Moving Toward the Sun

I’ve been in a depressive episode for nearly 8 weeks. The decline has been gradual. There have been good days scattered throughout, but I’ve been edgy, tense, fatigued….my mind has been too loud some days, eerily silent during others. I’ve been crying off and on in my bathroom to hide my breaking from my kids…in my car as I drive from one errand to the next. I’ve had to shift to auto-pilot to just get through hard moments, root myself in detachment to keep from getting swallowed up by the stress. I’ve spent the last two weeks cycling rapidly between hypomania (marked mostly by agitation and a mind packed with too many thoughts), and a dragging depression that swallows me up and sends me into its belly for a few moments then spits me back out into the sun and air where I can breathe again. And then everything’s still and quiet…I feel “normal” and then the cycle repeats itself hourly, daily, weekly….and so it’s been for nearly 2 months now. Rinse. Settle. Repeat.

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I’m still in that critical postpartum window. I just weaned nearly a month ago. My body and hormones are in flux and adjusting as a result. I hate it.

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Stress is both motivating and crippling for me. I can handle 10 things going on all at once with ease. It’s once the 11th shows up demanding my attention that my mind starts to split and scatter off into darker corners. I think about my life these days and chide myself with all kinds of “should” statements for feeling and being overwhelmed by all I manage on a day-to-day basis: baby is teething & raging,  middle child with special needs, oldest was just diagnosed with ADHD and his enthusiasm for school has waned significantly, trying to overhaul our home and parenting lifestyles to accommodate and support their needs (like increasing structure and making our home more sensory friendly), supporting my husband while he deals with stress at work. New therapy schedules, trips to the pediatrician, and comprehensive psychometric testing have dominated our lives over the past month. Up ahead there is more testing to be done, and meetings with the school district to discuss accommodations for Brennan and evaluations and placement for Alex who is gearing up for preK this fall…

It’s not all stressful. I’m involved in birthing great projects. I’m taking my mom’s advice on avoiding burnout by feeding my spirit so I don’t fall prey to losing myself, you know? I’ve joined writing & art communities online,  I’m painting at 11pm, I’ve signed up for retreats and writing eCourses, done a couple of write-ins with groups, and I’ve done a juice cleanse to try to reset my body and mind. I’m re-reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown as well as books on painting, sensory processing disorder, creativity, and feminism. I’m trying to find my way here still, in this space as far as my writing is concerned. I’m trying to learn how to embody all the parts of myself that have come alive over the past few years-artist, writer, advocate-in the midst of the daily demands on my person and time as a mother and wife. I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted. At 31, it’s still a stumbling process though.

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I’m searching for my flow amidst the rhythms, rocking and swaying as the ebb and flow of my life’s current carries me throughout my days. But the stress of everything gets triggering and I find myself cycling with the ebb and flow as a result sometimes. That’s when my knees buckle and my head spins. My chest constricts and my brain starts to feel like it’s suffocating. My grip gets weak. Fatigue sets in and my steps forward get heavy. Taking care of myself gets harder, and usually becomes the last checked off item on my must do list-if it’s checked off at all. I end each day feeling as though I have no safe place to come up for air and just process my thoughts, fears, and anxiety…I end most days feeling unsettled and bottled up, stuffed to capacity and as I close my eyes to sleep I’ve found myself starting to pray like Jabez, asking God or whoever is listening for an increase in capacity…in ability…in might…

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My hair is pink again with some blue added for extra fun. My hair and color are always my first lines of defense against the disorder of my brain chemistry and mood.

