Posted by: Heather Coleman | November 1, 2014

I Have Yes Remorse. Really, It’s A Thing!

Yes

My friend Meagan and I were chatting on the phone the other day when the topic of Yes Remorse came up. What is Yes Remorse? Basically, it’s that sinking feeling you get after you’ve said yes to someone or something and now you are regretting it. There are a few different types of Yes Remorse. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

I Said Yes and I Want To, But I’m Still Regretting It

This is something you truly wanted to say yes to, but as the time gets closer to the event or action taking place, you are still regretting having said yes. Maybe you are just second guessing yourself. Maybe it won’t live up to your expectations. Maybe you’re just anxious or nervous. Whatever it is, the time is approaching fast and you’re just not feeling it.

I Said Yes, But Something Better Has Come Along

This is when you’ve made a commitment to somebody or something and then shortly after that, something else comes up that you would much rather do. Now you’re stuck trying to think of how to back out of the original agreement without hurting anyone’s feelings. You’re also really hoping that the first person doesn’t find out that you have also said yes to the second person. This is when social media becomes a very dangerous thing.

I Said Yes, But What I Really Meant to Say Was No

This is when you said yes as a knee jerk reaction. Maybe you weren’t prepared for the ask and you certainly didn’t take enough time to think through your answer, because if you had, it most certainly would have been a no. Maybe the question came from your boss, or your spouse, or a family member for the umpteenth time. Whatever the situation was, you are now wracking your brain for an excuse that will get you out of the commitment all together.

This is where Yes Remorse needs to become a “thing”. If we all collectively agree that we really do experience Yes Remorse on a regular basis, we could start sharing this fact with others.

For example, my friend Susie is hosting a sales party for jewelry, or bags, or something of the sort and wants me to come. I instinctively say “yes” because we’ve been friends for awhile now and she has bought some stuff from my kids’ fundraisers before. The very next day, Mary invites me to a happy hour for some people in her circle of friends, that just happen to do the same type of work I do. I’d much rather go to the happy hour, so I give Susie a call and this is how the conversation goes:

Me: Hey Susie, how have you been?

Susie: Pretty good, just been busy prepping for my great sales party on Saturday night. It will be good to see you again.

Me: Yeah…about that. I’m sorry to say that I’m feeling a ton of Yes Remorse. I know you understand what I’m saying. Really, the answer is no this time, but I’m hoping that I get over it quickly.

Susie: Oh, yes. I had Yes Remorse last week and was really glad that it turned into a no for me too.

Feel like that is an isolated situation? Think again! Yes Remorse works in all types of situations. Just imagine:

How about that High School Reunion? Sorry, I’ve got Yes Remorse…see you in 5 years!

Want to come to my kid’s birthday party? I’d love to, but this Yes Remorse is really kicking my butt, so I’m going to have to say no instead.

Can you work overtime? I’m always one for chipping in for the team, but I feel a bit of Yes Remorse hitting me already. Maybe next time.

So the next time you catch a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and you say “YES” too quickly, just remember that Yes Remorse happens to everyone and it’s about time we start recognizing it for the NO it really is. 

Today marks the six year anniversary of the day mental illness came charging into my life. Sure I dealt with some anxiety in college, but nothing and I mean NOTHING prepared me for the postpartum psychotic episode I experienced on the afternoon of October 3rd, 2008.

This breakdown caused me to get out of my car on I-295 near the Washington DC line, strip off all of my clothes, and run naked in the breakdown lane. I was on a bridge and although I don’t think I contemplated jumping, I believed I needed to be baptized and was heading towards the water. It was a very scary and dark time in my life, but what has transpired in the six years since then reflects a strength I didn’t realize that I had within me and an amazing community of love and support that I was able to draw upon.

This journey has shown me the type of person I truly am and the person I hope to be for my children. But today, I want look back at the past six years and share with you some milestones along the way, some ups, some downs, in you get a real picture and a better understanding of mental illness. I want others to know that they are not alone. There is life after a diagnosis of mental illness. And it is a very good life.

