Worth Every Moment: Charity’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression

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I am so honored to welcome Warrior Mom Charity today to share her story.  Charity struggled  with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety with a psychotic episode.

Charity girls
I have three little girls, ages 8, 7 and 4.  Bringing each home was a joy.  An amazing joy.   Bringing home the youngest, Patrice, was the easiest transition in mothering.  There is a knowledge and ease that comes with experience.  I knew my mothering style, knew how to juggle.

What I didn’t know was the feeling of insomnia with a newborn.  And the intense emotions that came—good, bad and ugly.  The tears.  The fear.  The need to be busy.  All.the.time.

How could I be crying and upset—I honestly and truly looked at my life and loved it more than I ever had.  But every day I had to be busy!  The girls and I went—to the library, the zoo, the park.  We did—baking, crafts, projects.  My level of activity kept having to go up.  I had to move and do to escape the thoughts, to escape the tears, to escape the abyss.

My midwife and I were in contact daily.  She talked me through the waiting period before we could adjust my thyroid medications.  And then the time we had to wait to see if that resolved the myriad of emotions.

Time was not my friend.  I started medication.  It helped a little.  A very little.  So we upped the dose.  That did not help, not at all.  I suddenly couldn’t stop going—I had to be busy.  Bonus—my house was spotless; not such a bonus—I was a wreck.

I could no longer control some of my thoughts.  I would think over and over, ”I’ll get Patrice to my midwife; she can take her home and love her, and hubby can handle the other two.”  Until one morning that was the only thought.  I loved my girls, but I could not figure out how to be their mommy.  So I packed them up, and went to my midwife.

“Will you just take them home and love them?” I sobbed as she hugged me.  Her staff got my girls out of the room, and she let me cry…and so began 6 ½ hours of conversation, tears, and being hospitalized.

The behavioral health facility was the worst experience of my life, but it was where I needed to be.  I was safe. My girls were safe.

Over the next few days, I was taken off medication.  My midwife found me a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression, and I started new therapies.

That was 3 ½ years ago.  It has not been the easy resolution I thought it would be.  Medication did not fix it all.  I am back on a higher dose, seeing a doctor and a therapist, working on getting better for my girls.

I am fighting for them.  They are worth every moment.

And I have found a lot of help along the way.  I discovered the #PPDCHAT group on twitter (every Monday at 9:00pm EST), the wonderful website www.postpartumprogress.com, and women who have been there or are there.  I have discovered community.

Depression looks different for everyone.  Mine did not involve a desire to sleep, rather a desperate need to be busy.  I did not want to escape my children; rather, I couldn’t bear to be away from them.  I did not cry out of sadness, rather due to a desperate feeling threatening to overwhelm me.  I did withdraw from people to an extent; I did give up activities I enjoyed.

Getting well has required a level of self-discovery and honesty I didn’t know I possessed.  It has required a lot of help from others.  Help I often hate, but need.  It has caused me to give up a lot of what I thought depression and anxiety looked like in order to get help for what it looks in me.  It has required a strength I didn’t know I possessed, to fight—for my girls.

Have you, or someone you know, recently given birth, adopted or weaned a baby?  Postpartum depression and anxiety can develop any time within the first year after birth, or after weaning a nursling.  Adoptive moms are by no means immune to postpartum mood disorders.  Postpartum depression is not baby blues, which is a feeling of sadness or erratic emotions beginning a few days after birth and resolving within a few weeks.  Postpartum depression lasts longer, or develops later and interferes with the ability to function as yourself.

If you are a new mom, for the first, third or tenth time, be honest with your care providers or those who care about you.  If you know a new mom, ask her how she is—really is.  Hear what she is saying, hear what she isn’t saying.  Please check www.postpartumprogress.com, twitter hashtag #ppdchat, www.mypostpartumvoice.com or my blog at www.gigglesandgrimaces.com.  You can find my posts about this journey under depression.

You, and those you know, are worth every moment of fight, every bit of the hard.

 

Charity birthday

Charity has been blogging for 4 ½ years. She started blogging to share her faith, family and cute kids. Four weeks after her third daughter’s birth, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety hit her like a ton of bricks and she became part of the percentage of women who had latent Bipolar Disorder awakened by the postpartum mood disorders.  Through Charity’s writing she displays her struggles in even the darkest of moments. In sharing her story with others, Charity hopes that others see you can parent successfully even with mental illness. Her writing can be found on her blog or on Project Semicolon.

