A Must Read: Emily Bazelon’s “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy”

Well, I am at a point in which I’ve got so many ideas, but not enough time to post anything.  Until, that is, I spotted in my Facebook news feed this morning the New York Times article by John Schwartz titled “Words That Hurt and Kill: Lessons for Society From Bullying and Its Psychic Toll” about Emily Bazelon’s book titled “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.”

As the title of this book suggests, the author touches on bullying–a far-from-new-phenomenon–and the importance of empathy,  defeating the culture of bullying by acknowledging its complexity, and encouraging bystanders to be upstanders (those who stand up for victims).  Laws alone will NOT prevent bullying from occurring.  I hear all the time the lament that “Well, I don’t understand why everyone is making a big deal out of bullying.  Bullying has been around forever.  I grew up with bullying.  My parents grew up with bullying.  Back then, we just dealt with it.  Nowadays, kids don’t seem to want or know how to deal with it.  Instead, they’re copping out by killing themselves.”

Well, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, don’t forget that we are now in the age of social media.  Back when I was a kid, there was NO social media.   Heck, there weren’t even cell phones.  With text messaging, Youtube videos, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of sites you don’t even want to know about but are popular among teens, the impact of bullying can be extremely devastating to a young person who hasn’t mastered coping, self care and real-world survival skills, may be lacking in self esteem,  and may not get much in the way of support and encouragement from family members and friends.  The bar has been raised in terms of the extent of cruelty that individuals are capable of carrying out because these are no longer face to face confrontations.  Take, for example, trolls.  We have all witnessed at least one troll in action in our interactions online.  Usually, it’s in the form of a nonsensical and completely outrageous and completely off-tangent remark that is filled with hate.  You wouldn’t normally see these comments spoken to someone in person, right?    Yes, it’s so much easier to be cruel online than it is in person.

In terms of the in-person bullying, the isolation tactics and backstabbing of cliquey girls, the racist remarks, the physical intimidation tactics, the verbal intimidation tactics….these still occur in school.  If schools and home life are anything like what I experienced back when I was a teenager–i.e., lack of school counselor support and awareness on the part of school staff, lack of support at home, lack of upstanders, lack of empathy–these behaviors (with or without the social media) can result in a very detrimental experience for the bullied child.  I believe depression rates are higher now than they’ve ever been before.  Maybe because more people are speaking up about their experiences and with the aid of social media, news and information on bullying incidents are much more accessible to everyone than ever before, there is the perception that depression rates are higher.  At the same time, access to mental healthcare services in this country is still so sadly lacking.  And then you have the extreme situations, like Columbine and Virginia Tech, in which the bullied exact their revenge.  I don’t remember incidents like those growing up.  Nope, I don’t.

Ms. Bazelon touches on some points that I have previously touched upon:

  • Some individuals are more resilient (via a combination of genetics and environmental factors) and will tend to come out of bullying and cyberbullying incidents much less scathed than those who are more susceptible to depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.  It would be nice if we can figure out just which students fall into each bucket to increase the likelihood of preventing situations from developing and/or getting out of hand.
  • It was only in the past decade that states put the first anti-bullying laws in place, in the aftermath of Columbine, Phoebe Prince’s bullycide (MA), Tyler Clementi’s bullycide (NJ).
  • There seems to be a tendency to label non-bullying behaviors as bullying.  In other words, people are using the word “bullying” so much that this overuse is diluting true acts of bullying.  We need to stop overusing the word because it is not helping matters.

Ms. Bazelon is clearly objective in her presentation of situations she writes about in her book, even as far as showing what I refer to as a neutral take for the sake of presenting the science behind teenage behavior (i.e., the part of the brain that manages impulsiveness and judgment, referred to as the frontal lobe, is not fully developed as of yet) and why the punishment of teenagers is meted out in juvenile rather than adult terms.  Though that is far from an excuse for certain atrocious behaviors that bullying can all too often entail (and believe me, when I read about some of these bullying cases, I wish for every last person that has anything to do with a child’s bullycide to be punished to the FULLEST extent of the law), as they become adults and as long as they are provided counseling (instead of jail time), bullies can see the error of their ways and shed their bullying selves completely.  Some bullies have even gone as far as becoming anti-bullying activists with a mission to speak to schools around the country.

This book needs to be read by not just middle and high school staff, but by all parents.  I fervently believe as many people as possible should read it so there is a widespread understand of the culture of bullying, how to prevent it, how to support the victims, and how to inspire bystanders to become upstanders.

The article leave us with this nugget to chew on as we look at the road before us.  A road in which we need minds to come together to figure out how we need to handle bullying, given all the complexities Ms. Bazelon mentions in her book:

“Ultimately, Ms. Bazelon wisely warns us, we still have to try to let kids be kids.  [Otherwise] ‘We risk raising kids who don’t know how to solve problems on their own, withstand adversity or bounce back from the harsh trials life inevitably brings.’ And so, she says with a sigh: ‘It’s a tricky balance to strike, the line between protecting kids and policing them. But we have to keep trying to find it.’”

Please click here and here to previous blog posts for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this postpartum depression blog.

If I Survived PPD, I Can Survive Most Anything

Since the new year began, I’ve had several situations loom over my head like a dark, ominous cloud.   All sorts of situations that I won’t get into detail here.  I’ve posted recently about and shared with friends in recent weeks the fact that I seem to have reached a turning point with the publication of my book.  A turning point in which I promised myself I would no longer let ghosts of my past continue to keep their stronghold over me.  My personal mantra has become “If I survived postpartum depression (PPD), I can survive most anything.”

In essence, ever since the start of this year–and it’s merely a coincidence that I’m vowing to stay on this path right now, at the beginning of 2013, but this is NOT any kind of new year’s resolution because I never make any–it’s like I’ve been self administering cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by realizing how certain ways of thinking and behavior are self-defeating and highly detrimental to me and then telling myself to think and respond differently.  Basically, I’m going to be more self nurturing.  Because, you know what?  I’M WORTH IT.

So, what exactly am I going to do differently?  Well, for starters:

  1. I am going to say what’s on my mind when people say obnoxious things to me. I used to hold back, only to kick myself afterwards for doing so.
  2. I’m not going to let old crippling thoughts take control of me, like automatically thinking “Why me” and retreating under my covers (both figuratively and literally) in despair.
  3. I’m not automatically going to cower in defeat like a dog with its tail between its legs when I experience ANY kind of bullying–whether it be at work or online.  By “any” kind of bullying, I mean isolation tactics too, as excluding people deliberately is a form of bullying.
  4. I am going to continue my mission in maternal mental health advocacy, of helping moms feel less alone in their PPD experience through this blog.  I may be writing less frequently because, as time goes on, the anger that ignited the passion in this blog is waning.  Yes, anger used to fuel the stream of words that easily appeared in my blog posts.  Without anger, there is no passion.  Without passion, words fail me.
  5. I would like to increase my efforts when it comes to anti-bullying advocacy and providing support to teens struggling with issues of self esteem and bullying (support I needed but never got when I was a teenager).  For example, on January 30th, I learned about Noah’s struggle, and I immediately started to write a letter to him and didn’t stop that evening until I completed it.  I know and am very happy that so many caring individuals have written to Noah.  You can still do so.  He is turning 13 on Friday, February 8th.  Click here to see the Letters for Noah Facebook page where you can find out how you can help.
  6. And last, but certainly not least, I am not going to let my fear of speaking prevent me from speaking in front of people–be it on PPD (and my book) and/or on bullying.  They say some people fear public speaking more than they fear death.  Well, while that may not necessarily be the case for me, it comes pretty darn close.  I’ve been and will continue to keep the valuable tips I gleaned from Nicole of NWK Consultants in mind during speaking opportunities.

Basically, I am determined not to have any reason for karma to come biting me in the a$$ one day.  I want to live out the rest of my days knowing that I will do the best I can for my family, myself and whoever else I can help along the way.  I want to provide the kind of help I didn’t have when I was a teen and then a new mom struggling with PPD–both situations in which I felt alone and desperate.

This sign, which I stumbled across on Facebook and pinned a couple days ago, says it all for me.  I keep these words firmly engrained in my mind whenever there is a hint of thought that wants to derail my self esteem and put me on the glass half empty train.

If the words of this sign pertain to you, may it give you the strength to carry on as it is helping me.

BE PROUD OF YOURSELF.

Self Appreciation Daily: Accentuate the Positive Blog Hop!

Jaime over at James & Jax is introducing a weekly blog hop.  What a great way to kick off the new year!

I promised I would link up before the end of the week, so here I am.  I sat there for a while tonight, pondering what I did this week that deserves a pat on the back.  Other than the relatively stand-up job I did at work this past week, it took me a while to come up with the rest.

I hope that by participating in this weekly blog hop, it will help me stay more focused on the things I do well, and help build on the confidence that I know is growing over time.  Self awareness and self appreciation is an evolutionary process that takes time and occurs over a life time.   My self confidence and self esteem have been steadily growing.  Given how stark my outlook was as a teenager, I am truly amazed and thrilled that I have come this far.  This growth has occurred mostly from the time I emerged from my postpartum depression (PPD) through the publication of my book.

But it isn’t stopping with the end of my book writing journey.  I’m going to challenge myself to take more notice of the things that I do each and every day that deserve more than to be forgotten–basically taken for granted– by the next day.  My memory finds anything past a day challenging to remember as I get older.

Thank you, Jaime for this inspiration that, blog hop or no blog hop, we all need to focus more on self care, in terms of taking better care of ourselves, as well as patting ourselves on the back for not just the big accomplishments but the little ones that are all too often easily ignored.

