October 30, 2013

Help is Out There

The Scream by Edvard Munch
Today is Wednesday, which means that once again it's time for me to ask you to vote for me for Blogger Idol. And I feel a little strange about it this week.

This week we were tasked with writing about a cause that's close to our hearts, and also a few blogs that either we love or that are somehow related (or both).

...and I wrote a post. And I feel pretty good about it. And then I nearly deleted the whole thing.

I polished it- pictures, structure, recurring themes and cautiously trimmed content.

And I'd like you to read that post. And vote for it. But it's not what I really care about today.

Because I had to write this instead. And I very nearly submitted this to Blogger Idol this week instead of the post I'd like you to vote for. but I can't let this opportunity go by. I have something important to say.


This is a hard world we live in. It's hard, and sometimes cruel, and often unforgiving. And we can only view it through the lens of our own experience. Our self doubt and fear color everything- every smile from a stranger, every indifferent glance. We have the horrific capacity within ourselves to invent entire narratives of accusation.

The night I finished that entry, well past midnight, a stranger left a comment on a months old post here- on the Becoming SuperMommy blog. Fourteen words that rocked me to my core.

I've had memorable comments before. Hurtful. Inspiring. Surprising.

But until now none have left my heart fluttering in so much turmoil.

"This blog just kept me from committing suicide.
I am getting help.
Thank you."

No, thank you. Thank you so much for finding the power in yourself to feel through your pain.

Thank you for reaching out and making a connection, however vague, with another human being.

Thank you for believing that you are loved, that you are cared for, that you are worthwhile and your life has meaning.

More than thirty thousand people commit suicide in the United States each year. It's the leading cause of maternal mortality in this country. I know what it's like to be suicidal. I know what it's like to go over that ledge- to try to take your own life.

And let me tell you something that even folks who work in the field don't like to say- the fear of failure is a huge deterrent. The fear of failure is often worse than the weariness of living.

That's when it becomes unbearable. When you're willing to die- you're desperate to die- but the idea of the state you would remain in if your attempt failed... there are things worse than death. Especially when death seems like an escape.

But it is not. Mental illness is chemical, tangible, treatable. Clinical depression, PPD, PTSD... these are medical conditions. Invisible, yes, but real.

And there is help out there. There is another way to live.

I am proof. Walking, breathing, loving, smiling, laughing, crying, living proof.

Life is hard, it's hard for everyone. It has ups and downs, good and bad, pain and joy. What you experience through the cloud of depression is not life. It's something else. It's the illusion of a sick brain, shielding itself from the only cure.

There are few insights into depression as poignant as PostSecret. Once upon a time, a guy named Frank Warren asked people to write their secrets on the backs of postcards and send them to him anonymously.

Now, years later, Frank still receives thousands of those secrets every day. And while some are silly, and some are sweet, every week brings bags full of strangers' confessions. Plans to end their own lives. Stories of the events that led them to their drastic plans. Acknowledgements of the burden of sorrow that some have been living with for decades.

Frank has done something amazing- he built a massive community of support. He teamed up with the National Hopeline Network to make sure that those same people sending him their secrets know where to go for help.

And every day he sits and reads the most intimate, personal words of hundreds of strangers.

But there is one group notoriously absent from his project. I worry when weeks go by without a single postcard from new moms. Because Post Partum Depression and Post Partum Psychosis are far more prevalent than we like to believe, and the stigma can be even stronger.

Not a year goes by without some horrific story of a new mom killing herself and even her kids. I feel for those women, and I understand them. I know how compounded by the pressure of new or renewed parenthood depression can become. I know how our society's expectations of mothers don't allow for "weakness" like mental illness.

But the same sort of impromptu community is out there- Postpartum Progress. And there is a need. A real, tangible need for such a space.

There is this sense that when you say "post partum" before "depression," that it's some kind of phase. That once you're not "post partum" it will go away on its own. That if you can get through those first two months, or six months, or two years, you'll be back to normal.

And maybe you will.

But what we're only now coming to learn is how profoundly the hormones of pregnancy and breastfeeding alter the chemistry of the brain.

PPD is depression, pure and simple. Just as deep, just as oppressive, just as valid.

I've been re-reading that comment, sitting like a beacon on my blog, and part of me never wants to see a message like it again.

I want to live in a world where if somebody's sick with a disease of the psyche, they can simply seek treatment. Where they will not be judged for having been ill. Where connecting with a stranger isn't the line between choosing to live and choosing to die.

Part of me hopes I'll get more of those late-night comments.

I want to be part of the force of goodness and humanity in the world that eases people in pain away from that ledge.

I want to be part of a world that is welcoming, forgiving, accepting, and healing.

This is where I want to be. This is where I am.

If anyone reading feels the weight of their own heart too heavy to bear...

Please talk to me. I'm here.

I want to help.

I am not alone. You are not alone.

It's safe to live.


So yes, I feel weird about asking you to vote for me. But please do it anyway.

Thank you.


  1. Holy crap. I want to write more, but holy crap. First, voted for you because well, you beyond rock and that IDOL post is freaking fantastic.

    But this post? This is superior. I wish you could have supported both. As a survivor of suicide I completely agree that it is the fear of failure that makes you not complete the act. On top of it all, I feel if you have never been in that dark place, a place where death is the only option you cannot understand it.

    Therefore do not judge those who contemplate or succeed at suicide.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my soul, for being a survivor and more than that but for being a beacon to those who need it.

    1. Thank you so much. And I'm so glad you've survived. <3 It's a dark place.

  2. I had PPD. You know my family doctor did not seem to believe me? If I hadn't called my ob-gyn's office I don't know what would have happened. She prescribed something to me over the phone. And called and checked on me.

    And I continued to struggle with that family doctor acting like I was a crazy med seeking loon until I finally had enough and found another doctor when we moved to a nearby town. I wonder how many other women he has made feel like that. It's not right.

    I did not have the connections that I do now. The internet is truly a godsend for those out there who are struggling.

    And I will vote for you, because you're awesome. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Thank you so much. And I am SO glad you got a new doctor! This is what Yelp was made for.

  3. Truly amazing. Keep being that beacon :)

  4. Reading this post I have tears streaming down my face. Not sure exactly what that says about me. I've been there. I've been depressed. I've thought about suicide. I have battled PPD on and off for three years now, through two kids. I have battled crippling anxiety since I became a mother. I just.... yeah.

    1. You can get through it. It gets better and better... and then worse, but then better again. Always trending up.
      Keep on. <3



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