Lunafest in West Orange, NJ on September 13, 2019 Benefit for Postpartum Support International

If you live in New Jersey, please consider attending LUNAFEST proudly presented by the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International (PSI).

When: Friday, September 13, 2019 at 7:00-10:00 pm

Where: Luna Stage at 555 Valley Rd, West Orange, NJ

Tickets:  $25 includes a complimentary cocktail.  To buy, click here.

About:  Since 2000, LUNAFEST has showcased a collection of short films by, for, and about women. Discover the ground-breaking work of female filmmakers who are changing the industry with this year’s lineup of eight short films.  Your support of Lunafest will not only help flip the script of the 2.13 : 1 ratio of male to female short-film directors in this country, but help raise money for local women’s causes.

Proceeds of this particular screening event will benefit the NJ Chapter of PSI.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing.  The long-term goals of the PSI-NJ chapter is to create, throughout the state of New Jersey, a unified voice for the support, education and care of moms and families with perinatal mood disorders, as well as law enforcement and health care professionals.  support mothers (and even fathers) suffering from it.

If you support women’s causes and want to support mothers (and their families) who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (e.g, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis) to get the help they need, please consider coming to Lunafest and sharing with friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues and even share widely on social media.

There will be information about PSI, PSI-NJ and other maternal mental health services in NJ at this event.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Say and What Not to Say to a Mom With PPD

When I saw the Washington Post article “Know what to say when postpartum depression hits a loved one” by Leanne Italie on my Facebook feed today, I was reminded how much my anger about people’s ignorant comments used to inspire me to write posts.   Ignorant comments still tick me off…just not as much.  I think it took about 8 years to get all my anger out of my system, and this blog was instrumental as my outlet.  Yes, indeed….journaling thoughts is a way to let all the negative “chi” or energy out and thus help you keep your emotional/mental self balanced, which in turn keeps your physical self balanced and hence less prone to illness, in general.

This article mentions the kinds of things to say versus not to say to a mom struggling with postpartum depression (PPD).  A lot of the things are said by friends/family who think they know what they’re talking about but really don’t.  I mean, how can one person really know what another person is experiencing?  They can’t, can they?   A lot of the things said by friends/family diminish what a PPD mom is actually experiencing and only serve to make her feel worse and more isolated.  Words that come tumbling out of people’s mouths most often come from ignorance due to lack of personal experience.  It would really help if people read and become familiar with the difference between PPD and postpartum blues!

These are some of the kinds of phrases to avoid that are touched on in the article:

  • “All new parents have a hard time adjusting to having a baby…you’ll get used to it.”  (implying the PMD is not a real illness but a phase that all new parents go through….wrong!)
  • “I didn’t feel depressed when I had a baby.” (PPD is not imaginary; just because one person has never suffered from PPD doesn’t mean the experience of a mom with PPD should be invalidated or considered imaginary)
  •  “Just sleep when the baby sleeps.” (many new moms with PPD suffer from insomnia, like I did…here’s the link to one of my 2 most-visited and commented blog posts)
  • “Oh, I got the postpartum blues and it passed in a couple weeks on its own.  It will pass for you too. You shouldn’t have to take meds to get through this.  If I didn’t need any meds, you shouldn’t have to either.” (many new moms with PPD need meds to recover….here’s the link to the difference between having PPD vs. having postpartum blues)

As they say, if you can’t say anything to help, don’t say anything at all. In fact, words aren’t even necessary. Just being physically there to support her shows you care.

Bottom line, just be there for the new mother. 

The following image from Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders (who’d given me permission to use this image) sums up the fact that what a new mom needs is non-judgmental company from loved ones…no words necessary.  This especially holds true for those who have never experienced a mood disorder like PPD, and are unsure of how to behave or what to say around a loved one who is suffering from it.  Although my book repeatedly mentions the importance of providing emotional and practical support to the new mother–whether she is suffering from PPD or not–the key to it all, should you be uncertain of what to say or do to help  her, is to JUST BE THERE FOR HER.  It is so important because the feeling of loneliness and isolation with respect to her experience of being home alone with the baby is one that is shared by many a mom with or without PPD.

