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I will never forget the relief I felt the first time someone looked at me and said “Miranda, you’re depressed. This is depression.”

In that moment, my moods, the sadness, anger, rage, all of it, had a place. Slowly, with therapy, dedication to getting better, and through the twists of fate which started me on the path to the life I now live, I got better. I learned to cope. I healed.

I climbed the mountain of depression and anxiety. I’ve climbed it many times since, with the landscape of that mountain changing every time.

On Sunday I climbed a real mountain.

Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail Start

Sunday was the Climb Out of the Darkness for Postpartum Progress. A group of Atlanta Warrior Moms, their spouses and friends, and supporters of our cause, met at the foot of Stone Mountain, and together, we climbed. (You can still donate to the COTD Atlanta Team until the 30th, by the way.)

To be honest, I hadn’t wanted to go.

I looked around the house and surveyed the wreckage that comes with prepping a house for sale and moving and thought of all the other things that needed to take priority in my life. I heard the nagging voice of my anxiety telling me that I couldn’t climb if I wasn’t healthy. Why should I? How could I?

But still, I went. I had to. I had made a promise to others to be there.

The buzz and energy at our meeting place was palpable as people prepared to climb Stone Mountain, which definitely helped to invigorate me. I cried hearing Katherine speak about her experience as a new mother and the events that led her to found Postpartum Progress. (I almost always cry hearing a fellow Warrior Mom tell her story.) And then it was time to climb.

Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail

Once we started on the trail, I found myself alone, and if there’s one place I hate to be it’s alone in semi-social settings. As an extrovert I thrive on interacting with others. I crave companionship and camaraderie. We were all climbing together but I was climbing alone.

I tried to rally myself with the thought that others were climbing with me, all over the world, actually, but I couldn’t find peace. My heart beat harder and faster, both from the exertion walking the rocky trail and from the anxiety of being alone.

I stopped to catch my breath and slow my heart and thought about turning back. The “rules” of the Climb Out of Darkness just state that you do what you can, even if you just stand in the sun. I could’ve gone home then and that would’ve been enough. I wanted to turn around and go home.

From behind, I heard Katherine call my name and ask me to wait. It was kismet. Serendipity.

She caught up to me and together we walked the rest of the way up the mountain, talking, not talking, stopping to breathe when we needed to, but together instead of alone.

Climb Out of the Darkness Katherine Stone

My feet felt like lead for much of the upper part of the mountain, my usually long stride reduced to small steps. Slow and steady, one step at a time.

We were just shy of the summit when I thought that was really the end of my climb. I would have to stop and go back down, physically unable to continue on.

It felt a lot like laboring with Emma. The end was so close but I thought the physical pain of going any further might break me. I knew it was almost over but the mental hurdle of finishing was enormous.

The summit was so close. It was right there! We could see people milling about at the top. Thankful to have made it there or having taken the easy way up, we couldn’t be sure, but there they were.

Katherine had to go find her family, and I couldn’t abandon her or I’d be alone again. I was “complete” so there was no turning back. I stood on shaky legs to go with her, and as we crested the top of Stone Mountain, her husband and children greeted us both.

We did it.

Climb Out of the Darkness Stone Mountain

I’ve never been ashamed to say I had postpartum depression, not even when I was in the thick of it, and no matter what others may have said or thought about my openness with my struggle. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve always been something of a chronic oversharer or because I just believe so deeply in speaking our truths when we can when it comes to mental illness.

But I have been ashamed to have postpartum depression. Or just regular depression and my old friend anxiety.

I’ve been ashamed because I like to think of myself as too strong to be overcome by things like that, but even strong people are vulnerable. While the external stigma surrounding mental illness is terrible, sometimes I think the internal stigma is worse.

We are, after all, our own worst enemies.

The truth is that sometimes I’m not strong. Sometimes I need help.

Sunday I climbed out of my own darkness. (With a little help from my friends.)

Climb Out of the Darkness Atlanta Stone Mountain

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Dads, Don’t Date Your Daughters

by Miranda on June 20, 2014

There’s a video making the rounds on Facebook right now about a husband who’s about to go on the most important date of his life…but not with his wifeSCANDALOUS!

He gets all dressed up and a friend asks if he’s nervous.

“Yes!” he says, as he ties his tie. “It’s been a long time,” replies his friend.

Then he leaves the house, turns around and rings the bell, and his very excited daughter answers, ready for their date. The girl is adorable. They go have lots of fun together doing things like drinking milk out of princess cups and swinging and going for piggyback rides.

