Meeting Enemies Undaunted


Last night, when I took to my keyboard to write “Finding Life at the End of My Comfort Zone”, I did not need to write it to complete my 500 words for the day. It was just time to admit what had gone on in my life for the past year and how I was coping. After I hit publish, I exhaled. Finally. It was all out. For me, part of healing is being open and transparent.

Not more than a couple of minutes after hitting publish, the post received a comment from someone who has never commented here. It was held in moderation, and I will not be publishing it as a comment. I am, however, going to publish it here, addressing why it is a highly inappropriate response to my post yesterday.

The entire comment is as follows:

Hi! I think that it’s great you’re taking medications to help yourself but I am so sure that you can do so much more awesome things than taking medicine. I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward. You should try meditation it’s not religious at all too. It’s a practice to obtain peace and can really reduce stress. I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I wish you good luck of your journey! :)

You ready to analyze it? I am.

Let’s start with the greeting and the first sentence:

Hi! I think that it’s great you’re taking medications to help yourself but I am so sure that you can do so much more awesome things than taking medicine.

Notice the cheery greeting, complete with exclamation point. She’s HAPPY! She thinks it’s awesome that I’m taking medications to help myself BUT.. wait…. what’s this? She’s sure I can do so much more awesome things than taking medication? Really? Based on what sound evidence? Is she a physician? Has she discovered some amazing new way to deal with situational depression brought on by an insane amount of stress in a short period of time?

*GASPS* Wait – I know! I should have stuck with just my HappyLight, regular rest and relaxation, supplements, and prayed harder, right? Right? *smacks forehead* I totally failed that one, right?

She then goes for the “I relate to you” sentiment with this line:

I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward.

Oh really? Preach on, sister, preach on. That’s how it works, huh? After two episode of PP OCD, an episode of antepartum depression, post-divorce depression, I had NO clue that the first couple of steps were the hardest. I’ve been through the “gradually you’ll become stronger” thing and know that it’s a hard process. I also know that pushing yourself forward is necessary for progress. Of course, these are all things I thought I addressed in my post which, clearly she read because she commented, right?

Perhaps there’s a solution of which she’s aware that I haven’t thought of yet?

There is!

You should try meditation it’s not religious at all too. It’s a practice to obtain peace and can really reduce stress.

Aaaaaaand here’s where it gets fun, people.

Never mind the call I made to a medical professional after fighting on my own for months against the beast inside me, a beast egged on by the stress of living with very negative neighbors who attacked us verbally or intimidated almost every time we stepped outside and wild children who screamed and yelled outside our condo until the wee hours of the morning, interfering with any chance of sleep at night in addition to an insane amount of anxiety through the day.

Never mind the discussion I had with her during which I stuttered, nervously spilling all the details of the hell in which I found myself, fighting back the urge to completely lose it as I did so.

Never mind the years of school and practice my Nurse Practitioner has under her belt which allowed her to have a very compassionate discussion with me about my current state of mind and what my options were to fix it while calming me down at the same time.

We discussed the possibility of therapy but we cannot afford a weekly therapy session right now because we are not insured. But meds which have worked before were an option. So after two weeks of working my way up to making the call, I walked into a pharmacy and picked up a bottle of pills, feeling as if I were less than a toddler’s forgotten cheerio stuck in a couch cushion.

Apparently, what I should have done instead was head over to YouTube and find a meditation video. Boom. All better, right?

An article in Forbes earlier this month touts the benefits of meditation as rivaling that of anti-depressants. The study in the article specifically focuses on “mindfulness meditation” as the preferred form. If it works for you, fabulous. Kudos. I am a huge fan of doing whatever works for you.

Here’s the thing about depression and mental health issues, however: there are a myriad of treatments available because we are not all built alike nor do we all arrive at our diagnosis via the same path. We also do not find our road to wellness along the same path.

Don’t even get me started on the entire religious aspect of this comment. Let’s leave that out of it because we wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we? (Which is clearly why she specified that meditation is not religious, right?)

Since my brush with Postpartum Mood Disorders, my life is increasingly mindful. In fact, over the past year, I am healthier mentally than at any time in my life. How can I make that claim despite being on anti-depressants now? Mental health does not always mean happy. To me, what it means is a deep understanding of why things happen and accepting what you need to do in order to move beyond them. It means the capability to examine events in your life and hold a healthy response even if it does not lead to joy. The path back to joy, motivation, and yourself is a personal road and no one beside your physician has the right to tell you how to get there. It is YOUR road map, not anyone else’s.

Of course, blogging about my mental health opens me up to criticism and suggestions like this. Some might say that I “deserve” to have comments like this. No one deserves to be told what to do, not even if they’re asking for advice and particularly not if they are opening up about their choices they have already made.

Telling someone that they SHOULD do something other than what they have chosen to do with the help of a medical professional is beyond reprehensible. Making the decision to reach out for help  – to admit you are not okay to a medical professional is an absolutely nerve-wracking experience.

