Love in the Time of PPOCD

Finding support and the unconditional love of a significant other when you are suffering from a mental illness can be difficult. My darling friend Lebogang Xolo is here today to talk about how she found love and support in her partner during her battle with PPOCD, (Postpartum OCD). Please show her some love and support y’all. 

When I was a teenager I stumbled upon a movie called “A Beautiful Mind.”  This is one movie that made a huge impact in my life, and I knew from then what true love is supposed to be like.  The last scene, where Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly) is still standing by John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe)’s side, even in old age, through a mental illness, still leaves me in tears to this day.   Nevertheless, I was young and naïve.  As much as I grew up in a very stable and loving home (I was raised by my aunt and uncle) I never knew who my biological father (I now made peace with it).  Subconsciously I felt rejected, abandoned; I started searching for love in all the wrong places.  I said “Yes” to the first man who proposed.

To say this was an unhealthy relationship is an understatement.  And as Oprah put it “The signs are always there, we just chose to ignore them”.  A year of marriage and a beautiful princess later, I decided to walk out, with absolutely nothing but my daughter.  It was hard, really hard, but something deep inside me told me I’m enough, I deserve better, I deserve to be loved.
I cried, studied ‘The Secret’, bargained with God, and cried some more.  I crawled, I walked, I ran, I flew, I grew stronger, and I healed.  Two years later, I made space in the closet for my future husband (that’s the power of ‘the secret’ positive thinking). I then looked up to God and my everyday prayer went something like this:
Dear God
Thank you for saving my life, for giving me the strength to survive such a painful divorce.  I think I’ve met enough rebound guys and well, I’ve had my fun and am ready to move on.  I am ready to meet the one you chose for me, but please please make sure that he loves my daughter just as much as he loves me or more if possible.

A couple of weeks later, he came into my life.  Just when I least expected it.  At 27 I got the same butterflies as I did at 16.  I remember telling God “If you just make him say hello to me, I’ll never ask for anything else, I promise.” He did more than that; he told me that I’m beautiful.  He was so different, so secure in himself.  A year later he quit his job and moved all across the world for me.  I knew he was the one the day he asked my daughter permission to marry me.  At 4years of age, she helped him chose the ring.  She held the ring as he proposed.

Fast forward 2 years later we have a beautiful son.  And with his birth was a start of horrific PPOCD.  When I thought I was losing my mind, my husband told me everything will be ok.  He held my hand and never missed a single doctor’s appointment.  He reminded me to take my meds, assured me that he loves me more now than he ever did and treated me the same way as he did when we met.

And so my mind goes back goes back to the movie I adored as a teenager….. A tale of love so unconditional, so strong and so pure…. Love that sticks with you no matter your past, your baggage, your illness or imperfections.  And my heart is full of gratitude, for having been blessed with such love.

The Hardest Self-Care

Today I’m so thrilled to have my dear friend Charity from Giggles and Grimaces stopping by ‘Confessions.  We “met” on Twitter via the #PPDChat Army and she is part of the circle of support I lean on when the days are bleak. She always has an encouraging word, wisdom to share, and can SEW HER OWN CLOTH DIAPERS. Simply put, she rocks and it’s my pleasure to have her share her heart with you……Please show her some much needed and support today with love and comments!

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My Dearest Patrice,

I recently embarked on my hardest self care ever…I am weaning you from breastfeeding so the doctor and I can get more aggressive with my depression treatment.

I have been struggling since you were born.  I’ve journaled much of my journey on my blog, www.gigglesandgrimaces.com.  Suffice it to say, the doctor in the behavioural health hospital wanted me to wean you at 15 weeks old.  I absolutely refused.  I found a doctor willing to treat me even though I was nursing you.

Mommy has tried to get better.  Really tried.  I’ve been hospitalized, been on numerous medications and doses and you have tolerated it all.  We have pushed the envelope and you have thrived.

But the time has come…

I have been seeing this doctor since December.  He has been willing to work with me, but he understandably has reservations about my medications with nursing you.  And what we can do is not working.

You are now 19 months old and are only nursing once or twice a day.  And mommy is not getting better.  Today, as I sat on the bathroom floor at work crying, I realized the doctor and I have to do something different.  He understands why I want to nurse you, I understand his concerns about increasing and changing my medication and what it could do to you.

Sweetie, I will miss nursing you.  I have nursed babies a combined 4 years and 10 months of my life.  I have been pregnant any time in between that when I was not nursing.  I cannot imagine next week when you do not nurse at all. And there is no new baby growing in my belly and heart.  I will miss you signing thank you and patting my face when you finish nursing.

I feel like my soul is being ripped out as I ponder this decision, but then I realize that soul is tattered, torn and disheveled and it’s only hope of getting whole and healthy lies on the other side of you nursing.

