Why I Climb: Connection and Healing

***Trigger warniwhy-i-climbng: If you are feeling fragile, or struggling, this post might be triggering.  I talk about intrusive thoughts and suicidal thoughts.****

I struggle with sharing some of the harsh truths that marked my experience with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  It is hard for my family and friends to read on my blog stories I struggle to articulate in words.

During the few weeks leading up to the Climb last year, a dear friend shared her story of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  When I saw her at the climb, I hugged her.  I thanked her for her courage, and I whispered in her ear that I had those feelings of suicide too.  Later she read this story aloud, and it broke me wide open.  Her story and her journey to recovery is different from mine; however, we both struggled with those feelings of utter despair and hopelessness.  I felt like I wanted to just disappear.  I felt like my husband and my daughters deserved better than me.  I didn’t have an active plan. I just wanted to disappear into nothing.  I have mentioned that I had intrusive thoughts of crashing my car headfirst into oncoming traffic.  These thoughts were my thoughts of escaping.  I did not realize that these intrusive thoughts were considered passive suicidal ideations until after I read Dr. Walker Karraa’s book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.  After I read this book, I wept with the realization of how sick I had been.  It is only in looking back that I realize how anxious and despondent I had been.

Suicidal thoughts are more common than we realize among postpartum women.  In fact suicide is the second most common cause of mortality in postpartum women. I never said yes to the screening question about hurting myself or others because I was afraid that I would lose my husband and my daughters.  I was one of the lucky ones – the 15% that receive treatment for their postpartum mood disorders.  I got help, and I recovered.

I climb for the moms who we lose every year to suicide.  I will keep climbing, and I will keep telling my story.  I climb for all the women in my life.  I climb for the warrior moms past, present and future.  I see your struggle, and I see your brave.  I will continue to encourage others to tell their own story. I do not want another mom to feel like she is all alone in her struggles.  I have been on the edge of that precipice.  Take my hand, and I will support you as you climb out of this darkness.  You will be well.  It does get better.

If you’re local to the Milwaukee area, please come join me and my little ladies and a host of amazing women as we walk through Havenwoods State Forest for Climb Out of the Darkness 2016 http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/. If you are not local to Miwaukee and want to find a climb in your area, http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of…/find-a-climb/.  Together we can shine a light of hope for moms on their darkest days.

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10 signs of a musical nerd family

1. You and your husband sing together and pick out songs that have harmonies.

2. You have several copies of the same song in different keys.

3. Your children watch YouTube videos of their parents’ favorite musicians.

4. You have no idea what Kidz Bop is.

5. Your family is vehemently opposed to auto tune.

6. Your children ask in disbelief how you know so many songs. It’s called sight reading.

7. You can pick out individual voices in bands and ensembles. You shush your children at Mass so you can hear your college friend cantor.

8. You show your children pictures and videos of shows that you were in.

9. Your children request show tunes for a bedtime song.

10. You embarrass your children by singing show tunes in front of their friends.

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One Word: Courage

 

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuitionMy word last year was believe. I needed this word as a talisman as I experienced a layoff for the first time in my professional career. As I reflected on my next steps, I realized that I had not brought my authentic self to work. I spent so much time fitting myself into what people expected of me.

I saw this new opportunity as a chance to make a fresh start. I chose the word courage for this year.  I wanted to lead from my heart. I discovered that I enjoy work because I am myself. My boss has become a mentor to me. I can get perspective, support and insight. I enjoy leading a team even when it is challenging.

Three months into this new year courage and opening my heart is exactly what I need to do. Leading like this is vulnerable. It is not easy at all. It requires me to be intentional and mindful of my interactions with everyone. At times I get frustrated and twitchy because change is difficult. I need to remember that change does not happen overnight. I need to give myself, my family and my team the grace and space to adapt to change.

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To all the struggling mamas

 

Hi mama,A Real Hero

How are you? I want to know how you’re really doing. What can I do to help you? Bring you coffee or tea so you can just talk to someone who gets it?

