All It Takes Is One Day

A few months ago I had somewhat of a falling out with a friend due to a meme that he posted on Facebook.  If it were just the meme, that would be one thing.  But it was my comment and his ensuing attacks on my comment that were biting (WHY????) and completely lacking in empathy that completely turned me off.  The meme had a “Just snap out of it” tone.  It implied that depression should not be used as a cop out or excuse to not succeed.  I can’t post that meme here to help illustrate why it elicited my perturbed and upset reaction, because I don’t recall what exactly the meme said and I wasn’t about to look through months of feeds of this person’s just to find it.  If it were just the one meme, then I might have just passed up on it.  But it’s a number of things that led up to it.  You see, there was history to this.

Have you ever had FB “friends” post things that pop up on your FB feed that grate on your nerves because they reflect just how disparate your ways of thinking really are?  Well, this person’s posts made me ponder how we could be friends if we had such different mindsets (e.g., extreme right versus moderate left, women’s reproductive rights, mental health).  After a while, I started noticing a trend from his occasional far-off-the-cliff remarks, which really made me think he was a troll (yes, that’s how bad it sometimes got).  His remarks showed just how unable he was to be empathic.   I have tried to explain on numerous occasions my viewpoint that is from a person who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) to this person (just as I’ve had to explain to others with similar mindsets as this individual).  But it just was not sinking in.  There was no getting it.  It was like trying to get water out of a rock.  At some point, you just have to call it quits.  And so I did.

The friendship is still there.  I just can’t handle the posts anymore.  So, that person is no longer in my Close Friends feed, which I’ve had to resort to, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts.  I’m sure others have been in the same position.  We all have to pick and choose our battles….prioritize in order to get by each day.  There are some FB “friends” who have filtered my posts out since a couple years ago.  A couple years ago, I was posting things way more frequently than I am now, and they were about a variety of things (e.g., PPD, bullying, politics, rape, women’s reproductive rights)….essentially, negative news (that is REALITY…what happens out there in the real world that people have a hard time acknowledging) that people go out of their way on a daily basis to avoid because that is their self preservation tactic.  Hey, I get it.  After all, that’s what I’m doing now with this one individual.  I don’t have all of my FB “friends” in my Close Friends feed because they either never, ever post anything on FB or they never, ever interact with me (so what’s the point, right?).  Again, priorities.

With this experience, I understand the road before us to educate people on and de-stigmatize depression and other mental health-related matters is EXTREMELY DAUNTING.  While there is a very large number of individuals that are active on social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.), speakers who travel the world, and book authors who try to take on this daunting task each day, we still need to make sure we reach everyone–whether they are fighting a battle with depression or other mood disorder, or whether they are like my hard-headed friend who just fails to get it.  Everyone is NOT getting the message.   IGNORANCE AND STIGMA are to blame for that.  The biggest challenge by far in terms of reaching everyone is the fact that there will always be people who hear about experiences and continue to be unable to get it…..either willfully or because they want to but are unable to.   The former group will NEVER change their mindsets because they think they know it all; that everyone has the ability to SNAP OUT OF IT; that depression is a choice when in reality it is far from a choice.  The latter group is because they have no idea what it’s like to be depressed (like I was before I had PPD) and would like to understand but fail to be able to.  I have many friends who fall in this latter category.

Well, this is why if I had the ability to wish something to happen and make it happen, I wish that everyone would experience what it’s like to be depressed (not blue or sad, but truly depressed) one day.  ALL IT TAKES IS ONE DAY. It is only then that everyone will truly get it.

Challenges Faced by Asian American Women in the Workplace – Cultural Traits, Ceilings, Guilt, Assumptions and Stigma

Recently, I attended an Asian American professionals event.  Overall, I was happy I attended the event, mostly because the speakers spoke about the challenges they encountered on their path to their current status as successful and well-regarded professionals.  They spoke about having to overcome such cultural traits as humility and introversion, as well as their tendency to avoid speaking up.  Yes, because of the way we were raised, being aggressive is not natural and “silence is golden.”  These are self-defeating traits.  How can you move up the ranks and be noticed if you don’t speak up in meetings?  If you don’t speak your mind because you’re too humble? If you don’t give presentations to peers and management because you are introverted?