I haven’t shared this publicly before, but in 2011 I put in a FOIA request with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department to obtain the 911 calls that were made on my behalf that day. One in particular stood out because of it’s length and because it involved what I refer to as my Good Samaritans, James and his sister, from Richmond, Virginia. At about 1:20 you can hear my voice saying, “kill me now”, followed by “You were right, I was wrong.” I thought I had to die in order to save the world and believed I was talking to God.

 

2009: The Year of Lost Memories and My Slow Recovery

The year is fuzzy to me. I feel as though I lost a lot of memories from my daughter, Lily’s, first year of life because I was still recovering from this extreme experience. I had to quit breastfeeding, much earlier than I planned and that seemed like yet another loss. It’s sad to me, but mostly I’m extremely grateful that I’m still here! At first I was scared to share my experience with anyone outside my closest friends and family. I was embarrassed that I had lost control of myself and done such outrageous things. I had lost trust in myself and if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? I do remember parts of the initial hospital stay at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington and my biggest fear: losing my sense of humor. Luckily that remained and was a big help in my recovery. Eventually I was able to find humor in a very traumatic experience. Although this was a low point for me, it was only up from there.

2010: The Year I Found Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress

In early 2010 after some Googling of postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression, I came across an invaluable resource, a blog called Postpartum Progress founded by Katherine Stone. I had written my story down to the best of my memory shortly after getting out of the hospital, but had yet to share it with anyone. Reading about Katherine’s own personal experience with postpartum mood disorders gave me courage and hope. I realized how very lucky I was to be alive and that I wanted other women to know that they weren’t alone. I contacted Katherine and she agreed to post my story and only use my first name (at my request). On February 3rd, 2010, Naked on the Side of the Road: One Mother’s Story of Postpartum Psychosis went live. I was overwhelmed by the response. Almost every comment made me cry for one reason or another. At the end of that year, Katherine named me one of the Top 10 PPD Writers of 2010. This was a turning point for me.

2011: Ignite and the Search for My Good Samaritans Begins

After receiving the award from Katherine Stone, I made the decision to share my blog post and story more publicly on Facebook and Twitter. And then I decided to do something even bigger. I submitted an application to participate in Ignite DC #6 and got accepted! I received help from several friends and even a couple acquaintances to revise the piece I had written. I practiced and practiced and then the big night finally arrived. Exactly one year after sharing my blog post, I took the stage at Town Danceboutique in Washington, DC and delivered my very personal speech titled Help! When I stepped off stage, I was greeted by a couple friends with open arms for supportive hugs and I broke into cathartic tears. This was another stepping stone on my journey to recovery and needed to be done. I tried to capture all of the comments I could from Facebook and Twitter with reactions to my performance. Again I was moved to tears by the support and love that came back to me by sharing my story.

Later that year, I was connected through a mutual friend to Washington Post reporter, Tom Jackman, and he wrote a piece about my search for my Good Samaritans, in From naked on the highway to thankful postpartum survivor. I started a Facebook page, titled Help Me Find the People That Saved My Life and Say Thank You in hopes of actually reconnecting with my Good Samaritans, James and his sister, and thanking them for saving my life. I would also ask them what prompted them to stop when so many others kept on driving by me.

2012 and 2013: Blogging for Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge (HAWMC)

The next couple of years I continued my search for my Good Samaritans and also participated in WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge or HAWMC on my personal blog (see the archives to read the old posts). This process was also very cathartic and writing about my experience in different ways helped me to understand it better and I grew even stronger. I was getting braver each day and soon it would become very apparent what I was preparing myself for. 