I see how hard you are working to get better. You may think it’s not enough, but those small steps are leading you on the path of recovery. I see you advocating for yourself when you encounter roadblocks. I see a mama tired of fighting, but she still perseveres to get healthy for herself and her family. Lean on me, mama. Lean on the community.

Never give up hope. You are not in this alone. When you make it through this, I’ll be dancing with you. The sisterhood of the warrior moms is like no other.

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Career change

I stink at transitions. As a young child I loved to plan and schedule things. When a transition is not planned, it makes it even tougher for me. I rage and pout. I dig my heels in and protest this transition. I need that time to grieve the familiar.

A positive outlook helped me a lot with this latest transition, but I still struggled with days and hours of self doubt and depression. I wallowed in sadness and pity. The only way for me to move forward is to sit with all the uncomfortable feelings.

Of course my anxiety spiked due to the unplanned transition. I also struggled with my first significant colitis flare in over a year. I realized that I needed to be mindful and practice self-care. I needed quality sleep. I needed to move my body. I needed to eat healthy foods. My emotions were too raw to blog, so I wrote in my journal instead. I read books. I listened to guided meditation and inspiring podcasts.

I had two major takeaways from this experience. One is a comment made by the outplacement service. We all stay too long at our jobs. I had been bored for a while. I was no longer challenged on a daily basis. I had become complacent. I was comfortable with where I was. I needed to challenge myself, but I was afraid to take that first step.

My second aha moment was realizing how much I missed not building better relationships with my colleagues. I had so much fun at work during my final week just reconnecting with people. I am an extrovert by nature, and I need interaction with others to recharge my batteries. When I bring my authentic self to the workplace, I am more engaged and more productive. So next year I will begin my new position on January 4th with an open mind and an open heart.
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Intrusive Thoughts: My Commute

DayOfLight***Trigger warning: If you are feeling fragile or struggling, this post might be triggering.  I talk about intrusive thoughts. ***

My intrusive thoughts mainly centered around driving. For most people who live in major metropolitan areas, my commute is not that long. I drive forty-five minutes one way to work. I take a more direct route which bypasses the rush hour traffic. My commute leaves some colleagues shaking their head in disbelief especially when my girls were infants and toddlers.

Now I enjoy my commute. It is a way to decompress from the work day, and I can transition back to wife and mom. I listen to podcasts, music, or talk to family and friends. This time of year is stunning with the leaves turning shades of red, orange and yellow.

When I was struggling with postpartum anxiety, my commute was hell. Images of jerking my steering wheel into the oncoming lane of traffic flashed before my eyes. I drive on a two lane county highway for the majority of my commute. It’s frequented by lots of semis. I would picture my car flattened like a pancake. I would see twisted metal all around me. All I saw was destruction. These images were stuck on a nonstop loop in my head. I would arrive at work, slick with sweat. This went on for months. I finally tearfully confessed these thoughts out loud. When I said those thoughts out loud, I felt a sense of relief.

Today I’m reclaiming my commute as my way to commune with nature, to ground myself and to shine a light on my darkest days. The solution as some suggested was not to move closer to work. I adore our home, our community and our school. My choice is to reframe my commute. I kmpw that these thoughts are just thoughts. My thoughts do not mean that I will act on them. I’m not whispering about these thoughts anymore. I’m done hiding.  Intrusive thoughts lose their power and strength when we talk about them out loud.

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This is Eight

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My sweet Munch,

I cannot believe you are eight. This year is full of so many milestones for you – your First Reconciliation and your First Communion. It feels like yesterday we brought you home from the hospital. Wasn’t it just two days ago that you were getting used to your brand new baby sister?

I love your capacity for kindness and unconditional love. You inspire me every day to be a better person. I make mistakes a lot as a mom. You show me what forgiveness is. I love you so much. I know that being the oldest is challenging. Sometimes I expect too much from you sweetheart. I forget that you are still growing and learning. At times your wisdom is beyond your years.

I continue to be amazed at your ability to create. Your artistic talents are amazing. I hope you keep your passion for art and beauty. My favorite memory from this summer is how mesmerized you were by the sculpture garden and the bean in Millennium Park in Chicago. Thank you for teaching me how to look at the beauty in life.

Love you,

 

Mama

 

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