Tag Archives: strength

Saturday Sundries: When Suicide becomes reality

Saturday Sundries Banner

Morning y’all.

I hope you have imbibed at least one cup of coffee because today I am going to get serious. Life and death serious.

Over the course of my time as a peer advocate/support person for women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I have faced suicidal mothers more than once. Each time it is draining. The first time I faced this issue I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to do. The first time I faced it on Twitter, I recruited people to support me via DM, reached out to emergency contacts, and the mom connected with someone via phone. It wasn’t me but that did not matter. What mattered was that she reached out and held on to hope. She got help and is still here.

Over time I have grown more comfortable at dealing with someone in a suicidal crisis. Each time it still drains me though. But it’s part of what I do. I am very careful to ensure care for myself during and after an intense time of support. I watch a lot of comedy, exercise, and talk with others honestly and openly. I love that my support asks how I am doing if I’ve clearly gone through supporting someone.

I have had to learn how to help others. I have also learned how to help others deal with very real tragedies resulting from the often invisible illness that is a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Right now, our community, those who suffer from, have survived, and fight for those who are struggling, is coming to grips with the events which led to the death of Miriam Carey. There’s a wonderful article over at USA Today dealing with the situation. The article covers PMAD’s respectfully and take the time to differentiate the various types of disorders. If you read any article about what happened, make it this one.

Do you know facts and statistics about suicide? Would you know what to do if someone you loved or knew admitted to active suicidal feelings? Would you be able to recognize the signs of potential suicide? It’s important to be able to do so… think of it as basic first aid for the mind. Just as our bodies can hurt, our minds hurt too. And sometimes? Sometimes we’re not capable of recognizing the extent of the injury until it’s too late.

You are not at all helpless when it comes to suicide. You CAN do something. Start with this list over at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know how to report suicidal behaviour on Facebook. Program the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number -1-800-273-8255- in your phone.

Start a discussion about suicide with friends. If someone jokes about it, correct them by saying that it is a serious matter and deserves serious attention, following that statement up with facts and statistics. It is absolutely not something one should ever joke about. Ever.

Despite all this, sometimes we lose people. Even if we know all the signs and know exactly what to do. We can’t put our plans into motion if we do not know the plans and thoughts of those around us. It hurts like hell to lose someone to suicide. It is a pain I know well. It is a pain others I know also know well. We can do everything right and still have suicide implode our lives. How do we cope then?

When we have lost someone to suicide, we are then termed as “survivors of suicide.” People who have survived someone who completed suicide. You are not alone in this, not at all. There are others out there who are going through the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the regret, the what if’s… the entire gamut of emotions one goes through after losing a loved one to suicide. There are a few online resources. The first one is at Suicidology on their Suicide Survivors page. Then there is Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.

There are also friends and family. Some of them may not understand your grief. They may not understand the length of it or the manner in which you choose to grieve. But grief is different for all of us, just as life is different for all of us. Grieve in the manner which feels best to you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Let it out, let it flow through you, and process your emotions in the best possible way for YOU.

Bottom line – suicide is not something we need to remain silent about. It’s not something we should continue shoving in a corner and pretending it doesn’t happen. It happens, to everyone in all walks of life. We ALL are affected by suicide.

Let’s get together and talk about it – open up, let people know they are loved, they matter, and we do care. Today, take the time to smile at a stranger. Say hello and ask how they are and mean it – stick around for the answer, don’t drift off into the crowd. Offer to help someone with something. Do a good deed. You may just be the one thing they’ve been needing to brighten their ever so darkened life.

After that good deed? Start a conversation somewhere about how important it is to discuss suicide and the issues that can cause it but also what to do when the mere thought of it is looming on the horizon. You may just save a life doing both. And that, my friends, is why we all matter.

The Best Part of Peer Support

One of the things I adore most about what I do is getting to know PEOPLE.

I tell you, people, for the most part, are amazing, especially those who are fighting back against the hard.

Their spirits are indefatigable and their hearts are so full of love they long to let spill out. There’s a lot of laughter because laughter is honestly, one of the best medicines out there. So sometimes, we get crazy. Like last night.

