Episode 59: Jeremy’s Story

This week, Jeremy Hornberger shares her postpartum story on the show. Jeremy originally shared her story on Facebook (we mention the FB post during the beginning of the episode). Rather than summarize our interview, I thought I would share her post here instead since she put a lot of time and energy into this work, and I think it’s really amazing. So without further ado, I give you Jeremy’s Facebook post:

Less than 24 hours after I returned home from giving birth, I found myself back in the ER.

May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, and I think I’m finally ready to share my story.

Trigger warning: postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, suicidal ideation.

I’m going to be as real as I can be in this post. Where I am now, I never thought possible. I love Ella Ray more than anything and she is my reason for being. But it took me a longgggg time to get to this point and to feel this way.

I would also like to say that I’m not looking for praise, I simply want to share my story in the hopes that it may help someone else. That it may help end the stigma. That it may bring awareness to an issue that isn’t discussed as much as it needs to be.

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Six days postpartum

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and some depression. On and off meds and have seen the occasional therapist when I needed a tune up (p.s. I genuinely believe everyone needs and can benefit from therapy). When I found out I was pregnant I decided to wean off of my Zoloft. Even though they told me it was safe to continue during pregnancy, but I wanted to keep my body free and clear of all meds.

I hated being pregnant. I never felt the glow I kept hearing about… I threw up every morning for 22 weeks. I was miserable. I faked happiness because that’s what I was “supposed” to feel. And I had friends struggling with infertility so how could I admit I hated pregnancy!? A lot of life happened during those 10 months… job loss and change, financial stress, and I had to put my cat down – who was my sidekick. So yea, hindsight it was the perfect fucking storm (sorry for the language mom).  

So fast forward, my doc suggested an induction… after some thought, anxiety, panic, and fear… we decided to go for it. Friday, June 3rd. Child birth is no fucking joke. No one truly prepares you for what will happen in that room. I’ll spare the details, but I remember thinking I wished I could have gone back in time and not gotten pregnant. I wanted it to be over so badly. And then it was. And I was like phew, ok, I can feel the joy everyone kept telling me about. The best moment of my life! I waited. And waited. I tried to feel it, I pretended that I did. It never came. I was so deliriously tired I chalked it up to that. I hadn’t slept and quickly realized I wouldn’t while I was in the hospital. If it wasn’t time to breastfeed it was time to check my vitals. I faked smiles with the nurses and all of our visitors. I couldn’t feel anything. Other than excruciating pain and a panic slowly taking over every ounce of my being. I remember the day we were to be discharged. I asked how long we could stay. I didn’t want to go home. I started to panic. I cried to every nurse who came in my room. One told me it was my hormones and everyone feels this way and I’d be ok. I tried to believe it. We finally left. (Side note – I hope someday every hospital screens for postpartum mental health issues before women are sent home).

That night I lay awake. Feeding every two hours. Fuck. When am I supposed to sleep? What do I do if she cries? How do I know she’s getting enough milk from me? And it goes on and on…. but the scariest thoughts came around 2am when I had been awake since the last feeding, shaking uncontrollably. I was in a full blown panic attack for over two hours. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t make my arms stop shaking. I just kept thinking “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. There is no end in sight. I don’t want this baby. I don’t want this life.” At that moment I knew I needed help. My hyper sense of self awareness is a blessing and a curse. I woke Shane up and told him to go get my mom. I told them what I was experiencing. I said “I need help. I can’t do this. I need help. I don’t want to do this. I need help”. My mom found my discharge paperwork which instructed me to call my doctor if I felt this way. I called. The answering service kicked in since it was 2am. The woman who answered. Well fuck her. I told her what was going on and she responded, and I quote… “mental health is not an emergency you’ll have to call back tomorrow”. I hung up, sobbing, I thought well this is it. I’m not going to make it to morning. I was not suicidal, but I had come to the conclusion that if I were to die, that would be ok. In fact that would be more than ok. I thought, if Ella dies, that’d be ok. I’m crying as I type this. How can someone feel that way about their baby!?!? I knew I needed help. This was not just baby blues. This was not just hormones. This was a shit storm of darkness.

