With the passing of this Thanksgiving holiday, I am once again reminded of the many blessings in my life. I believe having a thankful perspective should be year round. An attitude of gratitude is beneficial in many ways.
May this short inspirational video that I came across on YouTube, be a reminder for us all.
It is hard to believe that it was eighteen years ago today that I was blessed with my wonderful baby boy. Where does the time go? At times it seems like it was only yesterday that my son was born. Although the journey has been challenging, it is all worth it to have my son in my life.
I embraced my role as a mother so it was completely unexpected when postpartum psychosis came upon me like a tornado when my son was eight weeks old. Although postpartum psychosis robbed me of precious time with my baby boy, I can cherish the joyful time I had with my baby during the first six weeks of his life.
Yes, I experienced postpartum psychosis and its aftermath but I am able to say that it no longer defines who I am. It took years to get to the point that I am today. As I look back, there were times it seemed impossible that I would overcome the challenges I faced. But I did. I can honestly say that I would go through it all again in order to have my son in my life. Also, I can say that it is because of all that I went through that I now strive to share with others that it is possible to turn challenges into blessings.
The fall season is my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I am grateful that I am able to celebrate my son’s birthday during a time that the focus is on giving thanks for the blessings in life.
October was a busy month. The month went well. I completed a training that will enable me to train others on consumer involvement in leadership, civic participation and organizational skills. In fact, my blog post for this week was going to be about the training. But sometimes life gets in the way.
My focus and attention changed this weekend when I learned that one of my sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, it seems to have been caught early. Needless to say, as a result of the news, my mind has not been focused on writing my blog. I thought of just not writing at all but instead I thought it would be better to be real and honest.
Even when life happens and things just do not make sense, it is important to not give up. I know first hand the importance of support and encouragement. The best thing I can do is be supportive and encouraging to my sister. Having lost a sister to cancer a little over a year ago, I never expected to have another sister face cancer. But one thing I have learned in my journey is that we do not know what the future holds.
However, we are able to make a choice in how we face the future, both the good and the bad. As a reformed pessimist, I know how easy it is to see the negative but now as an optimist, I have a much better perspective when faced with all types of circumstances. Even when it seems to not make sense, I will continue to be an optimist. For me, hope is essential in my journey. Without hope, how can anyone persevere in life or offer encouragement to others?
On Thursday, October 3rd 2013, Miriam Carey, a 34 year old mother was shot dead after a car chase through Washington DC. Ironically, on the morning of October 3rd, I had a telephone interview with a producer of a Canadian news program that is planning to do a show on postpartum psychosis. I had a busy day so I only read a brief news headline about the incident later that day. It was not until the next morning that I learned of the reports that she had her one year old in the car and had been being treated for “postpartum depression.”
Immediately, I began to have a clearer understanding of what she may have been experiencing. You see back in early 1996, I was struck with an illness that my family and I did not even know existed. My son was 8 weeks old when I was forcibly hospitalized and initially told I had postpartum depression. The initial diagnosis was wrong. Two weeks later I had to be hospitalized again but this time my family made sure I got a second opinion. It was then that I received the correct diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.
Sadly, Miriam Carey, will never get to tell her story. Although the media and other sources have been reporting information (often inaccurate) on what they believe happened, as an overcomer of postpartum psychosis, I feel I have some understanding of what she was going through. Every situation is unique but understanding comes from having walked in similar shoes. I do not know Miriam’s medical history or direct experience but I imagine she was experiencing similar things that I did during my nearly 2 year recovery period.
Although I did get the correct diagnosis of postpartum psychosis 2 weeks after the first onset of serious symptoms, my condition gradually turned in to postpartum depression and anxiety. Having no history of mental illness, these experiences were all new to me. I do not know the details of Miriam’s situation but I do know that even if the correct diagnosis is given and correct medication is prescribed that alone is not enough. Even under the best circumstances, the recovery process can be long and difficult.
For me, and I imagine for Miriam as well, I had supportive family and friends but I never had the opportunity to talk to a mom that had experienced anything like I had. Guilt, shame, anxiety, fear and isolation were often present for me long after the diagnosis was given.
