It’s Okay To Say No

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mental illnessIf you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by commitment and struggling with anxiety as a result, this post is for you.

Dear Mamas everywhere,

 

It’s OKAY to say NO. 

I’m in a place right now where I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with pretty much everything. Commitments are skyrocketing, even as the slower pace of summer creeps in. I’m stretched too thin. I feel I don’t have time for all the important people in my life, including myself.

I’m guessing you’ve probably been there. I think we all have at some point. Speaking strictly off the cuff and not as a person who actually has any science to back this up, but the inability to say no is probably a major contributing factor to anxiety for some of us.

We say yes when asked to do something, thinking the task a small one. No problem. We can totally handle it! But the small tasks add up, and suddenly we’re standing at the foot of a mountain looking toward the top and incapable of seeing the summit.

The trouble is we don’t want to let anyone down. A lot of women, moms especially, are people pleasers. We want to make people happy and keep them that way, so we sacrifice ourselves and our own mental health (and sometimes physical health too) in an effort to do that.

But that’s just not working, is it?

There comes a point where we feel our responsibilities slipping, taking bits of our peace along with them. Getting behind on a task, or worse, forgetting about it completely, just causes a ripple effect throughout the remainder of things we’ve promised leading to feelings of failure and negative self-talk.

It’s okay to make yourself a priority and to cut back on your commitments when you’re feeling lost in an ocean and barely treading water. I need you to hear me when I say that you’re not letting anyone down by refusing to take on more and more and more. (Hi. I’m speaking to myself here, too.)

Saying no is a skill we all need, and we only get better at saying no by practicing it. Reducing the number of commitments we make allows us to focus more intently on those we choose to accept.

Whether it’s refusing to join another committee at school, church, or work, or being honest and saying “no visitors” while in the hospital or after coming home with a new baby, the value in saying no is the same. Saying no is being honest with yourself and others about what you can handle and when.

Give it a shot in the coming weeks. Think about the commitments you’re accepting and remember that it’s okay to say no.

I promise. I’m learning to say no, too.

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The Connecting Threads Among Us

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Did you catch the Mother’s Day Rally last Sunday?

Since it’s Mother’s Day every day here, we wanted to be sure you were given the opportunity to read all the poignant and powerful essays that were published for this year’s Mother’s Day Rally. We are so grateful for the Warrior Moms who shared their stories with us and made the day an inspiring one for so many.

You don’t want to miss these stories, friends. They are an opportunity to behold the connecting threads that run through each individual experience with postpartum mood disorders. Each woman’s experience is unique and yet, we find a powerful “me too” when we talk about the struggle.

Enjoy…

The Return by Cristina Spencer

Rising from the Ashes by Jen Gaskell

That July Afternoon by Robin Neidorf

Fahrenheit by Kimberly Zapata

Batman to the Rescue by Joanell Serra

A Different Breed by Lauren Hale

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL Mothers by Esther Dale

Before Kids by Susan Petcher

Growing Roots Through Mud and Metal by Sarah Bregel

Mad at You by Joyce Munro

Mother’s Day–It’s MINE by Raivon Lee

Newton’s Second Law by Kaly Sullivan

 

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Paralyzed By Fear: I Think I Had Postpartum OCD

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221144_843371654546_2779282_oBefore I knew I had PPD and anxiety, I thought the obsession I had with making sure my son was still breathing was normal. I found out eventually that it wasn’t, but not until after I had spent months totally paralyzed by the thought of losing him to something I couldn’t control.

Instead of finding ways to calm my fears, I found myself diving deep into the blog of a family that had lost their first child to SIDS. I didn’t know the family at all. I can’t really remember how I found their blog-maybe it was a friend of a friend of a friend. Their real-life nightmare was my nightmare. I could not shake the fear that the same fate would fall upon us.

I barely slept for months. I researched every way to “prevent” it and I made that a policy. I put off crib naps as much as possible-I had to hold him so I could watch him breathe. He stayed in the Pack-n-Play in our room for over five months so he was within reach. I joked that that way I could poke him to make sure he was ok. Except it wasn’t a joke-I really did it, at least twice a night.

