Today’s post in celebration of Katherine Stone is brought to you by Deborah Forhan Rimmler, a member of the board of Postpartum Progress. There’s no intro to do it justice so I’ll just let you read.
I’m always curious about where God might pop up. You see, I’m the kind of girl who finds a connection to the Divine in random places—a quiet snuggle with my boys, when my husband loves me even when I’m being a jerk, a long bike ride, my dear aunt’s funeral. You get the point.
Five years ago I was struck with horrible postpartum OCD, the soul stealing kind where you have visions of hurting your own baby. Even then, I was still lucky. I had a swanky doula, got a great psychiatrist and slowly got better. Still, there was this huge gaping hole in my heart that only I knew was there. I swear you could see all the way to infinity and back that hole was so big. I was sure I would never really be happy again or be joyful as mother because this terrible experience haunted me. I put on brave face. I cared for and played with my baby. I prayed, tried to meditate, did yoga, and watched chick flicks. I did all my happy things. Only it was still there. That big gaping hole of fear and sadness over this experience.
Then I met an angel—the working class kind, which in my opinion is the very best type. You see, she is one of us. A human with no special wings or privity with God’s plans for the universe. She was just a very brave mother who had dared to share her story with the world about how she, too, had these intrusive thoughts about hurting her baby boy. And I mean the whole world—she put in on a blog! She just put it out there in a matter-of-fact way about how postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis are simply treatable diseases. And she got other women to share their stories on her blog. And she gave up her lucrative marketing career, at a significant financial cost to her family, to build this blog day after day. For. Ten. Years.
Every story was just as beautiful and brave as the one before. And in these stories there was a divine truth that healed my draining soul. We women are not alone, and it is not our fault we got sick. I even felt God’s love for me, my sick brain, and all the other suffering mothers past and present in the community of these stories. And the gaping hole in my heart and soul got plugged with the honesty and bravery of these women sharing their truth. And one day I started to feel happy again. Full of hope for my life as a mother.
Thank you, Katherine Stone, for being that angel. Day after day you shine the light of goodness and grace on the dark side of motherhood helping to piece our broken hearts back together. And when that light sparks a sad, tired soul and starts to help it heal, you give the gift that only a true angel can give: Hope.
Bless you my darling friend and congratulations on the Ten Year Anniversary of Postpartum Progress!
Deborah is a postpartum OCD survivor and on the board of Postpartum Progress, Inc. She is a corporate attorney and lives with her husband and two sons in Western Massachusetts.
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.
“It’s psychotic. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”
~Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles~
Ah, good old mediocrity. The goal for which everyone aimed, right?
In the sixth grade, I completed in the school’s spelling bee. If memory serves correctly (I’m getting old and yes, there is truth to the old adage that brains stop working as well once you hit a certain age), I won the class competition which is what placed me in the school’s bee.
I won the school’s spelling bee.
Don’t ask me what word I spelled to win because I don’t remember.
I remember, however, thinking winning was kick-ass, especially because I was one of the younger kids in the school. I beat the older, (and I thought smarter), kids that day.
I did not make it past the county spelling bee, however, despite studying my ass off. The other kids there were simply better at spelling than I. (I know, completely shocking, right?)
I have the trophy stashed somewhere, probably in a box long gone, to be honest. Who knows. It is a symbol of victory, of not settling for anything but the best.
I also played soccer as a kid. Our team did not win a lot of games, we definitely did not win regionals or go to any sort of championship. At least, I don’t remember us doing so. Know what we all got at the end of the season? A tropy. For mediocrity.
That trophy, while pretty, is completely worthless. Sure, it has my name on it and is a symbol of a lot of physical exertion over a few months, but meh. There is no victory attached to it therefore it means nothing.
We do not need to reward people for mere participation. For just showing up. Awards are meant for people who go above and beyond expectations, who fight like hell to do their very best and dedicate their lives to be the very best they can be at what they do.
Trophies don’t go to people who half-ass it. At least, they shouldn’t.
I think anyone living with a mental illness who battles through their days just to survive, however, should have a damn trophy. Because that? IS HARD WORK. Getting out of bed, doing what needs to be done, making plans, living – that is damn near impossible for someone with a mental illness. Doable, but damn near impossible without an extreme exertion of energy, both physical and mental.
