Friday, September 19, 2014

The L.A. Postpartum Depression Meetup Group

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, I wanted to join a group of women who also had postpartum depression. I imagined we would share war stories and give each other support. Maybe someone who had already recovered would be my Big Sister and mentor me. I was not looking for formal group therapy because I already had a psychiatrist and psychologist.  I wanted something that was free and social. Since I live in Pasadena, right next door to L.A., I assumed I would have tons of nearby options.

There were no nearby options... unless you count Missouri.  (Or maybe it was Michigan - whatever, it was in another state, and not even a state adjacent to California.)

I was shocked and disappointed. I had a ton of support from my doctors, husband, parents, siblings, family and friends, but I really yearned for a community of women who knew exactly what I was experiencing. I often felt incredibly alone and frustrated because I could not find local mamas who had PPD.

Last May I started a meetup group for mamas in Pasadena who have or had PPD. We are now eleven mamas strong! We meet at local parks and talk, and by "talk," I mean "we pour each other's hearts out." Although I am fully recovered, I still find the group incredibly cathartic and healing, and I enjoy helping moms who are traveling through the darkness of depression. 

A few weeks ago, one of our members started a meetup group for mamas in Glendale who have or had PPD. I was so excited! Yes! This is exactly what we need! L.A. is BIG, and it is difficult to drag a baby to the far corners of the county, so let's have a meetup group in every neighborhood, from Malibu to Echo Park and everything in between.

At first I was excited, but then I felt INSPIRED.

Why should I be content with organizing a meetup group in Pasadena?  There are women, just like me, struggling with postpartum depression in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, etc. etc. Those women need meetup groups, too! But if you have PPD right now, it's difficult enough managing showers, groceries and diaper changes. I myself could not even think about starting a group until I was 110% better.

I cannot sit by and do nothing if there is one woman with PPD feeling alone and scared in L.A. County, so I started another Meetup Group today: the Los Angeles Postpartum Depression Meetup - We're Not Alone!

I am hoping to use this big L.A. group to start lots of neighborhood groups. One out of seven women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. There is no need for us to suffer alone!

I am so excited! I have so many other ideas. I want to get some links and pages going with PPD info on this blog. I need to start some Facebook groups to compliment the Meetup groups. And I want to send fliers to pediatricians and hospital support groups. I told Pippa's pediatrician I want to make fliers to share information about my group, and she was very enthusiastic about this. I also need business cards! I talked with a momma this morning who gave birth two weeks ago and told her about my postpartum depression. Ugh, I wish I had remembered to give her my name and email address.

I also want to make a tote bag that proudly declares the fact that I had PPD. Something I can use for sand toys so other mommas at the playground can see it, and maybe my candor and openness will help someone who is feeling shitty.

Once I help get the neighborhood groups off the ground, I want to use the L.A. group for monthly and quarterly gatherings.  Maybe sometimes we will have weekend gatherings so the dad's and grandparents can come as well.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A DANCE PARTY! Postpartum depression is, well, depressing; so I want to encourage moms to do fun things, because FUN helps fight depression.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A 5K! Every cause has a 5K. Where's the PPD Fun Run??

And this is L.A. so we need an outing to Dodgers stadium. 2015 season, I'm looking at you! I want the big t.v. screen thing to flash a big cheerful welcome to PPD Moms of L.A.

But whew, all in good time. For now, I'm working on the L.A. meetup group and getting the neighborhood gatherings started. I hope this project gathers momentum quickly, but I realize it might take time. That's okay. The best things come to those who wait.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm liking the word "No"

Pippa has been saying "no" for a long time, but she recently started saying it with a lot more passion and intensity. 

Other parents had warned me about the dreaded "No's" making it sound like a death sentence. But so far, it does not bother me. (I reserve the right to amend that statement at any time!)

Yesterday I overheard a toddler saying "No! No! No!" to everything her mother said. Her mother told her that "no" is a negative word and if she kept saying it, people would think she was not nice.

I see her point.

But I politely disagree. (Of course, I kept my disagreement to myself - I'm not in the market for any new enemies this week. But now I'm going to share my disagreement with the world! Muhaha.)

