04 April 2013

03 April 2013

HAWMC Day 3: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - Post a picture that symbolizes your condition and your experiences.

Photo (C) Esther Dale, 2013

02 April 2013

HAWMC Day 2: Introducing PPMD

Introduce your condition(s) to other Health Activists. What are 5 things you want them to  know about your condition/your activism? Share links to 3-5 of your old posts (or posts from other Health Activists!) that you think will help the newly diagnosed.

I’m a Health Activist for Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. I personally have suffered from Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, Postpartum Anxiety, and Antenatal Depression (not a PPMD because it occurs during pregnancy prior to giving birth) but I also feel that it’s important to talk about Postpartum Psychosis and Postpartum PTSD. As much work as remains to be done to better educate the public about Postpartum Depression, I think there’s even more to be done to raise awareness about other lesser-known PPMD. I say this based on the fact that not only do most every-day non-medical people I talk to not know about anything other than PPD, even medical personnel misdiagnose other PPMD as being PPD and are uneducated about anything other than PPD.

I think this ties in nicely with the part of today’s prompt that says to share 5 things I’d like others to know about PPMD. Please note that these are not necessarily listed in order of importance, as I think they’re all equally important.

  1. Different PPMD are not all the same thing and the terms can not and should not be used interchangeably. The biggest example I see of this is people saying someone has/had Postpartum Depression when they actually had Postpartum Psychosis. What far too many people don’t realize is that, although they both fall under the heading of PPMD, PPD and PPP are not the same thing.
  2. When someone says they are having thoughts of hurting themselves or the baby, it’s important to make sure that they’re truly experiencing suicidal/homicidal ideations typical of PPD or PPP; too often, what a new mom thinks is thoughts of hurting herself/her baby is actually intrusive thoughts, which are a distinctive symptom of Postpartum OCD. It’s important to distinguish between the types of thoughts and symptoms and make sure that the correct diagnosis is made because different PPMD may respond better to different methods of treatment.
  3. Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders are not a cop-out. They’re not some pretend thing that people use to get out of trouble or to make excuses for not doing housework. PPMD are legitimate illnesses that suck  to an extent that is impossible to comprehend until you’ve experienced it. And even after experiencing PPMD, you still can’t expect to understand what everyone else with PPMD experiences, because everyone’s experiences are different.
  4. PPMD are not automatically something you can just pray away. It’s not as simple as singing more hymns, having more faith, saying the right prayers, repenting of sins, binding Satan and his demons, attending church faithfully, being exorcised, getting blessings that are worded the right way, or anything else faith related. Sometimes those things may help comfort an individual and help them feel relief from symptoms, but to assume that PPMD are tied to one’s faith (or lack thereof) is wrong, and hinting (or outright saying) that they must not be taking the right steps with regards to their faith can be more harmful than one might imagine.
  5. There is no one way that women with PPMD can be assumed to look. You can not assume that a woman with PPMD will be disheveled, be perpetually in tears, or appear to be in distress. Many women can and do hide the fact that they are suffering, and/or the extent of their suffering, not only from the world but from the loved ones they are the closest too. I speak from personal experience about that.

Five bullets is barely even a scratch on the surface. For more information about PPMD, go do some more reading. Read more of my blog entries, follow the links in this post, and check out the resources and blogs in the tabs at the top of this page. Happy HAWMC and enjoy your reading. :)


01 April 2013

HAWMC Day 1: Getting Started!

Hello, and a very Happy HAWMC to you! If you just said “Gesundheit”, thinking maybe I sneezed, thank you, but there was no sneezing. :D “What?!”, you say, “You didn’t sneeze? Then what on earth is that... uh... word. HAWMC? Haymitch? OMG! Are you going to blog about the Hunger Games movies and books?!? You’re the coolest blogger e-var!!!1!”. Nah, hold your horses. Much as I love Hunger Games, and as much as the Hunger Games books are fantastic about expressing mental health issues like PTSD without making it look like it drives you nuts and turns you into some raving lunatic, and as much as I get all melty inside when... never mind, don’t want to get in trouble for spoilers... no. I did not say Haymitch. I said Happy HAWMC. HAWMC is an acronym standing for Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. April is Health Activist Writer’s Month, and every year, WeGo Health does the HWMC, where they send out a list of prompts and Health Activists take up the gauntlet to try to write one blog post a day for 30 days. I tried it last year but due to travel and pregnancy, it just didn’t really go very well. This year, I’ve decided to try it again. Considering that I’m in school full time and my husband is currently away with the Army (meaning I’m also juggling the kids by myself), I’m not sure whether I’ll actually make it all the way through all 3 days, but it should be fun and I’m going to give it a go. This year, I’m just not going to put much pressure on myself and see it as a challenge rather than a commitment. Pregnancy hormones last year had me feeling (unreasonably) like I was letting someone (not really sure who) down by not completing the challenge. *rolls eyes* Yay, pregnancy hormones.