Well, here is my list of things I want to pat myself on the back for this week:

  1. Not only did I make it through one helluva stressful week at work, I handled it with confidence and managing to stay organized and meeting deadlines, while not letting the stress get the better of me like it has done so often in the past.
  2. I handled seeing and even talking to the two people that made me feel bad in a previous encounter like a real trooper.  The thought of seeing one of them twice a week and the other one once a week for the next couple of months is not having the kind of impact (i.e., dread) it would’ve had on me in years past.
  3. I handled my daughter’s breakdown on day 1 of her new swim class, new instructor and new pool like a trooper, in my opinion (which is saying a lot, since I’m pretty hard on myself usually).  Thankfully, she didn’t spend too much time crying and before I knew it, she was swimming in the pool….and I avoided the kind of embarrassing episode that left me looking helpless and defeated in the past.
  4. I survived another week of my lovely–and sometimes very long and irritating– commute to/from the City.  I didn’t let 4 separate occurrences of my 10 pet peeves I encountered get to me.
  5. Granted, I’m nowhere near the level of chauffering my other friends do with their multiple kids and their various weekend activities.  But I think I am doing a decent job as schedule keeper/chauffeur, if I do say so myself!  I always make sure my daughter and I get up 1-1/2 hours before any weekend activities, including Chinese school, ballet, and swimming.  That gives us time to eat breakfast (and she’s a very slow eater) and get some TV or playtime in before leaving home.  Transitioning environments has always been somewhat of a challenge for our daughter, but thankfully, she is getting better about it as she gets older!

Please click on the “I’m Doing It Right” button below to check out Jaime’s post and the other blog hop participants’ posts, and consider joining us in this weekly blog hop!  If you can’t join weekly, that’s alright, just join when you can!  It just might make a positive difference in your outlook!

Hey Doc, Ask Me Why

Happy New Year!  It’s been 17 days since my last post.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, but with Christmas comes a lot of preparation (e.g., shopping, decorating, having people over).  So much goes into preparation for a holiday that lasts as long as any other day.  And *poof* it’s over.  And then the new year comes around.  And I am NOT crazy about celebrating new years.  Nope, not at all.  It’s just another reminder that time is flying by at warp speed.  Speaking of warp speed, here’s a picture that popped up in my Facebook news feed from George Takei of Star Trek fame on New Year’s Day.  It says it all for me.

Well, anyway, I’ve been waiting for that one blog post / news article to inspire me to blog….and I finally found one today.  Today, my inspiration came up on my Facebook newsfeed from two individuals dedicated to the fight against bullying:  Jessica from My Kindness Counts and Mike Urry from His Name Was Steven.

Watch this (*** This video may be triggering if you are suffering from depression***):

The video shows several teens urging on doctors to ask “Why” a young individual is complaining of not being able to sleep and/or having chronic stomach aches and/or headaches and/or experiencing weight loss.  It’s because, as the video states,  “Sometimes what’s bothering your patients isn’t visible to the naked eye.”  Bullying is the cause of all too many missed days of school for kids/teens, both out of fear of being bullied and due to the oftentimes debilitating physical symptoms caused by anxiety and depression.  Doctors shouldn’t merely whip out their script pad and start scribbling out prescriptions for antidepressants and/or medications to relieve physical symptoms, like stomach aches and headaches.  They should ask “Why.  Why are you not able to sleep, have stomach aches and/or have headaches?  What’s going on?  How’s school?  If you feel the need to talk to someone about what is going on, I can recommend someone.  Sometimes, all it takes is for someone who understands what you are going through to help you see that you are not alone and you will get through this.”

All doctors who have young patients need to know the correlation of certain symptoms during certain times in a young person’s life might be tied to teenage angst/depression.  Here’s an excerpt in my book that speaks to all this:

[Depression] is misunderstood not just by the public at large, but by medical professionals as well, and largely because there is no singular cause. Though the word depression implies a mental condition that impacts a person’s thoughts and feelings, its symptoms—caused by a combination of biological and psychosocial factors—are physical, affecting the way a person eats, sleeps, and functions……..Before I experienced PPD, I…..thought feeling sad was the same thing as being depressed. But now I know better. I know that depression not only causes an individual to feel low and hopeless, it can also change sleep and eating patterns and cause a whole host of other physiological symptoms. I seriously think the difference should be taught in school at a young age so kids don’t grow into adults still confusing the two terms with each other. That would be one way to combat the stigma!

[Sleep] and appetite disturbances (including nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain) are physical symptoms of depression, while mood swings, sadness, and restlessness are emotional symptoms of depression.

Those who aren’t aware that these physical and emotional symptoms are due to depression and anxiety will, instead of seeking treatment for those mood disturbances, mistakenly think that the digestive system is to blame for the appetite disturbances, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. The diagnosis may turn out to be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that is usually caused by stress, with the goal of treating the irritable bowel, when the underlying cause, which is anxiety in this case, is not properly addressed.

And if you read the following excerpt from my book, you’ll see why this video got my attention so much.  It’s disturbing just how lacking in knowledge of mental health issues (or even teenage issues, in general) doctors were back when I was a teenager….and how it hasn’t changed much, apparently, three decades later.

With PPD, I suffered from lack of appetite and rapid weight loss. I never had that growing up. My teenage weight was always steady and under one hundred pounds. (Wow, those were the good ol’ days!) I was just prone to anxiety, which caused such physical symptoms as dry heaving, nausea, and stomachaches. You would think my doctor back then would have attributed those symptoms to anxiety, but it never came up. He never asked me questions to try to get to the bottom of it. Not much difference in the medical profession from the 1970s and now. What a shame! I can distinctly recall experiencing dry heaves each morning as I was getting ready for school, not having any appetite to eat breakfast but forcing it down anyway because my mother insisted I eat. Upset stomachs and a burning sensation in my gut were a regular occurrence…..ultimately my nervous stomach occurrences slowly but surely stopped after I graduated from high school. If you looked at my photos from my junior high and high school years, you’d see a shell of a person—all skinny, withdrawn, and unhappy looking.

So, are you hearing us, docs?  You go into the medical profession wanting to help others to stay healthy and to treat their health issues.  Well, I sincerely hope medical schools are ensuring that doctors-in-training recognize the symptoms of depression and treat their patients accordingly.  And for general practitioners who currently have young patients, I sincerely hope they are well aware of the issues that youths face and know when they should ask “Why.”

NOTE:  Please refer to my recent blog post for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this postpartum depression (PPD) blog.

We Need Empathy and Anti-Bullying Programs in Every School, Not to Mention Make Our Mental Healthcare System a National Priority!

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from depression and are sensitive to negative news events ***

Today was a day that will go down in the history books as one of the worst school shootings in this country.  So many young children and school employees killed.  I write with a heavy heart.  I am praying for the families who have lost loved ones in today’s tragedy.  And I am praying for all the survivors who witnessed what happened.

It’s very coincidental that I have been planning to put up in the next day or so another post about bullying, teenage angst, empathy, and the state of our current school culture and what I believe we desperately need if we are to make a difference for our children.  They are our future.

The way it works for me is, as I come across articles in the news/blog posts that catch my interest, if I don’t have time to blog about it right away, I save them to my “Next Posts” folder to provide inspiration for future blog posts.  I have the following 6 links about bullying and empathy saved in that folder:

Onward to Change:

Support for Teens:

Educational Info:

Links to Resources:

  • Please refer to the Anti-bullying/Teen Resources links I list on the right side of my blog
  • Please refer to my recent blog post for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this PPD blog
  • Start Empathy Facebook page

I’m writing this post to help me process the news that hit me as I left work today.  I had no idea this had even happened until after 3:00 pm today, hours after it took place, because I never had a chance to go onto the Internet, as it was a really busy day at work and no one at work brought it up…..not until a colleague mentioned it to me shortly before I was supposed to leave the office for the weekend.

I posted this on my Facebook timeline on my way home from work:

We really need to do something that will end these senseless killings. More mental health programs, for one. More empathy programs in schools too. In all school systems, for all school-aged children. I think if we made these changes, we have a better shot at making a difference.

It will take a few days for the investigation to determine the circumstances that led to this tragedy.  But seeing how it happened in a school, like so many of the other school massacres that took place in the past decade, I am pretty certain that it’s issues stemming from school days/environment that drove the shooter to choose this school as the backdrop for seeking vengeance or playing out whatever was going on his mind, spurred on by what could have been years of bullying and/or other emotionally scarring incidents that occurred in school.

I cannot even begin to imagine what the families who lost their children are going through.  Tears welled up in my eyes during my commute home and before, during and after dinner with my family.  And now I sit here with a lump in my throat. And then I see my news feed show posts and links to blog posts criticizing anyone who would express any opinions on the tragedy.  In all honesty, I’m not writing this post out of disrespect for those who were senselessly killed today or their families now grieving.   I am so sad, I had to get my thoughts out.

I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD), and now I’m a PPD advocate.  I wasn’t about to let my experience merely fade away with my recovery.  I want to share my story and try to help others, to make a difference for other moms by making them feel less alone in their experience and help empower them with knowledge so they can understand why it happens so they feel less guilty and more empowered to recognize symptoms and know their treatment options.  I want to help spread awareness and stomp out the stigma associated with mental health issues (not just maternal).  Bottom line, I’m trying to prevent other moms from suffering the way that I had suffered.

Back during my school days, I was a victim of prejudism and bullying, and now I’m an anti-bullying advocate.  I want to do what I can to make a difference for children and teenagers who feel alone in their experience, lack self esteem, and don’t know where to go for support–all of which describes the nightmare of my teenage years, from the time I started 7th grade until I left for college.  Bottom line, I’m trying to prevent other youth from suffering the way that I had suffered.

