Thursday, April 16, 2015

PPD Tip: Join the MOMS Club

If you have postpartum depression, you might feel alone and isolated. Making new friends with babies close in age to your baby can really help on this front. Of course, that is easier said than done. When I had postpartum depression, so many people told me, again and again, that I had to make new mom friends.  It was overwhelming. It felt like another unmanageable task on an already daunting To Do List. I could not even handle the laundry. Now I was supposed to get dressed, leave the house, and make some new best friends?

Friendship is not something you can force. Just because you join a Mommy and Me class does not guarantee you are about to meet your New Best Friends. You might have to visit a lot of playgrounds, and go to a lot of classes, before you feel comfortable around other new moms. That's okay.

Once I was being treated for postpartum depression, I realized that I really did need some local mom friends who could relate to the motherhood issues I was handling at any time. I tried a lot of different things, but in the end, one of the best resources was the Pasadena MOMS Club.

There are MOMS Clubs all over the country.  Chances are, you live near one.

The MOMS Club of Pasadena is wonderful. It hosts lots of group activities, including a monthly Mom's Night Out. Members are assigned to play groups, and I met a lot of good friends that way.

This is not the only way to make friends, but if you have postpartum depression and live in Pasadena, I think the MOMS Club is a great place to start.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hi! I'm Pregnant!

Sorry for the lack of posts and gatherings, but it's all for a good cause: I'm pregnant! And oh my god, I feel as if I've been hit by a truck.

My psychiatrist changed my medications at the very start of the pregnancy. Goodbye, Zoloft; hello, Buspiron. I'm now taking Buspiron, 15 mg, three times a day (it has a short half life.) When I first cut the Zoloft, I had some rough days - lots of uncontrollable crying and feeling like I had been thrown into a dark pit of misery. I felt about as crappy as I felt in July 2013, the day before I admitted myself to the hospital for PPD. That was discouraging, to say the least.

But I cried myself out, and wrote a bunch of pitiful entries in my journal, and now I am feeling much better.  The Buspiron seems to have kicked in and is doing good things for my serotonin. But I am still seeing my psychologist tomorrow. He treated my PPD, and I have not had an appointment with him since March 2014. It feels like a good time to touch base. I think I have some lingering PPD ghosts that need to be addressed. 

Physically, I'm feeling like shit on a stick. Last Wednesday, I had to go to the ER at 4 a.m. because I could not stop puking. The nurses took good care of me. They hooked me to an IV, gave me anti-nausea meds, and rehydrated me. I was discharged after a few hours and spent the rest of the day in bed, feeling like death. Thank goodness my dad was able to spend the day with Pippa. 

My ob/gyn hooked me up with a relatively new medication that is helping the morning sickness. I can still only eat bland foods, but at least I'm not puking five or six times a day.  (I'm not being coy about this new medication's name. It starts with a D but that's all I can remember and I'm too tired to get up and check now.)

Now I am mainly dealing with first trimester fatigue. I feel like I'm getting the flu and also like my muscles are disintegrating. It's frustrating and scary. For me, first trimester fatigue feels a lot like depression. When I was depressed, I just wanted to stay at home, lie around, and do nothing. Now that I have first trimester fatigue, I just want to stay at home, lie around and do nothing. I've done very little work on my book. I haven't painted in weeks. And just the thought of going to the gym makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.

When I had PPD, and felt like doing nothing, I had to do something. No matter how lazy and exhausted I felt, I had to exercise. I had to take walks. I had to paint and draw and knit and work on my book and throw impromptu dance parties with Pippa. The more I did, the more energy I had.

Now I'm exhausted because I'm growing a brand new soul. Important amazing stuff is happening in my uterus. Right now I'm fine-tuning the four chambers of baby's heart. Is it any wonder that I want to nap all afternoon and then go to bed before 8?

But I keep second guessing myself.  I worry that I should be fighting against the depression and dragging my ass out of the house to go on adventures. I have to remind myself every day that I am not depressed - I'm pregnant. The things I'm feeling are normal pregnancy symptoms, not depression red flags.

