The Elephant in the #PPDChat Community


Inferior without your consent

This past week, Katherine Stone over at Postpartum Progress announced the the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, an editorial team comprised of a diverse group of writers and advocates, who will help run her blog throughout the year. I am a member of this team along with several other fellow dedicated and amazing survivors who have battled through so much. Along our journeys, we all have been incredibly honest, dedicated, vocal, and driven to share our stories. Some of us started with the most basic of intentions but somewhere along the way, we became recognized advocates through hard work and repeatedly putting ourselves out there sometimes meeting with Fall Get Uprejection along the way. We brushed ourselves off and put ourselves back out there all over again.

Often, we did not even mean to put ourselves out there but had our stories noticed for whatever reason, forced into a higher level of publicity with our very personal battles than perhaps we were ready to deal with. So we rolled with it because we had to not because we wanted to.

One of my primary goals with my growth as an advocate was to develop an online network women and families could access 24/7. My goal with #PPDChat was not to develop a network to lift bloggers and advocates to higher popularity or to create popularity cliques within the community. My goal was to increase peer support for women and families to access whenever they need it, wherever they were. The worst aspect, for me, about a PMAD, is the overwhelming feeling of being all alone. That isolation, the fear that YOU are the only one stuck in this dark hell, is absolutely terrifying and what needs to be remedied first.

#PPDChat exists to create a sisterhood and community, yes, but it is not meant to cause divisiveness or jealousy of any friendships which may seem to net more opportunities or be more intimate than others. I realize these things will happen because this is the nature of humans in a group setting. We gravitate toward others like us. It’s hard-wired deep within us to do so.

The primary goal with #PPDChat was to create a safety-net. To move those who are hurting and isolated toward a place of healing, warmth, and eventually, a return of joy. One of the side-effects of this community has been the development of advocates as they have felt supported and buoyed by the community at large. Certain members have grown stronger in their advocacy voices as they have discovered they truly are not alone and witnessed the power of conjoined voices will do for a woman still fighting. Other members have continued along their own personal path of healing, not joining in the advocacy movement for their own personal reasons. But we have come this far together, as a community.

One of the definitions of community is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” #PPDChat is definitely all of those and what keeps it fascinating is that even though PMAD has brought us together, our interests are broad and undefined – allowing for individual friendships to organically develop. Not once have I ever seen it as something which has intentionally excluded certain members. If anything, there have been multiple opportunities to include yourself with other members through guest posts, guest hosting within #PPDChat, and various other outreach situations. We all operate within our “circle of comfort” because of our various issues, something which may limit our exposure to the Social Media world at large, something which often moves faster than the speed of light. It can be exhausting to keep up and we are all moving at a different pace.

Regarding reaching out to involve everyone on an equal footing, Katherine has multiple opportunities for being involved at Postpartum Progress:

I, too, have offered to post guest stories and often highlight Postpartum Voices of the Week. I realize I have been slack over the past year but now that I am actively blogging, I plan to resuscitate this part of My Postpartum Voice. It is important to remember, however, that neither Katherine nor I nor every advocate can possibly read every single thing on the internet about PMAD’s. So we all highlight what we can when we can, which leads to some people feeling left out while others get a few minutes in the spotlight which may lead to other “opportunities”.

That said, those who have become more public and vocal are not any better than those who have not.

Repeat that.

Those who have become more public and vocal are not any better than those who have not.

This is where we return to the quote with which I started:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

When you allow a decision which seems exclusive to hurt you so deeply you lash out toward those who have been included, you are giving that decision power over you and thereby creating your own storm of emotions.

For those of us who ARE more public and vocal, opportunities are not viewed as something we covet or even necessarily seek out. For many of us, the “opportunities” may even be anxiety-inducing but we see them as an opportunity to educate, inform, and raise awareness so we charge forward. We do not see the opportunities as making us better than those who are not “chosen” for these opportunities – they are not a platform on which we place ourselves so others may look up at us and feel left out. Our words, our fight, our journey, for whatever reason, has included these turns and curves. As I emphasize ALL THE TIME:

EVERY JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT AND MUST BE RESPECTED AS SUCH.

I will not apologize for being a member of Katherine Stones’ Warrior Mom Leadership Team. No one should have to apologize for being a member of this team nor should Katherine be made to second guess the folks she has placed on the WMLT. Katherine is entrusting her blog, a blog she has worked tirelessly to develop a strong, ethical, and respected reputation for, to the members of this team. I get that she needed to choose people SHE felt she could trust to continue the tradition of the brand she has developed. I know I would be unable to trust my blog to just anyone. I respect her decision as just that – HER decision.

