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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Whatever Wednesday: Questions from Twitter


I decided to take questions from Twitter today. Only the first 5 responses though so as not to overwhelm myself. In no particular order, here are the questions and their answers.

1) @ksluiter asked: I want to know about succesfully weening to get pregnant or staying on meds while pregnant.

Staying on meds while pregnant was a decision I struggled with when I became pregnant with our son. The pregnancy was not planned so I skipped over the whole “weaning to get pregnant” concern and skipped straight into the “should I stay on my meds while pregnant” arena. This is most definitely a decision which should be made with the help of a medical professional. There were a few things which helped me make my decision a little easier:

a) Moms on meds when pregnant and then go off their meds during pregnancy face a higher relapse rate for mental health issues (specifically Postpartum) after delivering.

b) Baby has already been exposed to medication for 4-6 weeks by the time you realize you are still pregnant (unless you weaned beforehand) Going off meds cold turkey will affect baby as well as you.

c) High levels of stress/depression cross the placenta as well and can inhibit fetal growth and spur premature delivery. Given that my 2nd daughter had indeed been born nearly 5 weeks early, I was not interested in going that route again.

Bottom line here: This decision is an intensely personal decision. Talk with your doctor. Research. Know what you are comfortable with doing.

Couple of great resources for this are: Pregnant on Prozac by Shoshana Bennett and also Otis Pregnancy (also has a Twitter presence: @OtisPregnancy) Check them out.

2) @invisibledaddy asked: what’s the closest experience you’ve had to ppd besides ppd itself, to help us get a sense?

Wow. I had to really think for this question. I think the closest experience I have had to PPD happened my junior year of college. Within 19 days between February and March, I lost both of my grandfathers. This left me with no grandparents. The subsequent grieving process I went through was extremely similar emotionally to how I felt during Postpartum Depression. My grief was a very physical grief and that’s where it differed from my Postpartum. It also differed in that I wailed. A lot. Quite often I would wail and scream myself to sleep. I struggled with anxiety attacks as well, something I did not experience during Postpartum. I also thrashed and hit. It took me a very long time to recover.

The most important difference here is that people expect you to grieve when you lose a close family member or friend. When you have Postpartum, there is an element of guilt and shame accompany the disorder with which you struggle. Why? Because you have a baby. You SHOULD be happy. Even those who experience the grief of miscarriage or losing an infant within the first months of life experience this as many around them will tell them awful things such as “Well, it was never a REAL baby” (miscarriage) or “He/she wasn’t here very long so the pain will fade quickly because you didn’t have a lot of time to bond.” Acerbic comments such as this are extremely unhelpful and only serve to expose the ignorance of those offering them. (FYI, for a great website about miscarriage and infant loss, I highly recommend the folks over at Grieve Out Loud.)

Another thing I experienced with Postpartum that not many associate with it was intense anger and increased irritability. Many associate crying as one of the major symptoms. While it is a symptom, it is not one that every mom will experience. Many moms instead become very overwhelmed and as a result, develop what I term “explosive” personalities, blowing up over the smallest perceived injustice or high expectation.

3) @MamaRobinJ asked: How about blogging about PPD. How much detail do you think people should offer? What’s too personal?

I have a few personal rules I stick to when blogging about PPD. The primary goal is to keep from endorsing specific medications as I feel that is a discussion best left between physician and patient and to keep from triggering others.

Sharing details is good to an extent. That said, if you have a piece you are posting to your blog that a new mom may visit, always ALWAYS warn at the very beginning of the piece that if someone is in a fragile state, they should probably skip the post and come back when they’re feeling a bit healthier. I’ve taken to posting music videos via YouTube at the beginning of posts I think may trigger someone. Katherine Stone, author over at Postpartum Progress, has a symbol she posts at the beginning of potentially triggering posts. We all have our own methods but we all keep in mind the fact that the people reading our blog may not be in the same mindframe we are now.

Another thing aspect of sharing details is that in writing your own story, you may feel drained. It may drag up some of the same emotions you had when you experienced while in the depths of PPD. Be prepared to deal with this. Sharing is therapeutic. But it can also be exhausting. Share at a pace which is healthy for you. Your mental health is far more important than indulging the curiosity of your readers.

Too personal for me is:

  • Naming the Psych Hospital I spent time in
  • Naming any of my Physicians
  • Naming any of my medications

Even with HIPAA, for me this is a privacy issue and one that I will not disclose under most circumstances.

