Deleted Scene: Checking the Burners

Here is yet another deleted scene from my forthcoming memoir about postpartum depression.  This scene comes from a chapter about the OCD rituals that I developed during the postpartum months.  

Our kitchen had a 1950s stove with gas burners that sometimes went out.  Even before we had Pippa, the stove terrified me a little.  I checked the burners every day to make sure they were lit.  If I discovered an unlit burner, and Nathan was home, I scurried out of the kitchen and held my breath as he struck a match with an extra long stick.  That way, if a fireball erupted, I could drag Nathan to safety.

If I was home alone, I opened all the windows and turned on the ceiling fan.  After a few minutes, I would lean as far from the stove as possible before lighting the match. 

It was not long before the stove was added to my nightly rituals.  While walking from front door to back, I would pause and hover my hand over the burners to feel the heat of a lit flame.  Not trusting myself, I then crouched down on the floor and looked until I had visual confirmation of each little blue flame. 

Soon, I was checking the burners every time I walked through the kitchen.  Since the kitchen is in the middle of our house, that meant I was hovering/crouching at least a dozen times a day.  Sometimes, if I was feeling extra anxious, I passed my palm against the burners so I could really feel the heat.   

More than once, I felt compelled to check a burner just after using it.  I would press my palm on the burner itself and gasp as the metal scorched the skin.

I did not mean to burn myself intentionally, but the pain felt good.  So long as my palm ached, I knew the burners were lit and Pippa was safe from invisible toxic fumes.  And for a few minutes, my palm would hurt so badly, it would even eclipse the anxiety.

Episode 43: Katie’s Story

This week, Katie Flores, a holistic health coach, shares her postpartum adventures.  Katie suffered from crying episodes, dreams of running away, becoming easily irritable, and just knowing that something was wrong.

I think that’s so important. Sometimes, we don’t know how to label it, but we just know “something is wrong”. I know I felt that way for months but was too afraid to ask for help because people kept insisting that the newborn phase is tough and things would get better at the three month mark.

Katie’s worst year was not the first year postpartum, but the time from when her daughter turned one until she was two.  There’s an emphasis on the first year postpartum, but you know what? A woman’s body works in mysterious ways. If you feel like crap, reach out for help, no matter how far along you are during your postpartum journey.

For Katie, the postpartum depression was not the diagnosis but a symptom for another issue with her thyroids. Postpartum thyroid issues mimic postpartum depression, so your doctor should test your thyroid as well.

Her website is right here at  It’s a beautiful site and hey, Katie offers a free strategy phone call.

Katie also offers a free healthy mamas’ support group. If you would like a free copy of Katie’s free Thyroid Labs Checklist, head over HERE and sign up for her newsletter.

Thanks, Katie!

I Started A Hashtag

I started a hashtag yesterday: #PPDforDummies. Let me explain.

When I was recovering from postpartum depression (and postpartum anxiety) (and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder), Postpartum Depression for Dummies by Dr. Shoshana Bennett was my bible. It helped me understand what was happening to me and gave me tons of great ideas to help me get better.

I remember finding this book online and thinking, Holy crap, For Dummies published a book about this? Then it must be really common.

A few months later, as I started to feel more like myself, I thought, This book really needs to be in the waiting room for every pediatrician and obstetrician.

That was over three years ago. At last, I am finally following through on my idea to make sure this book is EVERYWHERE because no woman should think she is alone when she is suffering from a maternal mood disorder.


I donated a copy of Postpartum Depression for Dummies to the parent education class that Julian and I attend.  They have a library with books about pregnancy and baby care, and now they have PPD for Dummies. I think this is the one book about maternal mood disorders that every mom needs in her life.

Folks, I’m publishing a memoir about my postpartum adventures in a few months, but this is the book I really want everyone to read. That is how serious I am about this book.

I have thought long and hard about the best way to get copies of this book into the waiting rooms of pediatricians and obstetricians. Should I start a Kickstarter? Form a non-profit? Host a fundraiser?

Then I realized the best way to start was to just start. Sometimes a little grassroots advocacy is the most effective way to raise awareness.

I hope I can inspire other advocates to donate copies of PPD For Dummies – or whatever book they love the most – to all the places that moms visit.

And you know what? This does not have to be a purely altruistic mission. I wrote a little love note with the address for my podcast’s website on the front page of the book. Think of the marketing possibilities for doulas, midwives, therapists, and anyone else working with new moms! In a world where everyone is screaming for attention on social media, why not differentiate yourself from the pack and reach moms in a totally different way?

I am going to create an actual nice “bookplate” to paste into future copies that I share. Something much prettier than my handwriting. But hey, I did not want another excuse to procrastinate. Maybe a mom will be in that classroom tomorrow and see the book and go home, order it from Amazon, and finally get the help she needs. How could I wait another day to make a pretty bookplate when there are moms suffering right this very second?

