14 May 2012

The first day of the rest of my life

Back in October, I wrote about the night I wanted to kill myself. It was July of 2009, 3 months after giving birth to my oldest daughter. For that 3 months, I had been denying that anything was wrong and telling myself that it was totally normal to cry over anything, everything, and nothing, to sit around doing and feeling nothing, to avoid the stairs at all costs if I was holding my baby because I was scared I would drop her. I told myself that it was just exhaustion and the baby blues.

It all came to a head that night in July when I found myself standing at the top of the stairs thinking how easy it would be to throw myself down them, and then walking away and thinking how easy it would be to overdose on leftover pain medication from my husband's ankle surgery and from when I had sprained my foot (quite on accident) during pregnancy. That was when I realized that something was really wrong. I called and spoke with the on-call chaplain who said "No, you really need to go to the ER, I'll meet you there in a half hour". I went to the hospital and was admitted to the ER until they could find a civilian facility out in town that had room for me (the military hospitals in San Antonio only admit Active Duty service members, they don't take dependents). Sure enough, Laurel Ridge had room for me and I had only to wait overnight until I could be transferred.

I think it was about 8:00am when Paramedics arrived in an ambulance to transfer me from Wilford Hall to Laurel Ridge. I remember seeing the Paramedics filling out paperwork at the desk and I knew they were there for me. I remember them coming in to my room and asking how I was and I started crying again. I was strapped to a gurney and the journey began.

It seemed like it took forever to drive there but in reality was probably about 30 - 40 minutes. One of the medics sat in the back with me to ask me some questions and fill out paperwork. I don't remember much specifically; in many ways it was like other ambulance rides I've had. In other ways though, it was abnormal. It was a blur, everything was a blur at that point. All I could think was that I was being admitted to a mental hospital because I had wanted to kill myself.

The medics took me in to Laurel Ridge and turned me over to the staff there. I was taken to a room where someone did the intake paperwork with me and got my vitals. Then I was walked over to the unit that I would be staying at. Laurel Ridge isn't a one building hospital with different wards on different floors. There are multiple buildings, each with two separate units, each being one story. I don't remember the name of the unit I was in that first time, just that it was a general adult ward. I can't speak to how things are now but I know that back then, Laurel Ridge didn't have any units that were specific to women or to PostPartum Mood Disorders. There were childrens units for various age groups, adolescent units, geriatric units, a unit specifically for alcohol rehabilitation, a unit specifically for Active Duty military personnel, and several units of varying security levels for general psychiatric issues for adults.

I was placed in one of the general psychiatric units. Most of the other patients there were in with a dual diagnosis of a general mental health issue (bipolar, etc.) along with some sort of substance abuse/detox issue. There were group therapy sessions of various sorts, including cognitive behavioural therapy and art therapy, along with 12 step meetings. I was not required to attend the 12 step meetings and chose not to, preferring to have some time to myself to sit and think and write. My treatment team decided to start with just talk therapy to see if my PPD could be managed without the use of medication since I was still breastfeeding Elizabeth. It wasn't really helping, so I was started on medication. After a few days, my family and friends started to see a positive change in me as the medication began to work.

That first day at Laurel Ridge is what I think of as the first day of the rest of my life. The thing is, just because PostPartum Depression clears up doesn't mean that it's as though it never happened. I still live with the memories, and the missing memories, from when everything was a blur and from the times I wish it was a blur and it was painfully sharp and clear. I still live with the occasional niggling thought of "Did my PPD hurt my baby somehow? Would things have been different if I had asked for help sooner?". With every subsequent pregnancy, I battle the fear and worry that PPD wil rear it's ugly head again and that I'll fall back into that deep, dark, seemingly hopeless pit of despair. There have been good changes, though. I came out of it with a newfound compassion for anyone who is struggling with a mental illness, even those who commit horrible crimes in the midst of their battle with their mind. I'm much more understanding and much less judgmental of people in general, and especially of women who are struggling with unexpected thoughts and feelings during what is "supposed to be" the happiest time of their life.

Life after PostPartum Depression is different. That day was the first day of the rest of my life, a different life that has gone in a different direction than I imagined it would. It was a painful, difficult, tear-filled day, a day that was embarrassing and numb, a day that still hurts a little to remember. But I choose to remember it, to talk about it, because that gives ME control over it. In remembering, in talking, I take the reins. I am the one who decides which direction my life goes in, not my memories or some stigma. The first day was the hardest, but it was a turning point, even though it didn't feel like it at the time. It felt like rock bottom, and maybe it was in a way. But do you know what the good thing is about rock bottom? There's nowhere to go but up.