Anyway, I have gatherings planned but I'm giving myself a little time to nap and cruise in the slow lane. Need to make sure this baby gets ten little fingers and ten little toes. When my energy is back, there will be more activities.

Friday, March 27, 2015

PPD Tip: The Art of Listmaking

I learned this trick from Postpartum Depression for Dummies by Shoshanna Bennet. That book was my bible during my recovery. I highly recommend it. In fact, I think there should be a copy of it in the waiting room of every ob/gyn and pediatrician.

The book taught me so much and helped me kick PPD in the ass. I had a lot of anxiety and Dr. Bennett's tips for making lists helped me manage that anxiety.

First, make a Master To Do List. Put everything that is nagging you on this list. Are you already stressing about holiday presents? Put it on the list. Worried about choosing a high school for your newborn? On the list.

Then put the Master To Do List in an accessible but out-of-the-way place. I kept mine in a drawer in a nook near the master bath. Accessible but I had to open the drawer to see the list. Also, I made this list with a pen and paper. Easy.

Every night, before bed, I made my Daily To Do List for the next day. I put 3-5 items on this list. For the first several months of my recovery, I always had "take a shower" on the list.

I never put something massive, like "clean the house," on the list. I put small bite size tasks on the list instead, like "go through the mail pile and toss junk mail." Was I going to clean the entire house in a single day? Fuck no! But could I maybe sort through a stack of junk mail while Pippa did tummy time? Sure.

I didn't always accomplish all the items on my daily list. When that happened, I proudly crossed off the item anyway.

Two or three times a week, I checked my Master To Do List. Gradually I crossed things off that list. Sometimes I added to it. The list calmed me because I knew that once I put a task on the list, it would eventually get done. I was not going to forget to buy Christmas presents damnit because it was on the list! (True story.)

As I recovered, I forgot about the Master To Do List. I checked it less frequently and then one day, I dug it out of the drawer and realized I didn't need it anymore.

Same thing for the daily lists. One day, I realized I didn't need the lists anymore to feel like I was in control of my life.

Now I keep lists intermittently when I feel like I'm juggling a lot of balls and don't want to drop something important. I also have some To Do lists saved on my computer but they are fun lists, like "craft projects to try" and "projects to make the house pretty."

Lists really helped me manage my anxiety. If your PPD is stirring up a ton of anxiety, I recommend you give this strategy a try. Remember to include something fun on your Master List, like "pedicure" or "brunch with best friend."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tomorrow: Join Us For Tea in Old Town

Different venue, slightly later time tomorrow: 10:30 a.m. at Bird Pick Tea & Herb in Old Town Pasadena. Come join us for tea and conversation!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

PPD Tip: Talk About PPD

My recovery from PPD started when I saw my doctor, admitted myself to the hospital, and started taking medication. A lot of things were essential to my recovery: my psychiatrist and psychologist; the support of my loved ones; getting out of the house; exercise; writing; and taking care of myself.

But you know what was the most essential part of my recovery? Talking. The meds and exercise helped my neurotransmitters; but talking healed my soul.

We have to talk about PPD. A lot. Talking helps us air our shit and realize our shit is not as awful as we thought. Silence suggests we have something to hide. Silence suggests we did something wrong. We did nothing wrong and we have nothing to hide - so talk about it. Talk about PPD with your friends, your hairdresser, and the mom standing next to you at the swing set. Every time you talk about PPD, you are giving your soul a great big bear hug!

Don't know how to start? Call or email your best friend. Tell her this crazy blogger says you will feel better if you talk about PPD. Ask if you can give it a go for a few minutes. Then start talking!