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Warrior Mom Conference Dinner Recap

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On the first night of the Warrior Mom Conference, the attendees were treated to a beautiful candlelit dinner at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. After a cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres and wine, the women drew seat assignments at random, allowing them to enjoy the company of those that they may not have gotten to meet during the first conference session that day. The tables were lined with candles and vases filled with red roses. Sprinkled among the glittering glass were red and pink rose petals.

After brief toasts from Susan Petcher and Katherine Stone, the mic was handed to Deborah Rimmler, the chairwoman of the Postpartum Progress board, and the mind behind Climb Out of the Darkness. Her two-part speech was so beautiful that the only way to do it justice was to reproduce it here, in her exact words. 

11754453_10200748759798647_5403172059499486083_o“As survivors of maternal mental illness, we all staked our claim on motherhood with the special passion of one who had to fight for this right.  Not with the birth of our beloved babies, but with passion and hard work and sacrifice did we become true mothers….Able to be present to the love and joy of being a parent without the deep fog of depression or paralyzing anxiety or heart-stopping intrusive thoughts or mind altering psychosis. 

When I think of us mothers, better now or on the path to healing—through a myriad of professional help, medication and other alternative therapies—I always harken back to a red rose.  For me, it is a symbol of the blood and thorns from which the beauty of motherhood emerged for those who suffered from maternal mental illness.

Yet even now, many years after my intrusive thoughts have lost their hold on me and are just a distant memory, I am always—always—surprised by the little moments when my two sons give me their unbridled love.  The six-year-old looking me in the eye and telling me how much he loves me or my four-year-old wanting endless goodbye snuggles before I leave in the morning or running to the door when I get home.  Really, I think….they actually love me? After all we’ve been through?  I know in my head that I’m a good mother and that my children are not suffering from my suffering (or if they are…we can deal with it).  But I have to work constantly on getting my heart and soul to believe that the moments of true joy and connection to my family are real.   Here…the red rose is just too tough.

So I’ve started to picture a pink rose, like the petals here, of softness and compassion mixed in with the red.  A simpler and lighter and less complicated symbol of what I always dreamed motherhood could be.  The red rose got me to where I am today and will always be my center, but I want to be open to embracing that I have survived this terrible ordeal and that motherhood going forward can be ordinary.  No surprise that my kids love me.  And no surprise that they are naughty little devils more often than not.

I wonder if others here have the same hard time relaxing into the simple pleasure and joy of being a mother….When they randomly present themselves?  I mean, you gotta take it where you can.  Honestly, I just can’t spend the next 50 years having this moment over and over.

So I propose a toast, for myself, and hope that it resonates with you all as well:

To mothers who fought like a red rose to survive unfathomable darkness to be the true strength and beauty of their families

To mothers who can also live moments without the shadow of these struggles … showered in pink rose petals, bubbly like this champagne, and grounded in the playful love and joy of family.” 

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Deborah went on to discuss the idea she had about rewriting the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, to tie in the host city’s history. She confided later that she had no idea if it would go over well, but after you read it, I’m sure you’ll agree with the attendees that she deserved the standing ovation she received.

Listen my mamas and you shall hear

Of the Warrior Mom’s message of cheer

On the 11th of July, Twenty-Fifteen

Your compatriots’ support rings supreme

She whispers; when you struggle alone in the night

Light your candle, my dear, as a signal light

Depression, anxiety, psychosis, OCD, and I on the opposite shore shall be

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every internet village and farm

For the Warrior Moms to be up and to arm

Then the mothers assembled said goodbye to their friends

Wishing this gathering would not have to end

Just as the moon rose over the bay

They travel home to their families where their moorings do lay

Remembering always this vision of candles alight

Knowing they will never be alone in this fight

So through the night rides the Warrior Mom Spirit

And so through the night goes her cry of alarm

To every internet village and farm

A cry of defiance, and not borne of fear

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door

And words that shall echo forevermore

For borne on the night-wind, at times roughly blown

She chants forever to remind us–you are never alone.

When the toasts were finished, the attendees were treated to a delicious meal and fabulous dessert. The love and happiness in the building were palpable, tears were shed, and friendships were formed. The laughter drove out the darkness for those still suffering, even for just a few moments. To make that feeling last, each attendee was given her own commemorative votive holder in which to burn a candle when she found herself in need of the light she felt that night. Everyone left refreshed and ready to greet the second day of the conference, together.

Special thanks to Deborah Rimmler for sharing her toasts and talents in order for me to share here.