The thing about all of this was, I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I probably knew that I was torturing myself by obsessing over the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself from typing that address in my browser. I knew what I was doing wasn’t all that healthy, but I didn’t really know how to stop. Once I got a therapist at seven months postpartum, we had passed the main window for SIDS loss, so I never really brought it up with her because I believed my fears were slowly subsiding. Yet, I still leaned over the crib rails every night before I went to bed and told him I loved him so it was the last thing I said to him….just in case. I still found myself holding my breath every morning until I heard him call for me. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suspect now that my therapist would’ve diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD if I had been open about it.

When the twins were born, I forked over money I didn’t really have for the portable SIDS monitors. They allowed me to sleep by quieting the voice of fear that was peeking from behind the medication I was on to keep the anxiety and depression at bay. The video monitor someone gifted us helped me, too. I wasn’t without concern, what mother is, but I was much calmer, more aware of my own actions that perpetuated my fears, and understood that I could not control everything.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I wake up with that same feeling that used to keep me awake for hours. On the nights I can’t shake it, I tiptoe into their rooms and kiss their sweaty, sweet-smelling heads, and tell all three of them I love them…one more time. The fear never really left me, but I try my hardest not to let it rule me like I did for so long.

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The Alcoholic Mother: on self-medicating PPD and anxiety

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I was never a normal drinker, I just didn’t know that until I knew that. Before I had kids, whenever I drank, I drank a lot. Having just one or two never made sense to me. It wasn’t enough, because the one or two brought on the ease–a “click” that released me–and I wanted more, more, more.

I see now that my drinking increased after my first son was born. Of course, this wasn’t about him but rather, it was about the way I handled motherhood. I did not handle it well, and for years, I blamed myself for that. In reality, depression and anxiety coupled with a healthy dose of alcoholic genes muddied my coping skills. And I now know there were hormonal and biochemical reasons that were invisible and mysterious but proved themselves to me on a daily basis.

In a way, becoming a mother pushed all the buttons that would bring me to my knees, and hindsight tells me that despite the pain, I needed to be there.

I was bonding with my firstborn, but I was constantly terrified. There was a heavy weight behind my eyes and in my chest, at the pit of my stomach, down to my toes. I felt incapable and alone. I feared every horrible fear. I was sleep-deprived, martyring, begging to be seen, exhausted and empty.

I did not drink through my pregnancies, but I picked it up as soon as I possibly could postpartum. I pumped and dumped a lot. I fantasized about the days when I wouldn’t have to even consider it, and when the last day of breastfeeding arrived, I celebrated it with a lot of wine, and then slowly, carefully, and sneakily, my drinking grew and grew like my children. Fast and slow all at once. By this time, I had two beautiful boys and I loved them deeply. I spent my days with them and continued to feel depressed and anxious. I didn’t talk about it, I just moved through the hours that felt like quicksand, and I drank too much every night, to escape.

Had I known that my mind and body were experiencing something that has a name, that it had started with PPD and severe anxiety, perhaps my drinking would not have spiraled. I can’t say for sure, but I know now that getting help would have certainly been a better course of action than the road I chose, or that chose me. Or both. I have always held the propensity for alcoholism and it lived itself out, triggered by a condition, or conditions.

I got help over five years ago, between my second and third babies. I am sober, and was sober throughout the postpartum period after my third baby, a girl, was born. Unfortunately, I had the most severe depression and anxiety during this time. But what I did not do was drink. What I knew then was that drinking only exacerbated my symptoms, made them so much worse. This time, I got help. I went to more meetings for support. I called on my sponsor. I saw my doctor and started medications. I kept talking. I had learned that talking about the darkness of my mind stole the power from The Big Scary Things.

I was not perfectly fine, but I was free of the gripping snare of addiction. I was free of that shame and guilt. I was no longer a drinking mother, I was simply a struggling mother, as so many of us are, together.

Motherhood brings with it incredible joys and sorrows. Our children are certainly worth every good and bad thing that arises within us as we learn to handle the stress and fears that come with parenting. There is grace in letting go of the fear of help. Speaking our truths takes the power from even the grasp of addiction. If you are struggling with addiction, please know you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust. Get help. There is freedom and peace on the other side.

:::::

Heather King writes at The Extraordinary Ordinary.

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