05 October 2011

Happy Strong Start Day!

Having a baby was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life, and for many people it is. For me, though, it turned into one of the darkest times I've ever known. After Elizabeth was born, I joined a most undesirable club of women suffering from PostPartum Depression. For 3 months, I buried my head in the sand and refused to acknowledge I had a problem or ask for help. I felt so alone, helpless, and hopeless. One night when I was trying to decide whether to throw myself down the stairs or to overdose on pills, I realized that I needed help and went to the E.R. I was hospitalized for a little over a week and put on medication. It was a long hard road back but eventually I found my way to the end of the tunnel and back into the light.

A big part of the problem was that I, and my family and friends, weren't educated about PostPartum Depression. I thought I was just a bad mom. My husband thought I was just in a bad mood and refusing to stop wallowing. At my 6 week postpartum checkup, the Nurse Practitioner didn't ask me anything about how I was feeling or look at my questionnaire. When I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital (twice), I was put in general wards with people who were dealing with alcohol and drug addiction combined with multiple other mental health problems. There was nobody else dealing with PPD and the staff had only a basic knowledge. After I was released from the hospital, one psychiatrist refused to see me and the rest of the psychaitrists had very long waits to be seen. I actually had to go to the ER to get my medication refilled. There were no psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, or anyone else who specialized/had much experience with PostPartum Mood Disorders.

All of this is indicative of the sad fact that in the united States of America, general education about PPMD and healthcare for women suffering from them are sadly lacking. Watch tv and you'll see plenty of advertisements for treatment options for Erectile Dysfunction, high cholesterol, blood pressure, heart problems, incontinence, insomnia, diabetes, and plain old depression. What you don't see are spots talking about PostPartum Depression and it's symptoms, causes, treatment options, etc. There are hospitals and doctors aplenty specializing in all sorts of problems, where are those that specialize in PPMD? And why is it that people hear that someone has a PPMD and say things like "You need to pray more" or "Make up your mind to just get over it"? People hear "I have PostPartum Depression" and think "Oh, you're going to go kill your children". The public needs to be educated about the realities of PPMD and the healthcare system needs to have more resources available to treat and support women with PPMD, and their family members.

PostPartum Progress is a wonderful resource that's dedicated to changing that. Thanks to Katherine Stone and PostPartum Progress, women are learning that we aren't alone in this journey. We're learning that there is a way out of the pit and that suffering alone is not the only option. We discover resources and advice. For someone wondering "Could this be PPD? What does PPD feel like?" there are blog posts about PPD Symptoms in "Plain Mama English". For those who are wondering "What if I can't get an appointment?", there are blogs about that too.

As you can see on the blog header, today is October 5. October 5 is, for some reason, the day that more babies are born than on any other single day. October 5,2011 is also Strong Start Day 2011 at PostPartum Progress. To explain Strong Start Day, here's the letter Katherine wrote and posted at PostPartum Progress:

Postpartum Progress needs your help.
I write today because I’m personally asking you to support the work of Postpartum Progress.  I know you have trudged the dark and lonely road of postpartum depression, either as a sufferer, a family member or someone who cares for new mothers.
I must tell you that nothing makes me more anxious or, quite frankly, sick to my stomach, as asking for donations.  Well,one thing makes me sicker: the fact that today only 15% of all women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders ever receive professional treatment.  This means that each year hundreds of thousands more women and their children may suffer from the negative effects of untreated PPD and related illnesses for the rest of their lives.
Postpartum Progress will change that with your help.  We are developing a compelling national awareness campaign for postpartum depression, as well as new and improved patient education materials (the kind new moms won’t throw away!), and new uses of technology to reach suffering moms no matter where they are.
On October 5th, the day when more children are born each year than any other day, I am asking you to do one of three things:
1)   Make a donation to Postpartum Progress.  Any amount is welcome.
2)   Ask at least 2 other people who love you and know what you went through – people who’ve come to know that postpartum depression is real and that all women deserve to have access to the best information and help – to make a donation today in your name.
3)   Refer us to contacts at organizations that can help us with our work.
If you are financially unable to donate, send us your prayers or moral support so that we may find the right people to help us make major change.
Every single person who donates this week will be honored on our website (unless you prefer to remain anonymous).  We are a 501c3, so your donation is tax-deductible.
Today’s the day.  Please help us build stronger families, one mom at a time.

I hope that you'll consider supporting PostPartum Progress. The work Katherine is doing is so far beyond valuable. I can speak from my own experience that both in the midst of PPD and in the time following when I have wrestled to come to terms with what I went through, as well as in teh months following Miriam's birth when I've been worried about whether I would develop it again, it has been a beacon of light. Check out the website and help make care and resources more readily available for new moms and their loved ones.

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