Human minds

What would we have done without such  classics like “Little women” or “Jo’s Boys”? Today is the day when Louisa May Alcott was born back in 1832. And thanks to Goodquotes a beautiful, inspiring phrase from Miss Alcott (Miss because for what I understand she remained unmarried her whole life)  came along on my inbox this morning:

Human minds are more full of mysteries than any written book and more changeable than the cloud shapes in the air.

Louisa May Alcott

Needless to say I relate this phrase to early childhood and it fits so well….

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Last time I wrote…

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…I was writing about a dear friend of mine who was trying to understand what was going on with his partner and I explained to him according to all the “symptoms” he described thoroughly (you could tell by his writing in frustration and at a loss) I gather that his partner was with PPD (Post Partum Depression).

He is my friend, for that reason I was very understanding (and forgiving) about the way he approached it. His first thought was “She is going crazy!” . And probably if I did not go through it and experience it myself, I would think the same.

Sometimes I think to myself that it is a shame that I had to go through it in order to know what it was all about. And this same thought leads me to think that it would be ideal if the PPD was more widely known.  But hey, not everyone is open to the subject and the PPD  is quite “hush-hush don’t even mention it, you will bring shame on you!” sort of thing.

In the UK – and I am very clear about this, because I am ignorant if it happens in any other countries – women are offered pre natal classes, and there are classes for couples too. For women like me, who did not have the first clue how to fit a nappy, it was a life saviour but it did not prepared me for what was to come. It did give me a good base to make educated decisions together with a widen view on what is called “motherly instinct”.

How about start to offer – and somehow make them “mandatory” – PPD classes not only to the mothers but to the partners, family and close friends? I think it would be a great relief to anyone who is around a woman who just gave birth and in return, the newly mother would feel more support hence life would be more easy for all of those involved.

In any case, what follows is a BRILLIANT article written by Walker Karraa PhD., entitled “An open letter to women fighting post-partum depression and anxiety for (The Unexpected Project)” .

Thanks to Walter Karraa who kindly gave me permission on an email to publish it on my blog. and here is a direct link to the article: http://walkerkarraa.me/2013/05/14/an-open-letter-to-women-fighting-post-partum-depression-and-anxiety-for-the-unexpected-project/

Enjoy!

An open letter to women fighting post-partum depression and anxiety for (The Unexpected Project)

                                   Originally posted for The Unexpected Project, May 10, 2013

Dear ones,

It doesn’t get much harder than this, does it? There was nothing to prepare you for it, and undoubtedly those who tried didn’t do a very good job, or avoided the truth. You didn’t see it coming, and have been rocked to the core. I think the sense of confusion and isolation is so distressing. Not knowing what is happening, not having it addressed by care providers can add insult to injury. For the life of me I don’t know why it is so difficult for those who should know better to help us not suffer. I also know that despite it, women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) persevere with grit and guts only the strongest of strong know.

Women who experience depression/anxiety during or after childbirth didn’t sign up for it, but have in their bones a power unsurpassed by most. Tis true! I know in my heart that they are made of the stuff great leader’s envy. Against all odds, and in the face of stigma, families that don’t understand, and providers who fail to ask, treat, or acknowledge symptoms—they fight. Even when you are not aware of it, you are fighting. Even when you allow yourself to tell your scariest truths about your scariest thoughts, you are fighting. When you make the call, make the appointment, walk into the emergency room, check into the hospital, finally take medication, reach a support group, read or write a post—you are courageously laying down everything you have known to be true and real and good in the world. And that, is strength born from love.

I know this from the countless women I have met and meet. I know this from the years of research and learning I have done, and I know this from my own experience of PPD. We birth a strength we never knew was possible from the most direct experience of love we will ever know.

I remember the faces of people staring at me, 8 months pregnant waiting to see my shrink at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital. See, I had been through one battle with PPD that nearly took me out. Dark, dark days. And I was NOT doing that again. So there I was, my Target maternity clothes, waddling up to the receptionist, the pharmacist, the OB/GYN, the family practitioner, the labor and delivery nurse and saying—I am getting help and giving you all the judgment, ignorance, and stigma you want. Enjoy it. Yes, I am a big crazy pregnant lady…think what you want. I am getting help.