Although the statistics of postpartum psychosis are often cited as 1 to 2 out of 1,000 births, I suspect the numbers are higher. Regardless of whether or not the occurrence is higher, when you look at those statistics worldwide, they impact a large number of families. Many families are affected that we will never know about but for Miriam and her family, tragedy has happened and is being projected for the whole world to see. My heart breaks for them. Why is it that it takes tragedy to happen for maternal mental health to get the needed attention it deserves?
I wish Miriam would have had the opportunity to connect with other mothers’ who could relate to what she was going through. In my case, I ultimately did but it was not until after my recovery when my child was 3 years old. Mothers should not feel guilt, shame or isolation but rather should be lifted up, encouraged and receive the proper care and treatment that is deserved. As a result of my own experience, I now speak out for those mothers that are unable to speak out for themselves. Tragically, Miriam is now one of those mothers.
Every mother has a voice yet not every voice can be heard so for those of us able to lift our voice, let us shout out to all mothers “You are not alone.”
PSI joins with worldwide advocates for prevention through education, early diagnosis and treatment of maternal mental health distress
(October 4, 2013) – According to Postpartum Support International (PSI), at least 20% of pregnant and new mothers will experience a maternal mental health disorder, yet most are never screened, diagnosed or treated.
“Women, families, and health care providers need to know that pregnancy and postpartum mental health distress and disorders are common, real, and treatable. We can prevent escalation and crisis with access to qualified treatment and support,” said Wendy Davis, PhD, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International. “We want women and their families to know that they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help, they will be well. Most importantly we don’t want women to be frightened and isolated; we will help them find reliable resources.”
Less than half a percent of new mothers will suffer from a psychosis, in which there is a severe break in reality. Up to 5% of mothers suffering from postpartum psychosis will commit suicide. “A woman with postpartum psychosis loses touch with reality,” said Diana Lynn Barnes, PsyD, LMFT a forensic expert in maternal mental health and member of PSI’s President’s Advisory Council. “She may also have false beliefs that she and/or her baby are in harm’s way,” she said. PSI works alongside other advocates to train professionals and social supporters, increasing the number of qualified resources around the world.
Postpartum Support International is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to educating professionals and connecting with families suffering from pregnancy and postpartum distress and mental health disorders. The organization offers support, reliable information, professional training and volunteer coordinators in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and more than 35 other countries. For resources and support visit www.postpartum.net or call 800-944-4PPD (4773).
I recently had the pleasure of visiting a couple, who are dear friends of mine. It was a very special visit because I got to meet their 3 day old baby. I believe that every baby is a blessing but for this couple, it is an extra special blessing. Their journey in becoming parents has taken over 17 years. They had come to the place of acceptance that they would never have a baby so you can imagine the joy they felt when she found out she was pregnant.
It was awesome to see a baby in their arms and for me to be able to hold the precious new life. It brought back fond memories of the first 6 weeks of my postpartum period. I remember that once I recovered from the physical demands of labor and delivery, I was able to slip in to my new role of motherhood with a peace and joy that felt different than anything I had experienced before.
I believe the support that I received from my family and friends during that postpartum period prevented an earlier onset of postpartum psychosis. If I had not received the practical, and emotional support during that period, I believe the demands of motherhood would have taken a toll on me much earlier. Although the eventual onset of postpartum psychosis may not have been prevented, in my opinion, support played a role in the unusually late onset of postpartum psychosis.
Since I had no history of mental illness nor did I know postpartum psychosis existed, I often wonder whether postpartum psychosis could have been prevented in my case. My family and I were unaware of any early warning signs or symptoms. Now that I know more about postpartum psychosis, I can look back and recognize how the pattern of sleep deprivation and eventual isolation took its toll on me. Maybe if I knew then what I know now, when I began to have unfounded fears for my baby and I, I could have reached out for help before it became a crisis situation.
As I contemplate my postpartum period and how much the support helped me, I am more sensitive to the needs of others during the postpartum adjustment period. Something as simple as friends providing meals during the first week or two can make a difference. Checking in on the family regularly to see if they need anything is also helpful.
