advocacy vs avoidance

Over the past week, five totally unrelated people who know nothing of each other’s existences asked me similar questions:

“Do your students know about your blog?  What do you do if they find it?”

“Do you think your students know about your mental issues?”

“What if parents or administrators found your blog?”

“How can you advocate for being open about depression and stuff on your blog, but not talk about it in real life much?”

“You don’t talk about depression at your school, do you?”

In a nutshell, no I do not advertise my blog at school, but I like to think I write in a way that if a parent or administrator were to find this site, there would be no issues.

I mean, when you google “Katie Sluiter” I am the entire first page of search results (at least I was the last time I checked which was not just before I wrote this, so things could’ve changed).

But yes, kids find it.  Usually while we are in the computer lab doing something that has nothing to do with google searching your Spanish or English teacher.

This is how it usually goes…

Kid: Hey Mrs. Sluiter!  I just found you on google!  You have a blog?  HA HA HA HA!
Me: Yup.
Kid: What’s it about?
Me: It’s on your screen; read it.
Kid: Looks like mom stuff.  BOOOORRRING!
Me: Are you done with this part of your assignment that you should have had done 10 minutes ago?
Kid: Wait. What are we supposed to be doing?
Me:  O_o

And that is all I hear.

Except when I hear this:

Kid in hall to me when no one else is listening or after school in my room: Um, Mrs. Sluiter?
Me: What’s up?
Kid: I saw you had a blog.
Me: Oh yeah. I do.
Kid: I like it.  You have really cute kids.
Me: Aw thanks.  Yeah, they are handsome guys.
Kid: Um, I like that you talk about your depression.  I am on celexa (or other antidepressant) too.
Me: Oh yeah?  Small world! I hope it’s helping.
Kid: Yeah. It does. {insert longish, awkwardish pause} I like that you wrote about it.  Thanks.
Me: No problem. It helps to write it out.  You don’t have to put it on the internet like I do, but it does help.  You should try it.
Kid: Yeah. Maybe I will.  Thanks, Mrs. Sluiter.
Me: You are always welcome.

I have had a total of one parent comment on it.  It was a parent/teacher conferences and it was one of my writing students.  One of the coolest, most supportive moms I have had the pleasure of working with.  She told me she loved my open, honest writing and that my school and students were lucky to have me.

I’ve sent the link to my principal so he knows it exists.  Pretty sure he has never read it, but maybe he is just silent about it. I don’t know.

I don’t talk about my depression and anxiety in school at all.  Sometimes with a few co-workers, but not with students unless they bring it up.  And I never stick my hand out to parents and introduce myself as the English teacher with PPD.

Consequently, I don’t talk about it much with my family or friends either.

They either read the blog and know about it, or know about it because they have been made aware of it.  Either way, it’s not a conversation we have much.

I’ve been accused of being hypocritical because I don’t shout it from the rooftops.

I am all about breaking down the stigma.  It’s why I talk about it here.  But I don’t know how that translates into “real life”.

It’s uncomfortable to bring up out of no where with people, but if someone asks, I am good about dispelling myths or telling them what my experience is like.

But I don’t go to restaurants and order my burger and then tell my server about my PPD, PPA, and OCD.

I don’t let the dressing room attendants at the GAP know I have Generalized Anxiety.

I don’t let the cashier at Target in on my PTSD.

And I sure as heck don’t put any of that stuff in my syllabus in the About Mrs. Sluiter section, nor do I introduce myself that way in my welcome email to parents.

If someone asks about it, I don’t lie.  I mean, duh. The google search.

Do I hide it?

Do I fear stigma?

Am I afraid parents won’t want their kids in the class of someone who suffers from depression and anxiety?

Do I think parents/students would blame ME when their child gets called out for behavior because I am the one with a problem?

I guess yes a little to all of these things.

But only as much as I feared these things being a pregnant teacher too.

Kids all the time would say, “You’re just mean because you are pregnant.”

No, I am being mean because you have been talking to your neighbor ALL HOUR WHILE I AM TEACHING.

