Tag Archives: anxiety

Stigma Fighters

2 Jul

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Stigma Fighters today, writing about how stigma continues to affect me, even 5 years post-diagnosis.

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I’d like to say I’m immune from stigma. After 3 years of blogging about mental health, and 2 years as an advocate, you’d think I’d be able to shake the shame surrounding my diagnoses of postpartum anxiety (and postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder) with ease. And from the outside, it must seem that I do.

I speak freely about my experiences with friends and family. I’ve hosted public events, fundraising and educating my local communities. I write for Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog on maternal mood and anxiety disorders. And I’m helping organize and direct an entire conference dedicated to those Warrior Moms who have survived from them.

But what you probably don’t see? Is that when I speak in person about my mental illness, I measure my words carefully, making note of my audience and surroundings before I ever open my mouth. I watch the face of my conversation partner for signs of disgust disguised as pity, and I find myself wondering at times if that mom from playgroup doesn’t ever drop her kid off to play because “she’s afraid I might go cray-zee.”

You see, the only stigma I’m immune to is the one I hold against myself…

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To read the rest of the story (you know you want to!) please head on over and say hello at Stigma Fighters.  The work Sarah is doing to raise awareness and change the way the world views mental illness is so important.

Stigma Fighters

Every Mother. Every Time.

14 Mar

Petition

I was in my first trimester of my first pregnancy when antenatal anxiety washed over me like the tide, insidious and unstoppable.  We were living on our own in the midwest at the time, and the loneliness was crushing.  I compensated for my irrational worries by donning a brave face and making light of my anxiety, to both friends and my doctors, and I assumed all newly pregnant women felt the same trepidation and slight panic I was suppressing.

I was 8 weeks pregnant when my OB called me into her office.  My fears and worries were suddenly compounded by a previously-undiagnosed kidney disease.  A giant mass in my abdomen.  And they had no idea what it was.  I taciturnly absorbed all the doctor said and then politely asked for a few moments alone.  When the door shut behind her, something in me broke.  I walked out of there a shadow of myself.  The next 6 months brought a multitude of diagnoses.  I was ultrasounded and MRIed (twice).  I met with several surgeons and had a cathertized void test done.  There were very few cases of pregnant women with my eventual diagnosis of severe hydronephrosis with 1% kidney function, and so few doctors could tell me exactly what to expect or how it would impact my pregnancy.  And that scared me to death.

Six months into my pregnancy, we moved to the North East.  My need for my family (who had moved up to the Boston area a few years before) outweighed my terror at the prospect of moving, but leading up to moving day, I had increased symptoms of panic attack.  I refused to drive while house hunting, irrationally fearful of the alien traffic patterns of our new-home-to-be.  I fought back waves of nausea at each apartment-hunting appointment, instead playing the part of the happy, expectant couple.  The night before our final flight out of the midwest, I became convinced I had a blood clot in my right leg – and the resulting (unnecessary) hospital trip ended in a 2am leg ultrasound for me and a busted blood vessel in my husband’s eye from the stress.  My husband tells me that when I fainted from panic on the 4 hour flight to Boston the next day, he took special notice of the halfway mark in the flight.  “At least there was no turning back,” he says, only half-jokingly.

Unfortunately, arriving in Boston alleviated the anxiety only temporarily.  As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I began having irrational, intrusive thoughts about my husband leaving me.  “He’s only staying until the baby is born,” the lies whispered, “he never wanted a baby anyway.”  I became increasingly irritable and emotional, and finally suffered enough to mention it to my OB, a high-risk, high-profile doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital.  With my mother in the room, I explained my heart palpitations and my trouble breathing.  I outlined my mood swings and my panic attacks.  It took every ounce of courage in my body to admit that I was struggling.

In return, she told me to “stop worrying.  Pregnancy is an emotional time.”

That was it.  We moved on to belly measurements and discussions of pain management during labor.

With only two sentences, she had me doubting my need for help. I suddenly “just wasn’t trying hard enough.”  And I believed her.

EMET Quote

Throughout the course of my first pregnancy, I saw 5 different OBs, 3 surgeons, 2 primary care physicians, and a myriad of nurses and techs.  None of them EVER asked about my emotional well-being, and when I did speak up for myself?  I was ignored.  Dismissed.  And the thing that angers me the most is that MGH has a world-renouned Center for Women’s Health, run in part by the incomparable Dr. Marlene Freeman, an expert in the field of pre and post-natal mood and anxiety disorders.  Sitting in my OB’s office, I was one elevator ride away from help.