In addition to the familiar expressions “glass ceiling” (in reference to women, for the most part) and “bamboo ceiling” (in reference to Asian professionals, specifically….think about how many Asian executives there are in your workplace), when you add new motherhood to the equation, Asian women tend to have perfectionist tendencies and experience shame and guilt far more readily than women in other cultures due to their cultural traits and the way they were brought up.

I realize that the following are not just experienced by Asian American mothers in the workforce, but all mothers in the workforce.  So, in addition to the bamboo and glass ceilings, Asian American mothers also experience what I refer to as the “new mother ceiling.”

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT from having to leave their baby in the care of someone else.  Most households does not have the fortune of having a relative (e.g., spouse, parent, in-law) or live-in nanny living with them, so there is the added challenge of pick-ups and drop-offs, which inevitably means having to take turns with their significant others dropping off (which means getting to work later) and picking up (which means leaving work earlier).  These drop-offs and pick-ups are a really big deal especially when there is a long commute at stake, and the childcare hours of operation mean the earliest you can drop off is 7:00 am (and in a majority of places, it’s not until 7:30 am or 8:00 am) and the latest you can pick up is 6:00 pm.  How in the world do parents deal with these hours?  They just have to.  They make it work somehow.  For some parents, like me, any “fast track” for which I may have been considered would have to wait until a more “opportune” time, when drop-offs and pick-ups no longer get in the way of that fast track.  For other parents, childcare is too expensive and it makes more economical sense for one of them to stay at home, and it’s usually the mother.  Hence, the stay at home mom.

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT from leaving their babies in the care of others spend long days (ELEVEN hours) with someone other than themselves, but they worry about the impact getting in late and leaving early will have on their careers.  They fear that it’s going to put a dent on their performance assessments, that their managers frown on such hours when non-parents don’t have such issues and can get in early and leave late every day.  They fear the judgmental eyes and “another half day, eh?” remarks from colleagues looking at them like they spend less hours at work and therefore should be viewed less favorably by management.  I know, as I’ve been the brunt of these whisperings after my daughter was born.

New mothers returning to the workforce experience GUILT in situations where a woman needs or prefers (and is economically able) to stay at home, and yet you know your parents spent X amount of money for a college education to have a better shot at a successful career.  You feel like it was a waste of their hard-earned money (or blood, sweat and tears) to get you to where you are today.

Here’s where I want to mention that one of the two speakers was a woman who, like the man, explained the challenges she had to overcome in getting to where she is today.  Like any speaker giving a rah rah speech for career-minded individuals at a workplace event, she addressed the crowd in a general fashion, making assumptions in so doing.

She looked at the audience and firmly addressed the women in the audience with a statement that, and I can’t quote her exactly but the gist of what she was saying was, working mothers should be proud for returning to work after having their babies.  That just made it sound like stay at home mothers should feel bad for staying at home with their babies.

She mentioned how happy she was when her 12 year old daughter recently told her that she is proud of her mother’s successful career and she has no negative feelings or memories for not having spent that much time with her while growing up.  Unfortunately, this is not representative of the reactions of every child out there in similar circumstances.

She mentioned that she gave birth without the aid of an epidural and was in labor for 22 hours.  I have to say that she is fortunate there were no complications during/after her labor and delivery, because unfortunately, not every woman fares this well in similar circumstances.  Some experience childbirth complications, like I did.  Some don’t survive.  Some survive but their babies don’t.

She was sleep deprived and had to return to work within weeks of giving birth.  She mentioned that it’s definitely hard work but absolutely possible for everyone with babies to get by with little sleep and still do well at work.  She said that everyone has the ability to cope with the temporary challenges of new parenthood, juggling work with sleep deprivation.  She said something to the effect of “If I could do it, so can you. Don’t complain, just do.”  This is not a direct quote, mind you, but the gist of what she was saying at the very end of her speech.

