Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Las Vegas TV Interview

I would like to share an interview I did during the Postpartum Support International Training in Las Vegas. Thanks to Channel 8 News for helping spread awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Broken Crayons, Black Toilet Seats and Band-Aids

I know what you're thinking - what in the world do broken crayons, black toilet seats and Band-Aids have to do with each other? I still wonder that myself and it seems even more strange seeing them all together in a headline. But truth be told, they are all symbols of a long history of anxiety. My anxiety. And reading this really makes me feel like a head case.

Let me take you back about 35 years. As soon as I was old enough to hold a crayon I developed a strange phobia about the broken ones. I screamed when I saw a broken crayon. I insisted my mother buy me a new box of Crayola's if one were to break. When I saw a broken crayon in the box it made my heart race and my tiny hands sweat. I felt short of breath and wanted to hide. A few years later, my mom got some advice from an expert to make 'cookie crayons', a blend of broken crayons that are baked together in a muffin pan to form one cool looking multicolored crayon. And that seemed to cure me of whatever was causing this strange phobia. However, I did catch myself recently going through my kids' crayon box and throwing away all of the broken ones.

To top off my quirky fear of broken crayons, I then developed a childhood phobia of black toilet seats. Not white ones. Not pink ones like my grandma had. No, just the black ones with the pointy seats that you find in public restrooms. My fear turned to avoidance. I wouldn't go into public bathrooms. If we were out in public I would hold it as long as I could. If my parents made me go to the public bathroom I became paralyzed with fear or would cry in hysteria. I still remember the humiliating day in kindergarten that I walked home with poop in my pants because I wouldn't use the bathroom at school. I'm not sure how or why, but sometime around age five I overcame the avoidance, but for several years still felt anxious in public restrooms.

Fast-forward 30 years. Now I am an adult with three kids of my own. I haven't had phobias since childhood, and then at age 35 I developed a phobia of Band-Aids. This psychological quirk happened after my hospitalization for postpartum anxiety and hasn't been resolved yet.

For the past two summers, I have despised public places where Band-Aids may be lurking. You can find these at parks, pools and beaches, and they always see to find me in abundance. For my 36th birthday I thought it would be fun to take my kids to the beach. I spent the afternoon paralyzed in one spot, afraid to step in the sand or grass for fear of the disgusting used bandage. It makes me cringe just writing about them. I want to vomit. I want to flee. I want to cover my feet in twelve pairs of socks and wear boots that go to my knees. And for the life of me, I don't understand why.

Last month we took a family vacation to an indoor water-park. I was so excited for this vacation and wasn't worried at all about the "B" word. On the first day when we arrived, we went to check out the pool area. I saw a bandage floating in the pool and that was it for me. I was frozen in fear. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to run away. There was no way in hell I was going in that water. We were at the water-park for six days and every time we went near the pools I felt sick. I did get myself to go in the hot tub and dip my feet in the kiddie pool, but even then I wasn't having any fun and was paralyzed with fear.

I don't understand these phobias - they seem so illogical to me. But I recently went back to therapy to explore some of this crap and get rid of it once and for all. My therapist thinks I have a form of anxiety called Conversion Disorder, in which anxiety is transposed to your body or the physical world. I've also seen this show up with temporary paralysis after my second child and an array of physical symptoms after my third daughter's birth.

I suppose I am just wired this way. Somehow my brain transposes my anxiety to my physical world. I am trying to make sense of it all and learn more. So if you know of anyone or have any insight on this strange disorder, please let me know. I've figured a lot out about my PPD/A, but some things still remain a mystery.

Stacey Ackerman is the author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story and lives in Lakeville, Minn., with her husband Eirik and children Evan, Eithan and Emily.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's All About Me in 2012

This is the year for me, the mom. For the past six years and seven months I have put myself on the back burner. Beginning June 1, 2005, the day I became "Supermom" for the first time, I have taken care of everyone but myself. Now it's time for that to change.

My pre-preggo size 6 jeans are in a box in the shed. I am determined to fit into them again! I have constantly made excuses as to why I don't have time to work out, and have eaten more than my share of leftover mac 'n cheese. But now, it's all about me! I have dusted off my treadmill and made it a priority to work out every morning. As an added bonus, my kids have even learned how to make their own breakfast if they can't wait until I'm finished working out.