We women need to talk. It's cathartic. After a bad breakup, or even just a disappointing first date, didn't you used to talk and talk and analyze and talk about it over brunch with your best friend? Well this is so much more important! Trust me. If your best friend listened to you whine about unrequited love, she will want to listen to anything you are willing to say about PPD. Your best friend is desperate to help! Let her help you in at least this way. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

PPD Tip: Sign Up For Red Tricyle

If you are recovering from postpartum depression, you need to get out of the house. Going to Target or the grocery store is a good start, but your brain and soul need more. They need to go to different fun places. New parks, museums, gardens... but PPD will make this seem daunting and scary and like too damn much.

When I was recovering from PPD, I knew I had to get out the house and show my baby the world... but where?  This seemed like an impossible Final Jeopardy question.

I signed up for a few mommy newsletters/blogs. They gave me lots of ideas for baby-friendly outings. They told me when to go, and how to make the trip a success.

My favorite is Red Tricycle. (It's at Sign up for their LA edition newsletter - it has tons of great ideas for Pasadena moms. In those early days of my recovery, the Red Tricycle emails made me feel excited. The PPD was doing its damnedest to drag me back into the darkness, but Red Tricycle made me think things like "Oh wow, a music class with Pippa!" or "We must try that restaurant near the airport!" or "What a beautiful park!" 

If you do one thing this week, sign up for your local edition of Red Tricycle. (I am not being paid to say this. The folks at Red Tricycle do not even know I exist.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Climb Out Of the Darkness - Team Pasadena!

I am so excited to tell you about Climb Out of the Darkness. This event is held on or near the longest day of the year. Women around the world climb, hike or walk to signify climbing out of the darkness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and into the light. Climb Out is now the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illness.

Last year, I hiked alone to celebrate my climb out of the hell of postpartum depression. I blogged about here. This year, I am organizing Team Pasadena. Hooray!

Come hike with me! Anyone can register to join the hike - you don't have to fundraise. (Although any fundraising is most welcome.) Go here and then click the register button to join the hike. The hike is the morning of Saturday, June 20, 2015. I am in the process of auditioning a few local hikes because I want something that is beautiful, shady, and toddler/baby friendly. I haven't picked the time yet, but it will be about 9 a.m. - civilized enough on a Saturday morning, but early enough to beat the Pasadena heat.

If you can't hike that day, but want to support the cause, you can donate to my campaign. Click here and then click the donate button. Even a five dollar donation will make me sing and dance.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Easy Pasadena Outing: The Pet Store!

When I was in the depths of my depression, I knew I had to get out of the house. I did not know what was wrong with me, but I knew I was spending too much time home alone with my baby. But I was too overwhelmed to do laundry, let alone plan an expedition to the park. It was much easier to stay at home.

Let me plan some easy outings for you. I will tell you everything you need to know so you do not have to worry about the logistics. I have been to all of these places and think they are great places for a mom with PPD to go. These are the sorts of outings that will help you build momentum and confidence.

First easy Pasadena outing: the pet store.  Specifically, PetSmart.

Pasadena's PetSmart is in East Pasadena in the shopping center off Foothill Blvd with Best Buy, Old Navy and Nordstrom Rack.  It's website is here. For our purposes, it is almost always open (every day, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

Parking is easy and free. There's a big lot, and there is always plenty of parking available right by the PetSmart entrance. (Ok, it might be crowded on Black Friday and Christmas Eve You have my permission to avoid those crowds.)

The doggy day care is at the back of the store and the dogs are lots of fun to watch. I took Pippa there all the time when I was still recovering from PPD. We spent a lot of time sitting on the floor watching the dogs. For a little baby, it's better than the zoo because the animals are right there. I'm not joking. I used to take Baby Pippa to the zoo and I'd be pointing at the zebras and she would be admiring the fence post. But if I took her to PetSmart, she would watch all the animals furiously while buzzing with joy.  In addition to the dogs, Petsmart has fish, hamsters, birds, mice, guinea pigs, turtles and sometimes even a chinchilla. (Chinchillas are so cute. Just Google.) There are also cats, but most of the time, they are in their cages sleeping.