I was deeply interested in/commiserated with and appreciated the speakers and what they had to say…..up until this last point.  It’s all good and fine that this is a rah rah speech for career-minded individuals.  But having gone through what I went through….postpartum depression (PPD), which is crippling and can make you doubt you’ll ever be well again, let alone back at work in the highly functioning, ambitious professional you were before you gave birth and ended up in the dark hole of despair that is PPD (and any other postpartum mood disorder), I found myself biting my lip, cringing inwardly while smiling outwardly and thinking to myself “She has no clue and I would venture to guess that even if I went up to her and told her how her last statements can hurt the one in eight women–many of whom are professionals–that end up stricken with PPD, she would wave me off just like the female colleague to whom I had tried to explain my PPD experience waved me off.”

Can I blame her for not getting it because she’s never been there?  No.  But I sure as heck am thinking about sending her a note (with perhaps a link to my blog or a copy of my book) that what she said absolutely does not resonate with everyone, and she should be mindful of the fact that not everyone can JUST DO IT like she did.  As much as one would like to JUST DO IT (after all, that is my favorite mantra of all time, thanks to Lance Armstrong and Nike), I COULD NOT.  Not until I was well again.

Having the attitude of JUST DO or BUCK UP or IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU is an attitude that fails new mothers not from the standpoint of striving to keep up with male counterparts if we expect to climb up that corporate ladder and break through the bamboo, glass…and new mother ceilings, but from the assumption that no mother EVER has pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum complications.  Saying JUST DO, no matter what, is implying that mothers who have had new mother-related challenges are NOT GOOD ENOUGH and the mother with challenges must be all alone in her experience because, heck, no one ever shares negative stories of new mother-related challenges.  Well, that’s because everyone with negative experiences are all AFRAID of speaking up.  IT’S FEAR, GUILT, AND SHAME THAT KEEP THEM QUIET.

This is STIGMA, folks.  And we need to change attitudes in the workplace.  Do away with all the ceilings–bamboo and glass–as well as the negative perceptions and attitudes pertaining to working parents and new mothers, in general.  All I’m asking is for people to open their eyes and accept that not all new mothers have the ability to return to work, even if they want to.  That they should not be ashamed for the reason.  They should not be ashamed to speak up.  And just because a new mother does manage to return to work right after baby, it does NOT mean there were absolutely no childbirth or childcare complications along the way.  STOP ASSUMING that everything is fine and dandy because in reality, approximately 15-20% of new mothers succumb to PPD.  PPD is experienced by women of all cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and religions.

Yes, I think I AM going to send her a copy of my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”

No One Wants to Hear Bragging About Losing Baby Weight Right Away

I just got back from a lovely dinner with the family in which we all enjoyed eating what we wanted to eat.  We ate to our heart’s content.  And then I went online and one of the first things I saw on Yahoo was this headline “Brandon Marshall –My Wife Just Had Twins….And She’s Already Pre-Baby Weight!”  Looks like in this case, it’s not the mom bragging.  It’s the husband.  “My beautiful wife is not from this planet,” Marshall says … “6 weeks post baby (×2) and she’s already at her pre baby (×2) weight.”  What are you seeking from the public by saying this, Mr. Marshall?  You wanna trophy or attention?  Well, if you want a trophy and attention, then help your team win the Super Bowl.

My reaction to this bragging and self-serving article about Mr. Marshall’s wife?

hcx3r

Woop-dee-doo and la-dee-da

This article annoyed the heck out of me.  Motivated me to write this blog post.  Something similar motivated me three years ago to write about the Media’s Over-Emphasis on Celebrity Post-Baby Bods After Childbirth.  It didn’t annoy me because I have been struggling with body issues.  I did not struggle with self esteem issues or unhappiness with my body/weight after I had my daughter 10 years ago.  I had a traumatic childbirth experience, followed by postpartum depression that descended on me quickly and mercilessly.  I experienced sudden and uncontrollable weight loss.  I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep.  I was afraid I was suffering from an illness I would never recover from.  But that article and articles like Mr. Marshall’s annoyed me because they are a disservice to new mothers, in general.  .

