Be Well – Your WAY


I want to talk about an old childhood game tonight.

Go get your pillow, a sleeping bag, chocolate, popcorn, a stuffed animal or a doll, and slip into some cozy PJ’s. I’ll wait.

Seriously. I will.

*hums Jeopardy theme a few times*

Do you remember playing the telephone game when you were a kid?

Whispering something ridiculous into the ear of the person next to you who would then repeat it to the person next to them and so on until it got to the last person who would say it out loud?

It was never the same thing that it started as, was it?

(If it was, your friends had amazing hearing or no sense of humour).

The goal of this game is to show you how something you say can be twisted by others. It is a practice in watching what you say – thinking before you speak.

In this electronic age, it is still important to watch what you say but even more important to keep that filter in place when the keyboard and therefore the Internet is your outlet. It is easier, when you are behind a keyboard, to judge, to proffer advice, and to act as an expert.

Here’s the thing – we are all still human. We have hearts, we have brains, and we live and breath. It is difficult to remember that the personas we talk to on a daily basis through our keyboards are PEOPLE.

I have said this time and again on this blog, in my chat, in my groups, on my blog’s FB page – but I believe in treating people as adults regardless of their situation or condition. I am part of a community. I am not a dictator, I am not a medical professional, I am not at all capable of making a care decision for anyone other than myself. I find it heartbreaking when some people behave as if they are capable of making decisions for others.

Mental health is just as subjective as physical health. We all have our own baggage. However, our baggage is not a road sign for anyone but us. It does not grant us carte blanche permission to tell someone else who has articulated their own issues to a professional care giver they may want to give it a second thought. Ever.

One of the things I adore most about the #PPDChat community is their ability to function in a way that is uplifting and supportive without being judgmental regarding the treatment choices another mama needs to make for her own sanity. Not all communities are like this. I am beyond grateful the #PPDChat community embraces this concept.

The road into Perinatal Mood Valley is a steep one. The road out is curvy with plenty of blind turns and potholes. There are multiple ways out, not just one path. It is important to listen to your internal GPS as you navigate your way out of your personal darkness. Listening to someone else’s GPS will result in driving in circles as you attempt to free yourself from the mind-boggling vortex.

You can do this. You are not alone. You will be well.

Your way.

Whatever Wednesday: A Drive in the Dark


One of the downsides of being a writer/creative type is seeing the world differently. I don’t see a tree. I see the seed, the person who may have planted the seed, the child who once played in its shadow, the mother who called the child in for dinner, that child leaving for a first date, college, or the family moving away and the entire cycle starting over with a new family as the tree stands there, rooted to the ground, subject to the world around it, unable to move or protest any indignity it may witness.

I do not see just a building – it is everything which went into a building – the craftsmanship of the bricks, the glass, the tile, the wood, the placement of the items inside, the heart and soul of the living, breathing walls. I see and hear the echoes of generations past resounding well beyond that which lies before me now.

Ever since I was a young child, I have peered into the other side of life. That which is dark, unexpected, unexplained, and lives in the shadows just around the corner from the main streets filled with a vibrant chatter and soulful lives. It’s the side of life just beyond a living man’s last breath. It is what fills the landscape around us and gives it heart. Sometimes, the heart is a joyous one. Other times, it is not.

When I was in college, my parents moved to a new house. On a visit home, my mother saw fit to drive me to the new house in well after the sun had set. We drove quite a distance through the country side, roads I knew at first, and then roads I had never visited before. We made what seemed like a sudden turn off the paved country road onto a darkened gravel road.

The air changed. The already dark night drifted suddenly into an even darker abyss as the road in front of us disappeared after passing a row of country houses. We then proceeded through a cow gate, down a hill, with a tangled forest to our right. My breath slowed, my legs shifted, hugging the seat beneath me, my hands gripped my thighs as I glanced nervously at my mother.

At the bottom of the hill, there was a white farmhouse glowing through the impossible darkness, as if it were a beacon, and yet, in the upstairs window, shadows danced ever so slightly with the white lace curtains despite no evidence of human inhabitants.

My mother deftly made a right turn. Pavement again, until we hit the split in the road where, of course, she stayed to the side slathered in gravel. The tires spun the rocks, almost growling as they churned forward into the midnight sprawled before us.

An old tobacco barn stood just to the right of the road, barely visible as the headlights splashed across it. The rusted siding glared furiously back at us, as if we had suddenly  roused it from a deep sleep.

She drove on, through a curve or two appropriately tangled in overhanging trees, then up a hill, down a hill. A shadowy house stood in the night in the middle of the forest. The tires slid slightly on the rocks as they convulsed at the abrupt stop at the front of the large home which swelled up from the ground. My mother got out of the car, announcing we had arrived.

Arrived where, exactly?

I sat in the car for a moment, afraid to open the door, fearful of the banjos which would inevitably greet me. Forcing my right hand to move, I gripped the door handle, took a deep breath, and opened the door.

A burbling creek echoed through the night, surrounded by the loud calls of what I would later learn were bullfrogs. By this time, my mother was already on the porch, unlocking the door. “C’mon,”  she called.

