Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s an extra special Mother’s Day for me this year because I’m part of something very meaningful to me and many others–the fifth annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health, hosted by Postpartum Progress–the world’s most widely read blog on postpartum depression (PPD) and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth.

The Rally is a 24-hour event that features 24 letters (one posted each hour) from survivors of PPD, postpartum anxiety (PPA), postpartum OCD, depression after weaning and/or postpartum psychosis. Their purpose is to inform and encourage pregnant and new moms who may be struggling with their emotional health. In Katherine Stone’s (of Postpartum Progress) words, the rally is a “massive dose of love, understanding and wisdom from lots of moms who’ve had postpartum depression and anxiety and the like.”

You’ll find me over there tonight. My post goes live at 8:00 pm (Eastern). It’s a post I wrote last year, but did not publish here, about my personal experience with PPD and PPA after Jax was born. It was difficult to write and required courage and strength to share. This holds true for the other 23 letters, too, so your support and words of encouragement over at Postpartum Progress are greatly appreciated.

If you’re active on Twitter, you can join the conversation by following and using the hashtag for the rally, which is #momsdayrally.

Here is the posting schedule:
Midnight – Welcome message and Sarah Pinnix, Real Life
1am – Lauren Hale, My Postpartum Voice
2am – Miranda Wicker, Not Super Just Mom
3am – Ana Clare Rouds
4am – Arja Lytle, Balance Body & Soul
5am – Yael Saar, PPD to Joy
6am – Cristi Comes, Motherhood Unadorned
7am – Robin Farr, Farewell Stranger
8am – Jen Hajer, The Martha Project
9am – Lori Bollinger, I Can Grow People
10am – JD Bailey, Honest Mom
11am – Abby Berner
noon – Andrea Scher, Superhero Life
1pm – Lori Garcia, Mommyfriend
2pm – Jane Roper, JaneRoper.com
3pm – Katie L., Overflowing Brain
4pm – Jenna Rosener, Blogged Bliss
5pm – Ninotchka Beavers, Twice Blessed
6pm – Alison Parson, Ms. Moody Mommy
7pm – Jessica Cohen, Found the Marbles
8pm – ME! :)
9pm – Kristen Chase, Motherhood Uncensored
10pm – Amber Koter-Puline, Beyond Postpartum
11pm – Jennifer Marshall, Bipolar Mom Life
I am deeply honored to be included in this event and look forward to reading every letter. May is Maternal Mental Health Month, and I can’t think of a better way to spread awareness than this rally. Click the image below to join us!
Mother's Day Rally

Shame loses power when it is spoken…. If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or a small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredible lucky. ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I read those sentences last night, and they stuck with me then because they reminded me of my #ppdchat and Mama’s Comfort Camp friends, as well as friends I’ve had half my life. And then today, I put them into practice when I needed help this morning. Further, I’m putting them into practice again now by writing this post.

Since this is an “I’m Doing It Right” post, I should begin at the beginning, which includes a self-pat on the back for something I did that needed doing despite my inclination to procrastinate more. It’s been a while since I had a complete physical–probably a few years before I got pregnant with Jax, who’s now 3. I believe that taking care of my health (and being proactive about it, more than anything else) is a responsibility I owe to my family (and it’s an act of self-care, although not nearly as fun or relaxing as a bubble bath). So even though I am terrified of needles and anything health-related tends to trigger my anxiety, I scheduled an appointment to have a physical. But first, my doctor ordered bloodwork, and today was D-Day.

I scheduled the lab appointment for 9:45 this morning, as early as I could get it, given that I had to fast ahead of time. This meant NO COFFEE. And this after a night of terrible sleep by Jax (which you probably noticed if you follow me on Twitter, where I tend to rant about these things).

The blood draw itself was the most painful one I’ve ever had, complete with a tourniquet that felt like an amputation. When the phlebotomist finished, she failed to have me bend my arm at a 90-degree angle and apply pressure to the site. Later, I learned that this is the reason for the trauma that happened to my vein.