So that is why I started a hashtag. If you feel inspired and donate a copy of Postpartum Depression for Dummies to your pediatrician, obstetrician, whomever, please let me know! Post a photo on Instagram or Facebook, don’t forget to tag #PPDforDummies, and I’ll let my podcast listeners know. (I’m @Courtney.Novak on Instagram. Tag me, too, to help spread the word and make sure I see your post!)

I’ll start a page on this website to list all the people who get involved and include links to where you live online. This is such an easy way to make a difference.

We can change the world one book at a time.

Deleted Scenes: The Inner Monologue Of A Mom With Postpartum Anxiety

My memoir on postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD should be out soon (fingers crossed!) (tightly crossed!) In the meantime, here is a deleted scene that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of an anxious mind.

We paid a local maid service to clean our house every other week.  Given my new obsession with germs, a reasonable person might assume I would hire the service to come more often.

I was not a reasonable person.

A trio of cleaners always came on the same day of the week, but their arrival time was uncertain.  The day before the scheduled cleaning, the service would call and give me a two hour window for when the cleaners would arrive.  Sometimes, the cleaners arrived a half hour before the window; other times, not until fifteen minutes after the window expired.

This was not a problem for most customers who worked away from home and gave a spare key to the cleaning service; but there was no way in hell that I was giving a spare key to a bunch of potential maniacs.  I therefore had to be at home when the cleaning service arrived to let them in and then stay at home to supervise them and make sure they did not steal a laptop or scrub the counters with rat poison. 

This should have been easy for an agoraphobic recluse.

It was not.

It was hell.

What if I was breastfeeding when the doorbell rang? 

What if I was changing Pippa’s diaper?  And I got distracted and walked away to answer the door and Pippa rolled off the table and smashed her head open? 

What if Pippa was napping and the cleaners woke her? 


While the cleaners worked, I listened. 

Was that a sniffle?  A cough?  A sneeze? 

Was someone sick? 


Was that another sniffle? 

Should I ask the sniffler to wear a face mask? 

Would she hate me? 

Oh god, she would hate me. 

Was that another sniffle? 

She said it was allergies. 

What if it was pneumonia? 

Was it contagious? 

How long could germs linger on a counter? 

The cleaners clomped and stomped and jumped and bumped and crashed and thrashed and made an ungodly racquet with no regard for humanity.  The vacuum cleaner was so goddamn loud.  What the fuck were they doing, vacuuming a pile of nails and tossing around bolts of thunder?  Was Zeus himself vacuuming the bedroom?

And what was that vile smell?  


It smelled like death.  It was death.  There was poison in the air and Pippa would breathe it and suffocate AND DIE.

This was not a cleaning service. 

This was a barbarian invasion that would be the death of me and all I loved.  

I blamed my anxiety on the cleaning service, fired them and felt a surge of bliss and wellbeing.  But like the calm I felt after washing my hands, it was very, very short-lived.  

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Episode 37: Of Zoloft Weaning And Sensory Deprivation Tanks

It’s just me again this week talking about my mental health and advocacy work, but I promise, we’ll be back to interviews next week.  (Probably.) (You know how it goes.) (#MomLife).

I talked about my gradual tapering off of Zoloft.  I am down from 150 mg to 75 mg and easing myself into 50 mg. I was a bit cavalier this week and took 50 mg two days in a row before my body was ready for the leap and oh boy, did I suffer.

I felt like this:

But Nathan says I was actually more like this:

I feel better now. Whew.

But I jeopardized my mental health today by trying a sensory deprivation tank.  I was in the dark, floating in about six inches of water that was loaded with Epsom Salts for an hour. I thought it would be tranquil and energizing. It was quite the opposite. By the time the lights went back on, I felt like the photo above.

But hey, it was an adventure.

I just finished reading  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and loved it. I’ve already started The Four Agreements Companion Book because I can’t get enough. I highly recommend both books to anyone looking to improve their mental wellbeing. I wish I had learned this stuff before I had PPD!

The Guilt

When I had postpartum depression I felt so much guilt. All the time. It was like an appendage.

If I went to bed early, I felt guilty about abandoning Nathan.  But if I went to bed at a normal time, I felt guilty that I was being too needy and clingy, not letting him have some downtime.

I felt guilty about making breakfast.  What sort of mother was I?  Leaving Pippa to play on her mat for five minutes unattended so I could prepare a bowl of oatmeal?  MONSTER!!!!

I felt guilty about leaving Pippa alone in her crib to start a load of laundry.  I should have waited until Pippa went to bed at night to do chores.

I felt guilty that I was not leaving the house more often.

I felt guilty about wanting to leave the house.

I felt guilty for feeling guilt.

I felt guilty for not feeling guilty enough.


