Tag Archives: depression

#DayofLight

5 Feb

Day Of Light

I’m joining the blogging community today to shed light on something many of us keep tucked in the dark. If you’re like me, you experienced it without knowing, assuming that all people lived their lives on an emotional roller coaster, destined, once on top, to roll back to the bottom. Always to the bottom.  For me, it began in college.

At first, it was an added exhaustion, no matter how late the morning classes or how early the bedtime.  In trickled the self-doubt, followed by amateur apathy.  I was too busy to not tend to the activities I loved, but I had ceased to look forward to the orchestra rehearsals and coffee dates.  Last to enter was the emptiness.  Not sadness, exactly, but an inability to feel anything: joy, fear, sadness, love.  The feelings I had for people in my life I knew I loved were shrouded in a fog and out of reach.  I began to doubt I ever loved them at all.  The only emotion that cut through the depression, sharp as a knife, was anger and irritability.  The most insignificant things annoyed me to the point of rage: ice trays left empty, people late for appointments, unreasonable homework assignments.  I look back now and wonder if I didn’t cover the sadness with that anger, afraid of what it might mean to let myself experience the pain of feeling worthless.

All this, and I had no idea anything was wrong with me, or if I did have a suspicion, the denial hid it cleverly with its stories of stigma, perfectionist excuses, and lack of self care.  It took 8 years, the birth of my daughter, and a battle with postpartum depression before I realized I had been suffering from depressive episodes and anxiety for much of my life.

I believe if depression and other mood and anxiety disorders were talked about as openly as cancer and heart disease, patients would have the information they need to identify their struggles as symptoms and to seek help.  I believe that if treating those disorders was not shaded in stigma, that people like me would find that they can get better – that there is hope.

I am living proof that you can survive depression and anxiety.  I am proof that good great people can struggle with mental illness.  And I am proof that you can be open about your mental health and still have people think you are amazing.

Because, guess what?  You are.

———

I’m joining Mama Knows It AllPushing Lovely and Say It Rah-shay, along with a multitude of other wonderful bloggers today for #DayOfLight.  Please won’t you join me?

From Say It Rah-shay:
#DayOfLight was created to shine a light on depression, and share resources for those who are struggling with the mental illness. Bloggers from all over the country are collaborating on Wednesday, February 5th to flood social media with personal stories about living with depression, and accurate information on managing and living with the mental illness.

How Can You Participate?

  • Write a blog post sharing your personal experience of depression and/or share resources to help others. Add the #DayOfLight hashtag in your post title.
  • Watch the #DayOfLight Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5th at 11 AM EST. Tweet and ask questions.
  • Participate in the #DayOfLight twitter chat on Wednesday, February 5th at 9 PM EST. Follow @PushingLovely@NotoriousSpinks, and@BrandiJeter for more information)
  • Turn your social media avatars black and white on Wednesday, February 5th so we can visually represent all of those affected by depression.
  • Share inspiring tweets, posts, and photos on social media to encourage those who are suffering with depression to let them know that they are not alone. Use the hashtag #DayOfLight

 

Do Something Valentine’s Day Cards

10 Jan

You guys, I stumbled on this the other day on twitter and just love it.  DoSomething.org is organizing a Valentine’s Day card drive for the elderly.  All you have to do is sign up to create your card, snap a pic of it for the website, and then mail your card to the Meals On Wheel organizer near you.  They have a list of US locations where you can find your area MOW organization.

Do Something

While the organization is aimed at getting teens involved in volunteering, how could more cards possibly be a bad thing?  I think the kids and I will head out for some card supplies later this week! You can click the image above to head to the DoSomething.org website and find out more!

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.

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.

Climbing Out of the Darkness

3 Jun
As you may know, I do a lot of work with Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit that helped to give me back my life when I was suffering from postpartum depression after Emily’s birth and to get quick and successful treatment for the antenatal depression that struck during my pregnancy with Sydney.

Climb Out of the Darkness

Thanks to Katherine Stone (the founder of the nonprofit and blog) as well as the community of women I met through Postpartum Progress:

- I was connected to one of the top perinatal psychiatrists in the country.
- I’ve made lifelong friends & have built a solid support network both online and off.
- I’ve become empowered to write about my experiences and help other new moms who may be suffering.

I’ve recovered from postpartum depression, and even though I still live with an anxiety disorder, the support & resources I received through Postpartum Progress continue to benefit me today.   My battle with PPD was hard-fought and that’s why I’m committed to helping moms learn the facts about perinatal mood disorders, removing the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness, and making sure moms who are struggling have a reliable place they can go to for support and resources.