When I lose my first 10 pounds, I am going shopping - for me! I spend a ton of money making sure my daughter looks like a diva, but my wardrobe is more circa Target 1999. The new me is going to lose the frumpy mom sweats!

My career also took a rear view mirror spot during my children's early years. This year I am going to figure out what I need to be happy and successful and I am going to make those dreams come true.

Couple time has also been scarce since parenthood hit us like a ton of bricks. This year, I want to bring our relationship even closer together. We've done pretty well with family bonding, but couple time seems rare. So today, I took my free hotels.com voucher and booked a night away at the suite where we stayed on our wedding night. I can't wait for an entire 24-hours of kid-free time! Who knows, maybe we'll even get to the point of leaving the munchkins for a real get-away at some point in the near future.

I have also decided that guilty pleasures are okay, and they are good for my mental health. My day starts out great if I can watch 20 minutes of House Hunters with a warm cup of coffee before having to get everyone else ready.

It has taken me a long time to figure this out, but to be a good parent, you first need to be good to yourself. What do you have planned for yourself today?

Stacey Ackerman is the author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story and lives in Lakeville, Minn., with her husband Eirik and children Evan, Eithan and Emily.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Family Bonding on the Road

Some people think we are crazy, and they are probably right. For the third time, our family decided to embark on a cross-country adventure mini-van style. There is no better way to create a family bond than to be stuck in a car together for four straight days.

Planning a vacation for five on a budget is not easy, and that is one more reason to go by car. We traveled from Farmington, Minn. to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for winter break. We even took the long way, stopping in Des Moines, Iowa for an early Christmas with my in-laws. Getting to Myrtle Beach, which is 23-hours away, took us four days.

After our early Christmas, we decided to head straight south to get to warmer weather. Our first stop was St. Louis, Mo., where my hubby had planned an outing to the Incredible Pizza Company. This place looked like a casino and it delighted my children (an especially hubs) to no end.

My hubby's other quest for our journey was to find hockey jerseys at Targets in every state we went to. Much to our dismay, hockey isn't very popular in the south, but we did manage to pick up a few college football jerseys, pillows and hats.

Let me also mention that while most children sleep in the car, mine don't. Ever. I have three insomniacs. Throughout the entire adventure, I got a one hour catnap out of the two and six year old and the four-year old sucked his thumb a lot, but avoided sleep at all costs.

However, my kiddos are great car travelers. After all, who wouldn't mind singing songs, playing road games and eating endless snacks? We did give in a bit to technology and hooked them up with movies, Pandora and Angry Birds.

As much fun as the adventure down was, we decided to extend our stay at the beach another day and high-tail it home in two days. And yes, those were two hellish 12-plus hour days.

Day one began en route to Indianapolis with a stop at a souvenir shop in the middle of nowhere South Carolina. We filled up on last-minute goodies to bring home. We watched as the GPS arrival time creeped up a little more.

When we entered North Carolina, my husband asked me to locate a Target near the Interstate so he could look for more jerseys. Given my superior navigation skills, I found a Target in Ashville that was near a highway, but it was three away from the one we were on! Our GPS took us on twists and turns through this cute mountain town. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the off the beaten path Target, only to discover the jerseys were sold out! The clock creeped even further ahead. Tick tock, tick tock.

To save time, we decided to eat our meals in the car that day. Four "I have to go potty" stops and a few diarrhea diapers later, we finally made it to Kentucky around 10 p.m. And then it happened, four-year-old Eithan says, "I'm gonna barf! Too much chocolate milk!"

We looked around and there was nowhere to stop. I handed him a plastic bag and told him to use it. Of course he missed, and warm recycled chocolate milk spewed everywhere in our car and on everything inside it. Poor Eithan was covered from head to toe in puke! We stopped in BF Kentucky where I paid $6 for a can of air freshener and did our best to clean up the mess. We finally arrived to our hotel after midnight and for the first time ever, all three children had fallen asleep.