As I conclude this post, I just wanted to ask that we all hold our loved ones closer as we struggle to process this senseless tragedy.   If you’re wondering, like I’m wondering, how we can put an end to tragic suicides and shootings in our schools, ask yourselves:

  • Do we want to end bullying and bullycides?  If so, then realize we have the power to make a difference….don’t just continue to sit there and complain about the incidents of bullying and bullycide. Let’s work within our communities to come up with ways to prevent these incidents from happening.  We can’t wait for schools to do it because schools are dependent on budgets, and as we all know, budgets now are being cut down to the lowest levels ever.  We have to think outside the box.  Where it concerns the safety of our children, we can no longer tolerate the “Oh, but we can’t establish anti-bullying / empathy programs because it will cost us money that we don’t have” attitudes we’ve had for years.  If it takes state anti-bullying laws to be passed, like in New Jersey, then so be it.  If state laws are not passed, then we need to work with the Board of Education and district schools to incorporate empathy in each school’s curriculum and/or establish empathy programs for all school-age children from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Do we teach our kids to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves?   If so, then be a positive role model and lead by example.  Model empathy in our daily interactions with others.   Have your child be kind to and accepting of his/her fellow students, and avoid excluding others because that, after all, is a form of bullying.  Encourage him/her to stand up for others who are being bullied, rather than acting as merely a bystander.
  • Do we want to help our children/teens find the right help/support when we realize they are experiencing challenges in school and/or emotional/behavioral issues (e.g., lack of self esteem, depression, cutting, eating disorders)?   If so, then we need to find the right resources (i.e., counseling, mental health professionals, online support) for him/her as soon as possible.  Do not assume that it must just be some passing phase/part of growing up, being in denial that your child may need such help.  DO NOT WAIT and think that things will resolve on their own because they WON’T.  Put aside any qualms about stigma relating to mental health issues, as it’s not going to help your child.

We need to strive to make our schools safe for our children and for the staff to whom we entrust the care of our children.  In the words of our President: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”    Granted, we are no doubt in need of stricter regulations that will help prevent the wrong people from getting access to guns.  But much more importantly, we are in dire need when it comes to improvements in mental healthcare.   Former First Lady Mr. Rosalynn Carter’s book “WITHIN OUR REACH: Ending the Mental Health Crisis” is a must read if you want to get a better understanding of the reality of our mental healthcare system as it stands today.  I’m sure there are many other books that can be read about this, but her book was the only one I’ve read (she signed my copy of it at the Postpartum Support International and Marce Society conference I attended in 2010).  It’s a quick read and  does a very good job summarizing today’s state of affairs.  This article I just stumbled across on Alternet.com titled “In the Wake of Another Mass Shooting, Let’s Talk About America’s Dangerously Gutted Mental Healthcare System,” by Lynn Stuart Parramore is also a must-read.

WE NEED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!   Or we are going to continue to see bullying and cyberbullying–and unfortunately shootings–claiming the lives of innocent young people.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from depression and are sensitive to negative news events ***

Boy, am I ever late in writing this blog post, with only 2-1/2 days left to October!   Things have been ever soooo busy in my neck of the woods!   While there are so many articles out there about bullying from not just this one month but in general, I wanted to focus on a few things right here, right now.  It took me a couple weeks to process the Amanda Todd story and feel ready to post my thoughts in a blog post.

Here goes…

1.  The frequency of bullying is increasing.

2.  Parents and other adults are crucial in role modeling and raising the younger generation to be empathetic.

3.  Twitter and Facebook must find a way to help monitor activity for suicidal warnings.  There must be a way for these 2 extremely popular and key social media sites to partner with an organization like National Suicide Prevention to intervene when there is a clear risk for suicide in a tweet/post.  Either that, or it’s simply a matter of parents and/or other loved ones who also use these sites to “friend” their kids on Facebook  and open a Twitter account to “follow” them (plenty of people use pseudonyms).

4.  Parents need to be engaged and aware of their children’s activities, especially their online activities (including blocking inappropriate sites that are a breeding ground for disaster when it comes to their own children’s well-being and–should their children be the ones tormenting someone else’s children online–the well-being of other children).

5.  Bystanders–be it other students, people online (if this relates to cyber-bullying), and/or teachers–should speak up when they witness any bullying incidents.  If everyone maintains the attitude that it’s “Not my concern,” we will stay in this rut that we find ourselves in, with children feeling unnecessarily alone, desperate, and hopeless….and feeling like they have no other options to help them escape their torment and pain but to end their own lives.

The Amanda Todd case raises awareness of how relentless cyber-bullying can be and how vicious people (kids, teens, adults) can behave when it comes to someone whom they DON’T EVEN KNOW.  Her case is an example of how a misunderstood teenage girl felt so alone in her suffering, was unfortunate enough (and to this day I don’t even know how this got as far as it did….where were the parents in all this?) to have encountered what was likely a pedophile (the police are still investigating and I truly hope they find this scumbag) who stalked her–and whose actions of taking advantage of a young girl online–started her off on a road of torment, harassment, and constant school moves to try to escape the kids who made fun of her and even beat her up.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON who contributed to Amanda’s torment must be held accountable and receive punishment befitting their involvement.  Their actions led to the death of someone.  In my book, it’s equivalent to a gang of bullies physically beating someone to death with their bare hands.  And the countless hate pages that went up after she died?  Instead of letting her spirit rest in peace, they are hell bent on tormenting it even after death.  These people are so rotten, so malicious, and so vile.  The pure evil and hate that exists out there is horrific.  How these people can stand to behave like this and feel good about themselves is beyond me!  Let’s just say that if justice doesn’t prevail with the police knocking on their doors, then I pray that KARMA will!

Rant over….

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book.

  1. Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
  2. PMS versus PMDD

And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years, some of which do specifically address bullying as an epidemic in this society (scroll down to see my links to Anti-Bullying/Teen Resources on the right side of my blog, along with all my other links):

  1. Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
  2. The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
  3. Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
  4. You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child
  5. Empathy Makes the World Go Round
  6. New Jersey Leads the Way Yet Again
  7. Disturbing Teenage Trend…Hey Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?
  8. 121Help.Me – A 24/7 Youth Helpline
  9. I Am Titanium
  10. Join the Anti-Bullying Movement

I’m going to end this post with the following food for thought:
All of us have the power to make a difference.  We just have to work together to effect positive change.  Please.  Let’s stop this horrible epidemic.  Now.

PMS + Recent News = One Unhappy Mama

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

 A few days ago, I felt the way I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.  Thanks to PMS (I still do get it even though I’m missing my uterus), I felt so down in the dumps emotionally that I almost feared I was going to relapse into depression, which I haven’t experienced since my dark days of PPD.  I’ve posted about PMS before (and how it should not be confused with PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

I was already “blue” from my ol’ buddy PMS, so the news from last week….the deplorable words uttered by Todd Akin (holy smokes, how anyone today can utter Middle Ages crap the way he did and supposedly be an educated person acting in Congressional capacity is beyond me)–so ignorant that ACOG had to issue a statement to point out how misinformed he was and dangerously so; the Latch on NYC campaign and other similar campaigns that will only succeed in making mothers feel more guilt-ridden than ever if they can’t for whatever reason breastfeed successfully; the GOP no-exceptions stance on abortion (i.e., even in cases of rape and incest); the increasing gender gap in the political race; bullying incidents; shootings; and so on.  No wonder the depression rates are so high.  We are living in a society of people who lack empathy.  Society is heading down a slippery slope because we are focusing less and less about each other and more and more about who is superior, wealthier, more powerful.  What about education of our future generations?  What about mental healthcare of our mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders and returning troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in need of help in transitioning back to their lives back home?  The list goes on….boy, are our priorities all screwed up!

I seriously need to unplug.  And yet I can’t.  So I can only blame myself if I continue to let news and subsequent emotions drag me down.  But at least I will know immediately if I get to the point of being depressed.  I’ve been there before.  It’s not a “mind over matter thing” as is the narrow-minded and ignorant conviction of depression naysayers–most if not all of whom have never been depressed before…..which brings to mind the narrow-minded, completely lacking in empathy, callous and narcissistic view of breastfeeding nazi’s who have the gall to come out and say things like “there’s absolutely no reason why a new mother can’t breastfeed; nope, none at all.”  Depression is a serious health issue that needs professional attention.

The common denominator of these examples is a holier-than-thou, completely narcissistic/egomanical attitude of the ones holding the power (or believing they hold the power because they are just that high on themselves).   The feeling that there is utter lack of control over all the events occurring around me made me look at my own personal situation and feel the same way–about work, my house, and the people in my life–and prompted me to say the following last Wednesday on Facebook:

Feeling pretty disillusioned by a lot of things lately. Work, neighbors, people you think that are your friends, what comes out of the mouths of people (govt level and general population) that are narrow-minded and sometimes even hateful. I’m tired, folks, really tired of it all……
[These] are all separate issues (one has nothing to do w/the other) that have been bugging me and making me question my relationships w/people…..
Sometimes I just want to up and move but I know we should stay put for [my daughter's] sake. She needs the kind of stability I never had while growing up…..
It sucks to feel so “stuck” in a situation you want to desperately have more control over…..  
I’ve had moments of doubt but never this bad. I really feel like I’ve had it with everything.  I need a change. A new house and ‘hood ( same town) would be a great start. I also need to unplug for a while. We’ll see….
I’ve been letting the news get me down. Seems like there is more bad news than ever before. I need to unplug for just a couple of days….but find it nearly impossible. That’s affecting my attitude in general, so as a result, my feelings about work and everything else is getting dragged down.

Fortunately, after a night’s rest with SIX hours of sleep (I had gotten between 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep the 3 nights prior to that), I felt a tad better….and I have no doubt that the improvement was mostly due to my PMS packing up and leaving me alone for the next month.  I was able to go to work and feel like my ol’ self….thankfully.  But during those 2-1/2 days, I was scared I might be depressed again.  This time, I was prepared to seek cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which I admit wouldn’t hurt because I have a feeling that my proclivity to think negatively could use a serious makeover.  I need to know how to redirect my negative thinking, which just might improve all aspects of my life.  No more being overly defensive even with my own husband, which causes arguments.  No more thinking that my family and I are not welcome in our ‘hood; hence, my desire to move but realizing we need to stick it out until my daughter goes off to college.  No more feeling like I’m going to beat my head against the wall due to the thankless environment in which I’m stuck at work.  No more feeling like I’m growing farther and farther apart from the friends I’ve had for years.

