PPPSS News & Events

Giving Tuesday

 

Most people know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now Giving Tuesday is coming to Canada on December 2, 2014. We hope that you will consider making a donation to our Giving Tuesday campaign. Please click on the video above to learn more about Giving Tuesday.

Please consider giving to our campaign this #GivingTuesday!

 

Recent Article in The Squamish Chief

A wonderful article was recently published in The Squamish Chief discussing postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as PPPSS services. Click here to read it.

 

Relapse

By Andrea Paterson

I’ve been open about my postpartum journey from the start, therefore well meaning friends and relatives sometimes want to know if I’m “cured.” They ask because they’re concerned about my health and happiness but the question implies a state of unfaltering psycho-spiritual stability that still eludes me. My son is approaching three years old. I’m now well beyond the period typically thought of as “postpartum.” Postpartum depression is generally defined as depression and anxiety symptoms occurring within the first 12 months after the birth of a child. Pacific Post Partum Support Society extends their services to women from pregnancy to three years postpartum, which is an exceptionally generous time span that honours the complexity and slow changes implicit in the postpartum journey. But there still comes a time when saying that you are struggling with postpartum depression feels disingenuous. I begin to wonder, on bad days when my transition to motherhood still feels very new and very raw, if I really should be “cured” and I wonder what’s wrong with me if I’m still resolving pieces of my postpartum journey.

The postpartum process is different for everyone. Some people resolve their depression quickly while others take much longer to work through a variety of emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges. The thing to remember is that postpartum depression doesn’t magically resolve the moment your child turns one, and many people experience episodes of relapse long after their original depression has been resolved.

Holidays, travel, major life changes, family issues, and other stressors can trigger symptoms that you thought were long ago put to rest. Even three years into motherhood I have days when I don’t think I can cope, I have moments when I collapse into tears, and I have weeks when I think I’ve back-slid into the depths of my depression where I could become stuck. What I have learned over time is that relapse is normal, frequently triggered by unusual or new stress, and definitely does not mean that I will be returning to the darkness I experienced two years ago.

I have a whole arsenal of tools that I didn’t have when my son was born. My ability to see when my self-care has been lacking is well honed. I’m more aware of the signs and symptoms of flagging stability and I can often change my circumstances to support a calm atmosphere before things go off the rails. But postpartum depression is not a sickness like the flu that, once gone, leaves you completely free of symptoms. Postpartum depression is a process that I live every day. Parenthood is a process of continual revision as we learn how to usher our children into the future under constantly changing circumstances, and postpartum depression is one aspect of my parenting process. I have to deal with that particular demon less and less these days, but it’s still there, lurking, waiting to leap up and force me to confront something about myself in my role as mother.

Thanks, in large part, to the support and training provided by Pacific Post Partum Support Society, I’m a stronger more resilient woman than I was the day my son was born. But to answer the ever present question: “Are you cured?” No I’m not. Not if “cured” means that I never experience symptoms or relapse of postpartum depression issues. Postpartum depression will always be a piece of my motherhood. I suspect I will face the ghosts of the postpartum period for as long as I am a mother. And while those ghosts are sometimes terrifying they are also my greatest teachers. In the end I can do nothing else but offer them my gratitude and work to transform myself just a little more each day.

I have also found it valuable to develop my own support systems. I have some wonderful friends that I met during my time with PPPSS and we meet regularly for dinner now, continuing the work that we started in the sleep deprived months after the births of our children. We have learned how to support each other and we can be bright sparks of joy and community in each other’s lives. I’ve discovered that support doesn’t need to end when the formal support group does. PPPSS works on the model of women supporting women, and that torch can be carried out into the world. I owe a great debt to my fellow journey-women, who understand my experiences and are always ready to light a candle for me when the depressive fogs roll in. I may not be “cured” but I’m confident that I have the resources and friendships in place that will allow me to find my way home, even on the darkest nights.

To read more about Relapse Prevention, including other women’s stories and experiences, click here.

Andrea is a writer, photographer, and mother to a very active and curious 2 year old. Currently an at home mom, Andrea makes time for the passionate pursuit of knitting, art, blogging, and reading as many books as her spare seconds will allow. She is deeply grateful for the assistance of Pacific Post Partum Support Society that was provided after her son was born.