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I visited my psychiatrist last week at the VA. This is another area that I can’t seem to find solid footing. We’ve lived here for nearly two years and I’m on my 3rd psychiatrist. Obtaining talk therapy has been a fail. The appointment scheduling system here is confusing and useless to me because I have very little say in what days and times fit into my schedule that’s already inundated with the kid’s school and therapies. I’ve had to fight to get treated, and I’m constantly having to say “but if you read this and go here, research and experts agree that….”. I feel lost in a system that I’m constantly told is for me to use and that I should trust. But the bureaucracy I face with nearly every interaction chips away at that trust. I have no confidence in my mental health care these days, in the professionals assigned to my care. And yet, at my appointment last week, I sat in front of her desk and allowed myself to become undone. Completely and unapologetically. I unloaded nearly 24 months of thoughts and stress right there in her office in 20 minutes while my smiling baby squirmed and cooed in my arms. She listened to every word. Asked some questions that dug a little deeper. Apologized for all the trouble with the system I’ve had and for not really hearing me 6 weeks ago when I told her my anxiety was becoming a problem. She admitted that lack of knowledge about medications while breastfeeding restricted her ability to really give me what I was needing. We decided now that I’m no longer pregnant and breastfeeding we could get more aggressive with my meds again-go back to finding a more therapeutic dose. So over the next two months I’ll be doing that-going up on lamictal and prozac and trying out an additional med for anxiety. I started the increase yesterday. I’m hoping by the end of the week my brain and mood will start to grab ahold and adjust accordingly.

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I’ve struggled today to pick everything back up and keep walking. To push past and through. To square my shoulders and lift my chin. To turn a deaf ear to the tape playing in my head that has all kinds of lies and frenzied talk on a loop.

But I’m doing it-picking up and pushing. I’m moving forward. Slowly. The sun is shining outside despite the cold front that’s moved through. I’m working my way out into the sun, breathing in deep as I go.

Real Talk: I’m F—ing Sick of Suicide and Mental Illness Killing Our People

I just need to get this out because it’s burning hot in my bones like fire, my soul wants to just scream and wail but it can’t because doing so will terrify my children.

I’ve been thinking all day about how we’ve lost another person, another woman of color to suicide and mental illness. The more I’ve thought about how we lost Karyn Washington to suicide, the angrier I get. I’m talking SEETHING. I’m talking a white-hot, blinding rage that just wants to go tearing through things as it travails in mourning. I’m talking a rage that causes my teeth to ache from a clenched jaw and gnashing.

I. am. ANGRY.

I. am. MOURNING.

 

I. am. HEARTBROKEN.

I didn’t know her, but I didn’t have to. She was my sister, a fellow woman of color, a writer, a voice, a human being dedicated to uplifting her people. And she is gone. Suicide came and took her from us and I’m here grieving like she was my own daughter gone from me.

I’m fed up with the stigma that permeates minority communities and takes the lives of our people-as if we already don’t have enough fucking things that are killing and destroying us. I’m enraged at the lack of resources available to us. Our people are living and suffering from all types of ‘hood trauma all across this country, and have been for decades, centuries, even and our mental health isn’t taken seriously and addressed.

Our people are left for dead and to waste away in their minds.

Our churches-the cornerstones in our communities don’t adequately address mental illness-we keep perpetuating this “I’m too blessed to be stressed” bootstrappin bullshit that’s basically the equivalent to handing us a razor to slice our wrists open with.

Black men are conditioned to believe they have to be hard, and in reality, it’s true-they MUST be and live hard because society views them as inhuman and unworthy of even being able to walk to the corner store or listen to music in their cars in peace.

Black women are conditioned to bear a resilient silence-our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and grandmothers have to be so strong for everyone else without a not so much of an utterance as to how such a burden is eroding at our thought life and well-being.

I’m disgusted that the mental health advocate community has a major diversity problem. I’m tired of POC not being seen and heard on mental health platforms like our white counterparts. I’m tired of seeing awareness campaigns full of nothing but white faces, and quality treatment facilities and practices in the white neighborhoods, with even sliding scale fees only white people can afford.

I’m tired of hearing our people say that therapy and medication “are for white people.” I’m tired of our mamas not knowing what perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are and how they can manifest over the first year of their baby’s life-ON TOP of all the other shit they’re dealing with that can contribute to depression, PTSD, and anxiety. I’m tired of our mamas not knowing the risk factors for developing such disorders during and following pregnancy-especially when previous trauma and violence are the top risk factors.