In the back of the store, there is a bathroom AND IT HAS A CHANGING TABLE. And it's always clean! My grocery store does not have a changing table, but PetSmart does. WTF?

This outing is FREE. You don't have to buy anything. Ever. If that makes you feel guilty or a little anxious, I understand. PPD really knows how to press our guilt and anxiety buttons. Take a deep breath. Try to summon up a feeling of calm.  Guess what? Dozens and hundreds of people wander into PetSmart every day to look at the animals and they do not buy anything. The PetSmart employees do not care if you spend money. (They will care if you let your child wreck the display of Martha Stewart dog outfits.)

Breastfeeding: Full disclosure - I stopped breastfeeding when Pippa was four months old, so I have not personally vetted this issue. If you want privacy, and the car does not work, you could try the dressing rooms at Nordstroms Rack and Old Navy.

What to turn this into a bigger outing? Hit the shopping center's Starbucks and get yourself a treat. After you have spent enough time admiring the goldfish, visit Party City. If your baby is old enough, buy her a mylar balloon. It will stay inflated for weeks. Have lunch at Chipotle or Togo's. Or just hit and run PetSmart. There is no wrong way to do this outing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

PPD Tip: Smile for Ten Seconds

That's it. Ten seconds. That's all I'm asking you to do. Fake a smile for ten seconds.

In Psych 1, I learned about experiments that show the mood-lifting benefits of a smile. Just the act of smiling makes us feel better. I have tried this trick hundreds of times, and it really helps.

Will a ten second smile experiment cure your PPD? No. But, a daily smile can be one of the many tools that helps you defeat the PPD beast.

Give yourself a ten second smile. You deserve it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

PPD Tip: Let In The Light!

The soul needs fresh air and sunshine, but sometimes, getting outside with a baby seems about as easy as launching a lunar expedition. If you can't get outside, take a minute to open the blinds and curtains. I always feel happier when I fill the house with natural light.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

This Week's Gathering: Cancelled

Sorry to do this on short notice, but I will not be able to make it to this week's park gathering. My husband is headed out of town for work, and I realized I would be much happier if I stayed with my parents for extra company and support while he's gone.  They live on the Westside so it's logistically too tough for me to schlep back and forth.

Remember: it's important to take care of yourself! I was going to stay in Pasadena for this meetup, but I realized I was being silly. I would get lonely and bored if I stay here, but at my parents' house, I will get to go out for a mani-pedi (yay) and do some other fun stuff.

Please feel free to email me at any time. No question is too personal. My email is I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

160 Is Your New Lucky Number

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, my psychiatrist told me to get my heart rate up to 160 every day. Studies show that this helps fight depression. He told me I did not need to keep my heart rate at 160 for a long time - a few seconds was enough.

If you have postpartum depression, or think you might, please see your doctor. But don't just rely on pills and monthly check-ups. Recovery is so much more than that. Try getting your heart rate up to 160 every day and see if that's a piece of your recovery puzzle. 

If you are out of shape, you will not have to do much to get your heart rate up! Some jumping jacks might do the trick. If you are in excellent shape, then you probably have the exercise thing under control and you don't need any lectures from me!

You can do this. When my psychiatrist first told me to get my heart rate up, I felt so overwhelmed. Exercise? Every day? Impossible! How could I possibly be a good mother and get my heart rate up?

Now I know that was the PPD talking. When I exercise at home, Pippa is fascinated. She imitates my moves while I flail about and get my sweat glands working. When I go to the gym, she is thrilled because she gets to play with her friends at day care for an hour.

The goal is 160 every day - but whatever you can do, that is a good start. Carving out a few minutes for jumping jacks might seem overwhelming. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  If I could reach through your computer screen and give you a hug, I would. It is okay to feel overwhelmed. Your hormones have gone bat shit crazy! On the exercise front, do what you can. Congratulate yourself for what you do.  Forgive yourself for what you can't. 

