Celebrating Casey

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There's this beautiful person I know. I met her through blogging. I saw a post she wrote about her experience being a mother with depression, and it made me fall in love with her immediately. Her name is Casey.

We met first online. She agreed to participate in the Mother's Day Rally for Moms' Mental Health, and wrote a wonderful piece about never giving up. Then we met in person at BlogHer, and I could see she's even better than I thought.

There's this other beautiful person I know. She's Casey's bestie. She's the ultimate example of the kind of support someone should provide to a person who has experienced depression or anxiety. She supports Casey out of love, not obligation. She does it because Casey deserves it.

I wish every pregnant and new mother in the world had Emily for a best friend, because then they'd never feel alone.

Emily created a 15-week celebration for Casey and Mozzi (the current name of Casey's bundle of joy) during which nearly 100 friends and family members are each responsible for a day of that celebration. I'm so happy that today is my day. On Twitter, in honor of Casey and Mozzi, I will be tweeting the entire lyrics to the song "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. Since the lyrics are way more than 140 characters, that will be a lot of tweets. Casey is worth it.

Casey, I wish you and your family all the blessings in the world, and more. You are an amazing soul. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do to support women with depression, including postpartum and antenatal depression. I know you have helped countless people. You are the awesome.

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Postpartum Depression: What Makes Us Vulnerable, For Better Or Worse

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Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband. He and I are pretty much polar opposites, in nearly every way you could think of: he’ll eat anything, I pick and choose; I like to spend (a lot of) money, he likes to save it; he’s good with his hands, I’m good with words; he’s reserved, I’m outgoing and quite loud.

The differences between us go on and on, but it seems our dissimilarities are what makes our marriage solid. Over the ten years we’ve been together, we’ve formed a nearly seamless fabric of existence, working together to create a happy home for ourselves and our children. I know I do my part in this equation and I know what I contribute is very valuable to our lives, but still. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband.

I can’t help but think that if I were more like my husband, I would never have developed postpartum depression. Putting aside the fact that he’s male and unable to be postpartum in the first place, he has the type of personality that renders him nearly unshakeable, even when under huge amounts of stress. Me? I crack like an egg when I’m pressured.

Case in point: In high school, I played volleyball, and every time I had to make a crucial serve, I would have the nearly unconquerable urge to laugh hysterically. Similarly, I once had to present a major paper in front of my college Shakespeare class, and I threw up in my mouth just as I began speaking. My point being, I do not perform well in stressful situations.

One of the most stressful situations of womanhood (or my womanhood, at least) is the carrying and bearing of children. The hormones, the weight gain, the nausea, the indignities suffered in the doctor’s office and delivery room, these all contribute to an overwhelming sense of pressure and anxiety to perform. Even when things are going well, the desire to provide our children with the perfect environment for growth and success in life puts a considerable amount of strain on mothers.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many women develop postpartum depression. Aside from the unpredictability of hormonal imbalance and the physical toll pregnancy and childbirth takes on the body, the sheer emotional weight of caring exclusively for another human being is staggering. These situations where much is expected are usually the ones in which I buckle. And during those times, I wish I were a man; specifically, my husband.

He is the type of calculating, rational person who never gets flustered. If he were so inclined to learn how to play, he’d be a poker champion, I’m sure of it. His poker face is that good. On the other hand, I’m the world’s worst liar, and I couldn’t bluff if my life depended on it. He is able to consider a situation from every perspective, and he takes every single factor into account before making a decision. Therefore, it’s usually the right decision. Me? I prefer to make several wrong choices before making the right one, mostly because I’m not so good at planning ahead. He rarely lets his emotions get the best of him or interfere with decision-making, whereas I make nearly every choice solely on the basis of whether or not it “feels right” to me.

All these characteristics are what I used to see as the weaknesses that predisposed me to postpartum depression. The impulsiveness, the irrationality, the emotionality–all these historically female qualities are the ones that were exponentially magnified when I was depressed. And I thought to myself, If only I were like my husband, I wouldn’t let my emotions get the best of me. I’d be able to think through my problems, instead of throwing money or food at them. I wouldn’t be depressed.