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One month postpartum

The next day I posted in my mom’s group – I let it all hang out. Thank god I did – they encouraged me to call my Dr. until I heard from her and just get to her office if I didn’t. That afternoon I finally got in touch with my doctor who told me to go to the ER right away. I panicked. How will my baby get food!? I called her pediatrician who gave us formula samples and a feeding schedule. Thank god for my husband and my family. My mom, sister, and dad worked around the clock to make sure Ella’s needs were met, while Shane accompanied me to the ER. I knew I had to go, I wanted to go, but I felt terrible leaving my baby, taking both of her parents away from her when she was only 3 days old. Even though I couldn’t wait to get away from her. After hours of waiting and a million nurses, doctors, blood draws, and psych evals, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety were diagnosed. They gave me meds, a therapist rec, some other resources and sent me on my way.

Believe it or not I’m trying to keep this short.

A lot of people have heard of the baby blues or postpartum depression, but most don’t know what it’s actually like. What it feels like. What it looks like. This is what it looked liked for me. Granted, no one will ever fully know or understand my struggle, the demons I battled daily, or just how fucking hard I worked to overcome this. Everyone’s battle is different, PPD/A looks different for everyone. You never know what is hiding behind someone’s smile.

The next three months, the first three of Ella’s life, are a blur. I don’t remember her. I don’t remember my time with her. Only in flashes. I was so numb. Yet felt everything. I was in such a fog. There were days I didn’t think I’d make it. I never thought I would love my daughter. I felt like the worst mom in the world. I felt so much guilt and shame that when I wasn’t fighting off a panic attack I was fighting the overwhelming sense of guilt for being where I was. I only breastfed for three days. I hated it. I never felt that bond. I felt guilty for that. I felt guilty for wanting nothing to do with my daughter, while simultaneously feeling insanely jealous that everyone around me was filled with so much joy. Everyone kept saying “isn’t this the best!?” No. It’s the fucking worst. This sucks. I hate it. Having depression and anxiety simultaneously is a very unique version of hell. It’s wanting to be in control of every little thing, yet not having the strength to do anything. It’s needing to leave the house to feel some sense of normalcy, but sitting in the driveway crying for 20 minutes not able to pull away. It’s finally getting out to run errands to make sure your husband has a first father’s day gift, only to have a panic attack and cry in the middle of Walmart because you can’t find the perfect card. It’s wanting to be around your closest friends and family so you don’t feel alone, but instead sitting in a dark room because all you want is to be alone.

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19 months postpartum

If it weren’t for my husband and my mom, I probably wouldn’t have made it. I would lay in bed for hours in the morning just trying to convince myself to get up and face the day. Shane and my mom would feed and care for Ella, and I just laid in bed, paralyzed with fear and sadness. Night time was no better, I lay awake fearing the next time I heard Ella cry for food or to be changed. Some days I would go to bed, close my doors and just let everyone else take care of her. I wasn’t capable of doing so. I wasn’t capable of caring for my own daughter. My mom would remind me daily that this wasn’t me. This was the depression.  This was the anxiety. This was all the postpartum crap. She reminded me every day that I made it through the day before I could do it again. One day, one hour, one moment at a time.

I didn’t eat. It’s hard to eat when you feel like you have a softball size lump constantly in your throat. I lost all the baby weight and another 20 lbs in less than two months (which I’ve gained back because I’m enjoying my stress eating habits again). I rarely showered or got dressed in anything other than pajamas. And when I did, it was like I had won an Olympic gold medal. I was met with applause and congrats. I felt like a child learning to do even the most basic tasks. I literally couldn’t function. I had panic attacks almost daily, sometimes more than once a day. The longest panic attack lasted five hours. FIVE HOURS. I thought maybe inpatient treatment was necessary. I saw my therapist weekly and took my meds religiously, I practiced deep breathing and tried meditation (that wasn’t for me), I tried to go for a walk daily and stretch/do yoga, I tried it all… Waiting for the 4-6 weeks to pass when my meds would finally fully kick in. Just as I was about to head back to work… 12 weeks postpartum, I was finally starting to feel like I was back to “my normal”. So I spent my maternity leave (which is in no way a vacation) wishing the time away, wanting nothing more than to return to work. When that day came, I was finally feeling the love for my daughter, and a new wave of guilt swept over me. I wasted 12 weeks of my time with her. In my mind, I wasn’t there for her. I know I did what was best. I did what had to be done, a healthy mom is what Ella needed, but at the end of the day, that’s still a hard pill to swallow. I know I can’t get that time back, I wish I could, but I’m glad I sought help right away so that I didn’t lose any more time. And thank god (again) for my support system. My mom essentially lived with us during my leave. The poor thing was lucky if she could go home for 48 hours. The fact that this country does not offer paid maternity leave or appropriate postpartum support is an issue for another day. I swear if men had to go through pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum shit – this world would be a VERY different place. But, this is long enough and I could go on for 18 pages front and back about that!

