How EMDR Therapy Helped Postpartum Me

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who employed EMDR Therapy in order to process her postpartum depression and anxiety. EMDR is one of eight types of psychotherapy for postpartum depression treatment. We’re thankful she shared her experience for others considering this option. -Jenna]

How EMDR Therapy Helped Postpartum Me

I thought I had digested it, processed it, was done with it.

I wasn’t.

Here I was, sitting in my EMDR therapist‘s office, discussing my postpartum depression and anxiety days almost ten years later. With each question asked, I delved deeper into my past, isolating that one biggest moment I knew something was wrong.

I was currently analyzing the ER at my hospital.

Buzzers gently vibrated my right hand, then my left. I was being trained to reprocess this memory. A memory I thought I had processed many years ago.

The ER was bleak, bare, suffocating. It was a small room with beige walls filled with grey fabric chairs with black plastic arms and legs. The carpet was grey too. There was no natural light except for the front doors. I was seated facing forward with the doors on my left.

The chaos around me was shut out by my mind. Random worries played Pong in my head as I tried hard to keep up with all of them. If I wasn’t pacing the floor, I was rocking back and forth in the chair next to my mother.

I hated this woman, this woman I had become. I spent years trying to remove myself from her. I was a failure, a disgrace. Mothering should not have been an occupation given to me as I was clearly failing with that too. I was ashamed.

I couldn’t care for my daughter; I couldn’t even stand to be around her. I hated her and because of that, I deeply despised myself.

How quickly I went from admiring this beautiful baby of mine to cringing at any sound she made. Looking at her adorable face just deepened the hate I had for myself. I removed myself, becoming robotic, between vomiting and crying fits, when taking care of her.

Here I was, in the ER, exactly one month after she was born.

My therapist had thought it a good idea to reprocess this moment. He believed that my postpartum depression and anxiety were connected to the recent events of fostering a special needs toddler and ultimately succumbing to the evil grips of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety again after having to give him back.

I failed once again at motherhood. I couldn’t balance his needs, my daughter’s needs, and taking care of myself.

Once again, like all those years ago, it seemed as if Postpartum Me was returning. I was dry-heaving every morning and most afternoons and evenings. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I was obsessively worrying about his care and overlooking my daughter’s.

I broke and wound up in the ER once again. I had come full circle.

As I sat with the buzzers going off in my hands that day in therapy, I truly began to think about that day, all those years ago, in the ER. Staring at my Postpartum self as I was now, I deeply looked at her.

She was a mess but she would get better. My therapist told me to go with tha,t which was him basically saying to continue with that thought. Present Day Me knelt down beside Postpartum Me. I took her hands in mine and looked into her eyes. She, still rocking back and forth, was focused on a floral print picture on the wall directly in front of her.

“It’s okay,” I told her, “I know because I have been there. You will get better. I did.”

With that, Postpartum Me stopped rocking back and forth and focused her eyes on mine. Present Day Me was crying. Ten years and I finally had compassion for myself. It was freeing in so many ways. Not only was I able to fully reprocess my Postpartum years, but in turn, because of that, I had processed my Post-Foster years.

EMDR therapy saved me. It gave me the compassion I needed for myself. The compassion I give to so many others, I was now able to give to me.

~Stephanie Trzyna

PatientBank Offers Warrior Moms Access to Medical Records

[Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post. -Jenna]

PatientBank Offers Warrior Moms Access to Medical Records

Here at Postpartum Progress, we believe that educating and empowering women and families to better care for themselves can transform maternal mental health care. We believe that women battling postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are best served and cared for when clinicians treat them as partners and are given agency when making decisions about their health and well-being. In fact, one of the most valuable things I have learned by being a member of this amazing community is how to advocate for myself as a patient.

For many of us, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or psychosis is an introduction to the world of mental health care. We navigate the world of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and community health centers, all while struggling to simply make it through the day. We try different treatments and therapies, medications and self-care strategies.

We visit three different clinics before finding a counselor who really feels like a good fit, and we change doctors when the one that accepted our insurance suddenly moves offices. We carefully budget for the expenses our treatments and care cost our families.

There is so much logistical work involved in seeking treatment for a PMAD like postpartum depression, and it can be overwhelming and is often overlooked.

Through your stories—our stories—Postpartum Progress has taught me the importance of seeing myself as capable. My input is valuable and I deserve to be heard when speaking with my mental health care providers.

A crucial part of staying informed about and central to my own care is making sure I have access to my records. By owning and controlling my information, I can be sure that all of my clinicians are communicating. I can easily loop in new doctors and can ask better questions to understand the diagnoses and treatments we have decided to try.

Information is power, but it’s not always easy for patients to access.

I recently had a great conversation with Kevin Grassi, MD, one of the founders of PatientBank, about my experiences and how owning my medical records is an important part of how I advocate for myself as a mental health patient.

PatientBank is a tool to help patients gather, store, and share their medical records. Their mission is to empower patients by giving them easy access to their medical information. You submit a request online through your PatientBank account, and they do all the work to request and digitize your records. These digital files are combined into summaries that you own and can share with your care teams and family members.