I don’t know, perhaps all that is true. Maybe those qualities within me are the ones that made me a perfect target for PPD. But those are also the traits which make me Alexis, for better or worse. My irrationality is what led me to the knowledge that I would marry my husband–I was 18 at the time, and no rational 18-year-old wants to get married. But I knew, even though he didn’t, and I like to think I’m responsible for everything we have today: our marriage, our children, everything. My impulsiveness is what makes our lives interesting. The last-minute road trips when we were childless were always my idea, and they are some of our fondest memories. My sometimes out-of-control emotions have become a sort of gift, even though they are unpredictable. My family will never doubt that I love them, because it’s all right there on the surface.

These characteristics aren’t deficiencies, as I’d previously thought them. They are a part of that fabric my husband and I have made together, and if I were to pull at any one thread, the whole thing could come apart. PPD is a part of my history now; it’s one of those threads. All the qualities that make me me, that may have predisposed me to PPD, aren’t good or bad. They just are. And now that I see that, I can just be.

Alexis Lesa

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La Depression Postpartum Et De L’Anxiete

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Thanks to our neighbors to the North in Canada — specifically the Nipissing Postpartum Mood Disorders Network — here is Six Things Every New Mother Should Know About Postpartum Depression, en francais!!!! Now I just need someone who is really good at Spanish to do it for me in Spanish. Any takers?

Six choses que toute femme enceinte ou nouvelle maman devrait savoir au sujet de la grossesse, de la dépression postpartum et de l’anxiété

1. La dépression postpartum est un problème commun.

Bon nombre de gens croient que la dépression postpartum est un phénomène relativement rare. Toutefois, de 15 à 20 pour cent des nouvelles mamans – soit environ 1 million de femmes aux États-Unis chaque année – sont atteintes d’une telle dépression, et certaines études indiquent que le nombre est encore plus élevé que cela. La dépression postpartum est un problème très commun. En fait, il s’agit de la principale complication médicale associée à la naissance d’un enfant. Vous n’êtes pas seule!

2. La dépression postpartum fait partie d’un spectre comprenant plusieurs maladies mentales périnatales.

La catégorie des troubles de l’humeur et de l’anxiété périnataux comprend la dépression antepartum, la dépression postpartum, l’anxiété postpartum, le trouble obsessionnel-compulsif postpartum, la psychose postpartum et le trouble de stress post-traumatique postpartum. Il y a donc plusieurs possibilités. Ungrand nombre de symptômes peuvent se manifester au cours de la grossesse et après la naissance d’un enfant, dont les suivants:

  • Tristesse
  • Sautes d’humeur
  • Perte de concentration
  • Irritation ou colère (envers vous-même ou votre entourage)
  • Manque d’intérêt pour des activités qui vous intéressaient auparavant
  • Perturbation de l’appétit et des habitudes de sommeil
  • Crises d’anxiété
  • Inquiétude excessive à propos du bébé
  • Idées troublantes: vous faire du mal ou faire mal à votre bébé
  • Manie
  • Pensées qui défilent à toute vitesse
  • Maux de tête et d’estomac
  • Sentiment de culpabilité
  • Sentiment que vous n’auriez jamais dû avoir d’enfant ou que vous ne réussirez jamais à vous en sortir
  • Idées délirantes ou hallucinations

Pour en savoir plus au sujet de ces maladies et de leurs symptômes, consultez le site Web de Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net (le site est en anglais seulement).

3. Les symptômes peuvent se manifester en tout temps durant la grossesse ou au cours de l’année suivant la naissance.

Les troubles de l’humeur et de l’anxiété périnataux peuvent se produire au cours de la grossesse, ainsi que durant les 12 mois suivant la naissance de votre bébé. Le baby blues (ou syndrome du troisième jour) est une période normale d’ajustement après la naissance, qui dure de deux à trois semaines. Si vous avez encore des symptômes et que la situation ne s’est pas améliorée (ou s’est détériorée) cinq ou six semaines après la naissance, il ne s’agit plus du baby blues. Cela pourrait être un trouble de l’humeur et de l’anxiété périnatal.

