Free Printable: The Bravest Thing

 

I originally created this when Michele Rosenthal of HealMyPTSD.com asked me to create a bonus gift for early supporters of her recent memoir, Before The World Intruded. I was happy to do it, since she’s become a beacon of light for many who’ve survived post traumatic stress disorder {PTSD}.

Meanwhile, yesterday was the third annual National PTSD Awareness Day in the U.S., established by Congress to increase understanding of this debilitating mental illness, especially among service members returning from combat with symptoms of PTSD.  Until I was diagnosed with it, I thought PTSD was only something Veterans dealt with. But I now know trauma comes in many forms and wrestles with the brain in crazy ways. It is real. It is hard. And it is treatable.

I created the piece above with my own journey through PTSD in mind, but hope it’s meaningful for anyone who has faced hardship {and hello! who hasn’t?}. You can get the art here and print it off for yourself or anyone you know who’s been lost…and found.

 

 

Surgery Ahead: Everything Will Be OK

Last fall, we learned Ryder needs to have surgery. The news felt like a stab to the heart – not just because it was unexpected and worrisome, but because this operation is to fix an issue stemming from his birth. HIS BIRTH, people.

Many of you know my precious firstborn’s birth threw me into a huge tailspin nine years ago. The delivery was traumatic for both of us; Ryder arrived in the world beaten up and blue, with a collapsed lung and his heart on the wrong side of his body. Our miracle boy survived and thrived, but I fell into a black hole of depression and PTSD. It took a long time to feel whole again.

That’s why,  at first, it felt like a cruel joke to learn that we need to return to the hospital with Ryder – nine years later – for an issue related to that monumental day he arrived on the planet. I don’t see it as some random oddity; I believe everything comes into our lives to help us grow. I just couldn’t imagine what the universe still wanted me to learn after all those years of therapy!

That is, until I told a friend about Ryder’s upcoming operation and heard myself say, “I know he’ll be okay.” And I meant it. I later traced those words over and over in my head to make sure they were real and true. I know he’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay.

This was huge! For years, I frequently panicked about anything and everything potentially hurting Ryder. I couldn’t even walk into a hospital for two years after his birth – convinced that if I did, disaster would strike. I didn’t have the wherewithal to recognize the insanity of that fear at the time. That’s why it was a big deal to realize I’m now strong enough and wise enough…that my heart has healed enough…to trust my “baby” is going to be okay this time around.

Surgery is tomorrow. I’ll be able to walk into the hospital with him and Brad…and be truly present for him afterwards. It feels a little like a do-over. Though I wish my brave boy didn’t need to go through this, I’m grateful for the opportunity to prove to myself – and to Ryder – that everything and everyone will be okay. Mommy is here. Really here.

P.S. The Little Bliss List will still appear here tomorrow – but with a super special twist since I’ll be gone. Be sure to check in!

How I Survived Being an Online Punching Bag

Four years ago, The Wall Street Journal called. A reporter there was writing a story about new research that suggested PTSD {post traumatic stress disorder} resulting from birth trauma was more common than previously thought. Few women were publicly talking about their journeys through it, but I had blogged about my experience and wanted to help educate other mamas about this debilitating disorder. So, I was happy to be interviewed.

 

I didn’t expect to be hated for it.

 

The reporter warned me that not everyone agreed with the research; some people thought it simply gave doctors one more reason to medicate women without getting to the root of their mental health issues. I understood that skepticism; I, too, had been shocked by the diagnosis three years prior, thinking only war veterans and crime victims got PTSD. Not new moms. For a long time, I was so ashamed that I told almost no one about my PTSD. For three long years, I quietly and painfully worked through it with loads of professional help.

By the time the Wall Street Journal called, PTSD no longer had a grip on me. I was a different person – confident, capable, and eager to shed light on the cause and effect of birth trauma and prove it’s possible to overcome. So, sharing my experience was a no-brainer; I went into it with the intention of helping mamas who couldn’t turn the inner voices off, stave off the flashbacks or walk through daily life without fear. The day the article ran, I was so excited to see it and share it. I went online, Googled it…and my heart sank. Already, it had been picked up by other news sites and bloggers worldwide – and the comments rolling in were vicious.

I was called a liar, a cry baby, and a horrible mom.

 

One person wrote – in multiple places – that I didn’t have PTSD, but SABD – Self-Absorbed Bitch Disorder. Ouch. That was a rough day, friends. But it was also a great day. It forced me to review my journey, my diagnosis, and my intention behind doing the interview. And what I realized was this: I was way too strong to let anyone’s cruelty or ignorance shut me up or break my heart. PTSD had already tried to do that and I had clawed my way back.