Karen’s Story of Postpartum Depression

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Story by Karen

“During my pregnancy, a thought blew over me just like dandelion seeds “What if I put my baby’s foot in the garburator when he is born?” and then that thought blew away. Like a seed, that thought was planted in my mind, and all I could do was to shake it off whenever it came back. Over the next few weeks, the thought simply came and went. I figured it was a common pregnancy response and, although uncomfortable, it would eventually be gone.

After a beautiful labour, my son was born on a Friday night. Someone handed him to me and a picture of him in a white gown with a blue hem being prepared for his funeral flashed in my mind. And then it was gone.

“Whoa, what was that? I don’t like that.”

The next 24 hours were pretty standard: little sleep, several attempts at breastfeeding, my husband and I learning how to change a diaper, and a LOT of crying by me. The next morning I met with a nurse who asked me questions regarding personal and family history. I knew she was trying to determine whether I was at risk for post partum depression, but I didn’t feel depressed so all of my answers “checked out.” I subtly thought “steer your questions in a different direction, I’m not depressed but something else is going on, why aren’t you asking me the right questions, please help me, and don’t let me leave the hospital like this.” She stated “Baby Blues are common” which I questioned but accepted as she had four children of her own, after all. That nurse had thrown me a lifesaver, but it had sunk before my eyes. I was sinking and I couldn’t tread this water of motherhood alone. She left the room, it was the first time I would be alone with my baby, and I sobbed into him.

My mom stayed with us for the following six weeks. My husband and I couldn’t do this alone, we were totally clueless and completely overwhelmed. In the days following I cried a lot. I apologized to my husband profusely for the way I had treated him during my pregnancy and suggested we attend counselling sessions so that I could apologize properly; in my mind I vowed to never treat him badly again. The next night I told him that if this was all too much he “knew where the door was” and that we didn’t need him. Secretly though, I believed it was me that he and my son would be better off without.

Negative thoughts faded in and out over the next few days. Each time I gave my head a shake and would utter “No” under my breath. They didn’t listen and they kept coming back, each thought more vivid and demanding than the last. In the shower one day, I remembered a story from China I had heard a few days before: A baby was born and put in the toilet, only to get stuck in the pipes and survive. “I could do that” I nonchalantly thought and then immediately “NO! NO! I don’t want to do that.” From the bathroom I could hear my parents cooing “He is so cute” and in my mind I thought “You better get it in now, because he won’t be around for long.” I knew then that I needed to tell someone and get help. I could feel myself slipping.

At our five day follow-up with the midwife, she checked baby and me, everything was going well and she signed off my chart with “No concerns.” I was alarmed. How come no one could see the tornado of panic inside of me? I needed her to notice and I had to tell her; she was my beacon to safety and I couldn’t let her slip away from me. “Um, I think I have the baby blues” I stammered out.

She unpacked her things, crossed off “No Concern” from my chart and began making calls.

She thinks I am crazy, I must be the only one who has experienced this. This story started playing out in my mind and I watched it over and over again:

I call my husband at his work. “You have to come home.” He comes through the front door and says “What have you done?” I’m sitting on the couch with my head in my hands and I am crying. I spend the rest of my life locked up and am completely shunned from society. I wear only faded green hospital gowns, my hair is a rat’s nest and my family wants nothing to do with me. My husband and baby leave, I never hear from anyone again and I am alone. I am so unworthy. I will not see my baby grow. Of this I am convinced and I know that I deserve it: I am a bad person.

It is better this way, they are better off without me.

My midwife told me that we were going to the hospital and when we arrived the staff was waiting for me. I would be undergoing a psychiatric evaluation for psychosis. At the intake desk they asked me if I had thoughts of harming myself or others. I bobbed my head slowly up and down. It was the emptiest point of my life. To this, however, the intake nurse didn’t react at all. She hadn’t leapt over the counter to restrain me while an orderly came out with a big, dripping needle to sedate me, no one called the cops, and in fact she didn’t even look up from her screen. This was a routine question and I guessed that I had answered it routinely. I felt a whisper of relief, maybe she had heard this before and I was not the only one.

As I sat in the waiting room, which felt like a holding cell, the staff was kind to me. They brought in warm blankets and smiled my way. No one whispered about me behind my back, no one treated me like a hardened criminal or the scum of the hospital. When the ER doctor came to see me she asked, “If it’s going to happen anyway, you might as well just get it over with, right?” With one raised eyebrow I skeptically responded “Yes.” She checked off something on a chart and said “normal” and then walked out. “What?” I thought. “I’m not the worst person you’ve ever seen?”