From the beginning I decided to be open and honest with my family and closest friends about what I was going through. I wanted to help end the stigma, to get more people comfortable with talking about mental illness. I’ll never forget something my therapist said to me when we were working through some guilt issues. She said, “Jeremy, let me ask you this. Would you feel guilty if you had sustained an injury during or after birth, like a back injury, that prohibited you from caring for your daughter?” I thought about it and quickly replied, no. She continued, “then why do you feel guilty now? Just like a back injury, your mental health needs to be treated. It’s just as important as physical health”. Intellectually, I know this. But our society makes it so hard to believe this. Because this isn’t how I’m “supposed” to feel. This isn’t what I “should” be feeling.

Here’s the good news. I fought like hell and got out of the darkness. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t. A few months ago I fell back into some of those old feelings, my meds needed to be increased. It’s a work in progress. But I am so proud of myself and the mom I’ve become. Ella Ray is everything to me.

Also, a friendly PSA – PLEASE STOP asking me or any other woman for that matter, when they plan to have another! The truth is, I’m not sure I want another, I’m not sure I can go through what I went through again. It’s a personal decision for me, my husband, and Ella – no one else.

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19 months postpartum

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I honestly have so much more I want to say (hard to believe right?)  but I’ll save it for my book 😉 I can’t thank my husband, family, friends, and mom’s group enough for all of their unconditional love and support. I’m so lucky to have the support system I do. I couldn’t have done this alone. No one should have to go through this alone. And the more I’ve shared and opened up, the more people I’ve connected with who have felt a similar way. 1 in 7 women will experience a maternal mental health complication – do you know 7 women in your life – then you know someone who’s struggling. I’m here for anyone who needs to talk. I’m happy to answer any questions. I’m an open book. If you want to share this because you think it may help someone, please do.

The weight of the darkness

consumes all the light.

Drowning in pain

no end in sight.

This isn’t what I thought.

This isn’t what I want.

How do I go on?

Panic continues to haunt.

I can’t do this,

I can no longer pretend.

This life is too much,

when will it end?

Fear consumes my soul.

The pain is too real.

I’ll never love her.

This isn’t how I should feel.

Everyone smiles.

Isn’t this the best?

If they only knew

about the weight on my chest.

So that’s the end of Jeremy’s FB post, but her work with postpartum depression is far from over. She is leading Team Baltimore for the 2018 Climb Out of the Darkness to raise awareness about maternal mood disorders and raise funds for Postpartum Support International. To donate to Jeremy’s climb, head over to her fundraising page. To join her climb, visit the Team Baltimore page. Or if you live somewhere else but are excited to climb, check out all the climbs for the 2018 Climb Out of the Darkness. Don’t see a climb where you live? Start a climb or solo climb! It’s very rewarding and cathartic.

Thanks, Jeremy, for taking the time to come on the show. Go, Team Baltimore!

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Episode 58: Sam’s Story

Sam was sick her entire pregnancy, from the day after she got the positive pregnancy test result until the day she gave birth at 37 weeks pregnant. She vomited 5-6 times a day and survived on Egg McMuffins and bean burritos. She was also working full time during the vomiting horror show – can you imagine?

At 37 weeks, she was induced. After 36 hours of long labor, she had an amazing perfect delivery. The nursing staff and physicians listened to her throughout the delivery and her obstetrician sounds like a total rock star. Her baby, now three years old, was healthy as could be despite all the nausea and puking. (So, all you moms out there: don’t beat yourself up about hitting all the recommended nutritional benchmarks! Egg McMuffins make healthy babies.)