She applied a wad of gauze and a crap-ton of tape to the area. It was bandaged so tightly that I couldn’t bend my arm. The second I got back to work–yeah, I had to go right back into the office after this good time–I took off all that get-up because it was excruciating! And then I had an instant anxiety attack when I saw the amount of blood on the gauze and then purple, golf-ball-sized lump under my skin. I’d never seen anything like this nor had I ever felt so much pain after having bloodwork done!

I very nearly passed out upon seeing what my arm looked like. It got to the point of my vision fading and my skin feeling cold and sweaty at the same time. I called over to my co-worker that I was about to faint and I rested my head on a stack of books. She brought me Smarties and water and rubbed my back a while. I will not forget her kindness. Another co-worker stopped by to check on me and reminded me that the Xanax I was about to take would kick in soon and I would be okay.

When the nausea and lightheadedness passed, without even really thinking about it I texted two of my friends, A’Driane and Susan, whom I know have experience with anxiety and whom I trust to walk me through mine.

Intuitively, this was the best thing I could have done. Immediately, A’Driane reminded me to breathe and said she was breathing with me. She even sent me a picture of her doing it, because that’s the kind of friend she is! It calmed me to know she was on the other end of the phone breathing with me and to see her face as I did the same. Then Susan called me, and we talked for maybe 15 minutes. When that call began, I was shaking with anxiety and in pain. Susan reassured me that when this happened to her years ago, she didn’t lose her arm! ;) And she convinced me to take some Advil. Halfway through the call, Susan said my voice had life in it again and I started to feel so much better.

When I went back to my desk, shame set in. I couldn’t believe I’d had an anxiety attack in front of several co-workers. How mortifying! And then shame piled upon shame when I said to Susan, “But the thing is, I know how to handle anxiety! I can’t believe that after so long without having it, here I am having a huge anxiety attack!”

So to send that shame packing, I thought I’d blog about this experience. Yeah, I feel kind of silly now that I freaked out over what, according to the nurse I spoke to, happens all the time when a phlebotomist screws up, but in a way I’m glad this happened. Why? Because I have friends I can lean on, who don’t judge me, who just love me and know what I need. Who also apparently have their phones at their side at all times, just like me.

I am proud of myself for leaning on them this morning. There is no shame in asking someone to hold your hand or for admitting you need this.

Brene’s quote resonated with me today. I am SO lucky to have so many awesome, wonderful friends. I could have texted any one of them, I know it, and they would have held my hand through my anxiety.



I admit, it’s been increasingly difficult each week to keep up with this bloghop. Part of that is due to lack of time set aside for blogging, which I think is typical for bloggers when warm weather strikes after a miserable winter–we just want to go out and live life, not sit at the computer writing about it! The other part is that I’m struggling a little bit with patting myself on the back. Which, as I’ve said on Twitter, is why I must keep going with these weekly posts. Introspection and growth aren’t supposed to be easy, no?

What am I doing right?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I finally bought myself a new car. I didn’t buy the car I really wanted, the Kia Optima, because my experience at the dealership wasn’t awesome and because the monthly payment was just outside my comfort zone. I reconnected with an old friend who is a car salesperson for Chevy, and I let him wow me with a great deal on a new Cruze. It seemed the responsible thing to do, even though I had my heart set on something else. Buying a new car has been on my wish list for years, and I’m happy I bit the bullet and crossed that worry off my long list.

Last weekend, I spent tons of time outside. I basked in the sunshine and 60-degree temperature on a swing in my yard. I listened to a lot of music, I had a few beers, I (mostly) ignored my to do list, and it felt effing fantastic. I’m entirely convinced spring is my favorite season. The sudden shift from winter one day to spring the very next is always a thrilling surprise. I make plans and set goals in the spring. I am more positive, nearly happy even! Spring weather changes me for the better. I always begin to feel like myself again in spring.

What am I doing really right?