12 May 2012

Free hugs from a pet goldfish

In a post titled Trivial(ization) Pursuit, I mentioned that I spent a year at Teen Mania Ministries' Honor Academy, a year-long post-high school program labeled as a "Ministry/leadership Christian internship". It's far from being something I would recommend people go to, quite the opposite in fact. The blog Recovering Alumni has many true stories posted from Alumni who have come forwards with stories of how they were abused, manipulated, mistreated, and generally subjected to a number of disturbing things, from emotional/spiritual abuse to sexual assault and everything in between. Teen Mania and the Honor Academy are not something I can recommend except to recommend "Stay away, stay far away", and Ron Luce is not someone I can consider to be a good role model.

Yesterday, I learned that the plane that Ron's oldest daughter was in crashed on the way to the Acquire The Fire youth conference in Council Bluffs, IA. There were a total of 5 people on board: pilot Luke Sheets, Garrett Coble, Stephen Luth, Austin Anderson, and Hannah Luce. Austin Anderson and Hannah Luce were the only two who walked away from the crash and were both hospitalized. Austin died at 5:30 this morning in the hospital. Hannah is the only survivor and, according to Heath Stoner's post on the HA Director's Blog, has burns covering 28% of her body. Heath reports that she is in "serious but stable condition". You know, no matter how I feel about Ron Luce and Teen Mania/the Honor Academy, I would never wish something like this on anyone. My thoughts and prayers go out to Hannah, the Luce family, and the families and friends of all those who just lost a loved one in this tragic accident and I truly hope that Hannah has a complete and rapid recovery.

The whole event has brought back unexpected memories and emotions for me. You see,at the end of my year at the Honor Academy, one of my very dear friends and coworkers was in a car accident. Michael Tackett was in the hospital in a coma for a couple of days before he finally passed away. It really shook me up (as is to be expected). I felt guilt, anger, sadness, and every other emotion you could possibly imagine being associated with a sudden and unexpected loss like that. There's actually a chunk of several hours the night he died that is totally missing from my memory. To this day, it freaks me out that I can't even remember time passing and have no idea where I was, who I was with, or anything else. Teen Mania had one counselor on staff, Jose Cano. They didn't bring in any outside grief counselors or push for us to talk to a professional. I never went and talked to anyone about it and I regret it to this day. Internalizing the grief really messed me up an in some ways, I'm still dealing with the emotional aftermath.

Ever since I heard about the plane crash, my heart has been especially heavy for the current interns and staff at Teen Mania who have had an incredibly stressful and traumatic situation thrown at them. They are constantly on my mind and in my prayers, that they would know peace and be able to heal normally. Today, someone started a Facebook event called "Praying for Hannah Luce". I had the following exchange on the event page:
Me: My thoughts and prayers are with Hannah for total physical and emotional healing, her family and friends, the families and friends of the 4 young men who died, and all the interns, GI's, and staff at TMM who are going through an incredibly difficult situation.
For everyone who is hurting and feeling the wide range of emotions that comes with a tragic event of this type, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not hesitate to seek help from a professional grief counselor.
Like · · Unfollow Post · 21 minutes ago
3 people like this. 
Other dude:  Or even better then talking to someone who only listens to you cause you paid them, try talking to people who actually care about you and who's smile doesn't $50 an hr. 
Talk to your mother, father, brother, sister, crazy aunt and/or uncle, or their even crazier kids.
A local pastor, your local preacher, your co-worker, your boss, that fella standing in line with you at the grocery store.
Your dog(free kisses!), cat(soothing purring!), bird(sympathetic cooing!), fish(hugs!) or steal the neighbor animal for 24hrs.
Of course you can always chat it up with God, or simply curl up in bed and cry till your tear ducts dry up, drink a gallon of water, and do it again. 
All better options then paying someone $50 an hr to pretend to care about you.
5 minutes ago via mobile · Like
Me:  How about if we DON'T discount that professional counselors actually do some good, and how about if we don't insult the Alumni who have gone on to get their licenses and degrees in counseling, etc.? I am speaking from personal experience here. Sometimes, only talking to "people who actually care about you and don't get paid" doesn't cut it and leaves you with a lot of problems down the road.
Other Dude then went on to say that he doesn't discount them, just that he considers them to be a step lower than "free hugs from pet goldfish". Unfortunately, I lost this in my copy-and-paste and am not particularly inclined to unblock him.

I wish I had a screen shot to post; unfortunately, my immediate response was to tell him that I wasn't going to allow him to turn this into a forum for arguing etc., and then to hit my lovely little "Block" button. I love that thing...

