Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PPD & Breastfeeding & Formula & Shame

look, i did not breastfeed any four of my kiddos, so i am not writing this with the street cred some mommas out there think i need to address breastfeeding.
but they are incorrect.
oh, and, yes, i'm about to get defensive - i will get to why that is in just a moment.
so, here it goes -

you are still a damn fine momma if you formula feed from day one & decide that well before you have your little one.
breastfeeding does not make you a "better" mother.
you are not a "failure" of a mother if you can't from day one or stop after 6 hours or 6 days or 6 weeks or 6 months.
you are not a "bad" momma if you don't consult la leche league before you stop nursing.
it is a personal decision.
you need to do what is best for your family as a whole.
you do not need to explain yourself to other mommas.
the mommas who push you on it, "challenge" you on it and tell you breast is best right after you say your baby has been formula feeding for 6 months so clearly - there ain't no milk going on there anymore and those who actually have the gaul to tell you made a selfish decision (yeah - heard that one more than once) - well, just ... ignore them.
easier said than done, i know. some comments still sting i heard eight and a half years ago.
mommas, again, what is best for you.

why am i writing this?
because i just read this as part of an article on ppd:

Alternatively, please understand that if breastfeeding is not an option, if it becomes a source of extreme stress for you, or if you’re too depressed, it is acceptable to give your baby formula. Don’t feel that you need to always put what’s best for your baby ahead of your own needs.
(emphasis mine)

do what??!!??
can someone please explain how this wording is beneficial to woman with ppd?
what is "too depressed" anyway?
what does "extreme stress" look like?
is there a pdf attachment with a test i need to take to see if i qualify as depressed enough?
this mind set and way of communicating to vulnerable, suffering women is HARMFUL.
what total b.s.
it is shaming women.
women shaming other women is horrific.
especially when it is shaming of the hurting women in our midst.
ok, selfish momma - go ahead and give the baby a bottle and put your needs first.
worst. thing. ever. to say to a momma with ppd.

listen, you wanna know what is best for baby? 
a well mother.
a body, mind & soul healthy kinda momma.

man oh man do i get defensive of the suffering mommas out there.
our words matter so very much to mommas.
the way things are phrased are beyond important.
one little comment (or one unhelpful paragraph) can act as a small match igniting a forest fire to a ppd momma.
trust me, i speak as an authority on that here.

sometimes it is 10000% the right thing to stop nursing to overcome your depression & a momma should stop with the full support of those around her.
or perhaps it is the right thing for a momma never to start and she needs the full support of those around her.
and on the flip, i know breastfeeding for some mothers will help and be extremely beneficial to their overcoming depression.
and those mommas should keep on nursing with full support from those around her.

we need to stop the shaming though.
it has to stop, especially in articles that are supposed to help mommas struggling with ppd.
ppd is a beast.
you can spiral FAST.

so here is the official word from a non-scientist - it is ok to stop nursing and go buy some similac.
it is not selfish to put your healing at the top of the list.
why?
your baby needs you
baby needs you doing all you are capable of to fight your ppd - whatever that uniquely looks like for you.
self care is vital - mandatory even.
anyone who says otherwise obviously is extremely uneducated about ppd & clueless & should not be listened to.

oh, and if my non-scientific word isn't enough:

Dr. Marlene Freeman is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Clinical Services for the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health
"The mother’s wellness is more important than feeding method. Decades of research demonstrate the negative consequences of maternal depression for the mother and baby. It is absolutely true that breastfeeding has great nutritional value, but it is not more important than the mother’s health and ability to bond with her baby and function."

the more mommas suffering with ppd have stigma broken down and shaming stopped - the more we can move forward as women in fighting this monster.

