Cassandra Stout is a freelance author earning her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with two bachelors' degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing.
She is also the author of Committed, a novel-length memoir detailing her experience committing herself in a mental hospital after a postpartum psychotic break, and appeared in the anthology How the Light Gets In with one of her many short memoir pieces.
A frequent contributor for the International Bipolar Foundation, Cassandra blogs at the award-winning The Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses–like herself–and their loved ones.
The mental health of fathers, especially new fathers, matters.
When fathers are mentally healthy and in tune with their emotions, they’re usually more present with their children. And as a direct result, the kids thrive.
One in ten men–10% of men in America–suffers postpartum depression, and that rate raises to a whopping 50% if mom is depressed.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of resources for mothers suffering postpartum depression and major depressive disorders, but few for fathers directly.
In honor of Father’s Day, here are some mental health resources for fathers. Most resources are for both parents, and I will be including some of those here as well, with the focus being on men.
What if I’m in a Crisis?
If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, try one of the numbers below.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Espanol): 1-888-628-9454.
To reach a crisis counselor, text HOME to 741-741.
If you or your loved one struggles with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357) and they’ll hook you up with referrals to treatment centers.
Also of note are my domestic (US) and international crisis hotline master posts, found here and here respectively.
If you or your loved ones are dealing with a mental health crisis, there is help out there. All you have to do is to have the courage to ask for help.
Resources for Fathers
There are a few treatment locators available for the United States, specifically this one by Psychology Today and this one by SAMHSA. You can look for men’s health issues directly.
ManTherapy is a website with a “rich mahogany” vibe, one that encourages men to seek help with memes and entertaining articles based on Anchorman.
Heads Up Guysoffers practical tips and support for men suffering depression by other men who have been there.
Postpartum.net has a fabulous list of resources specifically for dads suffering from postpartum depression, including support groups and chats with an expert in mental health. They also have a helpline that you can call or text at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) in English and Spanish. From their website: “When you call the HelpLine you will be asked to leave a confidential message, and a trained and caring volunteer will listen and return your call or text during business hours. They will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement, and connect you with local resources as needed.”
In a similar vein, GoodRx.com has a huge list of mental health resources for men, including online support groups, mental health therapy for men, and specific resources for Black men.
Resources Specific to Canada
Here to Helpprovides a self-assessment tool that can be used by anyone.
Triple Poffers free online programs for parenting advice across a range of ages.
Anxiety Canadaoffers a free online anxiety management program that I believe anyone can use.
Bounce Back Ontario provides a free telephone-guided cognitive behavioral therapy session for depression and anxiety.
Men who suffer from depression and mental health challenges often suffer alone, keeping their detrimental feelings to themselves.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is help out there for men, especially fathers.
If you are a man who is suffering from depression, check out one of these websites. And if you are a woman who loves a man who suffers, then point him to this post.
You can conquer depression and other mental health challenges. It takes time, talking to someone, self-care, and possibly medication, but you can claw your way out of the pit.
Blogger’s Note: I will be updating my blog every two weeks from now on! Thanks for reading!
This post appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation’s website, here.
Running out of meds is the worst.
If you’re regularly taking medication and you run out of pills and stop suddenly, this is terrible for your body and your mind.
If you’re bipolar, you may end up tripping into a mood episode that can devastate you and your family.
But how do you ensure you never run out of meds?
This is the process that works for me, and it might help you, too. I live in the US, take medications that work that I can afford, and have a regular psychiatrist on call that I can also afford.
If these facts aren’t all true for you, then the basics of the process may work but the entire process may not.
I’ll discuss some tips on how to afford your meds later, as well as providing a National Institutes of Mental Health link describing several ways to afford a psychiatrist in the US.
How to Prevent Yourself from Running out of Meds
As I’m sure you’re aware, keeping your supply of meds stocked is important for day-to-day functioning.
But how do you ensure you’ll never run out of meds again?
Here’s what I do.
I have an am/pm pillbox that I fill every week on Sunday morning, right after my morning dose. I recommend designating a particular time to fill your pillbox, so you are always aware of what medications you possess at any given time.
I also highly recommend taking your meds at the same times every day. I take mine as soon as I wake up and after dinner at around 6pm but no later than 6:30pm because my antipsychotic helps me sleep, and if I take it too late, I’m wired until midnight.
Now that I’ve been taking my meds at the same times every day for almost a year, the habit is ingrained in me, and I rarely miss my meds. And on the rare occasion that I do miss a morning dose, for example, my pillbox lets me know because the pills are still in the am slot.
Once I have two weeks left of pills, I call my pharmacy and have them order pills for me from my psychiatrist.
My psych doc knows these pills work for me in these doses (and if they ever stop working, I call him to make an adjustment), so he prescribes them in doses of 90 days.
If you can talk to your psychiatrist and ask them to prescribe in three-month levels (assuming you have meds that work), you can have your psychiatrist fax your meds to the pharmacy of your choice and pick them up every three months.
I have my preferred pharmacy’s–at my local grocery store–number saved in my phone. When I call them to order medications, the pharmacy has an automated phone menu that I enter my prescription bottle number (so save that bottle!) in to ask for a refill.
After entering the prescription number in the phone and confirming my own phone number when asked, the menu narrator then tells me when my medications will be ready (usually in a couple of days).
So when I see I have a two-week supply left of my medications from filling my pillbox on Sunday morning, I call my pharmacy. They order a 90-day supply from my psychiatrist, and I have my husband pick the medication up on the next shopping day, typically Mondays.
