This past week, Katherine Stone over at Postpartum Progress announced the the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, an editorial team comprised of a diverse group of writers and advocates, who will help run her blog throughout the year. I am a member of this team along with several other fellow dedicated and amazing survivors who have battled through so much. Along our journeys, we all have been incredibly honest, dedicated, vocal, and driven to share our stories. Some of us started with the most basic of intentions but somewhere along the way, we became recognized advocates through hard work and repeatedly putting ourselves out there sometimes meeting with rejection along the way. We brushed ourselves off and put ourselves back out there all over again.
Often, we did not even mean to put ourselves out there but had our stories noticed for whatever reason, forced into a higher level of publicity with our very personal battles than perhaps we were ready to deal with. So we rolled with it because we had to not because we wanted to.
One of my primary goals with my growth as an advocate was to develop an online network women and families could access 24/7. My goal with #PPDChat was not to develop a network to lift bloggers and advocates to higher popularity or to create popularity cliques within the community. My goal was to increase peer support for women and families to access whenever they need it, wherever they were. The worst aspect, for me, about a PMAD, is the overwhelming feeling of being all alone. That isolation, the fear that YOU are the only one stuck in this dark hell, is absolutely terrifying and what needs to be remedied first.
#PPDChat exists to create a sisterhood and community, yes, but it is not meant to cause divisiveness or jealousy of any friendships which may seem to net more opportunities or be more intimate than others. I realize these things will happen because this is the nature of humans in a group setting. We gravitate toward others like us. It’s hard-wired deep within us to do so.
The primary goal with #PPDChat was to create a safety-net. To move those who are hurting and isolated toward a place of healing, warmth, and eventually, a return of joy. One of the side-effects of this community has been the development of advocates as they have felt supported and buoyed by the community at large. Certain members have grown stronger in their advocacy voices as they have discovered they truly are not alone and witnessed the power of conjoined voices will do for a woman still fighting. Other members have continued along their own personal path of healing, not joining in the advocacy movement for their own personal reasons. But we have come this far together, as a community.
One of the definitions of community is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” #PPDChat is definitely all of those and what keeps it fascinating is that even though PMAD has brought us together, our interests are broad and undefined – allowing for individual friendships to organically develop. Not once have I ever seen it as something which has intentionally excluded certain members. If anything, there have been multiple opportunities to include yourself with other members through guest posts, guest hosting within #PPDChat, and various other outreach situations. We all operate within our “circle of comfort” because of our various issues, something which may limit our exposure to the Social Media world at large, something which often moves faster than the speed of light. It can be exhausting to keep up and we are all moving at a different pace.
Regarding reaching out to involve everyone on an equal footing, Katherine has multiple opportunities for being involved at Postpartum Progress:
I, too, have offered to post guest stories and often highlight Postpartum Voices of the Week. I realize I have been slack over the past year but now that I am actively blogging, I plan to resuscitate this part of My Postpartum Voice. It is important to remember, however, that neither Katherine nor I nor every advocate can possibly read every single thing on the internet about PMAD’s. So we all highlight what we can when we can, which leads to some people feeling left out while others get a few minutes in the spotlight which may lead to other “opportunities”.
That said, those who have become more public and vocal are not any better than those who have not.
Those who have become more public and vocal are not any better than those who have not.
This is where we return to the quote with which I started:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” ~Eleanor Roosevelt~
When you allow a decision which seems exclusive to hurt you so deeply you lash out toward those who have been included, you are giving that decision power over you and thereby creating your own storm of emotions.
For those of us who ARE more public and vocal, opportunities are not viewed as something we covet or even necessarily seek out. For many of us, the “opportunities” may even be anxiety-inducing but we see them as an opportunity to educate, inform, and raise awareness so we charge forward. We do not see the opportunities as making us better than those who are not “chosen” for these opportunities – they are not a platform on which we place ourselves so others may look up at us and feel left out. Our words, our fight, our journey, for whatever reason, has included these turns and curves. As I emphasize ALL THE TIME:
EVERY JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT AND MUST BE RESPECTED AS SUCH.
