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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The Importance of Screening and Support: Jenna’s Story, Part 2

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fighting postpartum depression, Warrior MomJenna’s story differs from my own in one key area: support.  She did not receive the support she so desperately needed from her husband.  Warrior Mamas need our support and love.  Jenna needed to hear that she was not alone and that she would get well.  My husband told me that he would do whatever it took to help me get better. That unwavering support helped me so much.   

With my Postpartum Depression and anxiety continuing undiagnosed, I became more and more emotionally detached from my family. I couldn’t handle everyday life without reacting to even the smallest things in explosive anger. And as soon as I flew off the handle, the shame from my out of proportion reaction punched me in the gut. I felt helpless to react any other way, and the spiral of shame was almost paralyzing. I felt unsupported, misunderstood, and like I was a failure as a mom and a wife every single day. But you would never have known, because my facade was one of a happy, pulled together, suburban wife and mom. If other women could do it all by themselves, I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t keep it together. So I kept silent, soldiered on, and gave up thinking that life could be any different.

 My PPD and anxiety went untreated for a total of almost 7 years, by which time I’d had two more children with my ex. Eventually the rage, dissociation, self-loathing and isolation became more than I could bear.  I couldn’t stand the numb, closed off feeling any more, and something had to give. I decided that my children and I deserved a better quality of life. So, I went against my then-husband’s wishes and made an appointment with my family doctor. I didn’t go into any depth about the severity of my emotional issues, but casually inquired whether rage and detachment were possible features of depression. Without much discussion, I was prescribed my very first anti-depressant, and it quelled the rage substantially.  

Unfortunately, the intrusive thoughts and anxiety continued to exhaust me at night, and a few months later, I approached my doctor about additional medication. I was prescribed an anti-psychotic, and I have to tell you, that first pill was really difficult to take. For the first time in a very long time, the intrusive thoughts that had plagued me went completely away. Every night for all those years, I’d panicked about being murdered in my sleep, and my children being kidnapped because I didn’t deserve to be their mom.  Every night, there was a video loop in my head that replayed my failures as a wife and a mom.  With the additional medication came a degree of apathy and some significant weight gain, but it was still a relief.

 I no longer live in that place of crippling overwhelm, and not just because of the medication.  I sought out a therapist on my own, and I eventually weaned off all of the medications I was taking. In the couple of years since my diagnoses of depression and anxiety, I’ve come to a place of peace with who I am as woman and as a mom. I know my limitations for dealing with stress as well as sleep deprivation. I started making self-care a priority. I’ve (mostly) stopped comparing myself, my parenting skills, and my particular children to others. As my confidence has grown and my healing has continued, I’ve done a lot more sharing, a lot more reaching out, and a lot more self-analysis. I’m involved with the PPD community on Facebook and make time to read blogs authored by women who suffer with Postpartum Mood Disorders. I have a support system now. Those closest to me (including my boyfriend of 18 months) are familiar with anxiety and depression.  After dealing with so much on my own, it’s important to me that I can be real with those I allow close to me, and that they get me, can identify with my struggles, and respect my story.  I can trust them to encourage me, and when I feel ashamed, they can remind me that it takes strength to reach out and be vulnerable. Trusting people who can give validation to my emotions has been instrumental in my healing and helps a lot with my day to day stability.

I’ve often wondered how I survived those dark, lonely years when I was coping with PPD and PPA on my own. It was certainly by the grace of a higher power. Having traced the onset of my symptoms back to my second pregnancy, I also wonder whether my quality of life might have been better if I’d been screened for PPMDs during my pregnancy or at any of those six week checkups. The truth may be that I’d have hidden my feelings from my provider, if I’m honest.  I would have at least had the opportunity to decide whether I wanted to reach out if anyone had asked. 

Thank you so much Jenna for sharing your story.  I appreciate it so much.  Again listening and validating a Warrior Mom’s struggles is so key to stomp out the stigma that surrounds perinatal mood disorders.  Consistent screening coupled with strong social support can help ease the struggles of Warrior Moms.

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What Postpartum Depression Recovery DOES NOT Look Like

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postpartum depression recoveryI’m going to give you a little tough love today because I care about you and there are some very important things I want you to know. So I’m going to give them to you straight. Here is what full postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression recovery DOES NOT look like:

> Your recovery does not look like the other mom’s treatment plan. You are not her. She is not you. Your plan is the only one that matters.