All these thoughts were weighing down on me, and it didn’t help that I had an awful headache for the whole 2-1/2 days that I felt blue.  The sweet responses from my friends helped a lot.

Now, if only I can stay away from those dreadful articles…….there is yet another one waiting for me to read before I shut down my PC for the night.   I have a feeling it’s going to be a doozy, thanks to the title of the link that showed up in my Facebook news feed a little while ago.  Even if a new President were to be elected, the bad news is going to continue unabated.   I may sound like a pessimist, but I’m not.  I’m a realist merely pointing out how things are.  It’s not pretty out there.

Bottom line…..I think we all need to learn how to care about/empathize with each other more.  Empathy needs to be engrained in our youth starting from a young age.   Parents and other adults in a child’s life need to model empathy.   After all, children mimic their parents’ behavior.  Schools need to establish empathy programs to help reduce bullying incidents.  Empathy is the key to improving the state of the world we live in.  Otherwise, we are going to continue to raise children to be just like all the narcissistic/egomaniacal, narrow-minded, greedy, uncaring and callous individuals I keep reading about in the news lately.  Not saying all of you that are reading this blog post are going to raise children that way….just saying that unless we open our eyes and realize the difference empathy can make for us all, things are going to get uglier and uglier out there.  Here’s a site worth checking out: Start Empathy.

121Help.Me – A 24/7 Youth Helpline

Facebook can be such a great resource, let me tell you.  Today, I saw a post from Stand for the Silent, which I had heard about from watching the Bully movie. The post announced this 24/7 helpline, 121help.me (Call 1-855-201-2121 (toll free) that is available for youth in need of someone non-judgmental to talk to, someone who will listen and provide some counseling over the phone.  Note that this is not meant to be a crisis/suicide hotline (for emergency situations, dial 911).  Calls at 121help.me are answered by counselors affiliated with the North American Alliance of Child Helplines.

Stand for the Silent is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2010 by a group of students from the Oklahoma State University after they heard the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son Ty Field-Smalley.  At the age of eleven, Ty took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a kid that was bullying him for over two years.  Ty’s story was one of those featured in the Bully movie.

I’m thankful for resources such as this that are available to help youth that may feel like they have no one they can talk to about their feelings.  Had I known about this resource when I was a teenager, I more than likely would have called this helpline.  I know, since I’ve been through the angst that comes with the isolating experience of adolescence–especially if you don’t have many friends–that having support is crucial.  If I didn’t have the Chinese teen club and Chinese church that I belonged to at that time–despite the fact that I didn’t quite feel like I fit in with those groups either (both groups were not made up of kids from my high school)–my loneliness might have completely taken over me.  As I mentioned in prior posts, I had no real friends in the high school I attended.  I was constantly fighting with my parents and one of my brothers.  I had no other relatives that lived near me or who were in a position to be of any help.  There might have been a couple of individuals that I sort of confided in about what I was going through, but I could only divulge so much to them.  What I needed was to talk to someone non-judgmental and neutral….someone who didn’t really know me.  Someone I felt comfortable confiding in, without that person potentially using the info to my detriment later on (as I learned that, unfortunately, girls tend to be backstabbers and gossipers).

If you are a teen that is going through a challenging point in your life, please remember that it is very important to find an outlet for your emotions.  Whether it be talking to a non-judgmental individual or journaling (writing thoughts down)…..you have to let it out.  Journaling (or even blogging) can be very therapeutic.  In the process of blogging or following a Facebook support page like Stand for the Silent, you will come across others who are in similar situations, so you will see that you are far from alone in your experience.   You will see that there are many good and caring individuals out there.  You will see others, like me, who have been where you are and have survived and have used their past experiences to help others by increasing awareness of the importance of resources like this for our youth, as well as starting up anti-bullying initiatives or support pages for teens.

My personal wish is to see more support services for teenage girls, as I feel they go through so much physiologically (and emotionally as a consequence) with the hormonal changes that come with the onset of menstruation and certain behaviors/emotions (aggression, moodiness, low self esteem, eating disorders from wanting to appear attractive, mood disorders like depression).  See my past post on why it’s so important to educate girls early of the physiological changes they will go through and the difference between premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).  The more support services and awareness, the less stigma and struggling through these physiologically- and emotionally-challenged years there will be among teenage girls….and the less risk there is for postpartum depression (PPD) onset down the road, as a history of depression is a risk factor for PPD.  It’s a vicious cycle I talk about in my book that we need to address early on.  Being proactive, rather than reactive (waiting til you’ve become depressed to do something).  If we were successful in doing this (along with seeing a growth in the numbers and types of postpartum support services), I fervently believe we will see a reduction in numbers of mothers suffering from PPD.

I want to see less suffering, more empathy, and more standing up for the silent (those that are being bullied…and I’m not solely referring to schools as the backdrop because bullying happens among adults at work too).   There is really no excuse for us not to achieve these if we put our minds to it!

The Importance of Mothering the Mother – Part 2

I got the inspiration these past few days to continue my last post on mothering the mother with an awesome post written by Michelle over at the Moms in Maine website and titled Wake Up Moms – You’re Fighting the Wrong Fight.  I really love Michelle’s voice because it reminds me so much of my own!

Just like I mentioned in my Mother’s Day post about our need to focus on what really matters–not the infighting of who is “mom enough”  and not knowing (or caring) what the term attachment parenting meant (because ultimately, how you choose to parent is up to you and you shouldn’t care how others parent or what term they choose to give it), Michelle writes:

The article associated with the now notorious cover (which became a hot topic even before the actual edition of the magazine hit newsstands) discusses a style of parenting called  attachment parenting and, by extension, mothers nursing their children for extended periods of time. I’d go into more detail on the theory and principles behind attachment parenting if I had more time, but I’m sorry – I’m busy perfecting my “style” of parenting. I just like to call it “parenting” and it involves me making sure my child stays alive. It’s working out pretty well for us so far.

I say Amen to that!  And then she goes on to say:

It’s true though, we mothers are in the middle of a war. But, the battle isn’t attachment parenting against plain “just-make-it-out-alive” parenting. It’s not stay-at-home moms versus working moms. It isn’t whether it is better to breastfeed for 6 months or 6 years. It isn’t about bed-sharing versus the crib. These petty wars, which pin Mom against Mom in a competition to win society’s crown as “Super Mom,” are a diversion from the real problem. And if you’re an American mother, you need to wake the f*ck up.

And then she goes into how the real problem at hand is the lack of paid maternity leave in this country, one that she points out is “one of the only industrialized nations that does not provide a mandatory maternity leave benefit.”  She points out the paid maternity leaves in other countries, including  Canada, the UK, Sweden, France, and Germany, range from 14 to 50 weeks.  And by total coincidence, while writing this article up tonight, I happened to check Facebook, and this illustration of paid maternity leaves around the world pops up in my newsfeed.  How fortuitous!

Michelle asks in her article “Why is it this way?”  Well, the answer is quite simple.  The U.S. of A. is a capitalist nation, not a socialist one.  We are out to make money, not care about the people working to help companies make money.  We can long all we’d like for our nation to follow in the steps of the UK or Sweden when it comes to putting its people first, but the socialist model does not fit in with where we are today.  Not sure if it will ever be possible.  But one can only hope….

I was fortunate enough that I was able to take 12 weeks off (paid) via the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Michelle points out how one would be qualified for FMLA leave, which has specific criteria relating to length of employment, number of employees and distance….and “It’s too bad, so sad” (as some of my colleagues love to say all the time) if you don’t qualify and you happen to get “knocked up.”  The attitude of management of certain companies who “can’t afford to have women taking time off on their dime and so have a strict policy of not hiring women, period” is disturbing, to say the least.  At the same time, I can see how small companies with, say, a dozen employees or less would not be able to keep the place going with one or more women taking maternity leave.

All this is just a reflection that IT’S THE GOVERNMENT that should step in and do something about paid maternity leave for all working mothers, regardless of length of employment, how big the company is, and how many employees are within X number of miles from each other. That way, you don’t have management resorting to hiring postmenopausal women or no women at all….yes, believe it or not, I did see a reference to this  effect in one or more comments made by managers in the 320+ comment chain.

However, you are always going to have single men and women–those who don’t have children and don’t ever plan to have any–who will resort to nasty ol’ comments saying that it isn’t fair for women to take such “vacations” when childless individuals don’t have such “benefits.” Not sure what the answer would be to that except to send those folks to empathy training.

As for managers of very small companies (i.e., less than 15 people) claiming they are exempt from equal opportunity rules (i.e., hiring women) because they say they fall under special rules for small businesses …that’s a total crock, an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that’s been around since July 2, 1965) violation.  That’s outright discrimination on the basis of sex, and this one individual has fessed up to it in writing!  He may be thinking he’s grandfathered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (with companies employing fewer than 15 employees not governed by the discrimination policies), but he’s greatly mistaken.  Note: Click here for employers and their need to be cognizant of caregiver best practices and how NOT to discriminate by making assumptions (which, say it with me now, make an a$$ out of you and me).

Our government SHOULD be concerned about its people.

It SHOULD realize that having paid maternity leaves could lower the the stress levels of new moms and thus, lower postpartum depression (PPD) occurrence among new moms.  For those of you who fail to make the connection between stress levels and PPD rates, click here.  With fewer moms with PPD, there would be fewer moms needing outpatient or even inpatient medical and/or mental health treatment (hence, a decrease in insurance costs).  Also, we need to keep in mind that there is a correlation between the risk of depression occurring in children of moms whose depression lingers and goes untreated.  Click here and here for past posts for more on this correlation.  We hear about the increased rates of depression and suicide in this country.  If you fail to see the connection, then you need to open your eyes.  It’s time to put an end to the vicious cycle!  It’s time we realize the importance of mothering the mother!