So my process is almost entirely automated. I would be surprised if your local grocery store didn’t also have an automated phone menu for their pharmacy, so you wouldn’t even have to talk to a pharmacist if you didn’t want to!
But don’t be afraid to talk to your pharmacist. They’re there to help you. They want you to have your meds, not only because that’s good for you, but also that’s how they get paid.
Get to know your local pharmacist if you can. They can help you get the life-saving medications you need on a regular basis.
Back before I got used to this process and I frequently ran out of pills, I was able to call my pharmacist and ask them to expedite my meds so I could pick them up in the same day.
Before I had a three-month supply, I also called my pharmacist to order me a three-week supply when I was going on an out-of-state trip.
I’ve also run out of meds while on a month-long trip and called my psych doc and pharmacy to transfer the “emergency” prescription to a pharmacy across the country, where I was staying.
So learning to rely on your pharmacist, who again, is there to help you, is crucial for your success!
But What if You Can’t Afford Them?
If you can’t afford your medications, ask your doctor. They may have access to free samples of the pills you need or be able to prescribe you a cheaper generic drug.
If you’re an American citizen and you’re uninsured, find out if the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your drug has a patient-assistance program. You may qualify for these programs if your income is 100% of the poverty line, but it’s unlikely that you will if you receive Medicaid benefits.
Ask your pharmacy if they have a discount program if you pay in cash. If you’re over fifty and have a membership with the AARP, you can receive discounts on pills.
As promised, here’s the link to the NAMI’s article of resources if you can’t afford a psychiatrist. This is US-centric, but you can extrapolate the process if you live in another country.
This process has taken me a long time and a lot of trial and error to perfect, but the three-month supply works very well for me. After years of never running out of meds, I have found that the process is almost automatic.
If you can automate and make routines for yourself, you will find the management of your condition a lot easier.
I wish you well in your journey.
Editor’s Note – Some states have laws that prevents you from getting prescriptions for psych meds directly from the pharmacy, so you may have to go through your doctor. IBPF is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, so if you have any questions, please speak to your medical professionals.
I have lived with and managed my bipolar I disorder for almost a decade and a half, having suffered a postpartum psychotic break and crippling postpartum depression.
Recovery was a long and winding road, but I can happily say that I have been stable for several years.
On this blog, I offer advice based on personal experiences, hoping to share to better your life by encouraging you to manage your mental health.
I have advice for you on topics ranging from how to identify and manage manic and depressive episodes to how to shield your children from the effects of your bipolar disorder to how to accomplish your to-do list during a depressive episode–and a lot more.
I hope you like your stay here. Here is the Master Link list to almost all of my posts. Enjoy the site, and thanks for stopping by!
Trigger Warning: This post contains a discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please:
Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Text TALK to 741741
Or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
For a post with a list of domestic crisis lines, click here.
For a post with a list of international crisis lines, click here.
This post appeared on The International Bipolar Foundation’s website, here.
It’s a time of joy for some, a time of horror for others, and a time of anxiety for most.
Becoming pregnant, regardless of the outcome, changes your life forever. And if you have a mismanaged mental illness that’s affected by maternal hormones like bipolar disorder, irrevocable damage can be done.
May is National Maternal Depression month in the U.S., a time to reflect and raise awareness for mothers who face challenges such as postpartum depression.
According to WebMD, “Pregnant women or new mothers with bipolar disorder have seven times the risk of hospital admissions compared to pregnant women who do not have bipolar disorder.”
And I was one of them.
Here are my completely different experiences with my two pregnancies and how I managed and mismanaged my bipolar disorder–and what a difference that made.
During my first pregnancy, warning signs of an undiagnosed, worsening bipolar disorder were missed or ignored by my obstetrician. As I wasn’t aware that I had a mental illness, my anxiety, depression, and mania–a mixed mood episode–quickly grew out of control and ravaged my mind and body.
Because of lingering issues centered around going hungry as a child, my manic fear that my new family would go hungry forced me to build a balcony garden with recycled tin cans and bulk soil purchased for pennies. I was terrified that my husband and I would run out of money despite his stable, high-paying job.
The garden never took off, and due to my burgeoning depression, I quickly became suicidal. I became obsessed with a show I saw once a week on television, Avatar: The Last Airbender, living only for new episodes. I forced my husband to watch the show, saying I identified with the sociopathic character who has a psychotic break in the end because I was so numb and messed up.
Faced with decorating a nursery on what I perceived to be a shoe-string budget, I dove in our apartment’s huge dumpster for mismatched, broken lamps, bassinets, and other baby items. I crammed our guest room/nursery so full of filthy items, we couldn’t even walk through the room.
I could not bond with my baby, instead concentrating on how awful I felt. I was jittery, depressed, irritable, lonely, and physically sick–I suffered from a condition called hyperemesis, which means I threw up several times a day for nine months straight.
Rather than gaining weight like I was supposed to, I lost thirty pounds and only gained back ten, and was placed on bedrest four months in. I lost even more weight after the baby was born. I started out the pregnancy at 148 pounds and ended it at approximately 100–not exactly a healthy weight for a 5’7” woman.
Throughout the pregnancy, I faced challenges such as social isolation (my husband and I had just moved 1500 miles away from friends and family for his job), limited mobility (I sprained my ankle and couldn’t drive), and completely wild hormones. It’s no wonder that I suffered a psychotic break after giving birth!
