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)

My Bipolar Life: My Pregnancy Video Diary Begins

I decided to take “My Bipolar Life” in a new direction and turn it into a video diary of sorts for this pregnancy.

As with my other videos, this one goes against all vlogging rules-it’s just me, talking, unscripted. I hope you don’t mind the lack of editing, the “ums” and my losing my train of thought at times :)

My goal is to do at least one of these a week. There might be more-just depends on what’s going on, if I have some thoughts I want to share, where I’m at mentally, etc. Hold me accountable?  Oh and subscribe? Thanks.

 

 

My Hard Truth

Before I spill my guts here today I want to make sure you understand something from the very beginning: What I’m going to talk about speaks solely to MY experience as a mother who’s lived with antenatal depression and PPD and who has a child with developmental delays and is on the autism spectrum. I can’t speak for other women and their experience or how their illness-treated or untreated-may or may not have had an impact on their child’s development. I’m choosing to share this because honestly? I’m having a hard time processing it on my own. I don’t have a therapist to talk with about it right now, and keeping it all to myself is only allowing shame to breed ugly thoughts and emotions; thoughts and emotions I definitely don’t need right now considering I have a family to take care of, am currently off of 2 of my meds until my 2nd trimester, and I have a new baby growing within me. This is how things have played out for us-I’m in no way claiming this is how it will play out for others.

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11 months ago, I wrote a post about Alex’s 2yr well visit and how his pediatrician at the time had expressed his opinion that the developmental delays we were concerned about were linked (at least in part) to my untreated antenatal depression, PPD & anxiety. You can read it here; doing so will give you more context.

When I wrote that post I was hurt, wracked with guilt and defensive. I was confused-I didn’t know what to make of what he had said and I honestly didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe it because I was afraid to. Allowing myself to acknowledge he may have been right would’ve just ripped the band aid off of the wound I had worked like hell in therapy to stop bleeding.

But like I mentioned in my post last year, I had read the studies, the articles, what the experts had to say about untreated depression in mothers and it’s effects on their children. I had read the stats about low birth weight and premature labor and caught my breath every time, knowing how small he was, how I’d gone into labor 3 weeks early-but I secretly hoped he wouldn’t “fit” the others about developmental struggles. (Again, links to some of those studies and articles are in the post linked above.) The knowledge pulled and gnawed at me every time I struggled to engage with Alex. The shifts in mood, the struggles to get him to do simple things like eat, wash his hands, or even just accept hugs and kisses from Bertski and I without withdrawing first. Every time I watched him shut down around people, or scream in terror when approached by children on the playground, my insides, my heart twisted. When he stopped eating nearly everything and would only touch hard, rough textured food….when we were told by early intervention he was delayed at least 25% in speech and possibly more in other developmental areas….as I watched his symptoms become more pronounced over the course of the past 11 months, my mama gut begged me to turn a deaf ear to fear and just face reality, listen to what it was trying to tell me. I wasn’t going to be able to help Alex if I didn’t. I wasn’t going to be able to be the mother he needed me to be if I didn’t.

So I did, and I started talking to Bertski about it a few months ago. He expressed that he had been watching Alex and having the same thoughts about his behavior and development and what had possibly caused him to develop the way he had. We agreed that in addition to my illness being untreated for so long possibly being a factor, the instability of our relationship during Alex’s first two years was likely a factor as well. It was a tough set of conversations…thinking about them still makes me cringe. But I’m glad we had them because it enabled us to move forward in seeking help. We knew Alex needed more help than we could give him and WE as his parents needed help parenting him. His issues had started to become beyond us and the daily struggle of trying to navigate them was overwhelmingly frustrating and discouraging.

His 3 year visit was two weeks ago, with a new pediatrician here in Austin. We told her everything, with her interjecting a question or two every now and then. She listened attentively until we finished spilling our parental guts out to her. She was quiet for a few minutes and then started to give her thoughts: “It’s obvious he’s very smart-I can see that for myself in just the short time he’s been in here. But from my brief observation and what you’ve told me I would go ahead and say he’s definitely on the autism spectrum. My initial guess would be high functioning but he does have significant speech and socialization deficiencies. Further evaluations will give us more information. The good news is we’re catching it now-early intervention is crucial. We’ll get him into various therapies and by kindergarten I’m confident he’ll fit in just fine with other kids in a regular classroom environment. He’ll catch up, he’ll excel. I’m sure even within just 6 months we’ll see significant improvement.”