Telling people to simply not have children–as per some idiotic comments in the comments chain–is NOT the answer.

I can’t even begin to imagine having to be back at work at 6 weeks.  With PPD taking over my life right at the 6-week point, I never would have made it back to work on time.  I would have had to apply for long-term disability, at best.  The stress and guilt of having to leave the baby you just gave birth to only 6 weeks before in someone else’s care, the overall lack of postpartum support and quality childcare in this country, companies that aren’t supportive to breastfeeding (leaving moms having to pump in bathroom stalls if they don’t have their own offices, or even, God forbid, getting fired?!?!)…….these are just some of the far-from-amenable conditions that a new mom is left to contend with, all while her body is still in the process of recovering from childbirth.  It’s no wonder our PPD rates are as high as they are.

Michelle’s plight in having to return to work at 6 weeks postpartum….which speaks for most mothers with that short of a maternity leave:

I had to return to work before Charlie was even capable of sleeping through the night. I had to return to work before Charlie and I could establish proper breastfeeding. I had to return to work before my post-partum bleeding had stopped. I had to return to work before I was even cleared to do the deed again with my own husband. I had to pray every day that I didn’t get PPD because I was out of PTO. FML.

I was fortunate enough to be able to return to work on time, with no delays once my 12 weeks were up, even with the PPD and all.  That is because I was fortunate enough that the Paxil kicked in the weekend before I was supposed to return to work.  Not everyone with PPD is as fortunate as I am.  My journey to motherhood has taught me many things about myself and about life in general.  I learned what was truly important to me.  I believe I was meant to experience PPD and come out of it stronger than when I went in, as it gave me a perspective I would not have otherwise had.  It has given me a voice….and a strength I didn’t previously know it was possible to have.

So, since I had my daughter, if I had to work from home because she was sick and couldn’t go to daycare or school, I did just that.  Initially, I had flex hours from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm all week.  That slowly morphed to 3 days a week getting in at 8:00 am and leaving at 4:00 pm (my commute between NJ and NYC can take a while) so I could pick my daughter up from daycare/school before it closed at 6:00 pm, and 2 days a week dropping her off and getting in between 8:30-9:00 am and leaving between 5:30-6:00 pm.  On the days I have to pick her up, I leave at 4:00 pm.  On really busy days, I’d be all in a tizzy, stressed from having to rush out while I was getting tons of last-minute requests.  Of course, I would get looks and comments like “Half day for you, eh?”  But I let those comments go in one way and out the other.  Do they know I will log in from home if I have something crucial pending?  Do they know I answer emails after work and on VACATION?

My child comes first.  If I have to pick her up, I have to pick her up.  Period.  End of story.  But this is also probably why I haven’t moved up in my company.  There is, after all, a price to pay if you want that to happen.  Click here for my past post on returning to work.

I know what is important to me and to my family….and I’m just going to leave it at that.

PPD in the Media this Week: A Postpartum Anxiety Survivor Story in the NY Times; JLo Rumors

Twitter helps make staying current on specific topics of interest a much easier thing to do.  Only problem is, there is SO much information to get through on a daily basis, and not enough time (and energy) for me to do it.  Tweets about postpartum depression (PPD) can tell you a lot in terms of people’s attitudes, swayed by knowledge or ignorance.

There are the tweets that tell you the latest in research findings.

There are the tweets that tell you when a major news outlet like the NY Times publishes an article written about a PPD survivor. An example would be the wonderfully honest piece titled “Meltdown in Motherland” in the Opinion section of the NY Times on May 14th, in which the author Elizabeth Isadora Gold shares her experience with postpartum anxiety.  The couple hundred comments (and you bet I scanned through all of them) that appeared over the course of the next 2 days were actually relatively reasonable and showed more knowledge, compassion, and appreciation for an author’s experience with a maternal mental health issue than some of the comments I’ve had the displeasure of seeing in the past.   Some commenters said they were upset by the harsh comments, but truthfully, I didn’t see any that angered me to the point that I’ve been angered in the past (thankfully).  Not sure if it has anything to do with the comment flagging mechanism or not (i.e., too many flags will cause a comment to get pulled).  But anyway, there was an individual who commented that he and his wife had suffered through a stillbirth and survived the grief  after nearly a year, without the use of any antidepressants…and how he is absolutely certain he (no mention of his wife, though) would not have needed to take any medications.  I replied to that comment as follows:

I wouldn’t be so quick to judge other people’s situations when you don’t even know what they are. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PPD. What works for one person may not work for the next person. Every individual is different, and every individual’s situation is different. Some women with PPD may only need medication, some may only need psychotherapy, while others may need a combination of both. The objective is to do whatever it takes in order to feel yourself again using whichever approach you feel most comfortable using. My insomnia, panic attacks and weight loss were so debilitating–and I couldn’t take care of myself or my baby–that I had to take medications to return my brain chemistry back to its normal levels.

And then there are the tweets that tell you how far from educated the public is with respect to postpartum mood disorders, or even just the difference between the postpartum blues and PPD.  An example would be recent rumors that Jennifer Lopez suffered from PPD after she had her twin boys simply because the public caught her being emotional and crying a few days after childbirth.  In her recent interview with E! Online, she quashed those rumors by explaining that her being very emotional 7-10 days after childbirth is the expected behavior of new moms due to hormones crashing after childbirth.  She said she learned that from reading the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” which has now been turned into a big screen flick soon to be released…and one in which she is co-starring.

Don’t mean to digress, but that is not a movie I’ll be rushing to pay $12 to see in the theaters.  Why?  Well, for one, the trailer looked too silly and sloppily produced for my taste.  Also, if you visit Lisa Belkins’ article from May 16th on the Huffington Post titled “The Pregnancy Book That Made Me a Nervous Wreck is Now a Movie,” you’ll see my sentiments exactly…no actually, Ms. Belkin verbalizes it a whole lot better than I could ever do.  Do I hear any others out there who agree that the book only increased anxiety levels with the information overload to the point that you stopped reading it, thinking (like I did), “Oh what the heck, I’ll just go with the flow…whatever happens, I’ll just deal with it then.”

I actually would’ve appreciated reading a book like mine during my pregnancy.  Ha, sorry, couldn’t miss the opportunity to mention my book “One Mom’s Journey to Motherhood,” which incidentally is not just a memoir, it’s a self help guide as well.  The health of the family unit is dependent on the health of the mother, so it is SO important that she goes into motherhood knowing what to expect in terms of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. This includes how to deal with certain challenges in infant care, keeping stressors to a minimum, and getting plenty of support.  My book contains advice in the form of Do’s and Don’ts for the new mother, the new father, family members and friends. I even share my experience with child-care complications like colic, eczema, and cradle cap—things that can only add to the anxiety levels of the first-time parent, yet pregnancy books and magazines don’t talk enough about.

Well, running across the two tweets that told me about the false JLo PPD rumor and the wonderful story in the NY Times are but random examples of the many, many other tweets that are tweeted on a daily basis.  Those 2 tweets gave me enough to get the juices flowing in my mind of what I wanted to blog about next.  I would love to be able to stay on top of all the tweets that come up in my feed each day, but with all that’s going on in my life right now, it’s just not possible.

This Mother’s Day – Let’s Focus on What Really Matters

THIS MOTHER’S DAY – LET’S FOCUS ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS

What’s all this recent fuss?
This fuss with yet another ploy
By media to add fuel to the fire
Of moms who breast-feed versus bottle-feed
Of moms who attachment parent, the seemingly new trend,
And of moms like me who are like, what is attachment parenting (or AP) anyway?

Why the lingo?
Why the mompetition?
Why not community?
Why not support for each other?
Why don’t we honor mothers the way other cultures do?

Well, let me tell you why.
Our society is one in which the primary goal is success,
And who’s best at this or that.
Who’s best at motherhood.
Who’s best at their career.
Who breast-feeds the longest.
Who returns to their pre-baby body the quickest.

Our culture is more bent on pitting mother against mother
Than finding ways for them to support each other.
Through the years, our culture has lost its way.
Just think….
Why is good childcare hard to find?
Why is info on PPD so hard to find?
Why are support services for new moms so hard to find?
What are medical professionals who know how to recognize
And treat PPD correctly so hard to find?

Who gives a rat’s tush….
If someone breast-feeds for a few days versus three years?
If someone bottle-feeds because they choose to do so?
If someone bottle feeds because they and/or their baby had to have a….
Life-saving procedure
Or was sick
And had difficulty breastfeeding
And had very little support?
If someone does “AP” or doesn’t even know what the heck that term means
Does it really matter?
And why someone have to even come up with it in the first place?

Haven’t parents been parenting for thousands of years?
Babies have turned out just fine,
And in some ways, even better than they are today!
Were there electronic gadgets and fancy terms for childcare decades ago?
My peers and I grew up without all that
And I would like to think we turned out just fine!

If we want our babies to grow up fine
We feed, hold, kiss, hug, and interact (read/sing/play) with them.
We do the best we can given our personal situation.
Doesn’t matter how expensive our toys are
Or how fancy the name of the trend du jour is,
Or whether we end up bottle-feeding for whatever the reason may be.
Bonding will happen.
Babies will thrive.

Don’t give in to our society’s myopic ploy.
A ploy with a focus on situations that encourage moms to compete with each other.
A society with mothers feeling alone,
Mothers feeling stressed out,
And mothers feeling like they’re not mom enough.
A society that provides very little in the way of
New mom support services,
Comprehensive maternal health (mental/medical) care services,
And awareness campaigns to bust the stigma surrounding perinatal mental health!
And you wonder why the number of moms with PPD are one in eight!
We are bringing it upon ourselves!

What can we do to change things, you ask?
Let’s end the mompetition.
Let’s have moms be supportive of each other.
Let’s create support services to help new mothers and their families.
Let’s have a society that honors its mothers
Not just on Mother’s Day but always!

