4 Reasons I am Happier After Surviving Mental Illness

4 Reasons I am Happier After Surviving Mental Illness #LittleMamaJama

It was eight months after I had my first child before I realized that the “new” me was actually sick. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Antidepressants and talk therapy brought me back from the abyss. I later realized that I also suffered from postpartum anxiety (PPA) and postpartum OCD (PPOCD). When we decided we wanted a second child, I talked to a therapist and a psychiatrist about it. We had a plan. It’s a good thing we did, because at 34 weeks I was dealing with intrusive thoughts that were increasing in severity. I went back on antidepressants and this time I was able to function and enjoy my baby when she arrived.

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Our Climb Out of the Darkness: Team Green Bay #climbout

Climb Out of the Darkness Team Green Bay #climbout

Team Green Bay! That’s right – it was just our family of four this year (Hubster was taking the picture above) representing Team Green Bay for the Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress. Was I disappointed about that? Yes, I admit to being a bit bummed out that no one wanted to join us. But I don’t want that to take away from the personal significance of this year’s climb.

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I’m Back! Climb Out of the Darkness with Postpartum Progress.

Something big happened yesterday. David Gray performed his song, “Back In The World,” on the Today Show. Mr. Gray has graciously allowed Postpartum Progress to use his beautiful, and perfectly appropriate song, as its official song for Climb Out of the Darkness 2014. Postpartum Progress released this official video yesterday. Every time I watch it, I’m moved to tears.

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It’s possible to overcome PPD twice!

Letting the light in - beating PPD twice

Two children. Two rounds of postpartum mood disorders. PPD, PPA, PPOCD and antepartum depression (during pregnancy) with Baby Jo. My mental health during and after pregnancy is kind of a crapshoot.

Baby Jo is turning one next week. I have been completely off of Zoloft for over a month and have been doing well. I knew that the PPDemons were behind me, so I didn’t think that my final appointment with my psychiatrist was going to be emotional for me. It must have been the finality of it all. Closure. I walked out of his office feeling on top of the world. I went through the depths of depression twice. I conquered what sometimes had felt insurmountable. I came out the other side not unscathed, but different. Better, stronger, wiser. More in tune to my own body, my own needs, my own strengths and limitations.

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Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress with Team Green Bay!

TEAMGREENBAY14

Each year, 1 in 7 women face maternal mental illness. That is a staggering statistic. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that once you face maternal mental illness once, you’re more likely to experience it again. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression nearly eight months after C was born. I fell through the cracks the first time. My OBGYN only asked me if I was “feeling depressed” at my 6-week appointment. There is so much more to depression than feeling depressed.

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Down to Zero: Round Two

Here we go, here we go! Down to zero!

After working with my psychiatrist to taper off of my antidepressant, I finally went down to zero again last week. I anticipated the withdrawal and am relieved to report that it has been much easier than last time, when I came off of Effexor. That doesn’t mean it has been easy.

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The Time I Left My Psychiatrist’s Office More Depressed Than When I Went In

I finally, finally had an appointment with my psychiatrist today. The office kept scheduling me for days he had off. I was originally supposed to see him in October. Ha! Anyway, I’ve been wanting to get off of Zoloft. Baby Jo is nearly 10 months old and I’m feeling like I’d be perfectly stable without the meds I started when I was 34 weeks pregnant with her. It’s also been making me gain weight like none other and I am DONE with that business.

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Weight Gain From Antidepressants and Adjusting to the Body Image Consequences

I make no secret of the fact that I took antidepressants for PPD/PPA/PPOCD when C was a baby, and I chose to start them again at the end of my pregnancy with Baby Jo. There’s a dark side to my experience with them that I haven’t shared before, because it’s caused me much frustration and embarrassment. This second time around, one of my side effects has been weight gain.