My first thought (after the "zOMG $%#&@^@$#^ I can't believe he just said that!!!!!1!!!1!" reaction passed) was "Wow, I really hope nobody decides not to ask for help because of what he said". Then I realized that this attitude is not just specific to grief counseling or to this particular situation/type of situation. It definitely ties in with mental health and PostPartum Depression in general.
"You don't need professional help". "
"Why can't you just talk to your family and friends?"
"Just talk your way out of it."
"Just pray more."
"That stuff is for idiots."
"Counseling doesn't actually help anything/anyone."
"You're just wasting your time/money."
The fact of the matter is, sometimes prayer or talking to your family/friends is all you need. Sometimes that helps. But sometimes, you need the help of someone who is specifically trained in how to deal with specific situations, whether it's grief, PTSD, PPD, or any other issue. I've addressed before how I feel about the attitudes of "Just decide to be happy" and "Just pray more". Sometimes, a positive attitude, happy thoughts, and having faith don't cut it.

When I had PPD, I tried just being happy and praying more, I tried to "have more faith". After I was hospitalized, my treatment team first tried a "talk therapy" approach to see if we could avoid having to start me on medication. I talked to the other patients and to family and friends. Talking wasn't enough. I started on medication. Medication alone wasn't enough. Medication plus talking to my Bishop wasn't enough. For me, as for many others, the successful treatment approach to keep my PPD from being overwhelming, to keep it managed, was to take medication AND talk to a professional therapist, someone who was trained in how to deal with my specific type of situation.

There is no "one size fits all" approach to dealing with any type of health issue, whether it's PPD or an ear infection. Some people respond well to Penicillin while others take Penicillin and have a life-threatening allergic reaction. Some people do great just talking to their pastor and others need to take Celexa to manage their depression. There is nothing wrong with any of these approaches to treating a health problem. The important thing is that you do what works for you. 

The danger that I see in Other Dude's response and attitude (one that far too many people both have and are happy to share indiscriminately with no consideration for how it could affect someone else) is multi-faceted.

1. This attitude potentially causes people who do seek help to feel that they are weak, dumb, uneducated, have just been duped, or any other number of incorrect assumptions. If you feel that you need to seek professional help, you DO IT, and don't you dare feel bad about it.
2. This attitude potentially causes people to feel guilty for being so weak that they need to seek help. If you need to seek help, you are not weak. You are strong. It takes a lot of guts and courage to go to someone and say "Hey, I can't do this on my own.". When it comes to PPD, it's hard enough to admit that you're not "mom enough" to do it on your own without worrying that you're just being taken in by a charlatan who's only interested in your money, much less heaping on guilt for not being able to deal with it without "resorting" to "free hugs from a pet goldfish".
3. This attitude potentially causes people to feel that professional help is useless, unnecessary, and a waste of time/money. I don't know about you but I certainly am not one to insult and discount (which is exactly what this attitude does) professional help that saves lives. It saved mine.

The thing is, not all therapists/counselors are created equal. Some of them really are jerks. Some of them just won't be the right fit for everyone. I once had a therapist who made me feel like I really had wasted my time because I knew more about PPD than she did. However, if you need professional help, you can't just assume that because there are some bad apples, the whole crop is rotten. Just as not all moms with a PostPartum Mood Disorder kill their babies (not even close), not all professional counselors suck (again, not even close to it), and not everyone who seeks help will come out of it totally messed up.

If you need help, ask for it. You do whatever you have to to take care of you and to heck with the critics who spout off ignorant stereotypes. Don't ever feel like less than someone else for asking for help. Instead, recognize that you are just as good, smart, and strong, Recognize that it takes an incredible amount of strength to recognize that you can't do it on your own and to be able to follow through on seeking whatever help you do need.

10 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day: reflections on two wonderful women

Mother's Day is always an interesting day of reflection for me. Heck, the entire weekend is a time of reflection and sweet memories. It used to be a day and time that I celebrated my mom and my grandmothers without really understanding eveything that they were and did. I was thankful for all that they did but it was 3 years ago that it began to take on a new meaning for me. Suddenly, I was a mom. I had a daughter of my own and my relationship with my mom took on a new facet. I suddenly felt a deeper appreciation for what she went through to bring me into the world and her mother before her. There are two pictures that are especially poignant to me and have extra special meaning for me at this time of year and I'd like to share them.

This is a picture of my mom, her mom, and me. This picture was taken at a mother-daughter brunch at Midtown Mission Church of God in Atlanta, GA. Obviously I was pretty little. I don't really remember this picture being taken or the brunch but I do have many wonderful memories of Mom and of Memmaw.