Fortunately, I committed myself to a mental hospital with the help of my therapist, whom I’d started seeing at the beginning of the pregnancy. The doctors there gave me an official diagnosis–bipolar I–as well as medication that saved my life.
Following the pregnancy, I suffered from a crippling postpartum depression that rewired me completely. I went from a bold, confident, intelligent young woman to someone fearful and constantly seeking validation from others.
It took me three long years and several medication changes to recover–and even now, 13 years later, I’m not quite 100% back to my former self.
However, three years after recovering from postpartum depression, when my first child was six, I was ready to try for another baby. My husband had always encouraged me to be in control of our reproductive choices, so he willingly agreed to a second pregnancy.
For the second pregnancy, I insisted on taking medication. I didn’t want to go back into the depths of suicidal depression. And I faithfully attended therapy once a week, discussing coping strategies I could use.
During the second pregnancy, I once again suffered from hyperemesis. I threw up 6-8 times per day from the moment I conceived until the day I gave birth.
Despite that, I my spirits were high and I didn’t suffer a massive depressive or manic episode. I was no longer depending on a television show to emotionally sustain me.
My routine of medication, therapy, and self-care kept the awful mood episodes at bay. I was sane, stable, and dare I say, happy. I was able to bond with my baby and suffered no ill effects after giving birth.
All things considered, except for the hyperemesis and bedrest, the second pregnancy was much closer to “normal” and expected for a healthy pregnancy. I certainly didn’t suffer as much emotional pain!
My bipolar disorder diagnosis–and appropriate approaches to treatment–made such a difference in my two pregnancies. After the first one, I was terrified to have more children; after the second, I considered having a third.
If you have bipolar disorder or even think you do, carefully consider the risks of getting pregnant before you embark on that journey. It may take you somewhere you don’t wish to be.
But there are steps you can take to sustain a safe and healthy pregnancy. Low-risk psychotropic medications are available to you. Talk therapy poses no risk to the baby. And a self-care routine prioritizing sleep can do nothing but good for you.
This post was featured on the International Bipolar Foundation website, here.
When you’re depressed, forget about thriving – you’re in survival mode.
Which means you need to be especially gentle with yourself.
If you’re telling yourself that you should get everything done on your impossibly long to-do list today, a trap that a lot of us in capitalistic societies fall into, you’re shoulding on yourself.
Shoulding on yourself is a terrible habit. Saying “I should do this,” or “I should do that,” is just piling guilt on yourself and zapping the motivation to do anything. Believe me, when I’m drowning under a wave of self-imposed shoulds, especially when I’m depressed, I go back to bed.
If you’re shoulding on yourself when you’re depressed, you’re being unkind to yourself when you’re in survival mode. You don’t have the “spoons” to do most of the tasks you think you should and you definitely don’t have the spoons to fret about it.
The Spoon Theory, a concept popularized in a personal essay by the same name by Christine Miserandino, explains the idea of energy in short supply due to chronic illness using “spoons” as units of energy.
If you’re low on spoons, an easy state to be in when you’re depressed and don’t start with many, shoulding on yourself is the last thing you need. Worry about what you should do will just exhaust you.
Don’t think, “I should do this and after that I should do this.”
Think, “I have one task to do. What would be the most effective use of my spoons? How crucial is this spoon usage? Will I be forced to do it later when I may have even fewer spoons?”
If you answer “I can do x because it will be effective,” or “this is very crucial,” and “yes,” then do the task.
The ONE task.
One task at a time. Don’t even worry about the others until that one task is done.
If you’re worried about all the tasks you have to do after the first–take a shower, prepare that quarterly report, clean out the storage unit–you’ll never finish even the first task. You’ll end up paralyzing yourself by how much you should get done.
Instead, prioritize. Think, “What is my most effective/crucial task?”
Many tasks aren’t as crucial as we believe they are. Crucial tasks are things like “feed the five-year-old.” Strip your to-do list down to its very basics, things you need for survival or for your dependents’ survival.
It’s time to choose your most effective/crucial task. And only one. When you’re in survival mode, you only have the spoons to do one or two, and especially one at a time.
You can only do one task at a time well, so choose the one that will get you the most bang for your buck. What is pressing on you the most? What do you want to do the least later?
You can conquer that task. You are smart and capable and able to conquer anything on your to-do list, one at a time.
Are you feeling down in the dumps about your mental health?
It’s a catch-22 of depression: sometimes we feel depressed, and then we feel awful about feeling depressed.
But don’t feel bad. Sometimes we feel down, and that’s okay.
People around the world have words of wisdom to share about mental health. Here are 25 mental health quotes to give your mood a boost.
