Tag Archives: PPD

Climb Out of the Darkness and a Raffle!

13 Apr

It’s that time of the year again – when I ask you to support moms just like me – with your wallets.

Believe me, it’s awkward for me, too.  I’m not good at asking for help, and I’m definitely not a sales person or an advertising expert.  But I believe in Postpartum Progress and the work that Katherine Stone is doing to help new moms.  She gave me back the joy that was missing from my pregnancy and postpartum period and has given me a voice as a writer and advocate.  It’s my time to give back.

Whether it’s $1 or $100, every dollar helps get new moms access to up-to-date information about perinatal mental illnesses.  With the money raised, Postpartum Progress will be contributing to local organizations that support new moms and families.  We will be increasing our outreach by streamlining our widely popular blog (90,000 view a month!).  Your money will help this baby non-profit grow into the powerhouse advocacy organization that mothers and babies need it to be.

Here’s where I appeal to your sense of obligation:

Just $10 (the cost of a few coffees) from 50 readers would far surpass my wildest dreams of raising $400.

And your practical side:

It’s tax-deductable!

And the part of you that loves winning stuff:

Each $10 donation enters you in a drawing for a $20 gift certificate to my Etsy shop, Crocheted Happiness.

  • Shop the sale and get two ready-made hats!
  • Shop made-to-order designs and have something made for next winter or for that friend you know who is having a baby soon!
  • Have something custom-designed just for you!

Crocheted Happiness

All local donors are also entered to win a free piano lesson ($20 value).  I teach students aged 5 and above.

How to enter: Simply make your donation on the Crowdrise website.  I will add your name and entries to my list of donors and will randomly draw one name using random.org on June 24th, 2014.  Local donors will be added to both the Etsy drawing and piano lesson drawing.

Those of you who have already donated?  THANK YOU!  I am tracking all donations and have already entered you in the raffle.

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Letting Go of the Guilt

4 Apr

I’m over at Postpartum Progress this week with three posts.  Last night, I remembered that I hadn’t yet written a third post for the week, so I dragged my exhausted self to the keyboard and just started typing.  What spilled out turned out to be exactly what I needed to write.

“I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety with a side of OCD for two years after my first child was born.  And though I sought treatment and began my path to wellness after my baby had her 5 month birthday, it took every last day of that additional 19 months for me to feel like I wasn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If you asked my husband, he’d tell you now that I’ve completely recovered from my PPD and from the antenatal depression that hit when my second child was still baking.  But he’d also tell you that I still suffer.”

I hope you’ll join me over at Katherine Stone’s place to read the rest and find out how I’ve battled the guilt that followed my severe PPD.

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Click the image to DONATE to my Climb Out of the Darkness hike!

Climb Out of the Darkness 2014

2 Apr

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I’ve written extensively about my experiences suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, and antenatal depression and anxiety.  I don’t shy away from telling how devastating my first couple of years as a mother were, both for me and my family.  And I’ve told you how I found myself severely depressed when I was only 7 weeks pregnant with my second baby.

Today, I’m asking for your help.  I’m asking for you to support my work as an advocate for moms, for babies, and for families.

Postpartum Progress, and its founder Katherine Stone, were instrumental in my path to wellness.  Because of Katherine, I found an amazing doctor who gave me the tools (and the medications) to make my second pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experiences joyful.  Because of Katherine, I found support from mothers just like me.  Because of Katherine, I found my voice as an advocate and writer.

Postpartum Progress is growing, taking on new challenges and projects, and is as dedicated as ever to decreasing stigma and increasing awareness of antenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  And that?  Takes money.

15-20% of all women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. That’s 1 in every 7, more than the number of women who will get breast cancer.  That’s your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend.  And quite possibly, you.

Please help me help new moms by donating to my Climb Out of the Darkness hike!  I’ll be climbing Mt. Washington with a team of women from Massachusetts and New Hampshire in June!  Yup, climbing a mountain.  Me.  Because that’s how much I love Katherine and believe in what Postpartum Progress is doing for women all over the world.

If you can’t donate, please pass this along.  Ask your friends, family, neighbors.  Let them know there is an army of Warrior Moms hiking in solidarity in June on the Summer Solstice.  Together we can drop kick despair.

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

Dear K

26 Feb

Dear K,

I don’t know you, but because we both love Story, I know you must be good people.  The best people.  Because that’s what Story is.

Six weeks in with each of my babies, I began to wonder what I was ever thinking by having children.  The sleep deprivation devoured my brains and even the cat wasn’t immune from my resentment.  So if you’re having a hard time, I want you to know that it’s so, so normal.  A rite of passage, almost.

Story wrote you a wonderful list of 8 things she wish she had known about having babies.  I’ll add on my “things I wish they’d told me” below, with so much love and affection.