Why does "no" have to be seen as a naughty four-letter word? Why do we discourage our children from using it? The way I see it, "no" is a very important word and I hope that during her life, Pippa uses it regularly and with great intensity. If her junior high school friends offer her a cigarette, I hope she says, "Gross! No!"

 If she is at a party and her drunk friend tries to drive home, I hope she says, "No! Give me the keys! You idiot!"

If anyone ever pressures her to do anything she does not want to do, I hope she says "No!"

If anyone ever tries to take advantage of her in any way, I hope she says, "No!"

If anyone ever touches her in a way that she does not want, I hope she screams, "NO!!! NO!!! NO!!!"

If anyone ever tries to hurt her, I hope she shouts, "NO!" and then kicks that person in the ass. (Or flees if that's the better option. Always choose Life over Dignity.)

If anyone pressures her to do something stupid, I hope she says, "NO!"

I could go on.

Instead of hating the word "no," I am celebrating it every time Pippa says it. When Pippa tells me "NO!" because she is feeling defiant, I smile inside and think, "You go girl!" When Pippa says "No!" to make the point that she is an individual, I silently cheer, "Yes! You are!"  And when Pippa says "No!" when it's time to brush her teeth, I listen, recognize her feelings, and then make her brush her teeth anyway. I am still the momma, after all.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Rambling Thouhts on The Whole Introvert/Extrovert Paradigm

This is my understanding of what it means to be an introvert or extrovert: an introvert draws her energy from within herself; an extrovert draws her energy from other people.

I have taken many different personality tests during my life, and the tests all agree: I am an Introvert.

I have prided myself on being a Lone Wolf. If stranded on a desert island, I would do fine.

Or so I thought.

Until recently, I have always been a member of a Pack. From preschool through law school, I spent my days with my classmates. Then I went to work and there were always tons of people around. Even if I spent most of my day staring at a computer screen, I still spent lots of time interacting with other people. For my entire life, I had a built-in Wolf Pack. I spent my days with the Pack.

After Pippa was born, I became a stay-at-home mom and I no longer had a Wolf Pack. Instead, I was a Wolf with a Cub - not a pack.

Still, I clung to my belief that I am a Lone Wolf. All the personality tests said I was an Introvert!

But here's the thing about personality tests: they depend entirely on my answers.  I might have thought I was answering the questions honestly, but sometimes I can be dishonest with myself.

Nathan has been very busy at work. Insanely busy.  Hellishly unreasonably busy.  He has been working 70-80 hours every week for ... well, it feels like forever. He has been going to the office every weekend for the past month and has been in Arizona for the past week. 

This has been tough for him, but it has also been tough for me. The weekends were especially tough. My parents were in New York, Nathan was at the office, and Pippa and I just had each other.
I was feeling .... ick ... urg... I did not know exactly what I was feeling, but it did not feel good.

I thought about it.  I wrote about it.  I thought about it some more, and then I realized ...

I was lonely.

Me? Lonely? How could that be? I'm an introvert! I should be relishing the Me Time. I only need a book and I'm happy. Right?  RIGHT?!

Wrong. I was lonely. L-O-N-E-L-Y.

I whined and complained to Nathan. He listened, but this did not change the fact that I was l-o-n-e-l-y.

So I made more plans. A year ago, I joined a local mom's group but never attended the big gatherings. I finally attended one. I emailed friends and set up lunch dates. I took Pippa to a free music class and signed us up for the semester. We went to a free gym class. I made more of an effort to chat with other moms at the playground and you know what? The friendlier I am, the friendlier the other moms are too.

When I was talking with other people, I found myself happy and ... energized. Energized by other people? WTF? Aren't I an introvert?

At my monthly appointment, I told my psychiatrist that Nathan was busy at work and I was feeling lonely. He told me if I feast all day and have burnt toast for dinner, that's okay. But if I only get one meal a day, and that meal is burnt toast, then I'm going to be cranky and depressed.

He's right. I have been getting out of the house every day and exploring new places with Pippa. We have taken classes and made friends, but we were not interacting with people every day. I depended on Nathan to be my breakfast, lunch and dinner; my mommy friends were just snacks. But with Nathan hellishly unreasonably busy at work, he did not have the time to be a 24 hour social buffet. 

