30 January 2012

PPD resources for the military

If there's one thing that my readers have probably picked up on from my blog by now, it's that it can be really hard to speak up and ask for help, to find a support system when you feel like everyone is just going to look at you and judge you for being a bad mom, or weak, or whatever. A big part of why I blog, of why I'm as open as I am on Facebook, Twitter, and pretty much any medium when there's even a hint of a discussion turning towards the issue of PPMD, is because I want to make sure people know about the resources taht are available to them, to make sure that people know that they aren't truly along.

Today, though, I'd like to focus on a specific group of people who face some additional obstacles: military spouses. Just as a note, for the purposes of this post, the term "spouses" is not meant to exclude fiances or girlfriends. I will be using "spouse" to refer to anyone who is any type of significant other to a member of the military.

I was lucky when my first two kids were born.  Eric was (still is) in the military but his unit was only a couple of hours away from where I grew up, so I had family and friends close by. When I was hospitalized with PPD after Lizzie was born, my mom was able to come down and stay with us for a short time to help. We were able to drive up to visit my family and friends, and it made it so much easier to cope knowing that I had that safety net so close by, knowing that I wasn't all alone.

Some women are not so lucky. Some women give birth far away from any of their family and friends. Their husbands may be deployed to a combat zone, may be on sea duty, may be on an unaccompanied tour to *pick a location outside of the Lower 48). They might not have any close friends nearby. They might not have a church family to call for help. Their FRG may be less than stellar. Their doctor may be one of those who is not very well informed about how to help women dealing with PPMD. There might not be a good hospital nearby that can help them and if there is, how do you go inpatient when you need to if there isn't anybody you trust to watch your baby?

The feelings of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming, homesickness can be a real bitch, and if your husband is in a combat zone that stress isn't going to make matters anything but worse. Let's not forget that sometimes (often?), as a military spouse, you feel all this pressure to be strong, tough, and brave. You can feel like you can't let your spouse down and you certainly can't add to his stress and distraction while deployed by telling him how you feel. He doesn't need to be worrying about you, you need to suck it up. After all, this is what you signed up for by being with a military member. And you don't want to ask for help if it could negatively affect his security clearance, mean he loses his job, get him kicked out of the military or reclassed, or get him looked upon unfavorably by his coworkers and his superiors.

This is just a scratch on the surface of the issues that military spouses might be dealing with that can greatly exacerbate the problems that are already inherently associated and expected to come with a PPMD. I myself dealt with a lot of these thoughts and, in fact, put off seeking help due to being concerned about how it might affect his job. I can't imagine how it would be to be dealing with all of this AND be in a different state or country than your home, your family, your friends.

Fortunately, there are resources that are out there to help. Some are especially devoted to helping military families dealing with PPMD, and some are general resources that, while not military specific, still mean that a military spouse can have a support system even though she's far away from her loved ones. This post is dedicated to all of the military spouses who have dealt with something like this, all of those who will, and their families. You are not alone, no matter how far away you are and no matter whether you actually know anyone at your current duty station.

  • The first resource I always recommend is PSI (PostPartum Support International). They have coordinators specifically for the military. Their page is http://www.postpartum.net/Get-Help/PSI-Support-for-Military-Families.aspx.
  • Another excellent resource is a Twitter online community at #ppdchat. Lauren Hale of My Postpartum Voice runs a moderated chat on various PPMD related topics twice a week, on Mondays at 1p and  8:30p EST. However, there is pretty much ALWAYS someone online who will respond to tweets at the #ppdchat topic. We're not trained mental health professionals, but we're moms who have BTDT and some of us are still there. It's a wonderful source of love and support whenever you need it, wherever you are, whatever you're going through.
  • Military OneSource, while not PPD specific, is an excellent resource for help for anything a military member or their dependents might be going through. They have a page specifically about PPD and you can contact them for confidential, outside-the-military free counseling and they should also be able to help you find someone in your area who deals with whatever specialty you need.
  • PostPartum Support Virginia has some good resources including telephone and email support and support groups.
  • PostPartum Health Alliance has a lot of services, a directory, resources, etc. Their page specifically lists the PHA Warmline "For emotional support and/or referral information, please call 619-254-0023."

This is by no means an exhaustive and complete list of all the resources out there that can help a military spouse feel less alone. If you Google "Postpartum depression military spouse", many links come up. There are also several blogs and resources linked off to the right (here on my blog); their owners are a wealth of information. And of course, if you have a link to a resource, comments are always open down below.