Instead, it took me 5 months after my daughter was born – five months of intrusive thoughts about shaking my baby or letting her slip in the bath tub (I would like to emphasize here that intrusive thoughts are distinguished from psychosis by a mother’s ability to recognize the thoughts as scary) – five months of obsessively folding and lining up burp rags and matching bottle tops to bottle bottoms by shape and color – five months of rage and of falling apart behind the scenes before I recognized I needed help.

It’s hard for me to think back through that time because I find myself so ANGRY.  My struggle was preventable.  Avoidable.  Not once during or after my pregnancy was I asked about my emotional well-being.  A few simple questions and an honest conversation with a trusted doctor was all it would have taken.

It’s all it will take… because I am committed to getting new moms the help I didn’t receive.  We need mothers to be screened for antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  Every mother.  Every time.

Please.  For me.  For my daughters.  Go sign this petition.  Then share this post, share the petition and help us make this go viral.

From the petition website:

Suicide is a leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth. 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated. In pregnancy, maternal mental illness negatively effects fetal development, and leads to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can impair infant and early childhood cognitive and emotional development. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence, there is no universal mandate for care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anxiety, or family history of mental illness–a well established risk factor. Screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

If you can’t sign the petition, you can still help!  Spread the word!  Donate to Postpartum Progress!  Ask a new mom how she is REALLY doing.  We can each do something.

Click to Donate to Postpartum Progress

Click to Donate to Postpartum Progress

Help and Hope

5 Mar

Tomorrow, I’m taking my eldest child to therapy.  She’s five.  And it feels like failure.

Now, I’m the first person to tell you that therapy is a wonderful gift to give yourself.  It’s one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done – it broke me and healed me simultaneously and gave me the gifts of introspection and self-acceptance.  I’m eternally grateful to the tailspin that was PPD for forcing me into a shrink’s office. (Side note:  Anybody else remember that cartoon, Talespin?  I loved that show as a kid!)

So why do I feel fractured?  Why was the phone call to the counseling center about my child almost as hard as when I called about my own issues so many years ago?  Introspection to the rescue.

…………………………..

“Her fears of children’s television shows and the wind, her anxieties about crowds and friendships, and her rage-filled temper tantrums – how are these not my fault?  How can a child spend the first two years of her life with an depression-consumed mother and not have the yelling and the emotional barriers affect her personality?”

My inner-monologue screams at me as I write the appointment time and date on my calendar, adding it to my phone and my weekly to-do list.  And to add insult to injury, I find I’ve written the appointment on the incorrect date and must write it again, the hurtful rhetoric echoing with every letter and number.

I break down in tears and sob while both daughters smack their mouths on gooey peanut butter sandwiches.

……………………………..

I’ve written about my experiences as a new mother with postpartum depression and anxiety before.  I’ve made a practice of not hiding how devastating that time was – of not allowing shame to dominate my life now.  I thought I was over it.  But the guilt monster, it seems, has a thirst that can never be quenched.  She sneaks back in and reminds me of all the time I missed and of all the damage I must have caused.  When will I be able revisit those days without anguish and without all the sights and sounds torturing my memory?

Facing that my little girl needs some help with what we call her “big feelings”  is forcing me to reflect on my own struggles with mental health.  It’s making me step out of the present and reside temporarily in her past… my past.  And in looking back, I remember that I’m angry for what the PPD took from me and for what it gave to my child.

………………………………

“What a gift you are giving her.  The chance to learn to be introspective and to ask for help.  I wish it had been alright to not be okay when I was a kid.”

My friends talk me down from a shame spiral, the depths of which only a peer would  know.  They tell me I am a good mom for allowing myself to go back to the pain and recognize that it gives me the power to help my baby.  They speak of courage.  And I try not to feel like a fraud.

…………………………….

The truth is that even though I know that I did not cause my child’s dramatic and spirited personality – even though I recognize that I am doing everything I can to help her grow into who she is and to care for her needs with respect and love – I don’t feel worthy of her.

And there it is.  This therapy appointment feels like evidence that she deserved better.

And yet I’m exactly the momma she needs.