Be there

Moms with PPD tend to be more sensitive, their feelings will hurt more readily, and they will be more prone to feeling unimportant. She will tend to lack self confidence especially with respect to her new mothering responsibilities. Certain well-intended comments or advice can end up hurting her feelings.

These were some of my past posts about how to speak to new moms (with PPD or even struggling with infertility):

  1. Women with PPD Need Support, Not Hurtful Comments (addressing online comments stemming from public ignorance about PPD)
  2. Dear Hospital Staff: Your Tone, Words, and Treatment are Key to the New Mom’s Experience (addressing hospital staff and the way they talk to new moms)
  3. Words Are Not Always Necessary……Comforting Those Struggling With Infertility (addressing the importance of just being there)

In my book, I offer the following suggestions for the ways friends and family members can be more supportive without being judgmental.  I wrote these suggestions, remembering how alone I felt in my PPD experience.

  • Do provide emotional support. Between practical and emotional support, it’s the latter that many men tend to have more difficulty providing. Practical help is only half the equation. This is a time when emotional support is as important as, if not more important than, practical support. Be affectionate and reassuring. Sit with her, hold her, hug her, hold her hands. Be there for her, to comfort her “in sickness and in health,” as the saying goes. She will need constant reassurance that things will be okay and you’ll be there with her every step of the way. It is very common for women with PPD to feel hopeless and convinced that things will never get better, and they will never recover and be happy again. It touched me when I read about a husband who wrote notes of encouragement onto yellow stickies and left them all over the house for his wife.
    1. Do reassure her that her illness is temporary, she will recover, and you will get through this together. Do offer words of encouragement as much as possible, like the following: “You will get through this … … you will get well …  … this is temporary … I will be there for you … I love you … we will get through this together.”
    2. Do try to be as sensitive as possible, as she may mistake your advice for criticism in her first attempts at taking care of the baby. First-time moms tend to be more sensitive to remarks people make about their mothering capabilities. That sensitivity tends to increase when PPD enters the picture. The first-time mom who also has PPD in most cases tends to lack self-confidence when it comes to taking care of the baby and may need a lot of reassurance from her husband and others around her that she’s doing a great job as a mom. Words have the power to heal or hurt; the power of words will never be more evident than during the postpartum period.
    3. Do encourage her to share her thoughts and feelings with you. It is common for a woman with PPD to tend to hide her thoughts and feelings for fear of negative reactions.
    4. Do listen to her feelings and concerns without criticizing or judging, and be patient with her, as she will no doubt repeat her concerns often.
    5. Do tell her it’s okay to make mistakes and there’s no need to try to do everything perfectly (especially if this is her first crack at motherhood and she has perfectionist tendencies).
    6. Do keep your communication lines wide open at all times.
  • Don’t minimize the thoughts and feelings she shares with you. Doing so will only make her want to hide her thoughts and feelings, which will only make her feel more isolated, hopeless, and desperate. Avoid using any of the following expressions that imply that all she has to do is try harder to get well.
    • Snap out of it (Just as you can’t will away diabetes, you can’t will PPD away).
    • Pull yourself together.
    • It’s all in your head. Or it’s mind over matter.
    • Don’t be so lazy.
    • Just relax and think positive. (Remember that the very nature of depression prevents you from thinking positively, appreciating humor, enjoying things you usually enjoy. If you’re upset, stressed out, or not feeling well, how would you feel if someone suggested you relax? No doubt you’d feel annoyed.)
    • After our years of trying to have a baby, I thought you’d be thrilled.
    • Enough is enough. I’m tired of your being like this. What is wrong with you anyway? Get over this already.
    • What happened to the woman I married? I liked you the way you were before.
    • You’re a strong woman. You don’t need any help. You can get through this on your own. I know you can.
    • Just go out and do some shopping … you’ll be yourself in no time after you buy yourself some new clothing.

