Tag Archives: survivor

When the Awareness Month Ends

Where does the awareness go?

Does it get tossed in the trashcan? Do we save it and recycle it for next year’s shindig?

Or do we raise the banner and keep it waving for the entire year?

Awareness months are fabulous things.

But there’s a fault with them – they last only 28, 30, or 31 days.

Everything has an awareness month these days, it seems. We are all screaming about them from the social media rooftops. Pay attention to this, do that, say this, share that, use this hashtag, find this picture on Instagram, enter this, like this, donate here, etc.

It can all lead so very quickly to donor fatigue or the inability to comprehend anything regarding any of the topics we are supposed to give our all to because well, it’s the topic du mois.

Do you go home when it’s the first of the next month?

Or are you still there, in the stands, in the midst of the mess, yelling at anyone who will listen that this is something we should still give a damn about?

We need people who will stay and fight. People who will give their all for more than 28, 30, or 31 days. The people who scream and shout even when there’s nothing left – the people who sacrifice their entire heart and soul to save those around them – those are the people who make the difference. THOSE are the people I want to surround myself with as I move forward in life.

We all matter. Do we need to be ramped up even when it’s not THE MONTH for our cause? Yes and no. Advocacy is a shout in the sunshine but it’s also a quiet whisper in the dark. Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing your story. Other times, it’s far more complex and exhausting.

Whatever the form your advocacy takes, don’t drop it just because it’s no longer the right month.

Carry that flag with you throughout the year. Hold your head high, be a shining example and move others toward your cause by exemplifying the type of person you are inside – a fierce warrior capable of surviving anything life may throw your way.

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.

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 different kind of dark

Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders carry with them their own kind of dark. It’s a loud dark for many, filled with noise, thoughts, and frustrations bouncing off the ceiling, like bats fleeing from a cave when their “radar” isn’t quite working. Instead of flying perfectly out into the night, they bounce off the walls and fall down. But they get up and try again. Why? Because out in the world is their food and they need to eat. So…they have to leave the cave.

Try, try, try, try again. It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you get up.

I’ve been in that cave.

I tried, tried, tried and tried again until I finally flew free into the night, the sweet smell of honeysuckle surrounding me as mists of fresh rain drenched my face. Freedom from that cave is a feeling I will never forget.

But now, I find myself in a different kind of cave.

A cave made of physical limitations instead of mental struggles. This is not a prison of my mind. It is a prison of my body. Sadly, sometimes, it is both.

Today has been particularly difficult.

The pain started last week while I was traveling. I drove nearly 1800 miles in 7 days. Slept in different beds, didn’t have Tylenol and Ibuprofen with me, and spent hours sitting in a car (at least 28 hours just traveling, that doesn’t include the time driving while at my destination.) Driving through snow, ice, near-tornado conditions (I left Georgia the morning of the Adairsville Tornado), more snow & blizzard conditions, etc. On top of just sitting, driving was also stressful because I had to be very mindful of the not-so-awesome weather around me.

Since I’ve been home, the pain has spiraled down, increasing. I can’t get ahead of it. I went back to swimming this week. I’ve managed 25 laps, skipping Monday because I was exhausted just trying to scrape ice off my car.

I fear another flare is on the way. I am hoping it’s not but I can see it, hovering around the corner, giggling excitedly with glee at the prospect of tackling me once I get close enough.

This kind of dark SUCKS.

It sucks because there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. I can swim, I can take meds, I can avoid a large amount of carbs, and still… BOOM. There it is, waiting to pounce.

Today’s time in the pool was rough. I only went because I hurt. I forced myself to get in the pool and start swimming. Halfway through my body decided to quit. So I forced it to swim the final laps. I’m sure I looked like Elaine trying to dance in the pool but I didn’t care, dammit. I was there to swim at least 10 laps and by JOVE I was gonna put in my 10 laps.

As I got out of the pool, I faltered. To grab my towel, my mind had to slowly instruct my arm to reach out – as if I were an infant just learning to grab a toy. Don’t even get me started on the holy mess that was me trying to dress myself after showering.

Days like today are disheartening. Days like today are when the tears threaten to fall and I get angry. Angry and frustrated because I am still young and my body shouldn’t be doing this to me yet. But it is and here I am, in the dark.

