Naomi

Please visit the Postpartum Support International post about Naomi.
Please read and share that post, and let us really try our best to spread awareness about perinatal mood disorders.
We need to do all we can to ensure that everyone who works with maternal mental health in the medical and judicial systems truly understands and is able to identify symptoms and knows how to react and treat a woman who is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder. These encounters can mean life and death, ultimately, for the mother and her child.

candle

Naomi, on this day of your memorial service
With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat,
I write this.
Though I did not know you personally,
I do know that you suffered greatly
And experienced unimaginable loss
During your time on this earth.
And I am so, so sorry that you did.
What a terrible loss to the community
Of fellow postpartum mood disorder survivors.
Words cannot adequately express
How sorry I am that your pain was so great.
I feel so guilty for not being able to help you
While you were among us.
Society has once again failed another mother
Through its ignorance and lack of adequate support services.
I cry over our loss of you.
I promise you that I will continue to work with the community
Of maternal mental health advocates and survivors
To carry on your advocacy
And your passionate desire
To prevent other mothers from experiencing
The pain and loss you suffered.
Yes, I will continue to work with others to spread the word
With your spirit in us and
With you looking down upon us
That mothers suffering from postpartum mood disorders are
Far from alone,
They are not to blame for their postpartum illness,
And they WILL recover with the right treatment and support.
Rest in peace, Naomi

Honored to be Recognized as a Top Mental Health Blogger by Australia Counselling

With so many bloggers who write about and share their personal experiences with mental health issues to try to help others cope and who try to combat stigma by sharing information to increase awareness, I was stunned and thrilled to find out–by way of a tweet from Australia Counselling last week– that my blog was selected as one of the top 34 bloggers from around the world who advocate for mental health and wellness!  Knowing that my blog is recognized on the other side of the world — or as I fondly refer to as Down Under (as I have desired to live there ever since I first fell in love with the country in 1997…and I have been back there twice since, most recently this time last year and I think I even passed by the Australia Counselling location on Macquarie Street in Sydney then!) — means more to me than words can describe.

I have been blogging since February 2009 and though my posts are less frequent these days, I am determined to keep this blog going for an indefinite period of time because my mission is to try to make a positive difference and try to help others in a way that I would’ve liked to have received myself (but didn’t) during my scary battle with postpartum depression in 2005.  Since my own personal experience was 10 years ago, my story has since been shared numerous times via numerous venues.  But I will continue to make it a mission to get my thoughts out there via social media when I see ignorance rear its ugly head by way of untrue statements and preventable tragedies.

I also want to help motivate others to share their own experiences and chip away at stigma and show the world that depression and other mental health issues are serious issues that need treatment just like any other physical illness needs treatment.  Illnesses of the mind are not made up.  People should not avert their eyes in the face of mental illness.  People should not turn away from those who need help, like the instance in Edinburgh I blogged about last night.  We need more voices to stop being afraid to speak up.  We can succeed at de-stigmatizing mental illness….one survivor, one blogger, one social worker, one therapist at a time.  Since social media is such a powerful tool to help carry messages far and wide with just a few clicks, it is critical that we get even more people blogging about their personal experiences and spreading awareness and knowledge as possible.  Please click here to check out the other blogs on this top 34 list.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Australia Counselling, for the honor of being among one of your top 34 mental health bloggers.  I am most humbled and honored to receive such a wonderful recognition!

Let’s Hold Failure of the System Accountable for Tragedies Involving Infanticide

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

I stumbled across this headline on my Twitter feed tonight:  “Three years for Edinburgh mum who killed her baby.”   Wasn’t planning on blogging, but when I clicked on the link to read the article, I was so infuriated that it has motivated me to blog.  Here’s yet another tragic loss from system failure and continued societal blindness to the realities of perinatal mood disorders.

I’ve blogged about this previously…that it seems way too common and easy for people to disassociate the baby from the mother.  That a tragedy like this–a mother named Erin Sutherland who suffered from severe postnatal depression (PND) who smothered her baby–occurred should be viewed from a BIG PICTURE perspective as another example of the system failing a mother AND her baby.  Not just the baby, but the mother as well.  Not just the mother, but the baby as well.

The father of the baby, estranged from Erin Sutherland, and his family felt it was unfortunate that the focus seems to have shifted from the real tragedy at hand….the loss of an innocent baby.  No one can/will contest this, but what people continuously forget is that, had the system NOT failed Erin, the baby would be alive because Erin would have received the treatment she desperately needed.  True, I don’t know the full story here, but the mere words coming out of the prosecutor Iain McSporran’s mouth: “generally speaking six months is a point beyond which PND will no longer be considered a factor” is RIDICULOUS.  Spouting such damning untruths is utterly shameful on his part. Had he bothered to get educated about perinatal mood disorders, those words would not have slipped out of his mouth a la angry let’s-lynch-the-mother-she’s-always-guilty-no-matter-what syndrome.  Mr. McSporran, if you had bothered to become educated about perinatal mood disorders, you would know that it is possible for severe PND to be possible up to the end of the 2nd year or whenever a mother decides to wean her baby.

