Lighthouse

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It’s my week for content on Postpartum Progress. My week, as a member of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, to share something about postpartum mood disorders and help you feel less alone. I’ve known this week was coming for a while, and yet on this Monday night I’m sitting here staring at a blank screen. I don’t know what to share with you because I’m hiding under my vulnerability cloak at the moment. 

I think of this cloak as being kind of like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, except it hides my power rather than freeing it. Instead of letting me go where I need to go, my vulnerability cloak covers me up like an invisible blanket, weighing me down while I hide underneath it.

I’m having a hard time writing lately, no matter the topic. I’ve barely written on my own blog because when I’m struggling I like to write about that, and right now I don’t feel like I can. I’m just feeling too vulnerable.

So why am I telling you that? Mostly, I think, because I need a little reminder that being vulnerable is okay. Telling you that I’m feeling vulnerable is sort of like throwing off the cloak just to see what happens. Just to see if it will be okay. 

lighthouse light

Logically, I know it will be okay. But even more importantly, I know that sharing our hard stories is worth it. I was reminded of that not too long ago when I got an email from someone who had read my story. I want to share a piece of that email here (reprinted with permission) – both for you and for myself.

I really did feel so incredibly alone, and reading your story was a bit like seeing a light from a lighthouse when you’re a lost ship in the fog, about to crash into the rocks. I was drowning. It really did save me. You sharing your experience saved me, and let me know there were others out there like me, and it was ok, I wasn’t a failure, or a horrible mother. I was suffering, and needed help. I do feel a little bit stronger as each day, week, month passes. I think, someday, I’d like to put it into words, on paper, and share what I really went through, am going through, and maybe help other women through telling my story. It’s so important to know that we’re not alone. I was so ashamed, and so afraid… I lived in absolute fear that I would be condemned as a terrible person and a horrible mother and other mothers would screech and point fingers at me as I walked by. That shame and fear were part of the reasons I didn’t reach out for help. It makes me wonder how many more women are out there silently suffering.

Anyway, thank you. Thank you for being brave and courageous enough to share your story, it couldn’t have been easy. Thank you for putting it out there and most likely saving my life.

Being vulnerable is hard. But being a light for someone floundering in the darkness? That’s worth it.

I need to remember that it’s worth it.

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Big News!!! Announcing the 2015 Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference

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In 2004 came Postpartum Progress the blog.

In 2011 came Postpartum Progress the nonprofit.

In 2013 came Postpartum Progress’ Climb Out of the Darkness, the world’s largest event raising awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

And in 2015 …

Warrior Mom ConferenceANNOUNCING THE FIRST-EVER WARRIOR MOM CONFERENCE, a patient-centered, community-focused conference for survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and those still working toward full recovery. There are several great conferences focused on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders mainly aimed at clinicians and organizations in the maternal mental health field, but this, my dear Warrior Moms, is for us!!! Get ready to get together in Boston next year!

The Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference will be a time for us to do three things together: CELEBRATE recovery, BUILD community, and DEVELOP powerful skills for raising awareness and advocacy to help our fellow Warrior Moms around the world.  We will offer self-care workshops, Q&A sessions with top experts in reproductive psychiatry, keynotes and panel discussions, a live PPDchat with its creator Lauren Hale, and so much more we can’t wait to tell you about! The conference will allow us to gather together to share stories and information in a caring and supportive environment.

Here’s what you need to know now:

  • The conference is July 11-12, 2015 (SAVE THE DATE!!), in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. We’ll be taking over Boston’s beautiful Back Bay at the St. Botolph’s Club – a historic brownstone on Commonwealth Avenue that is the perfect setting for our powerful yet intimate gathering.
  • Early Bird registration is $125 until June 1, 2014, wherein the registration fee will go up to $150. Registration will be capped at the first 125 tickets sold, so you’ll want to register as soon as possible to avoid missing out on all we have planned for that weekend!
  • We are working with area hotels to provide attendees with great rates on lodging — that information will be forthcoming.