You see what I mean.

So where is that line?  It seems to be a mighty light, hard-to-see line between being ashamed and being an advocate.

For me, it’s easy to “talk it out” here because I am not talking out loud to a face.  I can think about my words. Pace myself.  Say things exactly how I want to.

In real life I am awkward and nervous and can’t look you in the eye well when I talk about it.

Here I bring it up. Over and over and over.  Mostly so I can process it and document it, but also so YOU can feel less alone and YOU can know how your best friend, sister, wife, mom, whomever is feeling.

In real life I don’t bring it up, but I definitely don’t run from it.

Here it is natural.

In real life it is awkward.

Why is that?

no private rooms

I am beyond excited about today.  Sluiter Nation Recruit Day.

But first I want to tell you that Tonya of Letters for Lucas has invited me to her blog today. She has this amazing series called Letters for You where she invites bloggers to come share a letter they have written.  It can be to anyone at all.  Today I am over there sharing a letter I have written to my late father-in-law.

So please head over there after you’ve read what I have for you here.

And now on to today’s Recruit…

Ok…here.  Today.  I have for you someone who contributed in the saving of my life.

No really.  Without her being in the right place at the right time, I am not sure that I would be living the life I have.

Today I bring you Lauren of My Postpartum Voice. Lauren runs the Monday twitter chat #ppdchat.  I was directed there when I was diagnosed with PPD and Lauren was right there to let me know that I was not alone.

She checked in on me.  Asked about my meds, about my experience, about my support system.

She was there every time I had a relapse…and I know she will be there when my brain fails me again (because it will).

What moment brought her to blogging and advocating for PPD awareness?

Read on…

*************

She swayed and moved her flannel covered arms along with the rhythm in her head. Her voice belted out over the dark silence in the ward. I shivered, involuntarily.

“Sign here, please.”

My hand grasped the pen and signed my name but it wasn’t my hand. Through the shivers, I managed to stammer out a question.

“Are there private rooms here?”

“Oh no. There are no private rooms on the Acute Flight Risk Ward.”

I knew. I knew the flaxen haired soprano was my roommate. She continued to sway and sing loudly as she waltzed with an imaginary companion across the common area, deftly avoiding the couches, chairs, and tables with crayon boxes littered across them. As I fell asleep, she finally entered “our” room, loudly, muttering to herself as she clambered into bed. It took a millennium for silence to fall. Another millennium for sleep to see fit to welcome me.

The weekend I spent at the hospital for suicidal and homicidal thoughts toward myself and my children as a result of severe Postpartum Depression, OCD, and PTSD, changed my life. It was there I first longed for another mother to talk with about my crazy. It was there a nurse told me I didn’t have to tell anyone where I had been for 48 hours. That it was nobody’s business but my own. Perhaps, but I can’t shut up about that weekend.

That weekend is what got me to where I am today. It led me to reach out, to blog when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with my son, and ultimately, to start #PPDChat. If you don’t know about #PPDChat yet, you should. It’s an amazing hashtag on Twitter meant for support for women, their families, their friends, and anyone, really, in need of support or information about Postpartum Mood Disorders. Participation is worldwide. There are members in the UK, Japan, The Netherlands, Australia, the US, and Canada. Someone is always around to answer questions or offer support. A moderated chat occurs every Monday at 1pm & 830pm ET.

The #PPDChat community is an amazing, beautiful, strong, and compassionate group of people who get where you’ve been with Postpartum. They’re at all different stages of recovery and ready to welcome you with arms full of love. Judgment doesn’t exist here. Stigma doesn’t live here either. Openness and Acceptance thrive here. Given the public nature of this support, the acceptance is miraculous.

Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders are nothing of which to be ashamed. They can happen to anyone, after any birth, even with adoption, miscarriage, or infant loss. Just like cancer or a heart attack, everyone is vulnerable. Getting help is not shameful. It’s necessary, just like seeking help for diabetes or a broken leg. Medication doesn’t make you a bad mother. Therapy doesn’t make you a bad mother. It’s acknowledgment of your desire to be a BETTER mother to your child and to yourself.