The postpartum depression started as soon as Harlan arrived. Her baby slept constantly, but Sam could not sleep. She would feel tired and wired at the same time. Sam would lie down but her brain would not stop. Instead, it would rush through all the things that could go wrong with her baby. Sleep deprivation set the stage for her other symptoms.

Her other symptoms included tearfulness, loss of appetite, intrusive thoughts, rage, thoughts of hurting or killing herself, and plans to leave so her son could have a better mom.

When her baby was five weeks old, Sam started making suicide plans. Fortunately, she belonged to a supportive Babycenter birth group. When she told her friends how she was doing, one of them told her to call the doctor’s office.

Sam called her doctor and got to see her that afternoon. She had a panic attack in the waiting room and worried the authorities would take her baby away. In the examination room, she cried with her doctor. Her doctor prescribed Zoloft, and so began Sam’s slow recovery from postpartum depression.

A lot of our guests talk about how long their recovery took. I know this can be really discouraging but you will recover. I believe it is important to share the stories of slow recovery so our support team can fully appreciate just how much patience and love we need.

Sam attended Baby Blues Connection, a peer support group in Portland, Oregon. I just looked at the Baby Blues Connection website, and wow, I am jealous and inspired.  If you live in the Portland area, you should definitely check them out! 

Sam also saw a therapist for seven or eight months. I know we are all different and have different roads to recovery, but I think therapy is vital to making a full recovery from postpartum depression. When I talk to a mom who’s prescribed a pill and nothing more, I want to throw a tantrum.

Zoloft was not a magical solution for all of Sam’s postpartum problems. For example, she still felt guilty for the way she felt did during the first five weeks of her son’s life. Therapy and peer support were vital parts of her recovery. Her parents also helped out a lot. Internet friends were also important because they were there for Sam at all sorts of odd hours.

By early 2016, Sam was feeling much better but then she had to return to counseling. In November 2016, when Harlan was a toddler, she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Now in early 2018, she is finally feeling like her whole self but it has been a slow crawl to get where she wants to be.

Sam’s white hot rage was a sign of hypomania. She felt her rage as an out-of-body experience that was paralyzing. That was a symptom of bipolar disorder. I had no idea!

Since experiencing a maternal mood disorder, Sam is much more compassionate when she hears the sensational stories about postpartum depression in the media. She feels there was an element of luck to winning her battle.

Sam’s illness gave her sense of purpose. She has shared her story on her blog in a three part series. That has changed lives. The first post is right here. The second post is here. And the third is here

Sam’s husband had a rough time during her illness but was as supportive as he could be. It was very stressful for him to see Sam suffering with maternal mental illness.

Breastfeeding was one of the issues that contributed to how awful Sam felt postpartum. She tried like hell to breastfeed but it just did not work. She exclusively pumped for five months but the schedule took a toll on her mental health. She wishes she had switched to formula sooner. During our breastfeeding discussion, I mentioned the book Bottled Up. Seriously, I cannot mention this book enough! We need as much education as possible about the actual benefits of breastfeeding so that moms can stop beating themselves up if breastfeeding is not the right choice. 

When it comes to self-care, Sam is not so great at bath bombs and pedicures. Therapy has been an important part of her self-care. Writing is also essential. She also forces herself to socialize even when she’s not in the mood because she’s an extrovert and gets her energy from being around other people.

After the interview ended, Sam and I kept talking and discovered we are both members of The Self Care Squad on Facebook. I’ve mentioned the Squad many times but it bears mentioning again because it is such a supportive, non-judgmental community. The Squad is run by former guest Graeme Seabrook, who is truly called to help moms figure out how to take care of themselves.

Sam blogs at TheMothersideBlog.com and you can also follow her on Instagram @samanthajnw.

Thanks, Sam! You are an inspiration and I’d love to have you back on the show.

Episode 57: Katie’s Paleo Journey and The Six Root Causes of Postpartum Depression

Katie Flores is a wellness coach, advocate for maternal mental health, and host of the newly launched Natural Postpartum Support Podcast. She was first on the show on Episode 43 in May 2017. Check out that episode if you want to hear more about her postpartum adventures. We talked a lot about thyroid issues during that interview.

