#PPDChat Topic 03.24.14: Say This, Not That


ppdchat-03-24-14

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.

 

A Few Ramblings About Love


When I was younger I foolishly believed in fairy tales, in the happy every after. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, animals sing, dwarfs get all ga ga, and well, happily ever after, right? Wrong.

In between, there’s housework, there is the daily mundane, the impossibly difficult discussions, the little things, the actual WORK required to make the happily ever after happen. You know, stuff which doesn’t fit neatly into a Disney movie and is over-dramatized in their sitcoms accented with a cheesy laugh reel.

Life isn’t some sitcom. It’s not a Disney fairy tale either. It is somewhere in between, it is not easy, and it requires work. Most of all, it requires intimacy, patience, trust, and the willingness to talk the hard stuff through without jumping to conclusions. It means listening instead of deciding what you’re going to say next. A partnership, a marriage.. it’s not about the day you say “I do”…it’s about all the days after.

The next time you see a couple who appears to have it all together, remind yourself you are only seeing a slice of their life. Do not compare yourself or your relationship to what they have. I used this example a few weeks ago – the story of the ugly duckling – he started out completely different from his siblings but ended up being the most beautiful and graceful creature of them all. It is also a perfect analogy for relationships. In my experience, people who have been through a lot together (and survived) have the strongest relationships.

Over the past few years through my work as a peer support advocate for women and families struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders, I have had the deep honor of getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the most amazing people I have ever “met”. I say “met” with quotations because most of them I have only had the pleasure of talking to on through a digital medium.

This work, this advocacy, has not only allowed me to enable others to move forward with their lives through the boulder of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders but it has also taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. You see, when you are supporting a family through a PMAD episode, you have to be aware of everything going on in their life because every little thing matters. Is she getting enough support at home? Is he sleeping okay? Does he have support too? How’s work going? Are the in-laws a source of stress? Are they communicating? Are they sharing the care responsibilities? Are they taking time for each other as a couple? There are a lot of little nuances which can add up to an explanation of why she’s had a bad week or why he seems a little snippy. These are the things which must be teased out to empower a couple to communicate and move past the potholes before they become sinkholes.

In no particular order, the following are things I believe empower a strong and successful relationship. They are things I strive to do in my current relationship and don’t ever intend to stop doing:

1) Listen. I don’t mean nod your head and “uh huh” at every little thing your partner says. No. I mean actually listen. Follow the conversation, ask questions, repeat things back. Validate their feelings, their concerns, make them heard. You would expect the same from them, yes? Everyone wants to be heard, deserves to be heard and this is particularly true with your partner.

2) Check in with your partner on a daily basis. Sure, ask them how their day went but dive deeper and ask pertinent questions beyond the surface. Get them talking abut their interests or offer to listen as they vent a problem they’re having at work.

3) Hold hands just because. Holding hands has got to be one of the most intimate things you can do with a person. I’m serious! It’s a quiet yet sweet way to let them know you care and you want to be near them. I adore holding hands and it means the world to me to be able to just sit and hold hands as we watch TV.

4) Discuss serious issues like adults. I don’t mean rage at each other, yelling and screaming. I mean sit down, and in a calm, rational voice, state your side of the situation, and then listen to your partner state his side of the decision. Sometimes you may need to wait until you both calm down. Work together instead of against each other to solve problems. You are both on the same team, here. I realize this is easier said than done but when both of you are capable of this it truly is a beautiful thing, trust me. (this is where checking in with each other comes in handy because there are less likely to be blow ups if you are actually communicating to begin with!)

5) Go on a date with each other. It doesn’t have to be ritzy, heck, it doesn’t even have to qualify as a “date”. Just spending time alone, the two of you, is great. You may have kids now but that doesn’t mean you are *just* a mom & dad. You are still the people you were when you fell in love. Nurture that, celebrate it, and don’t ever lose sight of yourselves as a happy, giddy couple madly in love with each other.

