Two weeks ago I participated in #ppdchat on Twitter. I do not always go now, but I wanted to know how I could help. The topic was minority mental health awareness week.
This discussion was enlightening and uncomfortable. I know how fortunate I am and that I had access to resources that others in my local community do not. This discussion forced me to look at how many more resources were available to me because of where I lived. I did not fear any retaliation from speaking up and disclosing my condition to my employer. I became anxious when I asked for an accommodation to work from home. I considered the fact that I might not receive the accommodation initially, but my therapist and I had a back-up plan to obtain the necessary documentation from my therapist that this accommodation was necessary for my recovery. What about the mama who cannot afford the luxury of working from home? What about the mama who only gets help when she is in extreme crisis? What about the mama who just pushes through every single day because she is the sole breadwinner and she cannot afford to lose her job? How can a working mama afford to take time off of work to get to therapy? What about the mama who cannot afford to see a therapist? What about the mama who finally finds a therapist that she likes, but they cannot accept her insurance? What about the mama who does not have insurance?
I had a lightning bulb moment when Rachana talked about the subtle nuances of cultural norms. “And in my culture we’re supposed to brave everything with a gentle smile, never complaining.” Social media like Twitter and Facebook only offer the written word which means that nonverbal cues are absent from these conversations. Significant cultural cues can be missed. Emoticons cannot replace the face to face connection. We need the voices of all Warrior Moms.
When I asked A’Driane what I could do, she responded with pointing women towards support groups, both online and face to face. Sometimes all a struggling mama needs to hear and know is that she is not alone. She needs a hand to hold on to and to guide her to the available local resources. The Warrior Mom community is well-connected in terms of resources. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders do not discriminate. It can happen to any mom; therefore, all moms need to be aware of the signs and symptoms. All partners, significant others, family and friends of a new mom need to educate themselves. This is a community health issue.
It all comes down to this. Everyone’s voice matters. Everyone’s story is unique. Everyone needs a chance to share their story. Every time we share our stories, we never know who may need our voice or who we are giving permission to speak. So to all my fellow Warrior Mamas, we need the details of your story. It is those details that matter, and the details make other mamas feel less alone.
You are welcome for that ear worm. I have been running and running these past two weeks. I am planning to run a 10K in the fall, and I needed to start increasing my overall miles per week as well as the days that I am running. One of my former coworkers and I meet at least twice a week to go running. I head out of my house, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I thank my lucky stars that she has gorgeous red hair that stands out. I can barely make out her silhouette in the early morning light until she flags me down.
On Friday mornings, I run with another group of local moms. These women kick my ass every week. They run faster than I do, so it helps my endurance and my pace. Plus we run our town’s 8K route which is four miles of hills with only the final mile being downhill. I love getting up that early in the morning and starting my day out with physical activity. I am not a morning person at all, but I am choosing to get up early to get in my workout. I am a wimp when it comes to running in the heat. So I would rather run before work than run the trails during the highest time of the day at work.
Initially running appealed to me because it helped me meditate and ease my anxiety. Now I have fallen in love with the social aspect of it. I have met so many like-minded people who are into health and fitness. I enjoy chatting with the other moms on how they fit in their workouts. Plus we run by the gorgeous Lake Michigan lakefront which is so gorgeous. I still marvel at how much running has changed my overall health, mentally and physically.
I have a confession to make. I have fallen off of the fitness wagon again. I have been choosing unhealthy snacks again. Life got stressful, and I turned to my comfort food. I stopped exercising as much. I did not plan the fitness into my schedule. I had started a new program which I loved, and then I slacked off again. My sense of follow through is my downfall when it comes to my fitness.
I know that making those small consistent changes will add up to big results. I need to remind myself that I am only human. Dust myself off, and hit that reset button. This week I have planned my workouts, and I have another new running buddy. I found yet another running group in my area that meets in the early mornings on Saturdays to run a few miles. Running has become a part of my life, and I need to incorporate the other key elements of fitness in consistently which is my strength and flexibility. The new yoga session started back up again at work, and I am doing two classes a week which really helps my tight hamstrings and hip flexors. I love running, but I do not want that to be my only avenue for exercise. I know the dangers of overtraining and possibly injuring myself. PiYo and yoga are what my body desperately needs to maintain and increase my flexibility and strength.
After the realization that I was not okay, I turned to Google to figure out exactly what I was struggling with. Mercifully it led me to Postpartum Progress and Katherine Stone. I spent hours on her blog. The best source of information was the list of symptoms in plain mama English. From there, I registered to receive the daily hope e-mails where were missives of love, encouragement and hope that helped me hang on in my darkest hours. From there I began reading as many of the blogs written by fellow Warrior Moms as I could. Then one of them talked about a twitter chat which led me to #ppdchat and the amazing Lauren Hale, another fierce advocate in her own right.
I found hope, love, inspiration, and camaraderie within the Warrior Mom community. As I began my blog, I received so much support from the PPD community. As I continued towards my journey to recovery, I kept thinking about wanting to give back. I had received so much love and support. What could I do? I was just one voice. How much impact could one voice have?