My mom homeschooled my brother and I so I spent a lot of time with her. We saw Memmaw a lot, during the week and on weekends for family dinners. They both gave me so many wonderful examples of how to be a good mother, both to a young child and to a grown one. They both taught me, through their examples, how to love unconditionally. They didn't have to sit me down and give me a lecture about "This is how you love someone", I learned it just by watching them and being around them. They didn't just teach me through their words but through their actions. They taught me how to love God, love family, love friends, and love animals. They showed me that saying you love someone isn't enough, you have to back it up with your actions.

Memmaw was an incredible lady. She told me some of the best stories, she had wonderful jewelry that she was always happy to let me play with and try on, and she had an AMAZING collection of nail polish that she was always more than happy to let me try out. I can't remember a time in my life that I ever saw her without her beautiful fingernails painted, usually either red or pink, sometimes a nice coral (but mostly red). I think it was at her house and through her nail polish (and lipstick) collection that I learned that red is not just plain red, there are many different shades of red, each with their own nuance. As I got a little older she would let me help her paint her nails and do her makeup. After my family moved to Texas when I was 8. Memmaw and Pawpaw would come out to visit us fairly regularly (considering that it was a 1,000 mile drive). Memmaw would stay in my room and she'd let me help her decide what to wear for the day AND (wonder of wonders) let me help pick her makeup and nail polish AND help put it on. I loved it, it made me feel so grown-up and mature, it made me feel important that she thought that much of my opinion. Her confidence in me helped me to have confidence in myself. Memmaw was good like that, she made people feel important, made people feel good about themselves. Her smile was beautiful and contagious.

Mom is the same way. I look back on how Memmaw was and I see so much of her, and her influence, in my own mom. Gentle but strong (don't mistake her kindness for weakness, I definitely got my iron will from both sides of my family, haha), kind, loving, self-less, considerate. She just gives and gives and gives of herself without even being asked and then gives some more. I couldn't have asked for a better example growing up than I had in her. She was the woman I lived with, the woman I saw every day who inspired me. She taught me my ABC's, tried her best to teach me Algebra, taught me how to cook, and taught me how to be a mom. She encouraged my love for reading, was involved in my Sunday School and - when I got older - my youth group. She did more than just drop me off at 4-H meetings, she stayed for them, she encouraged me in my Clothing & Textiles group projects (ask me sometime about the skirt made out of neckties that tested both of our patience and resolve), she supported me as I ran for and was elected to serve in different officer positions from County Council Delegate to Parliamentarian, Secretary to 1st Vice President, and was always there for my competitions, cheering for me, congratulating me, and helping me learn to be a good sport when I didn't win. Things were rocky when I hit adolescence but she was still there for me and supported me through a very rocky Senior year of high school at a now-closed small private Christian school.

I wish Memmaw were in this picture physically but I knew she's there in spirit, in our hearts and our memories. This was Mother's Day 2 weeks after Elizabeth was born, my first Mother's Day as a mom. I was exhausted and struggling with my PostPartum Depression (I figured at the time that it was just the normal Baby Blues), but taking this picture was such a happy moment for me. I felt that I was taking my place in the world as something I had always dreamed of: a mom. Mom had come down to stay with us a couple of days before my due date since she was my labor coach and was there with me when I gave birth. She stayed with me in the hospital through the longest and most physically painful 32 hours of my life (it was compounded by my crankyness at not being allowed to eat anything) and then stayed with us at our house for 2 weeks. She cleaned, cooked, took care of the baby at night when I was exhausted and Elizabeth wouldn't sleep (unless she was with Grandma), brought me nursing pads when I first experienced let down and started dripping milk on the floor, ran interference at the door and on the phone, kept me company, and was just generally amazing. Just as she always has, she supported me.

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, she was one of the very first people I told (after telling Eric, of course, and my best friend Ashley, whose moral support I needed to figure out how to even tell Mom). When I told her that I was pregnant and Eric and I didn't know whether we were going to get married and keep the baby or give the baby up for adoption, she hugged me, loved on me, did NOT judge or criticize me, and assured me that no matter what our decision was she would be there to help however I needed it, every step of the way. She went with me to my first two prenatal appointments and was with me for the 8 week ultrasound when we saw the baby and got to see and hear the heartbeat. She kept me supplied with saltines and ginger ale for a very horrid first trimester of what probably constituted hyperemesis, and helped me plan a wedding in a very short 7 weeks. 2 of those weeks she was in Brazil on a medical mission trip and she found and brought back a beautiful beaded pair of white Havaiana flip flops (my favorite), knowing it was the only way she would get me to wear shoes when I walked down the aisle. She was there for wedding dress fittings (including a bout of morning sickness wearing my bustier and petticoat), meetings with the venue, and helping pick colors, food, and a cake. She was there for my wedding, helping me get ready and making sure everything was perfect.