6) Surprise each other with little romantic gestures. These things are cheesy but they work. Texts, notes in work bags, mailed cards. I had to travel last summer and I left a well-planned scavenger hunt for my boyfriend at our condo while I was gone. All the clues were in a coupon holder with the dates written on the outside of the envelope. I had a blast planning it and he enjoyed all the little mementos. It really is the little things which matter in the long run.

7) Laugh together, often. Laughter really is the best medicine and if you can’t be utterly ridiculous with the one you’re with? Then you’re in trouble. It’s good for the heart, the soul, the abs, and your relationship.

8) Try new things together. Chances are you’ll both be nervous but it’ll be a bonding experience and hopefully one you’ll never forget. Just make sure you wear all the proper safety gear if you decide to leap out of a plane.

9) Give each other your own space. Know who you are and respect the person your partner is by allowing him/her to indulge in his/her interests without guilt. There is the potential for abuse of this (ie, someone hogging all the alone time and not allowing their partner to have their fair share). Love should never demand someone change their interests or who they really are just to be accepted. Love is about finding someone who is amazing and accepting them for WHO THEY ARE right then and there, not the person you plan on molding them to be.

10) Love with wild abandon. There’s no other way to love the person you are with than deeply. Love so hard your heart hurts and aches and you can’t wait to jump into their arms when they get home from work. Fall in love with them all over again every day for no reason at all than the fact that they love you right back.

Am I saying that if you do all of these things you’ll have the perfect relationship? No. Because not all of us are built the same and some of us need different things from a relationship. But for me? This is it. This is my list. Some of it may work for you, the whole thing possibly.

Underlying all of this, however, is the definitive need to communicate because without communicating, you may as well build a house without a foundation in the Everglades and just wait for the whole thing to sink beneath the swamp. And that’s not getting you anywhere but in a gator’s belly.

Saturday Sundries: When Suicide becomes reality


Saturday Sundries Banner

Morning y’all.

I hope you have imbibed at least one cup of coffee because today I am going to get serious. Life and death serious.

Over the course of my time as a peer advocate/support person for women and families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders, I have faced suicidal mothers more than once. Each time it is draining. The first time I faced this issue I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to do. The first time I faced it on Twitter, I recruited people to support me via DM, reached out to emergency contacts, and the mom connected with someone via phone. It wasn’t me but that did not matter. What mattered was that she reached out and held on to hope. She got help and is still here.

Over time I have grown more comfortable at dealing with someone in a suicidal crisis. Each time it still drains me though. But it’s part of what I do. I am very careful to ensure care for myself during and after an intense time of support. I watch a lot of comedy, exercise, and talk with others honestly and openly. I love that my support asks how I am doing if I’ve clearly gone through supporting someone.

I have had to learn how to help others. I have also learned how to help others deal with very real tragedies resulting from the often invisible illness that is a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Right now, our community, those who suffer from, have survived, and fight for those who are struggling, is coming to grips with the events which led to the death of Miriam Carey. There’s a wonderful article over at USA Today dealing with the situation. The article covers PMAD’s respectfully and take the time to differentiate the various types of disorders. If you read any article about what happened, make it this one.

Do you know facts and statistics about suicide? Would you know what to do if someone you loved or knew admitted to active suicidal feelings? Would you be able to recognize the signs of potential suicide?¬†It’s important to be able to do so… think of it as basic first aid for the mind. Just as our bodies can hurt, our minds hurt too. And sometimes? Sometimes we’re not capable of recognizing the extent of the injury until it’s too late.

You are not at all helpless when it comes to suicide. You CAN do something. Start with this list over at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know how to report suicidal behaviour on Facebook. Program the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number -1-800-273-8255- in your phone.

Start a discussion about suicide with friends. If someone jokes about it, correct them by saying that it is a serious matter and deserves serious attention, following that statement up with facts and statistics. It is absolutely not something one should ever joke about. Ever.