Monday, July 21, 2014

PPD shame roots

i have long wondered why oh why is it this awful taboo thing to get PPD?
it actually makes sense to get it.
think of when women are pregnant - there are REAL physical changes in our bodies and our hormones for NINE months.
then suddenly - wham! hormone drop.
not to mention the very small detail of having just had a baby (REGARDLESS of how baby came out - you are no better or no less for c-section, drugs, no drugs, in your bathtub, pulled off on the highway, induction, no induction, formula feeding right away or nursing right away ... you had a baby).
and then there is the very small matter of no sleep.
oh and i will say it - the issue of skin for DAYZ. 
i don't buy a woman telling me she 100% loves her "new" body right after giving birth.
nothing can prep you for all the squishy, hanging skin. 
perhaps it is my vanity, but that is hard for me - it is a whole other issue.
point being - it is pretty surprising to me more women that 20% don't end up with it.
SO much happens at the time of birth to us.

so why the taboo if we struggle?
why is baby blues acceptable, but not PPD?
and why is there shaming by women on women who suffer with PPD?
**warning - rant.**
ok, actually, this point is just one of the absolute worst to me. 
THE WORST! 
women of the world, what the heck is wrong with you???!!!???
why not help a fellow momma instead of making her feel like bleep?
why act like she is not cutting it & tell her she needs to try harder?
why view her as just a sinner instead of someone with a real illness?
why the total lack of compassion?
why the ridiculous "lay hold of your emotions" instead of the realization that God made our brains very complex and things can go wrong with our brain chemistry? "laying hold of your emotions" is such an uneducated thing to say to someone suffering with mental illness. you really think it is that easy? anyone who says that has zero business giving out advice to other women. 
why tell her "this is just the way it is with X number of children?"
PPD is a real illness.
absolutely no excuse when women do this to one another.
sorry, but you suck and in no way shape or form represent Jesus to other women if you do this.
baby blues is NOT the same as PPD.
PPD is not  the same as postpartum psychosis.
and on and on ...

here is my theory - if i can become ill, so can you.
if i can fall to pieces, so can you.
if my body chemistry gets so outta whack that i'm have psychotic functions, so can yours.
the problem is - women like to think they are "above" such things.
weak women get depressed.
they have not "pressed in" enough and are "lacking faith".
a sinner would try to "blame" depression.
yeeaaahhhhh .... no.
no one is above illness.
no one.
most illnesses do not discriminate.
PPD happens to be one of them.
it is a very scary thought.
i know.
and every fierce warrior momma who fought this battle and has even considered/ had another baby - i respect you so much more than words can say. FIGHTER.
so in pride we view ourselves as above. 
and it is beyond damaging to everyone involved.
women kinda do this across the board though to each other, don't we?

so, in all my non-scientific studies and just life experience, i believe it is pride and fear.
those are what is at the nasty root of PPD stigma and shaming.
in learning about PPD we learn our babies can have long term effects.
we will come across the divorce stats.
not pleasant.
not at all.
but ignoring things does not make them go away.
education is VITAL.
know what to look for in yourself, in your sister, in your friend.
education can help cultivate compassion.
education can allow a whole community to come out of their damaging ways and help women.
education can get rid of stigma.
and suffering women need that.
their children need it.
their husbands need that.

READ these. 
be educated.