In my case, I was far away from most of my extended family, so the direct support I received eventually did taper off. In cases when family and friends are not or cannot be there to provide support, I encourage moms to consider hiring a postpartum doula or finding other resources such as Healthy Start, which is available in most areas of the United States.
I encourage all mothers to reach out during the postpartum adjustment period and be open to support from others. Be willing to accept the type of support that will help you during this hectic time. Now that I shared some of my experience, I would love to hear how support helped others during the postpartum period and what types of support helped. Please share your comments and insights with me on this important topic.
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September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As a result, I would like to share my personal perspective on whether or not suicide is always planned in advance. It is often assumed that it is but my own experience reveals that it is not. Although this is my personal experience and in my own words, I must alert the readers that if you or a loved one has had a direct experience with suicide, reading about the details of such a story may trigger difficult emotions and feelings. Of course, it is an option for you to read no further. If you do read further and you find this to be the case, I encourage you to turn to a trained professional that can help you process your feelings.
In reviewing my weekly planner during the spring of 1997, there was nothing in it that seemed unusual. I had both personal and work-related activities and events scheduled. I had even marked some holidays and special events in joyful participation. Looking back at my journal, during that period of time, I wrote how much better I was feeling since the onset of postpartum psychosis in early 1996. So what happened next was completely unexpected.
One morning in April 1997, my son vomited. I remember always feeling troubled when my son got sick. He did not seem to have any other signs of sickness and it did not seem serious so I took him to day care. Looking back, I have no memory of driving my son to the day care center. But I did. I have no memory of driving myself back home. Yet, I did.
What I do remember on that day was the feeling of dreadful worry. My mind and heart were racing. I was in a state of panic. Why? I did not know. I couldn’t stop the tension I was feeling nor could I relax. At that moment I was unable to remember how happy and positive my life was and had been before I was struck with postpartum psychosis.
The fear was gripping me so strongly that I began to feel panic like I never had before. It was gripping and consuming. There was nowhere to hide or escape. I felt sheer terror! I physically felt as if I was jumping out of my skin. The fear invaded me completely consuming my body, mind and spirit.
I had a passing thought that if I could get some sleep, things would be better. I felt I had to escape from whatever “it” was that was consuming my mind with fear. I no longer consciously thought or acted on my own. I could no longer make rational decisions. I reached up on top of the refrigerator. I grabbed one of the bottles of the medicine my doctor prescribed me. I reached in the refrigerator for a wine cooler that had been in there since before I was pregnant. I popped the pills in my mouth and drank the wine cooler. Although I remember what I did, it was as if my physical actions were detached from the rest of me. I was no longer able to process my thoughts.
After a short time, the telephone rang. I hear my husband’s voice on the other end. He asks if everything is okay. I told him very matter-of-factually what I had done. That is the last memory I have of that day. If it was not for my husband having a strong urge to contact me at that moment, I most likely would not have survived. I am thankful every day for my life being spared.
I do not have all the answers as to why I survived when so many others do not survive. I only know that as a result of my experience, I am compelled to share hope with others. In my case, what happened on that day in April 1997 was not planned in advance, there were no warning signs and there was no explanation or justification for my actions. It came on suddenly and out of nowhere. Although every experience and journey is unique, in my humble opinion, I believe many of those who attempt suicide or take their own life, experience the consuming panic and fear similar to what I did.
My hope is that by sharing a part of my own journey it provides better understanding, lessens feelings of guilt and shame, prevents the casting of blame and brings some measure of comfort wherever the journey has taken you or your loved ones.
Always remember there is hope even when it may seem hopeless. Help is available when you or a loved one is in crisis.
Mary Jadwisiak has been speaking out on behalf of people with mental illness for nearly 20 years. She is a speaker and trainer with expertise in suicide prevention and mental health recovery. I recently had the opportunity to connect with Mary and she was kind enough to take the time to share more about herself. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.
Tell us a little bit about yourself? I am a true optimist. Even when bad things happen, I typically start looking for the silver lining right away. I’m one of those people who believe that things happen for a reason. I don’t have to see the logic in things to know that there is a bigger picture and things typically turn out for the good. One of the greatest lessons I learned early on was to be grateful in the face of adversity. It has been a fantastic spiritual guidepost.