After lots of ruminating and soul-searching, I finally accepted the fact that I am not a Lone Wolf. I am an extrovert, and I love being part of a pack.

You hear that, world? I AM AN EXTROVERT!!!

I believe I have always been an extrovert but thanks to my extreme anxiety, I convinced myself that I was an introvert. Let me try to explain...

Before I had postpartum depression, I was an anxious person, but I was able to function. After I gave birth, my hormones went bat shit crazy, and my anxiety went to a whole new level. I became depressed, had panic attacks, and could not sleep. I wanted to die.

But I did not die. Although I had thoughts about killing myself, I did not like those thoughts. So I saw my doctor and self-admitted myself to the hospital. I got help. I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist every week and he helped me defeat my postpartum depression. And then we tackled all of my other pre-existing anxieties, and we shredded my anxiety to pieces and then took those pieces and lit a bonfire and turned my anxiety to ash. Now that the ashes have blown away, I can see how deeply every part of my life was affected by anxiety.

I know now that thanks to my anxiety, I was afraid of people. I was so, so terribly afraid of REJECTION. I was afraid of talking to people and asking friends out to lunch because, horror of horrors, THEY MIGHT SAY NO AND THAT WOULD BE FUCKING TERRIBLE.

Except it wouldn't be. Rejection is not the end of the world. It's not even a broken arm. It's a paper cut. An itty bitty ouch, a little drop of blood, and that's it. Big deal.

I am starting to put myself out there. I joined a mommy play group. I joined a mommy class that starts at the end of the month. I started a play group/book club on Meetup a few days ago. I have a few other Meetups that I want to start, especially one for crafting and a big one for postpartum depression. I am looking at my calendar and making sure it is FULL.

I used to be afraid of a full dance card - that was another bullshit concern that my anxiety manufactured. I was afraid that I might have to cancel plans AND HOLY EFFING EFF THAT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD.

Nope. Sometimes plans get cancelled. It's not the end of the world. It's not even a broken leg. Shit, it's not even a paper cut! It is, at best, an empty carton of milk that someone accidentally put back in the fridge. You think, "Shit howdy, this carton of milk is empty, let me throw it out and open this one instead" and then you move on with your life.

Rejection is not a big deal, and neither are cancelled plans. Two days ago, Pippa took a long nap at a weird time so we had to miss a play group. Guess what? The world is still here. No one broke a leg or even a toe. And there is still plenty of milk in the fridge.

This past week, I have embraced the fact that I am an extrovert. I need people! Nothing has changed - I am still the same Courtney - and yet everything has changed - for the first time in thirty-five years, I truly understand and accept who I am.

Nathan is finally coming home today after a week in Arizona, and I feel great. Pippa and I missed him, but we had a great week.  We saw lots of different people, and I had great conversations, every day. I fed my soul and energized myself by making sure I had a Pack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BEST COMMENT EVER

Many, many moons ago, way back in September 2011, I wrote a blog post called "Dog Leashes: Explained." Long story short, one of my neighbors was walking her Rottweiler and although the Rottweiler had a leash clipped to its collar, the neighbor was not actually holding the leash.

Fast forward to July 2014, some random reader stumbled upon this post. I no longer leave my posts open for comment because eh, I'm just not a Comments sort of person. But this old post was open for comments, so Anonymous commented:

You need to get out more. Challenge your assumptions. Be prepared to be wrong, learn from it. Maybe you'll find you're the animal who should be chained in a basement.