………………………….

We stand in front of the white door and she notices the meditation medallion hanging from the door knocker.  Nervously, she reaches out for my hand.  Together, we take a deep breath and step, through our fears and hesitations, into help and hope.

Anatomy of a Weekend

1 Feb

I am an introvert.  Not in the sense that I don’t like people – I do – but spending time with people requires a proportional amount of time to myself each day to refuel.  Which makes parenting hard, because tiny people all. the. time.

I tend to dread weekends like this one, wondering come Friday why I signed myself up for so much.  It’s precisely why the kids aren’t signed up for weekend activities like soccer or underwater basket weaving.  I didn’t mean for the weekend to get so full, but here we are.  As the week transitioned over into the weekend at some point Friday evening (maybe 6pm?), I took a deep breath.

Friday: Make crockpot chicken, do laundry, pick up house to give husband a fighting chance.

Friday Night: Leave husband in charge of dinner, bath, and bedtime to go have dinner and shopping with my oldest and dearest friend.  Dress shop until the mall closes and see myself through her eyes again.  Come home late to a quiet house and party with the husband until 11:30pm.  Vow not to stay up that late again for a while because apparently in your 30’s you lose all sense of “late.”

Saturday Morning: Awaken to sounds of the preschooler clogging the toilet and trying to fix it herself by flushing it more.  There is no snooze button for “clogged toilet.”  Ask said toilet paper addict to hop in the shower and spend the next 15 minutes arguing.  Shower oldest daughter, then spend 10 minutes arguing with her about blow-drying her hair while convincing toddler to change out of her smelly overnight diaper.  Nurse toddler.  Eventually come downstairs and curse husband as he calls dibs on the coffee maker with his full-caffiene-beverage-making.  Feed children breakfast while prepping the chicken bones for stock and veggies for the day’s pot roast.  Kiss husband and preschooler goodbye as they head out to a party.  Make toddler a couch cushion trampoline and then fort.  Three hours after waking up, finally make a pot of decaf and fry an egg with some toast.  Sit down to eat and write a rambly blog post.

S reading

I still have a house to pick up as we have friends coming over for the afternoon and dinner tonight.  Yoga must happen today and I’d love 15 minutes on the elliptical.  Plus a shower and blow-dry.

Sunday is Listen To Your Mother audition day and I’m secretly hoping Casey and I can have a cup of coffee (or a shot of something stronger) before.

But what I’m struck by (and the reason I’m writing this post today) is that when I push the whole picture into the recesses of my mind and focus only on the next few hours, everything falls into place.  The weekend is full, and I know I will need Monday to recover (don’t mind me, I’ll just be home that day in my pajamas ignoring society), but it’s full of people we love and wonderful memory-making.  I’m choosing to push myself out of my comfort zone and enjoy it.

Bumps in the Road

18 Nov

Going back through all my posts about mental health in the last two weeks was like digging up a time capsule.  Did you ever do one of those in school?  I assembled one my freshman year and when it was returned to me 4 years later, I almost didn’t recognize the “me” I had locked away.  I blog because the words want to spill out of me – because placing them here and sharing them brings me peace.  But looking back, the icing on the cake is that I have a record of my recovery.

When people ask about my experience having a second baby after experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, I tell them that my second baby was the pregnancy and postpartum period I felt robbed of the first time around.  I share how I have never frightened my 2 year old with the rage my oldest had to face.  (On a side note, Robin is writing about rage on Postpartum Progress today.  It’s a must read!)  And I believe my story gives moms new hope that they can have a better experience the second time around.

But reading back?  I had some pretty big bumps in the road after Bean was born.  Periods of depression, a severe panic attack, and continued anxiety management.  I was actually surprised reading some of the pieces from Bean’s first year.  I clearly remember how awful Bug’s first year was.  It was hell.  But memories of my second daughter’s infancy have an overall joy about them.  It’s as if how I feel about my experience didn’t measure up to my actual experience, if you were to judge merely by the blog entries.

Gratuitous adorable toddler pictureI think the difference this time has been that throughout every depressive episode and every panic attack, I never felt hopeless.  I never felt crushed by the lies my brain was telling me.  I knew better and I had a support network around me mirroring that back to me on the days I couldn’t see it.  It’s not that I didn’t suffer from bouts of mental illness with my second baby, but that they were less severe and well-treated.  Simply put, I was ready for them.  And no matter how bumpy the road, I always felt like I was still traveling forward.

