The following is a conversation between several members of the Warrior Mom Book Club after reading “The TurnAround Mom”, the latest in our book club’s maternal mental health-related reads. This book was authored by Carey Sipp, a parent-education advocate, an addiction and abuse survivor, and the mother of two children. You may visit the author at www.turnaroundmom.com.
APR: In the foreword, on page xviii, George H. Gallup, Jr. notes that the author ‘advocates pathways to change, among the most important are turning our lives and wills over to the care of something greater than ourselves, which for Carey is God. This means, in part, taking care of ourselves the way a wise father or mother would take care of a child: with love, discipline, understanding, compassion, natural consequences, and forgiveness.’ What role did self-care play in your treatment plan? What self care strategies did you try? What worked and what didn’t?
AK: Self-care…learning to do this at all was huge for me in my recovery. Because I was too ill to care for myself, let alone my child, it took me relearning to do little things, like taking a shower or clipping my nails. It’s not that I had an amnesia, but rather the intense anxiety and brain fog, as well as the deep depression and exhaustion from constant insomnia, prevented me from being able to muster up the motivation and energy to take on these everyday tasks. Once I was able to slowly do a few of these things, I proactively began getting massages (from my very understanding prenatal massage therapist) and taking time to see a chiropractor, have tea with a friend, and do anything that felt good. At first even these things created anxiety within me, but once I accepted that I needed to fill my own bucket back up in order to slowly take on caring for my family again, I was more open to do things for me and able to feel less guilty about taking so much time for myself or investing in my personal well-being. I think accepting that medication was a necessary component in my case because of the severity was a huge step. Overcoming my reticence to take prescription medication was key in taking care of myself so I could get well and take care of others.
APR: Since like you, AK, I was essentially unable to care for myself in many ways and was neglected, this increased my depression greatly. It was a vicious cycle—just knowing I wasn’t taking good care of myself was depressing. When I was well enough to begin caring for myself by exercising and sleeping, this really helped. But I needed medication to be able to get to this point.
APR: In the Introduction, on page 9, the author says we ‘create intensity to divert our attention from what really matters: the sometimes boring option of simply taking care of ourselves and our families.’ How does this statement resonate with you? The author goes on to say that ‘many of us go on automatic pilot, living our lives the way our parents did, not realizing that we do have choices.’ What did this statement mean to you? How did this relate to your experience with PPD?
AK: I do think many of us (particularly those who grew up in intense, neglectful, or abusive situations) seek out tension or intensity subconsciously because we don’t really have experience function in calm, “boring” situations. For me, the isolation and mundane tasks associated with newborn care (at home in the fall/winter) definitely exaggerated the PPD/PPA I already had. I was used to living a very active life—working, traveling, going out with friends. When I had a baby via surprise c-section, the recovery, sleep deprivation, and lack of contact with other adults certainly created more anxiety for me. The connection here for me is that had I been more used to slowing down, just being at home, etc., I don’t think motherhood would have been such a shock for me.
AC: AK, I COMPLETELY relate to what you wrote above. The same thing (c-section and all) happened to me and I do not think I was comfortable enough with myself to be basically “with myself” (and a non-verbal) baby for my maternity leave. I know I create drama and worry in my head on a “normal” basis, add the challenges of post-birth and raising a newborn, and goodbye! My anxiety went to the next 12 levels and thus the struggle of PPA/OCD began.
APR: This definitely happens to me. I too struggle with being home by myself with a baby/toddler and the dramatic lifestyle changes that happened when our daughter was born. We were a very active couple, always out and about doing outdoor sports. I think that both my husband and I use constant activity and ‘action’ sports to distract ourselves from whatever is going on. We went through major adjustments as a couple postpartum and even during pregnancy (especially me due to limiting activities) because of trying to do too much and too early. We went on our first camping trip when our daughter was 3.5 weeks old; to me this just seems ludicrous now. Eventually we agreed to do less because it was adding to our stress level.
I do find myself railing against doing common things like cooking dinner or cleaning because they are ‘boring,’ even though they are part of my ‘job’ as a SAHM. I guess that maybe when I’m feeling that way, it is a sign that I need to take care of myself, as best I can, in that moment.
APR: Chapter 3 focuses on how to create a sane and loving environment for your family. On page 89, Sipp says that if you are feeling irritable, it “..is a sign your needs are not being met. When you learn how to make direct requests for what you need and want, and start getting your needs met, you’ll be gentler with yourself and your children. One way to simplify making direct requests is to standardize the ongoing ‘house rules and requests.’” Extreme irritability is one of the most common symptoms of PPD, and for me, it was my biggest one. Learning to make calm requests for what exactly I needed from my husband, midwife, pediatrician, babysitter, etc., definitely helped me to feel less irritable. Did you experience irritability or some other sign that your needs were not being met? What helped to alleviate this? [Read more...]