When Trying All The Things Still Isn't Enough [PPD]

[Content warning: Postpartum Depression]

This morning I went through with one of the most terrifying and simultaneously bravest things of my life. I felt like I was going to puke as I parked my car, felt like I hadn't eaten in weeks, and even though I was dreading the meeting, my mind was done fighting at this point, letting my legs walk me in rather than run the other way. At almost 23 months postpartum, I sat across from my doctor and asked her through tears if we could discuss medication for my postpartum depression. I rehearsed the simple question over and over on my way to the doctor's office, scared I would chicken out and skirt the issue, or make it out to be less than it really was and leave without a prescription.

The past 23 months have gone something like this…


"Women with a history of being on anti-depressants are more likely to have postpartum depression." - Not me, I'll be different. I didn't really need them those few months I took them over a decade ago.


"Women who have trouble conceiving can be more prone to PPD." - Not me, I'll be different.

It's just because I'm not sleeping well, it'll pass once she sleeps through the night.

It's just because I'm breastfeeding, it'll pass once my hormones level out.

It's just because I'm not working out, once I start working out again I'll feel better.

It’s because I haven’t gone to therapy in a while.

It’s because I didn’t take enough notes when I read, “Girl, Wash Your Face.”

It's because it's winter...

It's because ...

I had a plethora of excuses to miss events, dinners, surprise birthday parties, stagettes, business opportunities, you name it.

I slowly ran out of excuses.

And I got really f$@king tired.

Tired of cancelling.

Tired of having music fall dead on my ears.

Tired of missing out on my daughter's life because I was trying to navigate in my head how I could possibly keep up this charade of being the best mom I can be to her, while inside I feel like I'm being held under water with cinder bricks tied to all 4 limbs. 

Tired of "needing" a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day, without really tasting it anymore.

Tired of wondering, “is this it? Is this how it’s going to be the rest of my life?”

Tired of cancelling work project after work project.

Tired of being sad, but so much more so, tired of being weighed down by apathy.

And so SO tired of acting, of playing the dance. Because you can cancel a lot of things, but sometimes you have to show up for those big major life events. Put on your mask, it's show time!

I must have said "thank you" at least 20 times to my doctor today, she was the most wonderful person I could have asked for to speak those words to. She gave me so much hope that this is not the mind I have to live with for the rest of my life.

My doctor put it so simply but so perfectly, “Depression is a liar and a thief.”

Depression continuously tells us lies, keeping us in this dark place, and it robs us of the life in front of us. So many times I’ve felt robbed of the past 2 years with my daughter, while I’ve been there in physical body, my mind has clouded the experiences.

And the lies it tells. Want to know the single biggest factor that kept me from asking for medication earlier? I didn’t think I deserved help. Who was I to be depressed, when my life is so blessed. I’m a white middle-class Canadian woman, married to a wonderful man, with an amazing healthy daughter. What kind of a selfish ungrateful person am I, to have all this, and be depressed. The shame is unbearable. Couple that with the stigma of mental health, and add on the bias around medication? No thanks, I’ll just keep trying to therapy, sweat, and self-help book my way out of this. [Spoiler: It didn’t work for me.]

For you, if you are reading this feeling like I've opened up your head and am looking directly into your thoughts, please know that making the appointment will be the second hardest thing you'll have to do. The hardest thing you'll have to do, is keep that appointment, show up, and ask for help.

Re-writing your rules of working out

I wrote this entry 2 months ago, but I never did hit publish. However, my upcoming posts will make a lot more sense if you have the back story. The story of the rise is only complete if it begins with the story of the fall.

My Rules:

  • Squats have to be below 90 degrees.
  • When working out, do what you enjoy.
  • Workouts should be structured and programmed.
  • Trainers need to have their shit together - in the gym and in the kitchen.
  • Country music isn't working out music.

All false.

All things I at one time believed, and made myself abide by. Except maybe the country music part, I've been deadlifting to Eric Church for years.

If there's one thing I love(d), it's structure. Routine. Rules. Rules keep things in order, and leave no room for second-guessing.

But what happens when your routine is broken? When there is no structure? When your whole life and what you thought you knew is turned up side down?

The rules then become handcuffs, road blocks, complete show-stoppers.

It has taken me 15 months postpartum to realize this. FIFTEEN MONTHS.