25 of the Best Mental Health Quotes
1. “The advice I’d give to somebody that’s silently struggling is: You don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to struggle in silence. You can be un-silent. You can live well with a mental health condition, as long as you open up to somebody about it, because it’s really important you share your experience with people so that you can get the help that you need.” — Demi Lovoto
2. “There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”— John Green
3. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore
4. “It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices. Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.” — Steve Maraboli
5. “Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.” — Rudyard Kipling
6. “This feeling will pass. The fear is real but the danger is not.” — Cammie McGovern
7. “Nobody can save you but yourself, and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won, but if anything is worth winning then this is it.” — Charles Bukowski
8. “Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to; it’s not for them.” — Joubert Botha
9. “One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” — Linda Poindexter
10. “She is beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again.” — J.M. Storm
11. “Your illness is not your identity. Your chemistry is not your character.” — Rick Warren
12. “Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, YOU ARE NOT THE RAIN.” — Matt Haig
13. “If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken.” — Selena Gomez
14. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
15. “Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always.” — S.C. Lourie
16. “Often it’s the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self.” — Karen Salmansohn
17. “You are valuable just because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.” — Max Lucado
18. “One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” — Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
19. “What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it if it comes.” — Raymond L. Cramer
20. “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” — Nido Qubein
21. “Everybody knows there is no such thing as normal. There is no black-and-white definition of normal. Normal is subjective. There’s only a messy, inconsistent, silly, hopeful version of how we feel most at home in our lives.” — Tori Spelling
22. “You are the one thing in this world, above all other things, that you must never give up on. When I was in middle school, I was struggling with severe anxiety and depression and the help and support I received from my family and a therapist saved my life. Asking for help is the first step. You are more precious to this world than you’ll ever know.” — Lili Rhinehart
23. “My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.” — Emery Lord
24. “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” — Abraham Lincoln
25. “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”— Aristotle
Which quote was your favorite?
I hope these quotes helped you feel a little bit better, a little bit stronger, a little bit more at ease. Mental health is a journey, one which we don’t have to take alone.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, talk to someone today.
Trigger Warning: This post contains discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please:
Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Text TALK to 741741
Or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
For a post with a list of domestic crisis lines, click here. For a post with a list of international crisis lines, click here.
Like many mothers who have just given birth (up to 20%, in fact), I suffered postpartum depression.
Most mothers get the baby blues, a period of sadness after birth that lasts anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but postpartum depression (PPD) is so much more severe than that.
On this Mother’s Day, where we honor the parent who gave us life, I think it’s perfect time to let you know what PPD is really like. Or, at least, how my own experience with the illness was and what it can teach you.
5 Things I Wish People–Including New Mothers–Knew About Postpartum Depression
1. Take PPD Seriously
Postpartum depression is no joke.
My experience was slightly different than most moms out there: I suffered an episode of postpartum psychosis that hamstrung me.
But the following three years of postpartum depression kept me from functioning and destroyed my confidence that I would ever be a whole person again.
Indeed, 13 years later, I’m still feeling the effects of my bout with PPD. I used to be a strong, independent young woman who’d just earned two bachelor’s degrees, paying for college by myself by working two jobs. Now I’m nervous, insecure, and almost entirely dependent upon my husband not only financially, but also for things like taxes, buying airline tickets, changing a tire, driving in snow, and picking out phones.
My dependance on my husband is shameful to me. I don’t know how to do those practical things, and I’ve been afraid I’m too stupid to learn. Me, the woman who was smart enough and bold enough to earn two bachelor’s degrees!
I was never this bad off before my struggles with PPD.
And the PPD itself was a living hell. When my baby cried, I cried. I was terrified of putting him down just in case something bad would happen to him—either I’d step on him and crush his chest, or I’d forget about him, and he’d starve to death. I had nightmares of me throwing him down the stairs or boiling him alive.
For the first three years of my son’s life, my home was completely trashed. Moldy dishes piled up in the sink and on tables, unwashed clothes littered the floor, and a figurative ocean of dirty diapers coalesced on the living room floor.
I could not function. When I say that, I don’t mean that I was lazy. I mean that my brain could notparse out “pick up the dirty diapers on the floor one at a time, and you’ll be able to clean the living room floor.” I looked at the whole picture of the mess I had caused and felt completely overwhelmed.
Isolating myself and my infant, we rarely went outside or to mother-baby activities. I did have a Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS) group of mothers and their infants that was set up by the hospital, but after I broke down sobbing at one of the meetings, screaming, “I have PPD and it sucks!” the other mothers alienated me.
I spent all day sobbing. I lost several friends, and found no pleasure in anything, not even my infant, and then felt terribly guilty for not bonding with him in the way I “should” have.
Trying to establish himself in his new, high-stress job, my husband worked 12-hour days and sometimes slept at the office. I was alone most of the day, left to my brain fog and inability to do anything more than breastfeed my baby when he cried, at which point I was also crying.
Postpartum depression is not the baby blues. It’s severe, and if you or a loved one has been experiencing any of the following symptoms, please call a doctor right now:
2. PPD can be Dangerous to Mothers and Their Babies
There came a point in my PPD two and a half years after my son’s birth that I began dreaming of ways to die. Watching my son toddle around all day and unable to answer his constant questions of why, why, why, I would craft suicide letters in my head.
Suicide is a real risk for mothers who suffer PPD. Over the past decade, suicide attempts during and after pregnancy have nearly tripled. And it’s a silent suffering. No mother wants to alarm their loved ones by spilling their secret thoughts to harm themselves.
Which leads into my next point.
3. Pressure on Mothers is Immense
The pressure on mothers, especially mothers of tiny babies, is immense.
I speak of mothers specifically because dads tend to be praised for their efforts in “babysitting” their babies, which is a whole different problem. Both caregivers are under a lot of pressure, but new mothers, assumed to be the primary caregiver, bear the brunt of the social pressure.
Breastfeeding is touted as what’s best for the baby, and I agree that nutritionally, it is, but breastfeeding in public is met with either derision and ogling, or both at once.
I have been drooled at before. I have breastfed on a toilet seat. I have been scoffed at, glared at, and put on display for both mockers and people who would stare at my breasts and lick their lips lasciviously. All I was trying to do was feed my baby in the “best” way possible.
There’s nothing worse on an airplane than a crying baby. Why won’t that mother shut that baby up? Sure, the baby is tired and hungry like everyone else, but seriously, that mother is terrible, or so the thinking goes.