My heart bleeds for the Karyns. The Miriams. The Ebony Wilkersons. The Don Cornelius’. The Lee Thompson Youngs. My heart rages for them, and I wonder when their mental health will become a priority. When will the psychiatrist or licensed social worker graduating from school decide to go set up shop where our people live and listen to their stories. Educate us. Chip away at the stigma that has become a death sentence?

Who will help us? People of color, when will we speak up about our own struggles with mental illness and light the way for our own? Can it be today?

Please tell me we can start today. I can’t bear the pain of losing any more of you to this selfish son of bitch.

If you are struggling today and having thoughts of suicide, please DO NOT hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) . 

Sprung

I’m sitting outside as I’m typing this. The air has begun to cool, and a soft breeze is sweeping past me as I sit on our front step. The sky is clear, the sun is lazily retreating to its home, the trees are freshly green, and I’m smiling as I remember the bluebonnets we passed earlier while driving to the mall.

Spring is here. In Austin such gorgeous weather and comfortable temps only last a few weeks before Summer comes in all hot and sweating from head to toe, heat emanating from its core. It’ll be 110 degrees out soon, but today there was a slow, delicious ride up to 81, and the sun-kissed my skin instead of scorching it. Glory.

The baby is inside sleeping soundly after a rough day of teething, cocooned cozily in his favorite blanket. I can hear the older two coming undone as they laugh to Tom & Jerry’s classic antics. I paused from cleaning and prepping for the week ahead to just come out here and sit with my thoughts for a moment…and breathe…and soak in the emerging energy of the new season springing forth.

Mentally, I can feel the depression that’s been slowly creeping up on me retreating a bit, giving me room to breathe in a bit deeper. This weekend had its stressful and triggering moments with the baby (his crying becomes intense and piercing quickly), but overall our weekend was peaceful.

Brennan had his second soccer game and I watched in awe from the sidelines as he came to life in ways I’ve only seen when he’s singing, dancing, or his mind is a flight with creativity. I caught myself nodding in recognition as I watched him bound up and down the field-he feels free when he runs, just like I do. I can see it in the way his body stretches out and how effortlessly he embodies motion in each stride. He’s clumsy when it comes to trying to get his hands and arms to do something like catch a ball, but he’s fluid with his legs and feet-just like me. It caught me by surprise when he asked to sign up for soccer a couple of months back, but watching him on the field yesterday, I saw why he did-he’s a natural and he loves the exertion and excitement.

Alex was all about his trains this weekend. His favorite the past two days has been Henry and Henry has been pulling all the cargo and tinders behind him at home, at the mall, in the van, at the soccer field. Alex was also all about being barefoot. He’s been on a sock strike and extended it this weekend to footwear while playing out front and riding around in the car. Come to think of it, he even went without pants at one point yesterday, choosing to continue playing on the front step in nothing but his favorite Batman tee and underwear. Watching him run chase his trains and toy motorcycles in minimal clothing as they raced down the sidewalk in front of our apartment gave me the giggles. I remember feeling peace envelop my heart as I recognized how comfortable he felt in his environment, and considering how defensive and overwhelmed the world around him can cause him to be at times, I relished seeing his body at ease and freely allowing him to be, well, Alex the Great.

Bertski is home on vacation from work for the next week, which I’m relieved about. He’s been moving slowly throughout his days, soaking in his free time. He signed up for the Statesman Cap 10k next week, which will make it his second year in a row running it. I’m excited for him. Running is his life next to coding and robotics. He NEEDS to run like I need to paint and write and have a good living room dance party. He woke up today in the mood to listen to hip-hop-both old and new. The first part of our morning was spent with Tupac, Public Enemy, J. Cole,  & Nas-it was glorious. I’m so relieved I married a fellow music junkie.

I’m shipping paint this coming week. I took down the three pieces going to new homes, and felt my heart sob a bit as I started prepping them. Saying goodbye to my work is always bittersweet. I’m humbled and honored others want it to grace their spaces, but also torn over having to let them go and never see them on my walls again. I’m going to miss stopping during my day and looking at them, reflecting on the thoughts and emotions each one invokes. It’s ok. I will make more. Letting go of them frees up space in and around me to make more. Besides, hoarding it all for myself in our tiny space is silly.