If there were one word I could choose to describe my mom, I couldn't pick JUST one. I could pick several "One's" and one of those would be "There". Her support and love didn't waver when I was admitted to the hospital the first time with PostPartum Depression. When Eric called to let her know what was going on, she  packed a bag, got in her car, and drove down to San Antonio to stay at the house and take care of my husband and 3 month old daughter. She came with them to visit me each evening at the hospital and comforted me when my anxiety and depression was triggered by the fact that Elizabeth started crying and wasn't comforted by me. I was so upset by the fact that I couldn't even soothe my own baby, that my baby was happier with her grandma than with me, but Mom pointed out that she was probably just picking up on my tension and stress and assured me that my daughter still loved me. She told me she was proud of me for getting help and that she loved me too. She's supported me on my journey through and after PPD. She reads my blog posts and gives me feedback. She has never once made me feel like a failure of any sort.

The bond between us was always close but it's only grown closer as I've started my own family. Mom takes my calls no matter what time of the day or night it is and reassures me that yes, tantrums are normal, no I'm not a bad mom, and that the only thing that can be predicted with a preschooler is that the preschooler will be utterly unpredictable. She loves her grandkids so much and loves to love on them. Her grandkids sense that love and return it wholeheartedly. She's carrying on Memmaw's tradition.


I'm so fortunate to have had such wonderful role models and strong women in my life growing up, showing me every day how to be a good wife and mom, showing me how to love people, showing me how to be a friend, showing me how to be. And she's not just my Mom, she's a mom to so many other people. She doesn't know any other way to be and it's just another of the many many things I love about her.

I think this is literally the first year ever (in my memory anyways) that I haven't been able to see my Mom for Mother's Day (since we're now almost 2000 miles away) but I'll be thinking of her and of Memmaw all weekend. To both of them I say "Happy Mother's Day. I love and I miss you and I can't wait to see you again. Thank you for everything. I couldn't have asked for a better mom and grandmother.".

They were and are both wonderful and I strive every day to make them proud. They are my Mom and my Memmaw. I love them.


08 May 2012

You think you know me but you have no idea...

You think you know me but you have no idea... that I am what PostPartum Depression looks like. The media often discusses PostPartum Depression as something that women who kill their babies have. The pictures you see are of stringy haired women staring blearily into a camera for a mug shot, in handcuffs and jail/prison jumpsuits, sitting in the courtroom while they're prosecuted for their crimes, etc. PostPartum Depression is too often portrayed as something that is either non-existent or so extreme that it causes the mother to commit a crime, a la Andrea Yates.

First of all, this is usually a case of someone being incorrectly labeled with PostPartum Depression when they are actually suffering from PostPartum Psychosis (a different and much more severe PostPartum Mood Disorder). You can find lists of "Plain Mama English" symptoms of PostPartum Depression and PostPartum Psychosis at Postpartumprogress.com.

Secondly, far too many people have the mistaken idea that a woman with PostPartum Depression is easy to spot or looks a certain way. They may think that if she's suffering from PPD she has a bad home life, her marriage is in a shambles, or she just doesn't go to church enough. This is all part of the stigma that surrounds PPD and makes it hard to ask for help when you're suffering from it. The stereotype feeds into it. The stigma and stereotypes are impersonal. So let's put a face to it, let's make it personal. This is what PostPartum Depression looks like.

The truth is that for many women, it's far too easy to fake it, to cover up what you're struggling with. You throw on some makeup, smile, and say the right things. If your smile looks a little forced, people just attribute it to the fact that you have a colicky baby who has decided that sleep is not something you need. If your husband is away with work, people say "Oh, she just misses her husband". There is no "What PostPartum Depression looks like". Does this look like how you/your friends/the media would imagine/portray someone struggling with PostPartum Depression to look?

Every single one of those pictures were taken after my first daughter was born and while I was dealing with PPD. Some were pre-hospitalization, some were after hospitalization/medication.

I'm sure that many people were shocked when they found out I had PPD. I didn't tell many people, even after I was hospitalized, because I was ashamed and scared. It wasn't until I found out about my thyroid that I really started to speak up and speak out. People thought that they knew me but I was hiding a secret, and doing a pretty good job of it.

