#PPDChat Topic 03.24.14: Say This, Not That


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Language. It’s how we communicate with one another. It’s what I’m using right now to convey a message. We have so many -isms and quotes about how to use language in polite company, don’t we?

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“Think before you speak.”

“Keep the communication lines open.”

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

But those contradict each other, don’t they?

Yes, and no.

If you think before you speak, you won’t say anything horrible, therefore you won’t hurt anyone, but then the communication lines may be closed unless you only allow the positive out, right? And heaven forbid you grab a sword instead of a pen. A pen – writing – allows us to THINK before we “speak” – to work out what it is we want to say and to edit our thoughts carefully before sharing them with others.

My father drove home the point of thinking before I speak. My mother, on the other hand, emphasized keeping the communication lines open.

Do you have ANY idea how difficult that is to bring to a happy middle? DO YOU?

Sometimes I can’t help but laugh at my inability to speak up or comment on something because I know exactly what I want to say but can hear my father’s voice in my head telling me to “think before I speak” immediately followed by my mother’s voice telling me to “keep the communication lines open.” So sometimes I speak, other times, I remain silent. When I do speak, I do try to be succinct, compassionate, and non-accusatory. Does it always work out? Hell no, I’m human for crying out loud and to err is to be human or something along those lines.

But here’s the thing.

Language does matter. Tone matters. Perception matters.

That’s what we’ll be addressing tonight. Language. Tone. Perception. Not just our own, but that of those around us. Every single one of us has our own baggage. What someone says about you or how they choose to react TO you is not necessarily about you, or even about them. It might be something they’ve been dragging with them for years and it merely slips out at the wrong time. Or at the right time.

Language makes or breaks stigma. So do actions. This morning, I read this wonderful post over at Brain Pickings: The Unaddressed Business of Filling Our Souls: Mood Science and the Evolutionary Origins of Depression. It is a brilliant post in that she examines a book entitled “The Depths” by Jonathan Rottenberg (which is now on my MUST READ list). One of the points she mentions that Rottenberg makes is that emotion/mood are terribly languagecentric.

Think about it – we assign positives and negative stigmas to words which describe moods. Are we supposed to find “joy” when someone is depressed? No, of course not, but what if instead of reacting with pity, we instead dove in and asked if we could do anything to help? Or we saw it as Rottenberg sees non-severe depression (ie, paralyzing depression), just as part of the ebb and flow of the cycle of life?

How we describe ourselves and how we allow others to describe us affects our self-view and therefore affects our moods. It matters how much weight we ascribe to the words swirling around us in the dark.

Tonight’s chat will examine words commonly used to describe depression and those who are depressed or living with mental health battles raging inside them. It is up to us, the survivors and the warriors, to change the language we use to describe ourselves and our battles. Until we do so, the language used by others will not change.

I hope you’ll join in on Twitter tonight at 830pm ET to discuss this with me as we create a list of things for those who loves us to say…and not to say as we fight for ourselves.

 

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#PPDChat Topic 12.09.13: Redefining Happy – The Road Back After PPD


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A funny thing happens when you Google “define happy.” You get a return of millions of results. There’s a prominent definition at the top of the results which is standard if you Google “define (variable word).”

It looks like this: Define Happy Google SearchThing is, those are all words.

They don’t capture the journey one must MAKE to arrive at “carefree, radiant, joyous, beatific, contented, etc…” do they?

No.

Words make a difference every single time. We use words to convey our feelings, our emotions, our journeys but we so often forget to dig deeper than the words leaping off the page (or screen) at us. We forget that behind the word “joy” there is a sour grape, lurking down the rabbit hole of the “o” in the middle of the word. Or we ignore the uncompleted circle in the “c” of carefree.

We use words to define ourselves to others in bios, in résumés, and on various other forms. Choose your words carefully for they reflect the journey of your life…of you.

Our words falter when we trip down the rabbit hole that is a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder or other Mental Health disorders. So we dust off our thesaurus and desperately search for happy. But it’s not where we will find our happy. We will find our happy in the battles we fight as we journey back to ourselves.

Join me tonight at 830pm ET tonight on Twitter as we discuss the challenge in finding ourselves again…the challenge of redefining our happy…it’s a helluva battle but it’s one worth fighting every time. See you there!