***yes, yes, yes - lots of generalizing in this post.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

my ppd story & climb out of the darkness 2014

***trigger warning, dear ones. topics include suicide, self harm and infant loss.***

i do not know how to succinctly write my story.
maybe because it is not over?
maybe because it is so painful thinking of where i have been at certain points?
maybe because i get hung up on what has been lost?
whatever the reason(s) - it is difficult.
but - i have a story.
and i often forget that it matters.
but it does because it is such a common story.
up to 20% of new mommas will experience some type perinatal mood disorders.
i'm not talking baby blues.
just about every momma walks that tear stained road.
i'm talking ppd and postpartum psychosis and postpartum anxiety and postpartum ocd or some ever so lovely combo of them.
it matters that my depression was treated as "just sin" by some because so many other women have had and sadly will have the exact same thing happen to them.
it matters that my depression was not properly medically treated for way too long and became so severe psychotic functions were occurring because i am far from the only momma who has experienced that or sadly will experience that.
it matters because my depression impacted my little family deeply and continues to ... the ripple effects run far and deep in our life ... and it impacts every other family deeply & for long, long after momma is no longer in the darkest of places.
it matters that self harm became part of the equation because it does for so many other mommas walking through ppd as well.
i am only one face of ppd.
one of the approximately 950,000 women suffering from ppd each year.
and that number does not even include the precious mommas who have suffered the loss of a baby it is only the number of mommas suffering after a live birth.
and, yes, mommas who have suffered the greatest of losses can have ppd - actually these precious women are at a high risk of it - which makes sense.
my story is not my own.
it is part of a much greater & larger story.
and my story matters because of stigma.
stigma definition:
a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. 
"the stigma of a mental disorder."
synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor ...
yeah - the dictionary uses mental illness as the sentence to show how you use the word.
stigma is disgusting and powerful.
and so long as there is stigma attached to ppd my experience matters, my speaking up matters.
because there is NOTHING to be ashamed of in struggling after having a baby.
NOTHING.
no struggle is too "little" or too "dark" to share and ask for help with.
ppd is an illness.
an illness that no one would ever pick for themselves.
an illness that is just as legit as the common cold or heart disease.
you ashamed that you have strep throat?
no?
then why are you shaming someone with a mental illness?
it is all kinds of [messed up] that ppd is viewed by way too many as not a legit illness.
severe ppd will not just go away merrily on its own - no harm, no foul.
no, it does not work that way.
a mother struggling with thoughts of harming her baby needs help.
a mother thinking she wants to die needs help.
real professional medical help.
and here is something for the christian set -
this is a fallen world.
why would you ever think our minds would remain untouched by that?
our sanity is some precious treasure that cannot be touched by the fallenness of this world?
our hormones are exempt from this hot mess of a world, so they are not able to become so messed up a deep depression comes upon us?
you can't cherry pick "acceptable" sickness and death and sin that impacts us in this life.
if you are dismissive of mental illness you are claiming to know the intricities of the human mind and emotions and what the fall impacted and didn't.
but, you are not God, so you can't, so ... yeah.
and when i say dismissive i do not only mean those who do not believe in ppd and other mental illnesses.
i also mean those who are looking for the root sin behind it and those who tell you that you are just giving into your emotions.
sin is a part of everything.
i am not disputing that.
however - sickness abounds as well.
cancer, swine flu, epilepsy ... mental illness.
and i'd be remiss not to add - God despises death and sin and sickness.
it is all repugnant to Him and He weeps with those who weep.
those in the darkness of depression i firmly believes He aches for.
even if i do not get why He allows it or why it seemed it He left me.

my story has not yet ended, but i have made it out of the pit.
thank you, Lord.
some days are bad.
some situations are triggering.
but i'm on the other side of the mountain so to speak now.
and that is why i am participating in climb out of the darkness 2014.
the fundraiser benefiting postpartum progress & bringing awareness to postpartum mood disorders.
i am climbing for those in the deep darkness right now, those who who are climbing out, those who will be in the deep darkness one day.
i am also climbing for bobby - the precious little boy who never knew the sting of sorrow here as he went straight to the arms of Jesus from the womb - and his beautiful, brave momma who represents the mothers who have faced the greatest of losses and the dark, grievous road they travel.
saturday i climb.
and i will have by my side one of my dearest who walked down in my pit with me.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

go ahead & feel it: birthdays, mother's day...

baby's first birthday!
second birthday!
mother's day!
happy, happy, joy, joy!
celebration time, baby!
or… not.
or just kinda?
mixed emotions.
ranging from grateful to make this f'ing day end.
heck, make the weeks leading up to it fast forward.
make it all go away.
but -wait, don't.
please don't.
i have so much to celebrate and be grateful for.

