A Voice of Strength I Didn’t Know I Possessed: An Interview with Ivy Shih Leung, author “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood: Infertility, Childbirth Complications, and Postpartum Depression, Oh My!”
It is my pleasure to offer an interview with Ivy Shih Leung, author, and award winning blogger. In this first installment, Ivy describes her story, and how writing, and blogging has been instrumental to her growth following PPD.
How did you begin writing after your experience with PPD? What got you started?
In all honesty, the idea came to my mind to write a book about my PPD experience right after Tom Cruise’s infamous ranting “There’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance.” So, yes, Mr. Cruise has the honor of angering me to the point that I decided I would write a book. Well, it started with him because I soon realized that he’s NOT the only one who believes that mental illness is “mind over matter.” I decided I would channel all the energy stemming from my anger at that far-from-accurate way of thinking and do something positive and try to help others. I would tell my story to try to help and educate as many people as possible about this silent and potentially deadly condition. I wanted to share the horrific feelings and manifestations of PPD that I experienced so that others could know better what to look for.
What does writing about your experience mean to you personally?
Writing about my PPD experience was completely cathartic for me. I started writing back in 2005 and didn’t finish until 2010, when I started to try to make some sense out of the jumbled mass of hundreds of pages thrown together from chronicling my thoughts and events that took place from when we first tried to get pregnant in 2001 through weaning off of my PPD medications in 2006. From the time I decided to write a book in July 2005 to when I finally finished writing five years later in 2010, I had also carefully documented all that I learned from reading about PPD and all my reactions to things I ran across on a day-to-day basis concerning PPD. At the end of my six year, four month publishing journey, I felt so much lighter. I felt like I left my journey to motherhood and all that came with it—the infertility, childbirth complications that left me permanently unable to have children, and PPD—behind in my book, and now I am ready to start a new one, both figuratively and literally.
I have often felt myself that writing enables my own spiritual, creative, emotional and intellectual growth—how has that been for you?
My PPD experience—and subsequently writing my book and my blog—has given me a voice and a strength I didn’t previously know was possible for me to possess. Would you believe it if I were to tell you that I used to hate writing assignments in school because I felt I was lousy at writing? I mean, I always loved grammar, but writing was a whole different matter! It didn’t help that I’ve always had an issue with self confidence. Negative thoughts and attitudes people had about me once had a crippling effect on me. Writing my book (and my blog) has made me realize that I am capable of a lot more than what I previously thought I was capable of doing. After I completed my book, it’s like I came out of a cocoon. I metamorphosed into new person. This change has made such a positive difference in terms of my attitude at work and the attitude others have of me at work. Though, I sometimes still feel bad when I can’t “click” with someone in a social and/or work setting, I don’t let things like that eat away at me the way it used to. I know that it’s not possible to get along with everyone, no matter how nice of a person you are. And if two people are on different wavelengths (like me and most of my neighbors), it makes it all the more difficult to establish a relationship with each other.
I write at home, when kids are at school, what I call “slash and burn” sessions where I barely get up to use the restroom before I go pick them up. Where and when do you write?
Now with my book done, my weeknights and weekends are available for me to try to spend more time with my family. But I find it very difficult to stay unplugged each day. If I get motivated to write a blog post, I will usually do that at night, after my daughter has gone to bed. Usually, that means a couple hours of writing before I turn in, which is usually somewhere between 12:30 pm – 1:30 am. That gives me about 5-6 hours of sleep before I have to get up at 6:30 am to go to work the next day.
How do you handle competitiveness among women?
Not very well. My experiences while growing up—moving often, being bullied in school, lacking in self-esteem, and being uncomfortable with my own ethnicity—contributed toward my shyness, fear of rejection, and difficulty making friends….especially female friends. That is why my friends were mostly guys until I realized, once they started getting married, that I needed to focus on establishing friendships with women. Otherwise, I would be stuck as a pretty lonely adult. In high school and in the decade or so after college, I found women to be petty, catty, gossip mongerers, and backstabbers. Even though I ended up making some good female friends along the way, I was not close with any of them enough to rely on them for support during my PPD experience. My friends at that time were all single, married with no plans to have children, or married and had children a long time ago. Even with the closest of friends that I have, I did not feel comfortable reaching out to them during my darkest days.
Tell us 4 or 5 benefits for writing through PPD.
Other than the fact that writing about your PPD experience can be a cathartic experience—as writing can help serve as an outlet for and as a way to process all your emotions, thoughts and feelings—it can help others who are in the process of struggling with PPD as well. It will help other mothers feel less alone and help them realize that, with the right treatment, they will be well again. All in all, it’s a very rewarding experience!
In the next installment of Ivy’s interview, she shares her insights as to her experience with infertility, the role of culture in her recovery and writing, and thoughts regarding how sharing her work might benefit readers.