Moments

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         “Enjoy every moment, won’t you?”

I offer a watery smile and nod but inside my blood freezes and my heart pounds with the anxiety that has come to constantly plague me like an unwelcome guest. Because how can I? How can I enjoy every moment of what is hailed such a precious time when I’m so frightened I can’t even hold a conversation or cook a meal? When I’m so sad I sob my heart out several times a day? When I’m so anxious that just being in the same room as my baby causes me to sweat and shake?

“It goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?”

Every minute feels like an hour, and every hour may as well be a week. The hours before my husband arrives home stretch on like years and I wonder if I’ll make it to the end without hurting myself, or worse.

“Isn’t your heart just bursting with love and pride?”

If I could locate my heart I’d tell you but I haven’t felt it for weeks. I can’t feel anything beyond the crippling terror and sadness. I can’t see past the horrifying, persistent images in my head of blood and pills and death.

“These are the best days of your life.”

Then why do I crave my old life, the old me, with a staggering ferocity? Why do I long for a time machine to the past when everything felt normal and right, or to the future where I pray this nightmare will be over?

“You’re just tired. Sleep when the baby sleeps and you’ll feel better.”

I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps. I can’t sleep when my husband sleeps. I can’t sleep when it’s 3am and the whole country is sleeping. If I could just switch off my brain…if I could just switch off everything.

“You need to eat something.”

Why would I put food in my mouth when I can’t breathe, can’t think, can barely speak? When I feel sick all the time. Why would I sustain my body just so my mind can keep going like this? Where is the girl who loved her food, where is she?

“You aren’t well, but you’re not alone. And you will be okay.”

I wish I could tell you that sentence alone was enough to make it all better, but it wasn’t. In fact, merely being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety brought a wave of panic so strong I had to call my mother in law to take my son for the afternoon. But it was a turning point. It was the end of that horrible chapter and the beginning of the next challenge. It was someone pulling me from the blizzard, strapping much-needed supplies on my back and standing me steady at the bottom of a mountain, ready to climb.

Enjoying every moment is impossible when you’re suffering from PPD/A. In truth, it takes lots of therapy and hard work just to enjoy a single moment. But when you do, and you will, just grab onto that flash of relief and hold it tight. Memorize it. For when the darkness slips back, that memory will make it harder for the illness to take that moment of light from you. Soon another moment will come, and another. You’ll have a rush of relief every week, then every day, then several times a day.

It will be frustrating. The mountain is high and steep and horribly intimidating. Some days you’ll be too exhausted to climb and you’ll simply collapse on the ground and cry with exhaustion and that’s okay. Because when you’re ready to get up and carry on you won’t be back at the bottom, nothing will be undone, and you can continue on your way.

Eventually, and how I wish I could tell you how long it takes, you’ll be enjoying many moments. You’ll feel again. You’ll think straight again. You’ll love again. And maybe it won’t be one glittering, wonderful moment of realisation when you think “I’m cured.” But, more likely, it will be a series of moments that creep up on you, a collection of evidence that shows you’re recovering. A few hopeful glimpses of the summit.

I have many days when I feel truly well, and I have other days when I wonder if I’m still climbing. But in the meantime, I’m living life, I’m enjoying lots of moments and not enjoying others and learning to be fine with that. Because when well-meaning people tell you to “enjoy every moment” they are setting an unrealistic goal for any parent. Many aspects of parenthood are simply not enjoyable. Instead, I focus on feeling every moment, good and bad. If I feel afraid, that’s okay, I just sit with it and let it pass. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. And if I feel happy I clutch that joy to my chest and absorb it into my soul, and try to keep it safe forever.

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Laura is a thirty-something wife and mum from Essex, England. Following the birth of her son in 2013 she unexpectedly found herself battling Postnatal Depression and Anxiety. Reading blogs became her obsession and she’s now decided to flex her own writing muscles. You can find more of her words at https://thebutterflymother.wordpress.com and Laura can also be found on Twitter – @butterflymum83

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Peer to Peer Support Proves Effective In Fighting Postpartum Depression

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phoneThose of us active in the PPD community have long hailed the benefit of peer to peer support when it comes to helping mothers combat postpartum depression and anxiety. Now a new study has been published which strengthens the claim that moms helping moms makes a difference.