~ Susan

(9) You belong to the club now. There is no secret mom handshake, but you will find yourself exchanging knowing glances with other moms out in the world. Let these remind you you are not alone.

(10) There is an industry out there that makes a killing off of mothers’ insecurities.  Promising “the right way” to get your baby to sleep/eat/poop/nurse/learn/everything, they sometimes have helpful nuggets of information.  But mostly?  All those books, magazines, and videos just make you doubt yourself more.  Put down the books.  Listen to your mama gut.  It is there, I promise.

(11) It is okay for other people to take care of your baby differently than you do.  When I stopped thinking about leaving my baby as depriving her, and began thinking of it as enriching her life with the other people who love and care for her, it became easier to make time for myself.

(12) Nobody knows what they’re doing, even if they look like they do.  And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, everything changes.  I may know babies now, but I’m in uncharted territory with my 5 year old.  And that’s okay.  The “muddling through” feeling is okay.  Really.

Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance and Living Dairy-Free

8 Jan

I had never heard of milk intolerance before becoming a mom.  Lactose intolerance, sure.  But milk protein intolerance is completely different.  Not really an allergy, MSPI (milk-soy protein intolerance) is when the body is unable to safely process the large protein molecules found in cow’s milk.  As a result, the stomach may overproduce acid and the intestines become irritated, leading to mucus and sometimes blood.  Both my babies were born with an MSPI.  And, being a first-time parent, my first baby suffered for 3 months because I just didn’t know enough to ask more questions of the pediatrician or to advocate for myself.  But as it turns out, all my knowledge and experience still left me unprepared for my second baby’s MSPI as well.

Bean was 8 weeks old when I finally called “uncle” and went to a lactation consultant for help with my screamy baby who was clearly hungry but fussed every time I attempted to nurse her.  She had gone from the 35th percentile to the 10th but the pediatrician didn’t have any ideas for me other than to try formula.  Every feed was a nightmare and getting her to eat required a combination of baby wearing and bouncing on a big exercise ball in the bathroom with the fan running.  It was exactly the kind of horrible breastfeeding experience that prevents new moms from nursing long-term. But I never suspected a milk intolerance because her symptoms weren’t as severe as her big sister’s.

My oldest would projectile vomit after feeds, her diapers were filled with mucus, and the pediatrician found signs of blood in her stool.  But with the littlest, the only symptoms were her fussiness and her trouble breastfeeding.  I spent 8 weeks convinced it must be something else before the LC suggested I visit a pediatric gastroenterologist who diagnosed her right away.  Grudgingly, I went on a dairy fast, giving up any food with soy or milk protein.

Within a week, I had a whole new baby.  She was sleeping better, screaming less, and after two weeks, had jumped back into the 30th percentile.  It was, quite frankly, a miracle.  I had seen similar results with Doodlebug, but giving up the dairy was so hard on me emotionally, that we ended up using hypoallergenic formula with her.  I remember rocking her in the big reclining rocker at my parents’ house sobbing “I’m sorry” over and over as I filled her up with formula.  Looking back, it was absolutely the best thing for both of us.  She thrived on the formula and it immediately alleviated much of the anxiety I was suffering from.  With Bean, giving up the dairy didn’t seem as daunting, perhaps because I had already had some practice.  Also?  My overwhelming PPD and OCD the first time around made breastfeeding torturous, let alone an elimination diet.  With Bean, I was mentally healthy enough to take on the added challenge.  And is is a challenge.

It’s been 2 years, and though we keep attempting to introduce dairy into her diet, every week spent with milk results in sleepless nights and a cranky toddler.  I’ve been able to reintroduce cheese into my own diet (I could hear angels singing, folks), but for the first 18 months, I was completely dairy-free.  I wouldn’t wish such a difficult diet on anyone, but it is possible, and for some mom-baby pairs, may make life much easier overall.

So let’s be honest.  Dinners weren’t so hard to modify.  After all, spaghetti and meatballs is dairy free, as is most grilled meats, fresh fruits and veggies, and many breads.  But how did I live without cheese (and ice cream, and milk, and cookies, and chocolate)?  While there are really no good soy and milk-free cheese substitutes (I really did give them a fair shot), I found that hummus often worked in place of cheese in fajitas and even sandwiches.  Whole Foods sells a cheese-free pizza with roasted veggies that is pretty yummy for those days when you Just. Want. Pizza.  And So Delicious makes coconut milk yogurt, ice cream and my favorite, coffee creamer.  I actually prefer the coconut coffee creamer now.  Coconut milk is great for baking, as is Earth Balance soy-free margarine, and to my surprise, cocoa butter isn’t actually butter and contains no dairy!  So as long as your chocolate doesn’t list casein, milk, or whey as an ingredient, you can eat it!  Lindt makes a dark chocolate that we really love here, but my favorite trick is to buy a huge 1 pound block of 65% chocolate from Whole Foods.  We chop it up and snack on it for a month!  The key for me was finding substitutes for my favorite foods so I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of the comfort foods I loved.