Anyways, getting on to the first prompt...

HAWMC Day 1: Getting Started! Why you write – tell us a little bit about why you write about your health online and what got you started.

My name is Esther, for those of you who don’t already know me, and I am a survivor of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. I’ve fought my way through Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD, Antenatal Depression, and what I think was probably some Postpartum PTSD. The majority of this happened after my first baby was born in 2009. When she was just a few months old, I was hospitalized twice with what was then being called PPD and PPA; I now (a grand total of 4 years later) recognize that I also had a nasty case of Postpartum OCD. At the end of the year, the doctors figured out that the pregnancy had caused me to develop hypothyroidism, which can cause mental health issues including, after pregnancy, being the real culprit behind PPMD for some women. At any rate, once my thyroid levels were under control, my PPMD cleared right up.

When I was suffering in silence, even after my hospitalization when I was still hurting and confused but keeping quiet because I thought nobody would understand, I came across Postpartum Progress. Postpartum Progress helped me more than I can say. Once my thyroid issues were diagnosed, I realized that there needed to be a louder conversation about thyroid and PPMD, about pregnancy and thyroid issues, and about PPMD in general. I realized how much of a help Postpartum Progress and the other PPD blogs I was starting to find were helping me, and I started wanting to speak up more to let other women know they weren’t alone.

Eventually, I discovered #PPDChat, the brain child of Lauren Hale from My Postpartum Voice. I started to realize that there really were a lot of women out there like me and that there were women who were still suffering in silence like I had, because they didn’t realize that it was normal and that there were people to talk to who had BTDT. I started blogging more and more and now, if you get me started talking about PPMD, it can be hard to get me to shut up.

So why do I blog? I write about PPMD because I know how much it hurts. I know how dark the tunnel is. I know how oppressive the cloud is. I know how hard it can be to even get out of bed and go change a diaper and make a bottle. I know the doubts and fears that pop up when you start to think “Maybe I should ask for help”. I know how absolutely terrifying it can be to go in to the ER and say “I’ having these thoughts I know something is very wrong”, to do the admission paperwork and all the while, wonder if CPS is going to swoop in and snatch your baby away from you because you have PPMD. I know how dull and lifeless the world can seem, how hopeless it can all appear. I know what it’s like to be standing at the top of the stairs, looking down in the middle of the night, and thinking “Maybe everyone would be better off without me”. I know what it’s like to be a military spouse and worry about whether your husband will get chaptered out, lose his clearance, or get reclassed because of your inner demons, inner demons you certainly never wanted and that you only want to be rid of.

I write because I know how much it hurts to hear people say things like “What sin have you left unconfessed?” or “It’s all just in your head”, I know how painful it is to hear people talking about Andrea Yates and say “Women with Postpartum Depression shouldn't be allowed to have kids.”. I know how maddening it is to hear people say “Oh, well, you’re just thinking the wrong way” or “Why don’t you just pray more?”. I write because I’ve been there and, thank God, I survived. I made it through to the other side of the nightmare thanks to the support of my family and close friends, but some people don’t have that, and I want to be that for them. I don’t want anyone I know to ever think that PPMD is something they have to walk through by themselves.

I write because I want to fight the myths and the stigmas, because I want to bring greater awareness to the public, to better educate the people around me (both in real life every day and on the internet) about the realities of PPMD and that it’s not just a cop-out.

I write because that was me, and someday, when my daughters have children, I want them to feel comfortable seeking help if they need it.

I write because others wrote, and what they wrote helped me more than I can ever say, and it taught me that words can make a difference. I want to make a difference. I want to be part of the difference. That is why I write.