#PPDChat Topic – Creating a Menu for Mental Well-Being & Motherhood


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We all know that once Motherhood crashes into our lives our nutrition takes a dive for awhile. Sure, some of us may manage to get great food after we’ve given birth and/or while we are running around after the little ones but some of us are grabbing whatever we can to keep ourselves alive as we rush around in the vortex of our children.

For those of us who struggle with mental health issues, including PMAD’s, nutrition is extremely important. What we fuel our bodies with does affect our brains. We need to be mindful of how we feed our minds – and not just with thoughts or events, but with nutrients.

Join me tonight for a very casual (read: not technical/medical at all) discussion about what we can do to improve our moods through the foods we choose to fuel our minds. Looking forward to chatting with you about what’s worked for you, what hasn’t worked, and what foods are better choices as well as how to easily incorporate these foods into a hectic lifestyle.

See you at 830pm ET, y’all!

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!

#PPDChat Topic: Nitty Gritty – Ins and Outs of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders


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Join us today on Twitter as we get nitty and gritty with the signs & symptoms of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Have questions about just what goes on inside a PMAD? Catch up with us at 1pm ET and 830pm ET on Twitter using the hashtag #PPDChat. See you then!

An Important #PPDChat about Suicide on Monday, September 9, 2013


PPDChat AFSPWA and MotherhoodUnadorned Guest Announcement

That’s right, we’ll be talking about Suicide and Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders on Monday, given that Tuesday is World Suicide Prevention Day.

There will not be a 1pm chat as I’ll be joining @AFSPNational at their chat. Please feel free to join me there as well.

AFSP, USA Today and the Mayo Clinic will be conducting a TweetChat on Monday, September 9th at 1pm ET.  Please… http://t.co/sVeQCdjaba

— Suicide Prevention (@afspnational) September 4, 2013

 

Suicide is something we haven’t touched on enough as a community, particularly one which deals directly with mental health issues.

So please, join @AFSP_WA, @MotherhoodUnadorned, and me as we discuss some important issues, myths, and facts surrounding suicide and Perinatal Mood Disorders. You can also mosey on over to Motherhood Unadorned’s wonderful post about what she’s got going on during World Suicide Prevention Week. She’s a tireless advocate for bringing awareness to the topic of suicide and has a lot going on at her place. Check it out!

This one is FAR too important to miss.

PS. One VERY important note – this chat will happen at 8pm ET instead of 830pm. Adjust your schedules accordingly!!!!

Announcing Monday’s #PPDChat Guest: @lifewithababy


PPDChat Life With a Baby Guest Announcement

On Monday, we’ll be talking about a very important aspect of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders with Claire of @lifewithababy.  Claire is the Executive Director of Healthy Start, Healthy Future and Founder of the Life With A Baby program. Life With A Baby is a three-tiered peer support system for parents.  It offers local, community-based social events to build relationships, online support, and multi-lingual parenting programs.  Claire founded Life With A Baby after her own struggles with social isolation and depression.  Life With A Baby serves over 5000 members across the province of Ontario.  Claire is involved in innovative initiatives and partnerships focused on peer support, parenting, newcomer supports, parent engagement, and financial literacy.  She is passionate about supporting parents, developing collaborations, reducing social isolation, and building healthy and strong parent-child relationships. Claire was nominated for the 2013 Citizen of Character award in York Region.

Our discussion will focus around the concept that if you struggle with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, you don’t love your baby.   We know that’s not true. Many of us love our children more than we are capable of expressing.  Sure, we may be exasperated with them, with the issues we face as a result of our PMAD, but simply having a PMAD is not indicative of not loving your child. It can take time to bond, time to get to what other mothers seem to have so easily, but it doesn’t make us less of a woman or less of a mother. It also doesn’t mean that we aren’t in love with our child simply because we aren’t expressing it how we are “supposed” to according to society.

 

Join Claire and myself as we talk about this very important aspect of PMAD’s and attempt to remove some of the stigma around the assumption that mothers with a PMAD don’t love their children. (Because we do!)

Also, if you’re in Claire’s neck of the woods, check out their pledge – they’re working to reduce isolation. If you’re able to host just one peer event, sign the pledge. End the isolation of new mothers and help decrease episodes of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

We will be chatting at 1pm ET about the same topic but Claire won’t be joining us until 8:30pm ET. Look forward to seeing you there!!!