I’ve weaned the baby. He’s now on a dairy and soy free formula and is enjoying his slow foray into solids, eagerly gobbling up rice cereal. Despite the fussiness in the afternoons, he’s been incredibly happy; discovering his feet, babbling to his brothers as he watches them run and play, and laughing. His laugh releases something in me every time I hear it, and before I realize it, I’m laughing along with him and nibbling on his cheeks as he smiles. Even with the hard moments, this boy has been bliss. We are all madly in love with him, it’s disgusting to see us fall all over ourselves fawning over him, eating him up. He is delicious. Goodness.

Inhale.

Exhale.

This breeze is everything. There’s an uplifting energy to it, and as I skim back over what I’ve written as I’ve sat in its midst, I see I’ve written exactly what that energy feels like several times: FREE.

This weekend has been freeing for my little family in a variety of ways. Invigoratingly so.

Spring has sprung and so have we.

Inhale.

Exhale.

New season. New week.

Time to go back in.

Reset

The scale groaned under my weight as I stood on it a few moments ago. The blue light highlighted the digital readout & what I had a feeling I’d see: 200.8lbs.

I weigh 200.8lbs. That’s 17lbs more than what I weighed when I gave birth, and it’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.

I guess I should admit here that I’m
incredibly envious of women who lose weight from breastfeeding. I don’t. I’ve breastfed three children for 4 months each and have never dropped a pound during. Instead my appetite has always increased far more than it ever did during pregnancy and so does my weight. Every. Time.

I think weighing so much wouldn’t be hitting my psyche and body image so hard if the rest of my body wasn’t so much of a wreck from this pregnancy.

My pelvis is still broken. My pubis symphysis is still the size of the Grand Canyon. About a month after delivering I started experiencing moderate symptoms of prolapse-my OB says I’m at a grade 2 and if no improvement has been made between 4-6 months postpartum, he’ll recommend surgery & other measures to try and alleviate my symptoms. It’s a complete disaster down there, unlike anything I experienced my previous two postpartum periods. These are the kinds of things I wish they talked about in child birthing classes & books when they espouse the benefits of vaginal delivery. Sure, vaginal delivery is considered the ideal compared to having a C-Section, but it does come with at a price-one far greater and more demoralizing than tearing & swelling. I’m pretty angry at the fact that pelvic organ/vaginal/uterine prolapse isn’t talked about, but that’s a soapbox I’ll get on another night…

ANYWAY…

At first, I attempted to get through running and some yoga despite my pelvic issues. But once the prolapse started, running became a no go and yoga went from bearable to painful during most positions and stretches. Walking, lifting and carrying anything over 5lbs makes my back scream, thighs ache, and lower abdominal area curse me out. I’m hoping when I see my OB this week he can give me some guidance on what kind of low impact exercise I can do that won’t cause further damage or undo any correcting that might be done at some point.

To help the prolapse one thing I must do is shed some of this weight. To shed the weight I need to move more, somehow, and I have to stop stress eating. My OB also suggested that weaning (when I was ready) would probably help. Well, as of today the baby is now weaned-for a few reasons, but this is definitely one of them.

200.8lbs. Grade 2 prolapse with painful symptoms daily. Fatigue. Stress. Pelvis problems. Have I mentioned my bald spots? Postpartum hair loss is quite sexy.

I thank God and Nature for endowing my body with the ability to bear the strain of nurturing and birthing life, but I’m also tired of feeling and being so wrecked by it.

It’s time for a reset.

Stealing Moments

It’s 11:30pm. Thursday.

Everyone is sleeping-the sick almost 4-year-old whose nose needed wiping every 2 minutes, and whose fever needed either Motrin or Tylenol every 4-6 hours; the 7-year-old who braved the psychiatrist’s office for the first time today to talk about his growing struggle with focus and attention; the 4 month old who isn’t happy unless he’s right next to mama’s heart or has her within his line of sight at all times; my husband who asked me to curl up on the couch and watch Scandal and catch up on New Girl with him.

