On Helping Others


“How do you help all the women you do and not carry their pain with you?” asked my therapist as we sat in her office a little over two years ago.

“I don’t know. I just do.” I fidgeted slightly as I readjusted in the chair, popping my neck and a few vertebrae as I did so.

“But day in and day out, you are seeing people at their worst and helping them solve their problems. How do you manage to do that without internalizing it?” she rephrased, pushing me to answer.

“How do you do it?” I answered her push with a question.

“Nice try. You’re good at deflecting, aren’t you?”

I smiled and recrossed my legs, staring back at her.

“It’s an art, really. As for how I don’t carry their pain and issues with me, I just don’t. Their issues are not mine. I have fought my battles, I am fighting my battles, and I leave their battles to them. I learned, from fighting my own battles, that I cannot fight anyone else’s battles for them. They have to fight them. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hand them the right tools. That’s my job. That’s where it ends.”

“So you have never had a situation that shook you?”

“Of course. Haven’t you?”

“Yes. The difference is that….”

“You’re a trained professional and I am not?”

“Well, no. Perhaps. It is just that it takes a lot to be able to listen to issues day in and day out and not get worn down by that. Given that you are here and still helping other people, it is my job to make sure you are taking care of yourself.”

“I am. I know when to step away. I have people I can hand things off to if they get too intense and I know that I am not equipped to handle crises. I also have people I debrief with after any situation which involves a crisis – people check on me which is wonderful. I am peer support only, something I make very clear to anyone who reaches out to me.”

We wrapped things up shortly thereafter, this particular session not nearly as rough as the one where she pushed me to consider whether or not I had ever shown my true self to anyone at all including myself. But this session left me deep in thought too, which is what a therapy session is supposed to leave you doing – thinking about your issues in a constructive manner instead of just wallowing & ruminating.

Sometimes I would go hiking after my sessions. Other times, I would go for a long drive, music blasting, the windows down. I wish I could say I remembered what I did after this session but I don’t because frankly, the after sessions blurred together.

The discussion in this session though, is one that we can all learn from. While not everyone is actively helping stranger after stranger through what some consider to be the worst time of their lives (most of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood Disorder kindly call it hell), it is important to remember that when we are helping others to not allow their pain to become our own. It is possible to be compassionate without tucking someone else’s pain into a pocket in your own heart. Difficult, but possible. It is also important to know your own emotional limits. Do not ever sacrifice your own emotional well-being for someone else if you can help it. (Remember the whole your glass must be full in order to give to others rule here.)

My goal, when someone reaches out to me for help, is to empower them to deal with their issues on their own with help that is much closer (and far more professional). This should be your goal as well if you are a fellow advocate or a non-professional. Educate, empower, release. I follow up, of course, and some of the folks end up being pretty good friends, but most of the time, it is a catch and release sort of contact. It’s something I’ve grown to expect.

With each person I help, my own personal hell loses just a little more of its darkness, shoving me further into the light, allowing me to help even more people.

No woman or family should ever have to struggle through a Perinatal Mood Disorder alone. This is why I do what I do and why I will never stop.

Because every single one of us matters to someone out there.

#PPDChat Topic 01.13.14: Leaving It All Behind – Embracing Emotional Minimalism


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Today’s chat will focus on a concept I introduced in a post last night, emotional minimalism. The idea behind emotional minimalism is not to be completely numb to feelings but rather to process them in a timely, mindful, and healthy manner thereby traveling light with your emotions instead of dragging a ton of unnecessary baggage along with you. 

Go read last night’s post here and get ready for a challenging chat tonight. See you at 830pm ET!

#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!

Announcing the #PPDChat Guests for 11.11.13: Drs. Samantha Meltzer-Brody & Alison Stuebe


Meltzer Brody and Stuebe Guest Announcement

I am beyond excited about Monday night’s #PPDChat, y’all!!!

We’ll be chatting with none other than the fabulous Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody and Dr. Alison Stuebe, both with UNC’s Perinatal Psychiatry Unit. This is a ground-breaking program here in the United States for women struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders. They are currently focusing on research which examines the biology behind the relationship behind depression and breastfeeding. Dr. Stuebe writes:

“I’m happy to report that I’m a doctor, and I do think of this — in fact, at UNC, we’re starting a 5-year NIH-funded study to try to understand the relationship between breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and infant attachment.  Our pilot data suggest that this relationship is complicated. We recruited 52 women who were intending to breastfeed and either did or did not have a history depression and/or anxiety. During pregnancy, mothers provided baseline blood samples, completed questionnaires, and had a standardized psychiatric interview to assess their history. Mothers came to our lab with their babies at 2 and 8 weeks postpartum, and we measured hormone levels while they breastfed their babies.”

For those of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, we know that the relationship we have with how we feed our babies is a tough one. There are so many factors to consider. Dr. Meltzer-Brody & Stuebe are investigating this further and have graciously agreed to share their experiences and insights on Monday.

I sincerely hope you will be able to make it to chat because it will be a great one!

You can read more about Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody & Dr. Alison Stuebe by clicking on their names. Be sure to follow them on Twitter (usernames are in the announcement above) before the chat!