Tag Archives: HAWMC

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.

Please Read Me!

7 Apr

My stats are down.  Way down.

When I wrote earlier in the week that I’m writing for me, I meant it.  This is my place to think and process what’s going on in my life – mostly in my head.  So though I *will* admit that it’s awesome to check in and find I’ve gotten over a hundred hits in a day, I don’t need stats to make this worth it for me.

Usually I can count on at least 50-60 hits on a day when I post something new.  Most of those link from Facebook, where my friends and family keep tabs on me.  My biggest days?  The post after No2 was born, and my post entitled “Breast is Best“.  I figure people wanted to see the new baby…and then couldn’t wait to get all riled up and argue about breastfeeding.  (Nobody argued with me, by the way.  It wasn’t that kind of post.)

So why aren’t they reading now that I’m exclusively writing about mental health for a month?  My ego truly isn’t bruised.  I am simply worried about what this tells me about my topic.  Could it be that mental health is still so taboo that no one wants to read about it?  Or are these posts boring people?  Is the ppd blogging community deluding ourselves when we think we’re creating awareness?  Perhaps we’re really only writing for one another.  Or maybe it’s just a bit overwhelming.  It’s a tough topic.  Hard to think about.  I get that – really.  It’s a month of heavy writing, of me up on my soapbox.  So I understand if some of my readers are taking a break.

But.

I will keep writing.  1 in 5 mothers suffers from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder.  This statistic from Postpartum Progress is shocking and frightening:

In fact, more mothers will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses this year than the combined number of new cases for both sexes of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. This is not to minimize these other terrible diseases, of course. I simply want to illustrate just how prevalent postpartum mood & anxiety disorders are.

These women cannot be left to believe they are alone.  I will continue to stand up and proudly claim my status as a ppd survivor and anxiety sufferer.  I am proof that mental illness can strike anyone, and that you can come out the other side stronger and more resilient than ever.

I hope you will support my fight against stigma.  I hope you will keep reading.

Haiku

6 Apr

Prompt: Write a haiku about your health focus. 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables. Write as many as you like.

Oh, boy.  This reminds me of my fourth grade writer’s workshop poetry unit.  Feels like an assignment, but maybe that’s just the exhaustion talking.  I did take two kids to the Boston Children’s Museum today, nurse my baby only to have a father turn his child away from the area I was in because *gasp* there was a boob behind the baby’s head (and the blanket).  And then I napped and bathed both kids, fed them, and had them in bed on my own by the time my husband arrived home at 8pm.

But you know what?  I did it.  All of it.  And that’s worth celebrating with some terrible poetry!

I’ll send you over to Melissa at Sweetly Voiced.  She’s the real poet.  Here’s her post from last year’s HAWMC.  I’m sure she’ll have something equally clever and unique this year.

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.

Self Care

4 Apr

Prompt: Reflect on why you write about your health for 15-20 minutes without stopping.

This was one of my favorite prompts last year during HAWMC, and everything I wrote HERE still rings true.  I write to decrease stigma.  I write in the hopes that my story may help someone.  I write to connect with my online community.

But these days?  I’m really writing for me.

Baby No2 was born in December, and after a long, successful battle with antenatal depression, I was prepared to meet postpartum depression head on, with my team of experts.  I scheduled appointments with my therapist and psychiatric nurse, and made sure to take care of myself, getting as much sleep as I could and eating well.  And after a few weeks?  I started to realize I was okay.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, but it never did.  And so with my therapist’s guidance, we set a plan in action that includes putting weekly/monthly therapy on hold unless I need a session.  I check in with my psychiatrist’s office once in a blue moon, and I’ve already passed my 6-week physical check-up at the OB.  I’m on my own these days.

Writing is one of the keys to my success.  It’s my favorite method of self care  (because peeing alone does not count as me-time, mamas) – and the time to decompress without a small child or screaming baby is priceless in the early postpartum period.  But it’s more then that.  Writing about my battles with postpartum depression, antenatal depression, and generalized anxiety frees me from my shame.  It reminds me that I am a person suffering from these disorders and that I am more than the sum of my mental illnesses.  If I can put my truth out there for the world to read about, then I know I can separate myself from the moods.

I hope my readers continue to come back for inspiration and hope.  And I want to keep fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing my stories with friends and family… but ultimately, if my blog becomes only a love letter to myself?  That’s okay, too.

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.

Time Capsule

1 Apr

Prompt: Pretend you’re making a time capsule of you & your health focus that won’t be opened until 2112. What’s in it? What would people think of it when they found it?

The first thing my husband said when I told him I was participating in the WEGO Health HAWMC again this year was, “which health issue are your going to write about?”  We both laughed.  Because you see, I’m a mess.  This year in addition to the anxiety, I’ve battled antenatal depression, have a newborn and thus am guarding against a PPD relapse, have struggled with breastfeeding due to baby’s reflux and my OLS (overactive letdown syndrome), and have injured my back…again.  But the one that still impacts me the most is my anxiety.  Any of my other conditions have the added risk of triggering the anxiety, and possibly becoming worse because of it.

So I’m going to focus on mental health again this year, including postpartum depression, antenatal depression, and generalized anxiety disorder.

I’d like to think that on April 1st, 2112, my time capsule will be irrelevant.  That anxiety and mood disorders will be so well-treated and understood that it will be incomprehensible to anyone who opens it why I have included the items I chose.  That people will look back 100 years to a time when stigma surrounding mental illness prevented new moms from getting help and will regard it as barbaric.  And while neither of those will probably happen, a girl can dream, right?