They’re all snoring. I should be asleep but I’m sitting here at my work table in the living room typing this and watching the light from the candle next to me dance in the dark. I’m sitting here because they are all snoring soundly and I am finally unneeded. In two hours I’ll be up feeding they youngest and administering a dose of Motrin to the middle child, while trying not to wake the oldest and my husband as I tiptoe around our apartment. I’ll try to remember to grab something for myself from the kitchen before sinking back into my bed and letting my blankets envelop me for another 3-4 hours, until the next dose, the next feeding, until it’s 6am and the oldest is tiptoeing into our room whispering his requests for breakfast.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Stealing a moment. That’s what I’m doing here in the dark staring at a flickering flame and breathing in deep. I’m stealing a moment to take in and find myself at my center again while everyone is sleeping soundly and I’m unneeded. They are resting and I’m….stealing a moment to breathe. If there’s one thing being a parent of three has taught me these past 4 months it’s that rest when your children are this young is elusive. There is no time for rest. To catch your breath, yes, but to rest, no. There just isn’t. So you have to steal a moment to recharge from somewhere. For me it’s usually my bathroom and it only lasts long enough for me to actually sit down before someone (these days it’s the baby) is calling for me to come back. (Being a mother of three with a fussy baby in the late afternoons has also taught me it’s that using the bathroom while wearing your child strapped to you in an Ergo is 100% doable. And pants? Completely optional after that.)

But tonight…tonight I’m in my living room soaking in the only quiet and time to myself I’ve had in days…probably months. I can’t always make such a sacrifice with my sleep, but tonight it’s so needed because I realized to today I’ve reached my capacity. I’m at my limit.

Tomorrow I’ll start making some changes to address it. But tonight? Tonight I’m going to sit here for just a few more minutes and breathe deep, drinking in the soft glow from the candle.

It’s 12:09 am. Friday.

The Stories I Haven’t Told: Part One

*This was originally going to be a post for a link up titled “The Girls We Once Were.” However, it turned into something much different and became instead bits and pieces of the stories I’ve been struggling to write about since I discovered my love of writing at age 13. Stories only a select few know of-either because they lived them with me, were my therapist, or have been the closest of confidants…stories I’ve put off telling…until now. I’m sharing them because the girl I once was and the girl I was never allowed to be is begging me to let her speak so she can heal…so I can live outside of survival and not encased in it. So we can be free.

That’s all I ever wanted as far back as I can remember: to be free. This is Part One.*

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She has been waiting patiently, ever so patiently to come out of hiding.

Her eyes are always alert, silently taking in all that surrounds her in each environment she adapts to. They are always on the horizon, waiting. From infancy, her very life has always depended on their vigilance, observation being her shield.

Her ears are perfectly attuned to hear even the slightest shift in tone, pitch, and inflection. They can percept immediately if the shift will have an impact on her person.

Her breaths are light, slow, deep, quiet, and measured during the dormant seasons…heavy, ragged, sharp, and quick during the times of upheaval to help her body keep pace with survival.

Survival. Her whole existence has been about it.

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“Stop moving like that, stop singing-you sound awful,” he said when she forgot her place and danced and sang to Whitney Houston’s “Dance With Somebody” in the car. She was 4. She remembers how hot the intensity of his tone felt on her ears as his words rushed through them…her eyes had widened with fear and shock and clouded over with shame for her personhood upon viewing the disdain in the face reflected back at her through the rearview mirror. Her body grew heavy as the energy surging through her in those moments dried up like cement as the sharpness of his inflection consumed it. Her words became muzzled that day, the day she was reminded why silence was a protection. She felt her thoughts retreat quickly and her body stiffen like stone in an attempt to make the impending blows coming her way impenetrable to her core.

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Don’t speak. Don’t move. Don’t look up. Stare out at the world, at the faces of others unhindered, unsilenced. Envy their movement. Envy the freedom with which their bodies move. Envy the freedom expression has to reign over their face. Envy the children who get to yell, ask, be seen and heard, play, explore…and envy the way they are loved.