2014: The Year I Climbed Out of the Darkness and Said “This Is My Brave”

My blogging and Ignite speech lead an amazing woman named Jennifer Marshall to find me. She too had suffered from postpartum psychosis and eventually she had the idea that it was really important for those of us that had experienced mental illness to be brave and share our stories. She wanted us to share these stories through spoken word, music, personal essays, pretty much any way that we could. So she created a show called This Is My Brave and held auditions. Of course, I had to do it. I was selected and on May 18, 2014, I presented my personal essay, titled simply, Naked along with 14 other brave individuals.

Jennifer Marshall also helped organized a Climb Out of the Darkness walk to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress. I joined her group and was proud to help other Warrior Moms raise over $165,000 to battle postpartum mood disorders. I was able to reflect on how instrumental that blog and Katherine Stone had been in getting me to a better place and encouraging me to use my voice. You never know how you can affect someone else’s life and help them, just by sharing your story.

Help, such an important little word. I wrote the following passage in a journal while I was in the psychiatric ward, just two days after my psychotic episode:

“I think I am here because I have been too stubborn to ask for help. Why have I been too stubborn? Because I think it means I am weak–when that isn’t true–it shows I am human and it takes strength to admit you need help and ask for it. Here I am thinking I don’t need to be here, I don’t belong, but I probably do need it at this moment in time to help me get better. Not sure what better means–calmer, more balanced, able to ask for help when I need it, able to reach out to others that I don’t know and help them.”

Even if I never find James or the other Good Samaritans that stopped that day, I’m hoping the journey itself will have meaning for me. I think that every time I share this story, it is an opportunity to help other women and their families because it shows that there is help out there and you can recover from traumatic experiences and live with mental illness. I have a very fulfilling life these days. I work full-time in marketing/communications, enjoy spending time with my two amazing children (now ages 8 and 6) and my anchor through all of this has been my husband, Keith.

I enjoy my life as much as possible today because I understand how fragile it is and I’m grateful.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | May 1, 2013

#HAWMC Day 30: Recap of the Month

well doneYou made it! 30 posts in 30 days! Today, write a recap of your experience. What was your favorite prompt? Least favorite? What have you learned? Describe your HAWMC experience in one word!

Writing for HAWMC 2013 has been amazing! I really enjoyed all of the prompts because they challenged me in different ways and got me writing again, especially about the topic of postpartum psychosis. I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I typically give myself credit for and that when I put my mind to something, anything is possible.

If I had to describe my HAWMC experience in one word, it would be: Evocative.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | May 1, 2013

#HAWMC Day 29: Congratulations

fireworks

We all know Health Activists are awesome. Share three things you love about yourself, things you’re great at, or just want to share. Here are mine:

1. My willingness to share – my story, my ideas, my support, my love.

2. Supershot basketball – I once won a DVD player at Dave & Buster’s just from playing supershot basketball, oh and $500 at a bar when they held a contest for it.

3. Writing, especially bad poetry – it’s a quirky thing I’ve always enjoyed and I try to write poems for friends and family on special occasions.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 30, 2013

#HAWMC Day 28: Top 5 Must Follow for Maternal Mental Health Insight

Maternal Mental Health AwarenessI manage a Twitter list of people and resources associated with Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis, but wanted to share with you a handful of women that I think are just plain awesome when it comes to providing insight for the maternal mental health community.

And since May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month – the timing is perfect for you to start following them! So here are my Top 5 (in no particular order) Must Follow Women on Twitter for Maternal Health Insight:

Katherine Stone: Creator of world’s top postpartum depression blog Postpartum Progress, patient advocate, stigma ass-kicker, parenting writer at Disney’s Babble, Fierce Blog

Lauren: Passionate PMAD Survivor & Advocate. Unafraid to tell you the good, bad & the ugly! Founder of #PPDChat, leader of #PPDArmy. You’re not alone. (Madly in love!)

Jennifer Moyer: Mental Health Advocate, Speaker & Writer. Overcame postpartum psychosis. Brings hope & inspiration to individuals & families facing mental health issues.