Location Change for Tuesday Meetings

So last week, I learned that Grant Park is not the place to be on Tuesday mornings. (Unless you are willing to pay a $46.90 parking ticket (ugh, street cleaning)).  So going forward, we will keep meeting at Grant Park on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, and we will meet at Brookside Park on the first and third Tuesdays.

Brookside Park has two playgrounds.  There is the awesome pirate ship park behind the aquatic center - we are NOT meeting there. We will meet at the playground on the Kidspace side of the park. Go to the Rose Bowl. Park in Lot K - there is plenty of free parking, and there are lots of signs pointing the way to Kidspace. As you head towards Kidspace, you will see a playground.  There's a main playground and a smaller playground for toddlers. We will gather at the smaller playground for toddlers.

If you have PPD, I know this might seem intimidating. YOU CAN DO THIS. And if you get lost or the baby has an explosive poopy diaper or you accidentally go to the pirate ship playground? So what!  You missed a free play group, big deal. My feelings will not be hurt - I know how tough it is to get out of the house when you are fighting those PPD demons.

If you can get yourself to the Rose Bowl, you can find the playground. There are tons of signs pointing the way to Lot K and Kidspace. Follow the signs, you will be fine. I know you can do this.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Upcoming Meetings

I thought a little predictability might be nice. Going forward, we will meet on the first and third Tuesday, and the second and fourth Wednesday, of the month. Our gatherings start at 10 a.m. at Grant Park.

We gather at the picnic tables by the sandbox. As you can imagine, my toddler does not like to patiently sit at the tables while the playground beckons, so I will dump my bag at the tables and put up a sign that says PPD. (It's a really pathetic simple sign right now, but maybe someday, I will paint something pretty!)  Just add your bags to Camp PPD and I'll make sure we connect. 

Since we have fun weather in Pasadena, please remember to check the blog the day before a meeting to confirm the location. If there is rain or brutal heat in the forecast, we will meet elsewhere. Also, be sure to check the blog for other fun random gatherings.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Upcoming Meetings

Park gatherings are suboptimal because it's difficult to have a meaningful conversation while keeping a baby or toddler safe.  But, parks are free, and I don't want anyone to miss a meeting because something is not in their budget.  I am hunting for a better meeting place.  A place where we can safely corral and easily entertain our little ones, and still have good conversations.  If you have any leads, let me know!

For now, we will stick to Grant Park. We will set up camp at the picnic tables by the sandbox.  There is an excellent coffee shop across the street.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 10 a.m. at Grant Park. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. at Grant Park

I would eventually like to choose some regular meeting times, but for now, I'm shifting days around to try to accommodate as many moms as possible. 

All moms who have or had postpartum depression are welcome to attend!  Let's build a community of peer-to-peer support together and help eliminate the stigma and ignorance surrounding the most common postpartum complication.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Upcoming Meeting: February 11 at Grant Park

We will have a meeting at Pasadena's Grant Park on February 11, 2015 at 10 a.m.  All are welcome!  We will meet at the picnic tables by the sandbox. 

Grant Park is located at 1200 Cordova Street, Pasadena, CA 91106.  There is plenty of free street parking.  There is a cute little cafĂ© across the street from the park where you can get coffee. 

Come enjoy some fresh air with us! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January 2015: My Current PPD Treatment

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression in July 2013, four months after the birth of my daughter Pippa.  At that time, my psychiatrist prescribed 100 mg of Zoloft and 30 mg of Mirtazapine (aka Remoeron).  I am now taking 150 mg of Zoloft and 3.25 mg of Mirtazapine every night before I go to bed. I see my psychiatrist every four weeks, give or take a few days.

These are some other things I do to keep my mental health as awesome as possible:

- Regular exercise, especially lots of Zumba and swimming because those activities get my heart pumping and make me smile.
- No alcohol. If I have even a few sips of wine, the next day I feel depressed, so I have not had a sip of alcohol in nearly a year. I don't miss it at all.
- Seeing a wide range of friends and family on a regular basis.  
- Having time away from Pippa so I can recharge my batteries.
- Getting out of the house!