It’s cute. Really. It is. The girl is adorable and they seem to have a good time.

I might not make many friends with what I’m about to say, but I’m banking on that whole “if you say it, they will come” thing that happens when we say things that we know will probably enrage people but might also show us we’re not alone.

Dads, don’t date your daughters.

And this goes for moms, too, though there’s an odd disparity between the number of events aimed at mothers and sons versus those aimed at dads and daughters, and those aimed at mothers and sons are very rarely called “date nights.”

(There’s a whole commentary on why these daddy-daughter date night events exist to get dads to spend time with their daughters/sons and why they shouldn’t have to exist at all because it should just be a thing parents do, but that’s probably another inflammatory blog post for another day.)

It might be a special occasion or a treat when moms and dads take their children to the playground, or out for ice cream, or to the movies, but it’s not dating.

Why is there this thing where we talk about our relationships with our children in terms of our relationships with spouses and friends? Our relationships with our children are neither.

Dating implies there’s a romantic element to the relationship and, quite frankly, it’s weird to talk about dating our children. Go back to the example from that video where the dad talks about being nervous and it’s “been a long time” and tell me that’s anything other than awkward and weird, even if it was scripted.

But Miranda, you say, it’s just a word! You’re giving it meaning where there isn’t any!

No, I’m really not.

The common use of the verb “date” means courting, pursuing a relationship with someone you’re romantically or potentially sexually interested in. Think about that for a minute and let’s stop dating our children.

We can do better. We can choose different words and not frame our relationships with our children in romantic terms.

And while I’m probably offending people, all of the memes declaring ourselves the “first loves” of our opposite sex children are weird too.

Didn’t you read Oedipus Rex?

Am I the first person in my children’s lives who will love them? Who will show them what love is? Yes, probably, but the term “first love” implies schoolyard crushes and high school romance and Mommy and Daddy issues they’ll need to work out in therapy some day.

It also sort of sounds like we can’t let them grow up and experience the world on their own without us, and while that thought sort of rips my heart out, it has to happen.

I don’t want to be my son’s first love. Not like that. And I don’t want my husband to date our daughter. 

Spending quality time with your kids isn’t dating. It’s just…spending quality time with your kids. It’s parenting. It’s the stuff we should be doing every day, even if it’s just reading together at night before bed, or sitting around the dinner table engaged in conversation instead of staring at our devices.

Instead of dating your daughter (or son), date your partner. 

That’s probably better for your relationships in the long run anyway.

If you want to teach your daughter what to expect from the men she’ll one day find herself dating and possibly marrying, show her (and your sons) a strong relationship. Show her what a solid partnership looks like.

Show her what respect looks like by respecting her mother or the mother figures in her life and she’ll learn to respect herself and demand that from others.

Show her what love looks like by loving her, certainly.

But don’t date your daughter.

Update/Response/Philosophical Waxing:

[click to continue…]

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5 Tips for Better Sleep (Sponsored)

by Miranda on June 16, 2014

This is a Type-A Parent paid post to discuss sleep issues, and to share a new insomnia resource from the National Sleep Foundation.

Dan has often joked that if the average person needs 7 hours of sleep a night, I need 14. He’s right. I’m a total grump without enough rest.

I love sleep.

There’s nothing better than sliding into a cozy bed, pulling up the blankets, and drifting off into dreamland.

Nothing.

But sleep doesn’t come easily for me anymore. Not like it used to.

Why? Anxiety.

My sleep anxiety started when I was pregnant with Joshua. I would lay awake at night unable to shut my brain off, get comfortable, and fall asleep. Then I would wake up to pee (four times) and look at the clock and feel a wave of anxiety wash over me. Eventually I stopped looking at the clock when I got up and that helped immensely, but for a while knowing what time it was and how little time I had left to sleep before waking up to start the day made it impossible to fall asleep after those late-night bathroom breaks.

You’d think the sleeplessness of pregnancy would have prepared me for motherhood and all those nights spent rocking babies instead of hugging my pillow, but you’d be wrong.

You think you have trouble sleeping and then you have kids and suddenly you’re very, very aware of the importance of a good night’s rest and how good it can be for your mental health and overall well being.

Despite the many sleepless nights and the stress associated with a lack of quality sleep, I’m pretty committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that the sleep I DO get is restorative. I’ve adopted some tips and tricks along the way, gleaned from websites like sleepfoundation.org and conversations with friends, and now I’m sharing my top 5 tips for better sleep with you.