Thank you, Anonymous! Thank you for taking my sarcasm/humor so seriously. Nathan and I shared a hysterical laugh. Now why don't you go cuddle with a strange Rottweiler roaming your neighborhood.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Life Lately

  • Slowly making progress on my Big Ass Parks Project
  • Easing myself into the Atkins lifestyle - I am excited to break up with carbs, but needed to say goodbye to pizza.
  • Waging a war against the army of toys taking over the house - Pippa is graduating to more interesting toys, so it's time to exile the rattles to the garage
  • Plotting ways to deal with my craft supplies
  • and I want to draw now, so adieu, adieu

Friday, July 11, 2014

Courtney's Dream Home

I love our house, but you know what would make me love it even more?
  • an indoor hammock
  • two stories - upstairs for sleeping, downstairs for rowdiness and mayhem
  • a balcony off the master bedroom for morning coffee
  • self-cleaning floors (really just in the kitchen in the highchair zone - I'm not greedy)
  • a saltwater aquarium with starfish
  • a little free library for the neighborhood
  • a big tree with a tire swing 
  • brightly colored furniture
  • a room with a ceiling painted a fun bright color, like so
  • lots of house plants that I don't forget to water
  • a craft/play room that has a big long table for my sewing machine and a teepee for Pippa
  • man cave for Nathan with a jukebox
  • vegetable garden with space and sun for TOMATOES
  • an open floor plan for the kitchen/den (our house comes close to this, but I'm greedy and want the kitchen to flow into the den)
  • a leather booth in the kitchen
  • a zipline and trampoline in the backyard (and of course, since this is my dream home, we'd still have a pool - duh)
  • a front porch with more seating (hmm, gears are whirring in my head as I consider ways to rearrange our porch...)
  • a pumpkin patch

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Courtney's Ultimate Bad Ass List of Learning Ambitions

According to The How of Happiness, learning new things makes me happy. I fully agree. And as I've noted before, I LOVE LISTS. So obviously it is time for me to make a list of all the things I hope to learn during my life. I am not setting any deadlines for any of these ambitions.

Without further ado, behold! All the crazy, practical, lame, impractical, exciting, amazing, and weird things I want to learn:
  1. how to throw a boomerang
  2. how to ride a unicycle - I have wanted to learn this for at least twenty years now! I was THIS CLOSE to buying a unicycle when I was a senior in college. I was convinced it would make an awesome study break while I was writing my thesis. My friends thought otherwise and convinced me to abandoned that scheme.
  3. how to juggle five objects - I can juggle three tennis balls! I learned how to juggle in the sixth grade, but if I ever want to be a circus clown, I'm going to have to up to my credentials.
  4. how to make a balloon animal - Apparently what I really want to do is go to clown college.
  5. how to change a tire - oh thank god, something unrelated to the circus
  6. how to change the oil in my car - I'm sick of being such a girl with all things car-related
  7. the different parts of a car - I can identify the tires! And the windshield wipers! I'm on my way!
  8. all the presidents of the United States in chronological order - George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson...
  9. five fun facts about each U.S. President but I can't learn the facts from Wikipedia
  10. TAP DANCE
  11. how to execute a cartwheel - the cartwheel does not have to be flawless, but a bystander has to be able to say "Hey, that chick just did a shitty cartwheel."
  12. how to be a bad ass with a hacky sack - back to the clown theme, but this one has a stoner twist
  13. the Thriller dance
  14. how to make pasta from scratch - I actually was signed up for a pasta making class once and then the bastards cancelled due to low enrollment
  15. how to make a pie from scratch - not to boast, but I'm sure I can do this, I just have never attempted it
  16. Spanish - I took Spanish through high school, plus one class my first quarter of college, but I flamed out of that class. But I am working on reclaiming what I used to know and then becoming fluent. I've been using a great app called Duolingo plus reading some books in Spanish.
  17. French or German or another third language
  18. World geography - My education was severely lacking on this point. I want to know where every country in the world is, plus major cities, rivers, mountains, etc. I already know where the oceans are, so this is totally doable - right?
  19. Guitar
  20. Ukulele - I own one, I own a book, I own a tuner, but I can't figure out how to tune the damn thing! Someone I know must be able to help me with this one...
  21. Grilling - This has been Nathan's jurisdiction, but it is time to conquer my fear of the grill. There's only a 5% chance I will become engulfed in flames and have to jump into the pool.
  22. Harmonica
  23. Accordion
  24. survival skills in the event of a zombie attack, e.g. how to build a fire
  25. basic first aid
Okay, I've got my work cut out for me! And I know this list will get longer before I am able to conquer a significant item...