Meet our incredible warm line program specialist, Melissa!
Melissa is a mother to one, and after experiencing a PMAD herself became a dedicated volunteer and patient advocate for those who are struggling through the perinatal experience. As the Warm Line Program specialist, she supports the volunteers who provide the warm support and helpful resources to parents who are struggling and need space to be held. She also answers on the Warm Line, aligning with her dedication to supporting parents. Additionally, she dedicates her time to volunteering as a facilitator of a peer-support group. She is trained in the GPS (Group Peer Support) model, and is going on 4 years of facilitating for the Village Circle (Bellingham, WA).
What do you want to share about your perinatal experience?
I experienced some trauma in childbirth and it quickly sent me into my year-long journey with postpartum anxiety. I felt no connection to my baby outside of caring for his needs and that really scared me. I was afraid to let anyone know how terrible and scared I was feeling so I overcompensated by going out with him often, showing up to events, turning down offers for help, etc. I struggled with intrusive thoughts and didn’t know what they meant which made me want to hide even more. Eventually when he was about 2 months old, I managed to work up the courage to attend a peer support group that was mentioned to me at a lactation consult appt. I parked and didn’t go in two different times. After finally taking the vulnerable leap and going in, I found a space to be heard and supported. From this point I could feel some of the anxious weight lift off my shoulders. Saying out loud the things I was too afraid to say to anyone else was healing. The days were still hard and heavy, but having somewhere I knew I could go every week and be honest gave me the courage to believe I would eventually start feeling better.
What brought you to PS-WA?
I knew of PS-WA because the peer support group I attended was trained and supported through them. I then found out about the Climb Out of the Darkness event held by PS-WA and drove down to Seattle alone with my baby to attend. I was overwhelmed by the encompassing energy of understanding and support from people I had never met. We walked around the park loop to represent our active “climbing” out of the darkness and it was truly a pivotal moment in my parenthood journey. I have had heart-eyes for PS-WA ever since. The work this organization is doing is so important, and I can understand in such an intimate way, as I felt that very genuine support in my darkest days.
What is your current role with PS-WA?
I work as the Warm Line Program Specialist. In this role, I am able to support the amazing volunteers who answer the calls from parents who need a safe space to share what is going on for them and the support they might need. I feel so grateful to be working with such an amazing group of volunteers who are doing the important work of showing up for parents who are really struggling and alone. I also get to answer the Warm Line throughout the week, which is absolutely my heart work. After experiencing my own dark times, I know how much it means to have someone listen to you and reassure you that you aren’t alone and that you are the best parent for your child. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to give back in this way.
What support groups do you run?
I am a co-facilitator of The Village Circle, a peer support group. I hold this group so near and dear to my heart. My co-facilitators are some of the most genuine and supportive people I have had the privilege to interact and work with, and getting to show up on a consistent basis for both new participants as well as the parents who choose to keep returning and showing up is an experience I enjoy and appreciate so much. In a world where it is so hard to find spaces of true support, non-judgement and compassion, I am grateful to be a part of this one. This is the very group that I attended as a new parent. The co-facilitators reached out to me after about a year of attending and asked if I would be interested in being trained and becoming part of the team. I am so glad I did. What an honor!
What are the benefits of peer support that you have observed?
There is immense power in solidarity and shared experiences. That moment someone else says “me too”, we can start to realize that we aren’t alone. Some of that scary and isolating weight we are carrying around can start to lift when we realize that so many of these big feelings and experiences we are facing can actually be so common. And being able to have someone resonate to something that feels really new, unknown, and unsettling is powerful.
Do you have any overarching advice for a person experiencing a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder?
Choose to say the vulnerable thing. When we are heard, we begin to heal. It takes so much courage to be vulnerable. But if we can find that courage, we can be met with the support that many people want to give. Saying the hard things, the things that aren’t talked about enough in our society, in social media, etc, gives us a chance to relieve some of the heavy things we are holding onto as well as maybe being the very thing another parent needed to hear that day. And maybe it will be the reason that they too will seek support. Reaching out when we are struggling is not an indicator that we aren’t a good enough parent, it is the very opposite. When we seek ways to heal and feel better, we are taking care of our family as a whole.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.