Tag Archives: Obsessive–compulsive disorder

Thankful for the hard

So many people today have tweeted for what they are thankful or grateful. Family. Friends. Good fortune. Memories. Good food. It’s Thanksgiving, a national day of giving thanks for the “good” in our life.

What about giving thanks for the hard? For the struggles? For the darkness? For that which forced us to open up and peer deep within ourselves, to stare down the edge of a fearful chasm and dive in headfirst despite the fear which welled up inside us? For the adversity through which we took a deep breath and admitted it was time to grow regardless of the excruciating pain awaiting our arrival?

This is me. Giving thanks for the hard.

For not knowing how to talk to my first daughter when she was 7 days old and apologizing to her for failing as a mother.

For not wanting to even see knives when she was just a month old because of the THOUGHTS which filled my head as if they were an angry swarm of bees.

For my first OB’s subsequent failure to successfully help me with my Postpartum Depression and OCD.

For being forced to “just get over it.”

For the antenatal depression into which my postpartum depression swelled as I expected our second child.

For our second daughter’s NICU struggle.

For my struggles with pumping and using formula with her, despite the very real physical need for it due to inability to nurse because of her severe cleft palate.

For my psychiatric hospitalization because I dove headfirst into “I can’t hold on anymore” chasm.

For the psychiatric nurses who told me I didn’t have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend.

For realizing all I wanted was another Mom to tell me everything was going to be okay.

For my pregnancy after my fall from grace.

For the help I finally received, even if it was a year after my hospitalization.

Because without all of that hard? I wouldn’t have survived:

My ex-husband’s battle with addiction

My third and final pregnancy

My divorce


I also wouldn’t be the person I am today – driven to help other mothers and family members. I wouldn’t know the #PPDChat community – the AMAZING, wonderful, strong, and BEAUTIFUL #PPDChat community. I can’t even begin to put into words just how much all of you mean to me. You are the most compassionate, caring, and mind-blowingly strong people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Thankful doesn’t even begin to cover it when I think of the #PPDChat world.

Through the hard, we learn. Adversity is truly the world’s greatest teacher.

I am grateful for all the adversity which has crossed my path. I know there is more to come. I’m not done yet. But I’m ready.

And for that?

I am beyond thankful.

Faith & Motherhood: Power, Love, and Self-Discipline

When I first experienced Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my relationship with God was not what it should have been. I still prayed. Occasionally. I did not fear reading bible verses. I knew God was out there. Somewhere. But I was not actively seeking Him. I was not running from Him either. We had become roommates, God and I. Drifters in the night, one of us (me) barely acknowledging the other. Little did I know that my life would begin to change so drastically as I spiraled downward.

We lived in rural South Carolina during the my pregnancy and through the first five months of our oldest daughter’s life. No family nearby, no social support, no friends, no real knowledge of Postpartum Mood Disorders, an existence of ignorance of PMD’s within the local community – you see where I am going with this. Everything was right for me to experience a PMD. This is not to say that every woman who has these factors surrounding her will struggle but they do increase her risk.

With this perfect storm surrounding me, I succumbed to it’s power.

I worked at first to deal with everything on my own. I failed spectacularly for three glorious months. Then I sought help. My doctor denied my Postpartum and refused to help me. He did refer me to the in-house therapist but they kept rescheduling. At the time, I got angry. I felt so alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. Hurt. I had nowhere to turn.

If only I had opened my eyes then.

We moved back to Georgia, near my husband’s family, when our daughter was 5 months old. At first I was grateful for the help. But even then, I was not able to be fully appreciative. Relaxing? Hah. Totally out of the question. I lived filled with fear and anxiety triggered by my intrusive thoughts. Then we got pregnant again. My emotions continued to worsen through my pregnancy. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate and spent a month in the NICU. Once again, a perfect storm slammed onto my shores.

During our daughter’s NICU stay, the first few verses of James became stuck in my head. In particular, verse 2 & 3. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I finally opened to hearing the Word of God. We had begun to attend church a bit more regularly and leaned harder on our Church family as we struggled to come to grips with our daughter’s NICU stay and all the issues which lay ahead of us.

