Through a Shattered Looking Glass


I grew up on the Jersey Shore. Memories of my childhood are ensconced there, on the beach of Ocean Grove, in the quiet lull of the Manasquan inlet, speeding down Rankin Road in Brielle on my bicycle and hoping to stop before smashing into a giant oak.

Girl Scouts, the local park, soccer, softball, piano lessons, Perkins instead of Halloween, church, camping trips, the Pine Barrens, Englishtown. Bagels, pizza, the roar of the ocean every day during the summer after Cream Cheese & Grape Jelly Sandwiches whilst watching The Prices Is Right at my grandmother’s house. The smell of coffee mixed with Entenmann’s topped off with the wafting odor of printer’s ink. So many memories crammed into such a short amount of time.

As with all memories, there are good and bad.

Bullying, incessant teasing from classmates because I didn’t live in a mansion. My parents drove sensible vehicles, okay, sensible vehicles which may or may not have had rusted floor boards. (I really miss the green & white Dodge Ramcharger with the rusted “viewfinders” along the back seat floor board!)

Death. I lost count of how many relatives crossed to the other side during my childhood. I lost both grandmothers by the time I was a freshman in High School. My first grandmother passed away on a Thanksgiving. Before she passed, she told me to “Be the best you can be. Always.” Perhaps she didn’t use those exact words, I was 11 and had more important things on my mind, but that’s always stuck with me.

We moved away from New Jersey when I was 12, almost 13. Truth be told, I was happy to be moving away. A new start. No teasing or bullying. Finally. I could be me.

But then I kind of missed it. You see, our house in Jersey was on a dead end street. I got along with the other kids on our street. We played outside, a lot. I was also the only girl. I played Cops & Robbers, tackle football, baseball, Olympics, random games of street-hockey, etc. Life was good on the street, just not at school.

The house in Virginia was in the middle of nowhere. Our nearest neighbors were 6 feet underground – yes, a cemetery. Quite a change from suburbia for a kid who was used to going out and playing with the neighborhood kids.

I romanticized my time in New Jersey as I grew older. Particularly in college after losing my grandfathers. Any time spent with my paternal grandparents was in Jersey for the most part. I clung to those memories. Their houses, the way they smelled, my grandmother’s elegant clothes she let me wear to play dress up, my grandmother’s amazing cooking, and my grandfather’s massive pines lining his pristine black asphalt driveway up to his green and white Cape-Cod style house.

In my head, my memories are trapped in a snow-globe, just beyond a looking glass. Perfect, happy, and never-ending –like old movies stuck on repeat in a theatre.

And then…..

Sandy.

(I’m crying now.)

Sandy.

Not only am I aware of the massive destruction she left in her path, I survived the massive storm myself as it passed over Pennsylvania, where I now call home.

I meant to go home to Ocean Grove, to Brielle, to Point Pleasant – to eat at Vic’s in Bradley Beach again – to visit friends and family still residing there– before Sandy.

I’m still going but it won’t be the same.

The looking glass is shattered and so am I.

I keep telling myself Sandy didn’t destroy the memories I hold so near and dear in my head and heart – nothing can do that unless I allow it to do so.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m lucky. Our townhouse is still standing, our power was only out for nearly 4 days, and we didn’t have to wait for FEMA or the government to help us. No gas rationing here. I’m grateful.

Grateful but shaken.

Shaken because all the mourning, all the grieving, everything, has come undone within just a few short weeks and I don’t know how to fix it just yet. I’m shocked and bewildered to have been affected this way. It’s as if Sandy pulled a string on the bag holding all these memories and now I have to catch them but they’re growing as fast as a group of Tribbles. Every time I think I have things under control again, something else pops up. What’s worse is that I’m not sure how to put this into words – not yet. I realize I am but when it actually happens, I struggle to convey how I am feeling because I don’t know.

I don’t feel as if I have a right to feel the way I do when so many who still live on the Shore and in NYC are facing so much more loss than I am as a result of Sandy’s vicious attack. I know trauma is in the eye of the beholder. I know. I’m striving to give myself permission for my emotional reaction –once I achieve that part, the rest will be all downhill, just like cruising down Rankin with the wind in my face when I was a young girl.

As the Jersey Shore rebuilds –and I know they will because we Jersey folks are a strong breed — I will be rebuilding my memories and working to remind myself no one can ever take them away from me. I will give myself permission to mourn the change and the loss of this tremendous storm. I will continue to move forward and persevere.

I am Jersey Strong.