Why would a mother be turned down for help because ludicrous “rules” state that after six months her condition was no longer deemed to be a “problem factor” for new mothers?  Why are such archaic rules still in existence?  They must be updated with scientific facts!   I thought Edinburgh is supposed to be more up-to-speed on perinatal mood disorders than we are in the states, what with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) originating from none other than….you guessed it, Edinburgh.  But I guess not!

How could anyone refuse treatment for a mother who is clearly suffering from PND and seeking help for it?!  Especially when the mother had previously received hospital treatment following the birth of an older daughter after being diagnosed with PND and becoming so ill that she needed in-patient care when her child was EIGHT months old! Last I looked EIGHT is more than SIX!!!

The system that created such a nonsensical “rule” is culpable for little Chloe’s death.  It left Erin with no treatment and sealed her and Chloe’s fate.  So terrible that I want to smack some sense into these ignorant lawmakers.  Get with the program! Get educated, for crying out loud!  This patriarchal system catering to old fashioned beliefs based on misogynistic, archaic thinking MUST GO NOW!

In a recent post that also involved another tragedy like this, I posted:

Women around the world continue to be viewed as baby incubators and milk machines, and as such, their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing do not matter in the grand scheme of things.  Their needs as new mothers don’t matter.  BUT THEY DO MATTER.

Mothers are more than incubators.  They are living, breathing, humans just like men are.  Just like babies are.  Heck, people seem to be very quick to forget one basic truth:  Without women, you can’t have babies.  Hellllooooo!  I see all the time hateful comments from the extreme right (here in this country) from women, of all things, picking on other women because they were raised brainwashed into believing misogynistic things that do nothing but damn themselves.  Well, I wish women would unbrainwash themselves.  Use their common sense, not have their religious zealotry make them blinder than bats.  It might make a huge difference once women sided with women, don’t you think?

What Food Sensitivities Might Mean in the Grand Scheme of Things

This morning, I saw a post in my Facebook feed about yesterday’s article by Rachel Rabkin Peachman in Motherlode (NY Times) titled “Picky Eating in Children Linked to Anxiety, Depression and A.D.H.D.”  This was not the only article that was motivated by yesterday’s Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics article titled “Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers With Selective Eating” in which Nancy Zucker, Ph.D., eating disorders specialist, and associate professor, psychology and neuroscience, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. shares her findings.  There was also a Medline Plus article yesterday titled “Severe ‘Picky Eating’ May Point to Mental health Issues in Kids” and Wall Street Journal article by Sumanthi Reddy titled “What Picky Eating Might Mean for Children Later.” I know this isn’t about postpartum depression (PPD), but as I’ve said before, PPD has its roots earlier in life, which is why I choose to blog about and spread awareness about those roots.  I also want to tackle feelings of guilt and shame felt by mothers over things like picky eaters and food sensitivities. For example, a kid may have food sensitivities that are biological in nature, so there is absolutely zero reason for a mother to feel guilt/shame over the situation.  Sure, you should do what you can to introduce new foods slowly over time (remember, do all things in moderation and you can’t go wrong), but forcing a child to eat something when he is hell bent against it will not help matters one bit.  The approach of “If a child refuses to eat, don’t give him anything to eat and send him to his room; he’ll eat whatever you give him if he is hungry enough” is not the way to go at all, IMO. Dr. Zucker has also indicated that having kids eat processed foods (like chicken nuggets….either the frozen variety or the McDonald’s variety) should not alarm or cause parents to feel guilt/shame, since consistency in texture and taste is important to a child who might be tentative/uncertain overall and especially when it comes to eating.  Some experience sensory overload and become overwhelmed easily when it comes to taking in everything via their senses of smell, vision, hearing….and taste.   These kids have difficulty processing all the stimuli around them and go on sensory overload.  Chicken nuggets aren’t like broccoli.  They’re not bitter little tree lookalikes with little “leaves” and mushy in some cases, hard to chew in other cases, depending on how they are cooked or how fresh they are. In the Medline article, Dr. Zucker states:

They have a stronger sensitivity to the world outside and to how their body feels. That sets them up to have more vivid experiences — more intense food experiences, more intense emotional experiences. None of that is pathological, but it could be a vulnerability for later problems.