To honor my victory over PPD, inspire others who are still struggling, and support the work of Postpartum Progress, the family and I are participating in Climb Out of the Darkness; a national event to raise money and raise awareness. We’ll be joining mamas and their families in 36 states (and 6 countries!) as they hike and climb their way through trails, hills, and mountains on June 21st and 22nd.

Money raised from this event will fund two specific projects:

 1) Create an info-graphic that correctly represents the prevalence of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as well as its impact on society for use with the media and to raise awareness.

2) An info sheet for moms that would be available in doctor’s offices about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and getting help. It can be used anywhere in the world but this first version will be in English — if we raise enough money we will do French and Spanish as well. While there are pamphlets out there, we feel they don’t do enough to educate new parents or get them the real help they need.

I’ll be doing my hike with the girls on Saturday, June 22nd at Great brook Farm State Park near our home – would you please consider making a donation in my honor? It can be any amount.

If you are able to do so, thank you! If not, I understand and all I ask is that you please share this post and info with others who might be willing to help fund our efforts.

If you live nearby and would like to join us on our hike, please let me know!  We have two families already joining us!

Thank you so much.  It’s hard for me to ask for help (and truthfully? hiking is not my cup of tea) but I believe in what Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress are doing.  She changed my life.

Susan

I Am Not Okay (But I Will Be)

16 May

Hi.

It’s me.

I’ve been quiet online and in my real life, too.

It’s not you. It’s me.

It started as irritability.  I found myself cursing at tiny grains of rice as I tried to scoop them off the floor after a meal.  I snapped at my husband for little things: hair left on the bathroom counter, a tone in his voice I took offense to.  The girls pushed buttons.  They couldn’t help it.  Everything was a button.

And then the quiet set in.  And I wanted to curl up with hours of The West Wing and my crochet.  From the moment I got up in the morning.

I started to hear my inner-monologue whisper nasty things about being unloved, unworthy.

I waited.  Because sometimes, a bad week is just a bad week.  And then the timing suggested it was PMS. And well, it should have lifted by now.  I should be back to my overachieving, confident, take-life-by-the-horns self.

So yesterday, I call friends and told them what was going on.  I asked them to hold me accountable for calling my doctors and making therapy and psych appointments.  I cut back on my commitments and took the evening to take care of myself. I know exactly what to do.

And I know what not to do.  I will not believe that I am unworthy.  I will not seek out truth in the grey cloud that is casting shadows on my life.  Whether this is lingering PMS, a reaction to teething-induced sleep deprivation, or something more, I will not forget that depression lies.

I will be okay.

Tweet, tweet. Boom.

8 Apr

Todays’ HAWMC prompt is to write about the best conversation you had during the week.  I’m going to apologize in advance for subjecting you to this.

Hubs (looking out front window): Boy, the robins sure do love the lawn after it’s been aerated.

Me: I bet it makes the bugs easier to catch.

Hubs: What we really need is to genetically modify robins so that as they dig for worms in the lawn they also drop grass seed.  That would save me so much time.  Of course, then they would need some sort of biological advantage so they would survive better than the regular robins.

Me: You mean, like make them bigger?

Hubs: Yeah.

Me: Or make them bulletproof?

Hubs: LOL.  We could give them little tiny bulletproof vests.

At that point in the conversation, I started picturing a very bloody version of the Sneetches.  At one point in time, a silly conversation about outfitting wildlife with kevlar wouldn’t have been possible for me.  After No1 was born, all I could talk about was the baby or my anxieties about the baby.

And that, my friends is why this is the best conversation I had this week.  It had nothing to do with PPD, anxiety, or children.  It was just a funny moment between a husband and a wife.  This time around, I’m not taking that for granted.

Persistence

5 Apr


HAWMC Banner Resized

Prompt: Go to flickr.com/explore and write a post inspired by the image. Can you link it to your health focus? Don’t forget to post the image!

I must confess that I did not write a new piece for this prompt.  A’Driane from Butterfly Confessions and I swapped posts a while ago based on this picture I snapped while on a walk with my husband one evening.  It couldn’t be more perfect for this prompt.  So please forgive  my recycling.  Can we just call it “being green”?

A tree stands in a garden, nestled between stone buildings of importance and dignity. Reaching out from a small patch of green near a brick pathway, its branches twist and turn in a ragged, unrefined manner.  The bark, speckled with spots of white, reveals its age.