Yesterday’s conversations ranged (at least the ones I was involved in) from mini-woolly mammoths to a full on Twitter-sing-a-long of “Part of Your World” with a bunch of fabulous women from the #PPDChat community. Thing is, the sing along was spontaneously inspired because I was watching a program about Mermaids (which, um.. we won’t ever mention again because yeah…).

Bottom line – there’s that tremendous sense of community and silliness.

You KNOW you’ve found your tribe when they inspire you to draw something like this:

PPDChat Woolly Mammoth

Yep. That’s a mini Woolly Mammoth smooshing Velma (intrusive/negative thoughts).

That’s love, people.

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.

My Postpartum Voice of the Week badge

Postpartum Voice of the Week: The Monster Within

Every so often, I read a blog post which takes me right back into the darkness. Right back into the days spent in the middle of the vortex with the Wicked Witch flying right past my window.

This is one of those posts.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time ruminating or introducing the post.

I will say that if you’re vulnerable, you may want to avoid it. There’s a lot of showing instead of telling, raw honesty, and power in this post.

It’s why this post by Kimberly at Reflections of Now is my pick for Postpartum Voice of the Week.

Go. Read. Love.

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.

What tips do you have for surviving an anniversary?

Yesterday’s post, The Power of the Anniversary, got quite a bit of attention. Might have something to do with not blogging since oh, December, but it may also have something to do with the fact that the anniversary is not talked about very often and many women feel all the same emotions rushing back at them – confused  as the wave overtakes them because they’re supposed to be healed!

So I thought I would ask what you did to cope with these emotions if they cropped up?

I did not do anything particularly spectacular beyond surviving the day and moving forward. Looking back, I wish I had done something different and special. And I may just start doing that despite being recovered and not really experiencing the full blast of the anniversary anymore.

One thing I always thought would be neat would be to release a balloon with a piece of paper inside listing the warning signs of Postpartum Depression along with contact information for Postpartum Support International. But that’s the advocate side of me.

The mom/woman side of me has other suggestions:

Write yourself a letter for the following year with goals and expectations. Force yourself to focus on the positive. But be sure to include your current emotions in the letter so when you read it the following year, you’ll know just how far you’ve come.

Schedule a 30 minute massage. I know, massage is not a cure-all but it IS relaxing and pampers you. If you can’t do a massage, take a hot bath at home with a favorite bubble bath!

Seek out others who have struggled through Postpartum Depression and talk with them about their anniversaries. You’ll be surprised at how common the feelings you’re struggling with are.

If things begin to slide south well before the anniversary, talk with a therapist or a professional. Seek help. It’s ok to get help. It’s SMART to get help.

Surviving a Postpartum Mood Disorder is no small feat. There will be battle scars. And they will be re-opened. Get your “first-aid” kit ready so you can close those suckers up before they get really nasty!

My Premature Gift

Today, November 17th, is National Premature Birth Awareness Day.

Hello, my name is Lauren. I am the mother of a prematurely born child.

(Hello, Lauren – that’s your line. C’mon – all together now. Hello, Lauren!)

Our second daughter was born three and a half weeks early after 42 grueling hours of labor. I was not on medication during my pregnancy with her. 30 minutes after birth, the lactation consultant discovered she had a cleft palate. Within 24 hours, she was an hour away at a Children’s Hospital in the NICU while I recovered for another 48. Within 9 days, she had her first major surgery. Within 21 days, she had undergone two more surgical procedures. The first five months of her life saw a grand total of six surgeries. Since then she’s had two more. Our daughter will be four in March and has already had eight surgical procedures.

She drank from a special bottle when she was not being tube fed. I pumped exclusively for seven grueling months stopping only because my mental health depended on me making a very difficult decision. While she does not struggle with basic needs as much as she did, it still takes her longer than usual to chew because her bite is lopsided. You see, her teeth only meet when she grits them together at one pivotal side – the right side. Her speech is garbled. I can only understand 50 – 75% of my own daughter’s speech. (Ok, cue the tears) Do you hear what I am saying? Out of everything my daughter excitedly tries to share with me, I miss up to half of it most of the time.