Sit perfectly still. Make your face expressionless, leave your eyes void of anything that might betray life and independence of thought and will. Stay mute. Always.

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She is on her knees surrounded by darkness. The only sound her ears can discern in the dark are the heavy hums of the fans blowing back and forth across the room.  She’s been there for hours. Her body is tense from being still for so long and her muscles ache from fatigue. Hey eyes slowly begin to close when she notices movement on the wall in front of her; there are figures dancing in the dark before her eyes. She strains and squints to see them clearly, being careful not to so much as telegraph the slightest movement. Her eyes dart back and forth as they excitedly keep pace with the shadows dancing on the wall in front of her. She feels her vocal chords straining to keep sound from reverberating up and out of her throat and into existence. She can’t make a sound. Yet she must have, or maybe she fell asleep as she watched the shadows dance because suddenly she can hear his voice lashing out at her in the dark. She can’t see his face, but she can hear him growling the words, “You better fucking stay awake. Did I say you could sleep, bitch?!” “No Daddy,” her voice croaks. She can’t even remember what she’d done this time, why she was being forced to stay awake all night, sitting alone in a corner, on her knees in the dark while he got to sleep. She’s suddenly thirsty, and in spite of her fear of angering him further, she makes a request. He answers it with a punch to her back that sends her face into the wall where the shadows had just been dancing. “Sit up!” he demands as he grabs her face. Ice cold water sprays in her eyes, and down her face. The air from the fans meets the wetness now soaking her shirt, and she shivers as she gets back into position. “Maybe now you’ll stay awake. Every time I catch you falling asleep, I’m going to spray your ass with this water. Wake the fuck up!”

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She is crying under the heat of the New Mexico sun in the back yard. He finds her in the jungle gym, and climbs all of his 6 feet and 3 inches inside, wedging himself between her and the ledge for the slide. “What are you crying for? I told you she wouldn’t want you. She doesn’t need you. She has her son. She has her husband. Your mother has her own life now. The judge asked her if she wanted you to come live with her. She said no. Look, your mother doesn’t love you. But I do. It’s me and you against the world A’Driane.”

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She could see he was yelling. Spit foamed white and bubbled around the corners of his mouth as words white-hot with rage spewed from his lips. His mouth was moving, but she heard nothing. She felt nothing, in fact, not even the lift of her chest cavity as her lungs filled with air. She was weightless. Breathless.  She wanted to stay in this moment where time wasn’t an entity and there was nothing for her ears to hear or her body to feel. Free. She could be free. He was screaming at her, but there she was existing in a space beyond his words where his wrath couldn’t touch her, and she was free. Boundless. As her eyes rolled to slip her even further away, she felt it coming-escape. This was it. She could be free. But then his screams found their way in, forcing themselves upon her with brute force. Sound synced with motion and her ears could hear him screaming how much he hated her for living. How miserable she made him. How evil she was. How the sight of her made him murderous. Death. She could feel it staring at her through his eyes, and feel its grip in his hands as they continued to squeeze her throat.

She was 13. That was the day she wished he had just done it. Killed her like he’d threatened to do every day of her 13th year thus far. She didn’t think 14 was anything special to see anyway.

Universal Mental Health Screening for Pregnant and New Mothers is a MUST

Every mother. Every time.

pregnant mother of three drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach yesterday. She was reportedly incoherent when questioned by police and is undergoing a mental health evaluation at a local hospital. She is believed to be suffering from psychosis. 

Every mother. Every time.  

A mother in Chicago is being held on $1 million dollar bail today after she tried to kill herself and her 8 month old son by causing head on collisions with other vehicles, not once, but twice. 

Every mother. Every time. 

