Forward

The last few days have rocked the Maternal Mental Health community. The dissolution of Postpartum Progress came as a shock, even to many of us who were calling for change. I’m not going to get into the story behind what happened. If you do not already know, it is all there, mostly in public forums of Facebook, for you to piece together.

That said, I want to make sure my position on the matter is clear.

I stand with people of color. I stand behind them when they say they have been harmed. I stand behind them when they tell me what they need, and I add the volume of my voice to their own. I am learning every day about the ways in which my own whiteness,  privilege and utilization of systems of oppression, even when done so unintentionally, harms people of color. I am learning because I am listening and researching and being curious. We are not perfect. I am certainly not perfect, but if I screw up the roof when I’m building a house, I fix the roof… not burn the whole thing down.

It was not my house, though.

So, now we are here and the best thing we can do is look forward. Many of us used PPI as our primary resource, both in our own battles with PPMDs and in the support we offered to people who crossed our paths. As I understand it, the blog and resources online will remain. The online peer support forum Facebook groups are being retained, but will be re-named/re-branded. Really, the community under the PPI name is what has been dissolved.

What I want you to know, more than anything, is this-

WE are not going anywhere.

WE, the advocates, the survivors, the volunteers, the fighters, WE are still here. WE are more than our formal affiliations. WE are more than a name, a brand, an umbrella. WE were here before PPI and WE are going no where.

I am still here for you, Mamas. I am still a resource, a source of support, an advocate, a safe place. I am still loving on you and cheering for you. Do not flee back into the darkness simply because an organization is bowing out. The light is still here, and we are all still in it.

I have been working hard the last few days to determine where to align my work and volunteerism so that it can best support you and the Mamas who haven’t found us yet. Several of us, who met through PPI, have been putting our heads together on this. We are working while we grieve. We are working hard.

On a personal level, I am ramping up my live storytelling. Many of you first connected with me through that space, and so, as I sit here thinking about how I can be of service to a community who now feels abandoned, I hear that call once again. I will tell you when/where as shows are scheduled. My plan is to get back on stage as soon and as frequently as possible in order to continue the stigma smashing, encouragement giving and community creating work that I love. A work which I do best by standing in front of a room full of strangers, baring my soul and giving them space to say, “Me Too.”

WE are going to be just fine.

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The New Family – When Your Mom Comes Out

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I had the GREAT pleasure to spend some time chatting with Brandie Weikle over at The New Family, and my episode went live today! Have a listen on your commute home tonight and remember

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Listen to the podcast directly on the site, or find them on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and various other platforms!

Dear Mamas…

Dear Mamas,
You are not alone. Ever.
Love,
Me, and all of Us
PostpartumProgress.org

Invisible Warrior

Every single day of my son’s life, I have thought about him dying. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I wonder if I will find him in his room, the life already gone from his body. Other times, my mind will be free for a while, until I put face lotion in my hands and notice that the blob of moisturizer resembles a number. In an instant, a little voice inside my head tells me that number is representative of the age at which my son will die. Sometimes I rummage around in the kitchen cabinets, searching for a specific coffee mug, because that same little voice has told me if I don’t use it, my son will die. Other times we will be eating at a restaurant, and I will imagine him choking on whatever morsel he has ordered for himself to enjoy. I can see his face turning blue in my mind’s eye. I push food around my plate and try to will the thought away.

Some days are better than others. Some days I only experience one instance of this type of horrifying intrusive thinking. Other times my days are fraught with them. My mind is under siege by an onslaught of terrifying images, fit for a tear-jerking Lifetime movie, or sometimes a horror film.

I have Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive disorders, and intrusive thinking is symptomatic of both. There are a couple of things to note about Intrusive Thinking, that may not be apparent for someone who has never experienced them.

The first is that they are completely out of my control. I don’t choose these thoughts any more than you chose your eye color. I didn’t ask for them, and I don’t indulge them. I have a variety of techniques that I’ve learned in therapy which help me to clear them, but they (so far) have never disappeared entirely.

The second thing is that they are every bit as horrific as they sound. I love my son deeply, and my anxiety disorder is centered squarely on the debilitating fear that I will lose him. These intrusive thoughts are representative of my mind obsessing over all the ways that it could happen, in a terribly misguided effort toprevent it. The Intrusive Thoughts are the “Obsessive” part of my OCD. The things they drive me to do (use certain coffee mugs, rewrite lotion numbers on my hand) are the “Compulsions”. The brain is sometimes the most inelegant of organs, and OCD isn’t all flicking light switches and counting things. It can look very different.

