Remember last night’s post? Today’s chat will deal with the same topic. We’ll be discussing tips, resources, and sharing how this decision affected our recovery. Look forward to seeing you there at 830pm ET!
Remember last night’s post? Today’s chat will deal with the same topic. We’ll be discussing tips, resources, and sharing how this decision affected our recovery. Look forward to seeing you there at 830pm ET!
One of the questions which inevitably comes up after a diagnosis with a mental health disorder following childbirth (or any mental health diagnosis, really), is deciding what details to share with anyone outside of immediate family.
Do you tell your boss? Your parents? Your grandparents? Cousins? How much do you disclose? What do you say? Do you risk them finding out through the grapevine (and we all remember how fabulous the game of telephone goes from childhood, right?) or do we fess up ahead of time to avoid misinformation spreading? Or do you keep it within your close little immediate family circle because no one else would understand?
All of these are perfectly valid concerns and things which should be considered.
Deciding to share your diagnosis is a personal decision. It isn’t one which should be forced and no one should demand it from you. It is YOUR diagnosis, your business, not theirs.
So how do you make the decision to share your diagnosis with others?
You consider these two questions:
1) Do they absolutely need to know? The primary consideration here rests with whether or not your diagnosis will affect their every day living. If you, for instance, are responsible for caring for your aunt’s kids after school (something which should be suspended if you’ve just had a baby anyway) but your diagnosis will delay you resuming this responsibility a bit longer, then yes, you need to tell her. But if it won’t and/or you don’t think she will be supportive, it’s probably best to not worry about bringing her into your “circle of trust” as you navigate your way back to wellness.
2) Will they be supportive? Briefly touched on in the first question, but this is a very important consideration. If you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone will be a valuable source of support, tell them if you are comfortable doing so. But if you’re not sure or you know they will judge you rather than support you, again, it is best to let them live outside the circle of trust. Post-diagnosis is all about getting you back to a place of wellness.
There are, of course, other more nuanced questions to consider but they range depending on the severity of your diagnosis, if hospitalization is necessary, and what the level of care you will need post diagnosis is expected to be. But the previous two questions are the two most important basic questions to consider when deciding to share your diagnosis with extended family.
Also important is to consider the support your spouse will need as you heal. This may involve informing some people you would rather not have first hand knowledge of your diagnosis. One thing you can do in this situation is to allow your spouse to inform them but also allow him to handle any and all discussions/questions, etc, with them rather than having them discuss things directly with you. Your stress level needs to be kept as low as possible until things begin to heal.
Tomorrow’s #PPDChat will focus on this issue of sharing your diagnosis with an extended family member. We’ll touch on all of the aforementioned issues including past experiences and hopefully offer some additional suggestions on how to handle this very common situation.
Join me tomorrow night at 830pm ET on Twitter with the hashtag #ppdchat to join in! Stay tuned for an official announcement here on the blog tomorrow morning!
“It’s psychotic. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”
~Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles~
Ah, good old mediocrity. The goal for which everyone aimed, right?
In the sixth grade, I completed in the school’s spelling bee. If memory serves correctly (I’m getting old and yes, there is truth to the old adage that brains stop working as well once you hit a certain age), I won the class competition which is what placed me in the school’s bee.
I won the school’s spelling bee.
Don’t ask me what word I spelled to win because I don’t remember.
I remember, however, thinking winning was kick-ass, especially because I was one of the younger kids in the school. I beat the older, (and I thought smarter), kids that day.
I did not make it past the county spelling bee, however, despite studying my ass off. The other kids there were simply better at spelling than I. (I know, completely shocking, right?)
I have the trophy stashed somewhere, probably in a box long gone, to be honest. Who knows. It is a symbol of victory, of not settling for anything but the best.
I also played soccer as a kid. Our team did not win a lot of games, we definitely did not win regionals or go to any sort of championship. At least, I don’t remember us doing so. Know what we all got at the end of the season? A tropy. For mediocrity.
That trophy, while pretty, is completely worthless. Sure, it has my name on it and is a symbol of a lot of physical exertion over a few months, but meh. There is no victory attached to it therefore it means nothing.
We do not need to reward people for mere participation. For just showing up. Awards are meant for people who go above and beyond expectations, who fight like hell to do their very best and dedicate their lives to be the very best they can be at what they do.