Mr. Marshall, if a woman who’s just had a baby and has bounced right back to the condition she first started before she even got pregnant, she’s either a celebrity or some other rich person who can afford a personal trainer to get you there and quickly. Like your wife.

The average mother takes quite a while to return to their pre-baby weight, and it takes a lot of effort too.  So, stop bragging about how it was no big deal for your wife.  The reality is (which is a different reality–or shall I say, and quite a propos too– planet than the one you and other celebrities/sports figures seem to find yourselves in), there are many mothers just trying to get by each day of their few weeks as new mothers, trying to adjust to parenthood for the first time, not having enough help and definitely not enough sleep, and about 15-20% succumbing to PPD.  The last thing new mothers should be worried about–certainly not in the FIRST SIX WEEKS (click here for what the first six weeks means when it comes to a real mother’s experience and how CRITICAL they are to her wellbeing) is returning to their pre-pregnancy weight and figure.  Celebrities need to get a grip and realize things do not revolve around them, even though they think that’s the case.  Everyone does NOT lead lives of the rich and famous.  Everyone does NOT have the ability to hire people for various types of help at the snap of a finger.

Who needs headlines jumping out bragging about a woman returning to her pre-pregnancy weight and body in only 6 weeks when most new mothers are out there struggling to learn how to breastfeed, diaper and care for their babies with insufficient support and guidance?  About 80% find themselves struggling with hormonal and emotional swings that come with the baby blues that in up to 20% of all new mothers morphs into PPD.  Most new moms are out there struggling to get enough hours of sleep each day so their sleep deprivation and anxieties of first-time motherhood don’t spiral into a postpartum mood disorder, like postpartum anxiety.  Many new moms are concerned about having to find dependable help to watch their baby so they can go back to work in 6-12 weeks’ time to help the family make ends meet.   Six to twelve weeks is hardly enough time for a new mom’s body to heal from childbirth and they are expected to leave their babies in the care of others to return to work, hitting the ground running, as if they’d never given birth in the first place.  How nice that men never have to go through this (and this is another point people need desperately to look more closely at….paid parental leave).

At the end of the day, no one wants to hear bragging about losing baby weight right away, m’kay.

Celebrating My 6th Blogiversary

Well, ladies (and perhaps some gentlemen), I’ve managed to keep my blog going for SIX years.  If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you might’ve noticed the gradual transition of my blog’s focus, tone and frequency.

But through it all, my intent has remained the same….to make sure that those who need the kind of support and reassurance that I couldn’t find and didn’t have access to during my postpartum depression (PPD) experience ten years ago can find my blog and feel a little less alone in their postpartum experience.

For the moms who are going through PPD with insomnia as an initial/primary symptom and are bewildered, like I was, as to why in the world I would not be able to fall asleep when I was so exhausted and recovering from a traumatic childbirth experience, hospital stay and blood loss.

For the moms who develop panic attacks and are bewildered, not understanding what is going on with them because they have never experienced panic attacks before.

For the moms who got pregnant after many years of trying through IVF, thinking all would be blissful once the baby arrives but instead are blindsided by the sudden onset of PPD.

These are the moms who are finding my blog.  Moms who longed to hold their babies in their arms the way they had envisioned they would but could not enjoy their first weeks with the baby because of the darkness of PPD that enveloped them.

I know I am still helping some moms. I know from the comments they leave. I know from the occasions a mom reaches out and asks me to email, text and/or call her.

I want you to be well and to get the right help as quickly as possible so you can.

For those who have been following my blog these past six years, thank you.