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I’m Not Sorry {Guest Post by Climb Out Leader Jessica LaBonte}

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As I was sitting in a hospital room with my very pregnant, sick and dehydrated sister-in-law, I realized I had a bunch of awesome Postpartum Progress Hug Cards in my purse. So, while the nurse was changing out her fluids, I announced I was “going to work.” When I walked back into the room, the nurse began asking me about my maternal mental health advocacy. She told me how she and another nurse on the floor always made sure to discuss perinatal mood and anxiety disorders with their new mommies. She then told me how sorry she was that I had to go through what I did.

And for the first time in three years, my response changed to that statement. It wasn’t the simple “oh, thank you”. It was “Thank you…I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.” I reflected on that statement for a few days. Yes, postpartum anxiety and depression are horrid, no matter what side of the spectrum you fall on. There is nothing fun about it. Nothing enjoyable. It’s not something you run and brag to your friends about.

But, something had changed inside of me that I hadn’t realized. I was no longer searching for answers. Trying to figure out what in the world had happened to cause all of this. Why I was so screwed up in the head, that I would probably be on some form of medication for only God knows how long.

I was no longer dwelling on the fact that yes, I suffered from postpartum anxiety and depression. Yes, I still suffer from anxiety and depression even though I’m pretty far out of the postpartum stage. Yes, I had intrusive thoughts. Yes, I did not want the responsibility of having a child. Yes, I lost precious time with my child because I wasn’t “present.” Yes, I suffered from near lunacy when faced with changes. Yes, to so many things.

Am I sorry? No.

No, I’m not sorry. Not anymore.

I realized that I had finally taken my negative experience and turned it into something positive. Something truly beneficial to myself and others. I hadn’t gotten over it, but I had moved from it. No longer letting it keep from being the parent and the person I was meant to be.

And although none of my questions have truly been answered, I no longer search for them. But, in my searching I found something else. Someone else. Multiple someone else’s. I found Warrior Moms. They have all been searching for the holy grail of postpartum disorders. Trying to find the same answers I have been looking for. Some, much longer than me. Others, just starting. But, we all have the same common goal. To spread awareness, fight the stigma and make sure no one is left alone in the dark.

With these women, and their help and in the safety of their virtual arms, I have found what I would consider my closure. My closure to a relationship with guilt, anger, frustration and sadness. I can move forward. Start a new relationship with pride, empowerment, understanding and happiness. I can take what I have learned and help others. I can be part of a movement that will change the face of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Am I sorry? No. Never again.

 

KCP_5945aJessica is a stay at home mom and an advocate of maternal mental health. After suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression after her son was born, she has made it her ambition in life to help as many mothers as she can. She volunteers her time to Postpartum Progress and has been the Climb leader in Amarillo, Texas for two years.

 

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Finding Your Circle

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Image via Pixabay

During the Warrior Mom Conference last week in Boston, we did an exercise where the brilliant Kate Kripke, LCSW, asked us to draw a target. In the bullseye, we were to write the people that we could call that would be there in an instant, whether by phone, physical presence, or text. In the next circle, we were supposed to write the people that would help out as well, maybe not immediately, but would be there to make us a meal, to invite us out, to babysit, or lend an ear. In the outer circle were people that were around, maybe not as close or present, but still important.

Anyone in your life that doesn’t fall into one of those categories? Their opinions don’t matter. Your life is yours to live and the people who are allowed in your circle are there for a reason. Think of it as reading the comments on a news story or blog post: don’t let the harsh words of people who don’t deserve a place in your life bring you down. If you need to let someone toxic or unsupportive go, then do it.

During this exercise, the room filled with tears. Some people were sad because their circles were small, and they were surrounded by other women who felt isolated by motherhood. Those women met each others’ eyes across the room and smiled because they had found their people. Others cried because they realized the enormity of their village and how well they were taken care of and loved, and what an absolute honor and privilege that was.

So, back to the people in your three circles. Treasure them, Love them. THANK them. Give them hugs, make them dinners, hold their crying babies when their turn comes and they just need a few minutes to shower.

A hard lesson I learned that weekend was that I mattered. I have worth, even if I don’t believe or see it. The people who continue to show up in my life show up because I am worth it. That’s a really hard thing to accept for people like me, but slowly, I hope to do so.

Find the people who matter to you, whether it’s two, or two hundred. Make sure they make you happy, keep you fulfilled, and lead you to your best self, no matter how far along you are in your recovery. It really does take a village, and you are worthy of living in it.

 

Kate Kripke is the founder of the Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder, and one of the empowering speakers at the 2015 Warrior Mom Conference. 

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