Trophies don’t go to people who half-ass it. At least, they shouldn’t.
I think anyone living with a mental illness who battles through their days just to survive, however, should have a damn trophy. Because that? IS HARD WORK. Getting out of bed, doing what needs to be done, making plans, living – that is damn near impossible for someone with a mental illness. Doable, but damn near impossible without an extreme exertion of energy, both physical and mental.
It is a well-practiced tango between mind and body – convincing the brain to properly control the body to do what it needs to in order to accomplish the most base tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, etc. Same days? It’s more like the hokey pokey – you put the left arm in, you take the left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about. If you’re lucky, you fall asleep and start all over again, praying that your mind & body are back in sync the next day.
If you created a trophy for yourself or someone you loved who struggled with a mental illness to inspire/empower them, what would it say?
Tell me down below!
I’m gonna have to give some thought to what mine would say. Stay tuned for that update!
“How do you help all the women you do and not carry their pain with you?” asked my therapist as we sat in her office a little over two years ago.
“I don’t know. I just do.” I fidgeted slightly as I readjusted in the chair, popping my neck and a few vertebrae as I did so.
“But day in and day out, you are seeing people at their worst and helping them solve their problems. How do you manage to do that without internalizing it?” she rephrased, pushing me to answer.
“How do you do it?” I answered her push with a question.
“Nice try. You’re good at deflecting, aren’t you?”
I smiled and recrossed my legs, staring back at her.
“It’s an art, really. As for how I don’t carry their pain and issues with me, I just don’t. Their issues are not mine. I have fought my battles, I am fighting my battles, and I leave their battles to them. I learned, from fighting my own battles, that I cannot fight anyone else’s battles for them. They have to fight them. All I can do is point them in the right direction and hand them the right tools. That’s my job. That’s where it ends.”
“So you have never had a situation that shook you?”
“Of course. Haven’t you?”
“Yes. The difference is that….”
“You’re a trained professional and I am not?”
“Well, no. Perhaps. It is just that it takes a lot to be able to listen to issues day in and day out and not get worn down by that. Given that you are here and still helping other people, it is my job to make sure you are taking care of yourself.”
“I am. I know when to step away. I have people I can hand things off to if they get too intense and I know that I am not equipped to handle crises. I also have people I debrief with after any situation which involves a crisis – people check on me which is wonderful. I am peer support only, something I make very clear to anyone who reaches out to me.”
We wrapped things up shortly thereafter, this particular session not nearly as rough as the one where she pushed me to consider whether or not I had ever shown my true self to anyone at all including myself. But this session left me deep in thought too, which is what a therapy session is supposed to leave you doing – thinking about your issues in a constructive manner instead of just wallowing & ruminating.
Sometimes I would go hiking after my sessions. Other times, I would go for a long drive, music blasting, the windows down. I wish I could say I remembered what I did after this session but I don’t because frankly, the after sessions blurred together.
The discussion in this session though, is one that we can all learn from. While not everyone is actively helping stranger after stranger through what some consider to be the worst time of their lives (most of us who have been through a Perinatal Mood Disorder kindly call it hell), it is important to remember that when we are helping others to not allow their pain to become our own. It is possible to be compassionate without tucking someone else’s pain into a pocket in your own heart. Difficult, but possible. It is also important to know your own emotional limits. Do not ever sacrifice your own emotional well-being for someone else if you can help it. (Remember the whole your glass must be full in order to give to others rule here.)
My goal, when someone reaches out to me for help, is to empower them to deal with their issues on their own with help that is much closer (and far more professional). This should be your goal as well if you are a fellow advocate or a non-professional. Educate, empower, release. I follow up, of course, and some of the folks end up being pretty good friends, but most of the time, it is a catch and release sort of contact. It’s something I’ve grown to expect.
With each person I help, my own personal hell loses just a little more of its darkness, shoving me further into the light, allowing me to help even more people.
No woman or family should ever have to struggle through a Perinatal Mood Disorder alone. This is why I do what I do and why I will never stop.
Because every single one of us matters to someone out there.
A mum in the UK recently took her own life. Fellow PPD blogger Ivy Shih Leung wrote a very long and insightful piece about it here.
While I have not read anything beyond Ivy’s piece, I want to address one of the issues Ivy touches on in her post. For me, it is one of the primary reasons women who struggle with a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder still fight so desperately with reaching out for help and then with actually receiving the proper help.