I closed the door behind me and scurried to the porch. Light would be inside. Blessed, heavenly, life-saving light.

We walked around the house, a giant house yearning to become a home but standing empty, bereft of life and vibrance. The interior walls echoed every step and sound. I stood in the sun room, surrounded by windows on every side, staring out into the darkness just beyond, shuddering. I ran back to the front of the house and demanded to go back home. This, this was not home. Perhaps it was wonderful during the day but at night? At night there was a horde of creatures in the dark, watching us, intently.

I looked down at my hands in the darkness of the car until we were well away from the house, unable to look outside, afraid of what might peer back at me just beyond the glass.

When I struggled with Postpartum Depression & OCD, one of my biggest triggers was when night fell. I felt the same way – as if something were peering in at me through the windows at night. All the blinds had to be closed so nothing could see in and my children and I would be safe.

Until my current residence, I have continued this tradition. Even here, we had to open the blinds in our room upstairs high enough so the cat would not play with them in an effort to wake us at an ungodly hour. I would leap into bed, covering myself quickly in hopes to ignore the fact that the blinds were open.

Last night, however, was different. Last night, not only did I lift the blinds, I left the slats in the open position with the idea of waking with the sun (that part didn’t work out). For the first time in years, I slept with completely open blinds.

Fear controls you if you allow it to control you. Once you make the decision to move beyond fear, you find freedom.

Know what?

Freedom rocks.

A Collage of Words: Answering the Important Questions


Today has been a strange day. I did not get nearly as much sleep as I need to function properly. It has snowed for most of the day, finally tapering off just a couple of hours ago, and I am groggy from an impromptu nap not long ago.

I am determined to finish this challenge of writing a minimum of 500 words every day but sincerely wish the “stick your hand in a bucket, grab some words, and throw them at the screen” schtick would stop. I’m writing because well, I have to write, not because I necessarily have anything to say or want to be writing. But, practice makes perfect and all that.

Tonight, in my struggle to come up with a topic, I asked my friends on FB for suggestions.

Conclusion? I have some weird but deep and awesome friends.

Here are their suggestions, in no particular order, phrased as quirky questions:

1) What do sheep have to do with toast?

There’s a girl with luscious red hair wearing a gorgeous cream-coloured crew neck Shetland sweater, riding pants, and riding boots. She shuffles about the kitchen, waiting for a whistle of the kettle as she slices some bread and pops it into the oven. Opening the refrigerator, she stares at the contents before reaching in and grabbing the butter. A faint whistle starts to fill the tiny kitchen. She removes the kettle from the stove-top, retrieves the bread from the oven and puts it on a plate. Then she grabs a cup, pours hot water into it, adds a tea back, and sits down at the table to savour a quick breakfast before a long day of sheep-herding.

2) Brain fog – how do you clear it?

There are plenty of theories on how to clear brain fog. Menial tasks, for one. Folding laundry, doing dishes, cleaning, cooking. Or one could go for a walk (of course, when the windchill factor is in the negative Fahrenheit zone, going for a walk is well, not wise), a hike (again, COLD), watch a movie, listen to music, take a nap, drink some coffee (although I wouldn’t recommend this at 10pm at night). Laugh. Laughter helps a lot. And I think someone named Hemingway drank a lot when he wrote but I don’t know if that helps with brain fog – I would think that increases it.

3) How do you accept your new self after a life-changing experience? 

Wow. We have a tough one here. Let go of the old you. Letting go is one of the most difficult things we ever do in life – letting go of ourselves, of our expectations, of living up to expectations others have of us. But until we shed these expectations, let go and start living, we are simply existing. Should we not have expectations? No. But we should not allow our past to hold us back from becoming the person we are meant to be. Life is fluid and like the trees, we need to learn to sway in even the strongest of gusts without breaking. And if we do break, it’s okay, we will sow seeds and grow into something even stronger. It’s not easy to accept your new self after a life-changing experience because we want to go back to that which is familiar but sometimes, we just can’t go back and instead must embrace that which is new.

4) Can one ever really go home again?

Yes and no. You can physically go home again but as I just stated in the previous question, you’ve changed because life is fluid. Things may be the same but you are different. This question reminds me of this past summer and finally returning to the Jersey Shore after moving away when I was a teenager. Since then, I too, like the shore, had been through so very much. But also like the shore, I too have rebuilt. We are both stronger after our storms, and will persevere no matter what is thrown at us. The final answer to this question is a firm yes and yet also a firm no.

5) How do you lose your regrets?

First, you wrap them all in a box and then you ship them to Papua New Guinea with no return address. But seriously. You live life fluidly. You let go, you learn to say yes or no with conviction. You own your actions, good or bad. Regrets are one of those things you give yourself permission to have, just like guilt or jealousy. Refuse to allow regrets into your life. That’s how you lose regrets. By living boldly and running headfirst into new experiences, reaching deep into the area outside your comfort zone.

On Helping Others


“How do you help all the women you do and not carry their pain with you?” asked my therapist as we sat in her office a little over two years ago.

“I don’t know. I just do.” I fidgeted slightly as I readjusted in the chair, popping my neck and a few vertebrae as I did so.