If I do disclose my medication, I am very careful to say that it is what worked (or didn’t work) for me. All treatments/therapies work differently for different people. It is important for us to respect the journey of others toward wellness.

4) The good folks over at @bandbacktogether asked: “why did you start to blog?”

The best answer to this question is back at my very first post in May 2007. But, for the sake of posterity and saving you a click and a ton of reading (and the horrificness of my first ever blog post), my husband and I found ourselves quite unexpectedly pregnant after a very nasty episode of Postpartum OCD (and probably PTSD due to my daughter’s NICU stay). Once the pregnancy test lines turned pink and I dug myself out of bed after reading Karen Kleiman’s “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression,” I decided to start a blog in order to “reframe” my pregnancy as Karen suggested. Little did I know something I started for just for me would still be around nearly four years later and evolved into what it has today – including #PPDChat at Twitter every Monday at 1p & 830p ET.

5) @TouchstoneAZ asked: “Have you seen any correlation between when period returns pp even while bfing and PPD?

When I asked for further clarification, she stated she was asking about mood and period. If I’ve understood her question correctly, I think she’s asking about increased issues with mood during PMS after an episode of Postpartum. SO many mothers (including myself) struggle for a long time with increased mood issues during PMS after a Postpartum episode. I get increasingly irritable, cranky, and just all around grumpy. I was on medication for PMS prior to pregnancy for my PMS. In fact, I remember reading research stating that women with PMDD (or severe emotional issues during PMS) are at a slightly higher risk for developing PPD. I can’t find the link at the moment though as my kids are on day 3 home from school for snow and frankly, my brain is fried. I’m also defending my laptop from my three year old as I type this so .. when I find the link, I’ll update this answer with it, I promise.

 

This was fun! I may have to do this again next week! If you liked this feature and have a question about my experience or anything Postpartum related, please either @ me on Twitter (I’m @unxpctdblessing) or email it to me at mypostpartumvoice(@)gmail(dot)com with “Q&A submission” as the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

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My Postpartum Voice named one of Psych Central’s 2010 Top 10 Depression Blogs


If you heard loud shrieking this morning, that was me.

I apologize.

When I began this blog, the purpose was nothing more than to reframe an unexpected pregnancy after two episodes of Postpartum OCD, depression, and a side of PTSD for kicks. (What can I say, I like to live on the edge!)

I had no inkling that three years later I would still be blogging. To be completely honest, I had no idea I would even blog the entire pregnancy. I am horrible at journaling. But clearly great at blogging.

To be named in the Top 10 Postpartum Depression Writers at Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress rocked my world enough just a few weeks ago.

And then I find out that my blog has been named one of the Top 10 Depression Blogs over at PsychCentral? Whoa.

This award is received in company with Katherine, @Abeeliever (who, by the way, moderates #mhsm chats quite often on Twitter and totally rocks it), Dr. Deborah Serani, and Dr. David Mrazek over at the Mayo Clinic Depression Blog and a few other awesome bloggers who are constantly sharing themselves, research, and providing outreach for those who are struggling with depression on a daily basis.

A HUGE Thank You to PsychCentral, my readers, and especially to my husband and family who put up with my blogging on a daily basis.

I am so very honored to be a part of this list.

2010 has been awesome.

But you know what? 2011 is gonna be even better.

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Thrilled to be among Postpartum Progress’ Top 10 PPD Writers for 2010


I’d like to thank the Academy…

but seriously.

First, Congratulations to all the other finalists along with me! There are some terrific writers in this group. I am honored to be among them.

Last year, Katherine sought out posts and writers on her own. (I was among the Top 10 last year as well so Thank You Katherine!)

This year, she asked for nominations from her readers.

Having made the Top 10 means at least one person (possibly more) nominated me.

Thank YOU. Thank you for reading. For sharing. For helping my Voice to be heard.

I’ve struggled this year with quite a bit, including writer’s block. The particular piece that landed me in the Top 10, my Graham Crackers & Peanut Butter series, really took it out of me. For the first time since I started blogging, I dug in and told my Postpartum story after the birth of my second daughter. I had shared the story after my first daughter several times. But never had I gone into such detail about the hell through which I went after the birth of our second daughter. To have it nominated and placed in the Top 10 means the world to me. I stepped off a ledge on which I had been desperately trapped for nearly four years in sharing my story.

Thank you to my readers for nominating that series.

Thank YOU, Katherine, for making it a finalist.

And Katherine? Thank YOU for putting yourself out there every day to ensure that our voices are heard, that we are listened to, empowered, and educated. You will always be my hero.