We walked out of that appointment with an answer, with hope even, but also with some sadness. A heaviness rested on us for the remainder of the day. Even though we had been preparing ourselves to potentially hear such a diagnosis for Alex, the reality of it still hit us pretty hard. I can’t speak for Bertski, but I know for me, the guilt was excruciating that day. I called and talked with the pediatrician about it some more, explaining my illness and how it impacted my ability to bond and interact with him during my pregnancy and his first year and a half. I expressed to her what my difficulties had been and she didn’t shame me for them:

“Based off of the research, your history, and where he is developmentally, I’d say it is highly likely that there’s an association. Being depressed and not having effective treatment can definitely have the kind of impact on a child’s development and behavior like we’re seeing in Alex. But you don’t have to blame yourself for it. You’re helping him now-he’s older and you’re recovered and managing your Bipolar as best you can-that’s what’s important. Yes, this happened, but it’s ok, you’re getting him help just like you sought help. It’s not your fault, Mrs. Nieves.”

No, being depressed during my pregnancy and struggling with PPD and anxiety the first 2 years of Alex’s life wasn’t my fault.

I would even go as far as to say that not being treated for so long wasn’t my fault either-there was so much I just didn’t know, and when I did express what I was enduring to those around me and my OB, I was told it was all “normal,”…given time, I’d be “fine.”

You know, they say we can only do better when we know better. Given my circumstances, I know I did my best and when I couldn’t, I fought to.

I don’t think I failed Alex. I do think my illness failed both of us-it robbed us of having a strong start and that’s what hurts me the most when I think about how it’s impacted him.

But I’m learning now how to use the hurt to lay a new foundation for us to build upon. I’m learning how to advocate for him and learn all I can to help him like I’ve done with myself and my illness. Alex has started ABA therapy and is already showing progress. He has upcoming evaluations with speech therapist to work on improving his language and an occupational therapist to help with his autistic and sensory related struggles.

(sigh)

Accepting that there’s possibly an association between my illness during pregnancy and Alex’s development struggles is a hard truth to stare in the face y’all. I know it’s not everyone’s truth, but it’s MY truth and I’m working hard once again to process it, heal from it, ditch the guilt over it, and move on now that I know where he’s at. I’m not sharing this to say that what’s true for me and Alex is true for all moms with untreated antenatal depression & PPD. It’s not at all. But I am sharing it to say that you know those effects they talk about in those studies? I’m watching my son live with them. It DOES happen. It’s in the minority, but it does happen-I wish it was talked about more-not to shame anyone, but to help women understand that they don’t have to BE ashamed that this happens. Does that make sense? I hope it does.

I’m not here to scare anyone or have you think that you and your child are in the same boat as we are. Definitely not. But I am here to say that if you ARE in the same boat we are-It’s ok. It’s not your fault. Illness may have robbed you and your child of a strong start, but don’t let guilt rob you of anything else. I know it hurts like hell, and you feel like you could’ve done more, but you did your best with what you had and don’t let shame deceive you into thinking otherwise. You’re still an amazing mama to your child. You’re not a bad mother. Our children will be okay because they have us and they have others to help them get to where they need to be.

If your child is showing signs of delays-don’t let shame keep you from getting help. Ask for evaluations and resources. Talk to their doctor and ask about Early Intervention. Be open. Be honest. Be their advocate just as you’ve been for yourself.

I hope this made sense. It’s late and I’ve had a rather emotional day. Also? I could REALLY use a friend in this particular boat.

I’m Getting Married! Help Me Celebrate, Would Ya?

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My ring! Thank you Zales!

Guess who’s getting married y’all?

ME.

To Bertski.

If you’ve been a reader here for at least the past year, or know me personally, you know how huge this is considering how much he and I have been through the past three and a half years.  If you had walked up to me exactly a year ago today and told me that I’d be planning a wedding to the man I was separated from at the time, I would’ve shaken my head and walked away not believing any of it. We were so broken a year ago…barely able to speak to each other, both of our hearts raw from the emotional turmoil of a rocky relationship and dealing with my mental illness. I remember how I sat across from him and fought back tears and words that begged to be spoken as we ate dinner with the boys last New Year’s eve in Philly. I remember sitting in my car afterward, staring at myself in the rearview mirror at a red light, and seeing nothing but pain and loneliness in my eyes…it actually felt as though a knife was cutting through me and all I could think about was how I needed to let go of what was, and enter 2012 with open arms, forcing myself to embrace whatever it brought my way. “Let go…move forward,” were the words I used to describe my plans for the year when my therapist asked. “Well, I think that’s a good approach-you can’t embrace anything new if you’re still holding on to what was….and you can’t move toward anything if you’re focused on what’s behind you,” she replied.