this mix of emotions can bring on the guilt.
oh, that painful, gonna choke you if you don't find a way to silence it momma guilt.
pain on days when we *should* be all "Yayness!" make our heads spin and hearts feel as though they will split.
as "everyone else" is having a ball we are frozen or sorrowful or something we *shouldn't* be.
and "they" say that is fine, but don't mean it.
how can a momma NOT be happy on mother's day?
how can you not be all yip yip yippee for a child's birthday?
ummmm…. pretty easily.
lost a child?
i have not, but i can only imagine on mother's day on there is a level a pain i can't quite even begin to fathom.
suffering from depression/ bipolar/ suicidal/ cutting/ all the above/ or just picking a few from the mental health issues a la carte menu?
yeah, mother's day can be fraught with emotions they don't have words for.
and a birthday?
man, you throw a party and think you will physically crumble into pieces because it is so hard.

i am here to tell you the truth - it is ok.
sucks, but it is ok.
you are normal.
your feelings are valid
you are not the only one.
if you are reading his - you are a survivor.
and THAT is something to celebrate.
don't think you are worthy of celebrating?
well, simply put, that is crap.
oh, yes you are.
get out of bed this morning?
MAJOR accomplishment.
not get out of bed, but kept breathing and fighting for the will to live?
seriously - good job, sweets.
mulch your front yard and re-screen two windows?
rock on.
enjoy your day?
awesome!
small victories and huge victories are still victories.
signs of grace.

the expectations of certain days add to the pain and guilt.
strip it.
you need mother's day as a day you self care by weeping and feeling the pain and disappointment?
do it.
these things - postpartum depression, loss, etc - NOT the way it is all supposed to be.
so, it hurts.
it's a fallen world.
sin, disease, suicidal thoughts, not bonding with your baby, self harm… they hurt.
sometimes they hurt so bad they knock the wind out of you.
how could it not?
how do we expect someone going through hell to be "happy"?
senseless.
we forget it is a fallen world.
we forget that tragedy and mental illness - they have no boundaries.
no one is off limits.
the reality of that can be brutal.
much easier to pretend it's not there or have a "won't happen to me" attitude.
not only is that unhelpful to the hurting around you - it is unhelpful to those trying to convince themselves of that.
it's easy and all fun & games until you are the one with intrusive thoughts or self harming or in the psych ward or on a therapist's couch or drinking the pain away in secret.

this mother's day - think of the hurting mommas.
a momma checked in with me last year who herself had suffered from ppd.
she said she remembered watching all the other moms in yayness mode (my term) and it was hard.
she wasn't in that zone.
her sharing that made an impact on me.
i wasn't the only one.
it was actually ok to hurt and cry and be angry about and grieve the nasty place i was last year.
it eased the blow of the day.
put to death some of the millions of lies of was believing.

and if you are one of these struggling mommas -
you are an incredible momma even if you have PPD.
even if you need help to do the basics.
even if you feel as distant as it gets from your kids.
see - you are ill, momma.
and that illness is making you - not yourself.
but even still -  YOU are the perfect momma for your littles.
You are who they need and want.
You are who they adore and think are THE most beautiful woman in the whole world.
yes, YOU.
YOU matter oh so much more than you realize.
depression indeed is a lying bastard who is straight from the pit of hell & wants you to feel worthless and believe that your family is better off without you.
NO.
NO.
NO.
those are L-I-E-S.
i believed them with all i was, so i am throwing down my been there done that card to tell you - you are wrong.
it is not true.

mommas who are sorrowful, on the edge, grieving, hurting, struggling with rage for dayz, pharmacy didn't contact my doctor to fill my meds before the weekend and now i'm all whoa, numb…
happy mother's day, darlings.
you are loved.
you are not forgotten.
and from the bottom of my heart - i am sorry you are hurting and this is hard.
emotions were made by God - they are not sin contrary to way too many popular (false) teachings.
you hurting and being sorrowful and grieving for what is lost - no sin.
and no judgement from this chick.
XO

