Episode 9: Mariah’s Story

I’m working on getting back into shape and have even started running. In December, I’m going to participate in the Insane Inflatable 5K. I mean seriously, how bitching does this look??

Insane Inflatable 5K 2016 Obstacle Map

New Obstacle Collage Update Image

So excited to get fit for this insanity, and I’m even more excited to share Mariah’s story with you this week.

Mariah Warren lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, John, their four year-old son, Benjamin, and their cat, Kitty.  She serves as the Clerk of Session at her church, has written for the former site Stigmama, and has led three Climb Out of the Darkness hikes for Postpartum Progress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She has shared her postpartum story with US News And World Report for a web feature, Hudson Valley Parent, Anchor Magazine, and in guest posts on several blogs.

Ben's first time on LBI

In the photo above, Mariah is holding Baby Ben during his first vacation. She looks happy but at the time this photo was taken, she was consumed by anxiety and wanted to run away. Shortly after, she entered the psych unit at the hospital where she gave birth. Mariah eventually found help at a program for moms with postpartum depression and their babies at Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island.

Mariah strives to be as open as possible in telling her story, in order to educate others on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and so that suffering moms know that they’re not alone, that there is help, and that it does get better.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-12

207.8

This morning, I stepped on the scale and saw the lowest number since getting pregnant with Julian: 207.8. I just need to lose 2.8 more pounds and I’m DONE losing the Julian weight. Hooray! Then it’s time to tackle the remaining 20 pounds of Pippa weight. Then 10 lbs of newlywed bliss weight. And then there’s just the matter of forty pounds of “I hate being a fucking lawyer, give me chocolate” weight.

lemonadepixel_sweetshoppe-12

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

Right now, I’m just focusing on those remaining 2.8 pounds of Julian weight.

And trust. I am focusing on TRUSTING MYSELF.

In the past, I lost weight by following diets: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach, back to Weight Watchers, and most recently, counting calories on my Fitbit App. This morning, after I stepped off the scale, I had an epiphany: I followed those diets because I did not otherwise trust myself to lose weight.

lemonadepixel_sweetshoppe-22

Who wants to ruin ice cream with a banana? 

Or, bigger picture: I did not trust myself to eat in a healthy way. I was unconsciously worried that if I wasn’t recording Weight Watcher points or cutting carbs, I would go bat shit crazy and eat All The Food and be miserable and fat and no one would ever love me.

I have some emotional issues when it comes to food.

But I’m working on them! I’m in weekly talk therapy and digging up all sorts of emotional shit to figure out why I overeat. I’ve had a lot of ideas, but I like today’s epiphany: Trust.

LemonadePixel_Picnic-13

Is there anything better than cheese? No, there’s not.

I have to trust myself to have the occasional sweet without going into a sugar feeding frenzy. I have to trust myself to pour a bowl of Cheerios without measuring it first.  I have to trust myself to stop eating when I’m full.

In the past, I looked up calorie counts of recipes and restaurant dishes. I only ordered meals that fell within my calorie quota. Today, I went to a restaurant for lunch and I trusted myself. I ordered the fish tacos, ate a few of Pippa’s french fries, and stopped eating when I was full. I don’t know how many calories were in the fries or tacos because I just ate what my body wanted. I trusted my body. I trusted myself.

LemonadePixel_food-34

Who invented pancakes? The Earl of Pancake?

Eating is such a basic part of my survival. If I don’t trust myself when it comes to food, then how can I trust myself when it comes to raising children? Having a happy marriage? Making new friends?

I have felt a glow from within ever since this idea of TRUST MYSELF popped into my head. I’m excited to see what the coming weeks hold in store for me as I practice the Lost Art of Trusting Myself (and my stomach) (and my hormones).

Episode 8: Alexia’s Story

In this week’s episode, Alexia Johnstone shares her story of pregnancy depression, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and OCD. Not only did Alexia volunteer to share her story, but she was my first interviewee – so she deserves a double ovation!

Alexia is a mental health counselor who works near Worcester, Massachusetts. She is trained in expressive arts therapy and provides individual and family therapy to children, adolescents and adults with mood and anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders.  Her full profile and contact information are available right HERE.

Alexia and her PPD baby Lucia (“Lucy”)

Alexia found support through several different online groups:

As I mentioned, there is another podcast about maternal mental illness. It is Dr. Kat’s Mind & Body and I highly recommend it. I have learned a lot and been inspired by the stories.

Alexia does an exercise called “a womb with a view” with her pregnant patients.  That exercise was inspired by the book Birthing From Within.   I am done making babies, but the book sounds so interesting, I may have to buy myself a copy and do the exercises.

The ukulele music playing during the introduction is “Cute” by Bensound.com.