The most important thing I’m doing right is working toward letting go of emotions that don’t help me in any way, such as guilt and worry. I’ve become painfully aware that I’m letting my emotions make my decisions. For example, I can’t say no to people because I feel bad and worry I’m letting them down. Surely, they aren’t overanalyzing my response, whether it’s yes or no. The rational me understands this. The emotional me lets guilt and worry respond yes to most requests. I spend a lot of time worrying, and it’s exhausting and, honestly, kind of stupid. It’s a waste of time, and it does not change what will happen (or what has already happened).

I read an article while I was on vacation last month that stuck with me:

Now, worry is an ego thing – as if you had the power to change things by worrying about them. So to construct your mental instruction you’d say something like, “I no longer indulge in worry but concentrate my mind on the present moment.”

I loved that word “indulge” instantly when I saw it, because worry feels like an indulgence. When you think about it, it doesn’t do any good. It wastes time, like daydreaming. Only, where daydreaming serves a positive purpose, worry just feels bad. Not to mention, worry is physically harmful. And with all I’ve learned in therapy about mindfulness (for a good summary of the DBT skills associated with mindfulness, read this), I feel I ought to know better than to waste my time worrying–time I could be spending mindfully.

So I adopted the mantra “I no longer indulge in worry.” And I’m using it. Not daily, because some days I completely forget about it. But nobody’s perfect!

What are you doing right?



Hershey's KissesEarlier today, I drafted a much different version of this “I’m Doing It Right” post. It began with a long paragraph about how I’m in a funk and haven’t done a darn thing right lately–and how it seems people are so quick to point out my mistakes (I admit, I am probably just perceiving it that way). I launched into a second paragraph about the specific issues weighing heavily on my mind.

And then I deleted all of it.

I logged into Facebook for a quick break from these heavy thoughts, and I saw a post in the Mama’s Comfort Camp group to which I belong that sparked a thought that changed my day. My friend and fellow Den Mother, Andrea, asked our 700+ members this:

What’s ONE positive thing you’re going to do for yourself this week?”

My response?

How sad is it that I can’t think of a single thing?! This means I am in serious need of self-care, stat! Thanks for this prompt, Andrea!”

And then I ate a Hershey’s Kiss. It was delicious. So I ate a second one.

And I don’t even feel guilty about it at all because I just got back from a brisk 25-minute lunchtime walk.

So that’s what I’m doing right today & something positive I’m doing for myself!

Indulging in a piece of chocolate is an easy way to practice mindfulness. As I sucked on the chocolate, I tried to think about the sensations I was experiencing–the flavor, the texture, the way my mood was lifting…

This is actually a DBT distress tolerance skill my therapist has taught me. I self-soothed with 2 pieces of chocolate. I paused and focused on how good it made me feel. Reminding myself to be mindful and then actually doing it is another thing I’m doing right.

So, ha! Take that, stupid brain!



photo by: Smabs Sputzer

Today, my friend A’Driane is marrying her love, Bert, in the cutest chapel I’ve ever seen.

 

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I’ve compiled some of the things A’Driane has said on her blog about her feelings for Bert into a poem to honor this day. I’ve used A’Driane’s words because they’re as beautiful as she is.

Bloom

My heart just swells with a joy I haven’t allowed myself to feel in a very, very long time,

Dancing, laughing, smiling…I’m giving myself fully to the freedom,

Starting over and changing our approach to life…choosing to live life instead of just surviving it,

The gift of love I’ve found in our family,

Embraced with open arms & a bottle of Merlot,

To have someone see the value and worth I see in myself and decide to embrace and cherish it, cherish me, is the one gift I’ve begged for since I was a child and never received-until now.

Bloom where you are planted.

Reach toward the sun, like I am.

A’Driane, my wish for you and Bert today is that you always see the sunshine together. Congratulations on your wedding day. Xo

(Note: Other friends of A’Driane and Bert have also devoted blog posts to the celebration of their wedding day. You can access links to all of the posts here.)