I wanna talk! You should wanna talk too!

Our family is no stranger to mental health. Julia tells her truth over and over, and she will continue to tell it. She is talking! I love that she talks!

Today I want to tell you about some other truths – I want to talk.

Let’s talk about a co-worker, no she is more than that, a friend who had a horrible weekend. Why? Because her boyfriend’s best friend is currently watching over his ex-girlfriend, a mother of two in the hospital because she tried to take her life and is now brain dead. It affects us all.

Let’s talk about a sister who has battled PPD three times running. Let’s talk about those who still to this day criticize the actions of mothers who just need help to make it through, whatever help that may be.

Let’s talk about a father who battled depression so deep he locked himself in his room away from his family to try and battle it all by himself. It affects us all.

Let’s talk about over 19 million people affected by anxiety disorders. I personally know five of them.

Let’s talk.

Let’s remove the stigma.

I wanna talk! Today tweet, retweet, blog, Facebook bring attention to mental illness and mental health! Let’s make today more successful than it was last year! Let’s continue to talk about it.

This shouldn’t be a one-day topic, this should be an everyday topic. Today is Bell Let’s Talk day.

For my sister, my friend, and my father – LET’S TALK!!!!!!!!

~ Jacqui

A moment

It’s a sad day for the family, friends, and fans of Robin Williams, who died of suicide.

Robin Williams

We’re taking a moment to dedicate this space to reminding everyone that mental illness, although seemingly invisible, is a real threat, a heartless liar, and a life ruiner.

If you feel like you are out of options, that you can’t go on, that there is no hope, please reach out to a loved one, your doctor, or by using one of these crisis supports:

US/Canada Crisis Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK 

Canadian Crisis Centres – http://suicideprevention.ca/thinking-about-suicide/find-a-crisis-centre/

Call 9-1-1 – if you have a plan, have supplies, and feel like you are a danger to yourself or others

You are worth so much more than your brain is telling you. You are incredible, valuable, strong, smart, and can beat this. Please don’t give up. Please get help.

~ The Sisterhood

How I’m doing

It’s been quite a few months since I came out as suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD/PPD) and I was thinking it might be a good idea to let you know how I’m doing.

I am doing really, really well.

In terms of the PPMD/PPD, I’m completely recovered. I don’t have a foggy brain anymore, I’m not anxious and overwhelmed anymore, I’m not flying off the handle with blind rage anymore. I’m controlled. I’m confident in my parenting. I’m taking care of myself. And I am actually thriving as a person, instead of drowning.

I am doing really, really well.

Of course, there was no magic pill or instant cure, there was no lightbulb moment that changed everything, but there was hard work and lots of help. And I wanted to share with you what fueled my success this time.

I stayed medicated. This is controversial, in that I was medicated all throughout my pregnancy with Isaac and even bumped my medication up at the end of my pregnancy. It’s controversial because it means Isaac went through withdrawal when he was born and was at a tiny (read: minuscule) risk for birth defects. But the risk of me committing suicide or hurting myself or my babies or landing myself into a mental hospital were all severely high if I had stopped taking my medication. I have been medicated since after Lillian was born and still am to this day. Will I be medicated for the rest of my life? I have no idea, but at this point it’s working and that’s all that matters.

I asked for help. It’s tough admitting you don’t have it all together. It’s even harder when you did have it together at the beginning and now it’s starting to crumble months after your baby is born. Especially because up until my confession in February, I had been the poster girl for what to do when you have a history of mental illness and you want more children. I encapsulated my placenta and took it as prescribed (no, really). I stayed medicated. I put supports in place for the first six weeks after birth to ensure I healed properly from my scheduled C-section. I got rest. I didn’t act like a hero. My house fell into even further disarray and I was okay with it. I did everything RIGHTAnd yet, everything still fell apart. Asking for help was eating humble pie and accepting that even though we do everything the way we’re “supposed to,” things can still fall spectacularly apart. But I did it. I asked for help. I called my therapist and got an appointment that week. I was told by Toni and Jacqui that I would be getting help from Toni, and I accepted it. Let the leaning and the healing begin.