If you or a loved one suffer with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, don’t do so alone and don’t do so without reaching out for help. Find us at Twitter under the hashtag #PPDChat. Or go to Postpartum Support International for information and a Coordinator near you. If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK or find @unsuicide on Twitter for more resources. You’re never alone. Help is only a tweet away these days.

*************

Lauren is magical when she writes.  No one puts into words what depression…and beating that depression…feels like the way she does.

Read on.  You’ll be hooked.

I know this monster all too well…The Monster in the Corner

No, having a PMD is not the newest trend…Are PMD’s the New Jimmy Choos?

When Lauren researches something, look out!…Thoughts on Exploring a “Pregnant Pause” (this is in response to a Vogue article on taking depression meds during pregnancy).

giving grief words

“give sorrow words; the grief that doesn’t speak whispers o’er the fraught heart and bids it break”

~Shakespeare (MacBeth, 4.3)

*************

 

I am a planner. A list-maker.

I like order and directions and a roadmap.

I like to chart out all the possibilities and know what is in store.

And then I like to do it right.

I don’t like to let people down.

Disappointment is my biggest fear.

I am a people-pleaser.

I am a “good” girl.  I always did what I was told out of fear of disappointing someone.

These are all things that came out in my therapy session on Thursday.  All things that were stated after I blurted out that I just HATE my stupid medication.

She looked at me and pointed out what I should have known after seeing her for almost a year.

I feel the need to do things “right”.

I DO do things right.

Except having babies.

I don’t do that “right”.

At least not the traditional idea of “right”.

And I have to let myself grieve this.

I hate that my body doesn’t naturally produce the  progesterone that will help me sustain a pregnancy.

I hate that no matter how many babies I give birth to, when asked how many pregnancies, I will always have to add 2 to the number of children I have.

I hate that my body isn’t shaped correctly to birth a baby vaginally.

I hate that my son and I are results of “the miracle of modern medicine.”

I hate that my mind betrayed me.

I hate that I may be on depression and/or anxiety meds for the rest of my child-bearing years…or longer.

I have been telling others that it is ok.  That they are not alone.  That they WILL get through PPD/A, and in the midst of that I have been fighting my own battle.  With grief.

I don’t want this to be me.

I don’t want things to always be hard.

I don’t want to be special or a statistic.

I want to be NORMAL.

I have been quietly struggling with this new reality of mine.

Getting off my meds did not work.  At all.  Even though I so badly wanted it to, and I so furtively believed I could do it.

I was going to be a success story.  Getting off my meds and getting pregnant again was going to be the pretty bow on this ugly story of PPD.

And then I could say, “see?  you just need meds, therapy, and time and then you will be ALL BETTER.”

But I am not “all better.”

Instead, I am back on  my meds.

And I might be for a very, very long time.

I know that nobody is disappointed…except me.

But I count.  That much I have learned in this battle.

What I feel about everything matters.

I have to be able to accept that this is my story.  It’s part of what makes me Katie. It’s not all of me, but it is part of me.

Before I can accept that and be ok with it?  I have to grieve that this plan didn’t work out.

My body refused to do this “right”.

And it will continue to not do it “right” because it has a different way…a chemically altered, surgery-aided way to bring babies into this world.

Once I have given myself appropriate time to mourn my loss?  Only then can I begin to accept that just because I didn’t do this “right”?  I also didn’t do it “wrong”.

Until then, I must give my grief words or it will continue to break my heart.

I will continue to have broken insides. over and over.

And broken insides are not conducive to a happy home for a new baby.

*************

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Help spread the word and break down the stigma.

I Got You

This one goes out to you, Kim.

By the time you read this post, you will probably have read Lauren‘s and Miranda‘s.  And by this time, there might be others too.

You know we are telling you that we love you.

You know we wish we could help.

But here is the thing.

I’m not going to be we for a second.

I’m just going to be Katie.

You are my friend.

No, we have never met “in real life.”

