A Word (or more) About the Importance of Sharing Our Stories


This week’s #PPDChat went off the charts with a lively discussion during both moderated hours when we pushed the question of blogging the tough stuff without seeming ungrateful for the good stuff that happens along with it.

Suggested by Jamie over at James & Jax, the topic exploded with several people chiming in. The primary concern about bloggers was not the opinion of strangers but rather that of people they know in real life. The concern regarding the random visitor from the web was visited too with the reminder that these folks only see a “slice” of our lives at our blogs, framed as we choose to frame it. The same goes for in-real-life friends, really, as we are writing for ourselves in addition to our regular readers.

Blogging through mental health and parenting can be such a messy place. So many of us have so many different approaches and we all know how much everyone LOVES to dish advice about how we’re supposed to deal with both.

So doesn’t blogging about these struggles open us up for criticism?

Absolutely.

But dealing with that criticism is also an important aspect of choosing to blog. It’s okay to not share your full story. I haven’t shared my full story here at the blog. There are bits and There is Beauty and Strengthpieces I hold close to me because as I stated in chat, these pieces involve other people so I don’t feel they are fully my story.

There are others who choose not to share because they feel their story is not “enough” for sharing. It’s okay to feel that way. The importance and beauty in our stories is that we choose when to share them, how to share them, and most importantly, how much to share of them. No one can force us to share more than we are ready to share. You are no less of a person, a blogger, a mother, an advocate, or a woman simply because you have not shared your story. Your lived experience is more than enough and if you’re led to share it, great. If not, that’s okay too.

It’s not about if your story is enough, it’s about who you might reach – who is living your exact story right this moment.#ppdchat

— Lauren(@unxpctdblessing) May 7, 2013

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The beauty of us all comes from our nuanced differences. Those of us who speak openly and freely encourage others to share our stories. We also let those who are more guarded know they are not alone in their battles, even if we never hear from them. Those of us who choose to be more guarded let others wanting to be just as guarded know it is also okay to be guarded. There is a camaraderie to be felt in every aspect of your choices. And that camaraderie is a phenomenally beautiful thing.

Wrapping this up, I invite you to this blog on Sunday for a few video stories from mothers who have been through the thick of it, myself included. I’m nervous as all get out about being on recorded video (GASP), but given that this is My Postpartum VOICE, I want to leave my comfort zone and use my actual voice. Give a face to the stories here.

I also invite you to check out Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress on Sunday. She’s hosting a bevy of writers for her 5th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Mom’s Mental Health. I’m honoured to be participating again. My post goes up at 1am! Early! Katherine does great things for Moms and families with Postpartum Mood Disorders. Don’t forget to check out all the posts. I can’t wait to read them all!

Don’t forget about the PSI Blog Hop for Maternal Mental Health Awareness as well! This month is chock-full of stories. Some of them might be just like yours.

Above all, remember, that there is beauty and strength in your story, even if you can’t see it right now.

 

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#PPDChat Topic: Rock in a pond: The many ripples of Postpartum Mood Disorders


 

*required reading for today’s chat: Ripples of Postpartum Depression

Guest Post: Amber Koter-Puline’s “Banding Together Over Books – The Warrior Mom Book Club”


Continuing this week’s theme of celebrating National Book Month, Amber Koter-Puline of Beyond Postpartum shares about The Warrior Mom Book Club. It’s worth checking out! I thank Amber for her dedication to families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders. She truly is an inspiration on so many levels! Without further ado, here is Amber’s guest post:

 

This summer I began hosting a new feature at Postpartum Progress: the Warrior Mom Book Club. Even just since 2007 when I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, so much more information, education, and just plain old sharing around women’s mental health has occurred. From books on personal accounts of postpartum depression to the plethora of rockin’ blogs written by Warrior Moms, we have no lack of reading material right at our fingertips.

I don’t know about you, but with so much out there I often have difficulty choosing what to read, especially since I’m a married WAHM of two young boys. I just don’t have time to keep up with all the blog posts, and my stack of books waiting to be read is enormous (both on paper and virtually on my Kindle list).

As members of the Warrior Mom Book Club, we read and have casual talk about what we’ve read, in the midst of our busy lives. We read books about postpartum depression and related illnesses — approximately four books per year — and as a group we do a review after reading each one, which I then write up for Postpartum Progress so that everyone can read it there.

We began the club with Adrienne Martini’s awesome book, Hillbilly Gothic, which I first read when my first son was about two and then again for the club, three years later. I have to say I enjoyed it as much, if not more, the second time! In case you didn’t get a chance to read along with us, you can check it out on Amazon.

