Laura Bower

@thepostpartummama | contributor
Laura is the author of the hilarious YOUR PENIS WILL FALL OFF! and other sh*t I've said to my kids as well as the creator of The Postpartum Mama. Laura began her blog as an attempt to cope with her postpartum depression and moving half-way across the world. She hopes that her words can somehow help other struggling moms that feel like they don't have this 'mom thing' totally together. She has two boys under three and in her spare time (what's that?) she enjoys being out in her garden, biking and vegging out watching Netflix. She will never pass down a warm cup of coffee and her favorite past time is forgetting where she put her car keys. Her work has been featured on Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, The Mighty and Imperfectly Perfect Mama.
Community Voices

What I Want People To Know About Diabulimia

If you heard the word #Diabulimia, chances are that you wouldn’t know what it means. The truth is, up until a few days ago, I didn’t even know what it meant….but I did know someone that struggled with the condition.

Sarah was my husband’s cousin; a devoted and loving mother, daughter, granddaughter, niece, and friend. She was a hard-worker and was selfless in her acts of helping those around her, especially her loving family. Sarah’s relationship with her son was the most important to her; she would constantly talk about him and express her love for him. She had a big heart and on the outside, you may believe that she had it together.Sarah suffered from a condition known as diabulimia. diabulimia is an eating disorder which may affect those with Type 1 #Diabetes and is the reduction of insulin intake to lose weight. Sarah was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was in 6th grade. During this time, she became incredibly self-conscious with her weight and never felt thin enough. She went on a massive diet, took diet pills, laxatives and obsessive exercising; she lost over 100 pounds but still didn’t feel good enough. By the time that she was 16, she learned how to omit her insulin as a way to stay thin; yet no matter how thin she became, she still didn’t feel good enough. She had so many people that loved her and would endlessly tell her how wonderful she was. She was selfless and did so much for the ones that she cared about. If only she would have taken care of herself.Within two years, the complications soon begun. Her once thick head of hair was falling out and turning brittle; and downy hair started to appear on her body. Although she was losing the weight and in a great deal of turmoil, Sarah kept a smile on her face and continued to do for others. If you were an outsider looking in, you would never expect what she was going through, however, her close family and friends had speculations and it killed them to watch this vivacious young lady wither away to a shell of a person. Despite her struggles, Sarah’s passion was to help and care for others. Sarah was a daycare worker for several years at her Grandmother’s home daycare; she loved all of her kids, and they sure loved her. Within the past year, Sarah also got a job at a nursing home as a LPN and fell in love with it. She devoted herself to her patients and working long hours to give her son the life that he deserved.Unfortunately, Sarah lost her battle on Christmas Eve 2017. Her loss came as a cruel shock to everyone that came to know and love her, and her impact she left in this world is one that cannot be easily forgotten.

Sarah is deeply missed and this article isn’t even skimming the surface of how much she was loved. She left behind a loving family that is lost without her. She left behind a son that now, can only cling to the memories and photographs. She was so loved and like me, I know there are many people out there wondering: “I hope she knew how special she was.”

I didn’t know anything about until I talked to Sarah’s mother and also researched about it. I was shocked to learn how common this condition is. According to www.diabulimiahelpline.org, affects over 30 percent of diabetic women between the ages of 15 and 30 and studies show that Type 1 diabetics are two and a half times more likely to develop an eating disorder than other women.

The fact that a lot of people don’t even know this is a possible condition, including myself, astounds me. I want people to know that is real and to be aware of it.

If you or someone you know is suffering from , there IS help out there. Please reach out to the 24 hour hotline at: (425) 985-3635.

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Community Voices

Mother Gets Denied Benefits Because She Appears "Normal"

Are we doing the best we can for people that suffer from a mental illness? It’s the year 2018 and I would really like to say “yes” however, I’m discouraged to admit that the stigma of mental illnesses is STILL apparent in our wonderful country.

Mother of three Linda* is an insurance company employee that is struggling with postpartum #Depression and got denied #Disability. The fact that mental illness isn’t looked at as a disability is far from why this is ludicrous, more-so, the real reason why Linda was denied disability was because she was deemed as having her outward appearance “together”. To judge a person because their outward appearance appears normal is so wrong; you wouldn’t tell a handicapped person that they weren’t really handicapped, would you? So why is there a difference for #MentalHealth? A person can be going through literal hell and can STILL look fine. Most of the time, the most put together and happiest person can be the one suffering the strongest from a debilitating condition.