My dear Patrice, it is time for us to walk forward hand-in-hand, without nursing, as mother and daughter, no longer mother and nursling.  I pray you never understand depression, but that you will grow to understand how much mommy loved you to keep nursing and how much mommy loves you to stop nursing.

Love forever,

Mama

Manic Monday: From Diagnosis to Acceptance

Today I’m honored and excited to have my friend Kimberly from All Work & No Play here on ‘Confessions! Raw, authentic, honest, sweet, and full of saucy humor, she easily became one of my favorite people when we “met” nearly a year ago.  Reading about her diagnosis and experience with bipolar disorder led me to seek more aggressive treatment which eventually led to my own diagnosis of BP.  Please give her a warm welcome as you read her beautiful words, y’all.

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The nurse directed me back to a small room in the ER where Dr. B, my psychiatrist, was waiting.

I flashed a nervous smile, pulled my sleeves over the self-inflicted cuts on my arm and said, “I’m not doing good.”

He motioned to the chair and I sat.

“I think we need to change our plans Kim. I’m going to put you on a mood stabilizer and an anti-psychotic, ones that we use to treat people with bipolar disorder.”

“What?”

“Kim, you are bipolar.”

The magnitude of the diagnosis forcefully shook the smooth path of life that I was desperately trying to get back on.

I watched as it bent and curved and crumbled.

It grew hills and jagged mountains.

The path, once full of promise, now looked vapid; felt hauntingly uninviting.

It was too loud and too quiet.

It was too bright and too dark.

It felt too euphoric and too depressed and too angry.

It was too peaceful and too whimsical.

All at the same time.

And that light I’d been trying to reach for with all of my being, the end of my battle against postpartum depression and anxiety, was thrown so far at the end of the confusion.

I let my hope drop over the ledge of the path.

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Bipolar 2 disorder was devastating diagnosis and at times, I refused to believe it.

I remember walking into Dr. B’s office numerous times and asking him if I was still bipolar.

Each time he nodded his head yes.

Each time I said “damn” under my breath.

For days and weeks I kept the diagnosis a secret.

I felt very ashamed of it. So much so that I dissociated myself from the people I needed most at the time.

Even my friends from a postpartum depression support group.

I felt that I just didn’t belong there.

I felt like a freak.

Through Dr. B, I’ve learned, and now believe, that there is nothing wrong about being bipolar.

There is nothing to be ashamed of.

You have cancer.

You have diabetes.

I have bipolar 2 disorder.

So what?

I’m not my illness.

My illness isn’t me.

My name is Kimberly.

I am somebody’s sister, aunt, daughter, and granddaughter.

I am a friend.

I am a Mother.

I am a wife.

I am a nurse.

I am creative.

I am sassy.

I am ridiculously funny.

I am smart.

I am compassionate.

I am in love with Chuck Norris.

I am me.

And that is beautiful.

Just like anyone with any type of medical condition, I still struggle with my illness.  I have bumps and bruises and scars from navigating this bipolar road to prove it.

But it gets better.

And I have hopes that I can live a normal life just like the rest of ‘em.

I know I can.

I just have to keep fighting every day to get there.

And I will.

Being Black with Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Progress has a new series!

It’s called “Warrior Moms of Color.”

It was created by Katherine Stone to give women from various racial and ethnic backgrounds an opportunity to share their stories of living with and battling through perinatal mood disorders.

I was asked to be a guest contributor for this series and shared some of my experience there today. I’m grateful for the chance to do so, being as that Postpartum Progress was THE website that helped me find treatment and support for my PPD/PPA.

Please head on over and read what I had to say about my struggle with suffering with PPD as an African American woman, and as always feel free to share your thoughts and comments…..I’d love to hear your feedback on this one.

What Janelle Monae Taught Me About Motherhood & Mood Disorders

It’s Saturday. The day I’ve dedicated to being Self-Love Saturday. I’m supposed to focus on loving and accepting some part of ME today. And I’m going to try. But I have to confess and say it’s going to be a hard one today. It’s my ex’s birthday and it’s his first official weekend with our son…the first of a totally new way of living our lives, with custody arrangements. The reminder of this drives the knife of reality over our separation painfully deeper into the wound that still bleeding…at least on my end. So, SLS is going to be a toughie today.

BUT maybe that’s part of the point? Maybe there’s something here, in this, that I need to work my way through. Gotta deal with and move through it….And nothing reminds me of this more so than singing the lyrics to “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae.  “Whether I’m high or low, whether I’m high or low, I’ve to tip on the tightrope…..”