I used to LOVE my (almost) daily workouts. I couldn't wait to go. My whole schedule was set around them. Prep time for pre-workout pancakes. Post-workout socializing. Staying in my workout clothes just a little longer than socially (more like hygienically) acceptable. Getting stronger, fine-tuning skill work. Defining myself based on my physical strength.

When my routine was halted by pregnancy joint pain, followed by the postpartum whirlwind, then adding on ongoing injuries and pain, none of my rules worked anymore.

I can't squat below 90 without pain.

I have zero, and I mean zero, desire to go to the gym. 

When I try to structure myself a program, at the first sign of pain I write the whole thing off, again. Over and over.

I definitely don't have my shit together in the gym or in the kitchen. Unless macaroni and cheese and chocolate have been added to the "top foods trainers recommend list" since I last checked.

Country music is still good:)

I'm taking a new approach to working out as of this week. And I'm not sure I even want to call it working out for now. That brings too much pressure with it.

I'm calling it movement. I'm calling it therapy.

If you've ever been to therapy, you know how much the drive there sucks, because you know you're going to have to get uncomfortable. While therapy is beneficial, the act itself kinda sucks. You know in a few days, a few weeks, a few months, after repeatedly going, the therapy will pay off. But you have to continually do something uncomfortable that you really don't want to do, over and over, to get there.

So, this is how I'm viewing movement now. It's a part of my mental health therapy, and while I don't want to do it, I know over the long term it will pay off. And I am not talking paying off in jean size here. I could actually give less f@cks if I ever fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again. I am much more concerned about clearing the mental fog, reducing the postpartum rage, and bringing more laughter into my life again.

So. I'm changing the rules.

The New Rules:

  • Squats look like whatever feels good for your body.
  • Sometimes working out won't be fun, you might not even *love* or enjoy it. But sometimes you have to buck up and do it anyways, knowing you will be better for it.
  • Just move in various ways, consistently. Stop stressing about the "best program.”
  • Trainers are human, they're going to mess up, and that's okay. More than okay. And hi, same goes for everybody else, because, well, we're all human.
  • Move to whatever music you are feeling. Or silence. It really doesn't matter.

I'm requiring a 30 minute commitment to movement from myself. Tonight I wrote a workout on the board, it was a little optimistic, but I wrote it out anyways. When I got to 30 minutes, I had completed the strength portion but hadn't made it to the met con yet. I didn't feel like it, I wanted to be done. I had given my 30 minutes, so I turned off Eric and called it a night. It was still a success, still a checkmark for the day. And this - THIS is a HUGE checkmark for my mindset. Two years ago what I did tonight would be a warm-up. "Half-assed." "Quitter." Not anymore.

I would encourage you to write down and look at the rules you have created for yourself. Are they helping you, truly? If not, how can you alter them?

If you're feeling the need to add movement to your day, email me or comment below with what is holding you back the most right now.

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Why the Crossfit Open Can Wait

Last year when the Crossfit Open kicked off I was 7 weeks postpartum, a whole week past that magical 6-week clearance from my doctor to resume activity.

I went to one of the Open events to watch and cheer, and was asked by someone as I held our 7-week old daughter, “are you competing today?” I thought the person was joking until I realized they weren’t, and while I think they were just trying to make polite conversation, I was baffled because I know this is the thought process of MANY in the athletic world. Six-week check up, mom was active, obviously she’s ready to hop back in, right?

Omg no.

I was struggling with anxiety hardcore at this time, and still incredibly sleep deprived. The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough - you cannot recover from workouts without sleep. Your central nervous system will not function properly without sleep. You cannot recover physically from childbirth - whether vaginal or c-section - without sleep. I’m not going to tell a mom, “sleep when baby sleeps” because I too was shooting daggers when I was told that, but I will say, if you aren’t getting adequate sleep yet - adequate uninterrupted sleep - holding off on strenuous activity, particular the Open, would my strong recommendation.

Sleep aside, let’s talk about the actual format of the Open. It’s exiting, it’s loud, it’s fun, you push yourself and find out what you’re capable of, because you can’t help but get caught up in the music blaring, friends and coaches cheering, and the adrenaline of the clock running. You can’t help but push outside of your comfort zone, and when you’re done the butterflies you went in with are replaced by a great feeling of accomplishment.

But, is your body ready? I don't doubt your mind is.