This past spring she had additional surgery to fix her pharyngeal flap. This flap closes off the airway between her nose and throat. Speech ordered the surgery to help with her nasal emissions. It’s helped some but it’s still an uphill battle given her poorly aligned jaw and all the air it allows through when she attempts certain sounds. And she’s trained her vocal chords to compensate for the lack of a pharyngeal flap. But you know what? She can say “s” now. Perfectly. I can tell it apart from an “F.” And she can blow up a balloon, blow bubbles, and clearly say “Please Push me mommy!” Most importantly, she can now clearly tell me I am STILL her best friend.

While in the NICU she underwent genetic testing to locate a potential cause or additional factors for her isolated bilateral complete soft and hard palate (that means there was NO palate up there on either side, hard or soft. Hard is when you put your tongue straight up. Soft is when you slide it back towards your throat.) But there was no additional genetic reason. She was diagnosed with isolated Pierre Robin Sequence. This more often than not occurs in boys, not girls. We hit the jackpot.

Despite all of her hardships, all of her struggles, all of the things she will face as she grows and has to overcome new challenges and issues, Charlotte is one of the happiest people I have ever met. Her goal in life? To make us smile and laugh. All the time. For real (to steal a phrase from her).

I went through hell with her. Emotionally, physically, every kind of -ally you can think of. I was there. Gripped on for dear life. Looking back, I know I was depressed during my pregnancy with her. Weighed down with an unresolved postpartum depression from my first pregnancy. Cleft defects often happen within the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. Before I even knew I was pregnant our angel was already awaiting us with a huge surprise all her own.

Where am I going with all of this?

I’m filling you in on how hard it is to be a NICU parent of a premature baby. What kind of challenges we face. How it doesn’t all end when we step out of the sterile nursery where our children spent their first days, months, or possibly year. We worry when things come up – anything – about it being related to something that happened at birth – is this because of such and such? She’s got a cold. How will this affect her airway? Should I let her sleep on her back if she’s so congested? What if she stops breathing? And so the monster is fed.

But on the flip side I am truly amazed at how often I manage to deny the monster his food. How often I am able to keep a cool head and maneuver my way around the big issues. I remember time B.C. (Before Charlotte). I would watch shows filled with parents of special needs kids. Amazed I would wonder where on earth they found the emotional stamina to wake up in the morning and face another day knowing the challenges that lay in store. But they did and I do. I look forward to her giggles. I look forward to her playful eyes, her hugs, her kisses, her tantrums, her excited babbling when her bus is about to arrive. And sometimes I want to cry. But mostly I want to rejoice. God has gifted me a perfect Angel and one day, in HIS time, I will understand her perfectly.

PPD Survivor Shares her Story for the first time

On Tuesday, this was a comment left by a mom who had never shared her story with anyone besides her husband (who lived it with her). I emailed her to ask if she would be comfortable with me giving it a post of it’s very own. Her story begins when she is 34 weeks pregnant and continues through to postpartum. I hope you find it as inspiring and as strong as I did…..

This is my first time to share my story in any capacity…. I don’t know if I’m ready, but here goes nothing…

My depression started around 34 weeks into my pregnancy… I had never heard of PPD and I didn’t know what ante partum depression was… I started to realize something was wrong somewhere between 30 – 34 weeks. I’m not afraid of medication, and think of it as an aspirin would be to a headache.

I have had depression and anxiety before so, I somewhat, recognized the signs. I told my husband that I wasn’t quite feeling right, and he encouraged me to speak with my OBGYN. At my next appointment I told my doc that I was worrying excessively, and not feeling quite right. It was really a whole new type of depression for me.. I never could and still have difficulty describing the way I felt. But worry was a BIG concern. The OBGYN said it wasn’t a big concern, and not to worry lots of new mom’s worry a lot.

My husband is a member of the “mind over matter” club. While he, I’ll say, tolerates, my need for meds to get my depression under control, he definitely is one of those, “Just push through it,” kind of people.

I saw my OBGYN on Tuesday, and she prescribed me Prozac, I ended up going to the E.R. on Sunday because I felt very overwhelmed; with what exactly, I do not know… They gave me an Ativan shot, made sure I calmed down and sent me on my way, with no real information. Or possible expectations. I then saw my OBGYN again on Wednesday, explained what had transpired over the weekend, and she prescribed me some Xanax. I felt so horrible that day, that we went straight to the nearest pharmacy and filled the script so I could take one. That Sunday I woke up and I felt worse than I thought I ever could. I told my husband that he had to take me to the E.R. So they could take the baby out so that no harm would come to her, if I did end up harming myself.

