My Husband…

20 years ago, two teenagers met at their first jobs.  We were young and naïve, carefree.  He was the quiet, shy boy, with a mysterious air about him.  He rarely ever spoke but somehow worked himself into our small little click at Bradlees, a group of us coworkers who thought we were awesomely cool by hanging out in the parking lot after the store closed.  I never had any thought of dating him, thinking he was not “my type”.  At that point I was into shoplifters, smart judge of character I was then.  But, life has a way of twisting things into your favor, even if you don’t realize it.  I like to blame my father on this one as he suggested I date “the studious looking stock boy“, but also intertwined into this was the fact that I was in a dating drought, and the boy I wanted to date at the time, my best male buddy, did not reciprocate those feelings and in addition suggested I go out with James.

James was more than shy.  He lurked in the shadows, my shadows and rather thinking that was creepy, I was more curious about him than ever.  The mystery that surrounded him made him more appealing, more desirable to my then 16 year old self.  After receiving and email from him where he wanted to “save himself the embassesment of asking me outfight” he asked me out and I said yes.  Our first date we went to see Romeo & Juliet with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio and then had dinner at Friendly’s.

We grew close and even survived a year of a long distance relationship when he started college and I was still in my senior year of high school.  I was accepted at the University of Maryland and joined him there the following year much to my parents dismay.  Being a parent now, I completely understand… I can’t fathom allowing my daughter to follow her boyfriend to college.  We were engaged in the spring of 2000 after dating for almost 4 years.  Told we needed to finish college and find jobs if we wanted assistance in paying for the wedding, we were married another 4 years later on a beautiful day in early September.

At the point of our wedding, James, who I now refer to as Jimmy, had witnessed 2 of my depressive episodes, being caught in the web of one of them.  I was outright cruel to him.  Slammed doors in his face, hit him, said horrible things, but he stayed.  He stayed because he knew it wasn’t the real me.  I knew I picked a winner then, but I had no idea how great he would turn out to be.

In 2006, we became pregnant, something we both wanted very much.  We had always discussed children before and we planned on two to three via pregnancy and/or adoption.  My pregnancy was blissful.  I was glowing all the time.  I loved being pregnant, it made me feel so feminine which this tomboy was so not used to.  Our daughter was born that October.  We were so happy, until I wasn’t a few weeks later.  My health, both mental and physical, rapidly deteriorated.  I was hospitalized exactly 1 month following my daughter’s birth for Severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.  My husband, had to take care of our daughter and continue to work full time over an hour away for 12 days by himself.  He woke very early, fed Sophia, changed her, dressed for work, dropped her off at my parents and went to work.  After work, he traveled an hour and a half, picked Sophia up from my parents and brought her to the hospital to visit with me.  This is all after I consistently told him he could do better.  I told him to leave me and take Sophia and find someone who could be a normal wife and mother.  I yelled at him to leave.

But he stayed.

He stayed in 2008, when I went through my next major depressive episode.  And again he stayed in 2014 even after my Mental Illness caused us to lose our foster son back to DCF.  The latter episode the most painful I have experienced.  This man cared for our daughter, our foster son and myself for over a month.  I was a third child.  Through everything that has happened, he has never blamed me.  He blames himself for not being able to keep up with his full time job and taking care of all of us.

I’ve asked him, many times, why he stays, why he stays with someone who has caused so much heartache?  His answer has never changed:

“Because I love you and you make things interesting!”

I am truly blessed.

Anxiety & Ear Plugs…

Sleep… I used to be a great sleeper as a kid.  I slept through a tremor in the early 80s and napped through the high winds of Hurricane Gloria.  Heavy sleep was a blessing bestowed on to me back then.  I should’ve treasured it.  Instead, back then, I was a typical kid and hated to act of “going to sleep”.  I deeply miss it now.

Going to sleep is still something I hate but for completely different reasons.  As a child, I thought I would miss out on something while shutting my eyes.  Now I fear it.  The fear stems from over a year ago when every little sound alerted me awake even with the aid of ear plugs and medication. 