I got to meet Katherine at BlogHer 2013 in Chicago. I saw this incredibly tall woman with stunning red hair. I could not believe this gorgeous woman was Katherine. I stood, waiting for a break in the conversation. When Katherine turned around, A’Driane was right next to me to introduce me. Thank goodness she was there! I had no words for a few minutes, just tears. How do you adequately thank the woman who saved your life?
The following day I went to the Pathfinder session led by Katherine and Cheryl Contee. I have never been more inspired in my life. Listening to those two amazing thought leaders was mind-blowing! I took furious notes. My vision for how I could make a difference started to take shape. Both Cheryl and Katherine discussed their visions for the future of the organizations that they led. When Katherine mentioned the Warrior Mom Leadership team, it hit me with a ton of bricks. The community that Katherine has built is such an amazing community of support, friendship and advocacy. In that moment, I knew that I would walk through the fire for Katherine and all the Warrior Moms past, present and future.
I cannot believe it has been over two weeks since my sweet girls and my amazing husband joined me on a hike. We had a family wedding the weekend of the climb, so I decided we would take advantage of the destination wedding and hike at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. I believe so deeply in this cause that I enlisted my immediate family’s support to hike with me and for my recovery. This hike was also complicated by the fact that I was one of the soloists for the family wedding. I scheduled our hike early in the morning so that it would not interfere with any of the wedding plans. I struggled for so long, and I saw this hike as a way to continue my healing journey.
I loved walking through the serene bluffs. I felt so many emotions that morning as I saw all the tweets, photos and Facebook messages on my social media feeds: gratitude, admiration, joy, sorrow and triumph. I knew that I was not alone in my hike. I was walking in spirit with warrior moms around the world.
At the wedding, they talked about the bluff being a sacred space. Nature reconnects me to my innermost self. Thank you to my husband for being my rock as I struggled for nearly two years until I finally got the help I needed. Thank you to my sweet girls for showing me unconditional love. To my fellow Warrior Mamas, thank you for reaching out a hand to a mama who was drowning.
I climbed for myself. I climbed for my daughters so that they won’t suffer needlessly. I climbed for several family members who have struggled with postpartum mood disorders. I climbed for my nieces, my cousins and my friends. I climbed to honor all the Warrior mamas past, present and future. I climbed to honor the struggles of two mamas who are still struggling and in memory of their sweet babies who were lost to this deadly disease. I climbed to raise awareness that this is NOT just a women’s health issue. This affects families and our communities.
Nearly a week ago I ran in my second 5k of this year. The course is full of hills, similar to my normal training runs. I experimented this time with really resting my legs the week of the race. I worked out, but I did lower impact. My final run before the race was a nice, easy two mile run. This approach paid when I ran a personal best of 31:42 with an average pace of 10:14. I continued with my tradition of sprinting the last quarter mile which felt amazing. Those afterburners kicked in. I’m still a sprinter at heart.
I started today off with a five mile run with some amazing local runners. These ladies push me every time I run with them. I am challenged by the pace that we set and the route we run. The majority of the group trains for half marathons. I happened to mention that I was never a distance runner. I excelled in sprinting. So Sini and Jen challenged me to sprint the last quarter mile. I had forgotten until recently how amazing sprinting makes me feel. It is like I’m an eagle, ready to soar. Our average pace today was just under ten minutes. I received some feedback that I need to continue to build up my endurance. My pace could be even quicker.
Who inspires and motivates you with your health and fitness?
Hi new friend, I am so glad that you found my blog. I know why you are here. You want to know if you will ever get better. Right now you feel like it never will. You feel like the hours blur into days into weeks into months. Know this: just making it through the day when you are struggling with a postpartum mood disorder is the stuff that heroes are made of. You are a wonderful mom. You are exactly the mom that your child needs. Fight for yourself, your child(ren), your spouse or significant other, and your family. You can do this. I am here for you. I am listening. A community is ready to shower you with love, encouragement and support. A mom needs a village to support her on her journey as a parent. Let me and let this amazing community be your guides. Lean on us while you climb back out into the world again.
Look at my picture and see my triumphant smile. I am squinting a bit because I was facing the sun. I am back in the world. I climb for myself, for you, for my daughters, for my nieces, for my fellow Warrior moms past, present and future. I climb in honor of Dana and Nora. I climb in memory of Hailey and Leo. I climb so that all mamas will realize that we are none of us alone. As a Warrior Mom, we do not leave a mama behind. Know this: you are not alone, you will get better, and there is help and treatment available. My husband, my daughters and I are climbing tomorrow as part of Postpartum Progress’s Climb Out of the Darkness to honor my three-year recovery from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and to support all of my warrior moms around the world who are currently struggling.
E-mail me if you do not know where to start to get help. Postpartum Progress has a private forum where you can find hope, support and encouragement. The amazing twitter chat run by Lauren Hale also has a private Facebook group where support, hope and encouragement is also given. Please remember this: never give hope, never.