What is postpartum depression, anxiety and OCD teaching me?

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{The following is a guest post from Natalie}

crying baby

{photo credit – fotolia}

The other day a friend told me that the Universe gives you the baby you need. She’d heard that from a friend who has a very fussy baby, who felt that he teaches her patience and understanding. I thought, “What could I need that Eleanor is giving me? She’s an easy baby – not hard to soothe or too fussy. Maybe that’s what I need right now, to help me get through?” And this may be partially true. When I hear about what some other parents have to deal with, with difficult or colicky babies, I don’t know how I could handle it.

But the thought stayed in my head. What could I need that Eleanor is giving me? Love? No, I have that. Responsibility? Nope, I’ve got that too.

As I thought about it, I began to think that maybe it wasn’t what Eleanor is giving me but in a backwards way, it’s my experience with Postpartum Depression that is giving me what I needed (although I really do wish I could have gotten it another way).

She must not have had it as bad as I do, if she can say that, you might be thinking. But please believe me, I’ve been steamrolled by my OCD. I’ve sobbed as I held my baby and she smiled at me, while I said “Why does she have to have a mother like me? Why can’t this be easier?” I’ve cried to my husband for hours saying, “You’d be better off without me, but please please don’t leave me.” Or, “I’m no longer the woman you married. This is the new me, and you deserve better than her.” I’ve cried when I realized that I don’t remember the first few weeks of my daughter’s life–time I’ll never get back–because I was so out of it that I would only realize after a few days that I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth.

All that being said, what could I possibly need from this experience, you may ask. Wouldn’t it be better to have a normal birth with no PPD? Yes, of course. I’ve wished that more times than you can imagine. But before my daughter was born I thought, What will I do with all my anxiety and OCD when she’s my child? Will I freak out over every bump? Will she not be able to have a normal childhood because of me?

As I’ve been dealing with some of the worst OCD of my life, and working every day to get back to myself again–a state that used to be so easy I didn’t even need to think about it– I’ve had to work harder than I ever have to get my OCD under control, and I’ve had more at stake than ever. And I realized, in an awful twisted way, maybe this is what I needed (but again, never wanted) to get the strength and techniques I need to control my OCD in the future, for my daughter, my husband and myself.

I read something about PPD a few weeks back–testimonials from women on how they knew they were getting better. For them it was when they enjoyed looking at pictures of the baby, or smiled for the first time in a while, things like that. For me, I know I’m getting better now that I can see the positive aspect of the roughest time of my life, because I can see a future now. For those of you reading this wondering if it will ever get better…it does. Please remember there is nothing wrong with needing help. It will get better and better every day, especially with help. I’m getting there, and you will too.

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Announcing Warrior Mom Conference 2015 Speakers

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Warrior Mom ConferenceWith only 18 weeks until the inaugural Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference, we’re excited to share our amazing line-up of speakers.  We’ll be announcing the conference agenda in the coming weeks, but just couldn’t wait to introduce you to the unbelievable roster of experts, authors, survivors, and medical professionals that will be gathering in Boston on July 11th and 12th to help our Warrior Moms transform pain into power.

  • Mara Acel-Green, Founder, Strong Roots Counseling
  • Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Psychiatrist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Divya Kumar, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center
  • Peggy Kaufman, Director of The Center for Early Relationship Support at Jewish Family & Children’s Service
  • Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, Clinical Psychologist
  • Marcy Massura, Senior VP of Digital, Manning, Selvage, and Lee
  • Kate Kripke, Founder, Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder
  • Liz Friedman, Program Director, MotherWoman
  • Annette Cycon, Founder & Director of Training, MotherWoman
  • Lauren Hale, Founder, PPDChat
  • Katherine Stone, Founder & Executive Director, Postpartum Progress, Inc.
  • Deborah Rimmler, Chairwoman & Secretary, Postpartum Progress, Inc.

You can read more about this amazing lineup of speakers and their work in maternal mental health on the Warrior Mom Conference webpage.

Want to attend?  We sold out in under 24 hours, but you can add your name to the wait list on Eventbrite.  Listed next to the tickets, you’ll see a link for “Add to Waitlist.”  Tickets open up each week – as moms, we know plans change – so be sure to add your name to the list to get one!

Stay in the know with our Warrior Mom Conference Facebook Page.  We’ll be announcing a very exciting program over there soon!  You won’t want to miss out!

 

 

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Self Forgiveness in Healing

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scan0003Most of us have heard that forgiveness is a healing step toward recovery. When we read these words, we think of applying the act of forgiveness to the people in our lives. But do we think about the character most central to our lives, and our healing?

I’m talking about us. Me. Ourselves.

Do we offer the same compassion, grace, and forgiveness to ourselves that we work so hard to extend to others? I speak for myself, when I answer honestly, no.

Self forgiveness is bringing the healing act of forgiveness to ourselves and our lives. When we bring love and understanding to who we are, we begin to shed light on healing and recovery. But how can we feel love for ourselves when we hold the strongest barricade against that love – the false belief that we don’t deserve to be forgiven.