I know you may feel lost right now. I felt lost too. Completely lost.

God did not build us that way. Yes, we must get lost sometimes in order to find ourselves – even Jesus wandered in the wilderness. In order to walk strongly in faith, love, and have a strong sense of self-discipline, we must first be taught how to have faith, how to love, and how to practice self-discipline. I questioned my faith. I questioned why I had been left to wander in this wilderness. Now that I am a little over four years beyond my last brush with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, I see why I had to wander. I wandered so that my faith would be made strong, my ability to love myself and others grew immensely, and my ability to practice self-discipline toward myself and others also matured. For this, I am grateful. Yet still, I would not wish a PMD on my worst enemy. My faith, love, and self-discipline continues to grow, and I am re-assured on a daily basis by God that He will never forsake me. Faith, just as healing, takes time. If you feel you have lost your faith, please do not despair. You may not feel Him there but He is there, waiting for you to call for Him to carry you.

Just Talking Tuesday: How did Postpartum change your view of Mental Illness?

To be honest, before Postpartum crashed into my life, I had no clue what a real person with mental illness was like.

I watched Girl, Interrupted in college. I took a Psych 101 course to meet requirements for my undergrad degree. I knew the terminology. I had seen movies.

To my knowledge, I had never known someone while they were depressed. No one had ever talked to me about the possibility of mental illness in the family.

I went through a lot of grief as I grew up. I knew pain. I knew heartache. But I had not equated myself with someone who was depressed at any time. I had no idea what depression looked like on me because no one had ever talked about the possibility of it happening to me.

And then I got pregnant. I had a daughter. I became trapped in hell. Furious thoughts darted through my head. I couldn’t keep anxiety out of my life. I closed all the shades in our home. I refused to leave the house unless I had to do so. I felt our neighbors judging me. I felt the people in the grocery store judging me. But no, I wasn’t crazy. Not me. Crazy was for everyone else. Not me.

But maybe.

The maybe is what got me to the doctor’s office. The doctor who told me I didn’t have Postpartum but agreed to set me up with the in-house therapist anyway. The therapist who kept rescheduling. Then I cancelled.

Then we moved. I relied on myself. On the internet. I thought I healed. We got pregnant. Had another daughter. She was born with a cleft palate and needed to go to the NICU immediately. I totally lost myself that day. I continued to slip further until Day 56 when I was hospitalized for a nearly psychotic reaction to medication. It was in the hospital that I realized Mental Illness is NOTHING like what the movies showed us. Nothing like what mainstream media shows us. Nothing.

People with mental illness? Are PEOPLE, people. Humans. Like you and me.

What scares us about mental illness, I think, is that it shows us that any one of us is vulnerable. Our mind, the one thing over which you think you have control, is compromised in mental illness. But therein lies the issue. Those who have struggled with mental illness – whether themselves or alongside loved ones, know there is no snapping out of it. Those who have not are convinced that those who have mental illness are just acting. That we can turn it off at our every whim. Thing is? Most of us would love nothing more than to do that very thing. But we can’t. It takes time to heal. Even then, there are mental illnesses which persist a lifetime. Mental illnesses which are severe and debilitating. Mental health treatment and therapy has made some progress. But in the same vein, the stigma existing within American culture is deeply ingrained despite an increase in education efforts by mental health advocates.

What has to happen before we accept the mentally ill as part of our society? Before we jump to conclusions and rush to stigmatize the experience and diagnosis of others?

Just today, I read a story over at Strollerderby about the tragedy in Arizona. Do you want to know what they used as a picture? A straight jacket. Yes. A straight jacket. I tweeted the following in response to their tweet about the story: “Shame on @strollerderby for their story about Jared Lee Loughner. SHAME. A straight jacket as the photo? Really? #STIGMA” I never received a response. In going to get the link for the story, I noticed the photo has since been changed. The tweet was never retweeted. No other tweets were directed at them about the story under a search for @strollerderby. I’m grateful they have changed the photo.Thank you.

One of the biggest reasons I speak up about my experience with Postpartum Depression and OCD (and honestly, probably PTSD after my daughter’s NICU stay) is because when I was at the hospital, a Psych Nurse told me I did not have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. Even then, in darkest of places, I knew it was not right to hide my experience. Even then, as a struggling new mom with a special needs child, I knew I had to find support. Staying silent would get me nowhere fast.