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Weaning off of Zoloft

Here we go again! I’ve decided to wean off of my SSRI that I’ve been taking for postpartum depression. I started taking Zoloft when I was about 34 weeks pregnant with Baby Jo, because I was experiencing intrusive thoughts and anxiety reminiscent of the PPD I experienced with C. I was put on 100mg, and it helped a lot but it also gave me weird side effects. It makes me sweat, randomly and profusely. Night sweats, day sweats, all the time.

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I Am The Face of PPD. #ForMiriam

ForMiriam

Today, I’m writing about a topic very close to my heart. You probably heard about the woman who was killed after leading police on a chase around the Capitol. Miriam Carey will not be able to speak for herself, but her actions were reportedly related to her postpartum mood disorder.

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Bath Time With a Staph Infection

The last few days were highly stressful. I always keep my cool, but there were times when I didn’t think I could handle it. C was tested for a staph infection on Thursday morning and it came back positive midday Friday. There were a few hours when we didn’t know if it was the dangerous MRSA (the kind of resistant staph that you hear horror stories about on the news) or a type of staph that was sensitive to the antibiotic that C had started.

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Thank God for the SSRI

I know that some people don’t believe in psychotropic medication, and some may believe stigma about the people that take them. I really hate stigma and that’s why I’m an open book about my mental health. Quite frankly, I would be lost right now without antidepressants.

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Feeling Flat

I’m not talking about my chest. Though, my baby did steal my breasts. But that’s a story for a different day…

When you’re really stressed, do you ever feel the need to just have a good, cathartic cry? The occasional good cry has always been a stress release for me. I’d really like to have one of those right about now with all that is going on with C. There’s only one problem: I can’t.

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My Climb Out of the Darkness (Postpartum Progress’ 2013 Climb)

Postpartum Progress held its inaugural Climb Out of the Darkness walk on June 21. I wasn’t able to walk that day, but it’s better late than never, right?

That’s kind of how my road to healing from my postpartum mood disorder went. C was born in April 2011 and I wasn’t diagnosed until December. But, asking for help? Better late than never.

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Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress!

Once upon a time (or, not long ago at all), I was diagnosed with a postpartum mood disorder. I was scared, suffering and lost. I thought I would never find myself again. I didn’t know anyone who had been through what I was experiencing, and that was terrifying because no one understood.

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I Made The Right Decisions

My second pregnancy brought about a lot of decisions that I needed to make. Considering my history of postpartum depression, emergency cesarean and hyperemesis, there were some difficult choices I had to make.

Taking Antidepressants as a Precaution
This time around, I was under the care of a psychiatrist. I wanted to seek out the advice of someone whose sole focus was psychotropic medication. After the horrific experience I had coming off of the last antidepressant, which was prescribed by the nurse practitioner in my former OBGYN clinic, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

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Breathing It All In

When I think back to the days and weeks after C was born, I don’t remember that much. I was trying desperately to breastfeed, but felt like I was failing. Hubster and I were extremely sleep deprived. C developed colic around his second week of life. He needed to be held in order to sleep. I remember a lot of crying, a lot of stress, a lot of frustration, a lot of uncertainty in my ability to raise a human being.

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Stress Management for Busy Moms by Nicole Connolly, PhD {Guest Post}

I’m happy to welcome Nicole Connolly, PhD, today to talk about reducing stress in light of Mental Health Awareness Month. I must say, motherhood has brought me more stress than anything else has! ;) Thank you for being here, Nicole!

If you are like the typical mom, you are on the go from the moment your feet hit the ground.  Between family, work, and household demands, stress can begin to accumulate quickly, with little time left over to manage it.

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Having Another Baby After a Postpartum Mood Disorder by Dr. Jessica Michaelson {Guest Post}

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Jessica Michaelson. I’m so happy to have her here to write about a topic that I struggled over – deciding to have another baby after a postpartum mood disorder. If you’re currently making that decision, I hope you’ll find this post very helpful. Thank you, Dr.!

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Note: Loved ones, know that I am safe. My intrusive thoughts do not equate to actions.