That feeling of well being, the peace that we crave, comes from deep within. It is comprised of understanding and compassion, and that includes ourselves as part of our world. With all of the dark and the light, the ups and the downs, the hills and the valleys, all of it makes up our life and who we are. We’ve got to be on our side, though, and not against ourselves, to see it.

Have you noticed, that just as in so many other areas, we fall short when it comes to us. We give our time to others, our love to others, our empathy and encouragement to others… but we neglect to give those very gifts right back to ourselves.

We promise unconditional love to those we cherish, and yet to ourselves we say, “Once you’re perfect, I will love you. When you are without error or fault, I will love you. Once you never disappoint, I will love you.” This sets up any possibility of loving ourselves as a conditional love. We are too beautiful and too amazing to accept that.

When I had postpartum depression with my first child, I blamed myself for feeling the way I did. I felt it was my fault that I had it, that my weak character, my inability to be strong, had brought on my postpartum depression. When I began therapy for my PPD, my therapist helped me realize that I did not cause my PPD. I couldn’t have predicted it or prevented it. And I needed to forgive myself for having it.

I held an illusion of myself, one of perfection, as the only canvas where I would apply acceptance to myself. I spent years angry at myself and ashamed by what I interpreted as not good enough parenting while I had postpartum depression. I was sad for what I judged myself as: an inferior parent to a beautiful child. My lack of forgiveness for myself was a shameful secret that I carried on top of the burden of blaming myself for my postpartum depression. The lack of empathy I had for myself and for the difficulty and challenge of what I was enduring during that time stood in my way of being able to understand what I had lived through.

At one time I found it difficult to confess what I believed about myself while in those dark days. That I had done things as a new mother that made me unforgivable. I didn’t smile at my baby, I didn’t laugh with him, I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t joyful. The pain from the honesty of knowing I had disappointed myself, hurt more than words can say. I didn’t give thought to how I was struggling, I only compared myself to those who were being the kind of mother I wanted to be, but wasn’t able to be.

Deep down, my fear was that if I forgave myself, then I was saying that what I remember being, was OK. And I didn’t want it to be OK, because I felt the guilt of not being perfect for my child. During one session, my therapist explained to me that my thoughts against self forgiveness were based on love for my child. It was my wish of what I wanted for him, that made me unable to forgive myself. This made sense to me. The realization that my therapist helped me reach was that as long as self forgiveness remained an intangible, I wouldn’t be able to make peace with that part of my life. My postpartum depression would always feel like a separate occurrence, a step out of who I was, rather than a part of my life and a path in my journey. It would always feel unresolved.

By seeing how much surviving postpartum depression has strengthened my belief in myself, and helped me be part of a community of strong, surviving women, I can appreciate and accept, postpartum depression as part of me, not separate. I don’t need to feel cut off from a part of who I am and I can extend love to all of me, not just the non-erring aspects.

I now see that when I was surviving postpartum depression, I was not a bad parent. I was not an inadequate mother, and I wasn’t unfit. I loved my child, and I fought to be who I wanted to be for him. This insight helps me accept my path, the things that brought me to who I am now and the mother I never gave up hope of being.

My postpartum depression is not something wrong that I did or brought upon myself. It is not a reflection of me or means that I failed. It is part of my life and my journey, but not my entire journey. I have come to let go of my guilt, my shame, and my blame, and now I am able to see what my only desire has always been: to be the mother I knew was there, somewhere, and one who would find her way back again.

Self forgiveness says ‘yes’ to the complete person that is me. I should be forgiven, I need to be forgiven. I did nothing wrong by having postpartum depression, and I did more things right than I allowed myself to remember. I am not the sum of my imperfections or perfections, or stellar care or struggling care. I am the person that I love, the one who is still standing and the one who has finally heard the words she needed to say to herself. It wasn’t your fault, I forgive you.

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Dear PPD & Gang — A Poem About Surviving Postpartum Depression

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The Postpartum Progress Private Forum is a special place. Hundreds of moms come together online, day in and day out, to support one another through their battles with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The conversations there are uplifting and full of hope. Recently, a mom on our forum shared a beautiful poem with us and we’d like to share it with all of you too. Enjoy!

Dear PPD and gang,

I don’t know and can’t understand why,
You chose me, the wrong guy.
I am so numb, I can not even cry,
You sucked out of me all my energy supply.

You are a monster, there is no match to you,
You accompany me wherever I go and whatever I do.
You stole my mind, and my soul too,
My nest you ripped apart through and through.

You robbed so much from all I hold so precious and dear,
Abandoned me from all whom I love and care.
You tortured me mercilessly with your terror and fear,
You left me alone with pain so impossible to bear.

You have beaten me to the core,
The little spirit from my heart you tore.
I am choking, I can not survive anymore.
This nightmare is impossible to endure.

But as powerful and strong you think you can be,
I am stronger than you regard me.
And when I say I give up it’s YOU talking PPD,
So I will show you at last I will be free.

You won the battle but I won the war,
I am stronger than you ever before.
Do not dare show up anymore
Because you will not win, I am a brave warrior!

~ By Warrior Mom, Kathy Davis

privateforum

If you’re struggling with postpartum depression or a related illness, consider joining our private forum by clicking here. It’s free, and you can choose to remain anonymous if you’d like. We hope you’ll join us. Because together we are stronger.

 

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