We give it all up—right there in that one moment when we reach out for help. We have the guts to give up how we thought our lives were going to be—to stay alive for the greatest love we have and will ever know—our children. So, defiantly, we reach in our pockets and take out every last cent of ourselves—turning our pockets inside out to prove to those who need it, that we really have nothing left. Really. We hand over our bodies, our brains, relationships, and fantasies of motherhood—and we ask for, no… we demand, help. And we get better. We get ourselves out of the hole, so that our children will remain whole. Because if they lost us, they would never be okay.

I am 12 years out now, but I remember. And while I still battle depression demons, PPD taught me how to fight. So when they come, and they do, I say…bring it. Let’s party, Depression, because I have been through hell and back and I know how to roll with you old-school. Okay? Hell hath no fury like a mother who has had PPD. And, dear Depression, I would be delighted to go ninja on your ass any time at all.

You know it, too. You know that you have been through hell and back and have lived to tell the tale. Rock on.

Last night….

Last night, I decided to do a catch up with my life. I was all set, nice cup of tea by my side, and a mental list of all the things I intended to do before night’s over and I have to go to sleep (whether I like it or not, needless to explain the reasons why I have to overcome my owl syndrome and force myself to sleep) and the first item on my list were the emails – that are gathering dust, if they were real paper letters – on my inbox.

I found an email of a friend – male friend – who was in a spot of trouble with his actual partner. And more or less at the end of the email, on the final paragraph he asks “please do tell me, you who are the most analytical person I have known what it is that makes a “click” on a woman after having a baby?”

And he continued: “Honestly, something must happen apart from what we all know, and I think she is going crazy. Or I’m going crazy. I don’t know. I found a woman who was sane, and now it turns out she is going insane. Awaiting your views, xxx”.

I think if I was sitting in front of him, probably I would be speechless. To say the least.  And since I do not drink alcohol, I would request a very strong Americano and a glass with water for starters. His question opened in my mind a myriad of answers. The inconvenient was, that all those answers were based on my own experience, and for him to have an “analytical” view, I had to try to look from the outside in order to give a less subjective answer.

Was that difficult – not to say impossible – or what?

It was a titanic task. I had to work really hard not to fall on the classic “On my own experience…” but nevertheless and after hours of writing, erasing, writing, erasing, I had to resort to “On my own experience”. And I decided on this occasion honesty was going to be the best policy even when that included very little detachment.

My answer was quite simple. We women are unique, and each one of us experiences birth and the landing to motherhood in a completely different manner. In my case, after birth the time that followed was quite dark and gloom. I did not know what was happening to me, I was meant to be overjoyed and bursting with happiness. I was meant to be.

I can see now looking back I was at a loss and truth to be said I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it was not the famous “baby blues”. And if it was, it was the blue colour in all sorts of hues, all leading to black. Later on, around 6 or 7 months later, I found it was called “Post partum depression”.

Eureka moment? Perhaps. It was like someone lifted all the shutters to let the light in AND finally I saw myself. I SAW.  I saw my son, who stared at me right in to my eyes holding my fingers very tight and smiling. I saw my body, deformed after the pregnancy fighting to get back to normal. I saw my partner running like a beheaded chicken trying to help with my son – and hats off to him.  I saw that I was wasting my time trying to figure out what was going on, instead of “be a part” of what is going on and just go with the flow.

Eureka moment? Now I can say oh yes, it was. After that, I started to read a lot about  post-partum depression and I started to “tick boxes”. Because of course, when I “woke up” from all that gloom and doom coloured in all shades of blue, I thought I did everything wrong and it was unforgivable. And I came to discover that there was nothing to forgive. My brain and my body followed their own path to come into terms with what just had happened. My son was growing as healthy and happy as you could ever wish in a loving environment, and nothing was missing except for one thing: me.

Me, yes. Because I was there, in body and spirit, giving my son all the attention and the care you could imagine and perhaps more; but guess what, my brain took my soul hostage to seek out some logical answers and try to re-establish the “natural order of things”.

HA HA HA !!!

The “natural order of things” was not there any more and it was well gone and never to come back as I – my brain – knew it. The natural order of things was swiftly replaced by the “natural flow of things”. And then, when my brain realised that there were no logic nor analytical process to understand what was going on with my life, hey presto, the soul was released.