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

kill the stigma of depression for our daughters' sakes

my daughters know about depression.
they know it by it's name or refer to it as "being sick".
they know it is common.
they know it is an illness.
they know it is no one's fault when it happens.
they know many mommas get it after having a baby.
they know there are other kinds of depression as well.
they know depression doesn't just look one way.
they know when you are just not doing well with it - you go to the doctor because it is an illness.
they know medication for some people is needed.
they know know when their momma has not taken hers.
they know some people are able to rock exercise or clean eating or herbs or art and many other things to help.
they know they can ask anything at all, at any time about depression.
they know it is ok to not be ok.
they know hormones be all kinds of cray cray.
they know God made our brains simply amazing and incredibly complex.
they know there have been some amazing people who have some alongside our family.
they know it is very hard.
they know you can get better.

(sadly, my daughters seem to know more than many adults.)

my daughters don't know there is a stigma attached to depression.
they don't know most women do not go get help.
they don't know some people call it "just sin".
they don't know some people think antidepressants are a bad thing - even when people want to die.
they don't know their momma was suicidal, self harming, & having psychotic features.
they don't know some people are shunned over mental illness.
they don't know momma never had to get to the point she did.
they don't know how difficult it is to get insurance figured out in regard to mental health or get care covered period.
they don't know how grieved i am for them that i walked through what i have.
they don't know it is a taboo subject.
they don't know many churches have no resources available and pastors unqualified to deal with depression.
they don't know some people think you have postpartum depression only if you get like andrea yates (who had postpartum psychosis, btw) or look like X.

the next generation doesn't know the complete bull shit aspects of depression that society, including the church, has imposed/ is imposing.
and they don't have to.

can you imagine if our daughters felt the freedom to get help because it is encouraged?
can you imagine every single woman being properly screened for ppd?
can you imagine no mommas succumbing to their postpartum depression?
can you imagine the church truly loving & really supporting those with mental health issues of all kinds?
can you imagine it being ok to not be ok?
don't we want that for our daughters?

it IS possible.
kill the stigma.
call it what it is.
become educated about, in the very least the basics of, depression.
(if you don't become educated - sorry to be blunt - you are a huge part of the problem.)
talk about it.
it's ugly.
it's messy.
it's not pleasant.
but we have to.
for our daughters.
and for their daughters.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

.every forty seconds.

��untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.

around the world almost a million people a year take their own life. that equals one person about every forty seconds. 


every forty seconds? this has me weeping. these are real people. mothers, sons, wives, sisters, fathers, friends, colleagues, husbands, classmates, brothers. i am not a fan of statistics. i find them sterile. BUT - here i think they need to be shared. these are not just numbers. that is a million people. a million precious, beautiful people who could not go on. they didn't know they mattered anymore. i get where they are coming from. i get why they felt this was the best decision. and it breaks my heart.

1 in 4 people will experience depression to some extent in their life. i'm not a math chick, but i know that's a whole heck of a lot of people. and most of them never say a word. so many reasons. so, so, so many different reasons. or their help is minimal.

i often wonder how things would have been different for me had i known how certain people would react. obviously, never in a million years would i have brought them into my pain. i think about it because, well, i lament how things went for me. but more because of the damage done by some of those i most trusted- i try to think how it can be different for women moving forward. 
how can i help women not walk my path? how do i help women get the help they need?
how do i help kill stigma? how do i let women know it is ok to admit it's hard? that's it is normal and fine to fall apart? not fun, but happens. that it is NOT a reflection of their mothering? how do i let them know they are not just lacking faith? they are not just "in sin"? they are not alone? 

i didn't get the help i needed when i needed it. blocked.
so i got worse. so much worse. i wanted to take my life. suicide preoccupied my thoughts. i planned my days around when i could self-harm. and when triggered - i just made the time. i was losing touch with reality. people, this is not normal.and it never had to get to that. never.
(yes, yes, yes - still working through God's sovereignty.)

so, i want my life to help other women not get there. 
resources are available. you are not alone.
first though - if you are in danger, PLEASE call:

911
or
800.273.8255 (Lifeline)

every life matters.
yes, yours.

