Promoting PPD (Postpartum Depression) Awareness

Back in May, I wrote a blog post on WEGO Health about Postpartum Depression (PPD) called “PPD: More than an Afterthought“. I wrote this post as my effort to bring more awareness to this issue and to share some of my own personal experience with it. I felt very moved by Postpartum Progress to contribute something, to do my part. Of coarse, one blog post isn’t enough, and it doesn’t stop there. My activism for mental health issues is ongoing, as you likely know. I am proud of this post I wrote though, and I hope you will take a moment to read it. As I do with most of my writing, I share my heart and my passion for helping others.

Over at Postpartum Progress they are asking for nominations for the Top 10 Perinatal Depression/Anxiety Writers of 2010. If you feel moved by my piece of writing, I would be most delighted, humbled and grateful if you would consider nominating me for this prestigious award. It may be an award of nothing more than a badge, but coming from Postpartum Progress it would be such a badge of honor!

I seek to reach a larger community of people who struggle with mental health issues, and bringing attention to this post could potentially help another struggling mom, even if simply to know that she is not alone. That is what Postpartum Progress does every day, they help people, create change and bring about awareness of this very important health topic. My hope is that I do the same in my own small way.

The Sadness of Chronic Pain

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve noticed how very quickly my mood changes as a result of the kind of physical pain I experience. I can wake in the morning with an aching body and feel a little down, but often shake it off in a reasonable amount of time. If the pain persists my mood will predictably worsen. If I am having a good day, and I am suddenly or even gradually afflicted, I can almost watch my mood deteriorate as my ability to function does as well. It’s as if I am watching a movie of someone else, like an outer body experience, because as it happens, I feel so utterly and completely out of control.

What amazes me most is how rapidly my affect deteriorates based on the severity of the pain. It feels so sudden at times, and I feel so very helpless. Most typically when the pain sets in, my demeanor will turn melancholy and teary, almost as if a switch has been flipped.

I believe when the pain sets in, so does my fear. The fear and wonder…”Will I be able to enjoy the day with my children? Will I be able to take care of my children the way I want to? Who will I let down today if my pain persists? How long will it last?” That fear takes grip and the sadness is at times a bit overwhelming.

What does physical pain trigger for you? Do you notice a sudden change in mood too? How quickly does it set in?

On the Flip Side: When Someone You Love Could Be Suicidal

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Image via Wikipedia

What to do when you can’t talk to anyone about your troubles and struggles? You tell the world, uh hm, I mean, your blog. But the bigger question facing me tonight is “What do you do when you can’t help … when someone you love won’t help themselves?”

I find myself feeling so helpless, frustrated and angry, too. I feel almost as if I have nothing left to give. A loved one is suffering from what I believe to be severe depression and I can’t help them at all. ( I know it is ironic.) I have offered all of the customary kinds of help that one who knows about these things would offer. I have practically forced them to go to the ER for a psych evaluation in the past, only to leave with a promise that they will call the doctor “tomorrow” and seek help. Promises still unfulfilled. Somehow it is a couple of years later and we’re still in the same boat. Promises made again, to make phone calls tomorrow…

I wait and wonder, is this the night that they will break? Is this the night that those feelings of misery and hopelessness (that I know too well myself) will become too overwhelming for them to handle any more? How will I know when the breaking point comes? I know all of the signs, the things to watch for when you believe someone could be suicidal, and so many of them are there… so I wait and hope and pray that they grab on to the resources available and the hands outstretched to them before anything too awful to mention happens.

I’ve been on all sides of this coin. I’ve lost loved ones to suicide, I’ve made suicide attempts myself in the past, and now I sit and wonder how to help someone I love who is walking the thin line of suicidal ideation despite all of my knowledge about the topic.

I am reviewing my words, my actions, my behaviors… Have I said the right things? Have I been too harsh? Have I been understanding enough? Don’t they know I understand?

I go to sleep tonight without knowing the answers, but knowing that I’m not alone. There are others going through something similar tonight, wondering about their loved ones, too. And then, there are far too many don’t even have a clue…

If you are worried that someone you care about could be suicidal please read about the signs and symptoms on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website. Also on their site, is a comprehensive and helpful resource for “What to Do When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life“.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, do not hesitate to call Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK (U.S.)

I’ve Been There (In the Psych Unit) Too

My first visit to a psychiatric unit was during my freshmen year of college, I had just turned 18. I had begun college with all the hopes and dreams of the picture perfect college experience…I didn’t even give it a thought that issues like depression, social anxiety, etc. would get in the way. I didn’t know to even think of it, although I had struggled with these issues long before, I really had little experience in handling it, defining it, or understanding it.

I went through rush, joined a great sorority, met a lot of fun people. I had a boyfriend, and all was good, right? But before I knew it, I was moving out of my dorm room into a single because I was isolating, then I found myself staying home at night, watching tv and avoiding everything… school work, friends, my boyfriend. One Friday night, I couldn’t take the internal pain and conflict, the anxiety (although I did not know what to call it) was too much for me to bear. I started swallowing pills, anything I had… it was a pretty pathetic concoction and I got really sick.  I panicked and I called my mom. Long story short, I ended up on the 6th Floor (the psychiatric unit) of a well known hospital in my home town. I was there for a month. It was November when I entered, and December when I left. I “celebrated” Thanksgiving there and I came home just before Christmas.

My second experience in a psych unit was just about 4 years ago. After enduring months of relentless chronic pain and learning of a new diagnosis, fibromyalgia, something snapped inside. Again, I turned to pills, but this time taking a more aggressive approach.  And again, I ended up in a psychiatric unit. Another long story short, I wound up on the trauma unit of a particular psychiatric hospital in my metropolitan area, to spend a month as an inpatient.

As you may know, I am diagnosed with major depression, anxiety, and ptsd…but I am an on a path of wellness, most often dealing quite well with my health issues and working hard to keep it that way. I would say that 4 years post treatment, I am a success story. Although my story is very far from finished, and in many ways it begins new each day, I am, dare I say, “out of the woods” at this point in my life. Undeniably though, there is always the possibility of “relapse”.

So, when I saw this article here: “Peers bring hope to the mentally ill” I could not help but wish I could participate in something like it. The program described takes place in New York, where previous patients are being utilized to help current inpatients. Finally, some people are “getting it”…the great value of peers and the knowledge that peers have what sometimes quite educated professionals are lacking…the personal experience.

Having experience in a couple of different facilities as a mental health patient gives me a unique perspective, the “I know, I have been where you are and I made it through” kind of perspective.  It’s a most valuable vantage point when those who are hospitalized are feeling all kinds of alone and frightened, not to mention hopeless and confused.

By no means are the professionals lacking in value, but the inclusion of peers in the treatment process seems to be invaluable. I hope more facilities will embrace this opportunity and provide a way for those who have previously received treatment to continue their healthy journey while providing a service to their patients.

Did you read the article? What do you think?