4. Ce n’est absolument pas de votre faute.

Vous n’êtes pas la cause de ce problème. Vous n’êtes pas faible. Vous n’êtes pas une mauvaise personne. La cause précise de ces maladies n’est pas encore connue, mais les recherches ont permis de cerner plusieurs facteurs de risque: les antécédents médicaux de votre famille, la manière dont votre corps réagit à certaines hormones, le stress que vous ressentez ou que vous avez déjà subi, ou l’appui que vous recevez pour vous occuper de votre bébé. Une chose est certaine: ce n’est pas de votre faute. Ne vous sentez pas coupable. Il s’agit d’un problème commun pour lequel il existe des traitements.

5. Ne perdez pas de temps: allez chercher de l’aide.

De nombreuses études récentes indiquent que la santé physique et émotionnelle des femmes – et de leurs enfants – se détériore à long terme si elles n’obtiennent pas de traitement pour leurs troubles de l’humeur et de l’anxiété. Vous méritez de vivre une vie saine. Vos enfants méritent une maman en santé. Vous n’avez rien à gagner en attendant.

6. Vous n’êtes pas seule.

Chaque personne a besoin d’aide à un moment ou l’autre de sa vie. Il s’agit simplement de votre tour. Un grand nombre de professionnels de la santé connaissent bien ces maladies et pourront vous aider à vous en remettre. Vous croyez peut-être que votre situation est unique, mais ces professionnels en ont déjà vu d’autres. Ils ne seront pas surpris lorsque vous leur parlerez de vos pensées et sentiments. Visitez le site de Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net) pour obtenir des ressources (en anglais) ou consultez la page des groupes de soutien.

J’espère que cette liste vous aidera à voir qu’il y a une lumière au bout du tunnel.Les troubles de l’humeur et de l’anxiété périnataux sont temporaires et il existe des traitements efficaces. Avez un soutien professionnel, vous retrouverez votre joie de vivre. Merci de continuer à lire les ressources de Postpartum Progress pour obtenir des renseignements et du soutien.

* * *

Postpartum Progress est le blogue le plus lu aux États-Unis sur le thème des troubles de l’humeur et de l’anxiété périnataux, incluant la dépression postpartum, l’anxiété postpartum, la psychose postpartum ainsi que la dépression et l’anxiété au cours de la grossesse. Pour en savoir plus sur les maladies mentales associées à la naissance d’un enfant, visitez le http://www.postpartumprogress.com ou suivez-nous sur Twitter: @postpartumprogr.

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Postpartum OCD: Does Having Scary Thoughts Mean You’ll Act On Them?

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I got this email from Amy from Pretty Babies, and I identified so much with what she said that I wanted to share it with you (with her permission, of course):

“The entire trajectory of my recovery would have been different if I had known about the intrusive thoughts when I had my oldest. I thought that having the thoughts meant that I was capable of doing the things I thought about (in other words, if I thought about my kids drowning in the tub, I thought it meant that I WOULD drown them). I avoided getting help for months because I was afraid that “they” (my doctor, my husband, etc.) would take my daughter away if they knew what I was thinking. If I had known these sorts of thoughts were common, I would’ve been able to get help much sooner, but as a first time mother I had never heard of such a thing. Thank you for talking about this, so other moms don’t have to suffer the way we did.”

This is EXACTLY what happened to me when I had postpartum OCD. I had never heard of intrusive thoughts. I thought I was now a horrible monster, and I believed that since I was having these thoughts it must mean I could follow through on them. That was wrong, but no one ever told me that. I also thought my child would be taken away. I WISH, WISH, WISH this was discussed more. There’s no reason for mothers to continue to suffer.

If you have postpartum OCD or postpartum anxiety and have scary, disturbing thoughts known as intrusive thoughts it is highly unlikely you would EVER act on them. As Karen Kleiman writes in her new book Dropping the Baby & Other Scary Thoughts:

“When scary thoughts feel inconsistent with your belief in who you essentially are, your character, and your personality, they are referred to as ego-dystonic thoughts. When a thought is ego-dystonic, it is in conflict with whom you fundamentally believe yourself to be. This inconsistency creates piercing anxiety. However, this distress, as disturbing as it feels to you, provides reassurance that these thoughts are anxiety driven and not psychotic. In fact, your anxiety is an indication that you are aware of the difference between right and wrong.”

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