I thought this was a completely rational thought process; and was even more distressed when they told me that instead of delivering my baby early, they were sending me to the Nut House. All of this scared my husband to death, not only was he in fear of losing his wife, but that there was a possibility that he could end up without a wife and a child, or raising a baby on his own. And it was definitely one of the two, because the baby could not stay in me anymore.

I think that is when he realized, after two weeks of doctors and E.R. visits, that something was really wrong and a real threat existed not only to my life but to our unborn daughter’s life as well! I went to the psych. ward at a private hospital, where they were fairly knowledgeable about pregnancy related depression. The one thing that is VERY FRUSTRATING in my case, is that, since I was pregnant I was having a OBGYN come in and check on me daily, and since I was high risk (because of a blood disorder) I had a specialist coming to see me daily as well. They kept telling me it would be okay for me to get some Ativan, which had provided tremendous relief at the E.R. Visits, but the psychiatrist that was assigned to me when I arrived, REFUSED to give me anything other than Benadryl and Celexa, neither of which were providing any immediate relief.

As I have learned over the past year and a half since this all occurred, most psych. Wards have limited visitation, and mine was no different. My husband could come to the evening visitation and spend an hour with me. The first few days all I did was cry the whole time he was there. He was so scared. I was breaking his heart and that just made me feel even worse. I really just wanted to give him the baby and leave (you know d-i-e…) I didn’t want to burden him with all of my problems anymore. The thought of me not being around anymore, was the thing that was really bothering him. He got it in those moments.

I got out of the hospital and managed to hold it together until 38 weeks!!! YAY ME!!! When my OBGYN, asked if I wanted to go ahead and deliver, I practically took myself straight to the hospital right then. Coincidentally, I went into labor on my own the day I was scheduled to deliver. My delivery was easy… But there were some complications with my epidural, which lead to added stress. It is the most horrible feeling in the world to think back onto that day and to look at pictures and to know in those moments there was no joy, no love, and no want, for my beautiful, brand new baby girl. You can see the blankness in my face and the fakeness in my smile in all of the pictures… It breaks my heart to think of it. Will she understand, what was wrong with me then? Will she know how much she has ALWAYS been loved and wanted!

This was my husband’s first baby, but my second. I have a, now 10 y.o., daughter from a previous relationship, so I had been through the nursing and diapering and everything before. I was uncertain of myself because of my depression and anxiety, but I knew what I was doing automatically. My husband second guessed everything I did. He questioned my positioning of the baby while nursing, and was convinced that she was not getting any milk, despite the fact that the nurses had told him multiple times that everything was going fine. As one would assume this only compounded the problem I was dealing with.

A couple of days out of the hospital and other than the epidural complication I thought I was feeling much better! I look back now and think that the depression was just masked by the Vicodin they were giving me for pain after the delivery. I probably had about a weeks worth of Vicodin, and within a few days after that, I was back in the E.R. I won’t go into all of the how I was feeling… But I ended up back in the psych. Ward.

Telling my husband the second time felt easier to me… With the flawed logic of depression, It seemed very simple. I leave (aka die) and then he doesn’t have to worry about me, he now has his child, life will be easier without me… Yada yada yada… The same visitation schedule existed, naturally, I had just been there little less than a month before… My husband came to all the visitations and brought our daughters. (the first time I lied to the oldest about where I was, she still doesn’t really know why I was there either time) again, in the moment, he was understanding, apologetic, and sympathetic. He just wanted me to do what ever I need to do to get better, and come home to our family.

We had tough decisions to make. Since I was nursing, and since I had the same psychiatrist that I had had previously, she was equally unwilling to provide me with any REAL meds, until I agreed to stop nursing ( as I type that, I think I hate her for that!) Up until the point in which I agreed, I pumped and dumped, my milk every few hours in my room there in the ward. That too was heartbreaking, but I was finally at a point mentally where I knew I had to get better and go home, and without me at home, there wouldn’t be breast milk anyway! So I stopped pumping and finally got some relief!!!