20140616-114828-42508653.jpg

1. Pressure points.
Pressure will help soothe your senses.

Remember that relaxation thing where you imagine your body is weighted down with sandbags and then you slowly imagine them being lifted off one by one? That’s what this technique is about.

One of the things we’ve learned while Joshua has been in occupational therapy is that weight and pressure work magic on over active senses.

If your brain is running wild and you can’t get comfortable, arms and legs a’twitching, add a blanket to the bed or wear compression leggings to sleep. If you’re mentally aware enough, you can do the old sandbag trick. It’s weird, but it works.

2. Be scent-sational.
Aromatherapy is awesome for sleep.

At Mom 2.0, Suzanne and I won a room makeover from the National Sleep Foundation that included Pure Care aromatherapy pillow covers. I sleep with the smell of eucalyptus right next to my face and it’s amazing.

Use room sprays or other aromatherapy products in scents like eucalyptus, lavender, or sandalwood, all of which encourage relaxation, to make your bedroom a little more zen.

3. Breathe.
Practice ujjayi breathing.

Perhaps the single most helpful thing I’ve ever done to help myself fall asleep is practice ujjayi breathing. Focusing on the sound of my breath as it goes in and out calms my mind like nothing else can.

4. Clear the clutter.
Decluttering your bedroom of the stuff crowding the space will have the effect of clearing your mental space.

This is the HARDEST tip for me to put into practice. Our bedroom is the dumping ground for everything in our house that doesn’t have a place. We’re working to clear the clutter. It’s definitely a work in progress.

5. Make the bed.
Mama always makes her bed. Every day, even if it’s right before she climbs in it. I have always laughed at her for this. She’s going to bed but she’s making it first?!?

Well, guess what. She was right and I’m not laughing.

I may not make my bed when I wake up in the morning but before I can go to sleep I have to straighten and smooth the sheets. There’s no relaxing if it feels like the sheets are twisting around my legs threatening to strangle my knees.

As it turns out, mama really did know best.

Be sure to check out a new resource from the National Sleep Foundation at sleepfoundation.org/insomnia – a good place to start if you think you have insomnia or aren’t sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation is your trusted resource for everything sleep – understanding how sleep works & why it’s important, learning healthy habits, creating a relaxing bedroom & bedtime routine, & finding solutions to your sleep issues.

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Climb Out Of the Darkness 2014

by Miranda on June 10, 2014

It’s time to Climb Out of the Darkness in Atlanta, y’all.

1 in 7 mothers will suffer from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. And that’s only the number of moms who actually seek help.

Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, and with postpartum mental illness in particular, and because of the lack of mental health care for so many mothers, how many thousands more go untreated each year? How many moms and families suffer?

My hope is that with each passing day, one less mom and one less family know the darkness of postpartum depression and anxiety, or postpartum OCD, or any number of other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders which lie to new moms and tell them they aren’t worthy.

They are worthy. YOU are worthy. I was worthy.

In 2009, I was the “lucky” 1 in 7 because I had a history of mental illness before giving birth. Because of my pre-existing diagnosis of depression my doctors were quick to look for signs that postpartum depression was my welcome to motherhood present, right alongside the sleepless nights and dirty diapers.

Postpartum depression and anxiety robbed me of the joy of a new baby. They made me angry and bitter and resentful toward my husband, my friends, my family, and sometimes even my son.

There are gaps in my memory of Joshua’s first year. Milestones and moments I can’t remember because it took so long for me to come out of the fog of my postpartum anxiety.

I don’t want that for other moms. I don’t want that for any moms.

In 12 days, I’ll get in my car and I’ll drive to Stone Mountain and I’ll climb. Out of the darkness. Into the light.

I’ll climb alongside friends and survivors and mentors and other moms who’ve been where I’ve been. Who are where I am.

Together we’ll Climb Out of Darkness and we’ll celebrate Postpartum Progress and the work Katherine Stone has done for mothers with mental illness. The mothers whose lives she has saved and helped to heal through her tireless dedication to this cause that affects so many of us.

Mothers like me.

The Atlanta team will join teams around the world to raise awareness about the stigmas surrounding mental health and we’ll work together to break down the barriers that restrict access to quality diagnostics and treatment for mothers in need. But we need your help to do it.