I should call her and tell her how right and necessary her reply to me was at the time. As painful as they were to live out, her words helped me face the heartbreak I had been trying to ignore and parse my way through it, cleaning out all of the junk I’d let pile up in my heart in the process. It hurt like HELL, you hear me? HELL.

But I got through it. I let go. I forgave him. I embraced being his friend, and learned to love him unconditionally…..10 months later, here we are, living as a family in Austin….and getting married in March-the same month we decided to give our relationship one last try back in 2012.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that’s happened, and as I sit here thinking about it all, I just feel so much gratitude for the life we’re living at this moment-it’s a far cry from the devastation we had spent the last three years trying to just survive and recover from.

(deep breath)

8 weeks from now, we’ll be standing in an outdoor chapel, in front of those who have always supported us whether we were together or not, and vow to spend the rest of our lives with each other.

EIGHT WEEKS.

Needless to say I’m in full-blown wedding planning mode. (check out my pinterest wedding board!) Even though we’re keeping it a small and simple affair, there are still about a hundred “to-do” items and I’ve spent the last two weeks making reservations, emailing invites, talking to  dress designers, looking at rings….it’s been a whirlwind, but I’m doing my best to not be overwhelmed and enjoy this process because it’s exciting and I want to be present for every part of it.

Both Bertski and I keep saying how much we want that day and the coming weeks to be time of celebration, and every time I think of this, as corny as it sounds, my heart just swells with a joy I haven’t allowed myself to feel in a very, very long time.

So I’m spending the first 3 months of this year celebrating. Dancing, laughing, smiling…I’m giving myself fully to the freedom that’s found in it, and I’d love for you to join me!

How? Well, it’s simple, really. Our friends and family (and some of  YOU) have asked us about wedding gifts and such, so we created a gift registry….

BUT….

What we would really love, far more than an appliance, box of wine glasses, or the Big Bang Theory 400 question Trivia Game, is for people to help us celebrate our marriage by helping us give back. We feel like we’ve been given a tremendous gift, and yes, have been blessed beyond what we imagined these past months, so we’ve made it our goal this year to pay it forward in various ways.

This is where you come in….We have a list of charities and nonprofits that work to address issues that are personal to us or have affected us in some way. They are:

  • Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, NJ
  • Charity Water
  • Nothing but Nets

and the last one….the last one is Postpartum Progress, which many of you know pretty much saved my life after I had Alex, in more ways than one. It directed me to therapy and the treatment I needed, gave me a community of support I didn’t have, and introduced me to women who have become my best friends over the last two years. I honestly would not be here, Bertski and I would not be together if I hadn’t found Katherine Stone and the work she does with Postpartum Progress.

Would you consider making a donation to one of the above charities, especially to Postpartum Progress? It would mean so much to me and would help me give back all that I’ve been given as a result of Katherine’s dedication to making maternal mental health a priority….as well as help Bertski and I support organizations we feel are working hard to address hunger and disease prevention both here in the U.S. and abroad.

I know you probably think I’m crazy or tacky for doing this, but if you do make a donation of any kind, PLEASE email me and let me know. (dudley dot adriane at gmail dot com) I’d love to send you a card or something thanking you for celebrating with me, with us!

So…yeah. I’m getting married. I’M SO EXCITED! Be excited with me!

To learn more about any of the charities/nonprofits listed above, and make a donation, please visit these links:

Postpartum Progress: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/ (you can also read the blog here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/)

Cathedral Kitchen: http://cathedralkitchen.org/

Charity Water: http://www.charitywater.org/

Nothing but Nets: http://nothingbutnets.net/

50 Shades of Fabulous

I know I haven’t posted anything in awhile. An intense semester and a little writing/blogging crisis are to blame and I apologize for the lack of posts….BUT today I return to ‘Confessions with a gift for you, a special guest post from a woman I have an immense amount of love & respect for. Lauren Hale is the founder & moderator of #PPDChat on Twitter & Facebook, shares her PPD story over at My Postpartum Voice, AND writes for The Good Men Project. When I asked her to describe herself in one word, she responded with “Fierce.” I couldn’t agree more.  I LOVE this post, and I think you will as well. Please welcome her and show her some love!

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Today has been a grey day. Sure it’s spring, leaves have sprung, birds are chirping, the cicadas are…well, we won’t talk about the cicadas because that leads to dark places best left unvisited.

Last week was a whirlwind of writing. Three political pieces, wait, four, one not so serious, and a snarky piece about Facebook and organ donation. On top of that, there was #PPDChat to host both on Twitter and On The Air, support requests to field, friendships to maintain, therapist visit, date, meals, and somewhere in there, sleep.

