Wishing Upon a Magic Wand


Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a modern house at the edge of suburbia.

"Chest" by Flood G. at Flickr.com (http://www.flickr.com/photos/_flood_/7750480094/)

“Chest” by Flood G. at Flickr.com (http://www.flickr.com/photos/_flood_/7750480094/)

One of her favorite things was a trunk filled with dolls and stuffed animals from far away lands. She would open the trunk slowly, and carefully select a few toys with which to have tea.

Her favorite was a stuffed panda bear from China. There was nothing shiny or sparkly about it but the panda bear fit just so in the crook of her arm. When she wrapped it in a blanket, the bear transformed into a baby. She would rock it for hours after tea, whispering sweet nothings into its ear and smoothing the fur in between its ears.

Then, at night, just before bed, she would tuck the bear back inside the chest, telling it good night and wishing it happy dreams.

The little girl would clamber into bed for a night full of happy dreams about things she could do the following day with all her perfect toys tucked ever so neatly into the fancy trunk at the end of her bed.

As she grew older, she had different dreams. Dreams of a real baby of her own. The trunk grew dusty and the panda bear stayed inside, asleep for years and years.

Eventually, the little girl had a child of her very own. She wanted very much to hold it, rock it, and whisper sweet nothings into its ears. Kiss the sweet innocent cheeks and tuck it away for the night as she slept too.

But it did not work that way, the now-grown girl discovered. The sweet nothings were trapped deep in her heart, quelled from bubbling to the surface. The now grown-girl was sad, depressed, and anxious instead of being happy and carefree. What was this? How could she make this go away?

Then she remembered a story her father told her – about an enchantress in a forest far, far away. This enchantress turned sadness into happiness with the mere flick of a wand, something her father showed her every time she cried, imitating the enchantress’s wand with his finger as he carefully wiped her tears from her cheeks. So the now-grown girl decided to make the journey. She set about making preparations. Food, check, baby strapped to her chest, check. Unicorn to ride, check.

As she rode away from the castle, an uneasiness settled over her heart as she wondered if she would be able to make the journey all alone, with no help to care for her child. But she pressed on because she did not know where else to turn.

She rode for days until she saw the edge of the forest in the distance. As she settled in for the night, she snuggled her child close to her and stroked its hair. In the morning, she whispered, things will be better. You’ll see.

As the sun rose, so did she. She gathered up the things spread out from camp the night before and once again, strapped her wee one to her chest before flinging herself upon her unicorn. They galloped toward the forest. After a short while, she heard more hooves on the road behind her. Glancing back, she saw hundreds of other mothers, all with infants strapped to their chests, riding on unicorns. They too, were headed to see the great magical enchantress for the were exhausted with fighting against wave after wave of emotion.

Surely, one wave of a magic wand and they would be whole again.

They grew closer to the forest by the end of the day but could not quite seem to reach it as the sun sank in the sky behind the towering trees. So all the women dismounted and set up a great big camp not too far from the edge of the woods.

Together, they prepared dinner, they sang, they laughed, they shared caring for the babies they held. Then, at long last, they slept peacefully for the first time in months as volunteers took turns tending to the babes at the mothers’ sides. In the morning, breakfast was prepared and shared amongst the camp.

As the sun rose higher, the women, having been lost in their camaraderie, finally realized the forest had again shifted even farther away. But no one made a move to pack up and ride onward. Instead, they went about their business, laughing, crying, sharing, and helping where they could in the camp.

For you see, you do not need a magic enchantress with a magic wand when you have the support and compassion of those around you.

While peer support has been proven to heal women faster as well as prevent severe cases of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, it is not often the only tool one needs to fight back. You may also need to see a health care professional to discuss more serious and intensive care methods such as therapy or a variety of medicine approaches – whether it be pharmaceutical or homeopathic. If you or a loved one are struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, know that you are not alone. Reach out to Postpartum Support International to help locate resources near you.

Thoughts on Miriam in DC


On October 3, 2013, Miriam Carey tragically lost her life Washington, DC. She was supposed to be in Connecticut, taking her daughter to a doctor’s appointment according to the myriad of articles I have read this morning.

