When School Isn’t Safe

I sat at work in a fog. I found it hard to focus. I sent my sweet girls with my parents for a long weekend. As I watched them drive away, I cried. I cried with relief that they are in good hands. I cried because I will miss them dearly. I cried because I hate that they practice the lockdown drills.

I own a gun, and so does my husband. My gun is in a locked cabinet, and my husbands gun case is locked. The ammunition is not together with the guns. I support common sense legislation. I support background checks. I support a nationwide gun registry. I am fine with extra checks because I have a diagnosed mental illness. No one needs to collect guns. Only use the ones you need for hunting. Get rid of the rest of them. There is no reason for a semi automatic gun. There is no reason for a bump stock to convert a gun into an automatic weapon. What purpose does owning a weapon like that do? You would not hunt any animals with those weapons. They are meant to destroy and kill as many as possible. Take away my guns. I am okay with that. I haven’t hunted in years. If that is what it takes to stop the epidemic of gun violence in the US, I will do it.

I am heartbroken and enraged at the frustration and outrage from our teenagers. Of course they’re upset. They have every right to be. We have the power to fix this. Thank you to the amazing teachers and parents who are holding space for our teens. I see your brave. We can fix this. Are you with me?

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Warrior Mom Community: The Sisterhood

184Why is maternal mental health so important to me? I have been in that hell of shame. I could not tell anyone how I was feeling. The stigma and fear of getting my children taken away paralyzed me into not reaching out for help.

Warrior Mom sisterhood is unlike no other.  It is the validation of “me too” and a hug that says so much without saying a word.  I spent a whirlwind weekend over two years ago with some amazing members of my tribe.  It took me some time to completely my process my experience.  My head churned with all the possibilities.  My roommate was the lovely Anne-Marie.  We have chatted a ton online, mostly via Twitter and Facebook groups, but we didn’t have each other’s phone numbers.  It was a match made in heaven for ladies who love to chat about music, writing, books, children and life.

I got to meet some of my dearest friends from the Internet – Lauren, Andrea, and Lindsay.  I immediately started crying when I saw Lauren.  She needed to remind me to breathe.  Lauren has been an amazing friend and one of those truly integral people in my healing journey.  To actually meet her in person after texting, messaging and talking on the phone for years was so surreal.

I met Lindsay next, and it was like she’s always been a part of my circle.  She cracked me up.  I love getting the chance to share glances and jokes that only the two of you really get. I loved the chance to let loose and toss back some cocktails.

Andrea is just a dear.  I share a special connection with Andrea.  At my most emotional during the conference, I sat down on the floor with her and just sobbed.  Her hug was magical.  I felt so much love and so much support.

I want to remind my fellow mamas that the sisterhood always remains.  It does not need a formal place or space to reside.  Through shared experience, you become sisters.  This requires us to listen to each other’s stories and honor the different perspectives.  As a cis white woman, I found a therapist who looks like me whose office is 15 minutes away.  I am so privileged that I was able to access that type of care so quickly.  Representation was never a concern for me, and neither was cultural competence.  Our sisterhood needs to continue to focus on making support accessible for all mamas, honoring unique cultural needs and experiences.  Our stories are different, and our experiences are different. We can honor those emotions that fellow mamas feel with a “Me too”.

 

 

 

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Six Things to Say to a Loved One with PPD

As I continue to use my voice as an advocate for moms who are struggling with PPD, I keep returning to the same questions that my family asked me.  How could we have helped?  What could we have said that would help you get help sooner? Thank you to my mom and my sister for inspiring this post. Here are the things that would have helped me through PPD:

  1. “You will get better.” Repeat this often to the loved one that is struggling.  She will need lots of affirmation and reassurance that she will recover from this.  Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary, and she will recover with time. When your loved one is in the depths of depression or in the grip of anxiety, she is in survival mode.  She cannot imagine that she will make it through another day.  She needs the support and hope from her family members.

 

  1. “You are a great mom.” Depression tells a struggling mom the lie that she is a horrible mom. She feels like she is the only one who is struggling with motherhood.  All the other mothers around her seem to enjoy their babies and have it all together.  She feels like she is the only one with ambivalent or negative feelings about motherhood.  Also tell your loved one specific examples of how her actions demonstrate that she is a great mom.  Depression causes distorted thinking.  A crucial part of recovery is learning to combat the negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

 

  1. “I am here for you.” A struggling mom will isolate herself from friends and family. It is important to visit her and just let her know that you are there. Sometimes all she needs is someone to sit with her and hold her hand and hug her.  A loved one’s mere presence can bring comfort to a struggling mom.  Face to face is best.  If you are unable to visit her, send her a handwritten card.  Send her a text.  Write an e-mail.  Pick up the phone.