And as a new mother, you’re expected to bond with your baby. New babyhood is glorified as this magical journey where everyone handmakes favors for their child’s first birthday bash (which are “supposed to be” huge) and posts them on Instagram.
The pressure to post your “perfect” life on Snapchat is never more intense than on new mothers. Everyone wants to see the baby’s involuntary smiles that are usually from gas bubbles, but no one wants to see the same baby spitting up or with a blowout diaper.
Especially not on an airplane, which has happened to both me and my husband while traveling alone with our infants.
The pressure on mothers is ridiculous. I beg you, if there’s a crying baby in your vicinity, please, please give the mother a little grace. If she has PPD, I can assure you that society’s judgement is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
4. You Can Conquer PPD
All of this sounds like doom and gloom, right?
But don’t worry. Postpartum depression doesn’t last forever.
If you’re suffering from PPD, you can survive this, and yes, even thrive one day. It will take time, and patience, and maybe medication and definitely therapy.
But I promise you: You can conquer PPD. It’s dangerous, it’s terrible, it’s soul-destroying, but you will live again, and reach your full potential.
Call your doctor today. They want to help you.
If you can’t call your doctor, if your brain fog or your shame about not bonding with your baby prevents you from doing so, get someone close to you to do it. Tap that social support network you’ve so carefully built up.
And if you have no one and are truly on your own, go to the nearest urgent care center. Your life may be at stake.
And you deserve the dignity of a stable, happy life. I should know – I am thriving. My psychiatrist gave me lithium (I have bipolar disorder, so this drug worked for me) and it was like the clouds opened up and I could breathe again.
I no longer suffocated in PPD’s grip. I was able to pick up those dirty diapers and move on with my life, eventually bonding with my baby. I am now going to school for my graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling.
I am happy now. You want that, right?
Call your doctor today.
5. You May Not have PPD with Your Next Baby
After my bout with PPD, I was scared off of having babies for many years. I thought I was done with having children, that my son alone would be enough.
But then, one Christmas, I woke up one day wanting another baby. I talked it over with my husband, who always left our reproductive choices up to me, and he agreed to try for another one.
After a year of trying, I fell pregnant, and insisted that I be safely medicated for the pregnancy.
My daughter was born healthy and happy, and I suffered no ill effects that I was dreading. I had my treatment team (my psychiatrist and therapist) on standby, but I was stunned that I didn’t need them.
By grace of God, I did not have a second round of PPD. But if I did, I would have sought treatment immediately. Never again will I face a pit of depression without getting help, and never again will I allow myself to sink to such horrific depths.
This is a strongly worded post, I know. But my experience with PPD was so intense, it almost killed me.
The 5 things I wish people knew about PPD are easy to remember:
Take PPD seriously.
PPD is dangerous to mothers and their babies.
The societal pressure on mothers is immense.
You can conquer PPD.
And you may not even have PPD with your next baby.
If you or a loved one are suffering from PPD, don’t be like me. Don’t let the dirty diapers pile up on the floor.
There’s an ending to this. And you deserve better.
That’s a bit tongue-in-cheek — I have bipolar disorder, and having suffered a postpartum psychotic break, the hormones from giving birth have contributed to a literal going nuts.
My break was absolutely not my child’s fault. Not in the slightest.
But giving birth to and parenting two unique, fascinating individuals while managing my own mental health challenges has giving me a new perspective that I would have not had were I not a parent.
Here are 3 things my kids have taught me about mental health.
1. Oxygen Masks are Crucial
If you’ve ever flown — or raised a child — you’ve heard this axiom before:
Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting other passengers.
Figuratively, it means to make sure you take time to recharge your batteries before diving into help manage other people’s needs, even and especially your children.
This is true. This is so true.
When I do not get enough sleep, I end up spiraling into a manic episode, which is almost always followed by a depressive one.
During the baby days, I needed sleep more than anything else. So I slept with my child, breastfeeding him in the bed in a half-awake state, so I could get back to sleep right away after nighttime feedings.
And I’ve found the same to be true about self-care. If I don’t spend some time each week by myself on my hobbies, I end up crabby, jittery, and much more likely to spiral out with anxiety.
So now, with a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old who both have wildly different needs, I find I must keep myself well-fed, well-hydrated, medicated, sometimes entertained, and sleeping well in order to be the present, compassionate parent they need.
I must put on my own oxygen mask before I help them with theirs.
2. Communication is Also Crucial
I am extremely open to my kids about my moods.
Not all parents can be like that, but I try to tell them, “I’m feeling anxious today,” or “I’m feeling down,” or “I’m extremely stressed.”
I try to emphasize that my feelings (usually) have nothing to do with them and they are absolutely not responsible for my moods nor making me feel better. I’m not the best at that, but I do try.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. If I’m feeling bad, everyone knows it. I have no poker face. So I try to tell my kids what I’m feeling and encourage them to open up about what they’re feeling and why.
If I bottle my feelings, they come out in other ways. My emotions tend to build up in my brain and my thoughts circle around them until I explode.
I snap at the people around me, my loved ones, who do not deserve my bad temper.
So what parenthood has taught me about my mental health is that healthy communication is crucial.
This is true regardless of whom I need to communicate with. Whether it’s my spouse, my treatment team, or an employer, I must tell the people around me when I’m not at my best.
3. Try to Enjoy the Good Days
Parenthood is a blend of ups and downs.