The truth is, many women are. You probably know someone who is or has dealt with a PostPartum Mood Disorder, whether you know it or not. Someday, I hope that these impersonal stereotypes and stigmas will be eradicated so that we don't have to be afraid to let people see the truth, so that we don't feel like we have to keep a happy mask up, so that even when we're in our darkest moments of our darkest days we're able to let people know who we really are and what we're really going through and know that we will receive nothing but love, kindness, and compassion.

06 May 2012

CafeMom's "The Stir" includes PPD on "Most shocking mom confessions"

On one of the Facebook debate groups I'm on, someone recently posted a link to a feature from the CafeMom blog "The Stir". This article is titled "25 Mom Confessions to Top All Mom Confessions". The introductory text states

There are confessions and then there are CONFESSIONS. You won't believe some of the stuff that the members of CafeMom are willing to spill publicly (as long as they don't have to use their real names). Mostly because they know other moms have either done some of them or at least contemplated doing them very seriously. Hey, we are only human!
We're not sure what's more unbelievable -- the confessions themselves or the way some readersreacted to them.
Here are 25 pretty shocking parenting choicesmoms confessed to making, and some reader reactions. Some you can imagine ... but some may surprise you ...

I started clicking through the slides, curious about what the "Most shocking mom confessions" were. I was imagining horrible and outlandish things that you would expect to hear about on the news in conjunction with child abuse. Some of the "confessions were things that made me go "Wow, what were you THINKING" (driving a baby without a car seat, leaving twin babies home alone to drive a friend home, tricking a husband into having another baby, letting a child sleep alone in a car outside, and letting a toddler play outside alone with dogs), and some were "That's a shocking confession?" (Going on vacation without your children, letting your child eat/drink something in the grocery store before getting to checkout, having a wedding be just the two people getting married, putting a crude t-shirt on a toddler).

One entry, though, left me first staring and refreshing my screen going "I'm not actually seeing that, am I?" and then glaring in fury as I thought "That's not shocking and nothing to be considered a confession!".

The text states

I Have Postpartum Depression But My Doctor Doesn't Know

I have postpartum depression and my husband and mom suspect it. I refuse to go to the doctor for it because I'm afraid they'll take my baby away from me. I know I need the help, but there's no way I'll tell anyone what goes through my head.
Reader Reaction:
"Depression of any kind is a horrible thing to have to go through by yourself. Tell someone and get some help so that it doesn't get worse."
"I had it with my first but kept my mouth shut. My mom is a manic depressive and I knew they wouldn't take my kid but I didn't want to go into the hospital like my mom did when I was a kid."

Where do I even start? The ONLY thing even remotely positive here is that they didn't include any overtly nasty and hurtful "Reader Reactions".

First of all, having PPD is not shocking. Neither is not wanting to tell your doctor. These are both very common. Fear of having your child taken away by CPS if you say "Hey, I"m dealing with PPD and need help", fear of the reactions you'll get from other people, fear of being labeled and looked at differently as though there's something wrong with you, and many other reasons.

Including this slide does nothing to help reassure moms that it's okay to seek help, that it's safe to speak up, or that there's nothing wrong with them. All this does is send the messages that "It's shocking" and "It's something that you need to confess", thus interpreting out to "You are doing something wrong". Things like this "slide" only further increase the stigma and incorrect perceptions that are already there. It makes people who have never dealt with it feel justified in having the reaction that "She's doing something WRONG for her and wrong for the baby by not speaking up".

I'm disappointed that The Stir chose to include this in their "Most shocking mom confessions". So if anyone from CafeMom and The Stir are reading this, unless you really want to give off an aura of being unsupportive and having a total lack of compassion, concern, and understanding for women dealing with PostPartum Depression, you might want to think about changing your article and writing something about how it's not shocking and nothing to be ashamed of.

03 May 2012

Update to My thoughts on "The REAL PostPartum Depression Treatment"

Back in March, I wrote about a program I had run across that was marketed as a PostPartum Depression treatment program. The link to the post is here (My thoughts on "The REAL PostPartum Depression Treatment".) I had many concerns with the wording of the sales pitch and so, I blogged about it. The original text as it was when I wrote that post can be found here. I posted my blog and I also tweeted a link to Jackie Hall.

Fast forward to April 18. Jackie Hall left a comment on the original blog post. I was surprised that she had even read my blog, much less taken the time to respond. Her comment stated

Hi Esther

I just wanted to say a BIG thank you to you. I am the author and creator of The Postpartum Depression Recovery program which is genuinely a program that people are having massive results with.

It is a fairly new program and I ignorantly outsourced someone to write the 'sales page' for me (mistake number one). Granted, I was also the one that at the time, thought it said everything I wanted it to (mistake number two), but never in my wildest dreams did I envision it to be taken the way you have perceived it and am mortified that it reads this way.