Here I go again. Down, down, down the rabbit hole. I wonder how deep it is this time. Probably not as deep as last time, because I know enough to ask for help. But this time I’m plummeting faster. Deeper.

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Adorable Baby Gift That Supports The Fight Against PPD!

These adorable Jammies by Hélene Lauré are the first product dedicated to supporting the fight against postpartum depression!  Ten percent of the profit from Jammies is donated to Postpartum Progress, an organization dedicated to helping mothers and babies who struggle with Postpartum Depression.

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PPD, PPMDs and Some Not-So-Common Symptoms

Spreading awareness about PPD and other postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs) is something that is very close to my heart.  If it wasn’t for another blogger sharing her experience with a PPMD, I wouldn’t have realized that I needed help.  I didn’t experience symptoms that one might typically associate with depression.  I didn’t “feel” depressed.  Here are some of the not-so-common symptoms of PPMDs that I’d like to share with you:

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The Return of the Intrusive Thoughts

I’m going to be honest with you all.  I’m nervous.

I battled intrusive thoughts in the postpartum period with C, and I didn’t even know what they were for a long time.  I didn’t know that intrusive thoughts didn’t mean that I was going crazy until some of them were so bad that I could no longer cook with knives and was afraid to be behind the wheel of my car.

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Guest Article at Our Mom Spot

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I wrote a guest article about PPD over at Our Mom Spot!  Please stop over to check it out and show me some love! ;)

Preventing PPD The Second Time Around: Building a Routine

I’m 25 weeks along in pregnancy number two and I’m starting to get a little nervous about history repeating itself.

I’m better prepared this time.  I will be setting up an appointment with my psychiatrist to start medication before delivering Baby Deuce, to prevent the major hormonal drop that I experienced last time.  I have established a therapist.  I know what to expect.

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An Unwelcome Return

This past month, I’ve noticed the return of intrusive thoughts that plagued me during my battle with PPA and PPD.  These “what-if” thoughts can be truly terrifying.  I’m happy that I recognize them for what they are this time – just thoughts.  Intrusions in my mind that have no logic, rationality or bearing on reality.

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How I Cope With Tragedies and Triggers After PPD and PPA

The elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, is simply horrific.  There really are no words to describe such a senseless act of violence.  I know that it has affected many people in tremendous ways, particularly those who suffer from depression and anxiety (or have in the past).

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Preventing PPD The Second Time Around: Saying “No”

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in the past year is that I need to stop people-pleasing and say “no” when I need to.  As the holidays approach and the number of commitments we have or are discussing rises, I’m reminded of this lesson that I learned the hard way last year.

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Two Parts Excited, One Part Scared

I’m excited about Baby Deuce…but I’m also kind of scared.

I’m scared to go through a traumatic birth experience again, although I know the likelihood of a repeat scenario is zero simply because I’m scheduling a cesarean.

I’m scared to go through a super uncomfortable pregnancy again.  There were so many pains and general discomforts when I was pregnant with C, and it’s likely that I’ll go through all of those things again.  But the reward is great, and that’s what I’ll need to focus on.

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An Emergency Cesarean and the Scars That Remain

After C was born, it didn’t cross my mind right away that I had experienced a traumatic delivery.  I think I was in shock from it all, and just relieved that it was over.  While I generally don’t think about his birth and the events that led to my emergency cesarean, there are certain triggers that bring it up for me.

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I Didn’t Run Away From the Pastor!

I took a huge step yesterday, y’all.  This was no baby step, that’s for sure.  Yesterday, Hubster was on duty and couldn’t leave campus for church, but C and I went to church.  Yes, I took C by myself to church.  But – wait! – there’s more.

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Another Update aka Hubster is Awesome

Thought I’d write another update since some of you are worried about me (ahem, mom and grandma!). ;)

I got TONS of sleep yesterday, so I’m hopeful that today I’ll feel better.  Just woke up and so far, so good.  Just slightly nauseous with fewer dizzy spells than yesterday (so far!  eek!).