I met with the staff psychologist. We talked and she assured me that I wasn’t a concern for psychosis at all, and that my thoughts, although very disturbing, were just that – thoughts. And I was the one making them happen. I wasn’t a risk and I could go home. Was I tricking her? Was I being fully honest? Did she hear what I was saying? I made my husband attend the interview to make sure that I wasn’t missing any details. I couldn’t believe any of this was common. But it was and is. I returned home that night.

For a long while I wasn’t comfortable being alone with my baby at all (and I couldn’t call him by his name for nearly 6 weeks). I slept on the other side of the room from him, only waking for feedings. I insisted that my husband use the washroom with the door open, and that he be on constant watch for me. Although I knew I wasn’t “crazy” I didn’t trust the diagnosis or myself. Slowly, though, it came and I regained that self-trust.

The last 17 months have been long, wonderful, daunting and the best time of my life.

From time-to-time I remind myself that I make thoughts happen and I can make them stop. I sometimes have to “place my anxiety on a leaf and watch it float away down a stream” (thank you talk-therapy). But I now know that nothing bad is ever going to happen. I will never hurt my son, ever. No matter how tired, no matter how overwhelmed, no matter what, my son is safest with me.

I am free. I am so honoured and privileged to have my son; I am grateful for each day that I watch him play and grow beautifully. My son has an amazing dad and a mom – me – who is happy, healthy, and devoted to his childhood being wonderful and magical. I love spending time with just my son, and there is no one better than me to raise him. Of that I am convinced.”

For more information regarding intrusive thoughts, please click here. In addition, please watch the following videos – here or hereIf you want to receive more information about the services offered at Pacific Post Partum Support Society please contact us by telephone at 1-855-255-7999 or via email at admin@postpartum.org.

Nutrition and Health

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By Shealagh Davis

As part of our ongoing recommendation for self-care here at PPPSS, we are focusing on nutrition and health in this week’s post. Specifically we are highlighting Fish Oils/Omega-3 fatty acids and their benefit to physical and emotional health. If you have any questions or would like to conduct additional research into the health benefits of the following Fish Oils and supplements, please contact your health care professional. These recommendations are not intended to be used in place of medical care, prescription medications, or therapy. Rather, studies show that while used in conjunction with treatment and a balanced diet, these supplements may improve health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, so we need to obtain them through our diet.

Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies are the richest food source of omega-3 fatty acids. But instead of eating more fish, which contain mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals, fish oil capsules are considered a cleaner source of omega-3 fatty acids. Many companies filter their fish oil so that these chemicals are removed.

Fish oil capsules are sold in health food stores, drug stores, and online. Most brands should be stored in the fridge to prevent the oil from going rancid. When comparing brands, the key active components for depression are EPA and DHA.

Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North American. Postpartum depression is also less common.

Studies suggest that omega-3’s together with antidepressants may be more effective than antidepressants alone.

Some other nutritional and health recommendations

Reduce your intake of sweets

Sweets temporarily make you feel good as blood sugar levels soar, but may worsen mood later on when they plummet.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol both dampen mood. Alcohol temporarily relaxes us and caffeine boosts energy, but the effects of both are short-lived. Both can worsen mood swings, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is needed to produce the mood-enhancing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Although deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare, a borderline deficiency may occur in people taking oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and drugs for tuberculosis.

Magnesium

Most people do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Good sources of magnesium are legumes, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables. Like vitamin B6, magnesium is needed for serotonin production. Stress depletes magnesium.

Exercise

Perhaps most importantly, regular exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to improve mood and is something that can be  integrated into a treatment plan. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, releases mood-elevating chemicals in the brain and can decrease stress hormones. What’s important is that you choose something you enjoy and will stick with, whether it’s going to the gym, signing up for dance classes, playing tennis, gardening, or taking a brisk walk outside each morning for at least 30 minutes five days a week.

If this feels like a lot, particularly while coping with PPD/A, start slowly. Begin with a short walk or bike ride and increase the duration each week. Incorporating exercise into your routine can become an excellent way to cope, while also improving overall health.