The 32nd Annual Postpartum Support International Conference

I think everyone has friends that you can go a while without seeing and when you do see each other again, it’s like you’d never really been apart.  I have a few friends like this in the perinatal mood disorder (PMAD) world.   And that circle keeps growing each time I attend the annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference.

In the past 13 years, I have attended 7 of what my dear friend, Pec Indman (co-author with Shoshana Bennett, PhD, of Beyond the Blues: Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety), refers to as “family reunions” and with good reason!  We are like family.  For me, it’s my tribe.  My very first conference was in New Jersey back in 2006, followed by Kansas City (KS) in 2007, Pittsburgh in 2010, Seattle in 2011, Minneapolis in 2013, Philadelphia in 2017, and Portland (OR) four weeks ago.  I generally feel a natural affinity to other PSI members because we are all for the most part postpartum mood disorder (PMD) survivors and/or are PMD advocates.  Nearly all work with PMD moms/families as a medical or mental healthcare practitioners, and that’s where I’m different from them.  But my mind keeps going back to it as a possibility of switching gears one day down the road.

The 32nd annual PSI conference took place June 26-30 this year in Portland, Oregon.  At this conference, I heard some of what I already learned about previously and some new things I hadn’t heard much about previously–e.g., EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and brainspotting.  One of the keynote speakers was Lee Cohen, MD, director of the Ammon-Pinozzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen is a national and international leader in the field of women’s mental health, and is widely published with over 200 original research articles and book chapters in the area of perinatal and reproductive psychiatry.

The fact that there were over 700 attendees over the course of the 4-day conference was awesome!  It gave me the goosebumps!  We were excited to see an unprecedented increase in the number of attendees, which can only mean one thing:   more people than ever before know about PSI and its mission and share the mission to effect change when it comes to postpartum outcomes.  This is awesome!  Now, if only we can get more OB/GYNs and nurses to attend!  Find a way to give them some sort of continuing ed credits….an additional bit of motivation to come to these conferences!  Being able to properly recognize, diagnose, and treat PMDs is still an unnecessarily huge hurdle for all too many doctors around the country.

At this conference, I sat side by side at the bookstore at 7:30 am on each of the first 2 days of the conference with a young man from Zimbabwe.  We were both volunteers for that early morning shift.  Linos was one of only a handful of men who attended the conference, the first representative from that country to ever attend a PSI conference, and one of the ones who traveled farthest to get to Portland.  You can tell he was on a mission to effect change in his country.  One of his top missions this year is to help raise funds for Zimbabwe’s first PSI Climb Out of the Darkness event.  Climb Out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event for raising awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, while raising money and building community.

I just donated to Team Zimbabwe.
Go Team Zimbabwe!

Funds from this Climb Out will go towards the 2nd international Society for Pre and Post Natal Services (SPANS) conference on Maternal Mental Health in Africa in September 2019.  The conference theme this year is “Incorporating Mental Health into Maternal, Paternal and Child Health to improve outcomes.”  Linos and Team Zimbabwe hope to bring participants from many parts of the continent to further African awareness and to improve the accessibility, affordability, timely and essential maternal and paternal services, as well as assist in the raising of awareness of Infant, perinatal and paternal to improve the health of mothers, children and the families at large.  Every penny of your generosity will ultimately make a huge impact on the welfare of families impacted by maternal mental health issues.  Thank you very much.

You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.
If you or someone you know is suffering, PSI can help.
Call 1.800.994.4773 or
Text 503.894.9453

Inspiring Others by How You Deal With Your Imperfections

I had just posted my letter to my mother on Mother’s Day, which included a reference to my shortcomings as a daughter that rendered me a far-from-perfect daughter.

The following meme that popped up on my Facebook feed on Friday prompted me to put together this brief post.  I love visuals, as visuals are effective tools for enhancing words’ meanings.