If you are a military spouse, you may feel all alone and far away from everything and everyone you know and love, but you don't have to be. Reach out and let others help you.


27 January 2012

I have a dream!

I would *love* to be in charge of a foundation that worked to plant and manage clinics and hospitals around the country that specialized in working with and treating women dealing with PostPartum Mood Disorders and their families. Can you imagine how helpful it would be to have hospitals that ONLY dealt with PPMD? Hospitals where women with PPMD could be admitted inpatient and be surrounded by other women dealing with the same issues, where the therapy and classes and sessions were focused on the issues specific to PPMD instead of being the only woman in a group where the sessions are focusing on substance abuse and dual diagnosis? And to have these hospitals be covered by all insurance coverage and readily available, with services also available to those who don't have insurance and can't afford to pay out of pocket? Partial inpatient programs geared towards PPMD, therapy and groups, clinics with the staff all being trained in dealing with PPMD? This foundation would also mount aggressive public education programs. Billboards, informative brochures and books, advertisements on tv and radio, resources beyond a sheet of paper listing confusing and ominous symptoms that would be placed in OB and midwives offices, pediatricians offices, Planned Parenthood, Pregnancy Resource Centers... push for legislation that places more protections for women who have PPD, etc...

Can you imagine how much good a foundation like this could do? Can you imagine how helpful it would be to have hospitals that ONLY accepted patients dealing with PPMD, to have OB/GYN clinics that had both doctors and midwives who, along with all of their staff, specialized in and had experience with PPMD? Pregnant women with a history of PPMD could go there for their pre-natal care and know that their health provider REALLY knew what to look for. Women could go there for their regular womanly doctor visits and know that they had a doctor/nurse/midwife to talk to who would actually LISTEN to them and know what to do to help them and wouldn't just blow them off and judge them.

When I was inpatient with PPD after Lizzie was born, both times I was in a ward where I was the only one dealing with PPMD. Everyone else was there with at least a substance abuse issue, many with a dual diagnosis of SA and BPD, etc. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that but just as they needed specific programs to help them, I needed specific types of treatment to help me and sitting through 12-step programs and group therapy that centered around "Why are you addicted?" wasn't all that helpful. I felt like there was nobody there who understood what I was going through or where I was coming from. I already felt like a failure and an anomaly for being the only woman I knew who couldn't just be happy about having a baby, and it certainly didn't help to be the odd man out in the hospital. I got help from the hospital and learned from the sessions but it would have made SUCH a big difference if I had been surrounded by other women dealing with the same thing I was, if I had been under the care of staff who specialized in PPMD and had received extensive training in it.

And think of the programs that could be offered on a wide scale for families and friends of those dealing with PPMD. PPMD affects everyone who is close to the patient, what if there were group sessions that were ONLY for husbands whose wife had a diagnosis of PPD or PPP or PPOCD or PPA? What if there were sessions for the kids who maybe don't understand why Mommy is so sad or angry or whatever all the time? What if there were group sessions for couples? Sessions for parents of those dealing with a PPMD? Training seminars for clergy to teach them the realities of PPMD and how to help your congregation members with something other than "Oh, you need to pray more", and if those seminars also trained the clergy how to go back and teach their churches the realities and how to best be supportive of their fellow members who are dealing with these issues?

How incredible would it be to start seeing ad campaigns all over the country aimed at dispelling the myths and combatting the stigma that surrounds PPMD? Television and radio commercials, billboards, magazine ads... and a special group that works on nothing but legislation proposals to present to both State and Federal lawmakers on protections for women dealing with PPMD and expanding the requirements for doctors to talk to their patients about PPMD? I would love to see doctors be required to start talking and educating about PPMD early on and continue throughout pregnancy, so that women start thinking early on about the fact that it's real, it's a risk, it could happen to them, and no, there really isn't anything wrong with admitting they need help. And to require them to provide reading material (brochures, pamphlets, whatever) to educate family members so they know what to look for. These pamphlets would be more along the lines of Katherine Stone's The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety in Plain Mama English. Easily readable and understandable, rather than being a daunting and confusing list of clinical terms that leave you terrified and thinking "OMG!". And to see this material be required to be made visibly and readily available in OB/GYN offices AND Pediatricians offices? Wow!

I can't forget that it would be the cherry on top of the cake to have many more Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Therapists, etc. around the country who are specially trained in dealing with PPMD. There's nothing quite like going to a therapist and realizing that you know more about the problem and solutions than they do. And of course, all of these hospitals, doctors offices, clinics, etc. would work to be covered through ALL insurance plans and would be able to help those who don't have insurance and don't have the means to pay out of pocket.

