Friday, October 12, 2018

Adventures With Postpartum Depression with Courtney Henning Novak

Today I'm going to introduce you to my friend Courtney.

Courtney is a postpartum warrior who has recently written a book, Adventures With Postpartum Depression, (there are affiliate links in this post) about her experience as a new mom. She is fierce. She is powerful. She is a survivor. I'm beyond excited that she was open to joining me here in my space to share a little bit about her life, her book, and motherhood. Please join me in welcoming Courtney!

I have a confession. Writing a memoir about postpartum depression was not actually that difficult. But writing a blog post about my memoir? Well, that feels more difficult than childbirth.  
I had postpartum depression, anxiety and OCD after the birth of my first child. Writing a book about my illness and recovery was cathartic. But on an even more important level, it helped me understand my feelings and figure out the way I wanted to live my life. I assumed, as I was writing, that I was writing the book for myself and it did not matter if anyone ever read it.

Except now that my book is done and published, I realize I can’t just walk away and see what happens with the Amazon gods. I have to promote my book. I have to help people find my book because I poured my heart and soul into it and I know in the marrow of my bones that it will help fight the stigma of mental illness and help moms and dads make full recoveries from postpartum depression.

Eek, that was so hard for me to admit! I still need to revise my book description on Amazon because it’s very plain and meek. Like I might as well have written, “Oh hey, my book is pretty okay.” But it’s not. My book is awesome! 

My book can basically be described in three parts. In part one, I describe my descent into the hell of postpartum depression. For four months, I denied what was happening to me and did my best to act as if everything was okay. All the while, I had insomnia, felt like the worst mother in the history of humanity, and developed elaborate rituals to check that our house was safe every night. Eventually I started having intrusive thoughts of throwing my daughter so hard against the floor, that her skull broke open and her brains splattered everywhere. I still feel sick when I remember those thoughts.

In part two, I write about telling my obstetrician everything and then agreeing to voluntarily admit myself to the hospital for psychiatric care. I spent four days with the general population. Spoiler alert: it was terrifying. During that time, I started Zoloft and on the third morning, I basically rose from the dead. I had so much energy that at first, I thought I was having a manic episode. Then I realized: I was back. I was me. I was ready to go home and raise my daughter.

Except Zoloft was just the beginning of my recovery. 

In part three, I describe all the things I did to emerge fully from the darkness of postpartum darkness. I write about the work I did with a cognitive behavioral psychologist. I write about how I built momentum by doing little things at first, like going to a local play group, and then by pushing myself to do more interesting things like visit museums with baby in tow. I don't just say “Yay, I recovered.” I show the reader how that actually happened.

My memoir will help readers understand postpartum depression, anxiety and OCD. It will help mothers and fathers in the darkness right now understand that they are not alone. It will help their loved ones understand what they are going through. It will help mental health workers fathom the ordeals that their clients experience.

But my memoir does more than recount the darkness. My memoir is a road map for returning to the light. I hope my book helps parents conquer the stigma of postpartum depression, but most of all, I hope it inspires mothers and fathers to use the experience of mental illness to change their lives for the better.

Courtney Henning Novak lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband Nathan, daughter Pippa, son Julian, and an overwhelming menagerie of stuffed animals and plastic dinosaurs. After recovering from postpartum depression, she thought she was supposed to put the experience behind her and move on with her life, but that just did not feel right. She is now a passionate advocate for maternal mental health. She is the author of Adventures With Postpartum Depression, and the host of the podcast of the same name, she facilitates a weekly postpartum support group, and loves talking about postpartum depression with random strangers. 

Visit her website, Courtney Henning Novak. You can also follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

If you or someone you know has experienced perinatal anxiety, or is currently experiencing this - please know that there is help. You can reach out to someone at Postpartum Support International and get the support you need. Call them at 800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453.

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