Know what I’m gonna do tomorrow?

The same thing as today.

Because I didn’t kick ass through two severe episodes of postpartum depression to learn how to roll over and give up. No sir.

I kicked ass through two severe episodes of postpartum depression to learn how to FIGHT BACK.

Tomorrow, the battle continues.

I will win, just like I did today, even if it means I don’t get to leave the cave just yet. As long as I’m moving forward and doing my best, I will be happy with any amount of progress.

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.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @jamesandjax Reflecting on PPD

There comes a time in the postpartum experience when you are well enough to look back. It’s challenging to look back. To see the scary so intimately intertwined with the happy. To see a piece of tiny snuggly clothing and then be triggered with anxiety, scary thoughts, flashes of depression – is a frightening thing. Yet, all who have struggled with postpartum struggle with this very issue at one time or another. It’s what drives us to think about whether or not we should have another baby. It’s what casts shadows over our children’s first birthday, second birthday, etc. This.IS.HARD.

This week’s Postpartum Voice of the Week takes this precise issue and writes about it beautifully. The post is short, simple, and to the point. She takes you from happily nursing her child and drinking in his scent to screaming on the phone with her mother about how hard motherhood is – I can’t do this! Yet, through all of that, she still loved her son. During PPD and even more today.

Without further ado, I encourage you to read her story in her words. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Postpartum Voices of the Week: @jme814 & @Atlantamom

I wish this post was longer but it’s late, it’s been a busy day, and I am tired.

The posts really do speak for themselves and don’t really need much of an introduction. Be sure to go visit them and leave some love there too. Congrats, ladies!

Earlier in the week, I read a great post over at James & Jax about PPD and emotional triggers. We discussed this at #PPDChat this past week. I love this post because in it, James not only states that triggers “was one of the most profound topics covered during any of the PPDchats in which I’ve participated” but she also shares her own issues with triggers during her PPD. It’s so very important to let other mothers what may cause your postpartum to flare up but that it can be different from Mom to Mom. Thanks for sharing and writing an entire blog post on this very important topic.

Go read James & Jax’s post here: PPD & Emotional Triggers.

Then the other day, Amber at Beyond Postpartum wrote about the Strength & Influence of a Survivor. This post is also short and to the point. But it is very powerful. Amber points out the power of a survivor. That there is power in the voice of a survivor when someone who is lost hears that voice. Amber’s words are a must read for the struggling and survivor mom alike. Go read it.

 

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Happy Survivor Day to me!

Today, four years ago, at 2:20pm, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl.

She was three and a half weeks early after 42 hours of labor and not quite complete.

Her palate it seemed had not quite made the journey.

But she was eager to join us and had lessons to teach.

Oh, the lessons she had to teach were difficult to learn. But beyond priceless.

Lessons in love, patience, joy, understanding, beauty, laughter, faith, discipline, coping, and discovery of strength we did not know we possessed.

FOUR years ago today my trip down a spiral staircase began at a rapid pace.

But here I sit, four years later, the mother of three beautiful children.

I laugh, I cry, I parent.

But I am here. And here I sit as I sigh and smile, grateful deep down for all the time we have had and the time to come.

The mother of a child who, four years ago, needed a feeding tube to grow. Who needed round the clock care for the first month of her life.

The mother of a child who needed 6 surgeries in the first 5 months of her life.

And now – now she laughs. She talks. She eats without help. Without fear. Without a feeding tube.

She can say “Bobby” and blow up balloons.

Bubbles? Not a problem for this princess anymore!

She can say her ABC’s and sing a tune.

A good book is often found clutched in her sticky hands.

She.is.HEALTHY.

And I am happy.

I can understand 85% of everything she says to me. (Less than a year ago I couldn’t understand 50% of what she was saying)

She hugs. She loves to be tickled.

She can tell a very funny (and original) joke.

She is absolutely uncompromising on more occasions than I care to admit but I still love her with all my heart.

She says “I Love You, Mommy and I mean it!” which melts my heart more and more every time.

Four years later.

We’re closer than ever.

Happy Birthday to her.

Happy Survivor’s Day to Me.