How Writing The Truth About Motherhood Was The Ultimate Self-Care

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Sammie Prescott.

By Sammie Prescott

Before motherhood, I always thought self-care was about physical care, not mental. I pictured things like going to the salon, or taking a hot, silent bath. Back then, it really was amazing what a fresh coat of nail polish, and 10 minutes of Adele could do for the psyche.

Things became different after having a baby. A trip to the nail salon left me anxious, uptight, and nauseous. I had no time to take a bath, and I really didn’t want to sit in silence. As my mental illness reached its climax, silence was scary.

I knew I had to take care of myself, or I couldn’t take care of my son. But how? How does one practice self-care when your whole world revolves around a baby? I did the typical Pinterest search on “self-care for moms,” and came across suggestions such as “talk to a friend” or “go to an animal shelter.” My stomach curled. I didn’t want to be anywhere near other people. The very idea of stepping out of my comfort zone, or even putting on pants actually caused me to experience the deepest, soul-clenching panic one could imagine. So I sat with my infant, and let my depression and anxiety build into something massive. There were days when hours would slip by and I wouldn’t move. My heart was heavy, while my head was messy. The darkness pulled me in, but I let it. After a while, the drive to do anything was just gone.

As my life progressed, I decided — well, actually it was my husband who decided — that I needed something. One day, it came to me. I opened my laptop and just started writing. I poured out every emotion I could. I spared no shameful frustration, or dirty detail — and I mean dirty. I talked about the diapers, the vomit, the tears, and everything in between.

Here’s a passage I wrote during those days.

“Sometimes I use my feelings of total failure and anxiety to clean my house. I harness the evil for good, I suppose. I can’t always aggressively Swiffer, so when that doesn’t work, my mind runs wild. I argue with myself about how we will fix the scary things in our life, and how I will lose the weight. I worry about what dinner will be, and when the couch will get vacuumed.

Last night was one of those nights. I was worried, scared, and felt like I had truly failed. My group of mom friends had a rough day, and we took it out on one another. I feel like I failed as a friend. Tater wouldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t know why… another feeling of failure, and to top it all off, I forgot to cook dinner for B who was at work all day. That’s three “failures” on top of the others that loom over me.

I cried.

(I firmly believe that the universe is an amazing place, in which everything happens for a reason)

I looked up on my Facebook to see the post that said “I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I laughed, said forget it! And proceeded to eat 400 Oreos and forget about my anxieties for a second.”

After writing just for myself for a while, I decided to share one of these informal essays with the ladies I had become close with on my Birth board. They all laughed, while encouraging me to share more. I love the feeling of making people laugh. It’s almost soul-cleansing, knowing that your words or actions can change a person’s mood. I felt like my essays were relatable. There was no “perfect parent” talk, or showing off. It was all about real moments in my everyday life. So every night, I carved out at least 30 minutes where I could spill everything I was feeling. The more I wrote, the better I felt. My light was finally lit again, after being out for so long. I enjoyed my quiet time, and sometimes I even wrote when my life wasn’t quiet at all.

I decided to further share my words by starting a blog. I told myself that even if no one reads it, at least this will make me feel OK.

With the blog started, I just let it flow. Every emotion poured out of me, in the snarky, humorous way that I spoke. The more and more readers I got, the crazier it all got. The feedback was warming my damaged soul. Even when the negative feedback came in, it still meant someone was taking the time out of their day to read what I wrote.

Now, two years later writing is my safe space. I was lucky enough to be given a writing prompt journal from my best friend. It’s filled with 300 questions, and space to answer them. They make me dig deep into my emotions, and sometimes they make me laugh. I also journal, for when writing a post, or filling in a prompt just aren’t doing it for me.

Self-care isn’t the same for everyone. You have to soul search to find out what works best for you. It may take a few tries, but never get discouraged. Practicing self-care has made me a better wife, a more patient mom, and truer version of myself.

Want to start writing as self-care? Here are my tips:

  • Find a space in your home where you can write consistently. This will be your grounding zone. It’s a bit of stability in the forever unstable battle that is mental illness.
  • Carve out at least 15 minutes a day to write. I usually sit down in my reading corner after my little person is fast asleep. Some days I need 15 minutes, some days I need an hour. You can start journaling (here’s my favorite journal), or if that isn’t your style, there are a wide variety of notebooks that come with writing prompts in them. You have to find what kind of writing works for you.
  • Get comfortable. Throw on those yoga pants, and wrap a soft blanket around you. I often light a candle as well. The smell of sugar cookies seems to clear the mind, and makes my bedroom smell less like toddler.
  • When it’s time for me to write, I sit down and enjoy a few minutes of quiet first. I let the day leave my mind so I can give my full heart into what I’m doing.
  • Finally, let your mind go. Write what you feel, and feel what you write. With prompt writing, I always take a few minutes to really read the prompt before I let the pen go. With journaling, it spills out like water. Hold nothing back.