I remembered what I had learned. I joked when I got to therapy that I was going for my PhD in PPD…that I had been here twice before, that this was my third time, and by the time this was done I would be set for life. Full of PPD knowledge. You know, it turned out to be true. I remembered what I needed to do. I remembered the importance of self-care and how vital it was to my past recovery. I remembered that sleep was a key component to getting through the day in one piece. I remembered that I had to take things one excruciating step at a time, not rush through or jump from step 1 to step 74398574. I remembered that it was a journey full of peaks and valleys. I remembered that the Julia that I remembered from before babies, before the first two rounds of PPD, before the miscarriage, before this moment would come back, that she wasn’t lost for good, that she still existed. And I remembered I had to trust the process, not jump ship just because it wasn’t working. My therapist told me that this would be my shortest journey through PPD. The first round was seven months with no help. The second round was five months with medication and therapy. This round was just shy of four months. She was right. My quickest yet. PhD in the BAG!

I exercised my tushy off. No, literally. I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I started this journey. Exercising, whether bootcamp with my sisters, hiking at ridiculous o’clock, or finding my zen in running, became an integral part of my recovery. It’s no wonder – exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy; happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.

Or maybe it’s something more like this (although I will argue that the above is COMPLETELY valid):

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

I feel it when I don’t exercise – the anxiety, the irritability, the brain that won’t shut up, the anger that’s bubbling far too close to the surface. And I feel it when I do – the power that exists in me, the calm that comes from achieving something so simple yet hard, the brain break because all I can do is concentrate on my breathing when I run alone, or the friend/sister-therapy that comes from running with others. It is the thing that is gluing me together. It has replaced chocolate and mindless eating. It has replaced napping and hiding. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Period.

I am kind to myself. There are bad days. There are days when I feel like I’m not a great mom…or maybe not even a good mom. There are days when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever be able to accomplish all the things I need to do…days when Isaac is screaming and Lillian is pooping on the floor and Sophie is late for school and we haven’t even left yet. These are the days I practice being kind to myself, not shaming myself. I don’t berate me for not having it all together (i.e. no poop, no screaming, on time school kid). I don’t sit there and fume and fight with the babies who only dig their heels in more when you rush them. I don’t let it ruin the whole day. I accept my fate in that moment (we are going to be late). I remind myself that no one is dying, that this is by far not the worst situation, that I’m normal and this is nuts and it’s hard because it’s hard, not because I’m failing.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard.

Glennon Doyle Melton (Way-back-play-back because I LOVE this quote so much.)

I have a village. There is no supporting cast as important as the village that helps you raise your babies. It is the thing that we turn to when we have a question, want perspective, or need an ear to just listen and then respond with, “I get it. You’re not alone.” In one of my earliest therapy sessions, my counselor said that I needed to create a village for myself, that without it I would be eternally lost. And she’s right. My village is HUGE and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Shout-outs go to The Mothers, both Ben’s and mine, for loving us and our babies, for providing second homes and soft places to land when things get out of hand, for hugging and listening and never judging. Props over to my sisters, my soulmates, the people that God saw fit to put in my permanent family, especially my nanny Toni, my dopelanger-in-spirit Jacqui, and Kim, my sister-in-broken-brainedness. To my dear broken brain friends, both past and present, thank you for never letting me feel crazy…but rather, helping me feel normal. To my kindred spirit Laura, for crafting with me, praying for me, and listening to me – love you! And to the ladies of the drop-off brigade – Heather, Bethany, Andrea, Michele, and Danika – without you holding Lillian’s hands, being second moms to Sophie, sharing in the school experience, this anxiety-ridden gal would have no friends at school. Thank you thank you thank you.

