#IWSG - My Fictionalized Nonfiction

October already and time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

The group's purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Sign up for #IWSG here.

October 4 Question - Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Well... yes. Yes, I have.

My novel, No Room for Hondo, centers around a new mother's struggles with newly diagnosed bipolar disorder in the weeks immediately following the birth of her daughter. This story was inspired by my own experience with mental illness, treatment, and the years of shame, guilt and self doubt that followed. In many ways, the book was my attempt at pushing my story onto a fictional character.

This picture was taken as I put my daughter to bed on our first Mother's Day.
The next day was the beginning of a mental health crisis that was not fully resolved
for years. 

It took a long time for me to gather the courage to write my story in any form. It seems I'm not alone in wanting to keep my mental illness a secret. A new study in the Maternal and Child Health Journal finds that "1 in 5 women with postpartum mental health disorders 'keep quiet.'" As in, women won't even disclose issues to their care providers.

It's long past time to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. If you're experiencing changes in mood, thoughts of suicide, thoughts of harming your baby or excessive worry, these are symptoms you should talk to your doctor or OB/GYN about. If you are not sleeping, talk to your doctor. Additional information about signs and symptoms of postpartum mental health disorders can be found here.

Looking back on the time after my daughter was born, I can see that I put just about all of my effort and planning into the birth. There was very little thought about what would happen "after" beyond a very inflexible plan to breastfeed and a few leftover meals in the freezer. My parents and mother-in-law lived an hour away. I had no work or church community. Visits from friends and extended family required me to entertain rather than relax. I never slept for more than two hours at a time and eventually I reached a point where I couldn't sleep at all.

The birth plan is a well publicized necessity for the expectant mother. In my case, and for the 1 in 5 women that experience postpartum mental illness, a postpartum support plan is needed. The state of Virginia has created just such a postpartum support plan to help pregnant women work through the scheduling of helpers, advance meal prep, and strategies for parental sleep that help prevent postpartum mood disorders. If these disorders cannot be prevented, which I believe was the case in my life, a solid support plan would aide in early diagnosis and treatment. It helps the family achieve "normal."

I hope that my story will help other mothers honestly address difficulties they face in those first weeks. And as far as that IWSG question goes, it's doubtful I'll ever be able to get myself out of my writing. My current work in progress is a compilation of stories about our family's experience with hearing loss. I'm in that one too.

16 comments:

  1. That's very brave of you to share such a personal story. I remember my early days of motherhood (and years) with mixed feelings. I loved my girls to pieces, but the adjustment to motherhood and the day-to-day grind was overwhelming at times. Looking forward to reading your book!

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    1. When I finally told my daughter about the time right after her birth she said, "I ruined your life!" I explained to her that she absolutely did not, but it was still very hard. It's been interesting how each stage has had its very distinct highs and lows. I feel fortunate that when I look back, I really only remember the good stuff. All the rest is in my book!

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  2. I'm glad you were able to overcome your trials and use the experience to raise awareness for others. :)

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    1. Thanks Loni! It's definitely good to have gotten past it.

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  3. Good for you that you're coming forward. You will help others. It's a life changing event but it shouldn't stress anyone to that point without getting help.

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    1. I do hope my story helps others. I think it can only help to know we're not alone when we're struggling.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm willing to bet it will help someone. I struggled all through the baby and toddler years with a lot of uncomfortable emotions (and maybe at times something very close to depression), and it always helped me to hear someone else admit to needing time away from their children, etc., because above all one is always convinced one is a terrible parent.

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    1. I think our instinct and perhaps the Way memory works leads us to gloss over the rough stuff and create this picture perfect version of motherhood. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I do think it’s best to be realistic. It’s s tough adjustment at best and there are a lot of opportunities to go off the rails. I’m glad you were helped by those that shared their stories. I sure hope this helps someone too.

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  5. It's good, liberating, to open up and stop feeling ashamed. An illness is not a choice. It's a problem, like bad weather, and should be treated as such.

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    1. And it's especially hard to keep that attitude when the illness is in one's brain. I hope to help change that in some small way.

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  6. When i gave birth to my son in 1973 people weren't talking about this at all. I'm so grateful to you for sharing your story here and in your book. I struggled with conflicting emotions during my pregnancy and after and was all alone with them. Add the mommy wars to that and it wasn't a pretty picture.

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    1. I'm so sorry you were alone. I hope the world is more accepting now, though mommy wars are sadly still a thing.

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  7. I don't doubt you will help others with your story. It takes great courage to speak out and share. And it will make a difference.

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  8. Thank you for this wonderful and selfless decision to share your experiences via a book that will help countless others who face similar struggles.
    You are so brave!
    Nice to meet you... and thank you for visiting my blog.

    Writer In Transit

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    1. I do hope it helps. Thanks for your encouragement!

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