Great representation of PPD.
Moderation. That’s what posts, friends, news articles, fitness emails tell me. Eat moderately, workout moderately. Have a cookie, but just one. Raise your hand if you have the will, and I’m being serious not silly, to eat just one (or no) cookies.
My hand is not raised. As we speak, my stomach aches in hunger, even though I’ve eaten more than enough today. I’ve had my calorie intake, so why do I want EVERYTHING sweet, full of carbs and chocolaty? Because I have self-destructive tendencies when I’m having a hard time with my mental state. If I eat that cookie, the whole plate will be gone and I will feel like throwing up. Gross, I know, and not enjoyable.
I am having a difficult time right now, overwhelmed with a few little changes, and summer is a time of changes: schedules change, the kids are home, people vacation, outings are planned. My routine is kaput. And routine is really the only thing that makes me feel really sane. I like schedules, but I cannot seem to find a consistent one, as a mother of preschoolers, an author, a part-time college instructor, a person who wants (and actually has been medically ordered to workout for an hour or more a day), and it’s just so much to keep changing my daily life according to the whims of well…everyone, except my body which just wants to shut down.
I want to share a little piece of accomplishment with you. Last year, at this time, I weighed 255 lbs. Obese, even as tall as I am. In pain, mentally and physically. So I found a class that was consistent and started attending it, working out three to five times a week, and eight months later I was at 200 lbs. I even dropped below 200 and was super proud of my myself and fit into my favorite jeans. I’m not a petite gal (all muscle and large bone structure and 5 feet 11 inches tall) so 195 looked really good on me, and, more importantly, it felt great. I was in a size 12 jean for the first time since high school. And I had so much energy. My attitude was more positive and I didn’t feel like cramming my face with cookies. Then my schedule changed and my teaching gig took over the time slot my workout normally accompanied. I’ve gained 10 to 15 lbs back, maybe more, and I am tired, sad and feel like a lump of wet clay.
I know I take on too much, but I am a doer, and I love doing so many different things, that it’s hard for me to fit it all in. So, when I can’t find the time to feel sane, I eat. A whole bag of cookies, three doughnuts, pretty much anything loaded in sugar and carb-heavy. I don’t even WANT to eat those things. My body craves them like I’m pregnant. And this is not a new thing. I’ve been that way since I was a fat pre-teen. I’ve had times where things were going well for me and I could fight those urges. I still believe I can but, it’s harder for me to fight eating a cookie than it is to stop drinking caffeine. My body shakes, my mind becomes a fog of daydreams about pastries, and it’s birthday season, and I don’t say no to cake. Then I feel terrible, full of sugar with nowhere to put the energy, no time to run it off, and extra weight to bog me down.
I know that I have obsessive tendencies and that people with bi-polar disorder also have a high rate of eating disorders. I remember watching my grandmother eat through a whole bag of Dove chocolates. She didn’t even want to, in the end. I know that because I don’t want to eat a huge chunk of cake. It makes me feel sick, but I crave it. In the end, I have to be stronger than my urges. I usually am, but it’s been a hard go, lately, and my brain is fairly uncooperative, sending me all sorts of signals that make my body react in a desperate manner: trembling, obsessively concentrating on what I should not do, sending me compulsive urges to binge eat. I think it’s an added difficulty, for women, whose hormones run haywire once a month, when I already want ALL THE CHOCOLATE.
But I’m going to use my wise mind, ignore the impulses. And I’m getting better at that. It’s all about practice doing what I need to do. My whole life has been one impulse after the other, and my reaction on those impulses has been truly heartbreaking, at times. But just because I have bi-polar disorder doesn’t make me unable to do things that rational minded people do. I KNOW what rational is. I understand what I SHOULD do, and, with much talking myself off the cliff and making sure to listen to the good advice of counselors, getting exercise and putting my credit cards away when I feel like binge eating could be replaced by binge shopping, I am slowly making progress. I hope that if you feel anything close to what I’m talking about, you know that it’s not impossible to stop being destructive, though it is fairly difficult. Keep reminding yourself that life is short, that you will feel better and even put some time on the clock by putting down the things your body does not NEED, perhaps that just wrap you in a fog.
It’s okay to enjoy something delicious, if you’re the type of person who can moderate. I am not. And I know that. It’s why I stopped drinking. I got sick of dehydration, more severe depression and headaches. I am an all or nothing type person, and it’s good to know who you are. Many virtual hugs to all those slogging past pastries. I’m right there with you.
Intense and honest. Thanks, Allie.
I was a quiet child. Mostly due to misunderstanding. I wasn’t misunderstood, but I misunderstood. I knew there was a meth lab in the poolhouse in the back; I just didn’t understand why. I knew my stepfather was beating my mother; I just didn’t understand why. I knew that I was not allowed to stay home with the stomach flu; I just didn’t understand why.