This past weekend I slept. A lot. Almost a full day, actually. I figured my body needed it –kinda like hitting a reset button– showing instead of telling me to slow down.

It’s okay to slow down and listen to the ebb and flow of life. If we keep tilting ahead at full speed, eventually you’ll collapse, much like I did this past weekend. Everyone preaches about balance and figuring out what’s right for you. While that’s true, often times life tosses a left turn where there should be a right and BAM. You’re upended and left spinning toward a vortex again just trying to keep everything grounded.

Ever seen a whirling dervish? Yeah. That.

Life will come at you fast and hard. If there’s one thing I have learned over the past few years, life is not what happens to you. It’s how YOU happen to life.

Realizing most of your issues spring from worry, concern, or otherwise unnecessary emotions in regard to the actual situation is a huge weight off your shoulders. There are a few questions which should soothe the anxiety beast when/if it arises:

1) Does this situation directly affect me?
2) Is there anything I can do to directly affect or improve this situation?
3) Is immediate action required or are my hands tied until a later time?
4) How much does this situation really affect my life?

Taking a deep breath and going through those four questions has helped me deal with several situations which could have possibly gone south very quickly. Instead, I analyzed them and often realized that no, there wasn’t anything I could do nor did the situation directly affect me. In situations where it does and immediate action is required, take a deep breath, do your best, and put it behind you. Easier said than done, I know, but with practice, each new challenge becomes easier because you’ve been cultivating confidence in your ability to deal with the hard, making you even more fabulous with each experience.

You, and your fabulous may not mesh with someone else’s version of fabulous. But isn’t that what makes the world interesting and awesome? That we are all a different shade of fabulous and then some? If we were all the same shade of fabulous, we would be stuck in a grey world.

Me, I’m working on my 50 shades of fabulous every day. I can’t wait to rock them all.

Confession: My House is Never Clean…but That’s Okay

On Monday I wrote about what holds me together and gets me through having such a demanding life these days. I realized after I recorded the video you’re about to see that I left “changing my expectations” off of that list.

During my pregnancy I developed a serious case of OCD. We’re talking nesting on steroids, people. It was intense. Baseboards and particles of dust feared me, ok? I couldn’t rest until everything was neat, arranged, and put away, all in it’s proper place. I rearranged items in my cabinets & fridge, rearranged furniture in my house, rearranged my clothes and closet….you name it I did it. Everything had to be clean and if it wasn’t I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn’t doing my job. I felt that if everything was perfect around me and I had control over where everything was, then I’d be the perfect girlfriend who would make the perfect wife, and I’d be the perfect mother to my kids who could do and be all. Notice how many times I just said perfect? I was a perfectionist to the extreme and I pushed myself to strive for and meet these standards and expectations I thought would make me, well….perfect. Perfection=acceptance, being wanted, being loved, having control….pretty much everything that was the opposite of how I perceived myself. I naively thought it would go away after I had Alex, but it really only intensified and became part of my experience with PPD & PPA. I would go through days where I was so depressed and anxious I couldn’t clean, and then I would clean incessantly  because I was depressed and anxious. Cleaning became my worst enemy and my best coping strategy depending where I fell on the mental illness spectrum each day. It was both a trap and a way of release if that makes sense.

Working as a social media consultant full-time. Attending school full-time. Taking care of my newborn/infant son and my three year old. Keep a spic and span house AT ALL TIMES. I pushed and pushed and pushed myself to the breaking point on a daily basis. And boy did I break. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Depression. Anxiety. Fear. Intrusive thoughts. Pain. GUILT (so MUCH guilt!) Anger (i.e. RAGE) Highs….and lows…the pressure I felt and put myself under to appear perfect, in control, and having it all together was intense.

So my life was pretty messy. I was pretty messy. But I thought I could clean it up on my own. I was wrong.

It’s taken some painful therapy sessions, hard talks with myself and medication to realize that I’m a mess….AND BE OKAY WITH THAT. It’s also taken these things to recognize that what I was striving for is unattainable and very unhealthy. A huge part of my recovery process from PPD/PPA was realizing that I had some very unhealthy expectations & standards for myself…and that I needed to change them. ASAP.

Even living with BP now, I’ve had to change what I expect out of and for myself and my family. Doing so has helped me release the valve on the pressure cooker I put myself in and has helped me ditch my quest for perfection.

I’m not super mom and I’m not super woman. I don’t have it all together and I am so far from perfect it’s a joke, really. But that’s okay for me these days. I’ve realized there are more important things to be concerned with….like my children….my homework…painting…”me” time….

