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.

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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.

Older Maria (2019)

Adjusting Well, by Ann Jamison

I’ve never re-blogged anyone’s blog posts before, but I had to for this.  This piece–so moving and honest and raw–brought me to tears…reminding me so much of my own dark, lonely, helpless days of PPD.

One of My Sources of Inspiration

Seeing this photo of Lance Armstrong with sheer determination on his face (please go check out the image, which I was ever so tempted to post directly on  my blog but my gut was telling me I better not or I could get into some copyright-related trouble) in the Newsweek article by Buzz Bissinger titled “I Still Believe in Lance Armstrong” reminded me of just why Lance Armstrong has had such a huge impact on me, even though I am neither a cancer survivor nor a cyclist.  Heck, I’m not even athletic.   Why then would he have such an impact on me?  Well, for one, he is a survivor.  When the odds were not in his favor to beat the cancer that was threatening his life, he went on to beat those odds….and won.  This image of intense focus and sheer determination and willpower will forever be ingrained in my mind whenever I am faced with some sort of challenge, including moods that like to tank on occasion (like my last bout with PMS…see my last post), difficulties at work, feelings of doubt concerning the people in my life, or what have you.

The Preface of my book starts off with the following self quote:

If asked what individuals inspire me, I would answer: “Those who overcome adversity and share their experiences with others to chip away at ignorance and enable others in similar situations to benefit.”

And I go on to say the following a few paragraphs into my Preface:

Those impassioned about certain causes usually aren’t motivated in such fashion unless they are directly impacted by a life-changing experience, such as a serious illness, near-death experience, or surviving the death of a loved one. It takes these kinds of experiences to motivate individuals to try to make a difference in the world and to try to help others. Some are determined to help others by sharing their stories, like Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, and Lance Armstrong.

Granted, he is obviously not a postpartum depression (PPD) survivor.  So why did I mention him along with the likes of Brooke and Marie, both of whom published books about their PPD experiences?  His book It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life left a very lasting impression on me.  It wasn’t so much the fact that he wrote that book but that he beat testicular cancer with a tumor that had metastasized to his brain AND lungs, and after beating the odds of surviving what was deemed an extremely poor prognosis, started up his Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise millions for cancer research, and went on to win the Tour de France not just once but SEVEN times.

Lance signing my autograph at NYC Bike Race – 8/4/02

Poster autographed by Lance at NYC Bike Race – 8/4/02

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is an organization that has endless amounts of money and time (to waste, evidently) to continue such a ridiculous witch hunt.  They know it was just a matter of time that he would give up.  After all, who has endless amounts of their own money to keep throwing away like that.  No one.  The USADA should be ashamed of themselves.  They’d be dumb to pass the medal down to the 2nd or 3rd or 4th, and so on, runner up to those races years ago.  Why’s that?  Cuz more than likely, they won’t pass the supposed doping tests either.  So, they might as well leave well enough alone.

USADA, you may have stripped his medals and banned him from pro cycling for good, but Lance is the winner of those seven Tour de France titles.  Period.  I am a forever Lance fan, and don’t care that people or organizations out there want to smear his name.  I know I am FAR from the only one who feels this way.  I’ve seen the countless tweets in his favor with the ones against him practically non-existent.

To anyone reading this who is in the midst of struggling with PPD right now, it might help to keep the image of Lance’s look of sheer determination and willpower firmly ingrained in your mind.  You WILL be well again, you WILL defeat PPD.  You CAN do it.  You just need to get the right help to set you back on the road to wellness.  Along the way, there will be ups and downs–kind of like the intensely steep inclines in the Alps that Lance mastered followed by the declines…well not really, but you know what I’m trying to say here–but you will reach the end of your PPD journey intact, victorious….a SURVIVOR!  Take it from me, a PPD survivor who was at one point fearful that I would never be well again.   Not only did I recover fully within a year after I started my treatment protocol, I emerged from my PPD journey stronger–and a whole hell of a lot smarter–than ever before!

Sticks and Stones……Words Will Never Hurt Me

Just a quick note as something was weighing heavily on my mind, something that got me quite down today, in fact.  But, I say to myself, I’m NOT going to let those nasty ol’ words someone stooped low enough to say to me today bother me anymore.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will NEVER hurt me.  They are just words…..even if they were uttered by a family member.  Oops, so the truth snuck out….or part of the truth.  Can’t elaborate any further.  Hey, I have no fear of saying this on the Internet.  It’s not like that person ever paid any attention to my blog, or cared about what I had to say in the least.   Everytime I talk, this person’s attention would clearly drift to la la land.  Always wanting and needing the spotlight.  Always boasting about their accomplishments, while poking fun at the fact that I still have trouble verbalizing what the heck I do at work everyday.  Always expecting everyone else to cater to them, but when someone else  like me needs something, they couldn’t run away faster.  In fact, that’s why they live as far away as they do. 

The spiteful words this person uttered to me makes me wonder how in the world I can be related to them.  I’ve come this far in life, I do not intend to allow these words drag me back to my miserable teenage years, struggling to cope with school and my family life.   I almost did, hiding beneath my covers in tears.  But then, I realized I couldn’t be this way.  I couldn’t be like I was in high school, hiding away in my bedroom for hours at a time.  I now have a family (something this person probably will never have because they still desperately need to be catered to themselves and are so incredibly self-absorbed).  It was my daughter’s “Mommy, can you come downstairs to play with me?” that snapped me back to reality.  I needed to get a grip.  I then  realized that, if I survived postpartum depression, I should be able to survive most anything. 

Words have the power to cripple, but only as far as you’ll let them!