The anecdotal study, “Quasi-experimental evaluation of a telephone-based peer support intervention for maternal depression” was conducted by nurses in New Brunswick, Canada and results were published this month in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Participants received an average of 14 calls (364 minutes of phone time in total) from recovered mothers who underwent training to act as peer supporters. The researchers found that depression decreased by nearly half over the course of the study.

This study is interesting to me because the Internet is what I credit for my recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety after Joshua was born in 2009. We all knew I had a greater chance of depression, but for nearly a year I took my meds and did little else to cope. I found Twitter and #PPDChat and Postpartum Progress and suddenly I’d found my “tribe.” My climb out of darkness began and soon I was “back in the world.”

We were led by those who had survived and gradually we became survivors ourselves. Warrior moms.

Many of the women I found who helped me so much were in the trenches with me. Some of my dearest friends were fighting the same battle I was, and our friendships were born of shared experience in combat so to speak. We were fighting for our lives and our families and our children.

In this study, moms were aided by survivors, but, at least so far as we are aware, had no interactions with one another. And still the results were positive.

The researchers found “that some mothers need only one supportive call” to see improvement “likely due to reassurance they have someone to call who understands.”

When I think back to my early postpartum days with Joshua, I remember people bringing food and stopping by to coo over this new baby in my life. I remember people telling me I would “bounce back” and to “enjoy these moments.” But I don’t remember many people asking me how I was but not with that tone that says “no, really, how are you doing?”

That’s not to say that those in my life in the early days weren’t concerned, but many of them weren’t PPD survivors. And that’s really the crux of this study.

Contact with others, particularly with those who’ve “been there, done that” is critical for new moms with a predisposition to depression and anxiety. The simple act of a weekly phone call to check in helped new mothers feel less alone, less judged, and more supported, and as a result, lowered rates of postpartum depression and anxiety to a rate below the rate of the general population.

Just KNOWING someone was out there who understood made a difference. It also helped break down the stigma surrounding mental illness, and those of us working to improve the lives of mothers know the roadblock that stigma creates.

If you’re a survivor, someone who has made it through to the other side, I’d like to challenge you to pick up the phone when someone you know brings home a baby.

Reach out. Give the new moms in your life a call, regularly, and ask how they’re doing. Check in. Then check in again.

While the results of this study are small, not conclusive, and largely anecdotal, they are promising. Even though the study does not reveal what sort of training the peer counselors underwent, there’s enough evidence to suggest that peer to peer support, being an active listener and a non-judgmental presence, makes a difference and improves lives.

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Letourneau N., Secco L., Colpitts J., Aldous S., Stewart M. & Dennis C.-L. (2015) Quasi-experimental evaluation of a telephone-based peer support intervention for maternal depression. Journal of Advanced Nursing 00(0), 000000. doi: 10.1111/jan.12622

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Research uncovers various classes of PPD

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brainHumans compare themselves to others around them. She has prettier hair. He has a nicer car. Why does she get the corner office when I have worked just as hard? Or the ever popular gym comparisons: I do the SAME exercises as her and yet, nothing. Then we beat ourselves up because we are not achieving the same end results as those around us.

We do the same when we are fighting a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. “I’m on Zoloft. It only took so-and-so this many weeks to feel better so I should be feeling better by then too!” Then we hit that milestone and we may not be feeling better. It is so difficult to handle, perhaps even more so than the comparisons in the first paragraph because all we really want is to be better, to be back to ourselves and yet while we are running our own personal marathon toward mental wellness, we compare to those on the same road, forgetting that even on the jogging path, there are those who pass us.

New research out of Chapel Hill, by Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, examined the heterogeneity (that’s a scientific word for diversity) of postpartum depression via a latent class analysis. What she discovered may put some minds at ease when it comes to fighting the battle of postpartum depression.