They all seem to have the similar tone to them, these articles. That a woman tragically lost her life because she had Postpartum Depression.

Yet, medication recovered at her Stamford, CT, apartment would indicate that what was going on with Miriam went much deeper than Postpartum Depression.

A woman with Postpartum Depression does not simply break with reality and drive hundreds of miles out of her way to drive into barriers, lead police on a chase, and somehow end up dead, all with her infant daughter in the back seat.

The behaviour of Miriam Carey lends itself to the behaviour of a mother struggling with Postpartum Psychosis, the facts of which can be found at this page on Postpartum Support International’s site. According to this page, symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis can include:

  • Delusions or strange beliefs
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Feeling very irritated
  • Hyperactivity
  • Decreased need for or inability to sleep
  • Paranoia and suspiciousness
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Difficulty communicating at times

There are a number of symptoms on that list I have seen discussed this morning. Some of them match up with PPP.

The other things I have seen discussed this morning are heartbreaking. Folks judging Miriam for her actions. Saying she’s a monster. Wondering how she could possibly have driven her vehicle into the barriers and toward a hail of police bullets with her daughter in the back seat.

I have also seen some honest discussion about what it means to struggle with a mood disorder after the birth of a child and how it hurts whenever something like this happens. I feel as if I have been punched in the gut, to be honest. I want to fall to my knees and weep for what happened to Miriam. But instead, I am writing and I am reaching out to those in the community I founded to support women and families struggling with mood disorders after the birth of a child.

Why?

Because this kind of support, on a human level, helps quell the storm. It lets others know they are not alone and there is hope. We help each other find the way in the dark, particularly when a storm like this tragedy looms on our shores. You see, at one time or another, we have all been Miriam. We have had those thoughts, the scary ones about driving our cars into solid objects, about letting go, about just giving up and moving on toward that great white light. Some of us have almost touched that white light. WE KNOW the darkness which drove Miriam to Washington, D.C. intimately. We have sat with it on our shoulders, in our hearts, and felt it try to gain control of our heads. We, however, are the lucky ones because we are still here, fighting.

When the women of the Postpartum Support Community band together, it is a beautiful thing. We are some of the strongest women in the world and we refuse to stand down. In the spirit of standing strong, I will be participating in a Blog Carnival “For Miriam” on World Mental Health Day on October 10th. If you would like to join us, you can find more information here on the FB page.

For now, know that you are not alone, it is absolutely okay to reach out for help, and you are loved.

If you or a loved one are currently struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, reach out to Postpartum Support International at their website or find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing. There is also 24/7 support available via the hashtag #PPDChat and we have a closed FB group as well. You are never alone.

On Loving Motherhood


One of the phrases I hear a lot from parents who struggle with mental health issues after the birth of a child is that they didn’t feel an instant bond with their child. Or that they did but it was to the nth degree and they obsessed over every little thing that happened to their child, to the point of it interfering with day to day living. Instead of being the parent society leads us to believe every parent should be, they were either detached or over-attached. It’s the Goldilocks syndrome with none of us feeling that “just-right” level of attachment.

One of the most difficult aspects of experiencing a mental health issue after the birth of a child is that in addition to healing ourselves, we must develop a bond with a new person we hardly know and cannot communicate with in the normal manner because they are not yet capable of deep thought and expressive language.

Imagine that you’ve just met an amazing person. You want to get to know them, to give them all you have inside you, but you can’t. You don’t have the energy. So you worry about the effect this will have on the relationship -if they’ll end up hating you because you can’t quite reach out the way they need you too. You wonder how much emphasis they’ll put on the lack of affection from your end. Somehow, though, you manage to muddle through and they miraculously stay. They love you simply because you’re you, something you struggle to comprehend. Then you feel guilty because you haven’t put as much into it as they have (or perceive that you haven’t) and so you overcompensate, which fills you with intense guilt as the days go by. So you read books about what you should be doing. After awhile, it becomes habit but somewhere, deep inside, you always wonder if you’ve done enough. Or if they’ll bring it back up some day when you falter the least bit.

Or you remain detached, thinking that it’s just not worth the work, the stress, the anxiety. Things are the way they are for a reason, right? Why bother? They’ll either stay or go. The choice is theirs in the end.