This is my dream. Some day, maybe it will come true.


10 January 2012

In the words of Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, surprise, surprise".

Today's blog is difficult for me to write for a variety of reasons but mostly, my fears of being on the receiving end of the very stigma I try to combat with my blog. If this particular post rambles or seems disjointed or confused, please understand that it's a reflection of my own inner turmoil. I must have started this post five different times and I always get stumped trying to express what I'm feeling and going through. So please, be patient with me.

After I had Miriam in April 2011, I went on birth control. We had a variety of reasons for needing (and wanting) to hold off on having another baby. We anticipated an Army-ordered move in the near future, we wanted to get a little more financially stable before having another one, we needed to make sure I wasn't dealing with any type of PPMD, we needed to make sure my thyroid stayed under control, and we wanted to give my body some time to recover. We wanted to have some time to just enjoy our two girls. The move we anticipated did indeed happen. We had very short notice that we were moving from Texas to California and the move itself was very stressful. We're actually still unpacking boxes due to the fact that we're working around having a ton of books and no bookshelves (the movers had to leave them in Texas because they weren't solid enough to transport).

Recently, I was able to wean off of the Zoloft I had started on at 38 weeks pregnant as a preventative measure. I started having more energy and generally feeling better (very good signs that it was definitely time to be off of the Zoloft). I decided to compete in the Mrs. California America pageant to raise awareness for PPMD, I started working on getting my GI Bill squared away so I could start school to get my BSN. We started making plans for things we wanted to do and trips we wanted to take as a family this coming year. I was doing really well at losing weight and getting back into shape.

On Sunday, January 8, 2011 I got the surprise of my life. I had been feeling a little nauseous, unusually exhausted and irritable, and just kind of generally under the weather. I was also late for my period by a few weeks. I had been excusing it on the basis of "Well, my periods have been goofy since Yumyum was born since I'm nursing her still" but the nausea was a symptom I only get when I've got the flu or am pregnant. I went with my Sister in law and her fiance to Target for some snacks for them for their drive back down the coast and decided to pick up a pack of pregnancy tests. I was so sure that it would be a negative test that I got a three-pack.

Lo and behold, before I was even off the toilet...

That's about as positive a home pregnancy test as you can get. I was in shock. I told my husband, he was in shock too. We told our family and got lots of congratulations. My sister-in-law was excited to finally be the first one to get the news that someone was pregnant.

I've been on an emotional roller coaster ever since. I'm pretty sure I'm "supposed to be" excited and happy. Right now, I'm still waiting for reality to sink in. It doesn't seem real yet. I keep asking myself "How the heck did I get pregnant on BC, while nursing, with irregular periods and infrequent/irregular ovulation? We don't even have sex that often thanks to the Zoloft suppressing my libido!!!". The conclusion we've both come to is that this baby is clearly meant to be and determined to join our family.

That still doesn't solve my problem of "How do I feel?". I have so many mixed emotions. Of course I'm happy and excited in a way, I believe with all my heart that life begins at conception and that all babies are a gift from God. But that doesn't change the fact that I feel disappointed, overwhelmed, frustrated, almost resentful. It's not so much that I'm disappointed that I'm having a baby as disappointed at the timing and the fact that my plans, these things I was so excited to do, that I was so sure were things God wanted me to do, are now coming to a screeching halt around me. Yes, it's probably just a temporary halt, a detour if you will, because it's all stuff I can do later on down the road, but still. I'm feeling overwhelmed because I haven't even weaned Yumyum off of nursing (and she REFUSES to take a bottle, even the Lactation Consultants couldn't think of anything to try that we hadn't already), I feel overwhelmed because I just got off the Zoloft and was feeling better and was looking forwards to time to just be ME, to be (at least somewhat) normal, and now I'm facing another pregnancy with the concerns and fears of "What if PPD strikes again?". We just started potty training Lizzie so I've got two in diapers with another on the way. I'm frustrated that I tried to do what we thought was the responsible thing and it didn't work and that I just got back into non-elastic waistbands and now it's back to maternity clothes.

It doesn't help that my hormones are nuts (this does explain my reactions to a lot of stuff recently though) and I'm sure I'm reacting a bit more strongly to things than normal. It also doesn't help that people seem to think their jokes about "Another one already?" and "What, haven't you heard of birth control?" are funny. No, it's not funny. I might laugh but it's mostly because I'm trying not to start a fight by saying something like "Birth control, what's that?" or "I dunno, have you ever heard of tact?". I mean, if you insist on "joking" about it (admittedly, it's hard to tell who's ACTUALLY joking), at least come up with something original.