I live in a little town in SW Washington (yes, it does rain a lot, but that’s why everything is so green & lush!). I have one grown son and a soon-to-be new daughter in law. My dog Jack takes his job of following me from room to room very seriously and only gets on the furniture if there is someone at the door, I’m not looking, or company is over.
I’ve been in business doing training and consulting for almost 10 years and I really love it. I love the work and I love being an entrepreneur. Really, I can’t imagine my life getting much better.
Why did you decide to focus your attention on mental health and mental health recovery? Like most things in life that are meant to be, it all seemed to fall into place. In the 90s I had a job as the Mental Health Ombudsman helping people who were receiving Medicaid mental health services resolve any complaints they had with their providers. A part of the job entailed training both the people receiving services and those providing services about client rights. It was about that time that the mental health consumer movement across the country began talking about recovery and working hard to have recovery become the goal of mental health services. The SAMHSA Consensus Statement on Recovery was issued and it was clear that the two topics, client rights and the components of recovery, dovetailed beautifully. Shortly after that, our state got a System Improvement Grant for our mental health system and I had just started my business, so I pitched a training series based on the 10 Components of recovery. It was accepted and I spent the next 5 years traveling all over the state talking about recovery to anyone who would listen. The more I taught it, the more I realized what a powerful tool it was. People would say that the training had changed their lives. That is so fantastic! I believe that recovery is possible for anyone. It makes me happy that I can be a small part in someone’s recovery journey.
The other part is, though, that the more I taught the material, the more I looked at myself and found places that I could use the tools to heal. I still love the material and have made it the foundation for most of the work I do.
What was the primary element that helped lead you to your own personal recovery? Personal Responsibility is essential for my recovery. Taking action to do what I know keeps me well (exercise, spiritual pursuits) and taking action to correct things that are within my control when they go poorly, help me to stay balanced. Peer support is also an essential part of my life. My friends support me when I ask for it. I couldn’t get by without them.
None of those would matter, however, if I didn’t have Hope. Hope is the reasonable expectation that things can get better. The name of my business is “Holding the Hope.” People held the hope for me until I could carry it for myself. I hold it for others and am joyful when they pick it up for themselves. Hope tells us we can get well and the effort is worth it. If I wasn’t Hopeful, I wouldn’t take the responsibility for my own wellness because I wouldn’t believe it could happen. If I wasn’t Hopeful, I wouldn’t ask for help from my peers because I wouldn’t believe they would come through for me and I wouldn’t believe it mattered if they did. Hope is the cornerstone of my Recovery and the message I spread with each workshop. People get well. There is hope.
If you were to start over, what would you do first? I would do it exactly the same. You don’t know what you don’t know and for me each step of my recovery unfolded as I could accept it and see it. Recovery is not linear. Each of us has our path we walk and we learn from our experiences as we go.
Having said that, I am really glad that I stepped away from alcohol and drugs nearly 25 years ago, removing that complicating factor has been a major benefit to my ability to work on my mental wellness.
What has been the best piece of advice you received in your own personal journey? Keep walking! Just keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks. It’s OK to make mistakes and you won’t die if people are mad at you. Someone once told me that if no one was mad at me it was probably because I wasn’t doing anything. As an advocate, that helped me immensely. Another sage piece of advice I got was from a Jewish colleague. He told me to remember “Dogs bark while the caravan moves on.” I loved that. People will talk but we keep moving toward the goal we’ve set for ourselves. I am not saying we should just crash through life ignoring others and not assessing the situation we’re attempting to impact. I’m saying that there will never be a time when everyone agrees with you. If you know what you are doing and why – then carry on and don’t be dissuaded by the naysayers.
What are a few examples of the mistakes you have seen others making in their recovery efforts? I can’t speak to other people’s mistakes, because I sure don’t want anyone speaking to mine! What I do know is that our mistakes are often what shape us and teach us.
What are your top 3 tips to personal empowerment and recovery?