This conference wouldn’t be possible without the work of three very special Warrior Moms: Susan Petcher, A’Driane Nieves and Miranda Wicker. Together with the help of other volunteers they have worked their butts off to make this happen, and I am forever grateful to them for their dedication, leadership and hard work.  They are leading the charge on making this an amazing event, and I cannot WAIT!

Spots to attend this conference are limited, so if you want to be the first to know when registration opens up (soon!), sign up for our email alert by clicking the button below and filling out the super short form. Don’t miss it! We want to see you in Boston!

Be the first to know!

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Letting Go Of The Guilt

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shameI suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety with a side of OCD for two years after my first child was born.  And though I sought treatment and began my path to wellness after my baby had her 5 month birthday, it took every last day of that additional 19 months for me to feel like I wasn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If you asked my husband, he’d tell you now that I’ve completely recovered from my PPD and from the antenatal depression that hit when my second child was still baking.  But he’d also tell you that I still suffer.

I know now that I suffered from anxiety and OCD symptoms for years before having children.  My anxiety diagnosis is not going anywhere – and I’ve made peace with that.  I see my doctors regularly, take my medications daily, and make a point to be mindful of my emotional health.  When I have a bad day – a panic attack, a  moment of anxiety, or a day of feeling like I want to just stay in bed – I have the tools and the support now to reach out and ask for help.  I can identify the anxiety and often stop it in its tracks.  My mental illness may always be there, but it’s managed.  And in the last 5 years, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to wait to be perfectly healthy to be happy.  So though I still struggle with anxiety, that’s not why my husband would tell you I suffer.  He would tell you of the guilt.

No matter how hard I try, that guilt monster rears its ugly face.  I say “monster,” because that’s what it is – an ugly, twisted creature that deserves no place in my life or my thoughts.  It’s clandestine and voracious and likes to hide until just the right moments.  And though my rational mind knows that I did absolutely nothing to deserve or cause my PPD, I still find myself fighting to let go of the past.

The guilt was amplified when my second daughter was born and I experienced joy.  Unadulterated, life-affirming joy.  I was fortunate to work with an amazing doctor early in my pregnancy and not only was her delivery a happy time, but my pregnancy was too.  Postpartum, I found myself enamored with my new baby.  Bonding came quickly and easily and she brought me a sense of completion.  It was everything that was missing with my first baby, and the shame hit me in waves.  With each gentle nursing session and snuggly late-night feeding, I was reminded of the screaming and the detachment those early days and nights brought with my eldest.

Most recently, the guilt resurfaced while I was struggling with the idea of taking my 5 year old daughter to therapy for her violent outbursts and non-compliant behavior.  It was more than a feeling that I had caused her problems by failing as a parent – it suddenly hit me that she must be this way because of how I treated her as an infant.  I found myself sobbing and asking trusted friends, “how can this not be my fault?  Those early days were so, so ugly.”  And they were.  I have vivid memories of screaming at my 10-day old baby, “what the fuck do you want from me?”  Even now, typing those words is hard.

And then a good friend wrote me a letter and said this:

“I know right now you are worried about E.  Of course you are.  Your sweet, imperfect, first baby.  But you worry that it’s your fault.  It is.  It’s your fault she’s smart, emotional, a touch socially awkward, and painfully self-aware.  Let’s just own that for a minute because really, it’s wonderful.  But that lucky, lucky girl, she has the gift of a mom who sees her, who accepts imperfection, who asks for help.  You don’t know how much I longed for that. I bet you did, too.”

As the hot tears rolled down my face, I knew she was right.  I did not ruin my daughter.

I did nothing to deserve or cause my PPD.  The guilt monster will not own me with its lies.  If my daughter suffered because of my PPD, it was not my fault.  But the triumphant, sensitive, wonderfully imperfect little girl she’s growing into?  That’s all me.  I still regret that it took me so long to get help – but regret is not guilt.  There is no shame in regret… only a wish for the past to be a bit different.

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I think coping with the guilt that accompanies antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders is a common experience for many warrior moms.  I want you to know that, like me, you did nothing to deserve or cause your PPD.  You are exactly the mother your child needs and wants.  You deserve to be happy and healthy.