It's hard for me to know how to feel. It's hard for me to even figure out *how* I feel (other than tired and moody). It's hard to talk about it because it feel like since I'm married, I'm supposed to be automatically thrilled. It's hard to talk about how I feel and don't feel because I worry that people are going to hit me with "Children are a gift from GOD, they're a blessing, you need to start being grateful.". Come to think of it, that's the same thing people told me when I was dealing with my PPD.

I guess that's the tie in, and it's why I decided to post this openly instead of anonymously at someone else's blog. No matter what the circumstances, nobody has the right to tell me or anyone else how to feel about any situation, and most especially a situation that has a huge impact on one's family. My emotions and feelings are my own and nobody has the right to tell me how I should be feeling or reacting to a situation. I'm pretty sure God is okay with me needing some time to work out my emotions and doesn't need someone else to try to speak on his behalf as to what my feelings and expressions of them should be.

So in closing, I guess it's time for a new adventure, a new branch of the path, another foray through another tunnel. I'd love to hear from anyone who's dealt with an unplanned pregnancy while married and how you dealt with it and the things and attitudes you experienced.


05 January 2012

Is Post-Partum Depression a Cop-out?

I follow Katherine Stone of PostPartum Progress on Twitter. Today, she tweeted this:

 Katherine Stone 

No. That is all. RT : Is Postpartum Depression Being Used As A Cop-out? 

I, of course, followed the link and my jaw literally dropped at what I read. Allow me to quote the entirety of the blog post.

Is Postpartum Depression Being Used As A Cop-out?

I don't even know where to start. I *think* I can at least excuse this blog post better than I could swallow Sheryl Paul's outlandish nonsense, since at least this blogger isn't claiming to be an expert and peddling a product she claims will prevent PostPartum Depression. But still, I'm blown away... I guess the best place to start is at the beginning: the title.

 "Is Postpartum Depression Being Used As A Cop-out?"
No. PostPartum Depression is not a cop-out. PPD, PostPartum Psychosis, and any PostPartum Mood Disorder are very real, very legitimate, very horrible conditions. And by the way, PostPartum Depression and PostPartum Psychosis are NOT the same thing. Anyways... I don't know a single person who deals with it who says "Dude, I love this! This is fun, I never want to stop feeling like this.". Everyone I know who is or has dealt with a PPMD has wanted nothing more than to stop feeling how they do and go back to feeling "normal" again. They don't use a PPMD as an excuse for stuff. In fact, the women I know who deal with PPMD are usually ashamed of their feelings and thought patterns and find it extremely difficult to say "I'm dealing with a PPMD".

"I personally never suffered with postpartum depression"
I can say from personal experience that I felt far differently towards people with a PPMD before I suffered one than I did after I received my own diagnosis of PostPartum Depression. It's amazing how much it changed my opinion to walk a mile in the shoes I had previously been decryng. In fact, I would like to say right now that I apologize to anyone I hurt back in my pre-PPD years with my statetments that "It's no excuse".

" I can’t say 1st hand about the severity of the condition."
I can. And I have. Go look back through any of my blog posts. It's miserable. And I didn't even have to deal with PostPartum Psychosis, but I know someone who did and it was NOT a happy thing.

"I have however, had several friends whom suffered with the illness. These new mothers were down and out, suffered with mood swings, sudden crying and sadness for no apparent reason."
The thing she is apparently failing to keep in mind here (okay, one of the things) is that not all PPMD are created equal. Different PPMD have different symptoms, and different people with the same PPMD will often present differently. You might find that one woman with PPD is listless and feels numb, while another is restless and feels a wide range of intense emotions. One woman may suffer insomnia and never be able to sleep while another may sleep constantly and not get out of the bed except to use the restroom. Just because you know someone who shows some symptoms one way does not mean you know how everyone else with a PPMD will behave.

"Before I go any further let me clarify, I do know this condition exists! I just do not believe it should be used to get off murder."
I hardly think anyone who is found "Not guilty by reason of mental insanity" gets off free. Just because they don't get the death penalty or get put in general population with the guy who knowingly raped and murdered his sister just because he could but is fully mentally competent and cognizant doesn't mean she's getting away with what she did without any consequences. I'd say that a life sentence (with or without parole) to be served in a secure state mental health facility constitutes consequence, it just happens to be consequences that are in keeping with the crime and the condition that caused it.