All alone in a digital world


The following post is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or wonder if they should have leaned on me for support over the past few months. Everything I’ve done to support others has been of my own volition and if I needed to step back, please know I did so. It’s because of what i do that I’m writing to you today.

It’s been a helluva summer over here in my world.

I’ve not talked publicly about the details and will not do so now but I am now divorced. So when I say it’s been a helluva summer, I mean it. Over the course of this past summer, I’ve had a lot of emotional upheaval come my way. There have been things in addition to my divorce, which, I also will not divulge the details of, but these things have shaken me to my very core. I’ve gone to bed in tears. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve wailed. I’ve wondered why I have to wake up. If I wanted to wake up. And yet… here I am.

In Nashville, I arose at 530a CT, made my bed, got dressed, drove to a nearby park and hiked 1.5-3 mi, showered, ate breakfast, made coffee, then onto the job hunt. I didn’t find a job. So at the beginning of July, I moved back home with my parents. Which, hello, humbling.

I lost my drive. My routine. I’ve been job hunting but I’ve also felt frozen. Frustrated. Scared. Rejected. Dejected. Alone.

Me? Alone?

But you’re a well-known blogger. The founder of #ppdchat. Giving. Compassionate. Funny. Awesome. One of the best friends I could ever imagine. Always there when people need you.

Surely you have people.

I have people. But I type to them on the computer. On my phone. They’re electricity, phantoms at best. In person?

I have my parents. People with whom I have been close with from a distance for the better part of the past 11 years. And let’s face it – you really don’t want to sit down and share everything with your parents.

Here, in person? I have no friends. I’ve lost touch with them all and really, at this point, don’t want to reconnect. I haven’t had an in-person best friend (other than my former husband) in nearly 11 years.

Then.

Trey Pennington.

Well known. Over 100k followers on Twitter. Committed suicide.

Alone.

Trey’s death scared the shit out of me.

Why?

Because there have been thoughts. A lot of thoughts.

Oh look. That tree is sturdy. I bet it’d destroy me and my car if I hit it going 70mph. Or… A steep hill… a ravine…. And trees. Surely I wouldn’t survive that.

But the one that scared me into really reaching out to someone?

Standing in front of my bedroom’s second story window wondering if I had what it took to fling myself out of it – at what angle would I have to do this in order to hit the cement wall? How long after I hit the ground would I survive for? Would I feel anything? Surely that pain had to be better than living in constant anxiety and frustration.

As I reached out to push the screen, I recoiled and rushed downstairs. Too close. Too.FUCKING.CLOSE.

A friend had reached out and told me if I ever felt Not OK, to text. So I did. We talked. He searched for some local agencies and found one for me. Today was my second therapy appointment. It rocked me. Hard. I drove for nearly an hour just to be okay enough to come home.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost a month now. I’ve been lying to myself. To you. To people who love me. I’m not okay. On my good days, I’m okay. But most days? Most days I’m a shell wrapped around shattered porcelain supports threatening to break any second. I rock, I pace, I can’t get my leg or my hands to stay still. I’ve been telling myself I’m okay, that I can do this, that I’m strong, that I have to make it through this because there’s no other choice but through. I can’t get out of this. It is my life. But – I’m alone in my life right now and I’m not so okay with that even though really, I have to be. There I go again.

Why now? Why today?

Because over the past week or so, I’ve had a couple of friends who have been in the same place come to me for support. I’ve watched myself type things to them I should be heeding but haven’t been. Words I need to live by but haven’t been.

It’s so very easy in this day and age to isolate ourselves. To live in an ivory tower connected to the world only with Wi-Fi. There are walls we put up, a lack of contact, a lack of true connection even if we try to impress upon others how much we care, they are, ultimately, still alone in their private hell. Our words are not three dimensional. They’re not hugs. They’re not “real” no matter how real they may seem or feel to those sending them. You can’t hug an email, a tweet, or a comment on a status update. Well, you can.  But it’s awkward. And you’re still alone in the dark. It hurts, y’all. Like hell.

Trey’s death especially hit home because again, here was someone who was not only connected online but in person and yet he felt so profoundly alone and lost that the only way out he could locate was death.What’s really scary is that from initial suicidal thought to completion, time lapse is typically only 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES, people! Which, in the Social Media Realm seems like forever but in the real world? It’s only 10 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to do anything. No amount of Klout in the world is powerful enough to prevent someone from going through with suicide if they’re truly determined.

I don’t want that to be my way out. I don’t want to be a statistic. I can’t let myself be a statistic. I’m fighting as hard as I can but it’s exhausting. Some days, I may be quiet. I may not be able to handle supporting you. I need you to be okay with that. I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with not being okay right now and admitting that I’m tired. It’s a work in progress and I suspect will be such for quite some time to come.