And I came back. It was not an easy path. Still it is not an easy path. I walk, towards what I feel is the exit because I feel the fresh breeze coming my way, so I follow through. The path is unmarked and sometimes – only sometimes – I would love to have some guidance, something to reassure me I’m going into the right direction.

And surprisingly enough, that guidance comes from the least expected person, who is squeezing my fingers, smiling at me with almost all his teeth out and pierces my soul with his eyes. I can say that I am with the flow, I am here, and you know what? I don’t regret a single moment.

As for my friend, I did write to him in the end that women we are unique and her partner was going to deal with it in her own time on her own terms; that she was not crazy or anything alike, she was just coming into terms of being a mother and if he noticed something more serious than expected yes, seek assistance. I also made a point telling him that we women are like little planets ruled by hormones and these can go quite unruly during pregnancy and after birth so sit down and wait, and enjoy your daughter as much as you can.

This is to you, my dearest friend. Go with the flow.

 

And….landing

ImageWell, the day finally came when I had to make my way back to England. Goodbyes and hugs here there and everywhere, of course lots of tears, and my little one looking lost and confused as to why he suddenly was wearing a long sleeve shirt and a jumper when he has been with a sleeveless bodysuit for almost a month.

The flight was at 13:00. Knowing that in Buenos Aires almost anything is possible, I made the decision to leave the house reasonably early, perhaps too early to the trained and experienced traveller, but for me, it made all the sense in the world.

Let’s put it this way: I was not in England, where you know that the major obstacle between you and the airport is either the M25 jam packed or the Piccadilly line with “minor” delays due to a signalling problem and in the worst case scenario, you can always talk to someone and explain your situation and make the suitable arrangements; no.

I was in Buenos Aires, where you can find yourself facing a demonstration or a picket at any point of your route to the  International Airport (important: there is only ONE route to the International Airport and there’s only one International Airport which is called Ministro Pistarini, AKA Ezeiza (that’s the name of the location).

The other Airport is smaller in size and it is the National Airport and it is located by the riverside and it is called Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Mind you, you may, on the odd occasion, catch an international flight from Aeroparque; but that is almost one chance in a hundred.

Anyway, we left early to Ezeiza, in order to avoid and/or diminish any kind of situation explained above. Hence, we woke up early – that’s not a problem when you have a seven month old little boy! – And got ready to leave my mum’s flat where we were staying.

Add to that that there was no electricity (the previous night was raining quite hard, hence the electric substation that feeds the blocks was flooded, hence no power) and I had to come down 10 stories with a baby, the pram, two suitcases and the pertinent bags for both for the flight; and oh, yes, my mother who was very persistent to come with us to Ezeiza,  despite the fact she would face going up ten stories in order to reach her home when she got back from waving goodbye.

You may wonder, well, probably the power at that point would be restored. Nah. Is Buenos Aires, very difficult that anyone would provide services during a weekend.

Weekends are sacred down there, and if anyone can avoid doing some work – even emergency ones like restore electricity – they will do. To give you an idea, when I called to report the power cut (this was at 5am) the person who answered the phone sounded half asleep, and the answer to my query was “due to union problems, we don’t know when we will be able to send an emergency service to your area”. You may wonder when the service was restored. Nearly 12 hours later, according to my mother who sent an email to tell me so.

So. After doing my exercise quota, we got in the car and made our way to Ezeiza. And an hour later, we were there, trying to find a place to park. In the meantime, I was left in the drop off area in order to wrap the suitcases and get everything ready to start the check in.

Bags wrapped – that’s something I always do, no matter what! I had some nasty experiences before and I learnt my lesson the hard way! – boarding passes and passports in my hand, I made my way to the BA desk. It was crowded. Despite the fact that I arrived almost three and a half hours earlier, obviously there were people with the same idea.

However, someone from BA saw me with my little one and told me to go straight to the beginning of the queue (would you believe the amount of evil looks we got?) which I did. Because I had everything printed, the process was fairly smooth. The assistant at the desk was very helpful as well which made the beginning of the journey a bit more bearable.

More tears and more hugs, we make our way to customs.

Oh well, sit down and grab a cup of tea, because that deserves an entire new chapter.