Out of ignorance I used to judge mothers who committed such acts. But during my second pregnancy, I started experiencing symptoms of antenatal depression and had fleeting thoughts of suicide. After I gave birth, I spent the first year of my son’s life crippled with anxiety, despair, and found myself planning suicide 2 months before his first birthday. I wanted to be free of what my mind had fallen prey to. I wanted relief from the intense mood swings, frenzied OCD, and graphic intrusive thoughts that flashed in my mind unwarranted and unwelcomed. (Full disclosure: Driving my car into a body of water or into oncoming traffic? I’ve had those thoughts. Learn more about intrusive thoughts here)

Thankfully I found hope and help after a google search led me to Postpartum Progress, and I read about the full scope of perinatal mood disorders and their symptoms in “plain mama English.” I sought and began treatment;  my diagnosis eventually changed to rapid cycling bipolar 2, OCD, and anxiety, and when it did, I began a medication regiment that included a mood stabilizer instead of just an antidepressant.

I don’t judge anymore. Instead I recognize and question if these mothers recieved adequate help and support. I wonder if they felt safe enough to reveal their struggles or if the stigma surrounding mental illness in motherhood choked them into silent suffering. I wonder if  their obstectricians were taking them seriously if they disclosed struggling with the mood swings hormone fluctuations during and after pregnancy trigger. I wonder if their obsetricians and children’s pediatricians screened them for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and beyond the 6 week postpartum check up. I wonder if they were told that depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy can manifest as rage, obsessive thought patterns and behaviors, and if they were made aware of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis, and told what to do if they began to hear voices or have delusions. I wonder if anyone told them that having an intrusive thought doesn’t make them a bad mother, and doesn’t mean they will harm themselves or their child. 

I wonder. 

I wonder what it will take for the medical community and our society to take maternal mental health seriously. I wonder when we’ll give just as much care to women’s minds as we do their bodies during and after pregnancy. I wonder how many more women and their children have to die because we aren’t making a mother’s mental health our priority when we care for and treat them.  

Every mother. Every time. 

What will it take for every obsetrician, every pediatrician, every insurance company to screen mother’s during pregnancy and their infant’s first year? Suicide is THE leading cause of death among women in their first year after childbirth, yet we stop screening for PPD, PPA, and postpartum psychosis after 6 weeks-if we screen at all. At least 50% of the 1 in 7 women who suffer from a PMAD go untreated, whether it’s due to lack of screening, or access to support and mental healthcare. 

What will it take to screen and care for every mother, every time? What will it take to offer our mothers and their babies treatment and hope? 

 

There is hope. Women don’t have to listen to the siren call of despair. Treatment makes recovery possible. We don’t have to leave women to suffer silently on their own, trapped in their minds, unable to free themselves. But too often, we do. Women are being missed and overlooked. 

Every mother. Every time. We must screen. We must be louder than stigma’s voice. We must enoucrage our mothers to seek treatment. 

If you believe universal mental health screening for pregnant and new mothers should be mandatory, please consider signing this White House petition. If you or someone you know is currently suffering, please know you are not alone. You are not a bad mother. There is hope and there is help. You can find information and resources at Postpartum Progress, and you can find a community of support on Twitter through the #PPDChat hashtag, and Postpartum Progress’ private support forum. 

To read some more about my experience with PPD & Bipolar Disorder during pregnancy, you can type “ppd” in the search box here to find some older posts, and you can read guest posts I’ve written here and here

 

(addyeB)

A Prompt Response

 

One of the writing communities I’m a part of holds weekly write-ins via video conference. While I’ve been a member of this community since early last year, tonight was my first time participating in one as it was happening. By the time I joined the conference, everyone was reading their responses to the first prompt “When do you feel heard?”, and blowing. my. mind. like. WHOA.

We were given 30 minutes for our 2nd prompt and here’s what I finally word vomited after wanting to throw my paper, pen, and laptop out my back door. 

Prompt: “Show Me Your Brave”

I hold them in the palm of my hand never knowing if they’ll be enough to keep me through the next 24 hours. I stare at them intently, as if my gaze alone can make it so that they do. I tilt my head back, close my eyes, and pause as this unknowing whispers my own doubts back to me, louder than the why I must in spite of. It’s in this nanosecond of a moment that fear always roars its loudest, reminding me of what exists within, and its capacity for destruction. I feel the darkness, I smell the fire, I hear the frantic call of madness, the hollow wail of despair and I wonder if 150mg is enough for 24 more hours. My hands shake as I swallow each one and bring the cup to my lips to further assist them on their way down. 