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Rach’s Story

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Every Warrior Mom is bound together in a sisterhood of understanding.  We have all been through something that only another PPD survivor can truly appreciate, but our experiences, treatments, and paths to wellness are as varied as the mamas themselves.  It’s important to remember that there is no one “right way” to suffer or heal from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder.  That’s one of the reasons Postpartum Progress is such a valuable resources for new moms – whatever path your journey to wellness takes, it is the right path for you.

I’m welcoming Warrior Mom Rach Black today to share her story of postpartum depression and the postpartum anxiety that followed.  

about postpartum depressionHaving a baby brought me to my knees.

Having a second baby broke me.

I don’t mean that it was too hard for me to carry and deliver my children.  And I don’t mean that raising kids is too hard for me, although some days I struggle in that area, just like all parents do.

I mean I wasn’t prepared for the physical, emotional and especially mental changes that can take place after having a baby.  Nobody told me.

I was excited to learn that I was pregnant.  I had easy pregnancies and amazing deliveries.  I was walking on air in the hospital.  But in the weeks and months after, I was sinking and I didn’t know why.

I had always been so capable before.   I was always able to perform, to achieve.  I didn’t lack motivation or skills.

But after having my first baby, I wanted to sleep most of the day and didn’t want to get out of bed.  When I wasn’t sleeping I needed to do everything and anything.  Everything needed to perfect; meals needed to be elaborate, the house needed to be spotless.  I laid the baby on her play mat while I cleaned bathrooms.

I couldn’t sit still and hold my baby.  She cried a lot and so did I.  I detached and found solace in the computer or reading.  Some days I just laid on the floor.

I was angry, scared, lonely and depressed.  It wasn’t until a year later that I realized what I was feeling wasn’t normal new mama tiredness and overwhelm.  I found a counselor who helped me recognize what I was going through was postpartum depression.

When I found out I was pregnant the next time, I promised myself it would be different.  I talked to my husband and my OB, both of whom said they would support me, but both of whom admitted they were somewhat surprised at how I’d felt.  Either I’d hidden it well or they didn’t recognize the signs of PPD.

After my son was born I kept looking for signs of depression, waiting to feel the way I did with my daughter.  Instead, I started having panic attacks and intense anxiety.  So intense that I couldn’t take care of myself.  Everything scared me.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t sleep.  I tried to stay busy, trying to get out of the house as much as I could.  I pushed myself to stay occupied.  I was convinced something horrible was going to happen to me.

My OB had given me a prescription but I was hesitant to fill it.  Out of sheer desperation, I finally did.  I only took one dose but I had a horrible reaction to it—so horrible that I couldn’t function the next day.  It sent me spiraling even further down.

Somehow I got on the internet and started searching this site as well as PSI and found a counselor in my area who specialized in PPMDs.  She saw me the next day.  It had been 2 days since I’d eaten.

I told her all of my fears, symptoms and behaviors.  She heard me, she comforted me.  I finally felt validated.

I have a wonderful relationship with my OB but I felt let down by the medical community.  I didn’t want to be handed a prescription.  I wanted support, someone to listen to me and offer assurance.  While there is a time and place for medicine, there is also a time and place for talk therapy and support groups.  I wanted a full balanced approach to my healing.  I am lucky that I was able to find that through my faith, women at my church, my counselor, my husband and a holistic MD.  I know other women aren’t that lucky.

I’m passionate about postpartum support.  We need more awareness, and openness.  We need mandatory screening and access to resources.  We need each other.

I am a work in progress.  I am healing every day.  I no longer have panic attacks and my anxiety is more manageable. I am loving being with my children and letting my house be a wreck.  I have learned to let many things go and to take care of myself.  The best thing I can do for my family is to get help and heal.

We still have our hard days and there are days where I struggle.  But I have come a long, long way.  It is possible to get to the other side of this, which is something I didn’t think was possible a few months ago.  I am proof that there is hope and healing.

 

Rach Black is a full time mom to two miracles.  Having battled postpartum mood disorders, she is passionate about reaching out to other women to make sure that no woman gets left behind.  In her spare time (i.e. after the kids are in bed) she enjoys writing, cooking and other creative outlets.  Find her on Twitter as @DonutsMama and reach out to her if you need support.

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