Linda has reached out to me to express her frustration and also her concerns with her situation. She is beyond herself that she has to jump through hoops to have her condition recognized as serious. This mother is suffering; she finds the most minuscule tasks such as laundry or getting dressed strenuous but because her condition isn’t visible, it’s not serious enough. The doctor that wrote Linda her denial is just so wrong. Linda expressed to me how she was crying and in hysterics in his office, yet, because her appearance was normal and her attitude cooperative, she must be healthy. It’s so wrong. So this leads me to wondering– when would a situation like this be taken seriously? Do we have to wait for an attempted #Suicide or a near break-down for a mental illness condition to be taken serious?

Linda isn’t trying to work the system– she’s a good person, a good mother, a hard worker. She’s going through a devastating transition dealing with her postpartum depression and it’s unfathomable for her to be a contributing member to her workplace right now. She is currently not working so she is home but with no pay– she most certainly deserves to receive disability benefits.

My reasoning for writing this is to bring more awareness to mothers that struggle with postpartum depression. After my youngest was born, I got diagnosed with PPD and my life has forever changed. I understand the struggle and I know the stigma that comes with postpartum depression and mental illness in general. I want postpartum depression to be recognized…to be talked about…for mothers to feel safe and confident with coming forward about it. And for doctors and insurance companies to recognize this as well.

*changed person’s name at their request.

Laura Bower

Being Medicated Makes Me a Better Mom

I never pictured myself needing a couple of white pills to make it through the day. I also never relied on them to help me get through the long and very stressful days of motherhood. I take medication to help with my depression. It makes me a better person… it makes me a better mom. There, I said it. I can’t imagine my life without those tiny, white pills that I so desperately depend on. They are my saving grace and without them, well, I may not be here to write this. You see, I was in a very dark place after my youngest was born. I had thoughts that never crossed my mind… thoughts that made me feel like a horrible person. A horrible mother. I was in a fog for over five months — I was merely going through the motions and doing the bare minimum to just survive. The things I once enjoyed doing, I had no interest in anymore. Of course, my sons would have been affected by my lack of desire to thrive… I didn’t read them stories or do fun art projects. Instead, I would turn on the TV in hopes of keeping my toddler entertained while the baby would sleep. The weeks would turn into months of feeling like I had no control over my life. I felt like I was slipping into a dark abyss and like there was no way out. It was frightening. I was turning into a rage monster that easily lashed out on her husband and children… something had to change. So, I reached out for help. I saw a therapist. I got prescribed the medication. I never looked back. I’ve been on my medication for nearly three months now and while I still have my rough days, they are nowhere near as rough as they used to be. I never imagined a couple of pills would dramatically affect my life, but I will attest to this right now: being medicated makes me a better mom. I have found myself getting back into my old groove and doing the things I once loved. I’m doing more things with my kids. I’m getting out into our community and meeting new people. I’m trying. Sometimes, antidepressants get a bad rap. I think it’s because people that don’t need them to function don’t quite understand the severity they hold. I take my pills to make me a better mom and to make sure I can be there for my kids. No, they are not a “quick fix…” I have tried for months to feel “normal” on my own and I had no success. I exhausted all the options, weighed the pros and cons in my head and came out with the conclusion that being medicated may be the option for me. It’s working. I’m on my way to leading a more enjoyable life. I won’t say that being on antidepressants is for everyone and you definitely have to remember to take them every single day. I will also say I’m unsure on how long I will take them. Will this be something I need for the rest of my life? Will I become dependent on them for my sole happiness? These things are highly unlikely, however, I am willing to take those risks if it means I can be the mother to my sons they deserve.

