Category Archives: #HAWMC

#HAWMC – Ekphrasis

(The picture I’m describing can be found here. The user disabled downloads of her work so I’m not able to share it with you on my blog post.)

Purple flowers hang upside down, surrounded by sharp green blades of grass, but it’s not how they’re meant to be seen. It’s how the camera sees them, how the artist sees them. It’s all a translation of beauty, seen from a different angle.

There’s a quote beneath the photo, “Life takes your dreams and turns them upside down.”

I can’t think of a better description for Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders, can you?

For many of us, we painstakingly plan our pregnancies, buy the right things for the nursery and laugh and giggle at our baby showers. Others may not feel the same way but hope to feel better once baby arrives, banking on birth to improve their mood. Still others are just struggling to adjust to even being pregnant as it’s unplanned.

Whatever your situation, there are hopes and dreams you have attached to the outcome of your current journey. When those hopes and dreams are dashed against the rocks by the trauma of a PMAD, things get a lot darker. You feel turned upside down and inside out. As if there’s no escape from the hell in which you’ve found yourself.

But, even in that darkness, even when you least feel it, just as those purple flowers, you are still beautiful. Flowers begin as a seed, some as a horrific bulb which is then planted in the dark earth, covered with dirt, and forced to fight it’s way out into the sun. Once it emerges, you don’t see the dirt for long. It shrugs it off and speeds toward the sun, toward blooming into a gorgeous thing of beauty. Flowers require care, sunlight, water, nourishment. They need to be tended to in order to bring joy to the world. Think of how bland the world would be without the colourful variations of flowers springing forth in even the most difficult of places.

You are not destined to spend eternity in that dark place. One day, you too, will burst forth, speed toward the sun, and bloom into a gorgeous blossom.

(This post written as part of WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. You can check it out and join here: http://t.co/kp15ymv1)

#HAWMC: Why I write

After I fell down the rabbit hole so far that only a weekend in a mental hospital helped me, I realized I wanted one thing. To talk to another mom. I needed to know that my crazy wasn’t permanent. That I was okay, normal, and I would be well again. Even if I wasn’t going to be well again, I told myself, I need to know I’m not here in crazyland by myself.

During my stay, a psych nurse told me something which has stuck with me for over six years and I suspect will stay with me for quite some time. She told me I didn’t have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. I know, you’re hearing the record scratch in your head too, right?

It’s a moment in my story I have discussed several times here at my blog. But it’s an important moment, I think, one which truly sums up the state of mental health awareness in our country, even among those who are involved in directly treating those struggling. The message it sends is chilling.

Sssshhhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone you’ve been to the crazy house.

Why the fuck not?

Why would I remain quiet about this? Why do I deserve to be judged for something which is no more my fault than the breast cancer? Would a nurse dare tell a patient in for Chemo they don’t have to tell anyone where they’ve been?

I get that health is private, HIPAA and all that. We have a right to remain quiet about our health, physical or mental, but to suggest to someone that it’s absolutely not necessary to tell anyone where they’ve been is simply neurotic. This did not happen while signing papers or during admission. No, this happened during a casual conversation during my first day there.

What, was I supposed to go home and pretend I’d gone to Bermuda? Would I be given parting gifts to help fake my weekend tropical get away? Quite frankly, if they wanted me to believe I’d been in Bermuda, they should have given me stronger drugs. But I’ve digressed.

The more we give into this culture of silence and stigma surrounding mental health, the more we enable the stereotypes to stand. Yes, I had depression and a whole slew of other issues (OCD, PTSD, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts…) but you know what? I’m a perfectly normal person. I’m just like you. I think, I eat, I breathe, I function quite well most of the time. I hit a rough patch and needed help to get through it. It’s no different than someone being hospitalized for a serious injury or infection. At least, it shouldn’t be any different.

This is why I write. I write because it’s important to acknowledge that people with mental health issues aren’t of the insane Hollywood variety. We are normal people you see every day. We are your sisters, your wives, your cousins, your mothers, your aunts, your friends, your co-workers. We are human too. Treat us as such.

#HAWMC: If I had a superpower

I have a superpower.

It’s compassion.