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I recently had the honor of meeting up with Carrie Moore, coordinator for this year’s Climb Out of the Darkness Walk for Kitsap County in Washington state. I met up with Carrie and her two pre-schoolers to discuss the importance of the event, in more depth than an email could offer. What I got from the encounter was more than just great information about a worthy cause. I got a true mothering experience in full.
Carrie and I met at a local playground to discuss Hope Circle and Postpartum Progress, the local sponsors of the postpartum walk being held this Saturday at Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale, Washington at 10 a.m. In between half-sentences about how Hope Circle is a local Kitsap county group led by mothers trained by MotherWoman guidelines for postpartum issues, we applied sunscreen, excused ourselves (several times) to run after our toddlers who were running towards the road, helped our littles off the high parts of the jungle gym and paused for kissing or reprimands. It became apparent to me that this blog interview was the perfect example of why mothers need to take some time to support and engage in postpartum related awareness events.
Women are inundated by messages that say pregnancy and motherhood are the most beautiful, joyful, wonderful experiences they will ever partake in, and that’s true. But it’s equally true that motherhood is devastating to our bodies, a terror to our hormones, a sleep deprived, never-a-moment-to-yourself, gross out fest that can be overwhelming, and is certainly life changing. As any of my blog or book readers know, it is important to me that mothers be okay with voicing our concerns, both mental and physical, speaking to the baggage that we are told to keep to ourselves, as it was “our decision” to birth little humans. I don’t believe in such societal reprimands, and neither do organizations like Hope Circle, Postpartum Progress, and MotherWoman.
I asked Carrie what her favorite part of the Climb Out of the Darkness event was. She thought about the question for a while. I imagine it’s hard to voice how important the partnership of fellow mothers, experiencing like circumstances can be, but she eventually answered with a two-fold response. Firstly, she appreciates that the walk occurs on the longest day of the year. She emphasized that mental health and weather in Washington state are very much related. As such, holding the climb on the date of the longest lasting daylight hours is very significant. It symbolizes what Hope Circle and the other sponsors embody: that women can, with help, climb out of the darkness of postpartum related depression, anxieties and stresses.
Secondly, Carrie loves that Climb Out of the Darkness is a family event, which encourages partners of women experiencing postpartum stresses to see other families who are undergoing postpartum trials. This group event allows mothers and partners to see their experience out of their own home. Take if from a mother who knows, it’s a wonderful thing to feel like you’re not alone, that you’re understood, even normal.
Lastly, in between changing diapers, alleviating disagreements and making sure our kids have snacks and plenty to drink, Carrie and I discussed how important outdoor physical activity is for mothers experiencing PPD, Postpartum anxiety or other postpartum related mental illnesses. Carrie stated, “Yeah, it’s crazy how much difference just 30 minutes of outdoor activity, like walking, can help with, at least, postpartum depression.” I nodded, “It certainly helped me with even my OCD postpartum depression, when almost nothing else did. Anthony Jr. get off the road! That’s where cars drive!” Carrie echoed me, “Lucy, Amy…not by the road, girls!” And we both coaxed, bribed and carried our kids bodily to our separate vehicles.
The postpartum experience is extremely trying: physically, mentally, hormonally, and it’s okay to seek companionship and help among like-minded parents. It’s okay to admit to the fact that you need help. If you’re in the Kitsap area, please join Carrie, me and other local mothers in Climbing Out of the Darkness. If you cannot attend the event in person, feel free to support this very worthy non-profit cause, by going to the website and registering as a donor. If you do plan on attending the walk, it is free or donation based, but they really encourage mothers and partners to register prior to Saturday, to make things run more smoothly. Register HERE today. Visit Kitsap Hope Circle: HERE.
I post a lot on how depression feels, but I think it’s incumbent upon me to say that depression can be more severe if I feed it. There are some things I do, when I’m depressed, that make my depression worse, longer lasting. For example: listening to very sad music, watching sad movies, eating a lot of sweets, sitting around/not being active, going online (specifically going on FB or Twitter; social media is often very negative), staying inside and ignoring phone calls or invitations to go somewhere.
And here’s the thing: those are all the things I DO, naturally, when I feel depressed because I have no energy, no will to socialize, no desire to eat well and I just want to listen to music/watch movies that understand my depression. I don’t want to be told things will get better because life feels desperately sad, and sappy sayings, happy movies make me angry. I don’t want someone on the phone to tell me, “Things will get better,” when darkness, skepticism and anger are my best friends. And that’s where my depression lies: I feel like a slumping storm cloud in last night’s sweat pants.