> Your recovery does not look like a race. It is not about who’s the fastest and the best at getting better. It’s not helpful to hurry. There are no ribbons for who gets there first. In fact, racing too fast can sometimes send you right back to the starting line. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

> Your recovery does not look like doing this all by yourself to prove how smart, or strong, or accomplished or how good of a mom you are. Postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD and postpartum psychosis are real illnesses. REAL. They require professional treatment. Trying to prove something is a waste of your energy that is better focused on taking care of yourself so that you can get well. You don’t have to prove anything. (And P.S. Don’t worry. We already knew you were awesome.)

> Your recovery does not look like a refusal to accept that you might have a mental illness. It sucks. I know it. I promise you I know it. The first time a doctor told me I had a mental illness (“postpartum OCD”) I was like, “No way. No how. Not happening.” Except it was, in fact, happening. I had to get past that to be open to getting the help I needed. Also, a maternal mental illness is not a prison sentence. It’s not an indication that you’ve done something wrong, or that you shouldn’t be a mom, or that you can’t handle being a mom, or that you are a bad mom, or that you are weak, or defective, or failing, or all those terrible, horrible bad adjectives we use to describe ourselves in the midst of it. It’s an indication that you have an illness and that you probably have some risk factors that led to that illness, and that it’s important to find out what the illness is and what those risk factors were and then address them. I’ve probably said this ten thousand times but postpartum depression is temporary and treatable with professional help.

> Your recovery does not look like you hanging on until you’ve gotten way too sick because you didn’t want anyone to think you needed help. Everyone needs help. EVERYONE. We know asking for help sucks. But we need you to do it anyway.

> Your recovery does not look like a medal ceremony where you’re standing atop the podium because you made it through without ever taking any medication. Not everyone needs medication, for sure. For many, therapy works just fine. And I don’t mean therapy like going once or twice, but going as often as your therapist says you need to — therapy is a treatment at this moment and not a nice-to-have.  You’re not better or stronger for not taking medication if it’s called for in your particular situation, or for not going to therapy. I’ve seen way too many women get so much sicker than they ever needed to be, and take longer to recover, because they refused a treatment plan.

> Your recovery does not look like you doing all the crafty things that moms say they do on Pinterest or Facebook. Don’t waste your time trying to keep up with other moms, many of whom aren’t doing all of that stuff anyway. You do not have to have the world’s best first birthday party for your baby. You do not have to have a perfectly clean home where you make sure everyone is perfectly fulfilled and perfectly dressed and perfectly fed. Your baby does not need to be reading by age one. Or speaking multiple languages. Your baby just needs you and not all that other stuff. And if and when you are able to take breaks — BREAKS ARE IMPORTANT! — your baby is absolutely fine being with another caregiver who loves him or her, or takes good quality care of him or her. Very fine.

> Your recovery does not look like having the perfect family and the perfect partner and the best support system in the world. Because maybe you don’t. Maybe your family doesn’t understand, or your spouse is not being helpful. I hate that for you. If I had a magic wand I’d make sure every mom with maternal mental illness had the most amazing and understanding and comforting support team around her. It’s what each and every one of you truly deserves. Except I don’t have a magic wand and some of you aren’t getting the help you deserve. It’s unfair and I’m so sorry that’s happening to you. At the same time, I want you to know you can still get better even when you aren’t in the perfect situation. It makes it much easier to have that support, for sure, but if you don’t have that kind of support please don’t think all is lost.

> Your recovery does not look like quitting your treatment plan the first week you feel better. Do yourself a favor and don’t do that.

> Your recovery does not look like smooth sailing the whole way through. You will have good days and bad. You will go along fine for a while and then have a setback and be shocked and worried about it. Setbacks are common. They are not a sign that you will never get better. They are just setbacks. You will get past them.

> Your recovery does not look like being quiet if your treatment plan isn’t working or your healthcare provider isn’t helping you. You are the MOST IMPORTANT PART of your recovery plan. How you are feeling. How you are following the plan. What symptoms you are still having and which ones you aren’t. Which side effects, if any, you can deal with and which ones you can’t. Speak up. Share as much as you can. This helps your healthcare pro see how things are going and what changes might need to be made to your plan. If a doctor just gives you a prescription and doesn’t set up appointments to keep following up with you, insist on follow up or find a different doctor who is interested (as they should be!) in making sure you are getting better.  You never know who might be the most helpful to you during this time. It could be your OB, or your pediatrician, or your primary care provider, or a therapist, or a social worker, or a community clinic, a nurse, or the other moms in a postpartum depression support group who can direct you to more experienced help. So speak up.