For all the moms out there, remember self care.
Without it, you cannot care for your babies.
They need you.
As long as you’re doing what YOU feel is right for you and your baby…
And given YOUR situation…
Then filter out all the media tactics and mompetitive attitudes…
Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“I AM MOM ENOUGH, AND I WON’T FORGET IT.”

For all those who have a mom (or two) you care about
And will be celebrating Mother’s Day with her today,
Please remember (especially if this is a new mom) that the greatest gift
You can give her is emotional and practical support.
Don’t provide advice unless she asks you for it.
Do provide a shoulder to cry on if she’s having a rough day.
Do provide help so she can get the rest she needs
And/or time to do something just for herself,
And last but not least,
Remind her that SHE IS MOM ENOUGH AND SHE SHOULD NOT FORGET IT.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

A wish from one mother to another!

xx

Hudson Perinatal Consortium Conference: Effective Treatment of Conditions Associated with Perinatal Mood Disorders– May 8, 2012

May 8, 2012 – It was a lovely Tuesday at the Chart House Restaurant at Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ.  Aside from the fact that this is a truly exceptional setting, I had many reasons to be excited about attending my second event with the Hudson Perinatal Consortium.

Jeanne Watson Driscoll and me

First and foremost, I was going to get to see my friend Mariann Moore, Executive Director of the Hudson Perinatal Consortium, whom I hadn’t seen since exactly a year ago, at the last event here at the Charter House.  She is such a warm, caring, and truly lovely individual.  I am so glad I met her at the 2010 Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference in Pittsburgh.

Second,  Jeanne Watson Driscoll PhD, PMHCNS-BC and  Shari I. Lusskin, MD, two very big names in the field of perinatal mood disorders, were speaking in depth about postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum PTSD, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.  Unlike past sessions of theirs I attended at past PSI conferences, they had a couple hours or so a piece to go over their topics in depth.  Both of them have traveled extensively to share their knowledge of perinatal mood disorders with people all over the world.  I especially LOVE to listen to Dr. Driscoll, because she has a tendency to get all fired up throughout her presentation, and I appreciate her sarcastic humor and directness.  She has her audience cracking up, and I love that about her presentations.

Third, it was a great opportunity to meet conference attendees whose professions entail working with mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Among those I had the pleasure of meeting was Lisa Madden of MMC Moms.

Fourth, it was a rare opportunity to be away from the office and do something I really enjoy, which is being in the company of such inspiring individuals–all with the scenic backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

Last, but certainly not least, I was paid the ultimate compliment with Jeanne Watson Driscoll buying a copy of MY book and asking me to sign it, when it was HER book that taught me so much about the biology behind women’s moods. It was her book “Women’s Moods” that helped me understand how and why reproductive hormones  set women apart from men and represent all of the key vulnerable times in a woman’s life.  It helped me understand that women are at the greatest risk of depression and anxiety when they are undergoing dramatic hormonal changes, and it’s during these times in which major biochemical changes occur. Throughout her talk, Dr. Driscoll emphasized the importance of healthcare practitioners to listen carefully to the different puzzle pieces of their patients and to put them together to come up with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan that is right for each individual, since each person’s experience is unique.  There can only be an effective diagnosis if a new mom knows to see a doctor early and the doctor suggests a comprehensive examination that takes everything—physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms and external stressors and circumstances—into consideration.

Throughout my book, I reiterate the importance of bedside manner, evaluating the patient as a whole, and educating the patient about the biology behind their illness.  If I had someone like Dr. Driscoll to help me when I was suffering from PPD, I would not have suffered as much as I did.  But then again, if I hadn’t suffered as much as I did, I may not have been as motivated to share my own PPD experience with others through my book and blog!  So, I guess you can say, things happened for a reason!

As I state in my book, for some strange reason, the impact of hormones on women’s mental health is, even now in the twenty-first century, largely ignored. There is simply no excuse for this.  I told Dr. Driscoll that we seriously need to find a way to clone her so patients everywhere can get easy access to therapists like her and we need many more like her that are as passionate about and dedicated to educating people on perinatal mood disorders and realizing the necessity of treating/evaluating patients as a whole , just like we seriously need to clone Liz Friedman and Annette Cycon of MotherWoman for their training and support for mothers and their families!

Wow, Didn’t Realize My Join the Anti-Bullying Movement Post Comes Up First in Searches!

I’m surprised to say that, and I only realized this a couple of days ago, that the 1st link that comes up under the term “Join the Anti-Bullying Movement” on Yahoo and Google is mine!  It’s not as if I coined the phrase, and it’s not a new concept, so not sure why…especially since my blog is dedicated primarily to postpartum depression/maternal mental health issues and awareness.  But I’ll take it!  :)

This is an important issue, and it is so disheartening when you hear, just today that another child, this time a 14 year old in Iowa, has become another victim of bullycide (the term used for children who commit suicide as a consequence of bullying).   Bullying must stop!  The only way that’s going to happen, though, is for students, school staff, and parents to band together and prevent further tragedies from occurring.  No child should have to feel so victimized that they succumb to depression, low self esteem, cutting, etc.  I guest posted a few days ago over at the blog My Kindness Counts about my reflections on the movie “Bully” that was recently released.  My post includes things we can all do to to try to put an end to bullying. My Kindness Counts is written by a young girl named Jessica, whose mission is to encourage young people from around the nation to work together to come up with more positive ways to address bullying in our communities.   I applaud her efforts, as well as the efforts of a growing number of other young folks in this country, to try to help fellow teens get through what I refer to as some of the most challenging years of their lives.

The roots of depression most often stem from early childhood through teenage years.  Early bonding experiences with parents, stability of living conditions, quality friendships and an environment in which the parents serve as positive role models and are nurturing are key to minimizing self esteem issues that seem to be what so many youth struggle with.  Verbal, emotional and physical abuse, a parent(s) that is depressed and/or an alcoholic, and bullying in school all take a tremendous toll on a child’s sense of security and self esteem.  The result of low self esteem include eating disorders, cutting, doing drugs, drinking, and depression. It doesn’t help that the teenage years are a time in which physical and behavioral changes occur that challenge self confidence levels and a sense of identity (in which a sense of belonging is important) as well.  The way a young person reacts to adversity, like bullying for example, depends on his/her overall emotional health and level of self confidence.

Our youth represent our future.  Let’s help make sure their teenage years are positive experiences.  Let’s help make sure depression rates don’t continue to climb.  Let’s build a culture of empathy.  Let’s speak up about mental health issues and keep the attitudes about these issues going in a positive direction via the daily dialogues we have, rather than continuing to sweep them under the rug with a See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, there’s nothing wrong, they’ll get over it, attitude….and an attitude that perpetuates the stigma and ignorance that has kept us in the dark, all blind, deaf, and mute for far too long.  The statistics indicate that each and every one of us knows someone who is struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or some other mental illness.  We need to get a grip on reality, smell the coffee…whatever!  You get the picture….or do you?  I surely hope so!

Shame on You, The Guardian, for Perpetuating Negative Notions on Mental Health Issues AND Denigrating Men at the Same Time

In response to an article in the UK’s The Guardian written by Barbara Ellen and titled “‘Postnatally depressed’ dads? Give me a break.” and subtitled “Can’t females have anything just for themselves, without men barging in, not even a foul debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” please see Lauren Hale’s wonderful rebuttal.  And another rebuttal I discovered, thanks to Lauren, on the Mind Hacks blog.

I especially love this part from Lauren’s post:

This is not solely a male v. female issue. This is not men attempting to lay claim to “…a foul, debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” This is a family issue, just as it is with a mom. This is a mental health issue. Men, yes, are capable of experiencing depression. It doesn’t make them any less of a man, it doesn’t mean we suddenly have to contend with “male PND.” It means we should be understanding, accepting, and supportive of fathers, a group who is largely forgotten after the birth of a child and is simply assumed to carry on as if his life has not changed.

Bravo, Lauren!

For The Guardian to allow such an article to be posted is shameful, just as the article writer herself should be ashamed.  She is preventing progress in the public awareness and de-stigmatizing of mental health issues.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a man-hater.  Her words describing her feelings are so vicious, so blatantly against men, you’d think she hated men.  Her dragging men through the mud for something that she is clearly biased about and attempting to influence the public to believe in–even though she so clearly and curiously indicates in the research statistics she quotes as evidence that there are indeed a significant percentage of men who get depressed in the first year after their babies are born–isn’t right.  Not right at all.  The Guardian was foolish to have allowed this to get published at all.

Ms. Ellen just put herself in the shoes of the misinformed, judgmental, and downright mean and self-righteous commenters that I felt compelled to address nearly 2 years ago with this post titled “Fathers and Postpartum Depression.”  I’ve said it all before, and really don’t feel like saying it all again.  There’s not much more to add to what I said in that post.  Fathers can absolutely get postpartum depression too.  Semantics, schmemantics.

What do I mean in terms of semantics?  Let me explain with this excerpt from my book.  I don’t have a lot more to say at this point than this.

People are taking the term postpartum way too literally. Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after a baby is born. It can happen to adoptive parents. It can happen to fathers. Period. Perhaps if we just changed the name of the depression experienced by fathers, so we call it something else, there will be less misunderstanding by the society at large. It seems that, while people may generally agree that men can be depressed by certain biological, sociological, and environmental factors (e.g., sleep deprivation, anxiety, a spouse who has PPD, lack of support) after the birth of a baby, it seems the general population believes the term PPD is reserved for new moms only. After all, men don’t give birth and don’t even have the same hormones that fluctuate so wildly from start to finish.