"While I am no professional, I can’t help but wonder if postpartum depression is being used as a cop-out for mothers who commit the ultimate crime- killing their own child. Defense attorneys look for any reason to help their client, we already know that. I however, do not agree that it should be allowed as a reason to kill and get away with it."
Once again, they don't get away with it.
"Today I came across an older news note about Otty Sanchez, a mother who killed and ate her child. This woman who investigators say suffered with postpartum depression, killed her baby, tore his face off, chewed his toes off and ate pieces of his brain. Otty Sanchez was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of her baby.Regardless of the reason, she killed her child! She should spend the rest of her life in prison or be handed the death penalty!"
What this blogger fails to mention is something from this particular article that I think should be quoted:
"SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The warning signs were there. Otty Sanchez, a schizophrenic with a history of hospitalizations, wasn't taking medication and was depressed after her son's birth, the boy's father said."
This is the same article the blogger linked to. Otty Sanchez had more going on that "just" a PPMD. She was schizophrenic and NOT taking her medications, AND she was living in "a house where she had access to Samurai swords". She was found with not only her dead baby but also with "self-inflicted cuts to her torso and an attempt to slice her own throat". Also from the same article:
"Scott W. Buchholz, the infant's father who met Sanchez six years ago while they were studying to be pharmacists assistants, said he isn't buying it. He said although his girlfriend had postpartum depression and told him a week before the killing that she was schizophrenic, she didn't appear unstable.He wants prosecutors to pursue the death penalty."She killed my son. She should burn in hell," Buchholz, 33, told The Associated Press.Otty Sanchez's medical history is muddled. A family member said Sanchez had been undergoing psychiatric treatment and that a hospital called looking for her several months ago. Gloria Sanchez, Otty's aunt, said her niece had been "in and out of a psychiatric ward."In May 2008, Otty Sanchez's mother, Manuela Sanchez, called police after her daughter didn't return from a trip to Austin, saying she was concerned about her daughter's safety. Manuela Sanchez told police she suspected Otty was into drugs and specifically told police she wasn't suffering from any mental issues.Buchholz, who is himself schizophrenic and takes six anti-psychotic and anti-convulsive medications, said Otty had postpartum depression and had been going to regular counseling sessions after the birth, but refused to take prescription medication for her depression. Still, he said she seemed fine."She seemed like a a very caring, loving mother. She held him, she breast fed him. She did everything for him that was nice," he said.On July 20, Sanchez was taken to the hospital for depression and released less than a day later, Buchholz said. Sanchez told him that she was schizophrenic and was going to live with her parents and sister. Sanchez was arrested at her mother's house, where police found her and the dead infant."

I would suspect that the schizophrenia and refusal to take medication probably played into the situation as well. This woman was extremely mentally disturbed and needed treatment. And I do not see how it's vaguely acceptable or logical to say that someone who is suffering from such conditions beyond her control should be put to death. However, it's a lot easier to say that when you've never experienced first hand what it's like to go through a PPMD.
"I’m sure you all remember Andrea Yates, the mother who killed her 5 children by drowning them in the bathtub. Her attorneys said she had been suffering from severe postpartum psychosis, and a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity in 2006."
Andrea Yates wasn't exactly let off the hook. From a CNN article:
"A Texas jury spent less than an hour deliberating before sentencing Andrea Yates to life in prison Friday for the drowning deaths of her five children. She will be eligible for parole in 40 years."
I don't usually like to quote Wikipedia but I think they summed it up best:

"On July 26, 2006, a Texas jury found that Yates was not guilty by reason of insanity. She was consequently committed by the court to the North Texas State Hospital, Vernon Campus,[4] a high-security mental health facility in Vernon, Texas, where she received medical treatment and was a roommate ofDena Schlosser, another woman who committed filicide by killing her infant daughter. In January 2007, Yates was moved to a low security state mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas.[5]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Yates