I cannot help that someone who would dare to judge someone else’s road has never traveled down a similar road. Because if they had traveled down this road, they would know how detrimental it can be to be judged for their decisions as they fight to get well.

She wraps up her comment with a much better outlook:

I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I wish you good luck of your journey! :)

Yay. Cheerleading! RAH RAH SISK OOM BAH!

Had she skipped the whole rigamarole about “more awesome than medication” and “try meditation instead” this would have been a perfectly awesome comment. THIS is a perfectly acceptable response to someone admitting they’ve settled on a method of treatment for a mental health issue. It empowers, supports, and encourages without judging the decisions of the person.

So, after all of this – how do you perfectly respond to someone who is struggling and has settled on a method of treatment? It’s hidden in this very comment.

Like this:

“Hi! I believe you can do it, you just have to tell yourself that you’re strong enough! I am one of those who don’t step outside my comfort zone as well and you know stepping outside the first couple of steps are the hardest but gradually you’ll become stronger to keep pushing yourself forward. I wish you good luck of your journey! :)”

Now this is how you support someone!

You support by offering encouragement, compassion, and empowering the person who is fighting like hell to be themselves again.

If someone proffers judgment on your treatment choices, do not let it deter you from your healing. You are in the driver’s seat and decide what exit is yours on this interstate of life, not anyone else, and definitely not a stranger who knows absolutely nothing about why you’re in the car to begin with.

A friend of mine said it best on FB, typos and all:

“Hugs. Love. I Get Its. And no judgement here. Take your meds. Meditate if it helps ON your meds. But fuck everyone else and their well-meaning yet severely judgmental opinions. Just do what’s fight for you.”

That’s what I’m doing – fighting for me, always.

The Writer’s Life – A Few Thoughts


Being a writer is hard work, yo.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work, sell our souls to pay the bills, and hope like hell that all our tampering with words means something to someone somewhere. We subject ourselves to criticism every time we hit publish or send to submit something.

Brace Yourselves Criticism is Coming

That criticism is no longer in the form of blood all over papers submitted in high school or college. No, it’s widespread and typed all over the Internet, sometimes in Comic Sans (shudders). Some people limit it to just the piece which set them off. Others hunt you down on Social Media and tear you a new one for promoting a view with which they disagree. Some try to be helpful and email you or message you about errors in your piece (I actually appreciate that provided it’s not accompanied by “and while you’re fixing your mistake, if you’d add my link” because just no.)

As writers, we are mostly responsible for our own promotions. We cannot simply fling things out into the universe and expect people to promote them for us. Sometimes things may click and spread. But most of the time, it will just sit there, dormant, waiting to be discovered. It’s all about what you DO with your writing that makes it relevant.

I am absolutely guilty of flinging things out into the universe and waiting for something to happen. Then I learned that I have to get behind it and push it – like a car that won’t start. You have to MAKE it start and sometimes that means pushing…hard. If there is one thing I wish I was better at, it’s self-promotion. Improving my self-promotion skills is one of my goals for 2014.

My friend, Pauline, wrote a fabulous piece over at her blog, Aspiring Mama, entitled “Two Rules for Literary Fame.” You should go read it. Literary fame, contrary to popular belief, does not just happen overnight. Even the biggies got rejection notices. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of Best-Sellers which were initially rejected.

Guess who’s on that list? Dr. Seuss, Judy Blume, J.D. Salinger, C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, L.M. Montgomery, Margaret Mitchell, L. Frank Baum, Ayn Rand, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Herman Melville….and many more. You get my point, right?

In this day and age, self-publication is easier than ever. Write, upload, market, MONEY & FAME. Boom, right? Not really.

You still have to deal with promotion to get to money. In order to get to money, you need to play nice because if you don’t, bad things can happen and the money will never happen. Money doesn’t just waltz right in the door. You have to WORK for it. There is a right way to promote and then there is a terribly wrong way to promote.

First, you are probably cold-emailing people you do not know based on a list, a Google Search, or goodness knows what else if you haven’t taken the time to build up an audience first. All you know about them is based on what they have shared on their blog or their public Social Media Accounts. You try to be friendly and social. Zone in on something which interests them, state an offer, keep your email short. Then, the fun part – waiting for a response. Most of the people you email won’t respond. But the ones that do are the ones you need to connect with because they see some value in what you have to offer.

This is where things can go horribly wrong. They can also go horribly wrong when you write your initial email if you don’t keep it short.

Here are my rules for initial marketing contact based on a recent experience:

1) Keep contact short and simple. The KISS Method. It’s fabulous. Greeting, connection, the goal of your email, what form your book is in and when it releases, a FEW quotes from your book, offer, closing. BAM. Do NOT assume the person you are emailing has all the time in the world to read your email, even if you know them well. SHORT AND SIMPLE. Think Flash Fiction vs. Epic Novel. Always, always go with flash fiction. An elevator pitch format works wonderfully here.

