Worth Every Moment: Charity’s Struggle with Postpartum Depression

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I am so honored to welcome Warrior Mom Charity today to share her story.  Charity struggled  with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety with a psychotic episode.

Charity girls
I have three little girls, ages 8, 7 and 4.  Bringing each home was a joy.  An amazing joy.   Bringing home the youngest, Patrice, was the easiest transition in mothering.  There is a knowledge and ease that comes with experience.  I knew my mothering style, knew how to juggle.

What I didn’t know was the feeling of insomnia with a newborn.  And the intense emotions that came—good, bad and ugly.  The tears.  The fear.  The need to be busy.  All.the.time.

How could I be crying and upset—I honestly and truly looked at my life and loved it more than I ever had.  But every day I had to be busy!  The girls and I went—to the library, the zoo, the park.  We did—baking, crafts, projects.  My level of activity kept having to go up.  I had to move and do to escape the thoughts, to escape the tears, to escape the abyss.

My midwife and I were in contact daily.  She talked me through the waiting period before we could adjust my thyroid medications.  And then the time we had to wait to see if that resolved the myriad of emotions.

Time was not my friend.  I started medication.  It helped a little.  A very little.  So we upped the dose.  That did not help, not at all.  I suddenly couldn’t stop going—I had to be busy.  Bonus—my house was spotless; not such a bonus—I was a wreck.

I could no longer control some of my thoughts.  I would think over and over, ”I’ll get Patrice to my midwife; she can take her home and love her, and hubby can handle the other two.”  Until one morning that was the only thought.  I loved my girls, but I could not figure out how to be their mommy.  So I packed them up, and went to my midwife.

“Will you just take them home and love them?” I sobbed as she hugged me.  Her staff got my girls out of the room, and she let me cry…and so began 6 ½ hours of conversation, tears, and being hospitalized.

The behavioral health facility was the worst experience of my life, but it was where I needed to be.  I was safe. My girls were safe.

Over the next few days, I was taken off medication.  My midwife found me a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression, and I started new therapies.

That was 3 ½ years ago.  It has not been the easy resolution I thought it would be.  Medication did not fix it all.  I am back on a higher dose, seeing a doctor and a therapist, working on getting better for my girls.

I am fighting for them.  They are worth every moment.

And I have found a lot of help along the way.  I discovered the #PPDCHAT group on twitter (every Monday at 9:00pm EST), the wonderful website www.postpartumprogress.com, and women who have been there or are there.  I have discovered community.

Depression looks different for everyone.  Mine did not involve a desire to sleep, rather a desperate need to be busy.  I did not want to escape my children; rather, I couldn’t bear to be away from them.  I did not cry out of sadness, rather due to a desperate feeling threatening to overwhelm me.  I did withdraw from people to an extent; I did give up activities I enjoyed.

Getting well has required a level of self-discovery and honesty I didn’t know I possessed.  It has required a lot of help from others.  Help I often hate, but need.  It has caused me to give up a lot of what I thought depression and anxiety looked like in order to get help for what it looks in me.  It has required a strength I didn’t know I possessed, to fight—for my girls.

Have you, or someone you know, recently given birth, adopted or weaned a baby?  Postpartum depression and anxiety can develop any time within the first year after birth, or after weaning a nursling.  Adoptive moms are by no means immune to postpartum mood disorders.  Postpartum depression is not baby blues, which is a feeling of sadness or erratic emotions beginning a few days after birth and resolving within a few weeks.  Postpartum depression lasts longer, or develops later and interferes with the ability to function as yourself.

If you are a new mom, for the first, third or tenth time, be honest with your care providers or those who care about you.  If you know a new mom, ask her how she is—really is.  Hear what she is saying, hear what she isn’t saying.  Please check www.postpartumprogress.com, twitter hashtag #ppdchat, www.mypostpartumvoice.com or my blog at www.gigglesandgrimaces.com.  You can find my posts about this journey under depression.

You, and those you know, are worth every moment of fight, every bit of the hard.

 

Charity birthday

Charity has been blogging for 4 ½ years. She started blogging to share her faith, family and cute kids. Four weeks after her third daughter’s birth, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety hit her like a ton of bricks and she became part of the percentage of women who had latent Bipolar Disorder awakened by the postpartum mood disorders.  Through Charity’s writing she displays her struggles in even the darkest of moments. In sharing her story with others, Charity hopes that others see you can parent successfully even with mental illness. Her writing can be found on her blog or on Project Semicolon.