Some days are filled with drudgery, where I drag my feet and end up stressed beyond belief. My kids push my limits and know just what to say to set me off (which is where healthy communication comes into play).
But most days, my kids are hilarious, compassionate, friendly human beings who are a joy to be around.
My children have taught me to enjoy the good days.
When suffering a depressive episode, the good days–and even the good moments–are few and far in between. If I ever want to recover from my mood episodes–which I always do!–then I must treasure the good moments and learn to break the cycle of sadness.
What I’ve learned from my kids is that the bad days won’t last forever.
Into each life some rain must fall, yes, but there’s always some way to turn bad moments into good ones if I’m present.
My kids have taught me all sorts of things about my mental health, but these three are the primary lessons:
Oxygen masks are crucial. I must take care of my own needs before I attend to other people’s.
Communication is also crucial. I must communicate when I’m not at my best to the people around me, or I’ll get worse.
Try to enjoy the good days. If I’m present in the moment, I can treasure my days and break the cycle of sadness.
I hope these three lessons will help you as well. If you take a few moments to think about what the people around you have taught you about your own mental health, I’m sure you can come up with many more.
Everyone has it, and everyone has suffered from bad stress.
Good stress, called eustress, helps you and me meet deadlines, make dinners, and take care of the day-to-day tasks of daily functioning. But bad stress hitches up our shoulders and torpedoes our mental health.
Indeed, bad stress is terrible for people with bipolar disorder, frequently triggering depression, according to a 2002 review by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.
So how do you eliminate bad stress in your life to better manage your mental health?
Here’s how I do it.
You do not have to do every task yourself.
Being responsible for everything at work or at home is the fastest way to break a person with stress, especially someone who is predisposed to mental illness.
My answer to feeling responsible for everything is to delegate, delegate, delegate.
Talk to your higher-ups at work to see if you can get some help with major projects. Not everything can be delegated, obviously, but you can ask your co-workers to help you brainstorm solutions to problems or even possibly take on some tasks they would be able to do better than you when you’re overburdened.
According to an article on Indeed.com, asking for help at work involves considering whom to ask, thinking about your timing, and creating a list of potential solutions you’ve already tried.
With these steps, you can potentially lessen your workload.
Similarly, asking for help at home from your spouse, children, or roommates takes a similar approach.
Sometimes, especially parents, we’re reluctant to teach other people–including our children–to do chores because it’s easier to do the chore ourselves. But this is a trap that quickly leads to burnout.
You might find this parenting article by WebMD describing how to teach a rebellious teen how to clean helpful. Even if you’re not dealing with teenagers, but roommates or small children, the tips are sound.
Here are some of them:
Clean up your act first to be a good example.
Keep your cool.
Be absolutely clear about your expectations.
Have sensible consequences.
While dealing with adults who are reluctant to do chores, you don’t want to treat them like children. But the same principles apply; being consistent and clear about your expectations and coming to an agreement about consequences is key.
Good luck delegating!
2. Focus on Survival Tasks
When you lack spoons, a representation of energy and mental ability to tackle tasks in the moment, easy things to lack when you’re stressed and distressed, focus on survival tasks.
What I mean by survival tasks are those that contribute to the day-to-day functioning of daily life, as well as a bit of self-care.
“Feed the five-year-old” is a survival task. So is “clean the litterbox.” So is “work enough to keep my job.”
Some people, including myself, believe that showering is a survival task. I certainly believe that some sort of daily self-care is crucial, even if it’s just brushing your teeth.
(If you’re stuck on what self-care to do, click here for a fun, interactive, choose-your-own-adventure self-care quest.)
Until you’re in a position to delegate, pare that to-do list down to the very basics. Once you have conquered that depressive episode or lessened your burden by delegating, you’ll be free to pursue that creative hobby or clean out that storage unit.
3. Forgive Yourself for What You Don’t Get Done
There was a point in my life where I was struck down by postpartum depression.
Too busy sobbing my brains out and taking care of my tiny, helpless infant–and having never been taught how–I had no energy or ability to clean.
My little family–my baby, my husband, and me–lived in squalor. Dirty diapers littered the living room floor, moldy dishes flooded the sink, and the bathrooms were filthy.
Trying to establish himself in his new, stressful job, my husband worked 12-hour days and sometimes slept at the office, so he, too, was too exhausted to help.
We were miserable.
Two years later, my psychiatrist encouraged me to wean my son so I could take lithium. Once I was properly medicated, the clouds opened up, and I was able to start picking up the shattered pieces of my life.
Eleven years after I was prescribed lithium–and after finding a medication cocktail that worked to fully lift my depression and stabilize my manic/mixed episodes–I am stable and happy.
My advice to forgive yourself for what you don’t get done is hypocritical because I still struggle with doing so.
I still haven’t forgiven myself for the time when my brain was sick and I simply could not clean. I still hold myself accountable for that time.
But when I look at my bright, healthy, compassionate preteen son, I recognize that I did do something right in that time: I kept my child alive, and I took care of myself as best I could, which allowed him to thrive.
I have value beyond a clean house, and so do you. You can forgive yourself for the tasks you don’t get done, just like I know I can forgive myself for my inability to clean over the years.
It’s time to move on from past mistakes. If you’re holding past tasks over your head, forgive yourself.
You’ve earned it.
You can reduce stress in your life.
By delegating, focusing on survival tasks, and forgiving yourself for what you haven’t gotten done, you can reduce the burden in your life to better manage your mental health.
Disclosing your mental illness to other people is a huge decision. You have to consider not only whether your friends/employers will support you after you disclose, but also how and when to do so.