When you hear the word “superpower” you think of a super hero able to leap buildings in a single bound or swing from building to building with just a web, fly at top speeds or change the weather to defend themselves.

Compassion is a superpower. Not everyone has the capacity for compassion. It’s a combination of things, really. The ability to listen beyond what someone is saying, to hear what they’re saying, and to make them feel safe in saying whatever they need to in order to help the hurt disappear. Compassion is making someone else feel heard, loved, and safe. It’s not judging their journey or their thoughts about their journey. Compassion is a skilled art, honed over time, but only if the person working toward this goal is blessed with the capacity for love and understanding to begin with.

I use my superpower every day to help new mothers as they struggle along the road of Postpartum Mood Disorders. I empower them to seek help, enable them to realize they are not alone, and provide a safe space in which they can flop down, sigh, and pour out all their worries, concerns, and questions.

I’m grateful for my superpower.

 

 

 

#HAWMC: Be the change

When Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders first burst into my home nearly 8 years ago this month, the invisible twin of my first born daughter, I had no idea how difficult a journey I faced. I also had no idea how amazing it would be on the other side.

I don’t remember every day of my journey. But I remember snippets, things which I have held onto as I trudge forward on this road of mine. Some are hard, some are crippling, some are funny, but all of them, every single last one, has molded me into the woman I am today. I wouldn’t trade any of them for an easier time of things.

Why not?

All of the hard through which I have journeyed has led me to connect with some of the most amazing, beautiful, funny, and wonderful souls in the world. They are dedicated, feisty, gorgeous, and resilient. They refuse to hear the word no without it inciting a strong desire to fight back. Their voices, even choked with tears and anger, are some of the most powerful voices on the planet. They sing in a chorus rivaling even that of the most talented in the world. A chorus of mothers and families refusing to struggle alone or be brushed aside. Lives demanding change and equal treatment.

They are the change. We are the change.

The change refuses to let stigma have power over us. We refuse to let society dictate to us how motherhood must be. We rip the Johnson and Johnson facade from every wall and repaint it with reality. Then we yell that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be okay.

As I’m writing this, “Better than a Hallelujah” by Amy Grant started playing via Spotify. How very fitting. My favourite lyrics from this song are:

“God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night, better than a hallelujah sometimes…. We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody, beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah…”

Even when we think we are completely falling apart, we are still beautiful in God’s eyes. We are still gorgeous even with the cracks in the facade. More beautiful, actually. Those cracks allow us to grow, to heal, to discover ourselves more intimately than those who never crack.

I fight every day to be the change. To provide for at least one other mother the help and comfort I did not have when I struggled the first (and sadly, second) time around. No mother, no family, deserves to fight this beast on their own. We, all of us, are stronger together. We are women. We are mothers. We are strong, even when we feel as if we are porcelain shattered on the floor.

We pick each other up, hand out super glue, chat, talk, support, love. We are the change. You are the change. I am the change. Together, we are amazing.

I picked the right playlist for this exercise, apparently, because now “There will be a day” by Jeremy Camp is playing. What a fitting note on which to end this post.

“But I hold onto this hope, and the promise that it brings, there will be a place with no more suffering – there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fears…”

Yes. There will be a day.

Be the change.

Time Capsule: Oh how I pray for Moms & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Dear future moms,

I pray this finds you in a better situation than the one in which I found myself after the birth of my first daughter. You see, I struggled with something called Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s crippling. It makes you not want to do anything for fear of the horrific thoughts the simplest action will trigger in your mind.

Making dinner? Have to chop vegetables. Oh. Knife. Shiny. Sharp. Hrrmm.. sharp…

Water. It’d be easy to just slip under and never come back up.

Medication. I wonder how many of these it would take….

Baby. Every single thing which could go wrong has gone wrong in my head. Whether at my hand or at the universe’s hand.

I pray you’re taken more seriously now if you still struggle with these issues. I pray you don’t fear someone taking away your children if you dare to seek help. I pray even more of you have spoken up about these issues and refused to stay silent, feeding stigma. I pray social support and courage are rampant. I pray that perhaps, finally, mothers have the support they need as they face the challenge of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Or even more boldly, that they don’t even exist any more. But if they do, I pray the road to recovery is much smoother than it is even now.