A Message To Moms: Your Worth Is Not Measured In Ounces

A powerful Facebook post by new dad Kim Chen has been generating shares and support from around the world. Kim’s wife, Florence Leung, died by suicide last year after silently battling postpartum depression. In the post, he opened up Florence’s struggle, which included her feeling pressured to exclusively breastfeed.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits all story around whether moms should or shouldn’t breastfeed, and we must support all women in their choices. 

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Avery Furlong of Ogden, Utah. She writes about her own journey in feeding her child.   

By Avery Furlong

I can still remember the shrill cry of my brand new baby boy as I tried to get him to latch. It tugged at my heart, and made my eyes burn with tears of frustration.

“Come on, buddy!” He finally latched, but the pain that accompanied it was excruciating. I yanked him off and burst into tears. My husband quickly came in and took him from my arms as I ran to the bathroom. I slammed the door and sunk to the floor. I let the tears fall.

Everyone could breastfeed. Everyone. Right? That’s what I had read. That is what the nurses at the hospital said. Breast is best. It was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. But I hated it. I straight-up hated breastfeeding. I had seen a lactation consultant who assured me everything looked fine. I asked friends for help, but nothing was working.

I hated feeding my own child. Wasn’t feeding supposed to be bonding? I dreaded being near him because I knew I would have to try to nurse him, and that meant an hour of both of us crying. I constantly thought about hurting myself or running away so I wouldn’t have to put my son, or myself, through such misery just to feed him. Not to mention my reoccurring mastitis. (Seven times. Seven. Times. I wouldn’t wish mastitis on my worst enemy.) It’s NOT supposed to be like this. What is wrong with me? What kind if mother am I if I can’t even give my son “the best”?

Completely desperate, I switched to exclusively pumping to eliminate the pain, but that made things even worse. I spent more time trying to squeeze out one more ounce than I did with my baby. I missed out on so much being attached to that pump. Especially sleep. Every time I fed him I was bitterly thinking about pumping for the next feeding and wishing I could just sleep instead. Those thoughts always turned into awful thoughts of ways that I could disappear so I wouldn’t have to keep doing this.

I finally thought I could confide in a few close friends about how miserable I was. It felt like a slap in the face when they looked at me and said, “Well, breast is best. It’s worth it.” As if it didn’t matter that I hated feeding my child so much I wouldn’t even look at him when I fed him. As if it didn’t matter that I was missing out on my baby because I was so stressed out about pumping enough ounces. As if it didn’t matter I was having suicidal thoughts as I fed my son. I felt the full pressure to give my son that liquid gold, even though it was slowly killing me. But it didn’t seem to matter, because “breast is best.”

I reached the darkest and scariest place I had ever been before I finally saw my doctor. On top of starting medication and therapy, my sweet doctor, who is a dear family friend and supported me through my difficult pregnancy, looked me right in the eyes and told me it was ok to stop pumping and attempting to nurse. He gently reminded me that formula does not equal failure.

The guilt ate at me as I prepared that first bottle. I worried he wouldn’t need me any more. I felt like giving him my milk, even though I hated it, was the only thing I was doing right. I wanted him to have the best.

And then I fed him the formula. His big blue eyes gazed up at me, and he smiled. He reached up and patted my face. And for once, I didn’t look away. I didn’t have the urge to hand him off to someone else. There were no negative thoughts about pumping or pain. I smiled back. I tickled his toes. I ran my fingers through his red hair and sang him my favorite lullaby. He giggled. It was the most peaceful, happy, truly bonding moment I had ever had with him. And it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to stay up and pump for the next feeding. Instead, I watched him sleep peacefully in my arms.

I am a firm believer that fed is best. Breastmilk is absolutely amazing. There is so much science behind that, and I won’t deny it. But formula gave us something that breastmilk couldn’t. It gave me my sanity back. Formula was best for us. No amount of breastmilk could ever replace me as a happy and healthy mother. He needed ME more than he needed my milk. Because I am “the best” for him. I am enough. You are enough. Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.

Today, that sweet boy is an extremely healthy, loving, active little boy. He is definitely a momma’s boy. Our bond is stronger than ever. Unless I told you, you’d never guess if he or his brother were formula fed or breastfed. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. They are both happy, healthy, and loved. And I am too. That is the best.

Princess Diana Spoke Candidly About Postpartum Depression And Self-Injury In 1995 Interview

(Photo credit: Paisley Scotland)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. She remains a vivid icon, remembered for her charisma, grace and tireless activism. Now, thanks to footage and transcripts from a 1995 interview with BBC1 Panorama’s Martin Bashir, we see another facet of the late princess—her courage to talk about things no one else was talking about.

In the interview, Diana spoke candidly about her experience with postpartum depression and self-injury. She was honest and reflective, and even though us commoners can’t fathom the unique pressures of royal living, her struggles as a new mom are surprisingly relatable.