Have hope.  Always, hope.

Depression and Anxiety Resources

17 Nov

I’m updating my page about postpartum depression and anxiety with a series of my favorite Learned Happiness posts. My journey to health is not unlike many others in the PPD community and yet it has its own subtle nuances and my story is, of course, my own.

I’ve pieced together my journey from the depths of postpartum depression and anxiety to the amazing place I find myself today – one of balance and mental health instead of mental illness. I will always struggle with anxiety and the depression it brings with it, but it is a part of my life instead of the entirety of it.

Learned Happiness – My original piece on how my depression created a cycle of learned helplessness and how I hope to break that cycle with this blog.
Therapy – A post about how my attitude toward therapy changed during my treatment and why I believe it’s so important.
Lows – Two steps forward and one step back.  Despite healing after my first bout with PPD, I found the lows returning and challenged them with all the self-care and depression tools I had.
Health Activists Writer’s Monthly Challenge – The WEGO Health HAWMC post about what my anxiety is and feels like.
Because I Can – Why I write about mental health.
Mother’s Day Rally – The first time Katherine invited me to write for Postpartum Progress and I went all fangirl and freaked out.  You must read all the Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health Letters to New Moms.  They are inspiring.
Antental Depression Part One – I was seven weeks pregnant with Bean when I began having intrusive thoughts and felt my world collapsing around me.
Antental Depression Part Two – Thank you to Postpartum Progress, the Mother’s Day Rally Letters, and Marlene Freeman at MGH.  This is where my life began to truly turn around.
Rainy Day Letter – Yael Saar was kind enough to host me at PPD To Joy.  This is part of her Rainy Day Letter series.  The other letters?  Worth sitting down with.  Bring some kleenex.
A Rough Couple of Weeks – On increasing medication mid-pregnancy and all the feelings that come with it.
Dog Tired – On my pregnancy progress.  Evidence that with the right medication and therapy, a second pregnancy can be joyful.
Invisible Wounds – Anxiety and depression are “invisible” to the outside world, but they are very real illnesses.
Ready – Feeling ready for the second baby, prepared for possible PPD, and supported by my IRL and online army.
Warning Signs – A post informing my friends and family what to look for after my second baby was born, written just before her arrival.  My PPD went unnoticed the first time around.  I believe the key to my health the second time around was being upfront and honest with my support network about what to look for and how to help me.
Happy Birthday – The joyful arrival of Bean.
Expectations – How lowering my expectations postpartum helped me stay mentally healthy after my second baby was born.
Panic Attack – The panic attack nine weeks postpartum that had me waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Time Capsule – A HAWMC prompt post about what would be in my PPD time capsule.
When We Know Better… – A HAWMC prompt with my favorite quote.  How does knowing better the second time around translate into a better postpartum experience?
Self Care – Another HAWMC prompt about why I write about mental health.  Hint:  It’s mostly for me.
Persistence – My favorite post of all time.  Inspired by a tree.  Yes, a tree.
Haiku – I wrote terrible haikus about mental health.  Seriously terrible.  But the links to Sweetly Voiced’s diabetes haikus are worth the click!
Tweet, tweet. Boom. – One silly conversation with my husband.  That’s all it took to tell me I was really on the way to being well.
Mother’s Day – “To love her more than I feared her.”  That Mother’s Day I had all I really wanted.
Anything – Five months postpartum, the anxiety and obesessive thoughts returned.
PPD, the Second Time Around – On feeling hopeful and full of joy despite the return of my postpartum anxiety.
Giving Up Control - Why does everything mental health-related for me end up being about my childhood?  On seeking out a reason for my anxiety and how that helped me put it in its place.
PPD and Marriage – PPD rocked my marriage.  Hard.  My husband was hurt just as I was.
I Need Your Help – My post for Strong Start Day 2012 in which I admit to intrusive thoughts about falling down the stairs.
When Birthdays Aren’t So Happy – Dealing with the joy of my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday and the trauma of the anniversary of my PPD onset.
Breastfeeding on Psychotropic Medication – Why I choose to breastfeed while medicated for depression and anxiety, with special care to support women no matter how they feed their babies.
Not For Weak Stomachs – A horrid month of health issues, which I dealt with without any mental health complications.  This was a huge week for me, realizing that my mental illness was well-controlled enough to allow me to deal with crises calmly.  Also?  I was carried down the stairs by a team of firemen while wearing only my underwear.  Good times.
So You Think I Shouldn’t Have Had Children – My response to Anderson Cooper’s piece about the “trend” of mothers taking antidepressants and the horrid FB comments on his fan page in response to the story.
Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills” – On medication and stigma and a primer on how my antidepressant and anti-anxiety pills work.
I Am Not Okay (But I Will Be) – My low days and irritability may periodically return, but armed with therapy, medication, and support, they are short-lived.
Talking Climb Out of the Darkness With My Daughter – Doodlebug and I made a video about postpartum depression and why we were hiking in 2013.
A Tale of Five Medications (Or Don’t Lose Hope) – All about my medication journey, why it is so hard to find the right medication formula and how stigma kept me from being treated for much too long.