But I’ve been told lately that I’m not helping myself. Duh. I know that. I think to myself as my counselor tells me that my behavior is destructive. I don’t give a shit. She says, “I know it feels like it doesn’t matter, but it does matter to you. It matters to you how your kids see you, that you can enjoy the little moments. I know it does. It’s just hard to see that.” And my heart breaks thinking about my kids. I don’t want them to think of me as the woman who is, half of the time, agitated/weeping/blank or agitated/angry/maelstrom of energy.
So, I do my best to overcome those bad tendencies that keep my in my depression longer. Here is a list of things I do:
1. I shower, I shave my legs, I brush my hair, and I wear an outfit that looks nice. I understand that you feel like you look like shit or that you just don’t care when you’re depressed. Pretend to care. It can transfer into a stranger passing you in the streets and saying, “I just love your dress.” And let’s face it, as shallow as that is, that is a really nice thing to hear, and can make us feel better about ourselves.
2. Go on a hike, walk, run, or leisurely stroll. Being outdoors and in the sun (if it is sunny) is good for your vitamin intake, folks. Even if you feel hot, annoyed and sweaty, your skin is soaking in the goodness and the exercise will feed you endorphins. You won’t feel so slumpy, worthless and gross if you get a little exercise.
3. Do errands, chores, normal daily activities. Really, just move. Get off the bed, chair, etc. You might still feel testy, but, again, activity feeds your body. It gives your thoughts direction and takes your mind off of bad thoughts.
4. Hug someone who won’t mind. I hug my kids. If I’m going to sit, I cuddle them, tell them how much I love them. Hugging stimulates your brain and asks it to release dopamine (pleasure hormone). Most depressed people say, “I don’t like hugs.” You’re doing it wrong. You’re fighting it, just like you fight that long walk that could help. If you don’t have a person to hug, hopefully you have an animal you can hug.
5. Say positive things. You don’t want to. Life sucks and you don’t want to be told to be a chirpy bird. It’s your right to feel how you feel and not to hide your feelings. This means not saying, “Today sucks. Everyday sucks.” This means you say, “I’m having a bad day with depression, but it’s sunny and I’m going to try for a walk.” OR “I don’t want to be around people, people suck.” Instead, try: “I feel like people don’t understand how I feel or are bummed out by my depression. I guess I understand that. Maybe I will try to have coffee with a friend who doesn’t seem to mind, or maybe I’ll go to the gym by myself until I feel better able to socialize.”
6. Write. Journaling/blogging can really help you understand where you are and where you need to be.
7. More intense exercise (cardio health). If you have bad knees, try a light yoga. If you have intense pain, try chronic pain exercises. I have both of those things (on and off) and getting daily exercise only makes those aches less intense. You just have to be careful of the way to do things, but still do it. I know it’s frustrating to be out of breath and gross and not able to do what other people can do. Practice is the only way to make a good habit and to make it work better for you.
8. Do something you love. I take the kids to tea at a local tea shop. They don’t always act perfectly, but drinking hot tea and eating scones makes me happy. There is a nice 2 mile trail that’s not too hard for them, so I park by it and walk both to and from the tea house on that trail, so I get outdoors and get exercise and tea all in the same event. And when I’m happier, my kids are happier.
9. If you’re in a trusting, loving relationship, be intimate with your partner. This will not make you feel better if it’s a one night stand with a stranger, but sex with someone you trust, even if you feel like a lump of sad dough, is a great hormone boost and great exercise all in one. Win win win, folks.
10. Talk to a counselor, therapist, or anyone unattached to your current situation. Or pray (if you’re a spiritual person). Being listened to offers people a feeling of validation.
I’m sorry if you’re feeling depressed right now. I know how it feels–like you’re full to the brim with aching sadness one moment, completely empty the next moment, like it’s never going to go away. But, (cliche time) it can get better, and you have the power to speed it up. Don’t call yourself helpless. There are little things that go a long way when you’re depressed. Try them out, and, if they just don’t work, talk to your doctor about medicine. If you’re sick, your sick. No need to stay sick, right? Not when there are options available. Virtual hugs.
Hey, readers, depression and PPD survivors and media junkies. Monochrome has a fancy new trailer. I hope you like it!
Love Sarah Fader and her ways of working through and past the stigmas.
It’s here! This is the brilliant cover for my re-release of Monochrome, a Gravity by Booktrope book. The design was undertaken by the wonderful Yosbe Calma, who you should follow, if you are not already doing so. This woman has talent! Her cover represents the depth of PPD, of depression generally, so wonderfully. The ways in which the light moves through the picture highlights the fantastical quality, which is fitting since it’s a dark fantasy novel. I cannot wait until the release: August 1st 2015! Thanks for stopping by. Let’s give Yosbe some props in the comments, eh folks?