No, I don’t know what your voice sounds like.

No, I have never watched you go from serious to a huge smile.

But….

BUT…

I have read your words.

I have seen pictures of you.

And you are my friend.

I don’t have a ton of close friends.  (Shut up, I don’t).

But those who are my close friends?  Know I can’t sleep or eat or function well when they are hurting.

They know I will do anything in my power to help.  Even if the only help I can bring is an inappropriate giggle.

Last night I tossed and turned thinking about where you were.  How you were.

I would dream of looking for you.

I checked my phone each time I woke up.

No Kim.

I cried silently when I thought of what “could” be.

I asked Cort if I was crazy since I didn’t technically know you.

He said, “of course not.  She is your friend.”

Yes.  You are.

My friend.

Why yes, you ARE on the wall-o-friends

And as my friend you have taught me to laugh at the bad in life.  Not because it’s funny, but because it’s our defense against it.  Bad hates laughter.  And we can bring the laughs.

As my friend you have shown me it’s ok to not be perfect…because that is more fun.

As my friend you have cheered my sorry ass on when I thought PPD and just life would win.  You made me realize there is too much going for me to stay in my hole.

You have showed me what a fighter is.

Right now?  You are finding it hard to fight.

You trained me.  Let me fight for you.

Or?  Let this guy fight for you.

hey pretty lady...let me take care of that for you.

and?  since I love you so much.  I had this made for you.  I will mail it soon, but here is a preview.

to be worn as a protective sheild against the evil world

Kim?  You are my friend.

I love you.

I am here for you, girl.  I got you.

And so does the rest of the bloggy world.

a packaged deal

I have had enough.

I am ready to purge.  To get rid of that which I do not need.

I am at my wit’s end with this and I am going to dump it.

I’m going to put it out there away from me, and hopefully someone stops by and picks it up.  Not for themselves, but to take away from me.

I mean, I guess if you are a masochist you could keep these things.  I suppose. And there will be a few of you I suppose.

But I am done with this stuff.

DONE.

In fact, I don’t remember ever wanting these things.  They just showed up.  And now I can’t GIVE them away.

But I am still trying.

So, that being said, the first item I am listing here is the a like-new Case of Guilt (made just for me by PPD, but is easily transferable to your particular needs).

The adhesive on this Case of Guilt is like new.  Seriously.  I realize it has been stuck to me for about twenty months now, but it hasn’t lost any of its cling. I am fairly sure–although I have long since lost the original paperwork–that it was was made with molasses combined with a super spray adhesive for extra powerful binding ability.

Or perhaps there is cement in there.  Like I said, I don’t have the original paperwork…only that which I could find on Google.

Either way?  It still sticks.

Also this particular brand of Case of Guilt is extremely emphatic.  It comes with a special built-in amplifying system to avoid ignored missed messages from the guilt.  So even if you are sitting in a loud movie without your kids?  You will definitely hear the Guilt booming right over the loudest theatrical gun battles telling you that you should be home being a more involved parent to your children.

PPD brand Case of Guilt also comes with a self-charging battery so it will never die on you when you want it to need it. In fact, in the almost two years that I have owned it?  It has never ever needed its batteries replaced.  It came with a lifetime guarantee to ALWAYS be there (the guarantee is transferable, by the way, so we can take care of that upon exchange).

It has unfortunately never failed me.  Even when I have been at work making money to feed my family?  It is there reminding me that I am not with my son.  It is never-ending and persistent. You can count on that.

I am throwing in two other items with this Case of Guilt:

Unreasonable Self-Doubt and Uncontrollable Paranoia

Both are also PPD brand and 100% compatible with the Case of Guilt.  In fact, the Self-Doubt and Paranoia were originally marketed as accessories to the Mom Guilt, but I am offering them all as a package deal.

Both are being offered as-is, although they have very little wear that is noticeable.

The Unreasonable Self-Doubt is scheduled to coincide when the Case of Guilt clicks on letting you know you are not living up to what people want.  Immediately the Self-Doubt will begin breaking down your confidence leaving you with virtually nothing to grasp onto that seems worthwhile.

