I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a little girl. I’ve kept a diary for many years, written poetry, and even written a short story or two. In recent years, most of my writing has come in the form of speeches for organizations like Toastmasters and Ignite. But I got my start writing about my health as a guest blogger on Postpartum Progress, a fantastic blog dedicated to sharing postpartum mental health resources (often in plain mama english). It also showcases personal stories from women who have experienced postpartum depression and other related mental health issues. In my case, I shared about my very personal experience with postpartum psychosis in 2008.
However, I didn’t share the story until 2010 and at that time I only used my first name to remain somewhat anonymous. You see, it took some time, not only to get healthy again, but to come to terms with what I experienced. Up until the blog post, I did not share my story with anyone, except my closest friends and family. Then I realized something. In order for me to get past the negative aspects of the illness, I needed to do something positive and the only thing I could think of doing, was using my voice and sharing my story, so that it might help others.
Writing has always been a cathartic experience for me and I wrote as much as I could remember about my postpartum psychotic episode shortly after it happened. I used that as a starting point for my guest blog post. I came across Katherine Stone and her Postpartum Progress blog while I was researching postpartum mental health. She has been an enormous help to me personally and was extremely accommodating and open to helping me with my personal journey. I cannot thank her enough for what she does for so many women and their families. She set the perfect example for what I needed to do by sharing her own story.
After my guest blog post went live, I was flooded with positive feedback, some of which brought me to tears. So many women applauded my bravery in sharing such a personal story and in turn, they shared their own experiences, and voiced how hearing my story helped them be brave too. It was a ripple effect of emotion, empathy, and especially honesty. Allowing myself to be vulnerable opened me up, to a greater shared experience, to fully understand what my own pain meant to me. It meant that I was a stronger person. It meant that I was a survivor. It meant that I would become a storyteller.
At the end of 2010, Katherine Stone gave out her guest blogger of the year awards and I was one of the recipients. I was humbled by the fact that my story had had such a positive effect and that it truly reached others. Receiving that award gave me even more confidence in sharing my story and I shared a link to the post on Facebook and Twitter. That really made me feel vulnerable, but at the same time I felt empowered too. I knew that I could be reaching even more people, and that some would find comfort and confidence by reading my story.
Fast forward to early 2011, when I heard about a national public speaking event called Ignite, that offers potential speakers the opportunity to talk for five minutes, using 20 slides, on any topic you choose. And I said why not mental health? And I thought why not discuss the topic of “Help!” and how helping others could potentially save someone’s life. That was my story.
I engaged friends and even a couple strangers to review my abstract and written speech for Ignite. I wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be. I also wanted the ultimate message to be a positive one, one of hope and empathy. So I focused it around the four strangers that stopped to help me the day that I had my postpartum psychotic episode and how that simple gesture saved my life. I wanted to express that it’s okay to ask for and accept help when you need it. As I said during my speech, “help is such a little word, but it holds so much power. Empathy is one of the most important emotions we have.”
So why do I write about my health? Because I can. Because I’m still here. I’m extremely mindful of the fact that some are not and that others are unable to share the way that I can. So I do it. Even though it’s scary, even though it takes time, even though it’s hard and emotional. I still do it. I sincerely hope that it helps you too.