That’s how I was feeling last night, and this morning as I wake up-Iike I’m struggling to keep my balance on the tightrope I’m walking. But Ms. Monae and her song have surprisingly taught me some things about walking on the tightropes in my life, especially the one regarding getting through motherhood with a mood disorder….and I’m blogging about it over on James & Jax today! YAY! That I am extremely excited about & feel very lucky that she’s allowed me to share some confessions over in her space of the blogosphere. As I’ve mentioned before I love talking with Jaime and her blog is one of my top 3 faves. S

Simply put, she rocks, so please pay her a visit today. You can check out my post and her insightful writing. Go head….you know you want to…click here

You can also check out her post from last Saturday’s SLS here as well.

I hear my rowdy boys waking up so that’s my cue to get breakfast going. I’m off to make pancakes! I’ll be back later ya’ll…..

Out Visiting!

Happy Friday! WOOOOHOOOOO! *cue the “Hallelujah Chorus” *

We made it through the week! Was it just me or was this one a little rougher than usual, especially yesterday? If you’re on the east coast, maybe it was because of all the wet, gray weather we had. Well, the good news is we weathered the the storms and the weekend is here to give us a reprieve…..and I’m starting mine in the blogosphere by visiting a friend :)

Today I’m over at Learned Happiness, where my fellow writer and mama Susan owns her story in honest, eloquent posts. On Monday she stopped by & shared her thoughts on  “Perseverance” , the inspiration stemming from a photo she snapped while out enjoying date night with her hubby.

Today I’m sharing my own thoughts on the very same photo, and I’d LOVE for you to check it out as well as the rest of Susan’s blog. I promise it’s well worth the visit, I think you’ll find her presence and writing as warm and inviting as I do.

Enjoy your Friday!

Perseverance

A couple of weeks ago I decided to change things up here on ‘Confessions and I put out a call for some guest posters, because quite simply, I wanted to highlight the amazing writing skills & insights of some of the intriguing women I’ve met in the blogoshere.

One of them, Susan, from Learned Happiness, is one such woman. She’s witty, her style of writing holds a beauty to it that brings me to tears, and her authenticity & transparency is to be admired. She describes her blog as a place “To own my story,” and how she does so is just one of the several things I find beautiful & respect about her. I hope you enjoy her post today as much as I do, stop by her blog, & follow her on Twitter. Please welcome her to ‘Confessions, ya’ll :)

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A’Driane and I met in the #ppdchat mamas group on Facebook.  In the months we’ve gotten to know each other online, I’ve come to see her as an optimistic, caring woman who wants to be so much to so many.  She’s honest, both with others and herself, which is a rare trait to find in a friend.  And her outgoing personality explodes through my twitter stream every morning as I drink my decaf.  I’m so excited to share what we’ve been cooking up.  A’Driane asked me to guest post a while ago, so instead, we are swapping guest posts, each writing in response to a photo prompt – a picture I snapped in a garden next to Arlington City Hall. I’m honored she asked me to write for Butterfly Confessions and hope I can live up to the task. 

A tree stands in a garden, nestled between stone buildings of importance and dignity.  Reaching out from a small patch of green near a brick pathway, its branches twist and turn in a ragged, unrefined manner.  The bark, speckled with spots of white, reveals its age.

This tree did not choose its lot in life.  If it had, surely it would have chosen a larger pasture, one which isn’t hidden in shadow most of the day.  A field, perhaps, filled with flowers and fed by sunlight and gentle rains.  Instead it was planted where even basic needs would be a struggle to fulfill.

And instead of withering, fading behind the shadows of the surrounding foliage, it reached its branches toward what little light dappled the garden.  Stretching out at an odd angle, its trunk carried the life-giving leaves up to the sun, until it could no longer hold its own weight.  The roots strained against gravity.  And then… salvation.  In the form of a simple wooden frame, erected in defense of this tree – in support of its persistence.

My husband says, “Its so sad.  Why don’t they just cut it down?”  Recoiling in horror, I look at him with shock and disappointment.  Can he not see the beauty in this tree, this being?  The beauty that instead of lying in youth or perfect form, lies in its strength and will to survive.  This tree, which has taken a beating from both nature and time, all the while fighting for life in the face of unfortunate circumstance, still has shade to give and leaves to nurture.  It is not less for needing buttressing, but more for welcoming it, growing up from its second trunk in gratitude. Its worth lies simply in its existence.

I wonder, would we have even stopped to notice it, had it been perfect?  No, most certainly we would have walked by, never noticing the beauty in its vulnerability.  I want to say, “We are the same.  I see your fight, your resolve.  Keep reaching for the sunlight; keep surviving.”  Instead I simply snap a picture, in awe of what this tree has taught me about myself in an instant.

Susan is an elementary teacher-turned-SAHM and private music instructor.  She is a postpartum depression and anxiety survivor.  Now knocked up with Baby #2, she’s kicking antenatal depression’s butt.  A lover of music, books, and art, she blogs at Learned Happiness about parenting and finding balance and happiness in a life impacted by mental illness.