 

  1. “You are not alone.” Loneliness coupled with the tendency to isolate makes a struggling mom vulnerable. The support of her family and close friends aids in the recovery process.  She will not expect you to fully understand her struggle.  If you have not struggled with a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder, you would not be able truly understand the experience.  What she needs the most is empathy and kindness.

 

  1. “I am thinking of you.” I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with your struggling loved one. You do not have to say much.  It is your presence and your encouragement that means the most.  This simple phrase lets your struggling loved one that she is not forgotten and that she matters.

 

  1. “I love you.” Unconditional love and support is what a struggling mom needs throughout her entire journey of recovery. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders do a number on your loved one’s psyche.  She may feel that she is not lovable.  When you tell her you that your love her, you are giving her validation that she is loved, loving and lovable.
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New Chapter

026At the beginning of April 2017 our sweet Skeeter was officially discharged as a graduate of the Urology Clinic. It has been six years since a visibly anxious mom had the first visit at this clinic. I teared up leaving the clinic. Our nurse practitioner Heidi has been with us every step of the way.

Skeeter’s kidneys are almost the exact same size now. She always had one that was slightly smaller which was the same kidney that registered the high level of bladder reflux. When she was initially diagnosed, she had to undergo an X-ray procedure called fluoroscopy which allows them to visualize her bladder and kidneys. I had to nurse her, and then she had to have a wet diaper so they could see how the liquid came out.

I have never been more grateful to work for a healthcare company. I had colleagues who were certified radiology technicians. I showed them the exams, and I also had them explain how much radiation she received. They were able to reassure me that the scan just got only the necessary anatomy.

When I got to our local Children’s Hospital, Heidi allayed so many of my fears. Skeeter only had the one fluoroscopy exam. After that it was all kidney ultrasounds. Heidi took the time to explain everything in layman’s terms. Skeeter adored her, and she still tells me how Heidi says we shouldn’t hold it if we have to pee.

Naturally all things pee and poop were discussed often during these visits to the urology clinic. Initially Skeeter was seen every six months, then a year. At our last visit it had been two years. I know that I can still reach out to Heidi and our team at the clinic if I have any other questions down the road. I am so grateful for all the care and reassurance they provided.  Skeeter’s condition and her hospitalization was the tipping point that catapulted my descent into postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. It felt like my recovery had come full circle.

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Fitness Fridays: Outlet for Strong Emotions

I Run I Am a MomExercise for me is not just about building muscle, increasing my endurance, lifting heavier weights, jumping higher and running faster.  Exercise decreases my anxiety, and it helps me burn off the rage that resurfaces from time to time.  Women are socialized to be “nice” which led me to suppress a lot of my strong emotions as a girl.  I struggled with my temper throughout puberty.  I figured out ways to channel my emotions: basketball and acting.  This approach served me well throughout high school and college.

Flash forward to motherhood.  The hormonal shift combined with sleep deprivation, PPOCD, PPD, and PPA made me an emotional wreck.  My emotions came at me in waves, and they threatened to consume me.  Once I finally got diagnosed, I focused on my emotional and my mental health.  It took me nearly a year into my recovery before I started to focus on my physical health.  Exercise is now a key component as part of my self-care routine.  It improves my mood.  It enables me to sharpen my focus and get out of my head.  I find my best ideas when I’m exercising.

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Triumphing over My Intrusive Thoughts

As a Warrior Mama who is in recovery, I receive emails from fellow mamas who are struggling with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.  The letters are unique to each mama, but the theme remains the same.  How do I get rid of my intrusive thoughts? Do they ever go away?  Will I ever get better?

I know how much pain you are in.  It is like your mind is a record player, and you are stuck in this same groove.  The same horrendous images keep flashing in your mind on repeat.  I know that you hate yourself for having those thoughts.  I struggled with those same thoughts.  Seven years later, I am telling you that it does get better.  Of course those thoughts creep back from time to time.  Now I am recovered, and I have muted that critical voice and those images in my mind. Setbacks do occur, but I have found them easier to manage now.

I did experience another setback five years ago which prompted the unwelcome return of intrusive thoughts to the forefront of my mind with a vengeance.  Just after Labor Day 2012, I was involved in a car accident.  This accident triggered the return of my intrusive thoughts as well as a spike in my overall anxiety level.  In the height of my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety the thoughts involved me willingly steering my car into oncoming traffic.  I wanted so desperately to sleep, but I was plagued by horrible insomnia.  All I did was worry about my girls, my husband, my family, work, bills, daycare, etc.  I wanted to get into an accident so that I could rest.  The insomnia and anxiety were so severe that I would have traded anything for a month of rest.