I will not apologize for being a member of Katherine Stones’ Warrior Mom Leadership Team. No one should have to apologize for being a member of this team nor should Katherine be made to second guess the folks she has placed on the WMLT. Katherine is entrusting her blog, a blog she has worked tirelessly to develop a strong, ethical, and respected reputation for, to the members of this team. I get that she needed to choose people SHE felt she could trust to continue the tradition of the brand she has developed. I know I would be unable to trust my blog to just anyone. I respect her decision as just that – HER decision.
I feel I would be remiss if I did not also point out that this is not an award, this was not a contest, and we are not being paid to be on the WMLT. It is volunteer – and something we agreed to do because it promotes the community and it is going to help further reduce the stigma and misconception of PMAD’s.
Would I be saying all of this even if I were not on the WMLT?
Because I GET that it’s her choice because it’s Katherine’s blog.
We cannot (and should not) internalize everything. We cannot expect every single door to open for us – the doors which open for us are the doors MEANT to open for us. Some may take more work, more drive, and some may seem as if they open easier for other people.
While it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to feel left out, the manner in which this has been expressed over the past 48 hours in reaction to Katherine’s announcement has greatly saddened me. The sub-tweets, the sub-textual expressions, and the chit-chat behind the backs of those chosen (and yes, I saw a good deal of this on Twitter) has broken my heart because for me, this defeats the very idea of a unified community.
We are all advocates. We are all responsible for dismissing stigma and fighting back against myths with our voices and our journeys. When we fail to support those who, for whatever reason, end up surging forward in the public realm, we fail the community as a whole.
Am I saying it is wrong to be upset?
What I AM saying is there needs to be honesty and respect in how we express these emotions. There needs to be the realization that your words WILL be read by those who have managed to not be “looked over” or become “it” girls. Words DO hurt. I get that you are disappointed and you are hurt, I do. I have felt that myself when yet again, my blog fails to gain any recognition or when #ppdchat fails to gain any recognition in an awards process. It’s frustrating as hell. But do I publicly denounce those who have won recognition? Hell no. I congratulate them with grace and deal with my disappointment privately.
BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO. You support the community, you empower it, and you rejoice that the subject matter is receiving attention. It does not matter WHO is doing it, but WHAT is receiving the recognition. It is about furthering the cause, not about garnering individual attention. (Again, however, human nature celebrates when individual attention is received and deflates when it is not – hard-wired, not a faulty reaction at all).
The moment you make it about “ME” is the moment you are not advocating for “US” and that, in my opinion, is failing to kick stigma’s ass.
In that scenario, no one is a winner.
We all have different reasons for writing and when we summarily dismiss the achievements of those around us based on a personal negative reaction, we damage any progress we may make as a whole.
I write because I love to write and I will be damned if I let someone journey along this road alone. I do not write for glory or to be an “it” person, whatever the hell that is. I have never, ever considered myself to be an “it” person, in fact, I have always thought of myself as the complete opposite.
It’s okay for people to be sad and I’m not trying to fix it but at the same time, in expressing their feelings, they are dragging those who HAVE been chosen down and not expressing their disappointment in a healthy manner, which leads to divisiveness and guilt. “United we stand, divided we fall” and all that.
For me, accepting a place on the WMLT means Katherine can focus on doing more with Postpartum Progress, the non-profit which means she can make even MORE strides against PMAD’s. She’s been kicking ass for years with her blog and is already making waves with her non-profit. So if she asks for help, I will say yes as long as it doesn’t interfere with what I already have going on (because it is healthy to make sure you don’t overload your plate).
I’m speaking up because I do not want this recent decision to divide the community. I want us to remain supportive of each other. I want us to be able to express disappointment without attacking other members and without making other members feel guilt and/or shame for achieving something for which others feel they have been “overlooked.” When we drag one person down for achieving something, we impede EVERYONE’S progress toward a better tomorrow. Is that what we want?
We, all of us, are better than this.
We, all of us, know battling alone sucks.
We, all of us, want to win the fight.
We, all of us, are winning this fight, in our own little ways.
Let’s just make sure we do it together – as a team.