It is a well-practiced tango between mind and body – convincing the brain to properly control the body to do what it needs to in order to accomplish the most base tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, etc. Same days? It’s more like the hokey pokey – you put the left arm in, you take the left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about. If you’re lucky, you fall asleep and start all over again, praying that your mind & body are back in sync the next day.
If you created a trophy for yourself or someone you loved who struggled with a mental illness to inspire/empower them, what would it say?
Tell me down below!
I’m gonna have to give some thought to what mine would say. Stay tuned for that update!
“How do you help all the women you do and not carry their pain with you?” asked my therapist as we sat in her office a little over two years ago.
“I don’t know. I just do.” I fidgeted slightly as I readjusted in the chair, popping my neck and a few vertebrae as I did so.
“But day in and day out, you are seeing people at their worst and helping them solve their problems. How do you manage to do that without internalizing it?” she rephrased, pushing me to answer.
“How do you do it?” I answered her push with a question.
“Nice try. You’re good at deflecting, aren’t you?”
I smiled and recrossed my legs, staring back at her.
“It’s an art, really. As for how I don’t carry their pain and issues with me, I just don’t. Their issues are not mine. I have fought my battles, I am fighting my battles, and I leave their battles to them. I learned, from fighting my own battles, that I cannot fight anyone else’s battles for them. They have to fight them. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hand them the right tools. That’s my job. That’s where it ends.”
“So you have never had a situation that shook you?”
“Of course. Haven’t you?”
“Yes. The difference is that….”
“You’re a trained professional and I am not?”
“Well, no. Perhaps. It is just that it takes a lot to be able to listen to issues day in and day out and not get worn down by that. Given that you are here and still helping other people, it is my job to make sure you are taking care of yourself.”
“I am. I know when to step away. I have people I can hand things off to if they get too intense and I know that I am not equipped to handle crises. I also have people I debrief with after any situation which involves a crisis – people check on me which is wonderful. I am peer support only, something I make very clear to anyone who reaches out to me.”
Sometimes I would go hiking after my sessions. Other times, I would go for a long drive, music blasting, the windows down. I wish I could say I remembered what I did after this session but I don’t because frankly, the after sessions blurred together.
The discussion in this session though, is one that we can all learn from. While not everyone is actively helping stranger after stranger through what some consider to be the worst time of their lives (most of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood Disorder kindly call it hell), it is important to remember that when we are helping others to not allow their pain to become our own. It is possible to be compassionate without tucking someone else’s pain into a pocket in your own heart. Difficult, but possible. It is also important to know your own emotional limits. Do not ever sacrifice your own emotional well-being for someone else if you can help it. (Remember the whole your glass must be full in order to give to others rule here.)
My goal, when someone reaches out to me for help, is to empower them to deal with their issues on their own with help that is much closer (and far more professional). This should be your goal as well if you are a fellow advocate or a non-professional. Educate, empower, release. I follow up, of course, and some of the folks end up being pretty good friends, but most of the time, it is a catch and release sort of contact. It’s something I’ve grown to expect.
With each person I help, my own personal hell loses just a little more of its darkness, shoving me further into the light, allowing me to help even more people.
No woman or family should ever have to struggle through a Perinatal Mood Disorder alone. This is why I do what I do and why I will never stop.
Because every single one of us matters to someone out there.
Many of us stand frozen in our paths because we are afraid of disappointing someone or being called out as a hypocrite when what we do does not back up what we say. Here’s the thing – how people react to you is not your gig. It’s theirs. They choose how to judge you and nothing you do or say will change how their judgement of you. You cannot repack or carry their emotional baggage. The only baggage you are responsible for is yours.