I walked away from this accident with minor injuries, a totaled car, and a shaken psyche.  It took me a few months and the use of my anti-anxiety medication before I could drive in heavy traffic again without intrusive thoughts or panic attacks.  I knew that I would get better because I had climbed out of that pit before.  I knew that this was another bump in my journey of motherhood.  With the help of my therapist, the support of my family and friends, and my medication, I worked through this debilitating anxiety.

Throughout my recovery, I had always used the mantra that “I am not my feelings.”  I did not internalize that mantra fully until a meeting with my therapist after my car accident.  When I told her the story, she stopped me in mid-sentence.  She reminded me that I had done the exact opposite of my intrusive thoughts.  I did everything in my power to avoid a head on crash that day in September.  I slammed on the brakes, and I cut the wheel so sharply to avoid the impending crash.  In that moment, I realized that my thoughts are just my thoughts.  I controlled my action and my reaction in those split seconds.  My thoughts were just thoughts.  At that moment, I felt victorious and relieved.  I had proven my mind wrong.  I did not give in to that thought.  I had the power to choose my own action in that moment, and I chose to fight.  I did not hesitate, and my actions were swift and sure.

Remember that you have the power to choose your actions and your reactions.  You are not your intrusive thoughts. You have power over them.

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A Tale Of Two Moms: Postpartum Rage

I hid this side of my struggle with postpartum depression from everyone but my immediate family.  My postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety manifested itself in rage.  Postpartum rage made feel like I suffered from a split personality disorder. On the outside, I appeared mostly together, just a somewhat stressed and frazzled new mom.  Cut me off in traffic, and I would go from zero to sixty in two seconds.  Rage felt visceral to me.  I could feel the heat building up inside of my body.  The tips of my ears and my cheeks would flush with anger and frustration.  My vision became like a tunnel; I could only focus on the object of my rage.  I could feel my heart pounding in my ears.  I felt the need to hit something, anything.  I threw remotes, books and phones.  I slammed doors and drawers.  My rage turned me into an out of control monster.  I could barely recognize myself after one of these bouts of rage.  Anything and everything could set me off.  My poor husband, my sweet three-year old and my infant daughter took the brunt of my wrath.  I yelled and screamed until my throat was hoarse.  I had no idea at the time that these feelings were symptoms of postpartum depression.  I believed that I was simply a horrible person who did not deserve the beautiful family that she had.

I felt like a pot constantly about to boil over.  Everywhere I looked, I saw disorder and chaos.  If my husband forgot to set something out that I needed in the morning like the bottles for the baby, that minor infraction was enough to make me lose my temper entirely.  I felt completely unhinged when I was in the midst of one of my rages.  I truly thought I was losing my mind.

My lowest point came when I pushed my husband in front of my oldest daughter.  I wanted to provoke him into rage like I was raging.  After that incident, I realized how out of control my rage was.  I felt sick to my stomach realizing that my actions spoke louder than my words to my preschooler.  How could I expect her not to hit if I did it?  I was wracked with guilt and worry that I was damaging my child.  I have not hit anyone since that time.  I felt so much guilt and shame for my behavior that day.  I regret that explosion more than anything.

I felt like I needed to rage and be angry against the whole world.  I felt so much loathing and self-hatred.  I could not understand what was happening to me as the rage took hold of me.  I felt powerless in the grasp of my rage.  I always dissolved into tears of shame and guilt after these blinding rage fits. Medication helped take the edge off of my rage.  Another key component in managing the rage was therapy. I had to put in the hard work to recognize the early signs of rage that threatened to overwhelm me.   I needed to identify the emotions that were my triggers.  I used exercise to help manage both the anxiety and the rage.  I welcomed company when I struggled with anxiety.  When rage started to build, I needed to remove myself from the situation.  Kickboxing, weight lifting and running were fantastic outlets for my rage.

Postpartum rage nearly destroyed my relationship with my husband.  I lost myself within that rage, and I needed to repair the damage that I did.  My husband and I went to counseling separately, and we went to counseling together.  It took love, support, and lots of communication to repair the cracks in the foundation of our marriage.   My husband reassured me that we pledged to love each other in sickness and health. That season of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety was my season of sickness.  Postpartum rage brought me to my knees, and it threatened to consume me in its wake.  I rose again, armed with compassion for myself and others, knowledge of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and the belief that I would be well.

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