10 Things Helping Me Kick Postpartum Depression In the Ass

I had PPD, postpartum anxiety and OCD after my daughter Pippa was born in 2013. I had my son Julian last November and I am not interested in a relapse, thank you very much. I have been working hard to stay mentally fit. These are some of the things that have been helping me on my quest:

1. Exercise, especially if it is fun like Zumba.
2. No caffeine.
3. No booze.
4. Weekly talk therapy.
5. Zoloft in the morning. (150 mg is the current magic number.)
6. Remeron at bedtime. (Just 15 mg – I’m basically opening the bottle and taking a deep breath.)
7. Lots of fresh air and sunshine and time in nature.
8. Getting lots of help from my husband, parents and babysitter.
9. Lots and lots of writing.
10. Staying connected with friends.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-13

Episode 7: Advice for Pregnant Mamas

I have been listening a lot to The Creative Penn podcast. This podcast covers all aspects of writing and publishing and provides a ton of information about indie publishing. I’m writing a memoir about my adventures with postpartum depression and assumed I would try to find an agent and take the traditional publishing path. The Creative Penn has me excited about self-publishing. I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to do! It’s faster. I can keep prices down. And I get to maintain creative control.

I’ve been reading When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. The Universe definitely wants me to read this book. A couple of weeks ago, I impulsively checked it out from the library. A few days later, my therapist recommended it. And then today, I spotted a copy of it at a used bookstore (and scooped it up because I need to own this book and highlight the shit out of it). I’ve struggled with my weight since I was fifteen, and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m an emotional eater. This book is helping me figure a lot of things out.

I give a lot of advice for pregnant mamas:

  • Go to Postpartum Progress and get educated about postpartum depression, especially the risk factors and symptoms
  • Prepare a self-care checklist. I talk about this during Episode Two of the podcast.
  • Talk to your obstetrician about postpartum depression. Ask if you are at risk.
  • Talk to your people. These might be uncomfortable conversations, but it is easier to have them now, before your hormones go ballistic. Ask the people you trust to keep an eye on you and to be honest if they think you are not acting like yourself.
  • Have an email buddy.
  • And a text buddy.
  • Think about places you want to go once the baby arrives.
  • Think about what you want your life to be like after baby arrives.
  • Make a playlist of all your favorite anthems.
  • Pick some podcasts to binge listen to after baby arrives.
  • And maybe some easy books. (Now is not the time to tackle Ulysses.)
  • Find a psychiatrist. Ideally, meet with them. But if that’s not possible, at least research your options and now who you are going to contact if you need help.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-05

Episode 6: The Importance of Community

I am running a peer-to-peer support group and we finally have a home. The group meets Thursdays, 2-3 p.m. at The Family Room.  The Family Room is located in San Marino (Pasadena’s neighbor) at 2318 Huntington Drive. It is a resource center and community space for expectant parents and family.  The Family Room provides education and support before and after childbirth and the early years of childhood, from childbirth prep to breastfeeding support and play groups.  It is a safe and comfortable space for mothers to talk about mental health issues.

I started this support group over two years ago but this feels like its true beginning. We have a home! A safe, air-conditioned home! No more chasing after toddlers in playgrounds.

My peer-to-peer group started originally on Meetup. There’s an L.A. group and a Pasadena group. For now, I’m going to keep running these groups because it is just one more one for moms to find help. But honestly, they haven’t been that successful for me. I’m ready to do more. I’m ready to build a strong support group that offers a safe community for moms struggling with postpartum depression.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-12

Episode 5: The 2016 Climb Out Of The Darkness

The Climb out of Darkness is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illness like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, bipolar/peripartum onset and pregnancy depression and anxiety. It’s held on or near the longest day of the year annually to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

The event features mothers and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery.

The event also raises money for Postpartum Progress, an awesome nonprofit doing some amazing work for moms suffering from maternal mental illness.  As of Wednesday, June 22, the event has raised $329,762. Team LA has raised $15,465.  (Go, Team LA!)  I raised $725.  (Woot woot!)  Next year, I’m aiming for $1000.  And hey, it’s not too late to donate to the 2016 Climb. Head over HERE if you are feeling generous…

Team L.A. hiked to Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park.

Want to know more about what Postpartum Progress do with the money raised by the Climb?  Head over yonder.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-11

Episode 4: The Power of Storytelling

In this episode, I talk about the healing power of storytelling and how telling people I had postpartum depression helped me recover.

When I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, I was full of shame and did not want anyone outside my inner circle to know I had it. We were supposed to go to Nebraska for a wedding and had to cancel. Nathan told his family that he was too busy at work. I felt so guilty that we he had to miss the wedding and thought everyone would hate me if they knew the real reason why we stayed home.

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression in July 2013.  In Fall 2013, I slowly started telling people about my illness. I mostly told people over email. This had its pros and cons. On the one hand, people had the chance to process this information before reacting – which helped me avoid any negative reactions. On the other hand, most people responded to my news by not responding at all. That hurt. Now that I have some distance, I understand why people did not know how to handle my news. Mental illness is highly stigmatized and not something we often discuss. People did not respond to my emails about having PPD because they did not know how to respond.

