Ease depression by clearing clutter

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A few weeks ago, my mom and my husband both retweeted an article on 10 ways to show love to someone with depression. I thought it was sweet that they took the time to read and share it, figuring it was the usual advice. But then I clicked on it and had a total lightbulb moment when I read the first suggestion:

Help them keep clutter at bay. 

Depression can be overwhelming and clutter can be overwhelming, so it makes sense that less clutter = helpful when you have depression. When I’m struggling, I’m aware that clutter contributes to my desire to hide in my room (though the almost-constant piles of laundry in there don’t help either) but I had never thought about the link between them so clearly.

laptop and clutter on a desk

With two small kids, we have our fair share of clutter: toys everywhere, dishes on the counter, granola bar wrappers on the floor. There are some days I look at it and almost can’t bear it. Luckily, my husband is a master tidier, and when he has done his sweep of the living area of our main floor, I can feel my body relaxing.

As the article states, by helping someone with depression keep clutter at bay, “you’ll be giving them (and yourself) the gift of a calm environment.”

Asking for help is hard. But maybe it’s as simple as tackling clutter. That doesn’t require a mop and pail or a fussy baby or much time. Picking up toys, clearing dishes from the counter, or putting shoes and jackets away are things someone can do for you that can actually help your mental health. It’s a small request with a big reward.

So the next time someone asks how they can help you, try telling them that clearing clutter would go a long way to helping you feel in control.

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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.

*********************

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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