I’m not posting this for pity. I’m not posting this for attention. I’m posting this because the more honest we all are about how we feel and the more truthful we are with facing the hard, the easier it is for us to make strides in healing the hard. The easier it becomes for the NEXT person to talk about the hard, especially when that hard is suicide or a mental health issue.

I’m refusing, once again, to remain silent. I hope my refusal to stay silent about this will help someone somewhere.

Know I’m on my way to my new okay. I don’t have a plan right now and I am seeking help. In the meantime though, and especially right after I post this, I’m going to need some time to myself because wow has this been hard to write. I imagine deciding to hit Publish will be even harder. Because once I hit that button there’s no more hiding this from anyone.  And also? I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be the support. Once I hit publish, that flips. Being on the opposite side of the equation is a bit scary… it’s territory I’ve not been in for quite some time. At least not publicly. Or ever, really, because I didn’t go through my PPD in real-time through my blog or on Twitter. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and click. Like Pin the Tail on the Donkey except this is Bare your heart and soul to the entire fucking Internet and never take it back. It’s a pebble which, once dropped, will create uncontainable ripples.

Also? Make those connections. Online and off. Lean on them. BE HONEST when you’re not okay. Lying about your well-being only hurts yourself. I am SO sorry for not being honest but it’s hard to be honest with others when you’re not even capable of being honest with yourself. Now that I’m somewhat heading toward self-honesty, I will do my best to be honest with you too. I pray you’ll forgive my dishonesty and understand my struggles. I know most of you will. But I do worry some of you will worry unnecessarily about me as well or even wonder if you’ve done anything to add to my issues. Rest assured you have not, I promise.

I love all of you to pieces and hope you’ll continue to support me as I go through this new and not so stable time in my life. I know you’re going to want to help but a lot of this involves things I need to work through on my own. Just knowing you’re out there to support me as I’m moving forward will be more than enough.

I’m working to find my happy again. I promise.

Ugly Babies and Postnatal Depression? REALLY?


Ok, so there are no words for this one. Maybe there are. But they are not nice ones. I, well, let’s just say some things have slipped out of my mouth in reaction to this doozy that I am not proud of at all. Justified, yes. Nice? Heck no.

Study: “Ugly” Babies and Postnatal Depression

Contact Information for Dr. Reiner Sprengelmeyer

My email to Dr. Reiner Sprengelmeyer just moments ago:

Dear Dr Reiner Sprengelmeyer:

My name is Lauren Hale and I am a two time survivor of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder along with a Major Depressive Episode who now dedicates her time providing peer support and education to families who find themselves struggling with a Perinatal Mood Disorder or Paternal Postnatal Depression. I also blog – something I started doing after discovering an unplanned third pregnancy.

I read an article today regarding the recent research you did in which the cuteness sensitivity of young women, men, and menopausal women towards babies was studied. At the end of the article, it stated the researchers planned to study further to uncover if there was a link between the cuteness and Postnatal Depression. I have to admit that I find this vein of research very difficult to understand and I am hoping you would be willing to shed some light on how any conclusion of this research would end in a positive for women struggling with Postnatal Depression. I can tell you that both of my children with whom I suffered PPD are absolutely beautiful and we have constantly been stopped by strangers (and continue to be even now when they are older) to be told how beautiful our children are. How do you dare to even imply to a mother who is already grappling with tremendous guilt about her depressed state that it *may* have something to do with her “ugly” baby? If there is any sympathetic bone in your body, please do not continue with this research. The conclusions can only lead to negativity and harm. If you feel differently, I sincerely would like to hear your side of the story as to why this research is necessary.

Warmest,

Lauren Hale

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Hrmph.

Prenatal Depression restricts fetal growth


In a new study published today at ScienceDirect, researchers concluded that Prenatal Depression restricts fetal growth. They also state that up to 18% of all pregnant women experience depression but when focusing specifically on lower socio-economic status and minority moms, the risk more than doubles to 40%. Babies born to depressed moms are more likely to have a smaller head circumference, low birthweight, arrive prematurely, and experience a certain level of growth retardation within their first year of life.

Many mothers, doctors, and family members will buy into the myth that all pregnant mothers are happy. Obviously the numbers beg to differ as do the mothers who experience depression during pregnancy. Moreso than mothers with Postnatal Mood Disorders, pregnant mothers struggling with depression or other mental illness face quite the quandary in seeking treatment. Many find themselves dismissed by their doctors or faced with taking anti-depressants which will affect their fetus as all medications do cross the placenta.