Since Episode 43, Katie has been on a “Paleo Journey.” For almost the past year, she has been dairy and gluten free. She has made a lot of health changes and is feeling better than ever. For example, she used to get hormonal headaches that lasted her entire period; but during her last visit from dear Aunt Flo, she did not get any headache. She is also sleeping better and her cravings for junk food have decreased.

(Why yes, Katie’s story has definitely inspired me to make some health changes. How’d you guess?)

Katie knew she had to dig deeper into the root causes of her health issues. So the last time we talked, Katie found that postpartum depression was a symptom of issues with her thyroid, but she could not stop thinking: what was the root cause of her thyroid issues?

She did lots of reading and research and identified six root causes of postpartum depression. She has created a root cause assessment test that you can take at KatieEFLores.com/rootcause

The six root causes are:

  1. Traumatic loss
  2. traumatic stress
  3. heavy metals and toxins
  4. electrolyte deficiency
  5. adrenal dysfunction and last but not least 
  6. viral infection

The first two root causes are emotional. Traumatic loss includes things like the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of identity. Katie’s friend Diana Collins lost her best friend to postpartum depression and experienced postpartum depression herself when she became a mom. Her podcast Always With Me dives into postpartum issues. (I have not had a chance to listen, but I will definitely be listening soon!)  

The other root causes are physical. Katie has lots of great tips for detoxifying all the toxins in the liver, which acts as the body’s filter and gets clogged up with all sorts of gunk. Katie tries to eat five foods every day to detoxify her liver: WILD blueberries; spirulina; barley grass juice powder; cilantro; and atlantic dulse. You might not find all these foods at your local grocery store, but Amazon can deliver them right to your door! Katie puts almost all of these ingredients in her morning smoothie.

Coconut water is great for restoring electrolytes and you can add that straight to your smoothie as well.

Also: don’t get overwhelmed! You don’t have to overhaul your life in one day. Maybe just pick up some wild blueberries the next time you are making a grocery run. I want to get back into the morning smoothie groove, but I know the habit will not stick if I try to get all these ingredients into my body at once. Baby steps, folks, baby steps!

Lemon in your water also helps with liver detox and electrolyte deficiency.

Katie has been greatly inspired by Anthony William, a.k.a. The Medical Medium. He is the author of several books, including Thyroid Healing and Life-Changing Foods. (And yes, I have already added these books to my Amazon Wishlist. If only I could download all the books that interest me into my head at once.) Katie has dived into the Medical Medium’s information about depression to sort through postpartum issues.

Katie’s podcast is now available to stream or download on iTunes and Stitcher. Visit her website KatieEFlores.com or follow her on IG @KatieEFlores.

Thanks, Katie for coming back on the show and sharing all the wonderful things you have been learning on your postpartum journey! If you haven’t already, you should definitely check out her show, the Natural Postpartum Support Podcast.

Thoughts on Self Care

I used to be the sort of person that waited until my car was down to at least an 1/8 of a tank before hitting the gas station. This caused all sorts of chaos, necessitating emergency trips to the gas station at the most inconvenient times.

It’s been twenty-three years since I got my driver’s license, and I have finally accepted the truth: it’s easier to fill my car’s tank when it’s only half empty instead of waiting until the fuel light shines its warning.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was topping off my tank at Arco, I realized self care is a lot like fueling my car. I might think it makes sense to push myself until I am running on fumes and then get a massage or pedicure; but in the long run, I feel better if I keep filling up my tank all the time, keeping it as close to full as possible. Then, when there’s a crisis like a sick toddler or husband going out of town for work, I’m as close to full as possible and I don’t have to worry about my self-care warning light.

I don’t drive around with my fuel light on anymore, so why should I let my self-care light get any use either?

A Love Letter to My Hormones

Yesterday I wrote a break up letter to Sugar. That felt soooo good. This morning, when I sat down to journal, I felt compelled to write a letter to my hormones.

Dear Hormones,

I broke up with Sugar yesterday. I have been in love — or rather, something that I thought was love, but really was self-loathing — most of my life. As part of my tormented relationship with Sugar, I hated you. I blamed you every time I felt physically crappy. My Sweet Beautiful Hormones, you were my scapegoat.

I’m sorry.

I want to fall in love with you and honor you for all that you do.

You made my babies! Two beautiful perfect delicious babies who are the best people I know. But instead of thanking you for all your amazing hard work, I just got angry about all the pregnancy nausea and constipation.