I hope to continue to come up with blog posts that people find in searches and that help make a difference in a mother’s (or father’s) life.

I have a few author interviews and other posts coming up.  Please stay tuned.

Beautiful, Troubled Path – A Poem by Stacy M

Stacy M. wrote this poem one year after her first postpartum depression (PPD) meltdown/hospitalization. 

She wrote it as a reflection of the obstacles she hadn’t expected becoming a mom would entail, including a devastating pregnancy loss. 

Despite the deeply wounding obstacles she came across, she never gave up. 

She felt so broken during her  hospitalization, after which she was able to realize that she could heal and move on and still be a great mom.

She wanted to share this poem with other moms who are on a beautiful, troubled path now or have also traveled a similar path.

Just like her, you may not have expected that becoming a mother–a traditionally happy, joyous occasion–could have any pain or darkness associated with it.

Just like her, you will find that the pain and darkness will pass and  beauty will prevail in the end.  Yes, beauty is at the end of the path.

And the difficult experiences are what make you a stronger individual.

Thank you, Stacy, for sharing your touching poem.

 

Path

Photo: Ivy Shih Leung

Beautiful, Troubled Path

have you seen how dark it can get in a grieving mind
have you tried on the shoes that I have walked in oh so many times

have you felt the heavy rain turn to hail upon your shoulders
or have you tried living life moving constant boulders

obstacle after obstacle
how many leaps of faith can one take

wound after wound
how much more heartache

the path to having a family of my own
has set off tears that will never dry

skinned knees from being on the ground
begging the universe please

strength and patience is the hardest to hold onto
when waiting to find inner peace

balancing my mind day in and day out
balancing the pain with a breathe of fresh air
is the only way to heal
to feel

the beauty underneath this troubled path
of becoming a good parent and a better person

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

By:  Stacy M.

Why I Blog and What Social Media Means for Me

I am a part of the way through something I am working on this summer that is causing me to have no time to follow the over 500 Facebook pages whose news appears on my feed on a daily basis that takes, easily, up to 4 hours a day to read through.  Reading everything in my Facebook feed requires me to be on Facebook on my commute to and from work (about 1 hour each way), plus 2 or so hours after I put my daughter to bed each night.  I’m fairly certain that all my Facebook friends–at least those that have NOT hidden me from their feeds–are relieved at not having to see every single time I Like a post with a Global setting (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for this ridiculousness).  Ha!

A couple of friends recently asked me if I plan to cut back from Facebook on a permanent basis, like I did with Twitter a couple years ago because that became too time consuming (and I was getting tired of the cliquey snark and popularity contests that left a bad taste in my mouth….and I don’t have time for that sh*t), and as a full-time employee with a long commute to/from work each day, I found it impossible to keep up with it.  At this point, I do not know.  I will have to see how it goes.  I must say, though, that it is so freeing not to have to feel like I MUST get through everything in my news feed every single day!  More time to do what I have to do.  Less stress.

A couple of friends also asked me if I planned to keep up blogging, to which I indicated that I will always keep up my blogging and advocacy for maternal mental health and anti-bullying.  They indicated it seems I have reached the end of my journey of documenting and processing my emotions and experiences that occurred before, during and after I had my daughter. But I told them that I will always need an outlet and I will always be passionate and outspoken about these two topics.  And after all, the origin of the word “blog” came from web log:  an online journal or diary, a means to get one’s thoughts and feelings out and at the same time sharing with individuals who can appreciate your posts.

I may not have amassed that large of a following, but what I do know is that I am reaching people on a daily basis who find me via certain key words.  I am content knowing that I continue reaching and helping others feel less alone with their experiences and I continue to spread awareness so fewer new moms will go through what I went through…..the original intent of this blog.

I am not using social media for popularity purposes.  In fact, on Facebook I choose to keep a very small circle of Facebook “friends.”  I limit this small circle to those I know IRL (in real life) or with whom I have corresponded regularly online for a certain length of time and with whom I feel very like-minded.  And if I know the person IRL, I have to have a positive relationship with that person (this is pretty logical, no?).