Jen Gaskell: Wife, mom, business professional, writer and singer. PPD and PPA survivor. Coproducer of #LTYM #mke. Stretching beyond my comfort zone.

Robin Farr: Published writer & editor. TEDx speaker. Mom & PPD survivor. Motto: Live the life you’re meant to.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 29, 2013

#HAWMC Day 27: The Title of My Autobiography Is…

Black and white butterfly

If you wrote a book about your life, your community, your condition, or your Health Activism–what would you title it? Come up with 5 working titles. What about your autobiography?

My conditions are postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder. Here are the five working book titles I came up with:

1. My Life in Black and White
2. The Naked Truth About Postpartum Psychosis
3. You Don’t Look Sick
4. I Hate Rollercoasters
5. When God Talks to an Atheist

And the title I have chosen for my autobiography is…

She Flies With Her Own Wings

It would be a story of how love and support can help you overcome challenges, but also how important it is to learn to fly on your own again. The cover photo would be a black and white butterfly to represent the highs and lows of bipolar disorder.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 29, 2013

#HAWMC Day 26: My Pain-Free Pass

Pain FreeWhat’s a day that you wish you could have used a pain-free pass (either in the future or the past)? How would being pain or worry-free impact that day?

If I had a pain-free pass to use, I would give it away to my parents and my husband for Friday, October 3, 2008, the day that I experienced my postpartum psychotic episode. If they could have had a pain-free pass that day, they would have been spared a lot of worry and sadness over my actions. Although it took some time for me to recover and the aftermath of that episode was painful, the day itself was far more painful for my loved ones.

There was a lot of confusion at first, during phone calls with me, when each of them realized that something was not right and that I was not talking like my “normal” self. Confusion quickly turned into fear when they realized that I was not well and I was still driving, but not headed home. Instead I headed towards water, believing because of my end of the word delusions that I had to be baptized. I was also playing a game of cat and mouse with my husband over the phone. Believing him to be the devil, I would not answer his questions honestly, especially about where I was going.

At one point during a conversation with my parents, I begged for their forgiveness and then abruptly hung up on them. That was the last time they heard from me that day and the next time they called my cell phone, a police officer answered. I can only imagine the absolute terror they felt for those few minutes when they did not know if I was OK or not.

Their fear and concern has lingered since that day. I can tell each time I share something emotional with them that they are thinking about that day and worrying that it will happen again. At times it is frustrating, but I do understand. Luckily, I have received the help and support that I needed and am doing very well, going on five years since that day. But, if I could have erased the pain that I caused my loved ones, I would do so in an instant.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 29, 2013

#HAWMC Day 25: What I Learned About Ally’s Law

Restroom Sign
Today I’d like to introduce you to another amazing Health Activist named Carly who blogs about her experience with the chronic illness, Crohn’s disease. By reading her blog, I was introduced to Ally’s Law (or the Restroom Access Act) which would allow people with IBD or other medical emergencies the right to use employee only restrooms in stores that do not offer public facilities.

Unitl now, I had no idea that the need for this law existed or that since 2004, only 13 states [Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington] have passed the Restroom Access Act. That is a mere 26% of the United States. As Carly clearly states in her blog post, “this is unacceptable“.

It truly is a matter of dignity and I ask you to put yourself in another person’s shoes or in this case, pants, and imagine what you would do if you were denied access to a restroom when you needed it the most.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 25, 2013

#HAWMC Day 23: My Life Without Social Media

Social MediaWrite about how your life would change if there was no social media (suggested by Christina). Ironically I’m responding to this hypothetical situation via a blog post, but here we go. If there was no social media, how would my life change? First, let’s look at what social media means to me. I spend a great deal of time using social media, both professionally and personally. I practically live on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Path, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram, Tumblr, well, you get the picture. I’ve said it before, I love social media.