I have Ben. Beyond the village, you also need a good man in a storm. Ben is that good man. He watched me sob on the couch as I worried they would take away our babies and lock me up when I confessed to the third bout of PPD. He held me and told me we’d do whatever it took to get better. He never left me, even when I was being an asshole to him (PPD brings out the worst in people). He never blamed me, even though I felt like every crappy moment was my fault (I own the brain, ergo…). He has never stopped loving me, even when I made it impossible for him to love me. He let me run. He gave me time to regroup. He’s taken 50% of the night feeds since the 7-week mark. He is awesome. And to top it all off – he’s a great dad to our crazy kids. To the moms who are fighting this alone, I don’t know how you’re doing it. You are my heroes, because this is hard and hellish with a partner…without one, you must be made of steel or something. Seriously. I bow to you.

To the moms who are still fighting – don’t lose hope. I got my PhD. I survived my third round. I’m a confident, well-adjusted (most days) mom of three kids. I am still here, better, stronger, more vivid than I was before, and you will be too. Promise.

Babies and Mama

~ Julia

 

Guest post – The importance of moms

Ben, Julia’s husband and knight-in-shining armor, is our guest blogger today! He’s kicking off our Mother’s Day Week by writing about the mothers in his life. Watch for more posts about motherhood all next week in honour of mothers and their day, Sunday May 11, 2014. 

~~~

Mom: What day is it?

Me: Second Sunday in May.

This is a conversation I had frequently with my Mom. It usually followed my asking her for something. Can I go out to my friend’s house? Can you proofread my essay? Can I borrow the van (there’s no way I drove it as much as you did, right?)?

It was her unique way of saying “Yes, but make sure you appreciate this.”

This is to say nothing of the things that she provided even when I didn’t directly ask for them: a home, food (I ate A LOT), clothes. Things that are easy to overlook, until you have to provide them yourself.

Moms give.

Moms teach.

She had other, less subtle ways of reminding me of the importance of Mom (though I don’t recall her referring to herself in the 3rd person). I remember her driving to and from Confirmation classes, during which she would ask us to recite the Commandments and Articles of Our Faith, our memory homework. She would call out one of them and “volunteer” one of us to recite it. Of course her favourite has always been the fourth commandment (I’m sure she asked for this one more than any of the others). She could still ask for it today, and I would be able to tell her (here it is as I remember it):

Source: The Ten Commandments

Source: The Ten Commandments

“Hounor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We shall fear and love God that we do not despise nor vex our parents or superiors. But rather love, honour, obey, serve and esteem them.”

Moms drive.

Moms teach (because we have so much to learn).

I have no difficulty saying that my Mom has been one of the greatest influences in my life. But as I grew and experienced more, other Moms came into the picture of my life, with a similarly profound impact.

When I was dating my future wife (you may know her as Julia), I was warned by a mutual friend, not to upset the “Mama Bear.” She was fiercely protective of her girls. I’m happy to say, I made it through the courtship without being mauled. Our relationship started off slowly, tentatively, but it grew until she became my Other Mom. It is a title she has earned. I refuse to call her mother-in-law, or any of the other less savoury names.

Moms protect.

Moms accept.

One of the great parts of becoming a parent was watching Julia grow into a Mom. Even before we were married, she was a mother and champion to those around her. Throughout her journey with and battle against PPD, she has become a champion of the cause and made a number of new friends. She used her own experience to empathize with and inspire others.

When we were deciding how to handle Lillian’s unique situation, with the doctor appointments in Toronto, weekly speech therapy and complicated hearing equipment, Julia stepped up – instinctively – and became the stay-at-home mom. In the end, it was a decision that we made considering all the facts, although her initial reaction speaks to the Mom she is.

Moms help.

Moms nurture.

Moms work relentlessly work at a job that no one in their right mind would willingly accept.

 

What day is it? The second Sunday in May. Now what are you going to do about it?

~ Ben

 

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!