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Blessed By Family

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

-Isaiah 41:10 NIV

My strength is being tested.  Withdrawal has me reeling.

I am so thankful for family.  I’m so thankful that we no longer live six hours away.

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Mamavation Monday: Campaign 13 Begins!

Monday, August 27th is the start of Mamavation Mom Campaign 13!  Join us at 8pm EST for a 2-hr Twitter party to celebrate the beginning of the campaign.  The next Mamavation Moms will be announced at the Twitter party!

I’m excited for all of the finalists and can’t wait to find out who will be the next Mamavation Moms!

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Down to Zero

Today is the final day of my withdrawal from Effexor: dropping down to 0mg.  I’m about an hour past the time I always take my dose, and I’m kind of nervous.

Am I going to have worse withdrawal effects than usual, simply because I’m coming completely off the drug now?  Will I finish this long withdrawal process only to find out that I need to continue to be on medication?

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Oh yeah, this is me. Hello, old friend.

In the past week, I found myself really missing friends and family, wanting to make plans to meet up with people and eager to meet other moms in our new town.  These feelings surprised me at first.  I haven’t felt this way in a very long time.  Who is this social being?  For over a year, I’ve wanted to fade into the shadows and hide.  But this person, this social being, that’s the “me” I once knew.  She’s back.  It’s like greeting an old friend.  I’m excited to see her and, at the same time, I need to reacquaint myself with her.

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Checking In: A Meds Withdrawal Update

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve started withdrawing from Effexor.  The first phase of my withdrawal was to drop to 112.5 mg from 150 mg.  The first few days were the hardest.  I had dizziness, nausea, migraines, a sensation that my skin was crawling, and difficulty sleeping.  As the time of my next dose approached, I would get very sweaty and jittery.  I’ve been doing better now, but still occasionally get the skin crawling sensation.  Sometimes it keeps me from falling asleep at night.

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An Apology in Advance…

To my dear family and friends, and anyone else with whom I have contact during the next two months –

I feel the need to apologize in advance.  There is a good chance that I will be moody and suffer from a migraine during the majority of the next two months, while I withdraw from Effexor.  I will try my absolute best not to be a huge pain in the a$$; but if I am, know that I don’t mean it.

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Building My Team of Doctors

So, if you haven’t heard…Hubster and I are starting to think about trying for Baby Deuce.  Since I’ll be at high risk for experiencing another postpartum mood disorder, I want to be as prepared as possible before becoming pregnant.  I’ve been working on building my “team.”

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Contentment

I usually take the path less traveled, and my journey to motherhood was no different.  If you’re not familiar with my story, I’ll give you the abridged version.  In July 2010, I was told I had PCOS (polycystic ovaries) and it would be difficult for me to conceive children.  In August, I started graduate school and a graduate assistantship only to find out a week later that – surprise! – I was pregnant.  I ended up with hyperemesis and was so ill that I could hardly leave our apartment.  In early October, I was forced to withdraw from graduate school, thereby losing my job as well.  I spent the majority of April 2011 experiencing false labor, and then after 2.5 hours of pushing I ended up with an emergency c-section on April 29.  A long, slow spiral into postpartum depression ensued, but wasn’t diagnosed until December 2011.

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On Medical Professionals, Antidepressants and Bad Advice

I’m on 150mg of Effexor.  That’s a little hard for me to say, because it seems like a lot.  On the other hand, research has shown me that Effexor has one of the least potent ingredients on the market.

When I called my OBGYN’s office in November complaining of symptoms of PPA and PPD, my doctor was booked for the week and couldn’t squeeze me in.  They had me see the APNP (advance practice nurse practitioner), who diagnosed my PPD and started me on Effexor immediately.  I didn’t think to question her judgement of drug choice at the time, because to be honest, I needed help to keep waking up every morning and I needed it fast.

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Some People Make Me Feel Like a Shitty Mother

You know how people make comments that they don’t really mean anything by, but it makes you feel like the shittiest parent ever?