Despite all this, sometimes we lose people. Even if we know all the signs and know exactly what to do. We can’t put our plans into motion if we do not know the plans and thoughts of those around us. It hurts like hell to lose someone to suicide. It is a pain I know well. It is a pain others I know also know well. We can do everything right and still have suicide implode our lives. How do we cope then?

When we have lost someone to suicide, we are then termed as “survivors of suicide.” People who have survived someone who completed suicide. You are not alone in this, not at all. There are others out there who are going through the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the regret, the what if’s… the entire gamut of emotions one goes through after losing a loved one to suicide. There are a few online resources. The first one is at Suicidology on their Suicide Survivors page. Then there is Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.

There are also friends and family. Some of them may not understand your grief. They may not understand the length of it or the manner in which you choose to grieve. But grief is different for all of us, just as life is different for all of us. Grieve in the manner which feels best to you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Let it out, let it flow through you, and process your emotions in the best possible way for YOU.

Bottom line – suicide is not something we need to remain silent about. It’s not something we should continue shoving in a corner and pretending it doesn’t happen. It happens, to everyone in all walks of life. We ALL are affected by suicide.

Let’s get together and talk about it – open up, let people know they are loved, they matter, and we do care. Today, take the time to smile at a stranger. Say hello and ask how they are and mean it – stick around for the answer, don’t drift off into the crowd. Offer to help someone with something. Do a good deed. You may just be the one thing they’ve been needing to brighten their ever so darkened life.

After that good deed? Start a conversation somewhere about how important it is to discuss suicide and the issues that can cause it but also what to do when the mere thought of it is looming on the horizon. You may just save a life doing both. And that, my friends, is why we all matter.

Announcing #PPDChat Guest for September 30, 2013 – @WalkerKarraa


PPDChat Walker Karraa Announcement

I am so excited about this upcoming chat with Dr. Walker Karraa. She is quite the force to be reckoned with in the Perinatal Advocacy world. If I had to pick one word to describe her, I would probably use “firecracker.”

I met Walker in 2010 (yes, yes, there’s a repetition to that this week, I know!) at the PSI Conference in Pittsburgh. We hit it off quite well. One of the things I love about meeting other advocates is how fearless we all are in discussing the nitty gritty about the Mood Disorders we fight to help others with every day. Why are we so fearless? Because we have been there and it is something we live and breathe. Telling our stories is how we live our lives now because we know that every time we tell it, one more person may be reached.

Another thing we have realized is the transformational power of Perinatal Mood Disorders. It changes you. I am grateful for my experience because it allowed me to grow in ways I may not have grown were it not for my fall from grace. In falling to the depths of hell, I managed to touch the very height of heaven on my way back up.

Dr. Karraa has been researching this general idea for over a year now and I am thrilled she’s joining us on Monday to discuss this with our community. I sincerely hope you will stop by and share your story with us – how your journey through a Perinatal Mood Disorder transformed your life. By the way, it doesn’t have to be for the better, everyone has a different story and there is VALUE in every single one, happy ending or not.

WalkerBio: Walker Karraa, PhD is a perinatal mental health researcher, advocate and writer. She is currently regular perinatal mental health contributor for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Midwives Connection.

Walker has interviewed leading researchers, clinicians, and advocates such as Katherine Wisner, Cheryl Beck, Michael C. Lu, Karen Kleiman, Pec Indman, Liz Friedman, and Katherine Stone. Walker was a certified birth doula (DONA), and the founding President of PATTCh, an organization founded by Penny Simkin dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth.

Walker is currently the Program Co-Chair for the American Psychological Association (APA) Trauma Psychology Division 56. She is writing a book regarding her grounded theory study on the transformational dimensions of postpartum depression. Walker is an 11 year breast cancer survivor, and lives in Sherman Oaks, CA with her two children and husband.

 

Celebrating Through Giving Back – Today: Tree of Hope Foundation


Hi, y’all!!!