Is that the heater going on again?

What was that going down the street, a car, a truck?

Is Tyler awake again?

Ugh, the neighbor’s dog is barking again?

What was the creak in the house?

All of these questions fed the Anxiety that was already present in my life. This companion that grabbed hold of my hand and wouldn’t let go.  I tried to meditate.  I tried to think nice thoughts.  I tried sleeping in the basement and while the latter muted most noises, I was presented with sleeping with the cat, a nocturnal fuzzy beast, whom I love dearly, but she wouldn’t let me sleep.

It’s been over a year and while I have made amazing strides in my recovery from my Severe Depression, my Anxiety is still holding on, digging it’s nails into my shoulders. 

I am a creature of change when it comes to the world around me, but when it comes to myself and my routine, I need consistency.  I mean I NEED consistency.  I plan days, weeks, months in advance.  If there is an immediate change in my daily routine, a huge anxiety attack ensues.  My sleep routine has not changed much in the last decade.  The deep sleeper I was melted away when I graduated college and started the real world.  That is when I started to sleep with ear plugs.  These tiny foam cylinders created perfect silence for me.  I would roll them between my fingers and plunge them down into my ears. In seconds the world around be would become quiet and in some way, this affected my brain too.

But, not all ear plugs are created equal!

I went to the store over a week ago to buy more ear plugs.  I only get 1 brand, Rite Aid’s brand.  Dragging my daughter with me, we roamed the aisles of Rite Aid until we found the ear plugs.  I gasped when I found them.  What the heck are these?!  Panic began to rise in me.  Rite Aid changed their ear plugs.  Sophia looked at me wanting to know what was wrong.  While this seems to be something so minute and pointless to most, is a BIG DEAL to someone who suffers from Anxiety and relies on these things for sleep, a process that already invokes fear.  I purchased them telling myself they were probably the same.

They weren’t.  That night I didn’t sleep.  I couldn’t get these damn things to fit correctly in my ears.  I kept hearing the heat turn on.  I kept hearing the cars go down my street.  I was being tortured by my own brain.  The next day, I walked around work like a nauseated zombie.  I had 2 pairs of my blessed ear plugs left before I would be cursed with no sleep, which would spiral into panic attacks and eventually Depression again.  Earlier that morning, since I couldn’t sleep, I roamed the search entry of Ear Plugs on Amazon finding the original ear plugs, the ones Rite Aid used to base theirs off of… good old Flents.  I bought 100 pairs.

My sleep for the last week has been a rotation of good and bad.  Last night as I realized I would have to delve into the new 100 pairs for next day, my anxiety grew.  My deeply appreciated Lunesta couldn’t battle the strong beast my Anxiety was.  What if these don’t work?  What the heck would I do then?  After attempting sleep for an hour, while my thoughts wrecked havoc in my brain, my breaths began to get short.  It was time to get up and do something.  It was 11pm.  I would not get my 8 hours of sleep the Lunesta needed. 

My Anxiety won… over ear plugs.

I realize how petty this sounds.  Your average typical person would not get panic attacks over ear plugs.  Logically, I feel like an idiot, eventually my body will adjust.  But, when you suffer from Anxiety, when you live with an evil twin that wants the worst for you, even the smallest thing can wind up being huge.  I can’t just stop worrying about my ear plugs just like I can’t just stop fearing “going to sleep.”  One day it will get better, but for now, I have learned to embrace my Anxiety, it is a part of me.  If that means getting anxious over petty things, that is how it will be.

“Never Will I Ever…”

As a childless twenty-something year old, I thought I had the answers to everything relating to parenting.  I knew exactly what I would do.  My baby would sleep in 3-4 hour intervals.  I would breastfeed for the first year.  They will never have a pacifier. They would never eat a diet that consisted of chicken nuggets and spaghetti.  They will be potty trained by 2 1/2 and of course, they will be behaved children. And one of my favorites, I will never give my child chocolate and candy until they were about age 6.