Yates conviction was later overturned due to the fact that one of the experts who testified had been found to lie. From this article on MSNBC:
"Andrea Yates’ murder conviction for drowning her children in the bathtub was overturned by an appeals court Thursday because a psychiatrist for the prosecution gave erroneous testimony that suggested Yates got the idea from a non-existent episode of “Law & Order.”The ruling by the state 1st District Court of Appeals means Yates is entitled to a new trial, though prosecutors said they would try to have the conviction reinstated.The court based its reversal on false testimony by a prosecution witness, forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, who stated during Yates’ trial in March 2002 that the killings occurred shortly after an episode of the NBC police drama in which a woman drowned her children and was acquitted by reason of insanity. (MSNBC is a joint venture of NBC Universal and Microsoft.)Other witnesses testified that Yates watched the television series, allowing the prosecution to suggest that Yates had seen the show and used the plot to plan the murders of her children.Jurors did not learn until after Yates was convicted that the episode never existed. They were informed before the sentencing phase of her trial, however, and rejected the death penalty.Psychiatrist acknowledged error Dietz, a nationally known authority who took part in the Jeffrey Dahmer and the Unabomber cases, was the lone mental health expert to testify for the prosecution, and he was the only one to say Yates knew right from wrong.“His testimony was critical to establish the state’s case,” the appeals court said. “Although the record does not show that Dr. Dietz intentionally lied in his testimony, his false testimony undoubtedly gave greater weight to his opinion.”
Later, during closing arguments, a prosecutor referred to Dietz’s testimony to suggest that Yates learned from the TV show a way to escape responsibility for her actions. The prosecutor told the jury: “She watches ‘Law & Order’ regularly. She sees this program. There is a way out. She tells that to Dr. Dietz: A way out.”In his testimony, Dietz said he was a consultant for the popular NBC series and added: “As a matter of fact, there was a show of a woman with postpartum depression who drowned her children in the bathtub and was found insane, and it was aired shortly before the crime occurred.”The error in Dietz’s testimony became known to prosecutors and jurors before the sentencing phase in 2002. The defense asked for a mistrial because of it, but the judge refused. The jury ultimately spared her from the death penalty.A receptionist at Dietz’s office in Newport Beach, Calif., said Thursday that neither Dietz nor his firm would comment on the ruling. In its ruling, the court noted that Dietz “acknowledged that he had made an error in his testimony.” The defense argued that Yates, 40, who was under psychiatric care for postpartum depression, was insane at the time of the killings.The appeal cited 19 alleged errors from her trial, but the appeals court said that because the false testimony issue reversed the conviction, it was not ruling on the other matters. Among other things, Yates attorneys had claimed that the Texas insanity standard was unconstitutional.Prosecutors said they planned to appeal Thursday’s ruling.“We fully intend to pursue a motion for a rehearing,” said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Alan Curry, who argued the case before the appeals court. “Barring that, we’ll continue to appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. We still believe we have a good shot to prevail in appeal.”Prosecutors told the court last month that there was no evidence that Dietz intentionally lied and that the testimony was evoked by Yates’ defense attorney during cross-examination. They also argued that Dietz’s testimony was not material to the case and that there was plenty of other testimony about Yates’ plans to kill her children.“We agree that this case does not involve the state’s knowing use of perjured testimony,” the appeals court said in its ruling. But the judges said prosecutors did use the testimony twice and referred to it in closing arguments.Convicted in three deaths On June 20, 2001, Yates drowned her five children one by one, then called police to her Houston home and showed them the bodies of Noah, 7, John, 5, Paul, 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months.Jurors in 2002 sentenced Yates to life in prison in the deaths of three of the children. She was not tried in the deaths of the two others.“She smiled and said she was basically just kind of in shock,” said Todd Foxworth, warden at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Skyview Unit, who delivered the news. “But she was very happy. Physically and mentally, she’s doing as well as I’ve ever seen her.”Yates was thrilled after learning of the ruling Thursday at the psychiatric prison where she is serving her sentence.Defense attorney George Parnham said he had no plans to seek her release from the prison about 140 miles north of Houston, where she works in the flower garden and has janitorial duties.“Andrea is where she needs to be right now, as far as security is concerned for her,” he said. “The last thing Andrea needs, quite frankly from my perspective, is to walk from the TDCJ Skyview Unit into the public arena.”
A psychiatric prison. Tell me, please, how serving a life sentence in a state prison constitutes not serving a life sentence in a state prison?
"After looking at just these two cases, out of thousands, I can’t help but wonder if people are using postpartum depression as a cop-out when they kill their children. It seems like the cases where postpartum depression is claimed it allows the mothers to serve no jail time, face no prison time, and pretty much get off free. Maybe they are labeled insane, but who the hell would no be insane after they killed their own blood?"
I believe I've already shown, citing one of the cases this blogger herself cites, that these women do not get off scott-free and they do serve time.