I feel I would be remiss if I did not also point out that this is not an award, this was not a contest, and we are not being paid to be on the WMLT. It is volunteer – and something we agreed to do because it promotes the community and it is going to help further reduce the stigma and misconception of PMAD’s.

Would I be saying all of this even if I were not on the WMLT?

Hell yes.

Because I GET that it’s her choice because it’s Katherine’s blog.

We cannot (and should not) internalize everything. We cannot expect every single door to open for us – the doors which open for us are the doors MEANT to open for us. Some may take more work, more drive, and some may seem as if they open easier for other people.

While it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to feel left out, the manner in which this has been expressed over the past 48 hours in reaction to Katherine’s announcement has greatly saddened me. The sub-tweets, the sub-textual expressions, and the chit-chat behind the backs of those chosen (and yes, I saw a good deal of this on Twitter) has broken my heart because for me, this defeats the very idea of a unified community.

We are all advocates. We are all responsible for dismissing stigma and fighting back against myths with our voices and our journeys. When we fail to support those who, for whatever reason, end up surging forward in the public realm, we fail the community as a whole.

Am I saying it is wrong to be upset?

Absolutely not.

What I AM saying is there needs to be honesty and respect in how we express these emotions. There needs to be the realization that your words WILL be read by those who have managed to not be “looked over” or become “it” girls. Words DO hurt. I get that you are disappointed and you are hurt, I do. I have felt that myself when yet again, my blog fails to gain any recognition or when #ppdchat fails to gain any recognition in an awards process. It’s frustrating as hell. But do I publicly denounce those who have won recognition? Hell no. I congratulate them with grace and deal with my disappointment privately.

BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO. You support the community, you empower it, and you rejoice that the subject matter is receiving attention. It does not matter WHO is doing it, but WHAT is receiving the recognition. It is about furthering the cause, not about garnering individual attention. (Again, however, human nature celebrates when individual attention is received and deflates when it is not – hard-wired, not a faulty reaction at all).

The moment you make it about “ME” is the moment you are not advocating for “US” and that, in my opinion, is failing to kick stigma’s ass.

In that scenario, no one is a winner.

We all have different reasons for writing and when we summarily dismiss the achievements of those around us based on a personal negative reaction, we damage any progress we may make as a whole.

I write because I love to write and I will be damned if I let someone journey along this road alone. I do not write for glory or to be an “it” person, whatever the hell that is. I have never, ever considered myself to be an “it” person, in fact, I have always thought of myself as the complete opposite.

It’s okay for people to be sad and I’m not trying to fix it but at the same time, in expressing their feelings, they are dragging those who HAVE been chosen down and not expressing their disappointment in a healthy manner, which leads to divisiveness and guilt. “United we stand, divided we fall” and all that.

For me, accepting a place on the WMLT means Katherine can focus on doing more with Postpartum Progress, the non-profit which means she can make even MORE strides against PMAD’s. She’s been kicking ass for years with her blog and is already making waves with her non-profit. So if she asks for help, I will say yes as long as it doesn’t interfere with what I already have going on (because it is healthy to make sure you don’t overload your plate).

I’m speaking up because I do not want this recent decision to divide the community. I want us to remain supportive of each other. I want us to be able to express disappointment without attacking other members and without making other members feel guilt and/or shame for achieving something for which others feel they have been “overlooked.” When we drag one person down for achieving something, we impede EVERYONE’S progress toward a better tomorrow. Is that what we want?

We, all of us, are better than this.

We, all of us, know battling alone sucks.

We, all of us, want to win the fight.

We, all of us, are winning this fight, in our own little ways.

Let’s just make sure we do it together – as a team.

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Celebrating Through Giving Back – Today’s spotlight: @postpartumprog


HI!

Today’s the day, my birthday.

I’m highlighting Postpartum Progress today. But I thought that was just a blog, you’re thinking. Nope. The awesome Katherine Stone has turned her work into a non-profit which is making a lot of waves right now. It’s been inspiring to see how much they’ve managed to do so far with the base Katherine developed through her blog. I know they’re gonna go places and make a helluva difference in the world.

I LOVE the description of who they are:

We are catalysts. We are champions. We are instigators. We want change as soon as possible and we’re going to make it happen.”

Go over to the non-profit site here. Check out what they’ve been up to and possibly donate or even volunteer. She’s building an army of Warrior Moms. Go be one.

Keep up the fabulous work, Katherine. Proud to know you, and blessed to be one of those in the trenches with you as we fight against the stigma and misunderstanding of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Keep rocking, lady.

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.

 

Giving up BACON for Mothers & Babies


Bacon Sacrifice Campaign for Postpartum Progress

To donate via credit card:

DonateNow

To donate via paypal, click on over to Postpartum Progress.