Fast forward a bit… I am now the mother of one beautiful daughter who will be 10 (double digits baby!) in October.  As she is a great child, she never quite managed to fit the mold I created in my naive head as an adult who didn’t have a child yet.  
I speak of this because I just finished reading Lose The Cape: Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) edited by Alexa Bigwarfe and Kerry Rivera.

This book is a hysterical conglomeration of 32 authors depicting what they “never would do”.  I found myself laughing through each and every story as I had the same ideas as most of these contributors… and then I had my daughter.

I found myself highlighting certain areas that I really related to and soon enough almost half the book was highlighted.  Some of my favorites were:
“After all, I had wanted to have children my entire life – of course I was going to love every minute of watching them grow.  I was certainly not going to be the mom who snaps at her kids in the grocery store checkout line.” – Karen Johnson
(Yep, thought that.  Just ask my daughter about yelling at her while shopping.  She doesn’t grocery shop with me because of that.)
“It took me a moment to understand what I had just said. I threatened to keep a refined sugar product from my son if he didn’t eat a calorie-laden grease-fest carbohydrate smorgasbord.  It wasn’t as though there was a single crudite on his plate, but I was so tired of our table battles I went all in. Over pizza.” – Allison Barrett Carter
(Been there, done that.  My daughter is such a Carbs Diva.)
“As I promoted from position to position, I started to notice more and more women leaving once they had children.  The mothers who did return often struggled to keep up with the demands of our industry and balancing the work with being a mom they’d always wanted to be.  I, foolishly, thought it wouldn’t be a problem for me – the over-achiever.  I would be able to do both, seamlessly.  I was determined to have the highest executive position, maintain the perfect marriage, raise the perfect children, have the cleanest house, and of course sport the perfect manicure and blow-out.” – Holly Rust
(Oh yeah.  Definitely had that belief.)
I think Jennifer Collins is living with my daughter as she describes her perfectly… “My daughter has so many stuffed animals that they cascade from her bed to the floor and into her closet… She is also and aspiring jeweler, honing her craft with the making of loom-band bracelets.  There are tiny colorful bands everywhere.”

“My routine won’t change just because I have a baby… I’ll never use the TV as a babysitter… My child will never discover fast food… My kid’s going to learn to sit and wait patiently…”  – Andrea Bates
(I thought all of these, and have caved to all of them.)
And then some honest accounts that I could relate to:
“I would rather have a messy house and a career than a clean house that makes me feel empty, like I’m wasting good talent and skills I’ve spent decades developing.  I’d rather have kids with healthy psychological foundations because I can focus on their needs as opposed to the expectations of society.” – Michelle Grewe
(Right on, Michelle!)

“My body was failing her.  I was failing her.  I know now that wasn’t the truth, but in the midst of sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, and a slight Sunday buzz, I was a wreck – and stayed that way well after the champagne wore off.” – Kimberly Zapata
(I understand, I’ve been there.)
What did you tell yourself “Never Will I Ever” before you had kids?  I bet you’ll find yourself laughing while reading this book.
You can find this great book at:

EMDR, PPD & Self Compassion…

Every Monday I have my therapy appointment.  This is for my new therapy that I started a few months ago, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  If I tried to explain the exact technique, I think I would confuse you further.  What I can say, is that it is hard.  It was extremely hard in the beginning  recounting memories that often brought me to tears and hyperventilation.  Yet, I give this form of therapy two thumbs up, as I have slowly and gradually begun to forgive myself.

My therapist has been all over my head in the last few months, starting with my recent severe depressive episode to my blocking belief that I don’t deserve to get better.  While the latter is no more an issue, I still have yet to return to everything that has happened a little over a year ago.  As we have progressed in therapy, he and I have realized that my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety definitely affected this latest and greatest episode of Depression. So, we dove into that time in my life.

I was asked, if I summed up my whole Postpartum Depression and Anxiety episode, what one memory is the most painful.  It wasn’t too easy to choose.  Those months were a time frame I would like to forget and one I thought I was emotionally over.  I was not.  Thinking back, the most painful memory was myself, sitting in the ER with my mother next to me, waiting to be seen.