Here are some of the ways I make the most of my imperfections:

  • One of my key traits is stubbornness.  I turn that into persistence in getting things done, whether it be tasks at work or an event or trip I’m planning.
  • As I mentioned in my Mother’s Day letter, I sort of suck at cooking.  I’ve been slowly chipping away at my dislike for cooking by collecting recipes from friends and trying them as often as I can.  As they say, familiarity with the process leads to more confidence.
  • I have a major fear of public speaking, and chip away as I might with speech classes and book events, the fear is still there.  But not all advocates need to speak in public to get their message out. I’ve been using my written skills via blogging (and my book) as my way of speaking up and sharing my postpartum depression experience to help others avoid going down the same difficult path I went down in 2005.

 

You may have expectations to be perfect, or you believe others expect you to be perfect.

But you must know that, in reality, no one is perfect.  Not a single one.

Yet people are inspiring one another each and every day.

I hope I’m inspiring at least one person out there (especially perfectionists) to:

Reflect on their imperfections
And think of ways
To leverage both strengths and weaknesses,
To never give up,
To never be afraid to ask for help,
To use their voices to speak up,
To share their experiences to help others avoid going down the same difficult path,
To inspire others, and
To deal with their own imperfections.

A Letter to My Mother on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

You brought me into this world.
You raised me.
You taught me to be a caring, polite, honest and hard-working individual.
I have much to thank you for.

You were always a very caring mother.
Even though you always worried so much…..
Too much, in fact.
You worried so much that you drove me and my brothers bonkers.
Your incessant worrying made for a very tough time growing up as your daughter.

You always did tell me, wait until you have your own child(ren), and
Then you will know what it’s like to be a mother.
Looking back, I do realize you were just trying to be the best mother you can be,
Just as I now want to be the best mother I can be too.

I remember how we used to fight a lot.
Much of it was due to no one being able to see things from the perspective of the other.
And dad was a catalyst to our fights.
My unhappy teenage years didn’t help matters.
Things were tough for me growing up.
I hated school and where we lived so much.

But I know things were tough for you too.
You lived far away from your own parents….
So far away that you only saw them a couple times since you came here in the 1950s,
Seeking a better life for yourself and future family.
You always just grinned and trod on,
Focused on ensuring your children did well in life.

Life has not been that fair for you, I know
And I wish I could have changed your experiences and circumstances
So you could’ve had a better life
That you didn’t have to spend so many lonely days at home alone
After my brothers and I moved out and
While dad worked all day, 7 days a week.

I wish I knew then what I know now.
That your heightened anxiety and obsessive behaviors,
Your worst enemies,
Should have been treated so that
After you had your surgery in 2012,
Your anxiety and obsessive behaviors wouldn’t compromise your health.
Your soon-to-be-84-year-old self
Still doesn’t look your age
Despite all the medical issues you’ve faced.
Had it not been for your anxiety and obsessive behaviors,
I could see you living up to 100 years old,
Full of the energy and youthfulness I remember seeing
As a child while you sang and danced in the kitchen.

I will never forget your sadness that you couldn’t spend more time with your family.
It pains me to remember.
I wish I could’ve done more for you earlier….
Like send you back to see your family more,
But money was always an issue.

This regret will hang over my head for the rest of my life.
This regret has taught me that
It’s not about material wealth, size of home, or appearance of wealth that matters
So much as the fact that time goes by and people age too quickly
Moments are all too fleeting,
And before you know it, there are so many lost opportunities
To do things you wanted/meant to do
That are now too late to carry out.
I may now have the means to send you home to visit your family.
But you are now too old and frail to travel.

I don’t want any more regrets.
I don’t want to later look back with regret that I didn’t see you as much as I could.
I don’t want to later look back with regret that I didn’t cook for you.
I don’t want any more regrets.

I want to be there for you as much as I can,
Within my abilities and despite my shortcomings,
As I am far from a perfect daughter.

Today, on Mother’s Day, a dreary, rainy, chilly day,
I reflect on my shortcomings as a daughter.
I could’ve spent more time with you.
I could’ve cooked more for you.