So to prove to you that I’ve come a long way in the ditching perfection department, and hopefully encourage you to not be so hard on yourself, I’m giving you a peek at my messy apartment. Taping this wasn’t easy and neither is publishing it…but hey, having a messy house doesn’t make me less of a person or mother…and it doesn’t make you less of one either, so cut yourself some slack, okay?

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.

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.

Dance Party Friday: Stronger Edition

This illness won’t get you…You are too strong…tomorrow holds the promise of a new day.”

My friend Kim’s words rang in my ears as I fell asleep last night, and were the first words that I heard as I awoke this morning.

The past 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride with more loops than I’d like, some throwing my mental health off track, others reminding me of how fragile life is, as several of my friends and even my mother are facing serious health & life issues….and yet still others have forced me to face painfully abusive memories I’d rather forget, but can’t because working through them is the only way I’ll heal and be able to eventually forgive.

But….

You are too strong….this life needs you

I woke up with these words pushing me out of bed and on my feet. I looked around at my apartment, at the mess that accumulates during my lows, and these words directed each step I took as I set to cleaning it all up.

This illness won’t get you….You are too strong….this life needs you

I repeated them, over and over while taking a shower, combing my hair, painting my nails, eating breakfast, watching cartoons with my sick kiddo….until I finally felt strong, strong enough to keep fighting and keep moving.

A friend of mine told me on Facebook this week that she doesn’t understand how I can continue to hold onto a belief in God when I’ve been through so much hell in my life. She then asked me a rather poignant and difficult question: why does God allow bad things to happen?

Not wanting to give a cookie cutter answer full of Christianese, I waited and directed the question at God: “Why do you allow bad things to happen? Why do you allow us to suffer if you love us so much? Why God? Why have I had to endure so much pain, so many rough circumstances? Why do I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with this illness and everything else? I’m tired God. I’m just tired.”

I spent the week telling God that I’m tired of being beat down and broken, but woke up this morning with Kim’s words guiding me and an answer…or at least some kind of theory.

You might not like or agree with my theory and that’s ok….but y’all I think we experience brokenness and pain in our lives as a reminder that we are human. We like to think we’re invincible but the truth is we aren’t.  What if we went through life never experiencing loss, pain, hurt, rejection, or a part of us that malfunctions and needs fixing? If we didn’t experience these things, I don’t think we would know or understand and value things like LOVE….we wouldn’t know how to be vulnerable, which would render us incapable of empathy and compassion for others.  We wouldn’t know how to care for one another, and be there for each other, and be able to bear one another up in times of need. Pain and brokenness….no one wants to endure or experience either, but without them as the fertilizer, seeds of courage, hope, love, empathy, and strength wouldn’t grow in us and we would be nothing more than calloused, cold, stagnant beings.

So we experience things that challenge us…that break us…that remind us that life is fragile and to not take it for granted, no matter what hand we’ve been dealt. We only get one hand in this poker game y’all. That’s it. Just one hand and one set of chips is all we get to bet with. It’s up to us how we handle what we’re dealt.

So no…I don’t like the fact that my meds aren’t working and I need yet again to keep searching for the right cocktail. I don’t like that I have to live with a condition that renders me incapable of wanting to live at times. I don’t think it’s fair that I had to endure abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to protect me. I hate that I have to struggle my way through life….

But guess what? I’m too strong, only because I’ve endured these things and am still here today, writing this to you. I’m strong. Only because I have been hurt and broken. I am strong because I have known pain and am learning  to use it as the bridge to vulnerability and wholehearted living.

I am too strong. This illness will not get me. My painful past will not keep me trapped and tangled. I won’t let it. Instead I’ll use it; to help others, to encourage and inspire, to empower those who have been through the same to overcome and choose to keep living. I’ve had bad things happen to me, but I’ll let them teach me how to treat and love my boys and others I encounter in this life.

I don’t know what you’re facing, or what you’ve had to endure in this life. But I do know that if you’re enduring it, if you’re surviving it, then I know for a fact that you are a stronger person because you experienced it. I know from first hand experience that if you spend all your time asking why, the pain will only intensify and breed more pain. Choose to use what you’ve been through to help someone else-let it teach you how to live wholeheartedly.

The hurt and pain won’t last forever. As Kim told me last night….it’s always darkest right before the dawn. So stand up. Dance your way through the rain drops. Your’e stronger than you think.

note: my video isn’t perfect..I just couldn’t get the syncing right for some reason today. so I apologize for my crappy editing skills. I hope you still enjoy it anyway.