And that bring us to today.  A day where I am healthy enough to be an advocate with thirty-something posts on mental illness.  Which honestly?  Is humbling.

I’ll be adding them to the resource page and updating my sidebar this week with my favorite blogs about mental health.  The more we talk about this, the more people we help.  I’m proud to be a part of that.

In Which I Admit I Hate Exercise

23 Oct

My husband loves running.  He lives for the beautiful days when he can run the 5 miles to the dairy farm down the road, around the trails, and back home.  He loves the thrill of cutting time off a particular route and he welcomes the pain that running brings.  He would run daily if he could.

I run?  If chased by a bear.

I’ve tried several times during our relationship (ten years, people) to pick up running.  He insists that it gets easier after the first few weeks and has patiently jogged beside me, cheering me on and motivating me by humming the Rocky theme as I force myself to run jog just… one… more… lap.  It’s never stuck.

Last month, I swam laps twice a week for three weeks in a row only to then catch a horrible cold and lose my momentum.  A year ago, I made it weekly to a wonderful yoga class – until the positions put strain on my bum kidney and I had to bow out.

It seems there is little routine exercise that I ever commit to, despite knowing how good it is for my back and how important it is to not only be heart healthy but also to set a good example for my girls.  And everytime I try to begin anew, I end up kicking myself for not doing enough and eventually quit.

This morning after dropping the oldest at preschool, and after a very long night with little restful sleep and a very cranky toddler, I sat at a stop sign and pondered which way to turn.  Left to the walking trail?  Or right to my probably-still-warm coffee, a blanket, and some tv with a snuggly toddler.  I should mention I was still in my pajamas and it was 34 degrees out.

It wasn’t my slightly snug-fitting pants or my achy back that made me turn left.  It was my mood.  I have been irritable and anxious.  I have caught myself wanting to hibernate and to lose myself in the next season of The Good Wife.

cutest workout partner everAnd so I forced myself to walk today.  I even did a little jogging. And something happened after 3/4 of a mile.  The urgency in my steps eased. My shoulders relaxed.  I smiled at the baby’s antics as she picked up leaves and attempted to sign me their colors instead of fretting at how she was impeding my progress (good god, how is it possible for someone who moves so fast to walk so slow?). I lost my worry over the oldest’s first bus field trip without me and I felt ready for the day to begin.

Whey do I always forget how powerful fresh air (even cold air), sunshine, and movement are in lifting my mood?

Which brings me to my title.  I hate exercise.  I won’t ever love the activity, the challenge, or the pain.  But I do love the results.  It is a vital component in my self-care and it helps to manage my mental illness.  So though I am not committing to being a runner, a biker, a yogi, or a swimmer, I am committing to move every day.

Especially if it means I can wear yoga pants more often.

A Tale of Five Medications (or Please Don’t Lose Hope)

2 Oct

I have a confession to make:  I take antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication every day.

Oh, wait.  You already knew that.  Huh.

Well, what if I told you that there was a time when I thought only weak people took antidepressants.  People who didn’t try hard enough…who were cray-zee.  Not people like me.  Educated. Sober. Financially stable. Successful. I cringe as I type this, wanting to slap the old me in the face for her ignorance and prejudice, but at the same time knowing that I simply didn’t have the framework or experience to be able to understand.