In Support of Strong Start Day 2011 at Postpartum Progress


Postpartum Progress. Those two words inspire hope, community, compassion, and an inordinate amount of other gushing caring words in my head. So many in fact, it would take forever to list the ones in existence and even more time to explain the ones which don’t exist but would after I was through.

Katherine Stone is a staunch advocate for women with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. She’s, quite frankly, one of my heroes. When I first struggled with Postpartum Depression back in 2004, I think I came across her blog. She was brand new then. I didn’t know how to use the website because well, I was brand new to the issue myself. I browsed, think I learned a couple of things, and then traveled along my way. I wish I had realized then what I know now about Katherine and her site. If I had, I’m sure my story would be changed. But I didn’t and I went on alone. Until much later when I rediscovered Katherine and really understood what she and her site stood for to women like me struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. In fact, along with Karen Kleiman’s call to “Reframe your pregnancy” in her book “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression,” Katherine’s blogging was what made me think “Hey, I can do that too!” So I did. Katherine has supported me every step of the way. She’s pushed me to stay with it when I wanted to throw in the towel. She’s shared with me, treated me as an equal, as someone who mattered. For that, I can never repay her. Katherine Stone means the world to me and to countless other women across the world. And yes, I mean WORLD. This gal’s got some serious reach.

She’s a voice for those who can’t speak up on their own. She’s fearless when it comes to calling the media on a misnomer or a tragedy. She’ll call out doctors too. Society. Anyone. She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tromping on Postpartum Mood Disorders. I wouldn’t want to get in her way. Ever.

After yesterday’s post, I find it so very fitting to be posting in support of Katherine’s Strong Start Day today. Go visit her place. Donate if you can. What she does is priceless. And she’s never been paid for her blog. It’s hard work to keep it up, trust me, I know. I also know the passion in her heart is strong and determined. If she can do what she’s done with nothing for 7 years, then imagine what she can do if she’s funded. There’s no limit to the potential. I can’t WAIT to see the changes headed for the world down the road!

SO please. I rarely ask you to donate to anything here at My Postpartum Voice. But today I am. Today I’m asking you to make a difference in the world by donating to Postpartum Progress so Mothers & Babies will have a legitimate chance at a Strong Start.

Go. Now. Be the change.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: @HeatherColeman’s Ignite DC speech


Ignite is an awesome concept. They organize gatherings which give ordinary people like you and me just 5 minutes to get up in front of a bunch of people with the goal of “igniting” them to action.

Not too long ago, Heather Coleman shared her story anonymously over at Katherine Stone’s blog, Postpartum Progress. Heather’s story is intense as it involves details of a Psychotic Break. But it’s also inspiring because people stopped to help her as she struggled during the darkest moments of her life.

I am glad Heather has grown bolder in sharing her story as it is an important story to share. I applaud the courage it took to get up in front of a room full of strangers to tell her story.

Thank you for walking to the front of that room, Heather. Thank you for sharing your journey with them. And with us. You rock.

Go watch her amazing video here. But first, get some Kleenex.

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Postpartum Voices of the Week: Janice of @5minutesforMom & @Racheous


This week, I had both a submission of a blog post and another blog post I stumbled across which I could not ignore. Both posts are about looking back at the lived experience of a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

The first post I read was written by @Racheous from Twitter. On her blog, she looks back at her experience as “Cam’s Mum” over the past year.

My favorite quote from her post:

As much as I hate to remember the depths of the negative emotions I felt at first; I know that they play a huge part in how amazingly beautiful motherhood is now and has been for most of my journey as Cam’s Mummy.

The post I stumbled across happened to be authored by none other than Janice over at 5 Minutes for Mom. Entitled “Nine years later — and I am OK,” Janice starts with the baking of a cake for her son. Then she takes us on a journey through her Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. She describes how she went to find a nurse and ended up in tears as she talked with her about the overwhelming anxiety slamming into her even at the hospital. And then Janice does something for which I absolutely love her even more than ever. She writes this:

“Every year, on the eve of my son’s birthday, I remember — like a day of observance. I look at where I was, how far I have come, and how grateful I am.

And I think of how I want to tell every woman who is in that desperate, lonely place that there is hope. I survived. And they will too.”

Not only do both of these posts exemplify the courage it takes to look back and share the story of a woman’s journey through a Postpartum Mood Disorder, they both provide hope at the end. Hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. Both posts also refer to sources of help – @Racheous refers to the Australian Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) while Janice refers to Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress, a website which has helped thousands (if not millions) of women around the globe.

Thank you both for raising your voices and sharing hope. Congratulations on being this week’s Postpartum Voices of the Week. Feel free to grab the above badge and slap it on your blog. You’ve earned it.

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