I think I initally got hooked on communicating with others via the Internet in college, when I was introduced to Telnet chat rooms freshman year. It was 1994 and I was an introverted 18 year-old, so the idea of being able to “talk” to other people by writing (or typing) my thoughts instead of speaking them was incredibly appealing. I’ve always felt I was a better communicator through writing, than speaking. I spent many hours that year, glued to the computer, meeting people from all over and having intriguing conversations with them.

Fast forward to the year 2005. I was pregnant with my first child and seeking information about pregnancy and childbirth through websites like BabyCenter and BabyZone. I ended up on their message boards and connected with women whose due dates were the same month as mine. From a group of hundreds, approximately 40 of us migrated over to a private message board, called “Beyond Moms”, and began sharing information about our pregnancies and also about our lives. It was an amazing support system that even lead to in person gatherings after our babies were born. Still today, I consider many of these women close friends and have enjoyed following their life journies for the past 8 years. One day, maybe we’ll even have a group called, “Beyond Grandmoms”.

I joined Facebook in 2008 after a friend suggested it. Then I joined Twitter in 2009, after hearing about it on the radio. These platforms were my introduction into the world we know as “social media”. Through these social media tools, I’ve learned a lot about communication, technology, and information sharing. I’ve also learned a lot about people, especially myself. Social media has increased my self confidence and given me a voice in the world. It’s encouraged me to meet new people through Tweetups and other social networking gatherings. I think it has even turned me into an extrovert, given my last score on the Myers-Briggs personality test (ENTJ).

I have formed many invaluable relationships in my life. Some because they were family, some because we met in school, some because we met through work, but many more started simply through the words typed on a computer screen. So without social media, my life would certainly be a lot emptier.

It wouldn’t have you.

Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 25, 2013

#HAWMC Day 22: Finding the Ordinary Extraordinary

Beautiful tree stumpWrite about something ordinary that’s inspiring to you, something simple, perhaps overlooked, that fuels your activism. What a great topic! It was suggested by Abigail Cashelle.

I think anything that inspires me, helps fuel my passions, one of which is sharing information and resources about postpartum psychosis and mental health with others. I find inspiration in so many things in the world around me, such as nature, art, poetry, quotes, humor, music, and certainly in other people. I really like to find inspiration in slightly imperfect things, seemingly “average” things, and especially things that others would pass by without taking notice. I enjoy going to antique shops and yard sales to find things that I can refurbish and love. And I love items that have been passed down from one generation to another.

If I had to pick just one thing that has truly provided inspiration to me throughout my life, I would pick something from nature, and that would have to be trees. I’ve had a fascination with trees since I was very young, maybe 5 years old, when I would climb them in my backyard. In my high school and college photography classes, I would often take pictures of large, old tree trunks and their wild, jagged roots. Even today if you go to my Pinterest profile, you’ll see an entire board dedicated to trees and on my photo walks on Flickr, even more trees.

To me trees represent life, strength, beauty, and wisdom. I love sitting on a blanket, in the shade of an old oak tree, and reading all afternoon. I love the warm, vibrant foliage that takes over my home state of Vermont each Fall. I love seeing the newly fallen snow glued to the stark tree branches in Winter. And I love the gorgeous sight and invigorating smell of the magnolia trees each Spring in Washington, D.C.

The Giving Tree book reportMy son is in first grade and has shown a significant improvement in his reading ability this school year. Recently we read, “The Giving Tree” together for the first time and he read me the entire book. Afterwards he drew a picture and captured what he read in a couple sentences. It says, “It is nice to give things to others and the tree was happy.”

I love seeing the world through his eyes. He always finds a way to express the world around him in the most simple, yet beautiful terms. His innocence is so refreshing to me, especially when it’s so easy to get jaded by human nature these days. Imagine how much more beautiful this world could be if we were all like the Giving Tree and found happiness in giving of ourselves, simply in the name of love. Now that would be extraordinary!

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