Laura Bower

5 Things I Want Every Mom With Postpartum Depression to Know

Motherhood can be overwhelming, and it can be downright scary when you’re holding your very own helpless baby for the first time. When I first became a mother, I had all of the emotions, but I was mainly happy — that little bundle of joy brought me so much happiness that I felt like I could explode. It came easy for me (except for breast-feeding) — the late nights that turned into early mornings, the swaddling and the constant demands of motherhood. I had it all together. And then I had my second son and things felt different. So different. I didn’t feel pure happiness this time around. I felt a sadness so deep; I felt more anxious and worried. I remember laying up in the hospital bed after he was born and crying because I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to stay right there and continue to let the nurses care for me, but mainly for my baby. I didn’t think that I could do it — take care of a newborn and a toddler — I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt angry. I was depressed. I had postpartum depression (PPD). According to WebMD, the early signs of postpartum depression include feeling sad or hopeless. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can start to feel like yourself again. The healthcare system fails us as mothers due to the fact that after we have our babies, we aren’t given any support or therapy surrounding postpartum depression. It’s not even really talked about. It’s like: here’s your new baby, good luck! There are so many emotions coursing through our veins and often more times than not, we feel embarrassed or shamed for these feelings. Here are five things I would like to tell new moms that may be experiencing postpartum depression: 1. Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mom. This was my first  thought in the beginning and I’m telling you right now, you need to dismiss that from your mind, pronto. You’re not a bad mom if you don’t want to make a craft with your kid. You’re not a bad mom if all you can manage to do on a daily basis is feed and bathe your child. And you’re not a bad mom if you feel sad and if your baby doesn’t bring you complete joy. You’re not a bad mom. 2. Having postpartum depression doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. You can have postpartum depression and love your baby, even if right at this moment you feel indifferent. I’m here to tell you that it’s OK. I also want to tell you that if you ever have thoughts about harming your baby, that’s not OK, so please seek help if it is getting to that point. 3. Reach out to someone. I assure you, there is always someone out there that understands what your going through, so reach out to them whenever you need to. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are also crisis hotlines (listed at the end of this post) that are always available to you. 4. It will get worse before it gets better. I won’t sugar coat it — things normally get worse before they get better. I had a pretty low “low” with my PPD where I felt like things were never going to get better and my life would be in a constant fog. I want to tell you that it does get better. It won’t happen over night or maybe even a month from now, but there’s hope. There is a rainbow after the storm, and I can attest to that. 5. You have purpose. You were put on this earth for a reason. Right now, you may feel like you don’t matter, but I want to tell you that you do. You’re in the trenches of motherhood and you probably feel overwhelmed and broken, but trust me, you have purpose. You are a warrior, a fighter, a strong and beautiful women! You have purpose, mama. You will be alright. I wanted to share this with any new moms out there that may be at their lowest right now and to be a voice that says: You’re not alone! Follow this journey here. If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International ‘s hotline at 1-800-944-4773. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 , the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash image via Julie Johnson

Laura Bower

The 'Bad Habit' That Turned Out to Be Dermatillomania

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a picker — I can’t let a pimple go unpopped or a scab go untouched. I also have to brush out all of my son’s cradle-cap (it’s basically baby dandruff) to feel completely fine with life; yet, those things mentioned above aren’t a necessity in my life. They aren’t always there or perhaps don’t present a problem where I may see it; therefore, I don’t feel a constant urge to sit and brush out my son’s scalp all throughout the day. However, there is one part of my body I can’t seem to itch away from “picking” — I’ve done it since I was a young child — and that is picking the skin on my fingers. I assume it all started because of boredom; I remember my childhood days, sitting in the classroom, casually daydreaming. To pass the time away, I would nonchalantly pick the skin around my thumb. No big deal. I liked the way the picked skin felt against my other fingers. Weird? Perhaps. But I chalked it up as a quirk and thought nothing of it. It never seemed like a big deal — to me, anyway. As the years went on, my skin picking stayed with me. I graduated to the other thumb, because you know, the right thumb was picked to shreds and it hurt like a monster. My boyfriend at the time would hold my hand and I would squirm, wondering what he thought about my rough and picked fingers (it obviously wasn’t a deal-breaker since we ended up married). The years went on and there was a very brief time when my fingers weren’t picked and I had healed thumbs that were smooth. I actually remember when that was: my husband went away to basic training and I swore to myself not to pick for eight whole stinking weeks, and somehow I totally managed it. When I first saw him after eight weeks of being apart, one of the things I pointed out were my smooth fingers. Talk about an odd thing to be proud of. That was when I was 19 and honestly, I don’t remember a time since then when my thumbs were smooth. I’m 28 now. I remember always being a picker and assumed it was just a bad habit — one of those nervous tics that so many people have, like twirling your hair or biting your nails. We all have our quirks. Except, it’s not just a bad habit. I noticed my skin picking got much worse after I had kids; probably from lack of sleep, extra stress and anxiety that motherhood brings. It happens. But then, it spiraled out of control after my second baby was born almost one year ago and I was struggling with postpartum depression. I would pick my thumb to shreds and then pick some more — it would hurt, but I didn’t care. I would be in the kitchen, where I was supposed to be preparing dinner; the kids would be screaming and I would just be standing in a daze picking at my thumb. Five minutes would pass by and I would just stand there, picking at my fingers. It was bizarre. I would pick when I was in the car, sitting down at night watching television or whenever my hands weren’t busy. Pick, pick, pick. I picked most when I was super anxious; like meeting new people or running late for something or extremely stressed from a long day with the kids or after a fight with my husband. You could tell the type of day I had just by looking at my thumbs. Something had to give. So one night, after a horrible day of thumb picking, I landed upon the world of Google and delved into articles that dealt with skin picking. I had picked my thumb into a bloody mess that day and now, it wasn’t just the side of my thumb, but the top and down on to the pad. Why can’t I stop this? It hurts but I’m still digging into my skin! I found out this was a mental health condition, and it had a name: dermatillomania. I also wasn’t the only person in the universe that picked their thumbs or fingers, and I learned people also pick various other parts of their bodies. For once, I felt “normal” about this, yet I was still completely perplexed on how to actually stop picking. Perhaps one day I can finally put my anxious fingers to rest, but for now, my thumb picking brings me some sort of odd comfort. It’s a total love/hate relationship. I can go a few days without picking (mainly when my thumbs are very sore), but then I find a rough patch and I’m right back to digging into my poor fingers. It definitely makes me self-conscious and I wonder when my kids will begin to notice “mommy’s hurt fingers,” but I’m taking it one day at a time and every hour I don’t pick is a small victory in itself. If you or a loved one is affected by body-focused repetitive behaviors, you can find resources at The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via Thinkstock