Everything you are saying is actually the exact opposite of what this program really teaches(eg the guilt of 'wrong thinking', making mums feel like they are doing it wrong, uck, I so did not want it to come across this way)but I can totally see now (thanks to you) how this can be perceived this way.

I work with stress, depression and anxiety clients everyday in an intensive retreat where we see massive results in helping people overcome these illnesses with the same processes I teach in this program, so I know that what I teach works and know that my program works. Clearly this page needs serious work, which I am doing right now.

I sincerely want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for pointing out these critical errors and showing me so many dangerous points that I had not intended on making. It just goes to show that I should never have gotten someone else to write something that is so sensitive and I have now also learnt that the sensationalism of marketing does not have its place with this topic either.

I am currently working on a new way to express my offer of help and will let you know when it goes up. I'm still not sure you will entirely agree with everything I say, though, and that's okay. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and I'm not on here to slam your opinion or justify mine. 

I'm here to thank you for alerting me to your perceptions (and probably many other mums perceptions too) and help me speak to mums in a way that helps them to see that it's not there fault, they aren't to blame, they aren't doing anything wrong and that there is genuine, honest help online (alongside their healthcare professionals of course, which funnily enough I actually always advocate - in fact it's even on my FAQ page, just not on this 'sales page', but that's going to change ;).

Thank you again for your passion and your lengthy critique of my page. You have just made a massive difference to the many mums who will hopefully now get the help that will make changes to their lives or at least see that they are NOT to blame. You have also helped me to grow and learn, something that I'm always willing to do as an imperfect mother and human being myself. 

Take care
Jackie Hall

At the time that I read the comment, I was at first elated and then cautiously optimistic; I decided to wait to see if any changes were made (and if so, what they were) before blogging again. This week, I went and looked at her page again and she has indeed changed her page. I am a big fan of giving credit where credit is due, especially when I've given out criticism, and I want to give Jackie credit for responding graciously, being open to what I said, and then following through and actually making the changes she said she would.

There are still some things that concern me a little, that I disagree with somewhat, but it's nowhere near what it was before. I'd like to point out the changes that grabbed me the most.

Warning: What you will read here will NOT be about promotional hype or sensational statements made just to get you to ‘buy something’. This program has been created with honesty and integrity to genuinely help those suffering from Postpartum Depression so I will not enter into promising you the world and giving you nothing. That’s not what I’m here for!

I like that she makes it plain at the beginning that her intention is not to con people into something or use PPD as a marketing tool/hype.

Fundamentally, what this progam is about, is educating you with the tools you need to stop your own stress, depression and anxiety in motherhood and in life.
Notice that I said EDUCATE YOU, not fix you, heal you or cure you. I am not promising miraculous or super quick recoveries, because they simply don’t exist. It took time for you to get to this point, so it’s going to take time and support to help you through to the otherside of your depression.

I like that she makes the distinction between education being the focus instead of fixing/healing/curing and that she's not promising a fast cure, and that they don't exist, I like that she says it's going to take time.

Why you are not to blame for your Postpartum Depression
I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term “Thoughts create feelings”, or if you haven’t, you’re about to.
It is common for people to say that your thinking is what causes your depression and this can often leave you feeling guilty, stupid and doing it all ‘wrong’……again.
I want to help you to understand this more clearly.
Our thoughts actually do create feelings. These feelings then lead to subsequently creating physical responses in our bodies. This is the reality of how the brain functions.
Think about a spider for example. Seeing one (or having one land on your shoulder) may cause fear, which causes the hormone of adrenaline to be produced. It wasn’t the spider that caused this, it was what you were thinking and believing about the spider that caused the physical reaction in the body (ie adrenaline production) because if it were the spider than that would mean that everyone who experienced a spider would have this same reaction, yet we know that isn’t always the case.
Apply that same analogy to depression and I can show you that it works exactly the same. How you are perceiving life has a common thread that lies behind all depression, causing the physical imbalance in the brain and this perception of life was first present BEFORE the chemical imbalance occurred.
In my postpartum depression recovery program I teach you how to change this thinking.
However…… I don’t want you to think for a second that I am blaming you for how you think, or telling you that you are doing something ‘wrong’. Because that could not be further from the truth.
First of all, there is no right or wrong thinking. There’s just thinking that produces reactions in the body that we know of as ‘good feelings’ and there is thinking that produces ‘painful feelings’. I want to EDUCATE YOU on how to apply the thinking that will change how you feel about motherhood and about life and I see this working in action with clients everyday.

I LOVE that she has changed the page to clearly state that women are not to blame for their PPD.