I’m done with anger. I don’t like it.

Also, this might sound weird, but I think you need a name. I could call you Hormones, but that creates a distance between you and me, but there should not be any emotional distance between us because you are MINE. You work for me, you make my life possible, you are part of me. So you need a name that honors that.  

But I can’t just name you Helen or Hermione because you are plural, you are many, you are estrogen and progesterone and all sorts of names I am learning but can’t remember yet. I don’t want a name that diminishes your magic. I’ll have to think about this. Okay, I’ll get back to you on the name front and keep calling you Hormones for now until I can think of something worthy.

Because you are worthy. You are part of me, so when I hate you, I hate part of me, and I deserve better. I deserve total and absolute love and adoration.  

Through journaling, I have learned something: writing makes things true. I don’t mean I can write “dogs are green” and suddenly all dogs are green. But I can write “I am beautiful” and once I write that enough, I transform my heart until I truly believe that I am beautiful. (And it’s true! I am beautiful!)

So I am going to write this here and in my journal and I am going to shout it to the world: I love my hormones! I love my hormones! I love my hormones!

I felt a touch of resistance to that idea as I wrote it. A little shudder in my brain. My brain does not like that idea. My brain thinks I’m supposed to hate my hormones. That is what my brain has been taught by the world.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I can rewire my brain. It’s true! I learned all about it in cognitive behavioral therapy after I had postpartum depression. I rewired my brain to be less anxious. I rewired my brain to stop getting flooded with guilt all the time. And since then, I have rewired my brain to be more calm, mindful, loving and patient. So rewiring my brain to love you, my sweet beautiful enchanting Hormones, will be easy.

(I really need to think of a name for you!)

I love you, Hormones, you are utterly magnificent.

I love you, Hormones, for all that you do.

I love you, Hormones, for drawing my attention to some changes I need to make to the way I live my life.

And this love is not limited to words. I am going to prove my love again and again through my actions! I gave up Sugar yesterday for me but also for YOU. Yes, Hormones, I gave up Sugar so that you can work the way you are meant to work. I am reading up on the science, and though I have a lot to learn, I understand this: Sugar fucks with My Hormones. The Sugar I was inhaling was hurting you, my beautiful precious Hormones, so I have banished it from my life.

More changes are coming. I’ll keep you posted.

I am sorry for all the harm I have done to you over the years. I promise things are going to be better from here on out.

Love, adoration, respect and gratitude,

Courtney

Episode 56: Nikki’s Story and the Climb Out of the Darkness

This week, Nikki shares her journey through postpartum depression and anxiety. She is the mother of two little boys and lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Nikki experienced anxiety after the birth of her first child, but she had a history of anxiety. She assume the postpartum anxiety was within the range of normal new mom feelings. It was not until her second child was 10 months old that she realized something had to change.

For Nikki, the anxiety came first and as it worsened, it caused depression. She felt like she couldn’t go anywhere or leave the house. She felt like she was constantly on the verge of something horrific happening. (Oh my goodness, I can relate!) As Nikki got more and more isolated and lonely, the depression worsened.

Nikki 1

Nikki sometimes had panic attacks but her anxiety was mostly in her head. She felt irritable and experienced rage over things that did not matter. She also had insomnia but did not know it at the time.

Nikki did not have time for self-care. She felt like she had to do everything herself. She is so glad she eventually asked for and got help. In January 2017, she called her gynecologist. They wanted to prescribe medication but asked her to see a therapist first. This was scary and Nikki was afraid the authorities were going to take her kids away. (Again, I can totally relate.)

Nikki saw her therapist twice a month and Zoloft quickly helped her stabilize. She had a relapse during the stress of the holidays, went back to therapy and had her medications adjusted. Now she is feeling great.

Through her recovery, Nikki learned she doesn’t have to feel good all the time. I love that idea. Motherhood is beautiful but it’s also tough. We should not have to enjoy every single moment. We are allowed to have crappy days.

Last year, Nikki participated in the Climb Out of the Darkness. It was a very symbolic experience, struggling up the mountain. Her team climbed Stone Mountain and I can tell you from personal experience that hike is no joke.