We spoke about a shift in healthcare toward patient-centered care, the value in patient-owned medical records, and about some of the concerns and questions our Warrior Mom community might have about PatientBank.

Susan: Why is access to medical records so important for patients?

Dr. Grassi: At PatientBank, we believe that access to medical records is about empowerment. Taking control of your health begins with owning your health information. This is especially true for patients who have been marginalized by a poor health care delivery system. Mental health certainly falls into this category.

Susan: Our Warrior Moms care very much about privacy, especially given the stigma they face every day as people dealing with mental health disorders. How does PatientBank guarantee that the records collected are safe, private, and secure?

Dr. Grassi: We use a company called Aptible. They’re experts in securing protected health information, and we follow best practices to make sure our servers are safe. We hired a group of hackers to see if they could break in when we first started working with the Yale-New Haven Health System. They spent a few days trying to break in and ended up writing a report raving about how secure we were.

Susan: What should patients know about how to best use medical records once they are collected and summarized? We love the idea of owning our own medical information and of being informed patients, but as mental health patients, we also worry that we might misunderstand or be upset by details included in mental health records. These are, after all, documents written by and for clinicians and doctors.

Dr. Grassi: There is a concern that reading the doctor’s assessment may lead to a strain in the therapeutic relationship or cause the patient distress. Because of this, doctors and care providers may choose not to release notes related to mental health if they feel there is potential for harm. However, I believe that there are very few, and specific, situations where a doctor should choose not to release mental health records. Most of the time the therapeutic goals of the doctor and patient with depression are aligned. Having access to medical records encourages engagement between doctors and patients. That is what we are striving for at PatientBank.

Susan: Health parity, or equity in health services, access to information, and treatment is an important part of the outreach we do at Postpartum Progress. How is PatientBank meeting the needs of underserved patients?

Dr. Grassi: We are happy to help out by providing additional codes to those in need. Patients can reach out through Postpartum Progress. (Email help@postpartumprogress.org for more information)

PatientBank wants to support the Warrior Moms of Postpartum Progress with free requests for medical records. To get started, visit https://www.patientbank.us/. Create a free PatientBank account and request your medical records from your doctor or hospital. At checkout, enter this code for a free request: PostpartumProgress

You can collect your records from any hospital or doctor’s office in the country. PatientBank can help you collect your medical records from anywhere you have been for medical care. The trial code does not expire.

6 Things You Can Do When You Recognize PPD in a Loved One

6 Things You Can Do When You Recognize PPD in a Loved One

When you recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in a friend or loved one, you might not know what to do. You might feel like it’s not your business. You might not want to upset her more. You might feel like it’s someone else’s job.

Or you might just save her life.

These six simple things can help you help someone you love.

Ask Her

It’s not fun to sit down with someone you love and ask, “Are you feeling depressed?” Those dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders often go through six stages of dealing with it, and the first few are denial and anger.

So prepare yourself for a little bit of “NUH UH” and a little bit of “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.”

It’s okay. That’s the mood disorder talking, not your friend. Print out the New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help and take it with you. If she kicks you out, just leave it on the table. If she’s receptive to your message, go over the checklist with her.

The truth is, most new moms (and even seasoned moms) don’t recognize all the different symptoms of postpartum depression. They don’t often know about postpartum anxiety, OCD, bipolar, or any of the cousin mood disorders that can occur in that first year postpartum.

If she gets mad, she’ll get over it in time. But if no one else in her life is talking to her about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, someone needs to do so.

Offer Help

And don’t just offer blankly. “If you need any help, call me.” She’s not going to call you. Asking for help while dealing with postpartum depression feels almost impossible.

Instead, offer tangible things. Offer to come help her catch up on laundry, including the folding part. Offer to bring meals for a week or start a food train. Offer to research local postpartum depression support groups to see if any might feel like a good fit for her.

Offer Real Support

Different than offering help, offering support means attending her doctor or therapist appointments with her, if only to sit in the waiting room. Offering to babysit while she’s attending these appointments. Sit and listen while she talks through the scary thoughts in her head; do so without judgment.

Encourage Her

Many moms experiencing postpartum depression feel like they’re not “good enough” or that they’re “failing at being a mom.” They’re not. Their brains just can’t find the positive in their parenting just yet.

When you see her taking care of her child, compliment the way she does something. And mean it. It’s hard to mother when you are in the depths of PPD. Whether she’s still breastfeeding or bottle feeding, tell her you’re proud of her. Tell her she’s doing a great job. She is. Parenting through the haze of PPD is hard.

Help Her Employ Self-Care

Self-care remains one of the hardest things for moms—in general—to incorporate into their daily life. For a mom experiencing a PMAD, it can feel impossible.

Ask her what self-care looks and feels like for her. If it’s taking a walk, go for a walk with her. If it’s yoga, either go to class with her or offer to watch the baby while she gets her om on. If it’s coloring, bring her some new, fun coloring books.