I raised my voice. I was open. Honest. Brutal. Raw. Insistent. Firm. Empowered.

Almost five years after my second daughter’s birth finds me here today. Blogging. Hosting #PPDChat. Freely supporting other mothers who have also chosen to speak up about their experiences. Encouraging new mothers to speak up about their experiences as well.

Mental illness changed my life.

It changed the lives of those around me as my advocacy empowered me to educate them about my experience and the experience of others.

Mental illness may well have saved my marriage as my own struggles with mental illness enabled me to better cope with my own husband’s depression and subsequent admission to addiction.

For me, mental illness was not a negative experience.

When I gave birth to my daughters, I also gave birth to a mental health advocate. It just took me some time to find her.

How did Postpartum change your perception of mental illness? Did it change the lives of those around you? Have you changed the lives of others as a result of your Postpartum? Let’s get to Just Talking.

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Just Talking Tuesday: Depression, Super Glue, and Bonding

All too often we are shown over and over and over again those scenes in movies where a mother, who has just given birth, lies in bed in beautiful nightgown complete with a bed jacket. Her hair is perfectly coiffed as she is handed her baby. She instantly knows how to hold this perfectly quiet and peaceful infant. Her face softens as she oooohs and ahhhs as the camera goes all vaseline and fuzzy while sappy music swells in the background.

I don’t know how your births went, but mine were nothing like that. My hair was everything but perfectly coifed, I was wearing a frumpy hospital gown, and I had no clue what to do with this squirming thing now in my arms who was screaming at me like some sort of pissed off Banshee. The second time around, I knew what to do with the little one but she could not cooperate because she was physically unable to do so. The third time around went much much better despite the persistent lack of perfectly coiffed hair and no sappy music.

No one tells new mothers at their baby showers just how hard birth and those first few weeks will be on us. It’s all fun and games, cute frilly or frocky clothes in blue, pink, or some other pastel. Even if we do know what to expect, depression can still slam into us after birth. It is not something we choose. Not something we can turn off at the drop of a hat or just because you want us to be happy again. It takes time to heal.

One of the biggest things depression or a mood disorder affects is a mother’s ability to bond with her infant. The best way to describe this feeling to someone who did not have a problem bonding with their infant is this:

Let’s say you hate cats. You don’t know why but you do. You visit a home with a cat. Said cat decides that YOU are a brand new BFF and relies on you for everything. Meows at you constantly, purrs, wraps itself around your legs, curls up on your lap, and wants you to pet it every second you are there. This interferes with your ability to have an adult conversation with the friend you came to visit. Suddenly your thoughts are sliced in half, then in quarters. You’re distracted, frustrated, your blood pressure rises, you may even begin to itch or manifest physical symptoms as you try to detangle yourself from the cat.

The difference between someone who hates cats and a mom who is depressed and doesn’t bond with her child is that somewhere, deep inside, that woman LOVES her child. She does. Even if she is not showing it, she does. She wants to bond to that child and is desperate to try anything.

Motherhood is something we add to our sense of selves though, not something which should overtake our sense of self. We should not superglue the baby to ourselves and miss out on life because we are a Mother. There needs to be a balance, a sense of old and new. It is a hard line to walk. A hard line to find. An almost invisible line to find if you are a mother with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. But it’s there. You just have to be patient and wait for it to slowly reveal itself.

I struggled with bonding with our first two daughters. Our first because I had not a clue what to do with her, even apologized to her at 7 days old because I did not know how to talk to her. Our second because she was physically separated from me at less than 24 hours old and sent to a NICU in another city over an hour away. I would later find myself wailing that I wanted to leave her at the hospital. We did not bond until she was nearly three years old and back at the same hospital in which she spent time in the NICU.

I bonded well with my third though but I did not struggle with Postpartum OCD or Depression that time around. We had all the warm fuzzies and after a few weeks if you listened closely enough, you could hear sappy music in the background.