I get so many questions about recovery. How long does postpartum depression recovery take? When will I get better? Why am I not getting better? Why is she already better and I’m not? Do I have to follow this treatment plan? When can I quit this treatment plan? There are so many different answers to those questions depending on who you are as a unique individual. There is not a single correct answer. So your recovery does not look like anyone else’s. It looks like yours.

What matters to me is your individual health. That you give yourself the time and space to get better. Your postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression recovery looks like your plan, based on your specific set of symptoms and risk factors, in your timeframe and on your path. We’re behind you. You’re not alone.

~ Katherine

 

For more on this, you might like this story with 70 unique and individual and wonderful moms, all sharing the thing that helped them recognize they were getting better from postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and more.

 

Photo credit: © graletta – Fotolia.com

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My Baby Got Better, But Mommy Did Not

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Becky S.Today I’m happy to welcome Warrior Mom Becky Schroeder, who describes the lasting impact her daughter’s colic had on her mental health.

“She doesn’t like to be passed around.” These words sounded muffled to me as I lay in my hospital bed recovering from the very hard birth of my daughter. I was sleep deprived, drugged, and still in shock from the amount of pain I felt during my first childbirth experience. Out of all the words uttered over those first days in the hospital, these words stuck with me, maybe because I sensed something even more overwhelming than childbirth was about to rear it’s ugly head.

By our daughter’s second week of life, my husband and I were blindsided by the realization that our precious, beautiful daughter who we so anxiously wanted to welcome in the world, wanted nothing to do with the world we brought her into. We found out much later that our daughter had colic, but for many more weeks we struggled to understand why our baby wouldn’t stop crying. Each week her crying became louder, lasted longer, and sent us into a very confusing and heartbreaking oblivion. She needed constant movement and holding, our bodies becoming sore and tired from squeezing her tight and not letting go for hours at a time. The exercise ball I bounced on in hopes of inducing labor became a permanent fixture in her nursery as we found the higher we bounced on it, the more her little body relaxed.

From the first day I realized I didn’t have an “easy” baby, I began to have thoughts that I never, ever wanted to have. I wanted my old life back, I didn’t want this crying baby anymore, and I regretted what we had done by getting pregnant. It pains me to think my mind was capable of such thoughts, but that is what postpartum depression does. It hijacks the real you and turns you into someone you never want to be. Hopelessness comes quickly knocking at the door and won’t leave until you answer.

As her colic worsened and peaked around six or seven weeks, I started to fear I was losing my mind. I knew there was something wrong when after hours of soothing her and finally getting her to sleep, I lay in bed wired and wide awake. I feared what tomorrow would hold. Would it be worse, would she ever get easier? The insomnia lasted months and left me so weak mentally and physically that there were days when I felt I didn’t have the strength to hold my own child.

As my anxiety and depression worsened each day, I decided to make an appointment with our pediatrician to get to the bottom of my daughter’s crying. I convinced myself that when my daughter got better, then so could her mommy, and we could move on and live the life I had dreamed about during my pregnancy. When my daughter was nine weeks old, the doctor confirmed that she did indeed have colic and that there was nothing we could do but wait it out and soothe her as best we could.

I left the doctor that day feeling relief. We knew our baby was healthy, that the crying would eventually end, and that we were doing everything right. I tried to stay positive, but my insomnia had become severe, and my negative thoughts didn’t go away. In the weeks that followed, my daughter became more content and easier to manage as the doctor had promised, but my anxiety and depression were worsening. Our baby got better, but mommy did not.

The day I realized I was sick was a day filled with complete disappointment. It wasn’t my daughter making me feel this way, it was something else. Something much more powerful and relentless. I cried in my mother’s arms telling her over and over, “I didn’t want this to happen to me.” I knew I was at risk for postpartum depression, but I never believed for a minute it would happen to me. I wanted to be a mother and I knew I would be a good one, but everything I wanted in those first months of my daughter’s life were taken from me. The constant pit in my stomach, the loss of appetite, the near panic attacks, the negative thoughts, the completely sleepless nights, the crying … I wasn’t me and I knew that what I was dealing with was outside of my control and I needed professional help.

I’m recovering now and everyday I’m beginning to see small glimmers of hope – in my baby’s smile, her infectious giggle, in the way my husband looks at her like he’s never looked at anything else. My daughter is my everything and she is the reason I will keep fighting. I won’t give up. Soon these dark days will be behind me and I will basque in the sunshine of motherhood like I always knew I could.

Becky is a mom to one baby girl and her beloved pit bull. She recently started a blog to connect and support other new moms. You can find her at sunnyimperfections.blogspot.com or on Twitter @choslashmom.

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