That “Oh My Hell, What Am I Doing?!” Feeling

You know that feeling you get, the whirring, whizzy, fizzy “Oh My Hell, What Am I Doing?” feeling that courses through your nervous system and makes your internal organs vibrate when you think of stepping into something massive or doing something significantly different or taking a risk that could end in disaster? When you try to do something that feels definitely possible yet so much bigger than you and you can’t see how to get there or how you can get it done and yet you know you have to do it and you realize you can’t ignore it any more which really sucks?

That’s where I’m at.

I don’t like this, Sam I Am. I feel sick to my stomach. I want to sleep in. Or run away. Or pretend I’m not me, and therefore I don’t need to do the BIG THING. Historically I’d rather let my focus wander over to the shiny fun stuff in the corner — wheeee!! — than on what’s right in front of me, glaring at me, saying, “No, this! This is your thing. The universe has given you this BIG THING and you must do it and too bad if you’re scared. We’ll just keep whacking you over the head until you surrender. So get on with it.”

In a couple of days (July 13th), Postpartum Progress will hit its 9th anniversary. Nine years!! Nine years ago I started blogging about postpartum depression and I had no idea what would come of it. I only knew that what was happening to women, my fellow mothers, was not cool at all and I couldn’t stand for it, so, hey, why not start a blog? ::blink blink::

Then about seven years in I thought to myself, this blog is kicking so much ass and yet things still haven’t changed enough. There are still annoying gobs of uninformed physicians out there doing damage to moms. Still mothers who either don’t recognize what is wrong or are too scared to say anything and so they don’t get help. They don’t know the damage suffering in silence can do to both them and their families. Still organizations that purport to care about women’s health that fail to even mention PPD, the most common complication of childbirth. I’m not satisfied. So hey, why not start a nonprofit?

::blink blink blink::

I started the 501c3 organization Postpartum Progress Inc. (PPI) in 2011 because I wanted to take the magic that had been created with Postpartum Progress and all its wonderful Warrior Moms and spread it from the blogosphere out into the entire world. I wanted to do more than just write blog posts, answer emails, tweet and give speeches. I wanted to create informational materials and raise money and gather data and fund research.

But then, of course, I had an emotional crisis. I now had a nonprofit and was immobilized like I can’t even explain. What the hell have I done? I can’t do this. I don’t know how to raise money. I suck at it, and P.S. I don’t know any rich people. I don’t know about social investing and grant writing and policy development and all that Skoll Foundation sort of stuff.

For a while I engaged in massive scope reduction, scaling back those dreams in order to protect my fragile self. I gave me a very convincing speech: “This is cool. You can have a teeny, tiny little nonprofit and do some teeny, tiny little helpful things and hey, it’s better than doing nothing so you can be satisfied with your giveliness (I know it’s not a word, I made it up for this sentence) and maybe you’ll get into Heaven or something.”

But I’m learning the universe, when it’s convinced, doesn’t give in.  A few months ago my wonderful friend and PPD survivor Deborah Rimmler, who is on the PPI board of directors, came up with a fundraising idea called “Climb Out of the Darkness.” She said she’d climb a mountain to signify her climb out of the darkness of PPD, and she’d ask people to donate to PPI in support of her climb.  And I said, well hell I can climb a mountain too and I love the idea so let’s do it. We decided to share the idea on the blog, thinking maybe a few people here and there would join in. And then, to our absolute shock, in a mere four-week period a little more than 150 survivors created nearly 100 Climbs in seven countries and raised $40,000. For the nonprofit. The one I was thinking maybe wasn’t going to need to be a big deal or anything.

There was much crying and sobbing and pacing back and forth between this desk and my kitchen as I watched the dollar amount raised and the number of people involved tick higher and higher.  Because yes I know it’s not $500 million or anything, but that’s forty thousand dollars that a few women who don’t know a thing about fundraising either went and GOT in four weeks, scrounged up all on their own, because they believe. THEY BELIEVE.  They believe in Postpartum Progress. They believe in the collective power of survivors of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD, antenatal depression, postpartum psychosis and more saying, “We waited long enough for big change and it hasn’t come. We’ve waited long enough, and we’re not going to wait anymore. We’ll get this done our damn selves.”

And so I tell myself, commit. And okay yes I committed nine long years ago or I wouldn’t still be sitting here talking about PPD. I know that. But I mean commit to the bigger thing. THE REALLY FUCKING (sorry but this definitely requires a swear word here) SCARY BIG THING.

Do more. Go bigger. And so I’m having conference calls with scientists and researchers and super smart health innovators. I’m spending hours not tweeting or Facebooking but reading about funders and how you’re supposed to get in front of people with lots of dough to tell them about the super exciting stuff that we’re on the cusp of being able to do to impact the health of new families. Things that will not just inform and comfort, as Postpartum Progress the blog has, but things that have the power to change everything.

This all means, of course, that I have to agree to being scared out of my wits on a continuous basis which, if you know me and my history of anxiety, is NOT part of my lifelong adherence to avoiding danger. Thus the whirring, whizzy, fizzy feeling. It’s hard to step forward when every self-preserving part of you says, “Oh no, sister. You’ve lost your mind. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO COMFORT AND SAFETY??!!!”

I feel sick. And yet I think I’m ready to be done getting whacked on the head. I think it’s time to get on with it.

* * *

What’s giving you that “Oh My Hell” feeling? What BIG THING are you hesitant to take on? What would it take to move you forward?

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