The Uncontrollable Paranoia is meant to trigger the Case of Guilt.  It’s like a fail-safe for the Guilt.  The Guilt has never failed, but in the case that it shows signs of not igniting?  The Paranoia will guarantee it.

The entire package is being offered for FREE.

I do not want anything PPD Brand in my life anymore.

If interested, it will be on the curb.  Because that is where it has been kicked to.

The Blackest Friday

It was important that this day be as normal as possible.  Remember that.  Normalcy was important to me.

Black Friday of 2007 started out normal and I was ever thankful for that.  My mom and I did our shopping and we had a good time.  I didn’t bring it up the entire time we were out.  Not during our first few shops.  Not over coffee.  Not while when we walked past the baby stuff.

When I got home with all my packages, I intended to decorate the house with Christmas and wrap all of my newly bought gifts.  Just like any other year.

But this is when my “normal” was shattered.

While I was out, Cort had made plans for us with our friends (who, by the way, are usually only in state once–maybe twice–a year).  This wouldn’t be a big deal to me if those plans had fallen into the customary time period after my decorating and wrapping frenzy, but the plans called for us to be ready to go in less than 2 hours and I hadn’t even showered yet.

I know.  Big deal, right?

My world fell apart.

I was immediately angry at Cortney for messing up my “tradition”.  Inconsolably so.

“Just decorate tomorrow,” he offered.

“THAT IS NOT THE POINT!” I told him. “TODAY is when I wrap and then decorate all to the sounds of Bing Crosby.  Why can you not respect this?  Why would you make PLANS for us during this?  Do you not know me at ALL?”

He was speechless.  He even offered to cancel the plans.  But I wouldn’t let him do that.

“how would that look?” I questioned him.  “what would they think?”

So I begrudgingly showered and got all ready.

And went out to eat and to have beers.

And acted normal.

But ignored Cortney. I mean, how could he be so thoughtless?

The rage built.

After dinner we all headed over to our friends’ house where we could sit around and visit and share some wine and snacks.

I continued to ignore  my husband.

It got so bad that nearing the end of the night he came to the chair that I was actively ignoring him from and asked if I would like to go home.

I said yes.

We left an awkward wake behind us.

I started crying somewhere between here and there.

Once home my memory blurs.  I think the yelling started as we got ready for bed.  I finally started telling Cortney how this entire day was a big suck for me thanks to him.

He didn’t yell back (he never does).  He just looked sad.

But he questioned me.  He questioned how in the world this small change in my “normal” Black Friday routine could be THIS awful.

I raged at him.

And then?  I collapsed into the ugliest cry I remember having and blurted out,

“We were supposed to have a baby this week.”

And proceed to cry so hard I couldn’t get my breath.

In the dark warmth of our living room, on the leather couch where I had lain recovering from the loss, Cortney sunk and wrapped his arms around me.

“Oh, honey,” he managed.

It all started to make sense.  I was grasping for routine.  For nothing to be out of the ordinary.  For everything to “proceed as normally scheduled.”

When it didn’t?  I lost my shit.

And we sat in the dark on the couch for a very long time.

He instructed me to breathe.  To take deep breaths, and to talk about it.  Neither of us had mourned that loss like this.  And I didn’t expect the due date to hit me so hard.  I thought I was over it.  That it never bothered me that much.

But it did.  I had just suppressed it.

In the winter, when we had found out my due date, it was perfect.  All of our friends would be in town.  Family would be around.  Everyone would be ready to celebrate our baby. Somehow that fact made our unexpected pregnancy ok.  It made things start to look up.

But that night while Cort’s arms held me, my arms were empty.

No baby.

And I started to cry all over again.

It still never escapes me that if the first time around had happened, we would have been throwing a 3-year old’s birthday party this week.

Sometimes I still don’t know how to feel about this.  If we were having a birthday party, Eddie maybe wouldn’t be here.  And he is…well…there are no words for how that little boy makes my heart swell.

But yet…

someone is missing.