I tend to disclose within the first or second meeting, before I’m even attached to a friend. I am open about my bipolar disorder to almost everyone I meet.
Bipolar disorder is just a label; it’s a part of my life but it isn’t everything, and it explains why I’m sometimes unpredictable. And I have a strong support system, so I have little to lose by disclosing.
For further reading on how I became more comfortable sharing my bipolar diagnosis, click here.
I live in a liberal area of the U.S. and have had various reactions to my admitting that I have bipolar disorder, most of which were positive but some of which were disheartening. There are often three ways that friends and family react:
They are comfortable with your disclosure, nothing changes for the worse, and sometimes they’re better at supporting you.
They are incredibly uncomfortable and take steps to end the relationship with you.
They say that they are comfortable with you telling them this and then proceed to fade slowly from your life.
Obviously the first outcome is the best and most hoped for. While ending relationships are a concern, it’s entirely possible that they wouldn’t have been able to support you anyway, so it’s probably best that they disappear from your life.
When to Disclose Your Mental Illness
Telling someone about your mental illness takes a lot of courage. And you don’t have to tell anyone right away–or at all. Not everyone can live as openly as I do.
If you want to tell someone about your mental illness, tell them when:
You are well. You don’t want to wait until a mental health crisis hits to disclose to your friends that you have a mental illness. Disclosing when you’ve got your illness under control will give the people you disclose to time to adjust to the fact that you suffer from a disorder.
When you need people to understand. Sometimes, people who suffer from mental illnesses need special accommodations at work or school. Letting friends know the reason behind why you don’t want to hang out with them during a depressive spiral can prevent them from thinking you’ve grown distant. Telling people you have a mental illness is better when it serves a purpose.
When you’re ready. Disclosing your mental illness to friends, family, or even an employer is an intensely personal decision. Write down exactly what you want to say, and practice your words, either in front of the mirror or with a licensed professional. Talking to a therapist about your concerns may help put your mind at ease.
Although the “perfect” time to disclose depends on your relationship to the person and whether you’re well, honesty is almost always the best policy.
People don’t “need” to know that you’re mentally ill. Disclosing is your decision alone. But it may help explain some of your more erratic behaviors to the people you impact with them, which may help them give you grace when you suffer mood episodes.
When you choose to disclose is up to you. I’ve personally found that letting people know upfront that I have challenges they (usually) don’t is beneficial to both of us.
And if you’re dating someone, it’s always best to disclose that you have mood episodes sooner rather than later. For a more specific post on when to disclose your mental illness to your dates, click here.
Now that you know when to disclose, how do you do it?
4 General Tips on How to Disclose Your Mental Illness
You may have been curious to know how to disclose your mental illness to the people around you. Here are some tips to do just that.
1. Bring Your Disorder up in Casual Conversation
When I disclose my mental illness, I tend to bring it up in casual, low-stakes conversation.
If a potential parent friend asks about my children, I tell them a few facts about them (I have two, these are their names and ages, blah blah blah). Then I sometimes mention that the baby years were especially difficult because the sleep deprivation tended to make me manic, because I have bipolar disorder.
Despite its massive effect on my life, treating the illness as just something I have to deal with on a regular basis helps me.
I try not to trivialize the disorder–which is why I also sometimes bring up my postpartum psychotic break and how serious and painful it was–but I also tend to talk about my disorder as just a part of me.
This strategy normalizes the mental illness and allows you to determine the terms of how others perceive your bipolar disorder. If you treat the illness seriously but with grace, then other people may as well.
2. Describe the Steps You’re Taking to Manage Your Condition
Bipolar disorder is only as shocking as you allow it to be.
If you describe your bipolar disorder as this awful, paralyzing albatross, then both you and the person you’re talking to will form an opinion of you as being ravaged by your disorder and out of control.
Don’t let bipolar disorder rule your life even in the way you talk about it.
Try to describe the steps you’re taking to manage your bipolar disorder. Try to say things like, “I have bipolar disorder, which means I have to take medication and be vigilant about how much sleep I get.”
This lets people know you’re actively working towards stability, a heartening sign. Being friends with someone who’s unmanageable may scare some people away, as they might not be ready for a commitment like being constantly impacted by your wild moods.
3. Demonstrate How Your Bipolar Disorder Gives You Empathy
Even when getting to know my close friends, I would say things like, “Oh, yes, I understand a lack of focus–I have bipolar disorder and that makes focusing difficult.”
Mental health challenges are growing more and more common. A huge percentage of people struggle daily with problems like inability to focus, insomnia, or even mild, high-functioning depression.
Because your bipolar disorder is a series of mental health challenges itself, it has likely given you empathy for people who currently struggle with them. Don’t be afraid to show that empathy and let people know you understand their issues.
This shows them that you will not patronize them for their struggles, which may endear you to them.
4. If You Need it, Ask for Help
If you have a close relationship with someone, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from your employer (more on that below). If you believe they will be receptive, suggest ways your audience can support you.
This can involve asking for more breaks or other accommodations at work or school, or simply asking a friend to understand why you can’t hang out as long, especially at night, when you need more sleep.
You can also ask your loved ones to help you find a doctor and follow through with an appointment, if you feel that your friend or family member will understand and be helpful.
Set boundaries here, too: you know yourself best, and you need to explain whether you need advice or just need your audience to listen.
I have often “vented” to my close friends about how my mania makes me feel, especially when I’m in a manic state. I am upfront with my friends and family about whether I’m entering a mood episode, especially mania, and I describe the steps I’m taking to stabilize again.