Bottles of Medication:  If there’s one thing I have really learned during my experience with mental illness, it’s that psychotropic medications carry a heavy stigma.  I didn’t realize how many misconceptions and negative stereotypes I myself held about anti-depressants until I was faced with the decision to take them.  It took me nearly a year to make peace with my need for medication but now? I take my pills without any shame.  I did nothing to cause my condition and I can’t magically wish it away or fix it with positivity.

Now I hope that in 100 years the pills will be a mystery.  But if they aren’t, I’d like to think that they will be considered just a part of a person’s medical care, as necessary as a daily aspirin and just as banal.

Medical Journals and Research: I’d want people 1o0 years in the future to see how far the medical community has come.  You know how they say that you have to learn about history so you don’t repeat it?  I think that’s true.

Photographs: Pictures of moms and their babies – families who have overcome mental illness.  These need to be included.  They serve as a reminder that others have paved the way, proving you can survive and thrive.  I do feel like I’m paving the way for future mothers – perhaps my daughters and their daughters one day.  I want them to see that mental illness is nothing to feel shame about and can be triumphed over.

The Music of Lady Gaga: Just to mess around with the future folks.  I’m sure they’ll look back and wonder what we were all smoking.

Of course, all of these objects will be lovingly contained in a stray baby wipes container.  Cause that’s all I have lying around. ;)

Because I Can

13 Apr

I’m oh-so-behind on the WEGO Health HAWMC Prompts.  I knew I’d never get to all of them, but here I am being hard on myself.  I even tried to long-hand some on the plane ride to Vegas, which was incredibly ambitious of me, considering I was living on dayquil and anxiety meds for the flight out there and took the red-eye back.  I haven’t looked at what I wrote yet…could be medication/sleep deprivation-inspired genius.  Or total nonsense.  Probably the latter.

So forgive me for using a prompt from April 6th.  But it’s the one that spoke to me today.

I write about my health because…

I didn’t mean to start writing about my health.  When I began writing, it was just for me.  I wanted to sort some things out and have some accountability for my journaling.  Having an audience (even if it was only a few friends) gave my writing a purpose and I found my voice.  My first real post was titled Learned Happiness and even though it began more as a philosophical reflection on happiness, it somehow ended up being about my experience with postpartum depression.  The words kind of just typed themselves.  Only a handful of people knew about what I had been through, so I literally took a deep breath before hitting “post”.

Two things happened as a result of that post.  First, the response I got back was amazing.  Friends and strangers emailed and commented to tell me how much they appreciated hearing about my struggle.  They were grateful for the honesty and each of the comments was encouraging.  It’s an amazing feeling to allow yourself to be so vulnerable and then get back nothing but love and respect.  More importantly, when I hit “post” I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders – a lightening of my spirit.  Writing about the postpartum depression took the last little bit of shame I had tucked away in the cobwebby spaces of my mind and shook it out like a dirty rug.

I wondered.  If I can write about the postpartum depression, separating myself from it enough to let go of the shame, could I do the same with my anxiety?  This was even harder, because the anxiety and mood swings aren’t over.  They are still a part of who I am, and I usually work very hard to hide them.

With each new post, I felt terrified that sharing about my anxiety and mood swings would somehow lessen who I was to the friends and family reading it.  I worried they would think less of me.  But the opposite happened.  Not only do I get the impression that they find me more interesting because of these weaknesses, but I feel stronger and more myself every time.  Writing gives me a power over my condition.

I like that I am hacking away at stigma.  I am honored to be spreading awareness for mental health disorders.  But mostly, I’m grateful to have an opportunity to air my dirty laundry.  Because everybody’s got some, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I used to think I would have to conquer my mental health issues before being happy.  But here I am, writing about my experiences as a parent and a woman.  Writing about learning to be happy despite those little demons sitting on my shoulders.  Being honest about my daily struggles with mental health.  Because I’m in a place (finally) where I can.

Health Activist Writer’s Monthly Challenge

4 Apr

What, me?  A health activist?  How did that happen?  But here I am, writing about my experiences in therapy, my battle with PPD, and my ongoing struggles with anxiety and mood swings.  Blogging about all these things has kept me honest with myself about them – has allowed me to shed any last bit of shame I had.  And I’d like to think that I’m making other women feel less alone, and maybe (just maybe) kicking mental-illness-stigma’s ass in the process.

My profound and inspiring friend, Melissa at Sweetly Voiced has convinced me to participate in WEGO Health Blog’s Health Activist Writer’s Monthly Challenge.  I know I won’t be able to post for each daily prompt, but I’d like to think I’m meeting the challenge just by committing to raise awareness for my health cause.  I can definitely do one a week, so I’m aiming for that instead.

Today’s prompt is to ask a question about your condition Yahoo! Answers-style and answer it.  I hear this question a lot.  From family…friends…well-meaning people.

Question:  What are you so worried about?  What’s wrong?

Answer: Nothing.  Everything.  Both.  When you live with an anxiety disorder, although your worries may have root in reality, the anxiety does not.  So on any given day, while I may be able to articulate a trigger for my anxiety, it can’t be just reasoned away.  People want to know what’s wrong so they can fix it and help find a solution.  I get that.  But in my case, it just doesn’t work that way.

It may seem like a contradiction to see me visibly upset, but for there to not be a good reason.  In my case, I usually know my anxiety is unwarranted, but can’t help it.  It’s not uncommon to hear me tell someone, “I’m fine.  I mean, I’m freaking out.  But there’s nothing wrong.  I’m fine.”  And it’s the truth.

I’d rather people asked, “How are you?” because I am not my anxiety.  I am a person suffering from anxiety.  And I can’t even begin to tell you everything I’m so worried about.  But I can tell you how I am, and how you can help me.

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