Our battle has multiple levels. Were PMAD’s a video game, we would have to survive level after harrowing level before finally reaching a properly educated doctor or therapist. Some of us may be lucky enough to skip all these harrowing levels but for most of us, we are destined to fight with all we have while we don’t have much just to get by in a world expecting us to be super mom while we are at it.
First, we have to fight with ourselves to acknowledge that there is a problem.
Then, we fight with loved ones for help with every day tasks and with reaching out for help. We fight the argument that we are “faking” or “pretending” just to get out of housework or parenting. We are, some of us, told to suck it up and get over it. Move on. We’ll fall in love with our children eventually. Worse yet, some of us are told depression is some sort of luxury the former generations did not have time with which to deal.
Next, we fight with the front desk folks at the doctor’s office who may tell us such things as “If you’re not suicidal, don’t call us until you are.” (And yes, shamefully, that DOES happen in real life).
We then level up to arguing with a doctor who may brilliantly tell us that our hormones should be back in order by now so of course it can’t be Postpartum Depression despite the fact that we just admitted several high risk symptoms to them. So we are referred to the therapist who calls and reschedules until we are exhausted and cancel altogether.
So we suck it up and try to make do on our own until the next baby when we completely fall apart and start the entire routine all over again. Only this time around, there is a little less resistance from family members and friends because they have seen you go through this before and realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t making it up this time around.
But we have to stay off the Internet because it’s a dangerous place for a woman with a PMAD to be – we will be judged for breastfeeding while taking medication or for giving formula because we have to medicate. We didn’t try hard enough to protect ourselves, there is something wrong with us. Damn straight there is something wrong with us – it’s an illness, it’s real, and it is hell.
Psychiatric stigma is bullshit. The divisiveness motherhood brings to a woman’s life is bullshit. Hell, sometimes just being a woman altogether is bullshit. Why we judge each other so harshly for our choices is so beyond me I don’t even know how to begin to understand why we do this. I’m serious – I truly do not understand the in-fighting or bickering.
It comes down to understanding one simple truth:
Each mother needs to do what is best for HER and for HER family. As long as she is doing just that, we do not need to judge, we do not need to place blame, stigma, guilt, or any other negative blanket upon her or her family.
The Internet can be a fabulous place for support if you end up surrounded by the right people and ignore the wrong people. It’s finding the wonderful people that is the challenge.
I have a simple dream, in closing. It’s a dream that one day, mothers of all sort of different beliefs, will be able to have a discussion about parenting without inadvertently reducing each other to panic attacks and/or tears because they’ve judged someone for doing something outside the realm of *their* comfort zone.
One day, right?
Today marks Veteran’s Day here in the United States. It’s a day we set aside to honor those who have fought so valiantly for our country.
With the advent of technology, reaching out to Veterans to declare your support is easier than ever before. Businesses, organizations, individuals – everyone is sending a shout out to Vets today. It is amazing to see the support flowing forth.
I think there is an aspect we often forget about as we reach out to give our thanks to the vets who have fought for us through service in various branches of our military.
It is important to remember they are human too. They have emotions, reactions, and they too, are remembering their journey in their own way as we lavish them with praise and appreciation.
Some may struggle with PTSD. Others are lost in thoughts of brothers in arms lost to battle. Others contend with the idea that those who thank them for all they have taught them are themselves the teachers and worthy of praise.
We forget, all too often, I think, the intense emotional aspect of war. The toll it takes on all of us. Perhaps this is because best summed up by this quote:
“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Is war something we are unable to closely associate with human emotion because of the very nature of it? Is battle too fierce? The fighting too gruesome? Do our psyche’s not allow us to carry the traumatic alongside the sensitivity? Is this our brain’s way of protecting us from an emotional overload? Or is it because the majority of soldiers for so long have been men and therefore not allowed to operate as anything less than robotic?
We do not broadcast our losses on the evening news as often as we should, a point made in this deeply moving post about a citizen sharing a last flight home by a soldier. Instead, we relegate ourselves to separation from the tremendous loss and focus instead on the reunions of soldiers with loved ones. We are not acknowledging, in my humble opinion, the steep and tragic cost associated with prolonged battle. The loss, the heartache, the raw emotions steeped in battle and drenched in blood shed against tyrants who dare to threaten our freedoms, are far too great for humanity to bear.