Aside from the factual inaccuracies in this blog, the thing that gets me the most is the language and the attitude. This blogger uses language which vilifies and trivializes PostPartum Mood Disorders. This blogger and attitudes and language such as that contained in her blog and her tweets contribute to the stigma that causes women to be reluctant to seek treatment. It's difficult, to say the least, to reach out for help and say "Hey, I think I'm dealing with PPD" when you're faced with the prospect of dealing with people saying "It's a cop-out". The attitude displayed here and by so many other people is, regardless of what they try to say, one of "It's not really a legitimate problem, it's just an excuse, it's not a real issue". It is a very real problem. 

Instead of saying "OMG it's a cop-out!", people such as this blogger might consider trying a dose of sympathy. Try looking at it from the perspective of "Wow, their body and mind are betraying them and causing them to do things they wouldn't normally do" and be GLAD that these women are receiving MEDICAL TREATMENT instead of simply being "left to rot in prison" with the general population, with those who really don't have a mental health issue causing them to commit their crimes.

This blogger refers to Otty Sanchez's actions as "The ultimate crime". I think that the ultimate crime is that we in America have become so callous, shallow, and selfish that we are incapable of showing compassion and prefer to say "Die!" instead of "Wow, let's get you the treatment you need". The crime is that we think it's acceptable to pooh-pooh the idea that a mental health condition could legitimately cause someone to do things they don't want to do or wouldn't want to do were they healthy. The crime is that it's so difficult to obtain proper treatment for PPMD, that there are so few facilities easily accessible to receive in and outpatient treatment for PPMD by health professionals TRAINED specifically in dealing with PPMD.

Next time you want to label a PPMD as a "cop-out", think twice and actually research your facts, and then use them all instead of picking and choosing what you want to quote to serve your purposes.

In closing, these cases are all incredibly heartbreaking. It's impossible to comprehend the thought process, the things someone would feel, that would make them believe that they need to kill their baby. But I, for one, am not willing to condemn them for it. I'm not willing to brush them or their conditions off as "cop-outs" or assume that they must be making things up. Nobody should.

If you are reading this blog and have never suffered from a PPMD, please read through some more of my posts. Better yet, go read some of the other blogs I have linked. Some of my favorites are PostPartum Progress, Motherhood Unadorned, Farewell Stranger, and PPD to Joy. Go to twitter and check out the threads at the hashtag #ppdchat and #ppdarmy. Read all these with an open mind to what PPMD Survivors and their families and friends go through. Decide for yourself whether or not you think we use it as an excuse or a cop-out. Make up your own mind as to whether or not we're fighting it. I can tell you, these are some of the strongest, bravest, most amazing women I've ever met in any way. I will fight to the day I die to educate the public to the fact that PPMD do exist, that they are not an excuse but a real condition that can take over your entire mind and life and cause you to think, say, and do things you never would have dreamed of. If you (general and specific) have never dealt with a PPMD, you're welcome to your own opinions but PLEASE think about how you express them and how very painful your words can be, how much damage they could be doing to someone who is or has suffered through a PPMD.

To all my other PPMD mamas, we are survivors. We are fighters. We have done nothing wrong. You are ALL beautiful, strong, courageous, and loved. Do not EVER let someone else's uneducated, ignorant, factually incorrect, judgmental, lofty, self-righteously pompous attitude make you think otherwise. We are not the ones to be pitied, they are. I am grateful every day for each and every one of you, whether I know you or not, and the strength you show in fighting, in hanging on. I fight for you, I fight for me, I fight for all of us and our right to be heard and not judged. You should be looked up to, not looked down upon. I love you all. Thank you for teaching me so much about life and about myself.

04 January 2012

I've set up a fundraising/donation site and FB page.

I've set up a fundraising/donation site at SponsorGoal.com for my Mrs. California entry. You can go here to view it/donate. Please feel free to share the link on your Facebook, blogs, twitter accounts, anything you can think of. I've also set up a Facebook page that can be viewed here. Something I would love to be able to take advantage of is an incentive that Sponsor Goal offers; if I get 5 people to create a campaign (for anything, from a charity to a race to a wedding), and those 5 people put my name as referring them to SponsorGoal, SponsorGoal will donate 100.00 to my campaign, regardless of whether those 5 campaigns get any money at all. The way to do this is to go to Sponsor Goal and click the link up top that says "Create". As you go through the process of creating your campaign, you'll reach a part where it asks how you heard about them. Put in my name (Esther Dale) and voila.