In Episode 26 of the podcast, I talked about JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out. Melissa Ambrosini talked about JOMO on her episode of The Good Life podcast, which you can find right here.

FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out, the idea that no matter what you are doing, there is something better out there. The party you are at might be fun, but somewhere there’s a party with better music and cooler people.

For the month of December, rather than get swept away by all the holiday madness, I decided to embrace JOMO. These are some of the things I oh so joyfully missed out on:

  • Fancy tree lighting ceremony. Instead, we decorated our tree and that was awesome enough.
  • Visiting one of the elaborate Christmas light displays in Los Angeles. We walked around the neighborhood instead.

  • Christmas cards – didn’t send them. They cause too much stress.
  • Excessive holiday baking. In years past, I agonized over which recipes to try and hunted down obscure ingredients.  This year, we baked chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies. Delicious and my daughter loved it.

  • Disneyland. I considered this for about 0.8 seconds. Do my kids really need to see Mickey Mouse in a Santa hat? No thank you.
  • Snow at our children’s museum. I could have dragged the kids and let them romp in the snow, but then fuck it, we stayed home and played in the sandbox.

I love JOMO!

2016: The Year In Review

Oh 2016, what an extraordinary year you were!

Julian grew up so much, from a newborn to a toddler.  I did it again, despite having PPD with Pippa, and I’m so proud of myself. 

In January, when I was three months postpartum, I felt the PPD beast waking up. I took action asap and contacted my psychiatrist. She increased my Zoloft dose from 100 to 150 mg and put me back on Remeron. I felt better overnight.  Over the year, I have watched and monitored and kicked the PPD in the ass.

I revived the mom-to-mom peer support group for PPD and other maternal mood disorders and found it a home at The Family Room.

I started my podcast!  And published 26 episodes! I got way out of my comfort zone and interviewed moms and discovered that podcasting is actually in my comfort zone.

I signed up for the Warrior Mom Conference and went and loved it and made new connections and started friendships and learned so much and got inspired and energized.

I hired an editor and got back incredible feedback on my memoir.

I outlined a novel which will be fun to write in 2017. 

I started therapy again and unlocked so much potential inside me and sifted through heaps of rubbish.

I tried Kundalini yoga.

I got back into Zumba with a vengeance.

I made a tote bag and sold nine of them and made some money for the first time in my entire life based on a product that I created.

I became a better mom.

I had lots of great mommy dates with Pippa, including two trips to Disneyland.

I bonded with Julian and now he is such a mama’s boy and we have so much fun together.

Nathan and I went on tons of dates.

I painted painted painted and even posted a half dozen paintings for sale on Saatchi Art.  I did not sell any paintings and THAT IS FINE.  I feel totally great that I took the risk and put myself out there.

I wore my Fitbit all the time and walked 10,000 steps nearly every day.  I embraced the power and joy of MOVEMENT.

I became a Warrior Mom Ambassador for Postpartum Progress.

What an awesome year it has been!

Medications Update

I saw my psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago. It had been a few months.  During my summer check-up, we decided to wait until January to wean me off Zoloft. We decided to stick to that plan.

I asked my psychiatrist about withdrawal, and she explained that withdrawal is something that happens with substance abuse. When a person discontinues a necessary mediation, and has a negative symptom, that’s called a “discontinuation symptom.”


I like that. Withdrawal makes me think of that scene in Trainspotting when Ewan MacGregor quits heroin and hallucinates and seems like he’s on the verge of death.

But I’m not quitting heroin. I’m just gradually discontinuing the use of Zoloft.


Right now, I’m taking 150 mg of Zoloft every morning and 15 mg of Remeron at bedtime. In early January, I am going to cut the Zoloft back to 125 mg. If I have “discontinuation symptoms,” such as dizziness, I can take 150 mg one day and 125 mg the next, or even 150 mg for two days and 125 mg on the third. My psychiatrist does not want me to suffer needlessly.


After about two weeks at 125 mg, I will ease myself into 100 mg a day. Slow and steady wins the race.

This is going to be a gradual, gentle process.

I will keep taking Remeron during all of this. My psychiatrist only wants to discontinue one medication at a time.


In the meantime, I will continue the same regimen. My psychiatrist does not want to see me again until early February, but I can of course call at any time for any reason. If something feels wrong about Zoloft discontinuation, I will call and talk to her and come in if necessary. Or if something weird happens tonight, I will call.


When I had postpartum depression, I felt obligated to fix things on my own. That did not go very well. (Unless you think five weeks of insomnia and hospitalization is a good thing.) (It’s not.)

Now I am the strongest and happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my entire life; and I’ll be damned if I’m going to jeopardize that. I will call my psychiatrist the instant I have a question or the faintest tingling of an issue.

I am a bad ass but that does not mean I have to suffer alone.