- Figure out what works for you. Don’t limit yourself to only western medical interventions. I have had amazing results from acupuncture and Healing Touch Therapy. Exercise, nutrition and spiritual pursuits all play a role in recovery along with any medical intervention necessary. Recovery requires a holistic approach. Mental illness doesn’t only affect us physically; it impacts all aspects of our being. Conversely, what we do (or don’t do) in those aspects affects our illness and wellness. Take up the reins and the control of your recovery. This can be scary because that means we may make a mistake. Often it is so much easier to just rely on the professionals in our life to tell us what is best. Compliance then becomes the goal. I would challenge you to weigh all the evidence – including your past experiences and decide for yourself. Write a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) for yourself that addresses all of who you are. Talk to professional mental health providers, colleagues and people who know you really well. Learn about your illness. Once you have a plan of action, know that you will need to be flexible and committed.
- Sustain it. Take action every day. We are not afforded the luxury of complacency. We are either moving forward or backward, but we never stay stagnant. So, if we don’t stay on top of things, they will slowly deteriorate and then one day something big happens. If we are honest with ourselves, we can see how small actions left by the wayside contributed to the crisis. For me, it’s arrogance. When I give in to arrogance (vs. self-respect) and start thinking I know more than everyone, I get bitter and caustic and that is never pretty. Actions may include medicine, exercise, meditation, talking with others or all of the above. Use the tools you have available to you. That could include counseling or acupuncture or going to the gym. That could also be a self-help workbook and walking with the neighbors. Whatever you figured out for yourself in #1 sustain it with daily action.
- Be flexible. Sometimes things stop working and we need to reassess. Remember who you trust to tell you the truth. Listen to them and do what you need to do to get back on track. The sooner the better. This is where Peer Support is so incredibly helpful. People who have been through what we have or currently are experiencing, often provide fantastic help and support.
How can people learn more about your services and follow up with you? Visit my website www.holdingthehope.com for information about my keynote speeches, workshops or consultation services. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter that I don’t send out very often, or drop me a note @ email@example.com. If you want to hear from me on more regular basis you can like me on Facebook. www.facebook.com/pages/Mary Jadwisiak – Holding the Hope/265091788819
Is there any other information you would like to share? Yes, I also do lots of work in suicide prevention in addition to mental health recovery. I would be remiss if I didn’t say at least once during this interview that if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call for help. 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) Where there is help there is hope. Remember – Recovery is possible. Don’t lose hope.
Printed with permission from Mary Jadwisiak. You can visit her website at www.holdingthehope.com
The summer has been a busy one. I have been spending time with family. Due to distance and work obligations, my time with my family is limited. As a result, I try to take what ever opportunity I can to be with them. Of course, this makes it more challenging to write and post my blogs during the summer so I apologize for the delay.
It was great to be able to attend a family reunion this summer. It had been six years since I made it to our annual family reunion. Not by choice but rather because of distance, schedules and other obligations. Being the youngest of eight children, it is often difficult to get us all together in one place. This year was no different.
Unfortunately, only six out of eight of us could be there. One of my brothers was unable to be there nor my sister, Joy, who passed away a year ago today. The reunion was lovely but there was a void not having her there. Her passing has reminded me that life is precious and we should cherish our time with loved ones.
If relationships are estranged, reach out to the other. You can not control how others respond or act but you can do your part. There is an old saying “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” So regardless of the situation, I would reach out having no expectations of the other person. If your attempt to mend the relationship is not received by the other, you can still find peace and healing. Letting go of bitterness and anger may be hard but it frees you to move on with your life.
Although my family has had its ups and downs, my sister’s illness and eventual passing brought our family closer together. We miss her tremendously. We were not all together for our reunion this year but, thankfully, all of my siblings and I were together in April 2012 for my niece’s wedding. It was a beautiful event. I will cherish the memories as it is the last time all eight of us were together.
My faith carries me through the difficult times. My belief is that our life on earth is not the end and our spirit can live eternally. So today, as I remember the one year anniversary of my sister’s death, I encourage you all to cherish your time with family, loved ones and friends. Life is precious.