"depression is a lying bastard" has become one of my favorite quotes. 
why? first, it is totally true. lies abound when you are suffering from depression, but you think they are real with all you are. you can't see they are lies.
and second, well, guess who the father of lies is? yeah - someone seeking to devour and destroy. 

depression it too real, too serious, too destructive, too life threatening to ignore.
to not take seriously. 
to excuse away.
to not take action on.

it is hard to advocate for yourself. sometimes impossible when in the valley. people are more than willing to advocate for you. 
you don't have to fight this alone.
it is a lie that it's just you. a lie that it is something to be ashamed of.

and those on the outside, throw out every thought you have of what it looks like. throw out every judgement. realize you can't "fix it". just love like Jesus did, man. because those who jump down in the mire without a second thought and walk through the dark, muddied, bumpy, painful road are the ones. 
yes, those are the ones. 
the ones who help fight against the one every forty seconds. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

.rebuilding after the worst of ppd.

personal post. sharing because i know i'm no different than other ladies walking through the same thing. the lie of "it's just me" is too powerful and destructive for silence. and the aftermath of suicidal ideation and self-harm is messy, messy, messy... i hope this helps those on the outside of depression looking in gain a teeny bit of understanding. please keep in mind- everyone is different - this is just my experience.

we did family photos.
i got Christmas cards out.
i did our annual family photo book.
took the oldest two girlies through a local light display thing.
yeah, last year.
this year - not so much.
i keep asking myself - how did i get all that done last year and not this year?!!??!?
i suppose auto-pilot?
or part of trying to seem as "well" and "normal" as possible?
the guilt has been eating me up this year.
so much i didn't do.
didn't get to.
and it hit me - recovering from where i was is no joke.
the worst part of the storm is over.
but, it demolished just about everything in some way.
i feel as though i am in the "rebuilding phase" of depression (i just made that up).
a bad episode of paranoia here and a little gonna have a panic attack there.
and being overwhelmed, but on steroids all.the.time. and the physical aspect that goes with that.
what do i do with that?
what does my life look like now?
what am i supposed to do?
95% i can get through the day without it being all i can do to survive - thank you, Lord.
i don't even remember what else i used to do.
i look around and... whoa.
the laundry.
the homework.
the home projects i started and had to bail on.
meal plans.
the home projects looooong past due.
and those are the easy things.
relationships.
those issues that had to tabled because i was in no condition to make serious decisions.
my faith. (which really is it's own 100 part blog series)
what/who/where is my community?
what do i think community even means now?
these things are much more difficult - even thinking about them is difficult.
rebuilding.
slowly.
one step at a time.
sometimes a step forward, sometimes a step back.
and i think it's completely normal.
working on getting me better is number one.
my saint of a husband and 4 amazing girlies - number one.
so, this holiday season that meant doing a gingerbread house.
(full disclosure: glued the graham crackers on the box because i ran out of time to affix with frosting. "do NOT eat the graham crackers!!!" was a common refrain here during december.)
and it meant Christmas crafts with the girls.
decorating less to keep my sanity, which makes for a happy hubby.
wrapping with my oldest girl.
teacher gifts.
sitting in the dark with only the Christmas tree lights on and enjoying.
rebuilding.
i'm learning it is hard and rather time consuming day to day.
and it flat out takes a long time.
and it means not getting to things you want to, love to do, and used to do.
but also means i am down to the essentials.
and as i rebuild i try to add on one essential after the other.
simplicity, IMHO, is a lost art; so this is a good thing.
a really good thing.
please note: i do not do this perfectly - far from it.
i can still get rather distracted by non essentials or put it on myself to add stuff that just doesn't matter frankly.
and i try to do "self-care".
perhaps better put - try to understand what self-care looks like for me.
rebuilding.
so, i still need to get our family photos done.
and i still need to get our photo book done.
but, Christmas cards... um, yeah, look for 'em Christmas 2014!