But things are not too late.
I can still see you every week.
I can still cook a little for you,
Even though I suck at cooking.

You inspire me to be a better mother.
And a better daughter too.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Love always,
Ivy

Elly Taylor of Becoming Us and her 2019 Seed Planting Workshop U.S. Tour

My friend, Elly Taylor, is an Australian relationship counselor, author of the book Becoming Us, and founder of an organization of the same name, which she created to teach professionals and support mothers and their partners.  Both the book and organization’s mission is to help the mother and partner navigate the peaks and valleys of the parenting journey via 8 essential steps that Becoming Us as “map, compass and travel guide all in one.”

Elly and I have a bunch of things in common.  We are both postpartum depression (PPD) survivors and book authors (though hers is award winning).  We were both blindsided by PPD and the challenges of parenting.  We are both members of Postpartum Support International.  Elly loves NYC (where I’ve spent the last 30 years working) as much as if not more than I love Sydney (where she lives).  She is fortunate enough to be out here in NYC each year for the past 4 years on Becoming Us-related reasons; whereas, I’ve been back to Sydney 3x in the past 22 years (I so wish I could return more often!).

Elly will be here in the states for her “Seed Planting” workshop tour in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and New York City.  For the complete schedule and how to register, click here.  If you live near those areas and are a couple or family therapist, birth professional, infant or child mental health professional, and anyone else who works with expecting, new or not so new parent, sign up for Elly’s 2-hour interactive seed-planting workshop.

The training will teach you:

  1. how the groundbreaking research- and evidence-based Becoming Us approach can support you to work with mothers/fathers/partners to navigate the different transitions to parenthood, reduce risks for postpartum mood disorders, and support families to thrive
  2. what the transitions are (there are more than 8!), how they can negatively impact mothers and their families
  3. how to plant Becoming Us “seeds” that reduce risk for the most common parenthood problems including perinatal mental health issues and relationship distress
  4. how you can apply the model to your work with parents at any stage of their family life cycle

Then, in Atlanta, Elly will also hold a breakout session/seminar at the CAPPA Conference taking place from June 21-23.  See the CAPPA website for more info and to register.

Additionally, she will hold a breakout session/seminar at this year’s Postpartum Support International conference in Portland, Oregon.  It will take place on June 30th from 9am-noon.  See the PSI Conference website for more details about the conference and how to register.

Maria’s Letter to Her Younger Self

Maria’s younger self in 2009

A note of thanks to my friend and fellow PPD survivor/advocate, Maria, who was gracious in letting me share this letter she wrote last week during Maternal Mental Health Week, and I happened to see it on my feed and totally loved it.  This letter has inspired me to write my own letter to my younger self, which I hope to share soon.

If you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder right now, please be comforted in knowing there are so many more moms like Maria and me that have suffered and overcome PPD only to become much stronger and empowered women.  You will down the road be able to write–and perhaps even share–your own letters to your younger selves as well.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dear Younger Maria (2009):

You are going to be okay.

You’re in hell now,
but you’re going to plug along
and find your way out.

It isn’t going to be easy
and it isn’t going to be pretty,
but soon after this photo was taken
you will summon the courage to reach out for help.

You will call the nurse manager in your obstetrician’s office
and in between sobs and heaving breaths,
you will slowly and fully tell her how you think something is wrong.

How you feel nothing when you hold your daughter
and you cry all the time.
How you only want to hide in a locked closet or a locked bathroom,
and in fact that is often what you do
once the kids are asleep or with a babysitter.

You are barely functioning but you are doing it.
You are doing it mama.

And those babies love you.
And you are an amazing mother.
And you are going to shine so brightly.

I promise.

Just hold on,
trust in yourself,
lean on your trusted friends,
and always remember that
you are worthy of more than this feeling.

More than this heart-wrenching,
gut-punching pain
and stifling loneliness.

This emptiness that consumes you will subside,
and soon you will find
a version of yourself that will set you free.

Be brave sweet mama.
I am so proud you.

Love,
Older Maria (2019)