2) If you get a response which asks questions and/or criticizes your initial email because you’ve failed to follow rule #1, suck it up, answer the questions, and work through it to get your book out there. Respond negatively and you will lose that connection.

3) Not responding at all to someone who is an obviously an ass or ignorant is perfectly acceptable. Not responding (or responding negatively) to someone who has asked legitimate questions and offered constructive criticism is a huge no-no and ends up a lot like, well, this blog post being written about you.

Now, am I advocating that you have to put up with assholes on your way to literary fame? Absolutely not. If someone responds and they are clearly a dick, then don’t bother responding at all because well, integrity and all that. But if you get a response and they clearly are offering constructive criticism as well as showing an interest in your book, you best be responding to them in a positive manner. If you cannot handle constructive criticism via email, then you, sir, are no writer.

Not just anyone can be a writer, you know.

Getting your work in front of people takes more work than actually writing the words. You have to have the balls to spill your soul, the chutzpah promote yourself, the guts to take rejection, and the stamina to stand back up after being punched in the gut over to do it all over again the next day.

Think you can handle that?

If so, then welcome to the writer’s world. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

Coffee? Thesaurus? Nap? Chocolate? YouTube Videos of cats? Wine?

No, you’re good? Alrighty, then.

Go forth. Write. You know, after you’re done staring at the blank screen as if you’ve just seen Perry the Platypus dance like Christopher Walken across your screen. Deadline is in an hour.

GO.

Mother’s criticism causes distinct neural activity in formerly depressed women


Not too many research articles make me say “Whoa!”

This one is a very interesting exception and it’s not even directly linked to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Via fMRI, researchers examined the brain patterns of formerly depressed v. non-depressed women as they listened to their mothers speak. These recorded statements varied from praise to criticism.

After listening to the statements, both groups had similar verbal reactions.

But their brain patterns revealed a much different story.

As the formerly depressed women listened to the criticisms, something interesting happened.

Individuals who had never been depressed showed increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, which are brain areas involved in the cognitive control of emotion. The formerly depressed individuals did not show activity in these areas, but instead showed increased activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is responsive to potentially threatening stimuli. Previous research has shown similar activity in these neural systems among individuals who are currently depressed.

Researchers aren’t sure if this reaction is a “scar” from depression or if the brain reacted this way prior to depression.

So if Mom’s criticism is a little harder to take in the midst of a Postpartum Mood Disorder, it’s really not your fault. (And no, she’s really not out to get you)

Toddler Postpartum Song


I’ve recruited my four year old daughter to help me with my presentation on Saturday and so I’ve involved her in the creative process of her portion of the “show” as she calls it. Alli is SO excited that she gets to help me help women (I’m so proud of that!) and she wants to sing a song. First off, I have a hard enough time singing in front of my girls that I can’t believe I agreed to this. So I asked her what she wanted the song’s tune to be – Twinkle Little Star or Old McDonald. As soon as I said Old McDonald my immediate thought was PLEASE don’t pick that one. Well Guess what. She did. SO I had to sit down and hammer out a decent song to the tune of Old McDonald had a Farm all about Postpartum Depression in terms that a toddler would understand. The current result is below and we’ll be practicing all week. I’ll probably have Chris do a video on Saturday and post it then so you can giggle at my inept attempts at singing to which you’ll probably tell me I did a pretty good job and I should be more confident because I’m not that bad just to be nice. I can take the Simon Cowell Comments, really, I can. I’m not the next American Idol and I KNOW IT.

The Toddler Postpartum Song by Lauren Hale

(sung to the tune of Old McDonald)

Mommy’s got a baby in her belly
And the baby’s gotta come out
Goo Ga Goo Ga Goo!
With a push push here and a doctor there
here a push there a push everywhere a push push
My little brother’s here now
Goo Ga Goo Ga Goo

Mommy gets to come home now
Yay yay yay yiphoo!
So does little brother
Yay yay yay yiphoo!
With a vroom vroom here and a vroom vroom there
here a vroom there a vroom everywhere a vroom vroom
We’re all home now!
Vroom Vroom Vroom Vroom Vroom!

Mommy’s getting sad and lonely
sniffle sniffle go away!
Gotta try and cheer her up
giggle giggle laugh!
With a tickle tickle here and a hug hug there
here a tickle there a tickle everywhere a tickle tickle
Mommy’s finally smiling some
Giggle Giggle Laugh

Mommy went to the doctor
Talky Talky Wow
Feeling better getting help
Talky Talky Wow
With a talk talk here and some help over there
here some talk there some talk everywhere talk talk
Mommy’s cheering up now
Talky Talky Wow!

It takes time to get better
Wait Wait Wait
It’s different for everyone
Wait wait Wait
With some waiting here and some patience there
Here some patience there some patience everywhere some wait wait
Know you aren’t alone or to blame!
And you will get well!