Medications

These days, I know that medication is a tool for treating mental illness.  It is not a sign of weakness, but a medical treatment for a medical condition.  Not to be taken without cautious consideration and the advice of doctors (note the plural there), but for many of us, essential.  I am not  a different person on the medication; I am a better version of myself.  But it wasn’t always that way.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression in winter 2008, after suffering in silence for months after my first child was born.  I saw both a LICSW and a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at the time and at my first psychiatric appointment, was reassured by the nurse’s calm and confident demeanor.  “I just love getting moms like you,” she said, “because I know that we can help you.  You will be better.  You will feel like yourself again.”

Nurse J went over my health history.  She talked over many options.  She answered my dozens of questions about how the medications worked, and (most importantly to me at the time) how long I would have to be on them.  I thought it was like antibiotics.  You take it for x days and then you’re better.  Needing it for longer meant I was “one of those people.”

Despite my hesitation, I began a small dose of Citalopram and I waited out the horrid side effects: zombie brain, nausea, headache.  Each day I was convinced the meds were doing more harm than good.  Until one day, a few weeks later, I cried a little less.  The day after that, I found it easier to get dressed.  And for a few months, I felt okay.

Then I decided that since I was okay, that I must not need the medication anymore.  Besides, though the headaches and lethargy had waned, the lack of libido and *ahem* performance were less than desirable.  So with my doctor’s support, I began weaning off the medication.  If I’m telling the whole truth, I think I knew it was too early to wean, but I was determined not to need the pills anymore.  Determined to “do it by myself.”

I cannot describe the depth of the nothingness that returned but I can tell you it had me running back to my therapist and NP.  We decided to add Wellbutrin to the Citalopram.  Wellbutrin has a reputation for helping with sexual disfunction, so I reluctantly agreed to try it, though inside, I was terrified.  Now I was on TWO pills?  One medication was bad enough, but how could I be crazy enough to need two?

When I just happened to get a case of the hives three days into the Wellbutrin (which I think was actually caused by a new detergent), I was actually elated to be able to call my doctors and tell them, “I have to stop the Wellbutrin.  I have hives.”  And so, I went back on the Citalopram – the lowest dose possible, in an attempt to curtail any sexual disfunction.

The lowest dose?  Wasn’t enough.  But you couldn’t convince me of that.  “It’s not working,” I declared to the new NP that had taken over when my old one moved on to another practice.  She suggested increasing the dose but my mind was made up.  This was not the med for me.  So she switched me to a mood stabilizer, Lamictal.  And when the crushing headaches lasted for 4 weeks, that was changed to Trileptal, a second cousin-once-removed of Lamictal (or something like that).

The Trileptal made me almost narcoleptic for the first three weeks.  But when it started to work and the side effects eased, I felt like myself again.  Less prone to angry outbursts, and less like an emotional rollercoaster all month long, I found something akin to normal.  But you can’t take Trileptal while pregnant (or at least the doctors I spoke with advised taking something better-studied).

I quit cold-turkey when I found out I was 4 weeks pregnant with my second child.  A surprise pregnancy.  After a trip to Vegas.  And three weeks later I was having intrusive thoughts about throwing myself down the stairs.

I found my old NP and went to see her as soon as possible.  She advised against the lesser-studied Trileptal and suggested I go back to the Citalopram.  “No, I don’t want to be an ice queen,” I stated.  So she suggested I try a more “pure” form of Citalopram: Lexapro.  After one dose, I had a violent panic attack.  I was literally unable to leave my bed and was crushed by irrational, indescribable fear.  And so back to the Citalopram I went.  I filled the prescription and then sat on my living room floor and sobbed.

I was terrified.  What would this medication do to my baby?  How could I even need it again?  Would it ruin my marriage? What if I never, ever stopped taking it?

Through Postpartum Progress, I was able to find a psychiatrist who specializes in perinatal mental health.  She walked me through the statistics, the studies, and the likely outcomes of my many options.  And after hearing her recommendation, I took the Citalopram throughout my pregnancy.  I continue to take it while nursing, along with an anti-anxiety medication called BusPar.  Because of the normal weight-gain of pregnancy (and increased blood volume), I increased dosage several times while pregnant and am currently at a higher dose than I ever thought I’d be okay with taking.  I have been on it for almost 2 years now.