This week includes my birthday. I want to spend the week highlighting non-profits who are doing a heck of a job to support families struggling with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

Today, I’m highlighting the Tree of Hope Foundation. I met Pamela Moffit in 2010 during a Postpartum Support International Conference. We hit it off fabulously. She’s full of life but very, very dedicated and passionate to ensuring women do not face the same fate as her sister-in-law and niece, Mary and Caroline. In 2004, Mary ended her life and her 5 week old daughter’s life as well. It was this tragedy that provided the seed for the Tree of Hope to bloom. (You can read an article about this here)

Pamela works tirelessly to save just one person, a personal goal I also share with my work, a goal all of us who work with those who fight have – just one person. Then once we’ve done that, we go back to that very same goal. It’s a simple goal but it’s more than we were doing before and it makes a difference.

Right now, the Tree of Hope is doing a LOT of fundraising. In honour of my birthday, I’d ask that you go visit their site, nose around, get to know what this awesome non-profit is up to, and maybe even donate if you can afford to do so. If you’re in metro-Detroit, you can also volunteer. Raising our voices decimates stigma but funding organizations who are in the trenches makes a REAL difference in REAL lives.

Thank you, Pamela, and Tree of Hope, for rocking it in Michigan and making a difference in your surrounding community. Keep up the amazing work, one woman at a time.

ATTENTION: The annual fundraiser is just around the corner on the 11th of October. If you’re in the area, GO! You can register here.

Announcing #PPDChat’s Guest for July 22, 2013


PPDChat MyText4Baby Guest Announcement

I’m thrilled to announce that Text4Baby will be joining us for chat on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 8:30pm. This is Text4Baby’s third year in operation. They provide an invaluable experience for both expectant and new mothers via a free information program that sends texts directly to your phone. Read more about them here.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, M.D., will be joining us as the medical expert on Monday. Dr. Kraft is a Professor of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Pediatric Residency Program Director at Virginia Tech Carilion. Dr. Kraft is a community pediatrician with the Carilion Pediatric Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia.

Dr. Kraft attended Virginia Tech as an undergraduate, and completed her M.D. and pediatric residency at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dr. Kraft currently serves on the Text4Baby expert panel, the National Center for Medical Home Initiatives Project Advisory Committee and the Early Brain and Child Development work-group at the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has three children who are now young adults.

You can follow Dr. Kraft on Twitter by clicking here.

The folks from Text4Baby will also be available to offer information about their services to our community members.

The topic for Monday, as stated in the announcement above, is “Perinatal Mood Disorders & Early Brain Development”. As we know, mental health issues during pregnancy and the postpartum period do affect the development of our infants. It’s not a topic we discuss often because it can be triggering and induce feelings of guilt. The key to this issue is to remember that we are not at fault – and that access to proper care and therapy for both mother and child is of the utmost importance if we are to change the outlook for all involved.

I hope you will join us for a very important discussion about this important (and often under-discussed) topic.

11th Annual Welcome Back Awards honor PMD Expert Diana Lynn Barnes


Lilly established the Welcome Back Awards in 1998 to fight the stigma associated with depression and to promote the understanding that depression is treatable. Each year, an independent panel of national mental health leaders recognizes five individuals for their outstanding achievements, and Lilly awards donations ranging between $10,000 and $15,000 to the not-for-profit organization of each winner’s choice.You can read more by clicking here.

Lifetime Achievement: Diana Lynn Barnes, Psy.D., Tarzana, Calif.

Diana Lynn Barnes, Psy.D., is an internationally recognized expert on the assessment and treatment of perinatal mood disorders who has used her own three-year struggle with postpartum depression to help educate others through media interviews, speaking engagements and as an author. In addition to her private practice, she is a nationally known forensic expert in women’s reproductive mental health and works with defense counsels in cases of infanticide, pregnancy denial and neonaticide. She is a past president of Postpartum Support International and continues to work with the group to raise awareness of postpartum depression. In 2007, she wrote her first book “The Journey to Parenthood: Myths, Reality and What Really Matters.” Additionally, Dr. Barnes has been involved with the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, Calif. for the past two years to implement a comprehensive pregnancy and postpartum screening program.