(two little someones, actually.  but that is another post.)

The very next Thanksgiving, Eddie was baking away in my tummy and we have never had a “normal” Thanksgiving weekend again.

I am closer to Cortney.

And I have never loved this holiday more.

What Happens When I Poll the Audience….

Today I didn’t know if I should tell you about all the poop that is flying around our house lately or do my flip-offs.

So i polled the audience.  And by audience, I mean twitter.  Because there is instant gratification in polling twitter.

Anyway.

You all voted and you wanted…..

That’s right…it’s been a couple weeks, but the flip-offs are back by popular demand.  The topic of poop?  It is still coming…just maybe another day.

Ok…so here we go… (cracks knuckles)…

First I am TOTALLY flipping off the moron in the red buick something or other in my neighborhood that I get stuck behind in the morning if leave the house at just the “right” (re: WRONG) time in the morning. 

Let me explain.  We live in one of those windy subdivisions that doesn’t have any stop signs (because there is SO not enough traffic to justify stop signs) until you get to the only entrance/exit which is on a main road.

Red Buick?  He feels the need to make a COMPLETE stop at each and every intersection.  He then proceeds to go no faster than 15 mph throughout entire said windy subdivision.

Now I get that it’s important to be cautious.  You don’t want to hit any kids walking to the bus stop.

But at 6:30am?  There are no kids walking to the bus stop yet.  I know this because on days when I am running late?  Like 7:00am late?  THAT is when the kids are walking to the bus stop.

So on these days when I think I am being all on time and early (re: OUT OF CHARACTER FOR ME), Red Buick ruins it for me.

FLIP OFF to you, Red Buick (in fact, I DID flip him/her off this morning…but he/she was too focused on not going over 15, that I don’t think he/she noticed.  So it didn’t count.  So I had to do it here.  So there.)

Ok secondly?  I need to flip off one of our banks.

I am not going to say WHICH bank this is because we do get good service here and the tellers are stellar (you love it.  don’t pretend you don’t).

But this bank?  Has called our house eight times since last Friday.  Our home phone is on the fritz (a WHOLE other flip off), and so we let it go to voicemail and then call our callers back with our cells.

Bur the bank?  Is not leaving messages.

Eight times.  EIGHT MOTHER LOVING TIMES.

three of those times were in ONE DAY.
 
So finally Cort called the number that came up on our caller id (after the fifth time they hung up, mind you).  and apparently this is their marketing department trying to let us know about a good mortgage rate.

Wait.  What?

We JUST refinanced last year at this time.  What the ham sandwich, batman?

So Cort tells them, “um, you need to put us on the do not call list.”

And the lady is all “well, you have to call customer service to request that, and it can take up to 30 days.”

sigh.

So after this conversation?  Three more times they call.  Three.

For a total of EIGHT TIMES.

Bank?  FLIP OFF!

And finally…

I need to go ahead and flip off the cat and his choice of pooping locations.  There will be more of this shared in the upcoming and much anticipated “Poop Post”, but let’s just say my old ass cat is getting all sorts of mean-spirited and poop crazy.  and bad, awful things have happened because of this.

So I flip off the cat poop…and the toothbrush that was thrown out because of it.

Oh…and I know I said “finally” above, but I need to add this…

PPD has a PERMANENT flip-off here in Sluiter Nation, you all know that.  But what you don’t know is that I am all guest posty over at Rocky Mountain Mama’s today for her PPD Awareness Week.  I’m talking about the differences between Baby Blues (which are normal) and PPD.  So go check me out and leave me a comment over there so I don’t feel all lonely.  I hate feeling lonely. Especially on a Friday.

So click this picture and read the post.
Rocky Mountain Mama
and then read the rest of the posts.  They are pretty amazing.
Oh, and for more flip-offs?  You can visit…um…I don’t even know.  Kludgy Mom is the brainchild of the Flip-offs, so go say hi to her.  She has been occupied as of late, so Momma Kiss had the link up.  So just go to both.  They are awesome.  Trust me.
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