It’s working. It allows me to function and feel like myself.  And I’m okay with needing it.

afraid quote

I tell you this very long story because before taking psychiatric medication, I had no idea how hard it is to find the right one.  I didn’t understand the nuances of weighing the benefits vs the side effects and calculating the most beneficial dosage.  I didn’t know it would be so frustrating or that I would fight what I’ve discovered to be an essential treatment for so long.

I was afraid and blanketed by stigma.

So please.  If you or someone you know is in the process of finding the right medication for a mood or anxiety disorder, please don’t lose hope.  Don’t settle for less than you deserve.  Advocate for yourself and ask your doctors hundreds of questions.  Tell them the truth.  But most of all, don’t be afraid.

Medication isn’t right for everyone.  Only you and your doctor can decide that for sure.  But it has helped people, and for some of us (like me), it’s worth the long, hard, drawn-out process.

p.s. Y’all know I’m not a doctor, right?  This is just my personal experience.  Consult your doctor about all medical decisions and do your own research.

Purple Crying and Click for Babies

1 Sep

NOTE: The Click For Babies site has been hacked and is down.  The other links work.  The NCSBS hopes to get the main hat donation site back up soon.  Because the site is down, I have added information below from their site with instructions for making the hats and the address you’ll need to send them in, as well as a link to a PDF file with FAQ.

Any mother knows THAT cry.  The one that stops you in your tracks.  It makes you see your baby through tunnel vision and takes over your brain, rendering you incapable of rational thought.  All you want is some quiet.  For her to stop screaming.  For you to be able to make it better.

It’s frustrating, upsetting, and for some of us, very triggering.

Both of my girls were PURPLE criers.  PURPLE in the sense that they fit the acronym coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS):

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 1.29.15 PM

While I believe my girls’ PURPLE crying was in part due to their severe milk protein intolerance, many babies  cry during their early months without explanation.  As mothers, our instinct is to respond to the crying and to want to make it better.  And if you’re anything like me, being unable to stop the crying left me feeling helpless, frustrated, and like a failure as a mom.  My inner-monologue whispered, “If you were a better mom, you’d know how to soothe her.”  My frustration combined with my postpartum anxiety led to rage with my first baby.  I would find myself bouncing her with tension in my arms and anger in my breath.  I am so thankful I never shook her or hurt her but I regret each and every moment I spent feeling fury toward my newborn girl.

I distinctly remember the signs in my hospital room on the postpartum floor where I spent two days after my youngest was born.  I stared at them while holding my newest girl and took great comfort in their information.  They described PURPLE crying and explained that having intense reactions to it is normal for parents and caregivers.  Biologically normal.  They went on to assure me that asking for help or stepping away when the crying got to be too much were signs of strength and not weakness.

And I knew I was not alone.  I was normal.

Because of my psychiatric and psychological care postpartum, in addition to my education about PURPLE crying, my response to my second child’s crying was much calmer.  I was able to hand her to my mother or my husband and step outside for a break.  I was able to put in earplugs and continue to rock her in the nursery.  It wasn’t that I was able to prevent the emotional stress or frustration, but that I was able to process and respond to my feelings with caution and responsibility.  No small feat for someone with a history of mental illness.

And now that I’m on the other side, with two children instead of two babies, I’m glad to be able to contribute to the education campaign.  The NCSBS is collecting PURPLE knit and crochet hats for their yearly Click for Babies campaign.  Their website has information about contribute a hat, has patterns for hats, and has buttons and more for sharing on social media.

From the NCSBS:

The NCSBS will be collecting purple infant hats for CLICK for Babies 2013 through October in an effort to generate awareness of and decrease infant abuse. Knitted or crocheted caps will be given to newborn boys and girls in hospitals throughout November and December to help educate parents about the evidenced based Period of PURPLE Crying, a normal, but frustrating period of increased crying all infants experience in the first few weeks and months after birth.

WAYS YOUR FOLLOWERS CAN HELP

KNIT or CROCHET infant caps using any newborn baby cap pattern. Caps should be made using any shade of soft, baby-friendly purple yarn, be at least 50% purple in color, and free of straps, strings or other potential choking and strangling hazards. For baby boys, please remember to include blues, browns, grays and other “boy friendly” colors in your cap designs.

Organize and host a “KNIT IN” or “CROCHET PARTY” …which really is just our fancy way of saying get a group together and make some hats. These make for fantastic service projects in an array of settings: school, club, community, church, family, Scouts, etc.