I know my issues with depression and OCD interfered in my ability to bond with my babies. But today, I try so hard not too look back and be sad. Instead I try my best to bond in the here and now because that’s what matters. I cannot change the past. I can only work to improve the present and make the future even better. (Believe me, it’s taken me almost 6 years to be able to say that!)

Did your PMAD affect your bonding? How? What was your experience?

Let’s get to just talking.

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Is Postpartum Depression a series of mini-episodes or thoughts vs. something major?

Tonight, before I broke Twitter and received a 503 error message, I received the above question in my Direct Message inbox.

It caught me off guard.

140 characters did not provide nearly enough space in which to respond.

Why she felt she had to DM the question also caught me off guard. Why not just ask in public? It’s not an intensely private question and certainly not one (obviously) I mind answering in public.

A series of mini-episodes or thoughts – hrm.

Let’s see.

My first brush with Postpartum involved OCD, which yes, involves thoughts. Rushing thoughts that liked to run through my head like crazy streakers intent on tackling me to the pavement. I had to either duck or face plant the cement. (FYI, Cement? Tastes like rubber glue. Also makes really dangerous shoes, I hear.)

That OCD fed into depression during pregnancy. THAT was fun. But it didn’t involve those fun face-planting thoughts. Just day after day of darkness with the weight of a blue whale latched to my ankle that I couldn’t shake. Darkness that kept me from eating, playing with my toddler, interacting with my husband, participating in life. Darkness which overtook my life faster than I could outrun it. Darkness that swallowed me whole with a vengeance.

Then my daughter was born with a birth defect. The face-planters returned with a vengeance and brought their friends, P,T, S, and D. Together, they hooked up with Party City and threw one helluva party in my head. I got lost in the fog. Very, very, very lost.

If I could have escaped the darkness, the fog, the insanity, by just changing my next “series” of thoughts, I would have done so in a heartbeat. If that’s the way it really is, then someone should have clued me in a long time ago. Someone should clue in all those suffering moms out there right now. Or give the moms to come a heads up. Hey – if you just DECIDE to be happy with your next thought, guess what? YOU WILL BE!

There’s power in positive thinking. While there may be, it certainly isn’t a quick fix. It takes time to heal from Postpartum Mood Disorders or any mental illness for that matter. Some may never heal as the root of their illness may be biological or something they have to live with for the rest of their lives. There is recovering and there is coping. I coped while I journeyed toward recovery. But I most certainly did not jump from mini-episode to mini-episode or from thought to thought (okay, so maybe the thought thing but underneath the thoughts there was a deeper issue at hand causing those thoughts to emerge from the depths of hell and torment me.)

I believe for some Postpartum Mood Disorders are a major event in life, one which forever alters the course of any life left to live. My own brushes with PMD’s have been a very important part of who I am today. As I journeyed on the road to recovery, (by the way, someone should really repave that road. The bumps? Atrocious!) I held on to life with every fiber of my being. It took everything I had most days NOT to drive my car into on-coming traffic. I did not – (obviously) because I had kids to care for  – kids who love me, trust me, and look forward to spending time with me each and every day.  But to be honest, there were days way back when where my kids? Weren’t really a reason to stick around. To be that far gone is scary. To not care if you see your kids grow up – to not have them as a reason to stick around – wow. (These days I am madly in love with my kids and wouldn’t dare think about leaving them in forever terms on purpose!)

Ultimately though, life IS a series of thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts get stuck in the lows. Some days, they get stuck in the clouds. And sometimes? There’s a traffic jam. And that’s an event. Sure, sometimes a traffic jam clears up on it’s own. But other times? Other times we need professional help to get it all cleared up. We don’t hesitate to accept the help of professionals to clear up the traffic, right? So why would we hesitate to accept the help of professionals when our brain has a traffic jam? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Bottom line though – it’s your Postpartum Mood Disorder to define as it fits you, your lifestyle, your perception. You may feel that your PMD is a series of mini-episodes or thoughts. It ultimately doesn’t matter how anyone else defines Postpartum Mood Disorders as we all bring our own stories and baggage to the plate.

What are your thoughts? ARE Postpartum Mood Disorders just a series of events or thoughts? Or are they something major? What was it for you?

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