When I first came home my husband was great!!!! He did the laundry without being asked, he made sure there were meals for everyone, he helped out with our new daughter a lot. But as time passed and things have gotten better his back to his same old self. Mind over matter. He really does spend a lot of time wondering what the hell is wrong with me.

I’m glad to report, that I’m now doing great, as long and I don’t have to talk about the time around my daughter’s birth, (this post has resulted in the need to take some Ativan!) And you don’t talk to me about having another baby, which my husband definitely wants to do, and I’m not so sure I can handle it… I can’t even type out what happened to me without having a panic attack!!!! But for the most part I’m GREAT! ;o) I’m down to 30 mg of Cymbalta a day, and Ativan as needed (which is rare!). We are working on weaning off the Cymbalta, but I’m in no hurry! I want to be well and I want to be here with my family.

I’m looking forward to sharing this post with my husband. I think I have stated fairly well, what I will need him to do better next time. I have also printed of a “Me First” letter (got it from a post on a PPD site) and will be well armed if we decide to have another baby! I wish my husband had a better understanding of depression. I which he could remember how VERY REAL everything we went through during our daughter’s birth was. Maybe then he would have more compassion for my now fleeting struggles, and be WELL prepared for the next time!

Is Happiness really a choice?

During my first bout with Postpartum OCD, I could not begin to count how many times I got the lecture “Happiness is a choice” from my husband. But that was then and this is now. We have both come a long way in our sensitivity towards the very real condition of Depression, both of us having struggled with it in our own way.

If happiness truly is a choice, then why are so many of us struggling with depression? I mean, really, who chooses to be depressed? I sure didn’t. My husband didn’t. It just happened. Not overnight, mind you, but it happened. The thing with depression is that you don’t feel yourself fading away. As a Casting Crowns song states, it’s a “slow fade” as you fall away from happiness. Such a slow fade sometimes it’s not caught until it’s too late.

I don’t like the intimations of happiness being a choice. Call me jaded if you want but I just don’t like the idea of someone telling a depressed mom that she made the “choice” to be depressed. Yeah, right. I CHOSE to have horrific thoughts about harming my children. I CHOSE to slide so far down my pole that I landed in a psych ward. Yeap, that’s me. Choosing to be horrifically clinically depressed with OCD thrown in just for kicks. Why? Cuz I like it there. I like it in the dark, all alone, milling over thoughts of how to hurt my kids, thinking that everyone is out to get me.

C’MON.

I hated it there. Abhorred is an even better word. Emphatically detested the place, actually.

But now that I’ve graduated to Survivor, I have a very unique insight into the subjectiveness of this very phrase.

I didn’t choose to become a sufferer of Postpartum OCD. Nope, that part kinda bit me in the ass all on it’s own.

However, I CHOSE to become a survivor.

Like David gathering rocks to throw at Goliath, I turned and sought for my own rocks to place in my bag as I stood strong in the face of the Giant.

My rocks were strength, faith, and endurance. I needed all of them to carry me through. I found strength in stories of other survivors who had gone on to become tremendous advocates for other women and were now reaching their hands out to me as I struggled mightily to stay afloat. I found faith in God’s word and actions. Through my journey with PP OCD, I realized I had not strayed as far from Him as I thought. The wandering path behind me suddenly became clear as I moved forward. Everything, even the traumatic events that had once rocked my world, became illuminating lights that allowed me to develop endurance. I had been through several family deaths as a child, having lost an aunt at just 5 years old. It was through these losses that God prepared me for the road ahead. I knew I could strap on those boots and turn and fight.

Let me tell you something here. There is no feeling more empowering in the entire world than victory over your own personal demons, whatever they may be… mental illness, cancer, heart disease, etc. Those of us who choose to stand and fight know the taste of victory and it infuses into all we do from that point forward. We know we are not immune to the challenges of life. We just know how we’ll handle them no matter what they may be.

The biggest lesson I learned through all of this? Life isn’t about what it hands you. It’s about how you handle life. Looking at life through that lens would make it seem that happiness is a choice and to a certain extent it is a choice.

But sometimes life throws a screwball you just can’t avoid. So what are you to do? You have two choices. You can either let it knock you flat on your ass and stay there for awhile…..Or you can pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and mend the wounds, and go on your way.

What are YOU going to do?