Right now we are reading The Ghost in the House by Tracy Thompson.  It’s a really eye-opening account of maternal mental health and its impact on the entire family from both a genetic and environmental perspective.  While the Book Club is currently closed because we’ve already begun work on it, you can still order a digital or paper copy HERE or do what many savvy mamas did with our previous read and order it from your local library.

The review of The Ghost in the House will probably be up at Postpartum Progress in November and then we’ll announce our third read.  Right now we plan to read Sleepless Nights by .  You are welcome to join us for that one.  Once the announcement is made, you can just email me at atlantamom930@gmail.com and join the Facebook Group “Warrior Mom Book Club” which becomes secret while the discussion is happening to protect the privacy of the participants.

We have nearly 50 moms who have participated so far and I look forward to growing the group as the selections change and time goes on.  Here’s what a few moms have to say about their experience as members of the WMBC:

“Being a part of the bookclub has helped me give words or describe some the aimless thoughts/feelings that I had, especially in the deepest part of PPD/OCD/Anxiety that I was unwilling or more likely, unable to speak about, name, and come to terms with.” ~TM

“I have found it invaluable to read these books. I had not read any of the ones that we have read while I was going through my struggle with postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. Reading and reflecting on the books is helping me continue my recovery process. The book club offers me the ability to read other’s perceptions of the books as well which allows me to take different messages and incorporate it into my own recovery.” ~Jennifer Pody Gaskell



”Being a part of the WMBC has been like a life raft for me. I live in area of the country with almost no PPMD resources and no in person support group. This book group has enabled me to feel part of a community of amazingly strong and courageous women (authors and fellow readers). Reading these works has also assisted me in gaining more knowledge about PPMD, which has helped me tremendously in making sense of my experience and continuing my journey to wellness and health for me and my family.” ~Becky Ruess

I hope that reading can be a cathartic experience for you, as well, regardless of whether you join a book club, read a book with a friend, or on your own.  Reading is one of the few self-care activities that I prioritize and tends to be a great source of enjoyment and escape for me.  I personally have found that reading a combination of fiction, non-fiction (self-care/help), and faith-oriented books allows me to balance and blend my reading hobby in a healthy manner.

Thanks, Lauren, for inviting me to write about the Book Club!

Take good care,
Amber Koter-Puline
Beyond Postpartum

Mom and wife.  PPD Survivor/Advocate. Yoga lover. Oh…& coffee, bacon & prayer. Amber also blogs at atlantamom.net- a site devoted to information, inspiration, and networking opportunities for all moms in the Atlanta area.

 

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression – Again


A recent research article, posted by The Postpartum Stress Center on Facebook, looks into the relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding.

The findings? Women who breastfeed are less likely to experience postpartum depression.

Here’s what The Postpartum Stress Center had to say about the study on Facebook:

“Uh-oh. Here we go… research shows reciprocal relationship between PPD and breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed were more likely to have PPD and women with PPD were less likely to breastfeed. Now, that being said – this is NOT what I see in my clinical practice. In fact, we see more evidence of women feeling BETTER when they stop breastfeeding. For a number of reasons that vary from woman to woman. This is why it continues to be important that we read the studies, but not jump to conclusions that may not relate to each individual woman.”

Here’s my reaction:

Caveats:

  • Small study – only 137 women
  • Mentions employed mothers who were formula feeding but the abstract makes no mention of employed breastfeeding/pumping mothers.

As a blogger focused primarily on Postpartum Mood Disorders and emotional health for moms, this study raises my hackles.

I’ve blogged about the whole breastfeeding v. not-breastfeeding thing during a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder thing before – several times- and each time, I conclude the same thing.

YOU have to do what is BEST FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it doesn’t matter what the research says, it doesn’t matter what is best for baby food-wise. What matters here, the most, is that you are addressing your needs, healing, and doing so in a manner which alleviates the most stress and anxiety for you.

Your motherhood journey is just that – yours.

The only thing which matters is that you, your baby, and your family, are thriving. If your path includes breastfeeding, great. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. When you struggle with a mental illness, your emotional health absolutely comes before everything else –at least in my book it does.

If you wanted to breastfeed but find it’s too stressful because of your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, talk it over with your care-provider. Let them help you make your decision but don’t let them pressure you into continuing simply because the research claims breastfeeding is “protective” against PPD. Guess what? You’re already struggling. So unless breastfeeding is the ONE thing to which you’re clinging and the ONE thing which helps you heal, helps you feel like you matter, it’s OKAY to stop.

It’s okay to use formula.