Parenting can be hell.

It’s the toughest job on the planet, and no matter how much preparation we put into it while expecting a new little one, we’re all thrust into it, suddenly. It’s on-the-job training. When you add a mental health issue, it’s like on-the-job training at the Hoover Dam on a day when it’s sprung a leak. SO much is flung at you.

Every little thing means more than it should.

Bed seems really lovely.

Giving up seems like a fantastic idea.

Walking away – sheer brilliance.

In the past, I envied parents who seem to know exactly what they’re doing or really enjoy their kids. As a survivor of multiple PMAD episodes and issues and a relative introvert, it’s extremely difficult for me to relate to others who want to spend every waking minute with their children. It’s not that I don’t love my kids, I absolutely do. But for me, parenting is traumatic. My start was more of a train wreck with a hurricane thrown in for good measure. I fight for every second of what appears to be “normal” parenting.

What I forget in my battle to be “normal” is that no one is normal. We are all fighting our own battles, they are just a bit different from the battles of those around us. As I have moved toward healing, parenting has become more like breathing for me. Sometimes I still have to fight for breath but most of the time due to the necessity of mindfulness in my own survival, parenting has become easier as the years have gone by. The wounds have healed enough to not feel as if they are torn off with every single negative instance.

To those who are still in the trenches and still fighting for breath as they fight to parent their children and remain sane, (with or without a PMAD), my hat tips to you. To those fighting through a PMAD specifically as you parent your new one (and possibly even older children), I know how it feels to be where you are and I want to tell you that it won’t always be this way.

One day, things will just work. There will always be potholes and bumps as you navigate the road, but if you take the time to just breathe, ask yourself if what you’re about to explode over is really worth it, and then address the issue at hand (or not, depending on the answer to the second step), things will improve. Take time for yourself. See your child as just that – a child – take the time to see the world through their eyes, marvel at the little things right along with them, and let the world hold you close instead of crawling away into a cave. Baby steps.

You may remember all your faults but your baby will not. All your baby needs is you. They are not mini-adults, judging you for not knowing what to do. They aren’t the ones behind the myriad of research which blames parents for all that is wrong with adults. Let it go. We are our own worst critics. If we take the time to just be as humans instead of critiquing every single choice life flows so much better.

Stop judging.

Stop worrying.

Just be. Drink in life, drink in your child. Drink in the sunshine and the joy when you can. Store it up for the days short on both.

You can do this. Even Goldilocks found the right one eventually, didn’t she?

Your just right is out there, I promise. It’s just a bitch to find in the fog.

You are not alone, you will be okay, and your baby will be okay too.

In the interest of all honesty, recovery is not as easy as sitting out in the sunshine and drinking in life. For many, it takes a multitude of visits to a therapist, maybe a few medication changes, and a hell of an effort to reach the point where you CAN sit in the sun and drink in life. It certainly took all of that for me, and more. But the fight is worth it in the end and that fight will make the sunshine even brighter once you’ve evicted the fog.

If you find yourself struggling with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, you can find hope and help through Postpartum Support International or over at Postpartum Progress. If you are feeling down and struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to Lifeline, the National Suicide Hotline here in the United States.

Celebrating through Giving Back: Today – Postpartum Support Virginia


If you were around for yesterday’s post, you know that I’m celebrating my birthday week by shining the spotlight on various amazing Perinatal Mood & Anxiety non-profits. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Postpartum Support Virginia.

The founder, Adrienne Griffen, I also met in 2010 at the Postpartum Support International Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Adrienne, like all of the PSI volunteers, is full of passion for helping women & families through their fight with PMAD.

She’s done quite a bit with Postpartum Support Virginia and I would urge you to go check out their site to see what they’ve been up to and what they have planned. They’re located in Northern Virginia. If you’re an athlete, they are planning to participate in the 2013 Marine Corps 10k on October 27th. Find out more information & sign up here.

If you’re not athletically inclined, visit their primary site here and nose around to check out their mission, their services, and if you’re moved to do so, make a donation to support the difference they’re making in the lives of women & their families in their area.

Keep up the great work, Postpartum Support Virginia!!!

#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!