With living out of state, then having two recent moves and being in a wedding, C has spent time staying with both sets of his grandparents.  When we lived out of state, my parents took C for a week once so that I could have some time to work and rest.

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The Lasting Effects of Postpartum Depression by Delilah Love {Guest Post}

Hey y’all! You can call me Delilah! I’m the mommy to 5, wife to 1, and warden to a psychotic dog! I’m a
self-confessed socially awkward, southern girl with sass. I share my sometimes-successful attempts at domestication, motherhood, and life in general on my blog, Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama. I’m definitely not the next June Cleaver but my kids are still alive, my house hasn’t been condemned and I still have all my own hair. I’m just a mom- that’s my superpower. Welcome to my Semi-Domesticated Life.  I hope you brought wine.

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Guest Posting at PPD to Joy

Today, I am guest posting at PPD to Joy about experiencing anger and anxiety during PPD.  Check out my post here!  PPD to Joy is written by the wonderful Yael Saar, whose work has no doubt been invaluable to many others including myself.

Yael Saar of PPDtoJoy.com survived postpartum depression twice, and became a mama on a mission to remove guilt, shame, and blame from parenting. Her Facebook group Mama’s Comfort Camp has over 150 mamas from all over the world supporting each other with self-care and self-kindness. I’m a member of the group and I love it. You can ask to join the group here.  Yael will soon be teaching her (Not)Secret (Not)Weapon online class about disarming anxiety and anger with practical bodymind methods and emotional safety nets. How cool is that? Check it out at http://www.ppdtojoy.com/not-secret-not-weapon/

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Arming Myself With Information

Now that C is 13 months old, it’s about that time…to think about when to start trying for baby deuce.  PPD caught me off guard last time (well, let’s be honest, the pregnancy itself caught me off guard as well!).  This time, I want to be thorough, knowledgeable and have a game plan.

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Butterfly Lessons by Lauren Hale {Guest Post}

When I first shared here that I had been diagnosed with postpartum depression, Lauren Hale found my post and notified the #ppdchat Twitter army to rally around me.  I was overcome by the love and support that I received from strangers, and was so happy to find a community of women who embraced me for who I am.  I’m honored to share this post that Lauren wrote for you today.

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Finding The Truth by Leelah Orion {Guest Post}

Today, I’m happy to welcome Leelah, who has recently started blogging about making it while raising a family.  She writes from the heart, and I really appreciate her being here today.

This is my first guest blog; I’m really nervous about it. I’m rather new to the blogging world. My blog is called Baby Steps. It’s mostly just a place to get out of my head but I hope one day it will stand up with the greats.

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I Never Used To Care Much About Music by Charity Cole {Guest Post}

I’m happy to introduce you to Charity, a wonderful, strong woman I’ve had the opportunity to meet through #ppdchat on Twitter.  She puts her soul into her writing, and it’s beautiful.  Thank you for being here today, Charity!

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Postpartum Mother’s Day Gift from Lauren Hale

The lovely Lauren Hale, of My Postpartum Voice, tweeted this slideshow that she compiled.  I love it so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.  If you’re struggling today, know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

A Struggle With Body Image

I’m kind of nervous to put this “out there,” because I’ve always kept my struggles with body image and weight very quiet.  But I realize that I’m not the only woman with this inner battle, so I’ve decided to just own it.

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March Living On Love Challenge: My Mantra

Lacy at Living on Love announced her monthly challenge for March: create a monthly mantra!  I found mine in the “Fitness” category of Pinterest, but it really applies to more than one area of my life right now.

Courtesy of http://wanttobehealthynhappy.tumblr.com/

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What a Day

The last 24 hours have been pretty rough…

Last night, Hubster left for class at about 4:45pm.  I started to feel significant anxiety as soon as the door closed behind him.  The thought that I had to take care of C by myself until his 7:00 bedtime was overwhelming.  I didn’t know how I was going to entertain him for 2 hours and 15 minutes.  The anxiety confused me, considering I’m with C all day every day…why was 2 hours and 15 minutes so completely overwhelming?