This tree did not choose its lot in life.  If it had, surely it would have chosen a larger pasture, one which isn’t hidden in shadow most of the day.  A field, perhaps, filled with flowers and fed by sunlight and gentle rains.  Instead it was planted where even basic needs would be a struggle to fulfill.

And instead of withering, fading behind the shadows of the surrounding foliage, it reached its branches toward what little light dappled the garden.  Stretching out at an odd angle, its trunk carried the life-giving leaves up to the sun, until it could no longer hold its own weight.  The roots strained against gravity.  And then… salvation.  In the form of a simple wooden frame, erected in defense of this tree – in support of its persistence.

My husband says, “It’s so sad.  Why don’t they just cut it down?”  Recoiling in horror, I look at him with shock and disappointment.  Can he not see the beauty in this tree, this being?  The beauty that instead of lying in youth or perfect form, lies in its strength and will to survive.  This tree, which has taken a beating from both nature and time, all the while fighting for life in the face of unfortunate circumstance, still has shade to give and leaves to nurture.  It is not less for needing buttressing, but more for welcoming it, growing up from its second trunk in gratitude. Its worth lies simply in its existence.

I wonder, would we have even stopped to notice it, had it been perfect?  No, most certainly we would have walked by, never noticing the beauty in its vulnerability.  I want to say, “We are the same.  I see your fight, your resolve.  Keep reaching for the sunlight; keep surviving.”  Instead I simply snap a picture, in awe of what this tree has taught me about myself in an instant.

Now You See Me…

3 Apr teleportation sketch

Prompt: If you had a superpower – what would it be? How would you use it?

This is easy.  Teleportation.

The beauty of the internet (and twitter specifically) is that it allows you to instantly connect with people.  In my case, people who are struggling with the same mental health issues I am.  At any moment, day or night, I can search for #ppdchat and find love, support, and virtual hugs.  I can turn to my Facebook groups and know that the mamas on there will know just what to say.  And I’ve skyped or hungout or facetimed (poor spell-checker is having a fit over those verbs) with a handful of them, making what I hope to be life-long connections.  I’m convinced the internet is a key reason I was able to manage my antenatal depression so well and am PPD-free this time around.  It’s also the reason I’m still breastfeeding (my baby thanks you, twitter!)

Yes, the internet is a great tool for those of us suffering from and advocating for mental illness.  And virtual hugs are nice.  But how awesome would it be to be able to just pop over to your virtual friends and hug them in person?  I got to meet Katherine Stone in person in February and it was intense, amazing, and thrilling.  I get to meet a ton of my fellow bloggers in August at BlogHer 2012.  But what I’d really love is to be able to see a cry for help on twitter, wiggle my right pinky toe (everybody knows that’s where superpowers really reside), and throw my arms around a mama in need.

And?  I’m dying to meet Yuz from Not Just About Wee in person.  She lives in Australia.  I adore her.  And plane tickets are expensive.

When We Know Better…

2 Apr

Prompt:  Find a quote that inspires you (either positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes.

When I asked for a quote on Facebook and Twitter from my #ppdchat mamas, this one instantly had me in tears.  Must have been the right one.

‎”When we know better, we do better.” Maya Angelou

It’s very popular and I’m sure you’ve heard it spewed from Oprah’s mouth on more than one occasion, but there’s good reason for that.

It’s simple.

It’s hopeful.

And it’s true.

This is my second baby.  My second time living through the physical and emotional roller coaster of pregnancy, and my second time experiencing the fourth trimester.  It really is amazing how much you forget about having a newborn.  The sleep deprivation.  How hard breastfeeding is.  All of it.  This is my second time parenting with an anxiety disorder, but so far without the PPD.

Of course I know better this time how to take care of a newborn.  All the logistics are less frightening because they are more familiar, but also because I know that I made mistakes with No1 and she is just fine.  But what I’m struck by is what I know better about myself.

“When we know better, we do better.”

I know postpartum depression is a medical condition and not a personal failing.  I will recognize the symptoms and seek treatment if things take a turn for the worse.

I know newborns are not my favorite age.  I will not feel guilty for just surviving these first few months (or more).

I know when I’m taking my husband’s comments personally, I’m projecting.  I will stop and look inside myself.

I know that lack of sleep is a recipe for disaster.  Sleep has become the most treasured resource I have.  I will treat it as such.

I know that my health and feelings matter just as much as my baby’s.  I will value myself.

I know that the hard parts about having a new baby will eventually fade.  I will take comfort that “this too shall pass.”

I know I am not alone.  I will continue to reach out and connect with others.

I know that depression is a liar and shame likes to hide in the dark.  I will fight both with the light of truth.

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