Here’s what we learned from their conversation.

Diana had PPD with her son William, but didn’t know it until later.

BASHIR: How did the rest of the Royal Family react when they learnt that the child that you were to have was going to be a boy?

DIANA: Well, everybody was thrilled to bits. It had been quite a difficult pregnancy – I hadn’t been very well throughout it – so by the time William arrived it was a great relief because it was all peaceful again, and I was well for a time.

Then I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses, post-natal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.

BASHIR: Was this completely out of character for you?

DIANA: Yes, very much so. I never had had a depression in my life.

But then when I analysed it I could see that the changes I’d made in the last year had all caught up with me, and my body had said: `We want a rest.’

She received treatment, but lacked community support.

BASHIR: So what treatment did you actually receive?

DIANA: I received a great deal of treatment, but I knew in myself that actually what I needed was space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way. I knew I could do it, but I needed people to be patient and give me the space to do it.

BASHIR: When you say all of the different roles that had come your way, what do you mean?

DIANA: Well, it was a very short space of time: in the space of a year my whole life had changed, turned upside down, and it had its wonderful moments, but it also had challenging moments. And I could see where the rough edges needed to be smoothed.

BASHIR: What was the family’s reaction to your post-natal depression?

DIANA: Well maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it?

BASHIR: What effect did the depression have on your marriage?

DIANA: Well, it gave everybody a wonderful new label – Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.

BASHIR: Are you saying that that label stuck within your marriage?

DIANA: I think people used it and it stuck, yes.

It became so painful that she would self-injure.

BASHIR: According to press reports, it was suggested that it was around this time things became so difficult that you actually tried to injure yourself.

DIANA: Mmm. When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.

For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention, inverted commas.

But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.

So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.

BASHIR: What did you actually do?

DIANA: Well, I just hurt my arms and my legs; and I work in environments now where I see women doing similar things and I’m able to understand completely where they’re coming from.

BASHIR: What was your husband’s reaction to this, when you began to injure yourself in this way?

DIANA: Well, I didn’t actually always do it in front of him. But obviously anyone who loves someone would be very concerned about it.

BASHIR: Did he understand what was behind the physical act of hurting yourself, do you think?

DIANA: No, but then not many people would have taken the time to see that.

Yet she still performed as the Princess of Wales. The public was unaware of her struggle.

BASHIR: Were you able to admit that you were in fact unwell, or did you feel compelled simply to carry on performing as the Princess of Wales?

DIANA: I felt compelled to perform. Well, when I say perform, I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them.

And in a way by being out in public they supported me, although they weren’t aware just how much healing they were giving me, and it carried me through.

The interview reveals how brave Diana was at a time when there was a strong stigma of mental illness. She helped start a conversation, and for that, we have respect.

Why I Climb #ClimbOut

It’s Tuesday. A large portion of our Climb Out of the Darkness teams will Climb Out on Saturday. We’re all in Climb Out mode right now.

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 Team Bellingham, WA

It’s an exciting time for us as staff at Postpartum Progress. Watching our Climb Leaders and Warrior Moms around the world raise money and awareness is inspiring. These moms, their loved ones, their clinicians, and their support people are breaking down the stigma surrounding postpartum and mood anxiety disorders every time they ask for a donation, every time they share photos from their Climb…

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 Team Illinois Bloomington/Normal

…and every time they share their story.

We announced a blog party last week, taking place today. We asked Climb Leaders and Climbers alike to share why they Climb.

Climb Out of the Darkness: Why I Climb

Why I Climb

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 -Allison & Paul Grigel

Our reasons are as varied as our experiences. But we come together in June to Climb Out, to break down the walls of stigma just by showing up. We collective raise money to help fund the mission of Postpartum Progress which is to create healthier families by raising awareness, reducing stigma, providing social support and connecting mothers to help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression. We come together to see ourselves reflected in other mothers who have lived through it, who are still battling; we come together with our support people, our loved ones, our friends, our clinicians so they can see they, too, are not alone.

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 Team FL- Satellite Beach/ Orlando

The 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness is already our best year yet when it comes to the money raised ($244,807 as of this morning!), the number of Climbers (3,401 as of this morning!), and general awesomeness when it comes to involvement and excitement. To see so many come together for maternal mental health gives us great hope for the future. We’re doing big things—TOGETHER.

You can still join us. There’s time to Find a Climb, register, and join with thousands of other Warrior Moms and their people this weekend (with a few outliers in the coming weeks). We’d love to have you. And we’d love to know why you Climb. Feel free to tell us in the comments or write a post and leave the link.

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016

Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 Team Fruita/Grand Junction Climb

See you soon!

Photos are of Climbs that already took place this month. Look for a bunch of photos shared on our social media channels this weekend! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram