “Do you worry about your kids learning about this?” To which he replies, “God no! What a lesson!” What kind of a lesson, exactly? That it’s okay to go crazy, seek attention, shout inane things from the top of the world, and demand that you get paid more for services you’re clearly not capable of at the moment? There is a lesson in all of this – it’s that when you hurt, you get help. When you see someone hurt, you GET them help. You don’t put them on display.

Wait. You’re the media. You do put it all on display. No matter what the moral and ethical bounds are – it’s all about the ratings. The wilder the better, right?

I’m not watching. Many people I know are not watching.

But many are… and the damage being done to those who are mentally ill and struggling with addiction by your organizations is atrocious. Here, let me serve up some stigma on a silver platter. Watch.

Have we, as a society, taught you this behaviour, through our obsession with reality TV?

Has reality TV finally blurred the line? Have we really come to this?

Is our society so starved for entertainment we are willing to watch, in real time, as a celebrity implodes live on the air?

I know it’s about ratings. If people watch, you make money on advertising, etc. Have you no soul? No decency left among you?

In my opinion, the only company that has done something right is CBS. I stand with them in canceling the rest of the season of Two and a Half Men. It’s unfair to the rest of the cast and the crew, but not to Charlie.

There needs to be someone holding him accountable for his behavior. Yes, he is an adult and shouldn’t have to have anyone treat him like he’s 12. Unfortunately, he’s also a very ill person in crisis right now. Sometimes we have to take steps back in order to regain our footing.

I sincerely ask you to stop exploiting Mr. Charlie Sheen’s tragic situation.

Your exploitation of his situation is possibly even more tragic and disturbing than Charlie’s fall from grace.

Warmest,

Lauren Hale

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Whatever Wednesday: The Exploitation of Charlie Sheen

For the past three years, I have been attending, off and on, family recovery meetings with my husband. There’s childcare. The meetings have grown from a small group of 10-15 to a group almost three or four times that size.

I have sat in group with hurting people. I can’t disclose their issues because what is said in group, stays in group. It is a safe place in which to heal from your addictions and the very real wounds they cause within you and in the ones you love.

Three years ago this month, actually, I was in a car accident. Not only was my car totaled, my life as I knew it would soon follow suit.

I was not the one high.

My husband was the addict.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on our car insurance.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on vehicle registration.

He even fashioned a FAKE sticker for our license plate, y’all.

Addicts lie. It’s part of the lifestyle.

Here in Georgia, driving without insurance AND vehicle registration is a jailable offense.

Yes.

Oh yes.

Not even three months after the birth of our son and I found myself sitting in a jail cell. For something I didn’t do. For something my husband had lied to me about because of his addiction.

We never dealt with the mania that Charlie Sheen is now exhibiting on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

We never thrown into a media circus because of our issue.

Our issue had ripples too – it hurt me, it hurt our kids, our families, enraged my brothers, destroyed my milk supply (I had to put our son on formula at 6 months old when he was diagnosed as failure to thrive.)

We still deal with the fallout today. Sure, we’re better. But we’re far from perfect. And we sure as hell aren’t screaming it from the roof tops.

I’m not a professional. I’m the wife of a recovering addict disgusted with the media for the giving Charlie Sheen the time of day instead of encouraging him to get help. I’m disgusted that this is happening. I’m disgusted that Charlie Sheen is being called crazy, insane, nuts, and several other offensive things. As this week has worn on, I have watched my Twitter stream explode with Charlie Sheen jokes. Jokes about addicts. About how crazy they are. Sure, Charlie Sheen is the case in point and I get that, but I also see the many faces of the addicts I see on Thursday nights when I read these jokes. They are hurting, people. Hurting. They, thankfully, are getting help. Charlie Sheen is not. Instead, the media is literally glorifying his lifestyle. They are putting his words and his mania on display. And people are eating it up.

It’s sick.

It’s reprehensibly irresponsible.

You wonder why we have a bully issue? Why we have kids who think it’s okay to make fun of people who have issues and act strange?

Perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror, America.

Perhaps it’s time.

 

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