Laura Bower

5 (False) Things People Assume About Depression

Depression is often misunderstood and unless you have lived with this horrible monster, it’s hard to grasp the reality of this unfortunate condition. Here are five things people often assume about depression. 1. Everyone who has depression is in bed all day. Someone you know may be battling depression and you may not even know it. People with depression aren’t always noticeable — they may not be sleeping all day or even seem sad. The truth is, many people can learn to hide their depression quite well and sometimes the happiest people are the ones battling demons within themselves. 2. It’s easy to just be happy. “Just be happy!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, then I’d be on my way to owning my own private island.When you battle depression, it’s not as easy as “just being happy.” We would love to be happy — to feel “normal” —but for some reason, we just can’t. 3. Being outside and exercising will “cure” depression. There’s this meme floating around on the internet about going outside if you are depressed and how it will help your mood. People without depression often assume a quick fix to getting rid of said depression is to just get outside or simply exercise. It’s not that easy. While those things are great for the mind, when I was in my darkest days of depression, the last thing I wanted to do was to move my body or even leave my house. And I wanted to… very badly. 4. People with depression are “crazy.” If you live with depression or any form of mental illness, you probably know the stigma surrounding it. There’s a big misconception that people with depression are “crazy.” Not true. We can be some of the most normal and well-rounded individuals with successful careers and can be the best parents. We have an illness. We aren’t crazy. 5. People with depression just want attention. I can assure you this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you battle depression and you are reaching out to someone for help, that is the most vulnerable thing you can do. People with depression don’t seek attention… they seek help. Comfort. A friend. Before I battled my own depression, I had no idea how misinformed I was about it. I hope I was able to shed some light on things that are often assumed about depression.

Laura Bower

My Antidepressant Took Away My Sex Drive

I’ve been on an antidepressant for over two months now and I’ve seen some amazing changes in my life. My mind is clearer; I’m no longer in that fog and I can accomplish way more than I used to. I feel calmer and more patient with life; I’m not as anxious as I used to be. I’m happier. I don’t feel the need to crawl into my bed and hide under the covers all day. I’m becoming the mom I used to be, and doing the things I used to love doing with my boys; like reading books, playing outside and singing songs. My marriage is improving and my relationship with my husband is flourishing. I’m becoming more myself and it’s an amazing feeling. While I expected some side effects from my antidepressant because honestly, every medication out there has them, I was taken aback by one surprising side effect that isn’t very appealing: a numb vagina. You’re probably wondering, what on Earth does she mean? Well, I’ll tell you. After just a week of being on my medication, I was already noticing a change in my mental clarity but I also noticed a huge change in my sex life. My sex drive took a dive, but also something else happened: it was incredibly difficult for me to achieve an orgasm — something I never had a problem with before. While sex still felt good, it felt like my vagina was literally numb and achieving orgasm took much, much longer. This became incredibly frustrating, as you may imagine, and I wasn’t sure if taking an antidepressant would be worth the sacrifice of my sex life. Since then, my sex drive has gone back up, but I still experience the numbness and the trouble to climax. The medicine that is changing my life for the better is also doing damage to something that is very important to me (who doesn’t like to orgasm?!). I haven’t been able to discuss this side effect with my doctor yet, so I’ve done a little research to see what this is all about. According to WebMd, sexual side effects can occur when taking SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors); in my case, orgasmic difficulties and genital numbness are quite common. While this side effect has been a huge downside to my newfound medication, it hasn’t put a damper in my sex life. Actually, to my surprise, my antidepressant has given me an increased sex drive. I will continue to take my SSRI until I can talk to my doctor about a possible switch of medication and if that’s not possible, I will have to decide just how important my mental health is vs. my sex life. It doesn’t seem like a fair comparison, however, I haven’t felt this great in years since being on my antidepressant so for me, having a numb vagina is totally worth it. Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. Follow this journey on Excuse the Mess. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via bee32