4. Keep in Mind Your Boundaries on What to Share
You definitely don’t need to share everything. Plan ahead as to what you feel comfortable sharing about your experience. It’s perfectly reasonable to explain that you don’t feel like talking about something in particular.
If you do feel there are good parts to your illness, like things you’ve learned, try to share those. Remember, how others perceive your bipolar disorder is often about how you frame it, and what details you are comfortable sharing will shape how others feel about you.
I rarely have reservations when talking about my bipolar disorder, but there are friends for whom I wouldn’t go into detail about my postpartum psychotic break.
When I asked friends to read my book about the experience in the past, they frequently couldn’t read past the first paragraph because it was too painful for them to think of how much agony I experienced.
Some people can’t handle the nitty gritty of my illness and that’s okay. I still refer to my breakdown in general terms, but I don’t tell certain friends everything about it unless they express interest in reading my book (at which I warn them about how intense it is).
When sharing details about your mental illness, consider not only your comfort levels, but also your friends’, and what opinions you want them to have of you.
Disclosing your mental illness can be a deep and intense process, but it doesn’t have to be. Try bringing up your bipolar disorder in casual conversation, describe the steps you’re taking to manage your condition, demonstrate the empathy the illness has given you, and keep in mind your boundaries and your friends’ comfort levels.
If you’re disclosing to an employer, however, that’s a completely different ballgame. Here’s how to do that:
How to Disclose Your Mental Illness to an Employer
You know how and when to disclose your mental illness, and even if to disclose to family and friends. But what about your employer? Read on to learn how to protect yourself.
When choosing to disclose a mental illness at work, there are several factors to consider. You might face stigma from your coworkers–or worse, your bosses. Those you work with might not understand, or even want to understand, your daily struggle.
However, with disclosure might come special accommodations–like extra breaks–which are part of your civil rights. There are certain protections available to you.
You absolutely deserve those protections. If you’re in the US, don’t be afraid to disclose your condition to your employer so they can treat you fairly under the law.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a protection that you should be familiar with. The ADA is just like it sounds like: a federal law that protects Americans with disabilities at private employers with more than fifteen employees, as well as state and government employers. There are two conditions you must meet for the act to apply:
Your disability impairs your life, essentially making working difficult. This condition applies to difficulties with regulating emotion, concentrating, and other ways your mental illness interferes with your ability to work.
That, while your illness makes working difficult, you can get the work done.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act)
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or Rehab Act, is a federal law very similar to the ADA that applies to schools. Any agency that receives government funding is covered under the Rehab Act.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a useful law that helps people keep their jobs while taking an extended leave of absence. The FMLA only applies to companies with over fifty employees, and after you have worked for the company for a year minimum. The FMLA lets you take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick family member or recover from an illness yourself.
States also have their own protections for Americans with disabilities.
What Accommodations Can I Receive? How?
Under these laws, you can receive special accommodations: working from home, flexible start times, written directions, feedback from your bosses and coworkers, more breaks, and quiet places to take those breaks. These changes to the workplace are intended to be an aid for you so that you can complete your tasks.
But how do you apply for these accommodations? The process isn’t difficult, but the onus is on you to ask. Once you do, your employer is mandated to talk with you.
First, contact the human resources (HR) department and ask them what channels you need to go through to apply.
Write down your request. Be very specific as to what accommodations you need, and explain to HR how these will help you in the workplace.
Talk with your treatment team–therapists and psychiatrists–to see if they can offer any proof that you suffer from a mental illness.
Take notes at every conversation you have with your boss. Do not delete any emails that apply to the request.
Be reasonable and flexible. Your strongest advocate is you, so be prepared to negotiate.
What if you’ve been discriminated against because you suffer from a mental illness? There are legal protections available for you:
If the employer is a private one covered by the ADA, then you have to reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). File a complaint at the EEOC’s website, www.eeoc.gov.
If, however, the employer is a federal agency, like a school or governmental employer, then you must reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEO). File a complaint at the EEOC’s website, federal division.
States have protections as well. If you’ve been discriminated against despite these laws, look up your state’s Fair Employment Practice Agency (FEPA).
The Department of Labor manages the FMLA. If you’ve been denied your legal right to twelve weeks of unpaid leave, then contact them.
There are several protections available to you should you choose to disclose your mental illness to your employer. Whether or not you should is completely up to you. As we said, you might face stigma from your coworkers or bosses, but if you’ve been discriminated against, you can file complaints. You have a right to accommodations. All you have to do is take that step forward.
How and when to disclose your mental illness can be intense, deeply personal decisions. But they don’t have to consume you. Here’s an overview of the masterpost:
When to Disclose:
Whenever you’re well.
When you need people to understand.
When you’re ready.
How to Disclose to Friends:
Bring your bipolar disorder up in casual conversation.
Describe the steps you’re taking to manage your condition
Demonstrate the empathy the illness has given you.
Keep in mind your boundaries and your friends’ comfort levels.
How to Disclose to Your Employer to get the Accommodations you Deserve:
Write down your specific request.
Get proof of your mental illness from your treatment team.
Take notes at every conversation you have with your boss. Do not delete any emails that apply to the request.
Be reasonable and flexible in advocating for yourself.
Only you can decide when, how, and to whom to disclose your mental illness. You may face stigma and discrimination for it. But those true friends who do stick around–and those accommodations you’ll earn from your employer–are worth it, in my opinion.