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Warrior Mom Conference Re-cap

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This past weekend, over 100 Warrior Moms from around the world gathered in Boston for the first ever patient-centered conference on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. To call it a success would be a massive understatement. We didn’t want it to end.

Postpartum Progress’ #WarriorMomCon was ground-breaking and centered on connection, education, support, and healing. Women who had once struggled with being able to simply get out of bed came together with fiery, sparkly, joyous passion. We were united in our intense desire to collectively raise our voices. Being there this weekend was our way of telling the world that perinatal mental health issues are REAL and we want to do our part to raise awareness in our communities.

Warrior Moms gather at the Lenox Hotel before the start of the conference

An informal gathering on Friday evening was the start of all the excitement, as Warrior Moms began arriving in Boston. We introduced ourselves, hugged, and the conversations started flowing. You could feel the buzz of fierce energy in the air.

Katherine Stone opens #WarriorMomCon

Katherine Stone opens #WarriorMomCon

On Saturday morning, the conference got underway. Founder and Warrior-Mom-In-Chief, Katherine Stone, kicked us off with an inspiring keynote emphasizing how Postpartum Progress exists because of the dedication and drive of her tribe, Warrior Moms all over the world. She stressed that she may have founded Postpartum Progress, but it wouldn’t be the powerhouse life-changing non-profit organization that it is today without our commitment to the mission of increasing maternal mental illness awareness and providing peer support.

The first panel entitled Educate & Empower: Panel and Moderated Discussion on Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders was filled with eye-opening information on just how many women are affected each year by postpartum depression and anxiety disorders, and how the term “postpartum” isn’t even completely accurate given that 60% of these conditions occur during the “antepartum” period – or during pregnancy.

from left to right: Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Mara Acel-Green, Peggy Kaufman, and Dr. Lekeisha Sumner

Take-aways during the first session:

  • Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Psychiatrist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School: “PPD is preventable if we can identify the women who are at the greatest risk.”
  • Mara Acel-Green, Founder, Strong Roots Counseling: “Postpartum Depression can happen even when a child is adopted. PPD occurs in approximately 20-25% of adoptive moms.”
  • Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, Clinical Psychologist quoted Maya Angelou: “As soon as the healing takes place, go out and heal.”
  • Peggy Kaufman, Director of The Center for Early Relationship Support at Jewish Family & Children’s Service: “Say the word JOY. It’s very powerful.”

We broke for lunch into small groups, and then met back up for an afternoon full of inspiring knowledge sharing.

Kate Kripke, LCSW presents

Kate Kripke, LCSW presents

 

During her “Thriving After PMAD” session, Kate Kripke, LCSW, Founder, Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder shared tips and exercises for thriving after a postpartum mood disorder. My favorite quote from Kate’s beautiful session: “Give yourself permission to love yourself.”

 

 

 

Divya Kumar presents on privilege

Divya Kumar presents on privilege

Our final speaker of the day was Divya Kumar, Sc.M., CLC, PPD, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center. Divya’s presentation focused on teaching us how to reach underserved moms and families in our local communities and how privilege can limit our perspectives and advocacy. My biggest lesson learned: “Don’t make assumptions. Be conscious of privilege.”

We finished up the day with Self-Care workshops where we learned the importance of self-care and how there are endless options for taking time to pamper yourself. Adult coloring books, knitting/crocheting, massage, yoga/pilates/meditation, walking, talking with friends – online via Twitter chats and other social media or in-person, and the list goes on.

Warrior Mom self-care: adult coloring!

Warrior Mom self-care: adult coloring!

The evening ended on a high note: the Warrior Mom Celebration Dinner. It was spectacular.

Instagram photo by @jzb2

Instagram photo by @jzb2

Day 2 started with a panel discussion around “Raising Awareness Online” moderated by Katherine Stone and featuring Jill Krause of Baby Rabies, Morgan Shanahan of the818.com, both leading professional bloggers who have written openly and honestly about their experiences with postpartum mood disorders. They were joined by Jennifer Labit, the founder of Cotton Babies, the official sponsor of the Warrior Mom Conference. It was an empowering and engaging session on how to amplify your impact online.

from left to right: Morgan Shanahan, Jill Krause, Jenn Labit, Katherine Stone

The conference wrapped up with a final session presented by MotherWoman’s passionate Founder Annette Cycon and Program Director, Liz Friedman. After sharing their own experiences with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, Annette and Liz led the group in a guided meditation followed by their support group guidelines. We then broke into small sharing circles where were were able to share our own stories and experience peer-to-peer support and healing.