One of my earliest favourite movies is The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. Irons plays a Jesuit Priest in the Amazon. DeNiro is a plantation owner who has some society debts to pay. He appeals to Irons and follows him into the wilderness, carrying a large load of items on his back as they trek through the jungle. Despite falling multiple times as they struggle up a particularly steep hill, DeNiro refuses to cut the load off. Finally, after a fall when DeNiro is almost at the top, Irons cuts the load from DeNiro’s back. DeNiro looks at Irons in disbelief, almost angry that he has taken his penance from him. Then, DeNiro sits down and cries in the jungle, mourning the loss of the load and, it seemed, his gratefulness for having been relieved of by a priest. (Disclaimer – it has been quite some time since I have seen the movie and this is how I remember the basic scene/storyline of this aspect of the movie. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong)
What if we were able to do that for someone? For ourselves? Lighten the load a little by refusing to carry emotional baggage with us? Imagine if we could truly start each day anew with no baggage whatsoever on our hearts or our minds? A sort of blank slate, if you will.
But wouldn’t you have to be emotionally frigid to do that?
No. What you need to be is mindful of how you allow things to ebb and flow into and out of your life, ensuring a balance of positive and negative – not allowing either to outdo the other. (For I believe that if we do not know sorrow and pain we cannot be truly grateful for the wonderful and amazing).
So how does one achieve this minimalistic state of a baggage free emotional life?
Here are a few steps I have discovered to living a (mostly) baggage free emotional life:
1) Deal with things as they happen – Don’t hold things in. Process events as they occur. Talk about them, write about them, get it out of your system. The longer things sit, the more they fester and you don’t want that creepy Uncle from The Adams Family perched on your back, do you? No. Of course you don’t. So before your problems sprout arms, legs, start wearing a holocaust cloak and go bald, deal with them before you turn into the Hunchback of Notre Dame because Uncle Fester is camped out on your back.
2) Do not let experiences jade you – Just because one situation with one person turned out a particular way one time, do not let that be the standard by which you judge similar situations with different people in the future. People are all different and sometimes, they might surprise you with their reactions. We all know what “assume” breaks down into, right? And we are not asses. Well, not all of us.
3) Listen to what the other party is saying – Don’t sit there hearing them as if they were the teacher on Charlie Brown while you formulate what you want to say to defend yourself. Actually listen to their concerns. When they are done, take a few minutes to respond, beginning your response with a rephrasing of what they said so they know you heard them. Validation goes a long way and repeating what they said helps you better understand what they’re feeling as well because you’re saying it in your voice.
4) Do not have conversations about important situations when you are angry – Trust me on this one. Wait until you have calmed down and then talk. Discussing things when you are both angry never ends well. It is wiser to wait until you have both calmed down and are capable of having a rational discussion. Otherwise, you just end up having a talk that looks like this (I don’t really like the parenting in this video as they delay dealing with the child’s outburst but it is a perfect example of what an angry conversation will accomplish – nothing):
5) Be brave enough to admit when you are wrong. We are not always on the side of right in a discussion, behaviour, or life. We screw up because we are human. (To be human is to err, correct?) It takes a lot of chutzpah to admit you are wrong. Don’t admit you’re wrong if you know you’re not – that’s not cool either. But when you are wrong, admit it, and ask at the same time how you can fix the damage that has been done. Accountability goes a LONG way.
6) When you feel wronged, say something. Staying silent harms everyone, especially you. This is reminiscent of the first step, yes. But I also want to encourage you to phrase things like this, “When X happened, it made me feel like Y. How can we work to improve how we do this so no one has to feel like Y again?” This way, you are not being accusatory and offering to form a partnership to improve how things are managed in the future. (There are certain situations in which it is best, of course, to say something to someone other than the person who wronged you such as cases of abuse, etc, but still – say something to someone who can help you work through it or escape the situation. Do not continue to suffer in silence.)
7) Remember that how people react to you is absolutely not your gig – it is theirs. This is the best piece of advice a therapist ever gave me. Living by it is difficult at first but once you start to do so, you realize that as long as you do your very best to resolve a situation or to share how you feel, how people choose to react to that is their gig. You absolutely positively do not own how anyone chooses to react to you. That’s all them. End of story.
Do I guarantee these steps will lead to a minimalistic emotional lifestyle free of all that baggage you have been lugging around? No.
But it’s a damn good start.
What changes will you make in your life this week to move toward a more minimalistic emotional lifestyle? What do you think would be the most difficult thing for you to let go of emotionally? Share below!
Hi! We like cookies around here. If you like cookies, go ahead and accept. If you don't, that's cool too. We're just glad to have you in the neighborhood. Cookie settingsI like cookies
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.