Turns out, according to Meltzer-Brody, that there are various “classes” of postpartum depression. What does this mean? It means we all are fighting different battles. It’s the same war, but think of it as different levels of skirmishes.

What varies?

“Women in class 1 had the least severe symptoms…., followed by those in class 2…, and those in class 3. The most severe symptoms of postpartum depression were significantly associated with poor mood, increased anxiety, onset of symptoms during pregnancy, obstetric complications, and suicidal ideation. In class 2, most women (62%) reported symptoms onset within 4 weeks postpartum and had more pregnancy complications than in the other two classes (69% vs 67% in class 1 and 29% in class 3).

Their conclusion?

“PPD seems to have several distinct phenotypes. Further assessment of PPD heterogeneity to identify more precise phenotypes will be important for future biological and genetic investigations.”

Why does this matter?

It matters because the more in depth our understanding of how PPD behaves is, the more successful we will be in treating it, and possibly even minimizing any severe episodes. In addition to external influences, there are also internal influences and biochemistry at work here. Thanks to Dr. Meltzer-Brody and other researchers like her, the very real possibility looms of truly individualizing PPD treatment.

For now, we continue to propel ourselves forward, going with what works for us, and in addition to fighting our own battles, remember not to judge those who are doing a bit better than we are. We are all on the same road but we are walking to our own struggles.

(photo source: https://flic.kr/p/d9soWC)

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BabyCenter Finds PPD Moms Don’t Seek Help Due To Guilt & Shame

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BABYCENTERBabyCenter®, the number one pregnancy and parenting digital resource, recently asked 1,400 moms about their experience with postpartum depression and found that 40% said they didn’t seek medical help for their illness. Their reasons for avoiding reaching out for help included feeling like they should or did have the strength to get over the feelings without a doctor’s help (30 percent), believing their symptoms weren’t serious enough (25 percent), or feeling too much embarrassment (24 percent) and guilt (23 percent).

 “This study revealed serious findings that need to be addressed,” says Linda Murray, BabyCenter Global Editor in Chief. “Depression is dangerous for women and their babies, and untreated depression can become worse and lead to other complications. Depression affects people from all walks of life, but new moms are particularly susceptible given the stress of becoming a parent, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes. We want moms to understand that seeking help for PPD isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about; in fact, it’s one of the most important things they can do for the well-being of their babies.”

Postpartum Progress is thrilled that BabyCenter put its resources behind taking a deeper look at postpartum depression and how it affects women. It’s so important to understand the barriers that prevent moms from seeking treatment to get the help they need. It stands out to me that the results of the survey found in particular that women felt they should be able to get over PPD themselves or that their symptoms weren’t serious enough to need professional help — those are beliefs we can effectively change by raising awareness about this illness and how it can affect both mom and baby when untreated.

In response to the findings of their study and to lend support to the cause of maternal mental health, BabyCenter is now graciously allowing me to blog regularly on their site to shed additional light on PPD and remind new and expecting moms that there is no shame in feelings of anxiety or depression. If you are experiencing PPD, please know that getting treated as soon as possible is important. Please go check out my very first post on BabyCenter: Asking for Help for PPD: Failure or Fierceness?

“I can’t stress enough that PPD is treatable, but only if moms ask for help,” says psychologist Susan Bartell. “It can be hard, but moms don’t need to be afraid to seek support during this difficult time. And it’s important for moms to remember that help comes in many forms ranging from friends who simply fold your laundry to therapy.”

About BabyCenter

BabyCenter® is the voice of the 21st Century Mom® and modern motherhood. It’s the number one pregnancy and parenting digital destination worldwide, reaching more than 40 million moms monthly in 11 languages across 14 owned and operated properties from Australia to India to China. In the United States, 7 in 10 babies born last year were BabyCenter babies. BabyCenter is the world’s partner in parenting, providing moms everywhere with trusted advice from hundreds of experts around the globe, friendship with other moms like them, and support that’s remarkably right at every stage of their child’s development. BabyCenter is a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

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