I don’t doubt you could go out there and do it all in the scaled division. Or muscle through some pretty ugly Rx reps. I don’t doubt you might “feel fine” doing it. I definitely don't doubt your athlete brain is ready to go. And yes, you do have that “doctor’s clearance” behind you.

But can we think about this for a second? Your body grew a human, another entire human being, for 40 weeks give or take. Your pelvic floor supported that little being, plus an entirely new organ your body made just for one purpose, plus 50% increased blood volume, plus still kept you alive (though perhaps not thriving), for those 40 weeks.

Then, you delivered that baby. I don’t care if you had the “easiest, no complications birth” ever - you GAVE BIRTH!! This isn’t like a little orthoscopic procedure where the doctor repaired a torn muscle or ligament - you delivered a human. And I’m sorry, but we got the short end of the evolution stick when it came to birth, because we don’t get to just dig up some sand, drop some eggs, and then hop back in the ocean and swim off like all we did was have a bowel movement. Sea turtles, I envy you a little. For us humans, childbirth is major on our body. Again, no matter the birth story.

If I had had ACL surgery and was on the couch with crutches, I would have been waited on hand and foot. But deliver a baby the size of a melon, and it’s like, “so you doing the Open?" (or for non-Crossfitters, replace "Open" with any other pre-pregnancy activity in full force).

Moms, I COMPLETELY get your desire to want to compete and get back to normalcy. Trust me, I get that so much. But the one thing I hold on to continuously is that I want to be active and healthy for YEARS to come. Not just this year, not just this season. If going out and proving I can do something today means putting my body at risk for longer-lasting injury or life-long conditions, then it’s not for me. Not right now at least.

This is not a “never do Crossfit again”, or “never run”, or "never compete”. This is my plea to you to hold off, just for now, for this short chapter, so that you can enjoy all those things well into your own real-life version of the Golden Girls, or Jerry’s parents in Florida (where my Seinfeld peeps at?). Is the reward of pushing too fast or doing too much now, worth the risk of long-term discomfort? For me, it's not.

This is also not a “be scared of working out.” You can absolutely work out. I encourage you to work out! But I know what type of people Crossfit attracts - because I am one. Lots of former varsity athletes, or currently competing athletes, or people who thrive on competition and want to be pushed. So I know that doing the Open is not “just working out”. It’s pushing, it’s testing, and it’s intense. And as much as you tell yourself, "I'll hold back and be cautious", my guess is you won't drop and do deadbugs instead of toes-to-bar when it comes your time to go, with music blaring and all the spectator eyes on you.

So, for the sake of your pelvic floor, your healing diastasis, your lax joints from the relaxin produced during pregnancy (which also hangs around until 3-6 months post breastfeeding), your exhausted sleep-deprived body - consider holding back, just this year. Build up your strength and conditioning slowly and steadily over the next 12 months, and then return. Return with confidence that YES, you have trained for this, YES, your body is ready for this, and YES you have strategies in place that will allow you to keep working out months beyond the Open.

While I'm 13 months postpartum now, time alone doesn't mean I'm ready. Because of a nagging knee injury that flared up in pregnancy and postpartum, plus finally getting a rotator cuff tear diagnosed (3 years later) my workouts have been incredibly few and far between, and I have not had the chance to build my base back up. And it really does need to be built back up, gradually and methodically.

You will get stronger. You will get your lungs back. Your pelvic floor will regain function so you can skip and box jump without fear of leaking. You’ll be able to kip without worrying about your shoulder joints that have been neglected for months, or worrying about your diastasis with every rep you pull up. You’ll be able to run without pelvic pain or heaviness. But you have to give your body the time it needs to heal, and you have to take the road of slowly and steadily increasing weight, reps, and intensity.

Be the mom getting cheered on by her 5 year old in a few years, not the one continuously in physio over and over again for preventable issues. Sidenote: some issues are not preventable, some are handed to us without choice. But, causing prolapse or separating your abs further from doing high volume, high load, high intensity? Preventable.

You’ll be back. And you’ll be stronger than ever. In becoming a mom, you’ve already become mentally stronger than you ever have been before in your life. Give your physical body the time and grace it deserves to come back to its strength as well.

2019 Edit: Over the next 5 weeks of the Open I’ll be hosting live chats weekly on Thursday nights @ 7pm MT on my IG page @rawfitnessyyc & on Facebook. Click here to add yourself to the FB event to get the reminders.

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