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Keep on Fighting

**A quick disclaimer for my loved ones: When I mention “giving up” below, I’m talking about succumbing to the thoughts that PPD will consume my life forever.  I have never experienced thoughts of harming myself.  Just wanted to make that clear.  Love you all!

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Celebrating Small Victories

I spent many months living my life in a dark fog, barely keeping my head above the water that was threatening to consume me.  The waves were tumultuous.  It was difficult enough to concentrate on keeping myself afloat, so I neglected many things that are dear to me.

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Relief

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.  This week, I had my med check with my OBGYN to see how my PPD symptoms were and if we needed to make any further adjustments to my medication.  Luckily, things are looking really good and we didn’t need to make any changes.  I will take this medication for one year and then I can start to wean off of it and see how I do.

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Joy and Guilt

Life is starting to feel good again.  Not all the time, but I’ll take even a moment of it.  My body is finally adjusting to the increased dosage of antidepressant that my doctor prescribed three weeks ago for my PPD.  I’m starting to feel a lot of joy – but it’s tinged with guilt.

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Social Anxiety – This Isn’t Me

I’ve never dealt with social anxiety before.  I thrived off of interactions with friends and coworkers.  I loved going out and I enjoyed being busy.  Now I find myself grappling with a lot of social anxiety.

I signed up for a baby sign language class with C.  Once per week, we’re supposed to be at a local community center by 9:30am and spend an hour at class.  There’s circle time and play time, and I need to make small talk with other parents that I don’t know.  For the past few months, I find it almost impossible to manage small talk.  My mind goes blank and I start to get sweaty and uncomfortable.  I feel like everyone is looking at me and they’re all judging me.

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Progress!

I had my first “med check” with my OBGYN yesterday to see what progress I’ve made with my PPD since I started treatment in early December.  While I was filling out the questionnaire, I had a hard time with the “difficulty concentrating” category.  I first circled “more than half the days in the past two weeks.”  Upon further reflection, I scribbled that out and circled “nearly every day.”  It made for a good laugh with my doctor when we joked about my ability to concentrate on the concentration question…

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A Ray of Sunshine

There, a break in the clouds.  A ray of sunshine peeks through, softly gracing my life with its warmth.  The clouds are starting to part – not consistently, not completely, but the light is breaking through.

I’m finding great pleasure in the little things today.  The joyful sound of my son’s laugh.  The loving look in his blue eyes.  That chubby roll on his thighs.  The beautiful sight of my husband and child playing together.

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Good Days and Bad Days

“The adjustment period is tumultuous.”

“It’s going to take some time.”

“It’s like being on a roller coaster.”

I had heard or read all of these things about the period of time when your body adjusts to medication for postpartum depression.  Somehow I hoped that it wouldn’t apply to me.  I was praying that since we’re spending the majority of my adjustment period staying with family for the holidays, that I wouldn’t need to experience it.  I didn’t want my highs and lows to be on display.  But I’m not the exception.

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Energy!

I had forgotten what having energy felt like!  I’m filled with energy that I don’t know what to do with.  While organizing and certain other tasks still feel overwhelming, I’ve been baking and dancing around.  It’s wonderful.  I’m like a new woman!  There’s a long way to go, but I’m already feeling a teeny tiny bit like my old self.  It’s nice to finally catch a glimpse of her. ;)

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Wow.

I don’t even know what to say other than “wow.”  I am completely amazed by the outpouring of support I have received after writing publicly yesterday about my postpartum depression diagnosis.

Thank you to my family for your unconditional love.

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My Postpartum Depression Confession

This post is difficult for me to write.  It’s terrifying to reveal my deepest, darkest secrets to the world; but I’ve done it before and I’m going to do it again.  Last week, I recognized my postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms by reading about someone else’s journey to diagnosis.  I’m willing to publicize my secrets in the hope that another woman might recognize her symptoms in my story.

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