Here are some of my favorite MSPI and Dairy-free resources:

MSPI Mama – tons of recipes and resources, including a QUICK START recipe list for the first few weeks of MSPI eating when everything is so overwhelming.

MSPI Mama links to restaurant allergen information HERE

More facts about MSPI

The differences between allergies and intolerances from PIC (Protein Intolerant Children)

Tasty Eats at Home – my friend Alta writes about her food journey and has many recipes and resources for eating dairy and gluten-free

The best advice I can give you is to be realistic with yourself about how the MSPI diet is affecting your happiness.  If it makes you miserable, it may not be worth continuing to breastfeed your MSPI baby.  But it DOES get easier with time.  After about 6 months I stopped missing cheese, and these days, I don’t even mourn the ice cream any longer.  Truly.  It also had the added benefit that watching my diet carefully taught me to be aware of my food.  I eat a much healthier diet now, just because I learned to read ingredients and to cook more food from scratch. But each mom has to decide what’s best for her family. Hopefully you have enough support no matter how you decide to address your baby’s MSPI.

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.

Aside

Postpartum Progress

11 Nov

Postpartum ProgressI’m honored and humbled to join the editorial team over at Postpartum Progress as a member of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team.  Please join me over there this week!

I’ll be sharing one of my favorite coping strategies for bad days as well as making the case for peer-to-peer support for new moms.  And I have a very special guest writer, too.

It’s an exciting week for me – the culmination of two years of work writing about mental illness.  Your support would mean the world. Click on over and dropkick despair with me!

On Friendship

16 Oct

I have kept in touch with very few friends from my childhood days.  I mean, there are tons of them on Facebook, which roots me to those early elementary day.  It’s wonderful to visit with people who knew me before my days as a mom.  They share my memories of Mrs. Reagan’s 1st grade classroom being decorated in bears, the Jamaican US history teacher from middle school, and of being hollered at by Mr. Logan on the marching field for missing a mark on the 5 yard line. They remind me of who I am deep down inside.

But there are not many folks who I’ve seen in person, exchange birthday mail with, or talk on the phone with from those “olden days.”  I think as you grow up (and move across the country), it gets harder to stay connected to the people who aren’t in your everyday life.  The internet has made it easier to check in, but has also decreased the depth of our interactions.

There are, however a few people who seem to have “made the cut.”  I just can’t quit them.  Whether we talk weekly or only occasionally, when we do, we pick up right where we left off.  They are the people I can be vulnerable with.  Soul sisters.

Melissa and I attended high school together.  Because she was in choir and I was in band, we ran in different social circles.  We actually weren’t that close in those days, but we had classes together and both belonged to the “nerd” crowd, sitting together in our GT AP English class making snarky comments about the long-term substitute.  And if I’m being honest, I always thought she was too cool for me.  Too smart.  My respect for her was built on my admiration for her talents and her apparent ease with friends.   And her writing.  Oh, her writing.

As adults, she and her kids have visited several times.  She flew up from Texas for my oldest’s second birthday.  When DH and I traveled to Las Vegas a few years back, we met up with her husband for a hilarious visit to the wax museum.  Our times together are easy and our friendship is built on a mutual respect and girl crush.  I truly love any time we get to spend together.

And though we trained for different careers and settled down across the country from one another, our lives have become curiously parallel.  We’ve both found ourselves non-religous after extended periods of belief earlier in our lives.  We’re music educators with private studios who understand the excitement inherent in planning and executing the perfect recital.  And all of a sudden, Melissa and I stumbled into roles as health advocates.

Diabetes and depression don’t seem at first glance to be similar health complications, but as it turns out, Melissa’s pancreas and my brain have impacted our lives in similar ways.  She understands deeply how stigma shapes my experience with mental illness and the guilt I battle about how my health affects my children.  My conversations with her about how she manages her diabetes without allowing it to run her life have contributed more than she knows to my ability to make peace with taking medication for my anxiety and depression.  And we’ve both found how online communities can completely change how a patient copes with a life-long diagnosis.  Her work as an advocate in the diabetes community inspires my work within the PPD community and on my blog.

She’s the kind of friend who listens with her whole heart.  She builds me up without letting me get away with anything.  She celebrates my successes and mourns with me when I struggle.  Her friendship drives me to be a better person while at the same time validating my inherent self-worth and value.

I don’t know where I would be in my journey to self-acceptance and PPD recovery without her.

Melissa, I love you.  So very much.  Thank you for being my friend and for all you have brought to my life.

Oh, and Happy Birthday.

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