Today I have hit a milestone in my blogging. This is the 100th post that I've published to Through The Tunnel. My first post was on December 14, 2009. I had recently found out that my pregnancy with Elizabeth had caused me to develop hypothyroidism. Depression can be a symptom of hypothyroidism and the doctor and I were confident thatif we could get my thyroid levels back within normal limits the PPD would clear up.
Knowing that there was a medical reason for the PPD was freeing for me; it was a huge relief to know that there was something we could do to actually fix the problem. I literally cried tears of joy when the nurse called and told me that my lab results showed my TSH and T-4 levels as being so far outside the range of Normal Limits that my thyroid had practically stopped working at all.
I started taking Synthroid and sure enough, within just a few weeks there was a noticeable difference. 3 months of thyroid medication did what 6 months of antidepressants, antianxiety medication, and sleep aids had not and I was able to come off of all my medication except, of course, the Synthroid. I can't express how much relief I felt at hearing the doctor say that I was "considered successfully treated".
When I received that diagnosis of PostPartum Depression and was hospitalized, the shame and guilt that I felt were overwhelming. I was sure that I would never be able to tell anyone my terrible secret. I limited the people who knew to only those who HAD to know. I asked my parents not to tell anyone else in the family. My husband, being in the military, had to tell his Chain of Command, there was no way around that, but I asked that the information be limited to only those who absolutely HAD to know. I was terrified that people would find out and look at me differently, that they would be horrified and think the same thing I did, that I was a terrible wife and mother, that I was a failure. I was sure that nobody I knew had ever gone through anything like this and there was nobody else who would understand.
I know differently now. I know that none of what happened was my fault and that there was nothing to be ashamed of, that it didn't make me a failure. I know that there are other people who have been through the same thing. Some of those are people I know in person. Some of them are people I know solely from online interactions but I love and respect them just as much as anyone I've ever met in real life.
One of those people is Katherine Stone. Katherine is an absolutely wonderful person, and one of the strongest people I know. From her website,
Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog) is the founder and editor of Postpartum Progress, the leading blog on postpartum depression, and a parenting columnist for Disney’s Babble.com. She’s also the founder of Postpartum Progress Inc., a national nonprofit focused on vastly improving support for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.Katherine and PostPartum Progress were my inspiration for starting my own blog about my journey. PostPartum Progress was a wonderful resource for me when I was in the midst of my PPD and has continued to be a wealth of information; I frequently link the blog posts on my Facebook and Twitter because they are so well written and have such an important message. PostPartum Progress is where I found the link to My PostPartum Voice, which led me to the Twitter community #PPDChat and a whole world of support that I never dreamed existed.
The work that PostPartum Progress does is beyond calculable value. In a post titled How Many Women Get PostPartum Depression? The Statistics on PPD, Katherine estimates that each year in the United States of America alone, the number of women who suffer PostPartum Depression is approximately 950,000 women with approximately 1.3 million women suffering from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, expanding from PPD to include those such as PostPartum OCD and PostPartum Psychosis. That's more women than are diagnosed annually with Breast Cancer (the National Cancer Institute puts that number at approximately 230,000 women). October is well known for being Breast Cancer Awareness month with chain stores selling pink merchandise to benefit breast cancer research and awareness, teams like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders doing special routines with special costumes for BCA, celebrities doing major breast cancer awareness campaigns, and so much more. Breast Cancer Awareness is well and good but where are the major awareness, education, and outreach campaigns for PPMD?
The shame and guilt that I felt, that so many other women feel every day, is largely due to the lack of public awareness and education, to the stigma, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and myths that are so prevalent in our society. PostPartum Progress is working actively to combat that and change the tide, to make people aware of the realities of PPMD and to let women like me know that we're not alone. When you feel like you're floating alone at sea, struggling to keep your head above water, that realization is like a life preserver being thrown to you by the Coast Guard to keep you afloat until the rescue swimmers can get you to safety.
PostPartum Progress can't do it alone though. Last year, Katherine came up with the idea to do Strong Start Day. The idea behind Strong Start Day is that since October 5 is the day of the year that, statistically, the most babies are born, it makes sense to have that be a day to focus fundraising efforts towards raising money to help PostPartum Progress expand their capabilities and improve their resources so that they can help give more new moms and babies a strong start.
PostPartum Progress helps and supports so many women and families. It seems appropriate to me to dedicate my 100th blog post to supporting someone who has supported me and supports so many other women who are in similar situations or worse. I'm asking that my friends, family, and anyone else who's reading consider supporting PostPartum Progress. As stated in her post about Strong Start Day 2012,
If you'd like to donate to PostPartum Progress, you can follow the link or click the red button below. I hope you'll consider joining me in donating to this cause that has meant so much to me and to so many other women. Regardless of whether you can donate monetarily, please spread the word in some way, whether it's sharing the link to this blog post or sharing Katherine's links.My goal for Strong Start Day 2012 is to raise enough money to allow Postpartum Progress Inc. to translate what we have done online into offline materials. I am asked all the time by nurses, doulas, physicians’ offices and if they can use the words we have created here to help mothers understand what they’re going through and that they can get better. They want our words because they believe we reach moms in a safe and accessible way. They want and need materials from us, materials that I have yet been able to give them because I haven’t had the funding to create them. Not every new mom is online. Plenty don’t have Twitter accounts. They aren’t on Pinterest. We need more ways to reach moms who need help.This Friday, October 5th, is the 2nd annual Strong Start Day for Postpartum Progress. We only ask for your help one day a year because we don’t believe in bombarding our friends with continual requests for donations. I know I get zillions of them — in my inbox, my mailbox. We want this one day — October 5th, the day each year on which more babies are born than any other — to be the one day you are reminded to give whatever support you can to Postpartum Progress, and to encourage everyone who loves you and who believes moms should know more about postpartum depression to support us too. I hope you’ll join us.
Over the last 3 years and 100 blog posts, so much has changed for me. New babies, a cross-country move, and so much more. What hasn't changed is that many many many other women are suffering, some in silence, from PPMD, and that PostPartum Progress is there to provide support, education, and a variety of resources. What does need to change is the lack of awareness in today's society. Today, we have the chance to help power that change. Will you join me in supporting Katherine and PostPartum Progress?
As another show of support, if you're reading this, will you leave a comment below encouraging Katherine in her efforts to advocate for Warrior Moms everywhere?