It’s the only way to find out. 

 

*to learn more about The Story Unfolding & Story Sessions writing community, click here*

My Dear Addye, With All My Love, Susan

Hello, dear readers of Butterfly Confessions. Lauren of My Postpartum Voice here. I’ve recruited some of Addye’s friends to write posts for her blog while Addye babymoons with hear new little one. This letter is the first guest post and it’s written by the fabulous Susan of Learned Happiness. If you’d like to submit a guest post to be published while Addye is babymooning, email me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “For Butterfly Confessions” in the subject line!

Without further ado, I present Susan’s lovely words for Addye…..

 

My Dear Addye,

You and I have been friends for 3 years, now.  And in that time, I have watched you transform into a wholehearted woman.  You took chances with your life and made huge leaps of faith – faith in yourself more than any one person.  You have learned to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be.  Your integrity has been hard-fought and is well-deserved.  You honor me with your friendship.

You said when you married Bert and took his name that it was the beginning of a new life – one written by you and you alone.  One that speaks to all you hold sacred and points to a fulfilling life with your family.  And this baby?  Is a part of that new life.  I can see it in your eyes – in the way you look at him and hold him.  I have experienced the hope brought by a new baby birthed in joy and a sense of calm.  It renews the spirit.  And I couldn’t have wished a better birth experience for you.

SusanQuoteRemember that no matter how good your birth (or how much you love that amazing tiny man), having a newborn is a special kind of torture.  The nights are long and the days are even longer.  And no matter how happy you are, it’s okay to be exhausted.  It’s okay to be emotional.  And it’s okay to still need help.  This is not a test of your spirit.  You are not being graded on how gracefully you weather the fourth trimester.  There will be beautiful moments and there will be unbearable ones.  And your tribe?  Will be standing beside you for both.

I hope with all of my heart that the darkness you fear is blotted out by your joy.  But if it’s not, if it all becomes too much, you are armed and you are never alone.

With all my love,
Susan

11/12/13

It took six hours & 15 minutes exactly.

I went from six to nine centimeters and ready to push in under forty-five minutes.

There were only four pushes: two big, one half strength, the last more like a deep exhale.

There were three precise turns and deft movement of experienced hands during the third push to unwind the cord from around his neck.

He was placed on my chest as my OB called out his time of birth with a smile on his face: 12:15pm.

I wrapped my arms around him, and sat still for a few breaths just looking at him as he lay there quietly alert. “He’s perfect,” I thought, and “Well hello,” I said softly, a gentle laugh escaping from my lips.

There was fuss about pictures and cord cutting as Bertski wiped tears from his eyes, and the staff murmured in amazement at how quickly he arrived, and how calm and peaceful I was as he did.

There was no anxiety. No stress. Even without the epidural, and despite the extra jolt Pitocin gave them, I spent the hours and moments leading up to his birth laughing, smiling, exhaling, and goofing around through each contraction.

After such a physically awful pregnancy, my delivery turned out to be what I least expected: FUN. Yes it was fun. And joyful. And peaceful. And soothing. It was beautifully goofy and fulfilling all at once, and it gave me HIM.

*********

Austin Andres Nieves was born on 11/12/13 at 12:15pm at 39 weeks.

My greatest joy since his arrival has been watching how his brothers have instantly accepted him as their own. No jealousy, no anger, no lashing out. They are just as much in awe of him as Bertski and I are, which has eased the fears & concerns I had on this front prior to his birth.

Thank you to everyone who has joined us in celebrating his birth the past two weeks, and a very special thank you goes out to my tribe-an amazing group of women who have heaped love on me all year in various ways. Thank you for being my rock and reminding me that all things can be made new despite what’s happened in the past.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break from this space for a few weeks and will instead be letting some of my favorite writers share their words & thoughts here.

Until then, PICTURES! And Happy Thanksgiving you jive turkeys :)

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