The Elephant in the #PPDChat Community


Inferior without your consent

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 Fall Get Uprejection 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.

Repeat that.

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?

Hell yes.

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?

Absolutely not.

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.

The Challenge of Moderating A Mental Health Peer Support Community


The world of advocating and supporting those fighting the hard fight against Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders holds within it a myriad of challenges. Moderating a community requires a lot – patience, compassion, understanding, and knowing when to properly apply tough love. The last one gets me every time -it is definitely a challenge and very heart-breaking to apply tough love to a struggling mama- but it is sometimes the only option left.

Within the #PPDChat community, some moms may end up being friends, others may just need me for a short period of time on their journey. I have to be okay with either, learning to let go as the moms who contact me move in a very fluid way in and out of my world.

My primary goal, however, is to keep everyone within the community safe above all else. To ensure that they feel respected, empowered, validated, and treated with all the dignity each of us deserves as humans and as adults, something all of us deserve. When someone within the community fails to meet this goal or feels these goals are not being met, I take action.

When there is a threat/disrespect for the community, a member requires more help than I or other members can provide, or threatens the safety of those close to them, I reach out for additional support. Dealing with threats to themselves or to the safety of the group is not a pleasant situation but it is something which is bound to crop up every so often. I must be prepared to provide solace for all involved – the community at large and the struggling member, without divulging too much information regarding either. Even though I am not legally bound by the classic “client/therapist” privilege rule, I hold myself to it unless threats are made. Even then, I only release information to the necessary parties.

Moderating #PPDChat has taught me a few lessons about dealing with people in general:

1) Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. This one is tough because sometimes, when I would like to be angry at someone, I see their pain. I see the suffering which is causing their anger. I have learned when to dive in and hold a conversation but at the same time I have also learned when to walk away and let them fight their own battles with their dark storms. Sometimes, and this is perhaps the toughest lesson of all, people need to fight the storm on their own and we have to walk away because they are simply not prepared to let others put on their battle armor with them. I have found that if I need to do this, the best way to do so is to leave the door open as I walk out, in case they are ready to have an army by their side.

2) Be kind to yourself, for the battles you face may be harder than you think they are and it’s okay to not be okay. We all do it, tell ourselves that what we’re going through isn’t as hellacious as it should be – a lie. It’s okay to fight, it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to be kind to yourself. I say this often: Self-care is not selfish, it’s selfless. There is a fine line between self-care and selfish, however – it’s importance to balance taking care of your responsibilities with taking care of yourself. In the same vein, it’s okay to say no to extras. Things which are responsibilities take priority over things which are “supplemental” to life. To figure out the difference, make a list and ask yourself if life will go on if you skip something. Meal prep is a responsibility. Gotta eat. Making a ton of cookies for the church social? Yeah, saying yes might put you in the good graces but if it’s at the sacrifice of your sanity, it might not be worth it. Instead, choose to spend that time with your family or with yourself.

3) Everyone won’t be happy with the rules…or with what other people in the group have to say about certain topics. We all come to motherhood with different expectations and beliefs about how things should go. We all walk different paths and need to find the right path for us – in the process, remember that the right path for US may not be the right path for those around us. Judging the choices of others is something I DO NOT tolerate in the #PPDChat community because we are already judging ourselves as women, as mothers, and as mothers fighting a mental health battle. The LAST thing we need to add to that full plate is our support community judging us too. When personal attacks happen, tough love knocks down the door dressed up as a Mama Bear.

4) Treating others with dignity goes a long way. We’re dealing with other adults here, not with children. I don’t even see Teen Moms as children. They are mothers now, with very real adult responsibilities. To treat them, or any new mother, as anything less than an adult with responsibilities, is to disrespect them. You’re not helping if you’re constantly holding someone’s hand and telling them what they can or cannot do. It’s not empowering to talk down to them. Mental health struggles do NOT equal incapable. I was an adult prior to my postpartum issues and I was still an adult when I was fighting the beast. I treat others with the same respect and dignity with which I would want to be treated in the midst of my own storm. I believe it lends to confirming to the woman/family seeking help that they ARE still human, they DO matter, and it provides a sense of normalcy, if you will. It’s possible to acknowledge struggles without demeaning or patronizing the person experiencing them.

5) Authenticity is important. Sharing parts of yourself as a peer moderator builds trust. It shows your community that you are indeed human and understand their pain. Particularly online, it is important to not just be a robot spouting self-care-isms, if you will. Mean what you say and say what you mean. My community is perfectly aware of my rather unhealthy obsessions with bacon, football, F1, Star Wars, and a myriad of other things. Why? It humanizes me and therefore humanizes the community as we are able to bond with each other over a myriad of topics. It allows us to talk about things beyond our “labels.”

6) Know when to be light-hearted and when to be serious. There is a fine line between these two approaches, particularly when dealing with mental health issues. Cross the light-hearted line a bit too much and you may end up in the stigma/discrimination zone. That’s never a good thing. We joke a bit more about it in closed group but I am always, always careful about how I phrase things because I absolutely do not put up with any form of discrimination within the community. I see everyone one equal footing – as people fighting like hell to just be themselves, whatever that may be now. We need laughter but we also need respect and tough love. Toeing the line requires finesse, something I work diligently at achieving.

I’m sure there are more lessons I have learned whilst moderating the #PPDChat Community but the six above are perhaps the most important ones.

It is my utmost desire that everyone who reaches out to #PPDChat for support find a community which respects them as a whole person, respects their individual choices regarding child-bearing and child-rearing, and empowers them as they fight with all their might on their journey toward being well once again.

I know people feel that way because I hear it every so often from those who have participated. In fact, just the other day @jenrenpody shared this with me:

“I turned to ppdchat because I felt safe, validated and heard. I needed that validation and support. I found so much more – community and friendships.”

#PPDChat works to do exactly what Jen states and it always will. If for some reason, you have a different experience, let me know and I will do my best to address the issue. You are absolutely not alone, you will be heard, and you are safe. Always.

What would be most important to you in a peer-based community support group and why? Has #PPDChat helped you feel empowered to fight your battle against Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders? Join in the discussion by sharing below!