An Update to My February 29, 2012 Post

Just a brief check-in today. This was another very stressful week at work, though I did have a chance to take today off for my quarterly haircut and highlights.  I finally felt brave enough to ask my hairdresser to cut my hair to chin length…something I haven’t done since nearly 2 decades ago!  I feel like a new person!  It feels great! :)

However, I still have a couple personal matters that are causing me quite a bit of anxiety.  I am doing the best I can to keep the anxiety under control.  I am going to see my GI doctor on Monday to see what is causing all my esophageal discomfort.  Praying it’s nothing serious.  Still have very painful tendinitis in my right elbow, which my chiro refers quite logically to an occupational injury (i.e., computer overuse).

I have a few more posts lined up for the coming week.  The purpose of my brief check-in today is to point out that I added 2 photos to my post “Disturbing Teenage Trend….Hey, Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?”

An Update to My Last Post….

Just a brief check-in today, as I’m very, very tired. This week has been a stressful one at work.  I’ve also had a couple other personal matters that are causing me quite a bit of anxiety.  I am doing the best I can to keep the anxiety under control. On top of that, I’ve had post-mono and strep (I don’t remember if I mentioned I had them simultaneously since the first week of December) esophagus condition that seems to be lingering forever.  Feels like some sort of inflammation from the back of my throat down to my chest.  I’m on medication for that.  Then, over the weekend, my slowly deteriorating right elbow suddenly became 10x more painful than before, such that I had to see my chiro for the past couple of nights.  He informed me that I had tendonitis.  I love this chiro because the back/neck/arm numbness issues I used to have were successfully treated by him.  For my elbow, he used accupressure, electromuscular stimulation, and heating pad.  Got a couple more visits to go.  So far, so good.  I feel so much better now than a few days ago, that’s for sure!

Anyway, I will have a couple of posts up within the week.  The purpose of my brief check-in today is to point out that I added 2 drawings to my last post.  Please check them out!

Disturbing Teenage Trend….Hey, Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?

A Huffington Post article today written by Joyce McFadden and titled “Body Image: How Women Contribute to Girls Asking YouTube if They’re Ugly” grabbed my attention and finally convinced me I had to get my thoughts out, thoughts that have been brewing since the first article I saw the other day on Facebook posted by Mediabistro, written by Megan O’Neill and titled “Disturbing YouTube Trend: Teens Ask the World ‘Am I Ugly or Pretty?”

The latter article pointed out–what really goes without saying–that teens posting videos of themselves seeking stranger input on their appearance is just asking for malice, trouble, to be put down farther than before they posted the darn videos.  The Internet is laced with trolls who have nothing better to do than say the most vile things…things that you would never be able to get away with in person.  Trolls are cowards who have deep-rooted issues.  They need counseling…and badly.  Because the average person will not have the desire to say the kinds of vile things trolls say.  While there may be some nice people trying to convince these teens that they are beautiful just the way they are and at the end of the day it’s not necessarily about physical beauty but inward beauty (teens aren’t so concerned about that as getting approval about their appearance), this innocent–and desperate–plea is surely going to invite the worst comments imaginable from people.  There are all kinds out there.  We should know that by now.

I understand what these teens are going through.  They need validation, approval. Their self confidence is challenged by the physical changes they find themselves undergoing. They can’t go to their parents, relatives, or friends for objectivity; they need it from someone who doesn’t know them and can be truly objective…but they are seeking this objectivity from the completely wrong place.  I would call this misguided due to desperation of not knowing where else to turn.  It’s a shame they don’t for whatever reason feel comfortable with talking to someone like a counselor, good friend or loved one.

Here are some of the FB comments–from supposedly adults (I say supposedly when in actuality they could be teens posting with a fake profile, or they could actually be adults in which case I say they have absolutely no excuse to talk this way….they probably have children who are bullies as well)– posted in response to the Mediabistro article:

People who ask such questions get what they deserve.
If you have to ask… you’re probably hideous.
She should ask – “Am I stupid?”

My reaction?

[Insert 2 of the commenters' names], that’s not very understanding of teens who have self esteem issues, now is it….What I want to know is where are the parents in all these examples? If they’re that hands-off and ignorant that their children are doing this, that’s indicative of a more seriously sad trend.

I sure as heck wouldn’t want these commenters as parents, and if they have children, they’re probably some of the ones posting these videos.  These comments actually sound just as bad as if they were coming from teens who don’t know better.  If they’re parents or grown-ups, they should be ashamed. If they’re teens, they need to grow up. Either way, these comments are completely lacking in empathy, callous (putting it nicely), and obviously said without any concern at all about these poor teenagers.  Therein lies the problem with videos like these seeking public opinion.  Sure, strangers don’t know you.  And they sure as heck don’t give a crap about you.

Anyway, unable to get objectivity from loved ones, they go to the only other place that many of these teens seek solace from….the Internet.  After all, we are in the age of social media.  But they don’t know the good places to turn to…Twitter folks who are there to exchange tweets with anyone needing support and encouragement, as well as websites like To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). There are online resources that deal with self esteem, like Kidshealth.org.

If these teens are anything like I was when I was a teenager, they probably don’t have many friends.  I wonder whether I’d be on Facebook if there was such a thing back when I was growing up. Nah, don’t think so. I was way too shy for any of that.  Even if these teens were to reach out via Facebook to their “friends” (some teenagers these days have 500-1000 FB “friends” due to peer pressure to impress each other on who has more friends or for the semblance of popularity, but at the end of the day, there are only a handful of true friends)–what do you think some of these teen FB “friends” would say in answer to a question like this that appears in their feed: “Hey, just wondering….do you think I’m ugly?”  I have no doubt some would try to be funny by saying something stupid and hurtful.  Anyway, who’d want their peers in school to know that they’re asking these questions in the first place?  This is why I limit my friends on Facebook to a small circle of people….people I know I can trust. The saying “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, that matters” is highly relevant here.

I know you’ve probably heard this from other friends and loved ones and out there on the Internet and in books (but surely not the highly unhelpful beauty magazines that focus on none other than physical appearance), but I am going to say it anyway….beauty is not merely about physical appearance.  Beautiful physical appearances are made ugly by personalities that are mean, selfish, contemptuous, disdainful, condescending, hateful, and greedy.  I don’t know about you, but I believe in karma.  I believe that these negative attributes in the long run will come round and bite you in the a$$.

Don’t grow up giving a crap about what other people think about you and your appearance.  Ever hear the story of the Ugly Duckling?  Well, the duckling wasn’t ugly, just in its juvenile form.  But when it went and became a swan?

It was like, wow!  All the other creatures around it didn’t think it had it in him to become so beautiful.  Just like that ugly duckling, your beauty will also shine through when it is nice and ready.  When you find yourself–just like I found myself and started to love myself and know what I enjoy doing and have a better sense of the direction my life is taking–your beauty will shine through for all to see.  You need to graduate through various stages in life first.  Let yourself bud and mature. As teens, you are only just beginning your life’s journey.

As a teenager, I was quite the ugly duckling. It didn’t

help that I couldn’t afford to wear anything but the 5 or so sets of clothes I remember having to cycle through on a weekly basis, dreading to wear them around the attractive, preppy kids who had all the beautiful fair isle sweaters and the popular kids who wore trendy stuff.  I was skinny, unhappy/anxious looking, withdrawn, lacking in self esteem…just downright miserable all around. It took me until my mid 30s to find the road that was meant for me to travel–i.e., find the right guy to marry, move to a wonderful town, start a family, become a blogger and author with a mission (not forgetting to enjoy myself in the process), etc.

Now, as a parent, I am going to do my darndest to ensure that–knowing the inherent dangers of Internet use, the challenges faced by teenagers seeking to be accepted by their peers, the angst teenagers experience as they find themselves and deal with their changing physical/emotional selves a la puberty–my daughter’s Internet usage is monitored, she has a balance of activities she enjoys and studies, and I am ever mindful of her self esteem and overall mental health.  I will do the best I can to be nurturing, to parent in moderation (no extreme parenting), and to make sure her school life is a positive experience.  I am going to try to make sure she does NOT follow in my footsteps!

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book. And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years:

  1. Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
  2. PMS versus PMDD
  3. Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
  4. The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
  5. Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
  6. You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child

Let me end this post with a very insightful passage from Joyce McFadden’s article:

We focus on beauty at the expense of all of the other things we could be encouraging and celebrating. Our girls are having trouble finding their own value because we ourselves struggle with the same. In her beautifully moving article, “Smaller Than Before,” Dr. Jessica Zucker (who trained under Carol Gilligan at Harvard and specializes in mothers, daughters and body image) shows us just how much we limit our appreciation of ourselves and each other with our narrow appraisals of what’s important.

Don’t let what society believes is important make you lose sight of what’s really important here:  YOU.  

i think i am ugly and im a teen girl what should i do?

On the Other Side of the World

A real quickie from me today to let you know how a friend of mine who lives in Singapore made my day last Friday when she posted the following message and picture (of her daughter holding my book) on Facebook:

“Found your book in our library today so I’m going to take it home to read. Cool eh?”

It took a few seconds to register what my friend was saying. Then, when I realized that my friend found it in her library in SINGAPORE, feelings of amazement and happiness took over.  I couldn’t believe my book made it into a library all the way on the opposite side of the world in the less than 3 months my book has been published!  It wasn’t Amazon we’re talking about.  It’s a LIBRARY.  Someone had to have felt the need, after stumbling who knows how across my book, to get a copy and make it available for the community over there. 

All I can say right now, as chills go up and down my spine, is WOW.  Not bad for self publishing, not bad at all. :)

Blogging for World Mental Health Day – Blog Party 2011!

Glad you can join me as I participate in the very first blog party devoted to World Mental Health Day, hosted by PsychCentral.  I am happy to be one of the bloggers from all over the world who are coming together today to help increase public awareness of mental health concerns, and welcome to World Mental Health Day (October 10), designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help spotlight the lack of care mental disorders all too often receive around the world.

I’d like to start my post–the original title of which was going to be Let’s Let Our Voices Be Heard: Conquering the Stigma of Mental Illness Together–by asking you what motivated you to start blogging.