Nikki 2

This year, Nikki is leading Team Dacula and instead of a hike, they’ll be doing a lovely walk on pavement. The symbolism of a hike is great, but sometimes, we just need a walk to bring people together and honor the struggle to overcome maternal mood disorders. 

As part of her recovery, Nikki’s therapist asked her to make mom friends. Easier said than done! Her local friends were not struggling, so she started Maternal Mental Health Support. This is a group on Facebook that anyone can join (I’m a member!) and they also meet in Atlanta for Mom’s Night Out and playgroups. Bravo, Nikki!

Nikki has learned the importance of self-care. When we become moms, it’s easy to lose track of who we are. Nikki suggests trying to remember what your hobbies were before you had a baby and then adjust your expectations. Nikki loves scrapbooking. Now that she is in the trenches of motherhood with two little boys, she tries to spend a little time being creative everyday, stealing quick moments to make cards. She loves having something visual to show that she accomplished something.

Sharing her story has helped Nikki recover from postpartum anxiety and depression, but she cautions moms to share with safe people. Don’t share your story with a judgmental mom who thinks everything is the baby blues. She doesn’t need to know your journey. At least, not until you are 110% recovered. (And maybe not even then.)

Nikki mentioned the PSI Warmline, a great resource for moms struggling with maternal mood disorders. The number is 1-800-944-4PPD and a person with information about local resources will call you back.

Thank you, Nikki, for sharing your adventures!

To support Nikki’s climb, you can donate right HERE.

To join Team Dacula, head right HERE.

A Farewell to Sugar

For the past five and a half years, I have been either pregnant or on Zoloft. I am in the midst of my second menstrual cycle since taking my last dose of anti-depressants. The PMS is horrifying.

It’s Day 28 of my current cycle, and my period is set to arrive at any time. I have finally emerged from a bout of PMS that made me want to tear off my skin. I was just irritated with everything and felt easily overwhelmed. I lost my patience and struggled to stay present with my children. I even had to sleep in the guest room because just the idea of sharing a bed with my sweet husband made me cringe. I knew that if he so much as breathed (as he is wont to do), I would jump out of my skin.

My adventures with postpartum depression ended so recently, but my hormonal adventures are clearly far from over. I am reading a great book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause, and it has given me a ton of ideas. I’ll be writing a lot more about premenopause and hormones but for now, I am giving up sugar. The book has confirmed what I always knew: it destroys me.

I decided to compose a letter to Sugar to officially end our relationship. I got this idea from The Creative Penn, an amazing podcast and website for all of you aspiring writers out there.

Here’s the letter I just wrote:

Dear Sugar,

It’s over.

It’s not me. It’s you. It is most definitely you.

You are a temptress. I can’t just have you a little in my life. It’s all or nothing. And so, it’s nothing.

IT’S OVER.

You seduce with me with sweet nothings. You manipulate me by shredding my self-esteem. And then what do you give me? NOTHING BUT AGONY AND REMORSE.

Our relationship has been long, complicated, tortuous and abusive – yes, abusive. You are an addiction. You are a drug. Just one little taste, and I’m lost, slipping down the slope, from a bite of blueberry muffin into the lust of a gallon of ice cream.

It’s over, Sugar, it’s over.

Except I know, from past experience, that it’s not. Or, it’s over, except there is going to be some emotional heart ache in the coming weeks and months. Getting you out of my life is going to be hard work.

It’s going to be worth it.

I am sick of the PMS. Sick of the extra pounds. Sick of blindly eating food that makes me hate myself. Sick of binging until my stomach hurts. You turn me into something that is less than human. You keep me from my authentic self.

I think I am going to be writing you a lot of letters in the coming months.

I am ready to accept responsibility for our relationship. You will keep coming around, knocking at my door, tempting me with cake and ice cream and all manner of confection. I will be tempted, sorely tempted, to steal just a nibble, but I know the nibble is just the gateway to binge after binge after horrifying binge.

Let me be clear: it’s over.

You can knock, shriek, pound, holler, do whatever you want. I am not going to answer the door. I am not giving you an inch back into my life.

I am stronger without you. I am happier without you. And I am so much healthier.

I would say “good luck” and “best wishes,” but we both know that is not true. So let me end this letter with a more appropriate valediction.

Go fuck yourself,

Courtney