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.

Why Stigma is Not Like a Band-Aid


Stigma sucks.

So does Stigmata but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

Thing is, band-aids would do a better job of healing stigmata, as horrific as it is, than it they would to heal the misconceptions about mental illness.

For centuries, people have developed their own fears and prejudices in regards to those of us who struggle with mental illness.

We’re scary.

We’re violent.

We’re stupid.

We can’t function.

We should be locked away.

We are to be feared.

We are to be hidden.

We are to be whispered about.

We are not to be talked about at all.

We are to hide our illness the best we can.

We are an embarrassment to our families.

We can’t have friends.

We can’t have children.

We can make our illness go away.

We choose to be crazy, nuts, insane, loco.

We use mental illness as an excuse to not contribute to society.

We are lazy.

Meet stigma.

Stigma is a heavy blanket which covers all of us who struggle with mental illness. Not only do we fight against whatever illness it is we are diagnosed with, but we fight the blanket too. It’s a thick and heavy blanket society has flung over us to hide us as we try to function within their world. It’s hiding us. Just as a band-aid hides a wound.

Band-aids don’t always heal wounds. Sometimes a wound needs to breathe, to gulp in fresh air, scab over, and continue to grow new skin in order to heal. Fresh air is the equivalent of open conversation of mental illness not laced with stigma. Until we, as a society, are able to sit down at a table together to discuss mental illness without resorting to judging or stigmatizing those who struggle with it, we will never heal.

Stigma is not something which can be pulled off quickly like a band-aid either.

It requires a slow removal because stigma is a wound which has been festering for eons. Lots of tender care is required in order to aid in the wound reaching fresh air. Several layers need to be removed, slowly and carefully. Bold conversations, intense honesty, patience, compassion, and a dedicated desire to convey the truth about mental health are requirements.

It is possible to peel back the layers and allow the wounds to heal. Start with one person and you might be surprised where your ripple of truth ends up. But if you never start that conversation? Stigma will continue to thrive. Don’t hesitate to do something because you believe just one voice doesn’t make a difference. Because your voice, no matter how small, matters.

A different kind of dark


Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders carry with them their own kind of dark. It’s a loud dark for many, filled with noise, thoughts, and frustrations bouncing off the ceiling, like bats fleeing from a cave when their “radar” isn’t quite working. Instead of flying perfectly out into the night, they bounce off the walls and fall down. But they get up and try again. Why? Because out in the world is their food and they need to eat. So…they have to leave the cave.

Try, try, try, try again. It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you get up.

I’ve been in that cave.

I tried, tried, tried and tried again until I finally flew free into the night, the sweet smell of honeysuckle surrounding me as mists of fresh rain drenched my face. Freedom from that cave is a feeling I will never forget.

But now, I find myself in a different kind of cave.

A cave made of physical limitations instead of mental struggles. This is not a prison of my mind. It is a prison of my body. Sadly, sometimes, it is both.

Today has been particularly difficult.

The pain started last week while I was traveling. I drove nearly 1800 miles in 7 days. Slept in different beds, didn’t have Tylenol and Ibuprofen with me, and spent hours sitting in a car (at least 28 hours just traveling, that doesn’t include the time driving while at my destination.) Driving through snow, ice, near-tornado conditions (I left Georgia the morning of the Adairsville Tornado), more snow & blizzard conditions, etc. On top of just sitting, driving was also stressful because I had to be very mindful of the not-so-awesome weather around me.

Since I’ve been home, the pain has spiraled down, increasing. I can’t get ahead of it. I went back to swimming this week. I’ve managed 25 laps, skipping Monday because I was exhausted just trying to scrape ice off my car.

I fear another flare is on the way. I am hoping it’s not but I can see it, hovering around the corner, giggling excitedly with glee at the prospect of tackling me once I get close enough.

This kind of dark SUCKS.

It sucks because there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. I can swim, I can take meds, I can avoid a large amount of carbs, and still… BOOM. There it is, waiting to pounce.

Today’s time in the pool was rough. I only went because I hurt. I forced myself to get in the pool and start swimming. Halfway through my body decided to quit. So I forced it to swim the final laps. I’m sure I looked like Elaine trying to dance in the pool but I didn’t care, dammit. I was there to swim at least 10 laps and by JOVE I was gonna put in my 10 laps.

As I got out of the pool, I faltered. To grab my towel, my mind had to slowly instruct my arm to reach out – as if I were an infant just learning to grab a toy. Don’t even get me started on the holy mess that was me trying to dress myself after showering.

Days like today are disheartening. Days like today are when the tears threaten to fall and I get angry. Angry and frustrated because I am still young and my body shouldn’t be doing this to me yet. But it is and here I am, in the dark.

Know what I’m gonna do tomorrow?

The same thing as today.

Because I didn’t kick ass through two severe episodes of postpartum depression to learn how to roll over and give up. No sir.

I kicked ass through two severe episodes of postpartum depression to learn how to FIGHT BACK.

Tomorrow, the battle continues.

I will win, just like I did today, even if it means I don’t get to leave the cave just yet. As long as I’m moving forward and doing my best, I will be happy with any amount of progress.