Frankly, it’s sad we have to give ourselves permission not to breastfeed in this day and age. Moms use formula for a variety of reasons –as long as baby is growing, healthy, happy, and loved, it shouldn’t matter what form of nutrition is used.

So go. Do what feels best for you, for your family, and for your sanity –and don’t let anyone judge you for it.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @ksluiter’s “heavy alphabet soup”


It’s been awhile since I’ve done this but this past week, I read a post worthy of being highlighted as Postpartum Voice of the week. In fact, it’s inspired me to dive back into blogging here – I’ll be somewhat changing direction but it’ll still have the same Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder focus. More about that in an upcoming post though. For now, I want to simply highlight this very deserving post.

Kate Sluiter blogs over at Sluiter Nation and has been doing so for 5 years now. Her writing is amazing regardless of the topic but when it comes to her experience with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders, it’s phenomenal. Kate is an open book, bravely sharing her experience after the birth of her first son, during her pregnancy with her second son, and now, after the birth of her second son.

Last week, Kate hit publish on a post entitled “heavy alphabet soup.”

It’s a MUST READ for any parent with or married to a partner with mental health issues. She is brutally honest, transparent, courageous, and personable in this post.

My favourite part of the post is here:

“I still feel very angry that I have to deal with this at all.  I don’t want it.  Any of it.  I don’t want to be on meds, not because I don’t want to be better, but because I don’t want to have all these letters.

 

I know they don’t define me.  But they are part of who I am. They are part of my biological make up.  They are chemical imbalances in my brain.”

Amen, Kate.

In writing these two paragraphs, especially the last one, she clarifies something very important – mental illness/letters do not define us. They are a part of us yes, but they absolutely do not define us.

Go. Read her post, “heavy alphabet soup.” Leave her some love.

 

Whatever Wednesday: Things I’m Afraid To Tell You


In 2011, I dove out of my life, headlong into a brand new one. I still have no idea where that life is going but I can tell you that it’s been a hell of a journey.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sure who I was. Days when I fell apart and didn’t want to get out of bed. Days when I reached the bottom, wanted to delve even further, and never come back up for air. There were days when I didn’t want to breathe. Days when I sat, for what seems like forever, in front of my netbook, begging my brain to cooperate so I can write something for this blog. Yet nothing comes so I write for other websites about non-postpartum issues.

After all of this, I finally know who I am. I like who I am.

Here’s the thing I’m afraid to tell you and afraid to tell myself but I’m going to say it anyway – I have no idea how to merge who I used to be with who I am now. I’m at a crossroads, foot firmly on the brake, unable to move forward in any direction.

Frozen.

Do I need to merge the woman I used to be with the woman I am now? Is it necessary for me to move forward? Has the merge already happened as I have grown over the past year? How do I continue to do what I do here as a single woman and no longer an active full time parent? Am I still qualified to provide advice and support? Are my experiences negated now that I have stepped out of the very life which caused them?

These are the thoughts which race through my head. The thoughts which give me reason to stop and wonder about the very future of my blog….about my future. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I fought for my identity as me. Now,  I fight as me for my identity as a mother.

I have no doubt that the future which awaits me is filled with joy, happiness, love, and peace. A future in which I will no longer be lost to myself or to those closest to me. It is faith which has carried me this far and faith which will carry me until my days in this world are done. This is all I know, all I need to know. Learning to fully trust faith, to fully trust the plan laid out for my life, however, is the challenge I face now.

I am learning to lean hard on God with every day. In His time, I will understand and find my answers. Until then…I will wait, with joy in my heart, clinging to hope and fighting the ever closer creeping fear with fierce prayers emanating from my very soul.

This post written as part of a movement, Things I Am Afraid to Tell You. I realize it’s supposed to be more of a list, but this is how mine came out and I am okay with that.

You can find more brave bloggers sharing what they’re afraid to tell you here.

Postpartum Health Activist Writer’s Monthly Challenge 2012


Hey y’all!

Over at WEGO Health, April is their Health Activist Writer’s Month. They host a 30 day writer’s challenge to go along with this month. When you sign up, you’ll get prompts via email for 30 days. If I remember correctly from last year, they do send them out in advance so you’re not scrambling to write posts at the last minute.

I will be writing a post a day for all 30 days. I hope you’ll join me in writing every day about health. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’d love to see what you have to say about each of the topics, too. Of course, I’ll be spinning the topics to relate to Postpartum Mood Disorders. I really hope you’ll jump in here with me!

All you have to do to join is click the banner below to sign up and you’ll be able to start posting once April rolls around.

Looking forward to writing with you! Let’s make sure Postpartum Mood Disorders are well-represented!