This made for an interesting drive home the next day. We decided to drive like bats out of hell and minimize any stops. The car reeked of stale milk and I had to hold my breath the entire way because the smell made me nauseous. We made it home safe and sound by 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve. What a perfect way to end the year.

Despite the challenges, I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything in the world. We've given our kids an experience that they will remember for years to come. Road tripping is still the best way to get a true American experience.

Stacey Ackerman is the author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story and lives in Lakeville, Minn., with her husband Eirik and children Evan, Eithan and Emily.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Missing You

Last Monday I had three kids at home all day. Sick. With the flu. Stuck inside on a cold Minnesota winter day. It was the day from hell. I just wanted it to end. As I tried to grade papers for my online classes, clean up diarrhea, sanitize everything and keep the kids from killing each other, I wanted nothing more than to run away.

I called my husband at work in desperation saying, "Don't go anywhere after work. Come home immediately. I need to get out of here!"

I could feel my chest tighten and my nerves go crazy. There is nothing I hate more than being confined at home. It makes me feel trapped and claustrophobic. Even if I wouldn't go anywhere, knowing that I couldn't go anywhere made me feel insane.

To make matters worse, my kids didn't have fevers with this bug, so their energy level wasn't compromised. They had full ammunition for tattling and insults.

"Mom, Eithan took my toy!" said Evan. "Mommy, Emily hit me!" cried Eithan. "I'm poopy 'gain," said Emily.

When Eirik walked in the door at precisely 4:24 p.m. I made my escape. Phew, I'm out of prison, I thought to myself.

I went to Panera to grab some dinner alone and try to grade papers in peace. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Until, it happened. I heard the laughter of small children. And then I felt really sad and lonely. It had only been an hour or so, but I missed my three little people. I felt guilty that I wasn't more patient today, and that I wasn't enjoying the time I got to spend with them.

I missed their little laughs, their funny jokes, their adorable smiles. Why couldn't I see those things all day? Why did I only see the shittiness of the day?

Tomorrow I will try to enjoy the cute smiles, despite the crap that the day may bring.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 10 Things I'm Grateful For

I often complain about what I don't have, or what I wish I had. More time. More money. A bigger house. A cooler car. Perfectly behaved children. My pre-baby weight.

However, I'm feeling in the spirit of Thanksgiving today, so instead of "what if" I am going to focus my energy on the wonderful things that I have in my life. Here is my list:

Top 10 Things I'm Grateful For

1) My husband. Even though I complain when you leave dirty dishes in the sink and wear your shoes in the house, you are my rock. We have been together through good times and bad, and I look forward to many more years of chaos!

2) My children. My children have shown me what it's like to love wholeheartedly. Despite the whining, temper-tantrums and full-blown chaos you create, I wouldn't have it any other way.

3) Coffee. While I often abuse you, you get me through those sleep-deprived mornings. You are also my guilty pleasure when I spend $4 on a single cup.

4) My anxiety disorder. I realize this one seems really strange, however, it's this part of my self-discovery that has allowed me to take care of myself. Now I go to yoga and get massages guilt-free - it's therapy!

5) Postpartum depression. I NEVER thought I would be grateful for the nightmare that plagued our family two years ago, but "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". I am a survivor. I am a fighter. And now I am a compassionate healer to other women.

6) Chocolate. Need I say more!

7) Gossip Magazines. It is this senseless reading that helps me relax and unwind after a stressful day. After all, with problems such as what to wear to the Academy Awards, it makes my troubles seems, well...

8) HGTV. This allows me to dream about a fabulous vacation home or what I want my next house to look like. However, it also makes me think how lucky I am to live in such a great neighborhood with a wonderful sense of community, a huge yard for my kids to run around in, and the hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances aren't half bad either.

9) My Health. Even though anxiety and asthma have kicked my ass over the past year, I'm still healthy overall. I can walk, talk and play with my children.

10) My Parents. Even though I'm 37, I still need my mom and dad. Over the past few months I've seen my parents battling health problems, which makes me realize how short life really can be.

What are you grateful for? I'd love to hear from you!

Stacey Ackerman is the author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story and lives in Lakeville, Minn., with her husband Eirik and children Evan, Eithan and Emily.