It is the old ER, as my local hospital has recently been renovated.  Low ceiling, beige walls.  Office chairs with fabric, grey in color, and black plastic handrails.  The room felt so small and was pure chaos.  To the right of me were the check-in stations with the workers behind a half wall with glass above.  To the left of me were more of these common office chairs filled with other people waiting to be seen.  In front of was a wall with a floral framed picture and the entrance to the ER was to the front left.

Although the other people in the room were talking and moving, I was slightly out of my body in my own pure hell that I was still unaware of.  My main reason for going to the ER was the simple fact that I must be malnourished and dehydrated since everything that went in my body quickly came out.  I was rocking back and forth, with my hands gripped so hard on the handrails they were in pain.  In addition to this, I was shivering as if the temperature had dropped to zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Hyperventilation was present and tears streamed out of my eyes non-stop.

“When did this happen?” asked my therapist.

“Exactly 1 month after Sophia was born.” I said.

“Let’s go with that.” he said.  That was my cue to close my eyes and allow the Thera-Tappers to do their work.  Buzz in my left hand, buzz in my right, over and over again.  I started looking at Postpartum Stephanie, and as anxiety churned my stomach, I could feel tears well up.  I wanted to hug her.

“What do you feel?” he asked.

“Sadness for her.  She must have been scared.  She has never been through this before.”

“Been through…”

“The intense anxiety, the panic attack.  This is new.  All of my bouts before were just Depressive. This was my first where Anxiety made and appearance.”

“What do you think you needed back then?  Someone to have done something?  Said something?”

The first round of EMDR with this question stumped me.  I had the support of my family.  I was seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist.  I was on medication.  What did I need back then?  What would’ve helped me?  We tried again, and instantly it came to me:

“I needed someone who had been through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety to tell me everything would be okay.  I would’ve believed that person because they would have experienced what I had or something similar.  All these other people telling me it would be okay didn’t help.  They didn’t know what I was going through.  The Postpartum Community was so small back then, almost 9 1/2 years ago.”

“Put yourself in the ER, yourself now.  Think about it.  What are you doing? What might you say to yourself now.”

He turned the Thera-tappers back on.  I closed my eyes and returned to that scene.  The present me was kneeling on the floor of the ER with my hands on the knees of the Postpartum me.  I could still see her rocking back and forth.  Truly scared for her because she had no idea what she was going through.  My touch an instant connection to the feelings inside her head then.  I tightened my squeeze and looked up at her face.  She had a blank stare at the wall ahead as she rocked back and forth.  I noticed the fear in my mother’s eyes as she wondered what was going on with her child.  I turned back to Postpartum me’s face and I spoke:

“It will be alright.  You will be okay.  I know you will be okay because I’ve been there.”

The second I said “I’ve been there”, Postpartum Me’s eyes focused directly on mine and she stopped shaking.  I kept repeating it over and over, “I know because I’ve been there.”

It was the first time I showed my Postpartum Self some self compassion.


“Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.” – Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson, author and spiritual leader, caused quite a commotion last week in the Postpartum Community.  I, honestly, was oblivious to this until I read a Facebook post from Postpartum Progress’ CEO, Katherine Stone, where we needed to come together as a community and stand up to her.  Well, my Warrior Mom family is such a supportive and loving group that I dashed through social media and started to read what Mrs. Williamson was saying.  As I read more, the more angry I grew:

The [postpartum depression] disease is not inside the woman; the disease is inside a system so based on greed that it does not honor parents’ need to remain with their children long enough after birth.”

“U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be “screened for depression”… their answer of course, is to “find the right medication.”  And how many on the “Task Force” are on big Pharma’s payroll?”

And my personal favorite:

“Depressed women are like canary [sic] in a coal mine. We are often depressed because something is wrong that needs to be made right, and what is wrong is not always what is inside us. Postpartum depression, example, is often a result of a woman’s heartbreak over having to go back to work sooner than her body, mind and heart are ready to.”

This led to over 2 million people reached with our #MeditateOnThis campaign on Social Media.