But what about traditional medical treatment?
If you are suffering from postpartum depression and are already on medication and treatment plans, I want you to stay with those programs and use what I teach alongside those treatment plans. They will not conflict with this program (In fact I’ve never seen this information conflict with any other methodology or practice, because it’s all factual, reality based information that fits in with ALL belief systems).
If you find that you are having transforming results on this program and wish to alter your traditional treatment plan, then this can then be discussed with your current healthcare professional.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with postpartum depression but are still feeling all the symptoms of postpartum depression, then not only do I suggest using this program, but also aligning it with traditional treatment.
I can’t see the severity of your depression from this side of the computer, nor am I a doctor, so it’s possible that you may need medical treatment. In some cases, postpartum depression sufferers need medication in order to get to a level where they can receive the information I’m offering and have the strength to start applying this information and challenging the thinking behind those ‘painful feelings’.
If you are feeling suicidal, then I suggest you get off this computer immediately and seek help through your nearest suicide hotline, tell someone around you so they can help, or take yourself to a hospital. I want you to get help immediately.

I think this is the part that I love the most. One of the biggest complaints I had before was the lack of reference to medical care. I love that she says to keep up with any current treatment and discuss changes with a doctor first, I love that she says... well, all of what she says.

There are still things that concern me about her text, mostly just things that she didn't change from before, as well as the fact that she now says 

Chemical Imbalances are not the fundamental cause of Postpartum Depression
I know that the above statement may be challenging for you to hear, because this is what the medical industry primarily focus on.
And just to be clear, you will never hear me debate the chemical imbalance in the brain occuring in depression, because this is a scientific fact, however, have you ever wondered how that chemical imbalance suddenly occurred?
Why does someone just ‘get’ depression or why do some people experience it for long periods of time, and some for most of their life? Is it really that their brain is just ‘malfunctioning’ or because you’ve just had a baby? Or is there something else underlying it?
As a life coach with the ADAA, we have found that before the physical symptoms of depression occurred (ie the imbalance) there was first a mental similarity that occurs for ALL sufferers of depression. This common thread has been in EVERY SINGLE client that I have ever worked with and my program will teach you to identify this common thread in your own self and identify how it has spiralled into you now experiencing depression. Furthermore I will also show you how to change this mental aspect so that your body has a chance at regaining its natural equilibrium.

First of all, there are most certainly cases where PPD is ABSOLUTELY the result of a chemical imbalance. For example, mine was caused by hypothyroidism which was caused by my pregnancy. How I thought and felt had absolutely nothing to do with it. When my hypothyroidism was finally officially diagnosed, my TSH was more than two times the highest allowable number for "within normal limits" and my T-4 was literally almost non-existent. T-4 should be between .3 and .5 and mine was .02. Secondly, I'd like to see studies from reputable sources stating that the chemical imbalance is caused by thought processes.

Overall, the tone of the sales pitch is much improved. It reads less like a sensationalized piece of fiction and more like someone actually wrote it personally. There's a huge improvement in the tone of saying specifically "This is not your fault, you did not cause this" as well as the significant addition of the section about working with medical professionals. 

However, there is still an underlying vibe of "Well, it's all about how you think" and that concerns me. There are still statements that I addressed last time such as 
"An UNDERSTANDING of why you got PPD in the first place (in fact it will make perfect sense to you after completing the first week’s lesson!)"
Actually, for those of us who are dealing with a thyroid issue that is the root cause, no. You and your program can not give us an understanding of that. There are other things I still don't like and don't agree with but they're things that I already addressed so I'm not going to repeat myself.

Overall, there is great improvement. Of course I still don't recommend any program like this unless a trained and licensed medical professional recommends it first. But, I'm glad to see the changes that were implemented and I commend Jackie greatly for being open to what I had to say. I wish more people who speak about how to "fix" PPD would listen to those who say "Hey no, this is how you're coming across" and be willing to change what they're saying.

One of the biggest lessons I think we can all take away from this is that we are not powerless against stigma and misinformation. Speaking up about our experiences can be difficult, scary, terrifying, and painful, but it has the power to spark change. When you see something that isn't right, don't sit there and say "Wow, I wish someone would say something", be the person who says it. All the activists who speak and talk about their conditions, whether it be a PostPartum Mood Disorder, PTSD, or any other issue, they are all people who are helping to make the world a better and safer place. Everyone who tweets or comments on Facebook or a blog is helping. Take pleasure in the victories and know that YOU (yes, you) are making a difference for someone, whether it's in helping get legislation passed or in giving another friend someone they know they can talk to. Keep speaking up. You are brave and strong, know that.