We, for whatever reason, do not often equate humanity with soldiering. Empathy and compassion fails to mesh well with the ferocity of battle. So when soldiering and emotion intersects, as it often does on Veteran’s Day for so many, it can be triggering. It may leave some feeling overwhelmed and not knowing quite how to deal with the gratitude flowing their way.
It is not like Christmas or Thanksgiving. We are not celebrating, we are honoring. There are no gifts or celebratory meals. Instead, there is quiet recognition and thoughtful consideration of all that our veterans have sacrificed. Like anything else, we all choose to do this differently for it is intensely personal for those of us who have a veteran in our lives. Whether they be brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, or grandmothers, how we choose to honor their memories is as unique as a snowflake which falls with the first snow.
We may choose to honor them quietly or we may make a public statement. For me, today, I am wearing my grandfather’s tag and will probably at some point watch Mister Roberts, a movie I used to watch with my grandfather quite often. Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy in WWII and although they never spoke of it with me, I knew they carried their experiences with them, as all veterans do. Military service is a part of their souls and the very fiber of their beings. Once you have served, there is rarely a time when you can untangle soldier from human. Therein, in my opinion, lies the challenge in coming to grips with the flow of gratitude on Veteran’s Day.
I only saw my grandfather cry once – when we were at a play meant to raise funds for the WWII D-Day Monument. As the telegraph notifications came in reporting the deaths of the soldiers in Bedford, Virginia, the hall went completely silent. Deeper than an audible silence; the kind of silence which envelops a room when there is great respect for what is occurring. I glanced over at my grandfather at this point to see his cheeks soaked in tears. I quickly looked away and struggled to hide my own flooded cheeks shortly thereafter. We never spoke of these tears but I never forgot them for they symbolized the emotional depths of war for me and always will.
For many, in particular those who have seen war since 2001, today is different. The memories are recent, the pain is ongoing, and they have joined the Greatest Generation in knowing the pain of war. Yes, the pain. War is not some glorified wonderful thing. It is not the Hollywood version where there is a rise to action, action, and then a conclusion. It’s messy, it rips families apart, it pushes soldiers to their limits and back again, and if they’re lucky, they get to come home, alive and still intact both physically and mentally. For all too many, this is not the case, and their wounds may not be visible to the eye.
Suicide rates among soldiers, for the first time ever, outnumbers the deaths occurring in active combat. There is PTSD, and number of additional other issues which, again, because of technology and advancements in mental health awareness & medicine, are now at the forefront of the adverse affects of war. Women who are deployed face a higher risk of Postpartum Depression which in turn, affects an entire generation. War truly leaves a mark on every one of us, both on and off the battlefield.
So today, when you thank a veteran, particularly a younger veteran, take the time to embrace that they may be filled with emotions they may not be ready for today as a result of the onslaught of gratitude. Take the time to realize that these brave men and women have lost loved ones, brothers in arms, and they are replaying this in their heads as you thank them for their service. Respect their journey but also take the time to check in with them and ask them how they are doing.
For they are soldiers, they are brave men and women, but beneath it all, they have a heart, a soul, and they have bled for us, some more than others. They deserve nothing less than our greatest compassion and understanding for the hell they witnessed on the battlefield as they fought for freedom from tyranny in our great country’s name.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to revisit the topic of self-care. As women, we so very often forget to mother the most important person in our lives – ourselves. If we do not take the time to refill our souls and our bodies, we are useless to those around us. Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless for it allows us to give others more when we are giving from full capacity. Just as it is impossible to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher it is difficult to pour ourselves into others if we are empty.
Go check out this worksheet and rate your level of self-care. What areas are lacking? Where are you thriving? Then I want to challenge you to doing what the worksheet says at the top – commit to improving at least ONE thing from each section every week. Baby steps matter and with the busy holiday season right around the corner, it is important we all remember to give the gift of ourselves to ourselves. While the small things are not at all a FIX for your issues, they matter and they add up over time.
It is also important to remember to care for ourselves during the winter months, particularly if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Having moved back north where there is less sunshine during the winter, I am finding this a challenge. Feel free to jump in and share any strategies you may have to combat this common issue as well as discuss the challenge struggling with SAD in addition to PPD may bring.
Looking forward to chatting about the importance of self-care during the fall & winter months at 1pm ET & 830pm ET. See you on Twitter!