POST FLYERS around your school, neighborhood, work, community, church, gym, etc.  To receive flyers please contact the NCSBS.

SHARE this information! Know someone who knits or crochets? Know someone in a position to organize a service project? Give them a CALL or send them an EMAIL.

Help us spread the word through SOCIAL MEDIA. The campaign not only involves making hats, but also educating others through word of mouth and active discussions on social media: PIN, SHARE, TWEET, and YOUTUBE (see http://clickforbabies.org/spread-the-word.php).

Please drop off or send hat donations to the NCSBS at 1433 N 1075 W Suite 110, Farmington, UT, 84025 or see our website (www.clickforbabies.org) for donation sites closest to you.

CLICK FOR BABIES Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll be crocheting hats to send in and would be more than happy to teach you to do the same.  I promise you can do it!  All you need is a crochet hook and a skein of PURPLE yarn!  It’ll cost you less than $5 at your local craft store!  I’ll post a video below and will  be more than glad to answer questions on twitter or meet you on a G+ Hangout for a quick private lesson!  Just ask!  And if you can’t contribute a hat, it would be a huge help if you just share a tweet, facebook status, or post about PURPLE crying and the efforts of the NCSBS.  Thanks so much!

“CLICK FOR BABIES” PURPLE BEANIE PATTERN

Purple Beanie for Click for Babies

Using worsted weight yarn and a 5.5 mm hook (I hook)

ROW 1: 6 single crochet (sc) into a magic circle, join with a slip stitch (sl st). Chain 1

ROW 2:  2 sc in each stitch from before (12 stitches total.  When you get to 12, stop.  It will look like you need to keep going.  Don’t.) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 3:  2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the second stitch.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches. (18 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 4: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the second stitch and 1 sc in the third stitch.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (24 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 5: 2 sc in the first stitch.  Then 1 sc in the 2nd, 1 sc in the 3rd, and 1 sc in the 4th stitches.  Continue the pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (30 stitches total)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 6: 2 sc in the first stitch.  The next 4 stitches get 1 sc each.  Continue this pattern around the circle, counting your stitches.  (36 stitches total) Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

This completes the crown (or the top) of the hat.

ROW 7: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches)  Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROWS 8-18: Repeat row 7, Join to the top of the first single crochet.  Chain 1.

ROW 19: 1 sc in the first stitch and every stitch.  (36 stitches).  Join to the top of the first single crochet and tie off.  Weave in ends using hook or yarn needle.

For a ribbed edge, stop at row 17 and use this for ROW 18: fpdc (front post double crochet) in first stitch, bpdc (back post double crochet) in second stitch.  Repeat pattern around.  Join to the top of the first fpdc and tie off.  Weave in ends.

Video Tutorial: How to make a magic circle to begin your hat.

Great YouTube Channel with easy-to-follow crochet lessons. This channel has everything you need to learn to crochet!  From how to hold your hook to how to single crochet (sc).

How to Slip Stitch to Join in the Round

Additional Links for More Information:

http://purplecrying.info

http://dontshake.org/

http://clickforbabies.org

http://pinterest.com/purplecrying/click-for-babies/

https://www.facebook.com/NCSBS

Crocheted Happiness

27 Aug

I did something scary yesterday.  As I hit “publish,” my heart was actually pounding in my chest and I took three deep breaths to slow its thumping.

I opened an Etsy store.

Crochet Hat

I know, not really so scary, right?  Except it means I’m saying “I’m so good at something that you should buy it.”  It’s hard for me to self-promote like that.  Hard for me to believe that my work is worthy of a storefront.  And it means that I accept that there’s a possibility it will fail.

Now, I have two choices:  I can take every stat personally, every sale.  I can calculate the ratio of dollars per stitch.  I can be crushed if (when?) nobody buys anything.  OR.  Or I can focus on the value in the attempt.  I can say, “Watch me try,” like I used to as a child.  If you haven’t already, you must go read this piece by Planting Dandelions.  She hits the nail on the head.

It cost me $1 to open my store and list the hats I’ve been making just for fun.  Crochet is my self-care.  It soothes my anxiety.  I’m compulsively doing it anyway. So really, if the shop fails, I will have lost only $1 and a little bit of time.  And so I hit “publish.”

Hold me.

Etsy Shop Banner

 

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