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.