In January 2014, I told a Mommy & Me class that I had postpartum depression. I had been attending this class since September 2013 and felt like I was missing out on some authentic friendships because the moms did not know about my illness. We were bonding over parenting issues, but I was concealing my biggest issue. Postpartum depression was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. If people don’t know I had it, then they don’t know me.

When I told the class about my bout of postpartum depression, I felt so relieved and happy. Afterwards, lots of moms hugged and thanked me. One mom told me I had just described her postpartum experience. She had not realized she had postpartum depression. Another mom told me I was very brave for being so vulnerable with the class.

I guess I was brave, but it did not feel that way. I had to share my story, just like I have to breathe air and drink water. I felt like I had to tell my tale or I would burst.

Shortly thereafter, I posted on Facebook that I had had postpartum depression and wanted to find a way to help other moms who have it. I received some likes and comments, but for the most part, my post was ignored. Again, people just don’t know how to talk about mental illness so they ignore the subject. At the time, I was devastated by the mediocre response. Now I realize I was relying too much on the approval of others. Fuck approval! Confidence has to come from within or it’s not actually confidence.

I started a meetup group and got to talk about my postpartum depression adventures with other moms who had suffered like me. That was wonderful and very cathartic. It is important to be heard. It is even more important to be understood.

At first, telling people I had postpartum depression was scary. Now, it’s a non-issue. I love talking about it. It feels so good to talk about it. That’s why I started this podcast.

I truly believe that talking about traumatizing experiences helps reduce any subsequent shame. Brene Brown talks about the healing power of storytelling in her wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection. This book is not about postpartum depression, but I think it’s very helpful to anyone suffering from PPD.

So you want to share your story to help you heal from postpartum depression? Here are my tips:
Know your audience. Share your story with a compassionate listener- think fellow mom who is open-minded, not your gossipy co-worker who thinks mental illness is a hoax.

  • Therapy is a great place to talk although it can get pricey.
  • Start a blog and write your story for the entire world to read.
  • Tell your journal.
  • Tell me! Email me at courtney@ppdadventures.com.
  • are you feeling super brave and pumped to tell your story? Tell it on my podcast! I want to interview moms about their adventures with postpartum depression and also have guest co-hosts to discuss the myriad of issues involved with PPD.
For further information about postpartum depression, check out Postpartum Progress.
Postpartum depression is a lonely illness but remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
LemonadePixel_Dividers-04

Episode 3: My Treatment For Postpartum Depression

In this episode, I talk about how I recovered from postpartum depression:

  • I was hospitalized for four nights.
    • I attended group therapy daily.
    • My favorite activity was “occupational therapy” which was basically “arts and crafts for the depressed.”
    • I got to exercise at the gym for 20 minutes every day. My psychiatrist told me to get my heart rate up to 160 once a day, so that is what I did.
  • I took Zoloft (100 mg) and Mirtazipane (30 mg).
  • I stayed at my parents’ house for two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital.
  • My parents hired a doula to take care of Pippa so I could get lots of rest and enjoy some “me time”.
  • My sister loaned me The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. It gave me a lot of ideas for ways that I could defeat my depression.  I ordered myself a copy today because I want to reread it and always have it in my home library.
  • I met with a cognitive behavioral psychologist once a week for about seven months.  He helped me unravel all the OCD rituals that developed during the worst days of my PPD hell.
    • I had homework assignments.
    • I had to turn my rituals to dust – e.g. since I had elaborate door-locking rituals, I had to stop checking the locks all together. I could not even glance at the door. I could not ask Nathan to lock the doors, but I was allowed to tell him “I’m going to bed now and I haven’t checked the locks.”
    • When I felt anxious about something, I hit my inner pause button and asked myself, “What is the worst case scenario? And how likely is it that the worst case scenario will actually happen?” After a couple of months, I rewired my brain. Anxiety stopped being my default setting.
  • I started writing my memoir about my adventures with postpartum depression.
  • I started a meet up group for moms with postpartum depression. This had limited success but it was still wonderful to meet local moms who have fought the same battles against PPD.
  • I joined the gym and started using the gym day care. Pippa played while I took Zumba classes.
  • I stuck with my original psychiatrist for almost two years. He kept pressuring me to run a peer support group through his office. I realized he was undermining my recovery. I cancelled my next appointment and found a new psychiatrist. Once I ended the toxic relationship with my first psychiatrist, I felt like I had finally completed my recovery from postpartum depression.

LemonadePixel_Dividers-10

Episode 2: My Self-Care Checklist

In this week’s episode, I talked about my daily self-care checklist. Here is the list I created when I was pregnant with Julian and hung on my bulletin board:

And for those of you who can’t read my handwriting (translation: everyone), the items on my checklist are:

  • fresh air
  • sunlight
  • exercise
  • shower
  • listen to music
  • get silly with Pippa
  • doodle or draw or craft or knit
  • drink tons of water
  • write for ten minutes (by hand!)
  • sing a song
  • stretch
  • open windows
  • dance video on youtube
I highly recommend Creativebug if you are looking for a way to bring some drawing or painting or crafting into your life. I’ve been especially loving their Daily Drawing Challenges.