I have to say, I'm so deeply grateful for all of the support and encouragement I've already received from so many people. The best part of all is that it's already opened up a lot of discourse and dialog on the topic of PPMD. That's what this is all about. It's not about getting to wear a pretty dress or compete for a crown; it's about educating the public about the realities of PPMD. The fact that it's estimated that more than 1,000,000 women each year suffer in silence without getting treatment, the fact that men, grandparents, and adoptive parents can suffer PostPartum Depression too, not just a woman who gives birth; The reality that pregnancy can cause thyroid problems which can be, in my opinion, the most easily solvable root of PPMD; the fact that suicidal ideations and hospitalizations to treat them do not mean a military member will get in trouble or lose a security clearance. It's about dispelling the myths and teaching people how harmful (not to mention ignorant and wrong) it is to say things like "You just need to pray more" or "You must be sinning" or "It's just a bad mood, just get over it." or "You just had a baby. Stop being so ungrateful and start being happy". It's about letting women and their families know that they are not alone and that there's nothing wrong with struggling with PPMD. It's about educating people about the symptoms, the seriousness of PPMD, and the fact that someone demonstrating symptoms NEEDS to seek prompt medical treatment, even if it means going to the ER. It's about letting medical staff know that it's not enough to just hand out a piece of paper at the 6 week post-partum checkup but that women giving birth need to have someone actually take a few minutes to really talk to them and their partner, to say "This is what you're looking for, it's serious, don't take it lightly" and to ask "How are you doing?" and really listen and hear what they're saying. It's about letting insurance companies know that we need better access to care for those dealing with PPMD. It's about honoring the survivors, thanking the people who encourage us to speak up and get help, and remembering those who didn't make it and their families and loved ones who are left to pick up the pieces; remembering them and working to make it so that nobody else has to feel like there's only one way out.

I'm excited at the opportunity this is giving me to speak up, but I'm also sobered by thinking about the women this is for. PPMD are a very real problem in our society today and we need more openness and education.


02 January 2012

To beauty pageant or not to beauty pageant? That is the question at hand.

Ok, so the title is sort of off since I've already made up my mind, but I thought it sounded catchy...

I remember the first beauty pageant I ever watched. I was 9 years old and my parents had gone to Europe. My dad had a business trip to England and my mom went with him and they took some time to go sightseeing over the course of a couple of weeks after the work portion of the trip was over. My brother and I stayed with a family we knew from church. They had two little boys so I was pretty bored most of the time. One night, however, Miss Nancy had the tv on and the Miss America pageant was on. I was captivated. The glitter, the hair, everything... I held my breath hoping that Miss Georgia would win, but alas: it was not to be. Miss South Carolina won instead.

I still love to watch pageants but my focus has shifted from being solely on "Wow, what a pretty dress" to "What platforms are they promoting? What issues are they tackling?". Beauty pageant contestants have the opportunity to shed light on the issues that are important to them; a few recent Miss America platforms that stand out to me include Miss America 2000 (Heather French) speaking up about the plight of homeless veterans, Miss America 2005 (Deidre Downs) raising awareness about pediatric cancer, and Miss America 2011 (Teresa Scanlan) whose platform is Eating Disorders: A Generation At Risk.[1]

With this in mind, I've decided that it's time to take my advocacy for PPMD awareness and education in a new direction. If I can find sponsors to cover my fees, I will be entering the Mrs. California pageant (the state competition on the path to the nationally televised Mrs. America pageant). My goal is specifically to have a new and bigger venue in which to speak up about PPMD. I want to make people aware of the myths, combat the stigma, encourage people to speak up, and highlight the need for more facilities, clinics, and providers that specialize in treating/helping women and their families who are dealing with PPMD. I would especially love to get mental health professionals on board as sponsors.

So, that's my new project for the year. If anyone has any helpful advice or tips, I'd love to hear them. I'll keep you posted. :)

[1] Information about the Miss America platforms was found at the Miss America website under the section Our Miss Americas -> Miss America History & Updates .

01 January 2012

Courage in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone. I don't have very long to write this but I know the holidays can be stressful and full of triggers for a lot of us, so I wanted to post a few quotes I found that I think sum things up nicely. They really grabbed me and I wanted to share them.

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says "I'll try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon 
Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage. ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters to Lucilius

Courage doesn't always mean stoicism, smiling, and wrestling a lion bare-handed. Sometimes, it's just going on with life, even if it's the last thing you want to do, even if you're moving forwards with red-rimmed eyes, a snotty nose, and sniffling the whole way as you pull yourself along inch by inch.

Happy New Year, and may it bring all of us some measure of peace and solace.