And remind her, a lot, that not only is it okay to take time for yourself, it’s absolutely necessary for her recovery.

Repeatedly Tell Her She’s Not Alone

Whether you experienced a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder yourself or not, you can let your loved one know she’s not alone. You can point her to the hundreds upon hundreds of Warrior Mom stories here on our site. You can send her to our Facebook page which is teeming with moms who are in all stages of recovery and just want to connect with other moms. You can let her know about our private forum where she can talk more in depth about her experience.

Remind her that 1 in 7 moms experience postpartum depression. That it’s not her fault. That she didn’t “do” anything to get it. That postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. And that she’s never, ever alone.

PPD can feel so very isolating, so a constant reminder that other mothers with PMADs exist—and that they want to help—can feel like a light in the dark.

And of course, let her know she has you. Whoever you are in her life, you recognized that she needed help, needed support, needed encouragement. You matter in her story. Thank you for being there for her.

Dealing with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post covers a topic near and dear to every mom’s heart: Dealing with postpartum sleep deprivation. Know that you’re not alone in your exhausted state of being. We’re here for you. -Jenna]

Dealing with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

New parents often neglect their own needs. While this may seem like normal behavior from concerned parents, neglecting themselves puts their health at risk. In the long run, it can have an adverse effect on both partners but is especially taxing on a mother. It affects her ability to take proper care of her child.

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common post-birth side effects as well as one of the most damaging. While you may think it’s alright to neglect your sleep, even a small period of sleep loss can have long lasting effects.

Firstly, a good few hours of sleep are essential for your body to cope with all the stress it has been exposed to. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when our brains process the days events as well as sorting through memories. If we don’t have adequate REM sleep, it can lead to memory lapses as well as making tasks that require cognitive abilities much more challenging. For a mother, with a newborn baby to take care off, this could make even the smallest of tasks like changing a diaper challenging.

More serious side effects of sleep deprivation include severe depression. Women who had already been affected by anxiety and depression are more on the radar of damage. This leads to serious problems with mothers unsure of how to handle their babies. 

It is harder on the mother as she is already coping with extreme change, and her changing hormones are a major reason for her discomfort.

A mother is also often a baby’s only source of nutrition which makes her sleeping schedule a top priority. A lack of sleep can affect the quantity of milk that is being produced. There are a number of ways to find out the quantity of milk you should be producing; this should serve as a rough guide to tell you if sleep deprivation is the cause.

Studies have shown that on an average, a new mother gets at least two hours less sleep than she needs. The most shocking part? It is segmented, meaning she will not get a continuous sleep. This is because a newborn has no set circadian rhythms. They need roughly 16 hours sleep, but it usually comes in short spurts with a maximum of three to four hours at a time.

Bearing all this in mind, it’s important to ensure you get as much sleep as possible. A few tips to help you get enough sleep include.

Setting Your Priorities

During the first couple of months, it’s completely acceptable to take time off for yourself. You don’t need to feel guilty about putting your needs first. If there is work to do around the house, don’t feel the need to pitch in. It’s okay to depend on friends or family to get the work done. It’s also okay to let the laundry sit for another day if you get a chance to catch up on sleep.

Communicate

One of the biggest reasons a mother struggles to get adequate sleep is she doesn’t communicate her needs to her partner and family. It’s always a good idea to work out a schedule and try and ensure one partner is resting while the other is with the baby.

Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps

While this is a cliche and doesn’t work for all moms and family circumstances, it can be truly beneficial to some. The moment your baby falls asleep is when you should be sleeping, too. Don’t be tempted to do the dishes or vacuum. See above about setting those priorities. Make sleep a priority.

Patience Is The Key

While it may seem like an eternity, you will start having a more relaxed, enjoyable experience with more sleep as your baby’s sleeping patterns develop. It will happen.

Ask For Help

You should not feel guilty or hesitant about seeking help. Whether it’s to help deal with postpartum depression, a lack of sleep, or even the daily chores, seeking help will ensure that you are never over-stretched.

There are also a number of natural remedies available. Several teas like chamomile and oils like lemongrass are known as natural sedatives. Meditation techniques are also extremely useful in ensuring you get a good nights sleep. 

Recognize It May Be a Sign of a Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder

While all parents experience some form of sleeplessness, prolonged insomnia despite exhaustion is one of the many symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and the other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. If you’re doing all you’re supposed to do, including asking for help, trying to get sleep when the baby sleeps, and prioritizing sleep, you may need to look at the other symptoms of postpartum depression to see if something bigger is happening.

If so, don’t worry: You can get help. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable. You can and will sleep again; you can and will feel whole again.

As a new parent, it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the task at hand especially when you are always tired. It’s important to focus on the bigger picture. You will eventually return to days when you have a good night’s rest.

 

Aradhana is a writer from India. She covers topics concerning parenting, child nutrition, wellness, health and lifestyle. She has more than 250 publications from reputable sites like Huffington Post, Natural news, Elephant Journal, Lifehacker and MomJunction.com to her credit. Aradhana writes to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress­-free lifestyle.