I’m not blogging strictly to see how many Likes or Shares I can get or friends I can make.  If that were the sole purpose, I would’ve stopped a long time ago.  Despite the fact that I have been blogging for over 5 years and people still haven’t heard of my blog–even in the field of maternal mental health–and certain individuals who used to support my blog but don’t any longer, I am going to keep on doing what I’m doing.

I’ve said this in previous posts that my blogging style (as straightforward, down to earth, genuine, no BS, and “what you see is what you get” as you’ll ever come across….which reflects the kind of person I am IRL) isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.  Everyone is different. I am staying true to myself.

I care about new moms who feel as lost as I did when I first had my baby.

I care about teens who get bullied.

That is all.

Thank You, New York Times, for Your Recent Coverage on Maternal Mental Health

These past couple of weeks have been a blur of work and plans for celebrating a couple of milestones in my life.

A little behind, as I usually don’t blog about such meaningful news relating to maternal mental health a couple weeks after they occur, here I am today, taking a quick break from what I am working on right now to applaud the two-part New York Times focus on maternal mental health, the first of which was titled “Thinking of Ways to Harm Her: New Findings on Timing and Range of Maternal Mental Illness” and appeared on June 15, 2014 on the front page and the second part titled “After Baby, an Unraveling:A Case Study in Maternal Mental Illness” appeared the very next day.

Kudos to Pam Belluck, the reporter who wrote the articles and ensured they received such prime spots in such a major newspaper.   Ms. Belluck interviewed three mothers for the first article, and the second article featured the story of Cindy Wachtenheim, who after battling postpartum psychosis, ended her life on March 13, 2013.  Both articles mention Postpartum Support International (PSI), the organization I joined back in 2006 in my search for answers and information as I endeavored to write a book about my own experience with postpartum depression (PPD), which began in January 2005 and ended a few months prior to the first PSI conference I attended in June 2006.

A week ago, on June 23, 2014, an article appeared on HuffPost Parents titled “What the New York Times Got Right and Wrong About Maternal Mental Health” in response to the NY Times articles.  Very good points made by  Christiane Manzella, PhD, FT, supervision director and senior psychologist at the Seleni Institute including how, even though this two-part series in the NY Times was a step in the right direction, it was still a missed opportunity to educate the public on the common misconceptions of postpartum mood disorders.  For example, many cases of postpartum mood disorders actually begin during pregnancy (i.e., antenatal or antepartum depression) or up to a year after and is not strictly limited to the first weeks postpartum.  Also, the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders covers not only PPD, but postpartum psychosis as well, which is still not being diagnosed/treated correctly in all too many cases today…and unfortunately the disastrous outcome hits the news, like in the case of Cindy Wachtenheim.

I also wanted to highlight the June 21, 2014 Letters to the Editor submitted in reaction to the two-part series on maternal mental health.  Note the first letter written by Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center.

Thank you, Pam Belluck and the NY Times for making these articles happen and putting them in the spotlight to bring more awareness about perinatal mood disorders to the public.  For too long perinatal mood disorders have been lingering in the shadows, remaining a topic that has evaded the understanding by medical/mental health practitioners and the public alike.

Every mother deserves to understand what perinatal mood disorders are, as well as how to know when to get help and who to go to for help without fear.  Fear of stigma.  Fear of any potential repercussions. People need to put aside these fears because things can get very bad very quickly if a mother does not seek help in a timely fashion, or gets the wrong diagnosis and/or treatment.

Every mother deserves to receive the right treatment and not be afraid to seek it.  As in my case and in all too many other mothers’ cases, time is of the essence in getting the correct treatment.  If I had gone much longer with my insomnia and panic attacks without the right combination of medications to treat them, I am not certain what would have happened.  I was in a very bad place for a few weeks, and I am ever so grateful for only losing a few weeks of precious time with my baby.  The outcome could have been so much worse.