I, for one, can say I couldn’t wait to go back to work, but that is just me.  Do I think we need longer maternity leave and paid maternity leave in the U.S…. Absolutely!  We are the only first world nation that doesn’t have it.  But, Marianne, my Postpartum Depression set in long before I was headed back to work.  I was barely two weeks Postpartum when the signs of Depression and Anxiety were clearly there.  I was not thinking about work, I was thinking about why my child wasn’t breastfeeding, why I couldn’t sleep when she did and when my next shower was going to happen.

Which, Marianne, brings me to my next point… Meditate?!  When does a postpartum mother have time to meditate? I was far too busy to give myself 5 minutes to meditate.  My daughter had to be fed and changed every 2-3 hours.  I chose eating and showering over meditating.  Once again though, my symptoms appeared way early into my 4th Trimester that I chalked it all up to “Baby Blues”.

But, I don’t want to fight.  You are a mother too.  Here is what it feels like from this mother who suffered so terribly from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety I wound up in my hospital’s short term psych ward for 12 days.  You can’t tell me that the following mood changes are “normal” after childbirth:

“I was elated when my daughter was born.  I always dreamed of being a mother.  The first two weeks I lived happily by cloaking any anxiety that was there, but it was there.  In the hospital, I panicked when it was 5 hours before they brought her to me to feed her.  I freaked out when her poop was not quite the correct color it was supposed to be.  I worried that because she fell asleep after only 5 minutes on my breast that she was eating enough.  A visit to the lactation consults only a week after my daughter was born led to “Possible Postpartum Depression” being written on their report (A report I only saw years later).  At two weeks, the lights went out.  I was irritable, not sleeping and not eating.  The coos of my daughter that once I found so precious became banshee screams in my mind.  I didn’t want to be around her and I avoided it as much as possible.  As the extreme nausea due to anxiety developed into vomiting multiple times a day, I began my plans to leave my husband and daughter.  I had everything worked out, leaving when my daughter was being watched by my mother… going to the bank to withdraw money… driving, just driving…  But since I am a planner, and alpha, by nature, I would not leave until I knew where I was going.  I am grateful I never figured out that one.

With two weeks of vomiting multiple times a day under my belt, covering my head with a pillow to drown out any sound she made, and crying way more times then a new mom is supposed to, I knew I needed help.  I was prescribed meds (Enter Big Pharma), but I was used to it, I have suffered from Depression on and off since I was 14.  I started seeing a psychiatrist twice a week and a therapist once a week.  That wasn’t enough.  I was slowly going down a path with no return.  I started to think about hurting myself, just to rid myself of the thoughts and pain inside my head.  I still thought this was “Baby Blues”.  I went to the hospital a month after my daughter was born for what I thought was “undernourishment” due to the excessive vomiting only to find out I was suffering from far worse… Severe Postpartum Depression.”

You see Marianne, I am only 1 story, 1 story of a woman who clearly was suffering from something far worse that just the typical postpartum experience.  I suffered alone.  10 years ago, there weren’t many resources out there concerning any Postpartum Illnesses.  In 2014, when I discovered the Warrior Mom Community through Postpartum Progress, I jumped at the chance to help mothers like myself not go through this hell alone.

There were so many things wrong with what you said.  What is wrong with screening women?  Is that too invasive?  Too un-Godly?  Shouldn’t we be on top of the situation instead of belittling it?  Shouldn’t we try to band together as mothers to help each other?  Shouldn’t we work harder to break the stigma instead of feeding it?  Shouldn’t we be aware that there are medications out there that can actually help us and not feel afraid or ashamed at using them?

Marianne,  I am not ashamed at the medications I take to survive.  I know what tricks and delusions my brain can come up with if I don’t.  I am not ashamed from having suffered from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and I am not ashamed of telling my story.  I am ashamed of you, a mother like me, but someone so unsupportive of mothers it makes me both angry and sad that you are helping to feed a stigma we Warrior Moms have helped to unravel over the last decade.  You can call me a “canary in a coal mine”, and I will gladly sing out my words of assistance and advocacy!