  • Was it to get your thoughts out because doing so is therapeutic?
  • Was it to voice your opinion on a topic near and dear to your heart?
  • Was it in the hopes of trying to make a positive difference by sharing what you learned from your own experiences?

All three reasons motivated me to blog about the topic I am utterly passionate about: postpartum depression (PPD).  Other than sharing my own experiences and providing lessons learned from those experiences, my posts would very often address recent developments in this country, particularly as it pertains to PPD in the media (newspapers, television, Internet), legislative developments, and ignorant comments I happen to stumble across in newspapers and online.

What’s my #1 peeve?  I’ve said it before on this blog and will say it again.  Let’s say it together now:  Behavior & remarks made out of ignorance, prejudism, condescension. I have zero tolerance for any of this, thanks to my wonderful high school experience.  While growing up, I was taunted and isolated at junior/senior high school by an all-white crowd for….I’ll give you one guess.  Yep, being Chinese.  As a consequence of my teenage experiences, I am a passionate anti-bullying advocate.  I am determined to become active in my community when it comes to taking a stand against bullying.  Heck, who knows?  I may become active at the state or even federal level.  Another consequence of my teenage years–when the kids had their own cliques, didn’t like the way I looked, didn’t liked the way I dressed, and just plain looked down at me in general…I’ve become quite intolerant of behavior/remarks made out of ignorance and condescension.

Which leads me to where I stand today.  I’ve spent the past 6 years working on a book (which should be out by Thanksgiving) and the past 2-1/2 years blogging (has it really been that long already?) because of the following:

  • All the ignorant comments made by people around me—including colleagues, acquaintances, my doctors, and their staff
  • The way I was treated by my doctors
  • No one telling me about PPD in the first place
  • The lack of information that is given to the public via magazines, hospital training, doctors’ offices, and television
  • The way society makes assumptions that all mothers have smooth and easy pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experiences

Yesterday morning, an encounter with someone I know almost threw a wrench in the day that I had planned with my daughter.  It took me until I wrote this post last night to put 1 and 2 together to figure out why in the world I was in tears by the time I got home. It’s because 2 of my 3 triggers–or actually “crushing blow” points–were pulled today.  There was a momentary lapse in my determination to stand strong against these types blows. (believe it or not, in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a personal transformation due to an increased self confidence due to my blog, the book I’m just about to publish, and public speaking classes; at work, I’m able to let certain people/circumstances slide while in the past I would’ve been crushed). 

What were the 2 things that bothered me so much yesterday? 

  • Ignorance - I got an “okay, then” look when I told her about the topic of the book I’ve been slaving over the past 6 years…..like it didn’t matter because it didn’t mean anything to her
  • Feeling of isolation (that’s how I felt all through high school from kids picking on me, not wanting to be my friend because I didn’t dress well and because I was a shy Chinese girl) – For several weeks now, whenever this woman (and I’ve known her for over a year now and we are on friendly terms) is speaking with another friend while our 3 daughters are swimming, she has yet to introduce me to her friend (I know, I can introduce myself, but heck, it’s the principal I’m struggling with here).  I’m trying not to take it personally, but it’s tough. I always introduce someone I’m talking to if someone else I know is sitting with us. I would never ignore the 3rd person (yesterday, that 3rd person was me…very ignored) and deliberately exclude her from the conversation. I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive. I think someone is being rude here. And I really don’t need rudeness in my life, thank you very much.

Okay, now more on the topic at hand.  Postpartum depression (PPD). This has been the topic I’ve dedicated the last 6 years to my book and the last 2-1/2 years to my blog. 

If asked what the number one complication of childbirth is today, most people would probably say C-sections. One would never think that depression is the leading complication of childbirth because no one ever talks about their experience. As a result, so many cases go unreported and untreated. This is more than likely the reason why, aside from ignorance about PPD and stereotypes of motherhood, postpartum illnesses don’t receive the attention of health practitioners, hospitals, and funding for education and public awareness that they deserve.

Frankly, I’m amazed that there is still so much ignorance about PPD. That ignorance is perpetuated by the lack of information about PPD available to the public, not to mention the general unwillingness of people to talk about it. Had I known about PPD before I had my baby, I would not have suffered the way I had suffered, not knowing what in the world was wrong with me. Ignorance, or the fear of not knowing, can intensify an already bad situation exponentially. There is no need for that kind of suffering, especially at a time when a new mom should be enjoying her baby. After all, she only has one shot at experiencing her baby’s first few months.

Before my own experience with PPD, I’d never really heard much about it before. I thought it was rare. I’d heard of the occasional sad news of a stillbirth or miscarriage, but in terms of experiences after the baby’s arrival, I’d only heard women rave about how great motherhood is. I’d never heard of any terrible motherhood experiences. I never thought it would be something that would happen to me. I thought it was all a matter of mind over matter.

Had I known that as many as one out of eight new mothers develop PPD, I would’ve tried to become familiar with what it is, its risk factors, and its symptoms before having my baby, and I would’ve never traveled that long, lonely, and dark road during those dreadful weeks I was sick with PPD. But I emerged from my PPD experience much smarter and stronger than before, and for that, I am grateful.

Having PPD is so embarrassing and difficult to talk about, that most women will not tell their stories to people they know, let alone to the world. There’s this fear of being judged, criticized, and labeled as inferior mothers. Well, I am not afraid to tell my story, especially if it means helping other mothers. I want to make a positive impact by empowering women with knowledge about an illness that is more prevalent than people think.

From all the books and articles I’ve read, it appears that denial, embarrassment, and/or pride keep women from admitting they have any psychological issues. Out of curiosity to see if this holds true, and since I am unafraid of admitting to anyone, even a stranger, that I suffered from PPD, I’d try to broach the subject whenever possible to try to get a new mother to tell me she had PPD. Other than a couple mothers who thought they had PPD when in actuality they probably only had postpartum blues (based on the description of their experiences), I couldn’t find a single woman who had actually experienced PPD. Or I just didn’t find anyone who would admit that she’d suffered terribly, too ashamed to admit to having such a negative experience at a time when everyone expects her to be happy. It wasn’t until after I started blogging that I realized there are a lot of women out there who are currently suffering from or who have suffered from PPD. Perhaps it’s the anonymity that comes with blogging under, in many cases, aliases that is encouraging more and more women to speak up about their experiences.  People openly talking about their own experiences encourages others to do so as well. Whether it is via online media (blogs, discussion forums, PsychCentral, WebMD, etc.), newspapers, magazine articles, or public service announcements, we need more of this!

We should all develop a zero tolerance position when it comes to ignorance, and stigma, of mental health.  Ignorance leads to: 

  • New mothers not knowing about PPD and being blindsided, they won’t necessarily realize what they have requires medical and/or mental health care, and unnecessarily suffering feelings of shame, fear, guilt, and self-doubt come from not knowing what causes PPD in the first place. With awareness of what causes PPD and why, there would be fewer mothers struggling with such negative feelings. The belief that it’s just a mind-over-matter thing and that if they were truly a good mother they wouldn’t be feeling this way at all must be eradicated. The only way to do that is through constant hammering away the message in as many forms of media as possible that PPD is a common occurrence, that it happens more often than you know because most mothers don’t talk about their experiences, and it has a biochemical cause.
  • People mistakenly believing that PPD is the same thing as the blues and moms should be able to snap out of it, since it’s mind over matter.
  • Misconceptions, prejudices, comments and societal attitude that cause new mothers with PPD to suffer in silence and hide their condition behind smiles, unwilling to get treatment.
  • Lack of sympathy or understanding by the public because there’s just not enough being done to educate the public on what it really is (instead of inaccurate depictions of PPD in the media). Because the only cases of a postpartum mood disorder you hear about in the news are about mothers who kill their babies, the general population has misconceptions of what PPD really is. As long as women are afraid to speak openly about PPD, the longer the public at large will remain ignorant about it, its prevalence, and its seriousness. Try asking people if they realize that one out of eight new mothers suffers from PPD. I can almost guarantee that they won’t believe you. The terrible irony of the ignorance about PPD is that it will continue as long as mothers are afraid of telling others what they are going through.

We need to get to the point where the public acknowledges PPD for what it is: a real medical illness. The PPD mom deserves support, not criticism. She did not bring this on herself, nor is PPD a contrived illness. PPD doesn’t just arise out of a new mother’s failure to cope with her transition to motherhood, despite what some people who don’t know better would try to have you believe. It is not mind over matter, and she cannot just snap out of it whenever she feels like it. This should not be a negative reflection on her. PPD does not mean a woman is weaker or less of a mother than those who don’t have PPD. In fact, those who speak up about how they are truly feeling—unafraid of what others think—are brave women who are not afraid to take that first courageous step toward recovery because they realize their health is critical to the overall family’s health.

Instead of looking back with regret at my PPD experience, I look at it as an experience that has truly made me a more knowledgeable and stronger person. And that is what I hope other PPD survivors and those who are battling (and survived) depression will do. My hope is that more of you will speak up. The more that speak up about their experiences, the less ignorance and stigma about depression there will be.

September 14, 2011 Nurturing Yourself from Within Teleconference Hosted by SPARKS

On September 14th, SPARKS will be hosting a teleconference, led by SPARK’s Confidential Crisis Hotline Coordinator, Rivky Glicksman, on the topic of “Nurturing Yourself from Within.”

Here are the Call-In Details:

  • 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST (a time slot conveniently arranged to allow the expectant/new mom who might still be working to participate at home and after their babies/children have gone to sleep and/or can be taken care of by the husband after his return from work). 
  • Dial-in Number and Password: 718-873-0922, Dial 9, PIN #2757. 

For more information on SPARKS and their mission to help mothers and their families, please visit their website or call 718-2-SPARKS (277-2757) for the hotline or other questions.

 This teleconference is for women of all ages and stages. It is completely confidential.  Please spread the word!