The third, and final thing, to point out about Intrusive Thoughts, is that they are invisible. If you saw me at a restaurant, I appear to be just a lady sitting at a table with her beautiful family, enjoying a meal. You might judge me for seeming uptight. You might overhear some of our conversation and think I sound like a real paranoid control freak. You might say something to your friends along the lines of “Oh, great, she’s one of those moms.” You might label me as intense, paranoid, controlling. You might identify me as strict, or overbearing, or bitchy. The label you most likely would not give me, however, is the one that would be the most accurate… ill.

My mental illness isn’t something you can see. Aside from the medication I take every day, the mental work I do to battle my illness is also invisible to you. You might not realize that I had to wage war on my own mind, just to be able to leave the house today, just to get this meal with my family.

So, be careful with the labels you attach to people, or the assumptions you might make about them. So many illnesses are invisible to the majority of us. You never know who might secretly be a Warrior, fighting battles on the inside, while living life on the outside.

Warrior Mom Conference, 2016 – Atlanta, Georgia

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Alrighty, it’s been made public by Postpartum Progress now, so I am finally free to announce what I have been positively giddy to announce to you guys – I AM SPEAKING AT THE WARRIOR MOM CONFERENCE!!!!!!!

Remember waaaayyyy back in December when I announced my not-so-secret Secret Wish for 2016? It was then that I shared that I was applying for a speaker slot at Postpartum Progress’ 2nd Annual Warrior Mom Conference. It was a total whim, to be honest. It’s no secret that I am a total Postpartum Progress fan-girl, and I wanted to attend the conference no matter what, but I love speaking to moms. I really do. That might sound strange coming from someone who battles an anxiety disorder, but I feel at home on a stage talking to my tribe, and Mothers, well… they are my tribe. Especially Warrior Moms. I had an idea to explore and give a talk about the unique way that Mothers experience the Impostor Phenomenon (something I’m calling being a Mompostor), and I’m thrilled to be getting to do just that. I’ll be discussing what it feels like to be a Mompostor, what contributes to and perpetuates the phenomenon, and how to stop questioning your authenticity and worth, both as a mother and as a person.

So, my not-so-secret Secret Wish for 2016, is happening and I am beyond excited for the opportunity!

The conference is already sold out, BUT there is a waiting list if you’re interested in attending! If you’ve already snagged a ticket and you’re going, let me know! I’d love to look out for you there!

As we march towards the second half of 2016, I hope that your own secret wishes are being fulfilled, but most of all I just hope that you are wishing, because dreams and wishes are the ether into which our lives take flight.

Love to you all.

Why I Climb

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Next Saturday, June 18th, I will join over 3,000 people across the world (for real, y’all, there’s even a climb in Israel!) to shed light on Maternal Mental Illness by Climbing Out of the Darkness. The majority of these people are women, many joined by their families and loved ones, and they are survivors. They are Warriors. They are My Tribe. We may come from different backgrounds and different places, and many of us speak different languages, but there is one tongue with which we are all familiar, and it is the devastating fear and isolation of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. We have all experienced Maternal Mental Illness, and while our personal stories, diagnosis and recoveries look different, a single thread knits us together. We are forever woven into each others lives.

We each have our own reasons for climbing, and I thought I’d take a moment to share with you what will be driving each step I take on June 18, and indeed what drives many of the steps I take every single day of the year.

I climb because Postpartum Progress saved my life. Helping them continue their work is the least that I can do.

I climb because my fellow Warrior Moms need for me to squeeze their hand and know that I am here with them, still.

I climb because my children need to know how strong their Mama really is. They need to know that I fought for them. They need to know that Mama doesn’t go down without a fight. They need to know that my battle with mental illness is neither their fault, nor is it representative of my feelings for them, or my worth as a mother.

I climb because my husband needs to know that there is fight left in me. He, who has seen me in my worst, most desperate state, needs to be reminded that the woman he married is still here, still vibrant, still ferociously living.