“But day in and day out, you are seeing people at their worst and helping them solve their problems. How do you manage to do that without internalizing it?” she rephrased, pushing me to answer.

“How do you do it?” I answered her push with a question.

“Nice try. You’re good at deflecting, aren’t you?”

I smiled and recrossed my legs, staring back at her.

“It’s an art, really. As for how I don’t carry their pain and issues with me, I just don’t. Their issues are not mine. I have fought my battles, I am fighting my battles, and I leave their battles to them. I learned, from fighting my own battles, that I cannot fight anyone else’s battles for them. They have to fight them. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hand them the right tools. That’s my job. That’s where it ends.”

“So you have never had a situation that shook you?”

“Of course. Haven’t you?”

“Yes. The difference is that….”

“You’re a trained professional and I am not?”

“Well, no. Perhaps. It is just that it takes a lot to be able to listen to issues day in and day out and not get worn down by that. Given that you are here and still helping other people, it is my job to make sure you are taking care of yourself.”

“I am. I know when to step away. I have people I can hand things off to if they get too intense and I know that I am not equipped to handle crises. I also have people I debrief with after any situation which involves a crisis – people check on me which is wonderful. I am peer support only, something I make very clear to anyone who reaches out to me.”

We wrapped things up shortly thereafter, this particular session not nearly as rough as the one where she pushed me to consider whether or not I had ever shown my true self to anyone at all including myself. But this session left me deep in thought too, which is what a therapy session is supposed to leave you doing – thinking about your issues in a constructive manner instead of just wallowing & ruminating.

Sometimes I would go hiking after my sessions. Other times, I would go for a long drive, music blasting, the windows down. I wish I could say I remembered what I did after this session but I don’t because frankly, the after sessions blurred together.

The discussion in this session though, is one that we can all learn from. While not everyone is actively helping stranger after stranger through what some consider to be the worst time of their lives (most of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood Disorder kindly call it hell), it is important to remember that when we are helping others to not allow their pain to become our own. It is possible to be compassionate without tucking someone else’s pain into a pocket in your own heart. Difficult, but possible. It is also important to know your own emotional limits. Do not ever sacrifice your own emotional well-being for someone else if you can help it. (Remember the whole your glass must be full in order to give to others rule here.)

My goal, when someone reaches out to me for help, is to empower them to deal with their issues on their own with help that is much closer (and far more professional). This should be your goal as well if you are a fellow advocate or a non-professional. Educate, empower, release. I follow up, of course, and some of the folks end up being pretty good friends, but most of the time, it is a catch and release sort of contact. It’s something I’ve grown to expect.

With each person I help, my own personal hell loses just a little more of its darkness, shoving me further into the light, allowing me to help even more people.

No woman or family should ever have to struggle through a Perinatal Mood Disorder alone. This is why I do what I do and why I will never stop.

Because every single one of us matters to someone out there.

Whatever Wednesday: Thinking Out Loud


Stream of consciousness writing is an interesting form of writing, isn’t it? You’d think it would be completely honest one given that you’re supposed to just vomit on paper for the most part, right? But honesty is in the eye and the heart of the author, not the reader. I get to decide which thoughts to share with you and where you go as you wander the maze in my head. Which means I get to keep certain parts behind heavy locked doors.

Privacy. It matters.

To whom?

To all of us, really.

Even those who say they are completely open. You know there is a door somewhere deep inside which remains locked tightly. We all lock different doors for different people, don’t we? Open doors for people we care about and don’t mind being close to – close doors for people we don’t feel a tight connection with or think have the potential to harm us.

Which is why it hurts so much more when someone who has managed to get through all of your doors turns out to be someone who hurts you. And that, getting hurt by someone you have let in, hurts worst of all.

It’s a lot like what I imagine getting punched in the kidney by Mike Tyson would feel like. All the air exits your lungs as you swirl toward the ground, clutching your side. Stars pepper the back of your eyelids as drool flings itself through the air. Another punch lands on your jaw, causing blood to spatter on the ground around you as darkness swoops in to steal the sparkling stars.

Thing is, you will heal from the inside out. You’ll get better, you’ll get back up, and you will live your life. Even if you are currently hugging the ground, unconscious, barely breathing, and vomiting.

Falling down is never about the fall. Ever. It is always about the art and grace involved in getting back up. Art and grace? What about ferocity? Tenacity? Those too. But art and grace make it look good. Falling is also about discovering who will be there to pick you up.

Get.BACK.UP.

Inhale. Put your hands on the ground, and push, dammit. Fight for every centimeter.

Get up on your knees, then get up on your feet even though your legs are shaking and your lungs are burning. YOU GOT THIS.

GET UP.

Dust yourself off, inhale, and put one foot in front of the other.

Repeat.

One foot. In front of the other. Ignore the sweat, tears, and blood streaming down your face.

GET.UP. Walk. Move.

Stare your opponent in the eye, and let them know they will not, under any circumstances, win. You got this.

If you don’t get up on the first try? Start over again. Hands on the floor, push up, on your knees. Then your feet. One foot in front of the other.

When life knocks you down, you learn to live again. If you’re lucky, you learn to love to live.

Make it count.