I don’t have anything fancy to give away for helping me other than my gratitude and appreciation and the knowledge that in helping us you’re helping moms.

Postpartum Progress the nonprofit relies on the support of others, and the 2014 Climb is your chance to help.

While the national nonprofit has surpassed its fundraising goal for this year, the Atlanta team has set a goal of raising $5000, and we’re nearly there. So very close!

I hope you’ll help us continue to help others.

Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

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Legos Behavior Chart (Free Printable!!)

by Miranda on June 5, 2014

We are 3.5 days into summer vacation. I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I have successfully determined the need for some sort of behavior modification plans approximately 6.5 weeks earlier than I discovered the usefulness of such a device last summer. The bad news is that I need some sort of behavior modification plan at all.

Legos Themed Behavior Chart
Joshua is very, very 5 going on 15. And he desperately, incredibly, REALLY, REALLY needs to take a rest in the middle of the day so I don’t lose my mind. Not a movie on the couch. Not a game on the iPad. A solid, lay down in the bed, no technology, time out for his brain. He’s been doing this for a year at school, and while I know he won’t have that in the fall when he goes to Kindergarten, right now, he still neeeds it.

The meltdowns we’ve been having every afternoon and yesterday’s hour-long cry-fest tell me so.

While wandering through my happy place yesterday–Target, people. Target–fireworks went off in my brain.

Legos are his currency.

The kid is a Legos fanatic. We cannot go to Target without going to the Legos aisle and naming each and every Star Wars minifigure in the display case. No trip to the mall is complete without spending half an hour oooohing and aaaaaahing over the vast array of boxes there in the Legos store begging to be built (and destroyed by a toddler or stepped on or both).

I’m pretty sure the kid could kill an hour building minifigures and rearranging their plastic hair and accessories.

So this morning, I made this. A Legos-themed behavior chart.

Lego Behavior Chart, Finding Walden
EVERYTHING is more fun when it’s a game, right? Right.

The concept is simple. Earn 20 stickers, one for each star, and you win the game. The prize is a new Lego set.

When I told him he had the chance to earn Legos he was totally on board and I’m happy to report that he’s been in his room for an hour now.

He isn’t sleeping. I can hear him chattering away back there to himself. He might even be playing with the Legos in his room. But so far, so good. We’re working on it.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to let him earn stickers for more than just taking a rest yet, but there’s a good chance I might.

“Don’t hit your sister with the Buzz Lightyear and you can earn a sticker!”

“Instead of swinging your dirty underwear around your head like a helicopter, put them in the laundry basket and earn a sticker!”

I’ll bet you’re all wondering where YOU can get YOUR VERY OWN Legos Behavior Chart, too. Right here is where.

Download your Legos Behavor Chart.

Hey, if it helps even one other mom maintain her sanity during summer break, it will have been worth it.

(If you find this helpful/cool/neat or know another mom it might help, go ahead and share. It’s more fun to share, afte  all. Listen to your mother. Yadda yadda yadda. His rest time is over now.)

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May Has Been a Dirty Whore

June 1, 2014

May has been a dirty whore, and I don’t mean a person named May, I mean the month. It’s been a timesuck of anxiety and stress for no reason other than just because, which isn’t really a reason at all in case you were curious. It started out great. I was high off of Listen To Your […]

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So You Want to Have a Baby…6 Things You Need To Know

May 15, 2014

So you want to have a baby, you say? Tis not a decision to be made lightly! As an expert parent* I’m here to share my knowledge regarding all the ways your life will change once you welcome that little bundle into your life.** I’m a giver like that. If, after reading this list of […]

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Looking Down

May 8, 2014

It finally feels like we might have escaped the cold spells that randomly decided to plague us this year. One side-effect of this warmer, more beautiful weather is that the kids want to go outside. All the time. Every day. I do not want to go outside. At least not most of the time. Because […]

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i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

May 7, 2014

Ever since having Joshua, I’ve thought of various ways I might celebrate motherhood in a tattoo of some sort. About a year into PPD, I wrote a post that ended with a letter to Joshua where I talked about how he is the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside and […]

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Listen To Your Mother: Atlanta; The Edge of Glory

April 27, 2014

I keep trying to put into words the magic and warmth and love I’ve experienced this Listen To Your Mother: Atlanta weekend and I keep finding that it’s a really, really hard thing to do. This weekend was exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, heartbreaking, tear-inducing, laugh-inducing, crazy-amazing, happy-making goodness. In the months leading up to this, our fearless […]

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