I climb because the public needs to know that we exist. Women, across the world, need better access to mental health care. They need legislators on their side. They need doctors on their side. They need humans on their side. Women need to be warned about PPMDs. They need to be screened, every single one of them. They need to be prepared. They need support from the people and representatives who are responsible for putting healthcare systems in place, and those representatives need to hear us demand that support.

I climb because there are women who have lost their lives to Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. I climb to remember them. I climb to honor them. I climb to grieve them.

I climb because there are women who need our help. There are women out there, right now, who are battling Maternal Mental Illness and have not yet been diagnosed. Or perhaps they know or suspect what they’re dealing with, but are too afraid or stigmatized to receive the proper treatment. They need us. They need us to climb out of the darkness and shout from the highest peaks that we see them, we can help them, and they are not alone. They need us to reach down into the darkness, and pull them out.

For these reasons and more, I Climb.

If you’re interested in joining a climb near you, head over here to see where the closest one is. If there isn’t one nearby, why not host one yourself?! You CAN do it!

If you can’t climb, but you still want to help, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d donate to my fundraiser.

However you choose to show your support, know that I am grateful to you for it. I say all the time that Postpartum Progress saved my life, and they did, but so did you, and anyone else in the history of forever who has supported their mission. I owe my life to you. Thank you.

Now, let’s go save some more lives.

Climb Out Of The Darkness

Did you know…

Each year, MORE women will experience Postpartum Mood Disorders (PPMD) than people will have strokes. MORE women will experience PPMDs in a year, than people will experience a sprained ankle.

Shocking, isn’t it?

1 in 7 women will face a postpartum mood disorder, like Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety/OCD or Postpartum Psychosis, and yet they still fly under the radar, receiving too little research, screening and funding.

But here’s the real shocker, only 15% of those women will receive treatment. FIFTEEN PERCENT!!! That means millions of women go undiagnosed. They suffer in silence. Even worse, their children suffer, too. Research has shown that untreated maternal mental illness affects the development of children, and puts them at a higher risk of future psychiatric illness themselves. On top of that, untreated maternal mental illness causes far too many Mamas to leave this world too soon.

My battle with Postpartum Anxiety & OCD began the moment that Silas was placed into my arms. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the information that I needed in order to get help. I believed that everyone cried all the time, thought obsessively about all the terrible things that could happen to their children and had to say a specific sentence to their baby every night or else they wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Well, sort of. I knew SOMETHING didn’t feel right, but I was too scared and uninformed to be able to do anything about it. What’s more, I trusted in our medical care providers and, since I was passing the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression screening repeatedly at well baby check ups, I assumed that I must be normal. Turns out I didn’t have Postpartum Depression, but rather Postpartum Anxiety and OCD, so the PPD screening was not sufficient to raise any red flags. (This is why more research needs to be done in order to develop more thorough and accurate screening methodologies!)

Thankfully, I have an incredible husband who, after watching me suffer for 2 years, kept on pushing me to find help, until I finally did. Finding a therapist who understood what I was experiencing, put a name to it, and, even better, lifted me out of the darkness, was like breathing fresh air again after being locked underground.

The reason I was able to get that help? Postpartum Progress.

This organization provided me the tools I needed to understand what I was experiencing and the resources I needed to get help. I owe more than my gratitude to them. It was so bad, and I was so exhausted and defeated that, had I not found help when I did, I would not be writing this to you today. It is because of them that I am still alive. Gratitude will never be enough. I owe them my life.

So, here we come to the point of this little pow wow. I’m asking for you to make a donation. On June 18, 2016, I will be joining women all over the country to Climb Out Of The Darkness. This annual fundraiser, created by Postpartum Progress is so much more than a way to raise money, though. It shines light on an oft invisible illness. It brings women together who have suffered uniquely, and who in turn, understand each other uniquely.

Your donation helps Postpartum Progress to continue the important advocacy work that they do. Your donation helps Postpartum Progress save more women and children. Women and children like me and Silas. I hope that you will make a contribution. Even better, if you’re local, feel free to come walk with me (you must register first)! This event is not just for survivors of PPMD, but for their loved ones and support networks, too! All the information you need, whether for donating or registering, can be found at the link below, or by clicking here.

Lastly, I love you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting me as I continue to battle maternal mental illness. Postpartum Progress brought me out of the darkness, but YOU, all of you, are the light that shines on me, day after day.

All my love.

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