As with any decision, we must always remember to make an educated decision with the support of your physician and other professional advice. There are also risks v. benefits to consider. Yes, there are risks associated with taking medicine during pregnancy but most studies out there do not put this risk at a much higher rate than mothers who do not take anti-depressants.

There are resources for mothers and professionals alike to refer to when faced with this situation:

Mother Risk: A project of the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, they are staffed and well informed regarding medications, herbs, etc, in pregnancy and the postpartum breastfeeding period.

University of Illinois @ Chicago Women’s Mental Health Program is designed to meet the unique needs of women with psychiatric disorders and life problems including during pregnancy and postpartum.

The Emory Women’s Mental Health Program, established in 1991, primarily focuses on the evaluation and treatment of emotional disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The clinical program is complemented by both clinical and laboratory research into the causes of these conditions and their treatment.

I also want to take this opportunity to promote an upcoming teleclass over at Pampered Pregger and Beyond with Tiffani Lawton and Shoshana Bennett. The class starts tomorrow at 11am EST and will be taking an in depth look at her new book, Pregnant on Prozac. I would highly recommend participating if this topic is near and dear to your heart. Registration at the site is not required but the call is a long distance one. Callers will be muted during discussion and unmuted for Q&A so if you have little ones running around, don’t worry – they won’t be interrupting the flow. For more information, click here.

The Misnomer of Postpartum Depression


Not terribly long ago, Katherine Stone wrote a beautiful diatribe directed at the media regarding the misuse of the term Postpartum Depression.

Just like Katherine, I too have Google Alerts set to scour the web for anything Postpartum or Perinatal related and blessedly I get about 10-15 emails every day. (I LOVE Google!) I must admit that I found myself highly irritated when people misuse the term Postpartum Depression. One particular post used the term Postpartum Depression to describe how the author felt after seeing his car driven into a car wash. Really? REALLY? Then there’s the CNN story Katherine mentions in her post, What do you do about post-election blues? What DO you do when a reputable agency such as CNN misuses the term? Are you glad the term is on their radar at least? Or do you get frustrated about the application and trivial way in which our experience with hell has now been marginalized? Or do you settle on somewhere in between? I had done the latter until yesterday.

What happened to change my mind?

I received an email as a result of my Community Leader position for the Postpartum Depression board over at iVillage. Hidden away in my Spam folder, it went unnoticed for a couple days but finally got read last night.

The email started out innocently enough and asked for casual conversation off-board, something I do quite often for the ladies there because I am all too familar with the stigma and the possibility that there may be some things they don’t want to lay out in public. The sender went on to describe a pretty difficult situation and as I read I kept waiting for the baby to pop into the equation. When I got to the end of the email, there was no baby and now I was expected to share some advice. I re-read the email a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and became confused as to why I had been chosen as a recipient.

I emailed her back with instruction to speak with her mental health caregivers and some general advice. I apologized that I didn’t quite understand why she had emailed me in the first place.

This morning I had a response.

The response made me drop my jaw in awe.

The sender legitimately thought Postpartum Depression was the term for what one feels after experiencing any big event. To steal a line from Hannah Montana, “Mama Say What?”

How could I be upset with her about this? I emailed her back with a brief description of Post-Traumatic vs. Postpartum Depression and promptly came here to blog about the experience.

Let me make this CLEAR.

  • Something traumatic happens to you that DOES NOT INVOLVE BIRTH and you have issues afterwards. This is Post-Traumatic.
  • YOU GIVE BIRTH and feel sad, anxious, panicked, etc, at any time during the first year after giving birth and that is POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.
  • Your car is driven into a car wash and you feel a tug at your heart. This is just SAD or wistful. It is NOT depressed – not plain depressed, not depressed with a dose of postpartum on top, not depressed with other co-existing conditions. It is just SAD.
  • The campaign is over and you don’t know what to do because you have to unplug from CNN. Time to find a new hobby, not time to claim you have Postpartum Depression.

Media, general public, bloggers, medical professionals, nurses, and whomever else I have missed, please take note of this. Don’t marginalize the hell those of us who have suffered from Postpartum Depression have been through and have miraculously managed to claw our way into the light. My hands are still dirty from that journey and I don’t think they’ll ever get really clean. And no, I’m not ashamed of my “dirt.” I just don’t want anyone else playing with it.

(Addendum here – I’ve started a feature called PPD Misnomer Sightings. The link is over to your right under the Pages section. If you come across any misuse of the term, please email it to me to have it posted there. I’ve already had one sighting today. Infuriating, isn’t it?)