Instagram photo by @danielle.nelson

Instagram photo by @danielle.nelson

Seven years ago I experienced postpartum psychosis after my first child was born, and five years ago I suffered from antenatal psychosis during my second pregnancy. Those were some of the most isolating and terrifying times of my life. I found Postpartum Progress after I had begun my recovery journey, and I am eternally grateful the blog existed when I stumbled across it. If I wouldn’t have had maternal mental illness, I may never have found Katherine Stone & Postpartum Progress, and might not have met this incredible community. My Warrior Mom friendships are the gift of light born out of my darkest moments and I will treasure them always.

One in seven women will experience a postpartum mental illness {postpartum/antepartum depression, anxiety, ocd, psychosis}. Chances are, if you haven’t gone through it yourself, someone close to you has or will in the future. Postpartum Progress is here to help, every step of the way. Share this video and it’s message. We can conquer postpartum mental health disorders together. We are warrior moms.

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Warrior Mom Conference – Need your Questions

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We wget answersant to hear from our warrior mom community as we begin our first ever Warrior Mom Conference.  The first morning of the conference is filled with an amazing panel of speakers.  We will have a moderated question and answer session.  Follow along with us on social media as we live tweet the question and answer session.  We want to hear from you.  Our speakers that are part of the Educate & Empower panel are Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Mara Acel-Green, Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, and Peggy Kaufman.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking.  What do you wish you had known about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? How can we help moms access treatment more easily?  What obstacles have you faced with regards to finding the right treatment?  How can we increase our reach to underserved communities?  What type of community supports should be in place? If you have encountered obstacles in finding community support, what were they?  Submit your comments to the Facebook page.

 

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When Postpartum Depression Makes You a Stranger to Yourself

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for p p dSeeing someone struggling through postpartum depression and anxiety cracks my heart wide open. I don’t care if I’m a stranger to them or not, I want to take their hands into mine and tell them to trust me.

I want them to believe me when I tell them I have been where they are, in that frightening place when you’re filled more with fear and pain than strength. When you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back.

I want them to listen when I say that I have lived in the skin they are in now, when you are not who you used to be.

I have walked through those days, those hard days, when you’re too frightened to look anyone in the eye because you don’t want them to see straight through to the dark despair and hopelessness that fill your head.

I have been there. The days of pulling clothes out of the closet and letting them fall over my body, wondering where the person is who used to wear them. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat of my car and it didn’t feel like it belonged to the person who now sat there.

These days are anything but easy. Living through postpartum depression is harder than we can ever explain. We struggle to give words to the choking jumble of our thoughts. We want to be heard, but when someone asks us to tell them how they can help, we can only break down in tears.

Postpartum depression is a wall that hides our strength from us. It won’t let light in so we are unable to see how tough we are. The dark clouds of this time block the real view, the one that would show our determination to get better.

We are still there, behind the empty sadness in our eyes, there is the fight and fire we need to recover. We are imperfect in this life, we are lost, confused and we are more scared than we have ever been. When our lives become survival for one moment at a time, our souls can’t rest to see the beautiful spirit of survival that lives within us.

I want those in the heartbreaking midst of postpartum depression to trust me, as hard as it is. We need to believe that inside we have what we need to make it through. It’s a leap of faith, a desperate grab at hope, but it’s necessary.

I want them to hear this message of hope, so that they fight, so that they keep fighting. Because it is the promise of hope that someone asked me to believe in during my own postpartum depression, that saved me.

You will see this through to the other side.
You’re not alone.
You will find yourself again.

Someone once promised me that I would be myself again. I was too scared to believe that who I once was, was still there. What if I wasn’t going to get better? What I would have told the frightened new mom that I was back then, would be this, You may feel like you’re in a thousand irretrievable pieces right now–too broken beyond anything that can be made whole again. But believe that you will heal.

You will find happiness again. The numbness will lift one day and you will hear yourself laugh. The sound of it will surprise you so much that you’ll laugh a second time from the joy of it. You will look in the mirror one morning, and this time the eyes you see back will dance and shine. And you will come back stronger than you ever thought you could be.

You are still there, inside.

Even if now you feel lost, scared and alone, you are there.

Please let my words here be the ones that take you by the hand and hold you until you are back home again. Reach out, ask for help, don’t stop until you feel you are getting the care you need. Believe that with time, professional care and treatment, and the support of your PPD community, that the help you need to find the way back to you again will be there.

The incredible you that you used to be is still there. You will find yourself again. And just as I did, you will smile again.

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