 

“How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

With that quote in mind, I decided to focus not on the anonymous haters. Rather, I imagined an anonymous, struggling mama who read the article and was quietly wondering, realizing, hoping that there might now be a name for what was eating her alive. I imagined hope shining its light through the hate and reaching the women who needed it most. That was my intention to begin with, and that would be my intention moving forward. And it worked.

 

Eventually, the hate subsided and hope took its place as private emails rolled in from women who had seen themselves in my story and wanted more – more information, more hope, more out of life. And for that reason, I’d gladly face the bullies all over again. Because now I know for sure that hate doesn’t stand a chance next to hope. Love and light always win.

 

Note: Think you or someone you know may be suffering from a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression or postnatal PTSD? Here’s my guide to great resources for mamas. You are not alone – help is out there!

The Whole Truth: Why I Took Drugs

Kelly Rae Roberts Original painting

{original art by kelly rae roberts}

It was the day after Christmas, 2010. I was sitting shotgun as we barreled down a Texas country road, heading to San Antonio for a week with my in-laws. That’s when it hit me. I made an awful sound – part squeal, part moan, part gasp – that nearly drove Brad off the road. “I forgot to pack my pills,” I urgently whispered to him, hoping the boys in the backseat wouldn’t hear. He knew right away what I meant: we were suddenly driving straight into the unknown. While I stared wild-eyed out the window, Brad remained calm, quietly assuring me I’d make it through the week. I tried to believe him, but he didn’t know if that was really true – and neither did I. Could I make it?

 

I had resisted medication throughout my treatment for postpartum depression and PTSD resulting from the birth trauma I experienced with our first-born in 2003. I tried everything else – talk therapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, play therapy, you name it – and slowly but surely got better. I started this blog in 2006, finally able to see the beauty in every day and eager to help others climb out of the darkness. I was so darn proud of myself for doing the “hard work” and not covering up my pain with a pharmaceutical band-aid. Kinda cocky and snooty about it, in fact. I thought I had this thing licked.

 

And then I got pregnant. Holy crap.

 

My therapist nearly fell over when she found out, having assumed I’d never put myself through a delivery again. Once she regained her composure, she told me everything would be fine. And it was, for a while. But by my third trimester, the writing was on the wall: I was starting to spiral down fast, triggered by every reminder of my impending delivery. Panic attacks, flashbacks, and horrible thoughts I’d rather not repeat here. I was so annoyed with my brain for not sticking with the plan. What about all that hard work I’d done??

 

My therapist, my OBGYN,  my psychiatrist and hubby held a pep-talk-pow-wow, encouraging me to help myself and my baby with some tactics designed to avoid a full-on meltdown, including meditation, aromatherapy, and some happy pills. I was on board with the first two, but feared that drugs would numb me out, making me just as emotionally absent for my second son as I had been with my first. But I wholeheartedly trusted them, so I begrudgingly agreed. But first, I had to leave that cocky girl in the dust – the one who was so proud of conquering her mental health issues without medicine. And I’m so glad I did. The drugs took the edge off and helped me feel capable and connected during the minutes, days and months after my delivery. I still felt like myself. Same passions, same drive, same energy. Less panicking, fewer flashbacks and no nightmares. It was an enormous relief.

 

But deep down, shame and fear were also lurking. During the three years I was on antidepressants, I only told a handful of loved ones, scared they would judge me or question my motives. I have lots of friends who believe natural is the only way or are up in arms over the rise in antidepressant prescriptions in the U.S.; I didn’t want to continuously have to defend my decision to them. And I didn’t tell my blog readers, either; I worried you’d consider me a fraud for promoting the healing power of everyday beauty when I also needed drugs to stave off my own demons.

 

I never did go back to my little orange pill bottle after that fateful Texas trip. I realized I was ready to move forward without the medicinal mood booster. Much to my surprise, drugs had helped me feel calm and collected at a critical time. And I’ve realized all that secrecy was so silly.

 

I’m no longer ashamed, and I’m no longer keeping silent.

 

I believe in natural remedies and holistic approaches to healing. I also believe the right drugs can move mountains. That’s been a shift in perspective for me and a good lesson to learn: what one person needs to find stability and sanity is not necessarily what will work for the next person. You must do only what’s right for you…and let everyone else decide what’s right for them.

~~~~~

 

Today’s post is part of a brave blogging link-up I’m hosting for the courageous students in my How To Build a Blog You Truly Love e-course. Hope you’ll visit them to see and support what they’re sharing – and feel free to jump in, too!