You may want to ask yourself whether you are a picky eater (and if so, whether you are also hypersensitive to smell, noise, visual cues and oral textures).  Here are the results of my self examination:

  • Picky eater?  check (for my daughter, not sure if I was once a picky eater, but I don’t believe I am that picky.  I won’t eat everything, and I think that’s absolutely normal)
  • Hypersensitive to smell? check for me (I can smell things that have caused people to liken me to a canine)
  • Hypersensitive to noise? check (I can hear things that have caused people to liken me to a canine; high-pitched grinding of subways to a halt, subtle background noises at work that all my co-workers don’t hear/tune out yet are highly distracting and irritating to me)
  • Hypersensitive to visual cues? check (for my daughter; whereas, I have extremely myopic vision, so I can’t say this applies to me; my sense of smell and hearing more than make up my lack of vision)
  • Hypersensitive to oral textures? check (for my daughter; I’m not sure if I was like this as a kid)

While a distaste for broccoli is not indicative of an issue since it’s fairly common for kids to refuse to eat it (it’s like beer and some other drinks and foods that take a few tries before you acquire a taste for it), when food aversions and smells becomes too overwhelming for a child as to prevent him from being able to tolerate eating out altogether, that’s when you know you have a case of extreme sensitivity for which parents should seek professional help (as the study has found a greater likelihood of depression or social anxiety later in life).  When a child has a limited number of foods he/she likes and can tolerate being exposed to other foods without any issues, that’s when there is a moderate sensitivity to food.  Moderately picky eaters usually broaden their palate over time, much like my daughter is doing slowly but surely, much to my relief!  Some children have a limited diet due to physical reasons such as acid reflux, which is not easy to figure out when a baby experiences this (from drinking milk and then after an intro to solid foods).  It’s not like the baby can tell you that she has acid reflux or feels sick drinking or eating certain things.  Hence, the trial and error and much anxiety and concern that ensue….not fun in the least! From the Motherlode article:

[Picky] eaters are not simply stubborn or tyrannical children whose parents have given in to their culinary whims. Rather, the research reveals that picky eaters have a heightened sensitivity to the world that is innate. “Their sensory experience is more intense in the areas of taste, texture and visual cues. And their internal experience may be more intense, so they have stronger feelings,” said Dr. Zucker, who is also director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders. “They’re sensitive kids who may be anxious or a little depressed; so cutting up fruits into funny shapes is not going to do the trick for these kids.”

Also:

“It is a reminder that food is not a stand-alone issue and that it plays a role in the big picture of development,” said Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and co-author of “Food Fights: Winning the nutritional challenges of parenthood armed with insight, humor, and a bottle of ketchup.” “How kids behave around food relates to how they interact with the world in general. It doesn’t surprise me that some kids who are really tentative around food might be really tentative in life.”

I am so glad the research was performed and results shared across major news outlets like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. and subsequently shared all over social media.  The information is very critical and can make a hugely beneficial impact to parents struggling with their kids’ tastes for food know when to get help versus when to chalk up as something kids will grow out of as their palates broaden and become “more sophisticated.”  Per the Motherlode article, approximately 20% of children are picky eaters, so you can see it’s a fairly common challenge faced by parents.  And per Dr. Zucker, there is a correlation between picky eating and mental health challenges down the road, like depression and/or anxiety.

Paving the Way for Emotional Health In Teen Girls

Since its release, the movie “Inside Out” has helped put emotional health on the front burner of discussions and will hopefully make it a lot easier for families to talk about emotions on a regular basis.  This movie was, quite simply, brilliant in going somewhere no other film for children has ever gone (at least none that I’m aware).  Why?  Cuz emotions and mental health are topics that people have historically tiptoed about as if they were walking on eggshells.  It’s time we extracted our heads from out of the hole of ignorance, taboo and stigma.  There ain’t nothin’ about emotions and mental health that should warrant keeping our heads buried like that.  Nothin’ at all……….

I sincerely believe that “Inside Out” can be instrumental in helping children to better understand their emotions and realize that feeling sad is just as critical as feeling happy, it’s NORMAL to feel negative emotions like sadness and anger, and all emotions should be expressed rather than suppressed.  A good way to express/release/process your emotions is to talk about them or even write about them.

I’ve found that many adults have enough challenges in understanding/coping with/expressing/releasing/processing their own emotions, let alone help their children understand/cope/express/release/process theirs.  And thus the critical need for resources from experienced professionals that are abundantly available out there.  You just need to know how to find them.

I have mentioned one invaluable resource for girls in previous posts, and I want to bring it up again today.  It’s Girls Leadership.  Although the focus of my blog is on maternal mental health and mothers were all young girls at one point–all too many of whom have faced issues early in life that pave the way to the adults they are today–the information within the Girls Leadership articles below applies to boys as well.  If you are a parent of a girl, read through the website’s posts on a wide variety of topics, including confidence, identity, body image, books, school, friendships, role models, and conflict.  What a difference it would’ve made to me while growing up if such resources had been available to my mother, if I had had a better relationship with my mother, if I had had a network of support, and if I had had a mentor in my life. Speaking of mentor, “How to Find a Mentor” by Joanne Wilson on July 2, 2015 is a must read! The Girls Leadership posts I ran across in the past couple of weeks are:

  1. Emotional Intelligence Workout: respecting/expressing your feelings critical to development of emotional intelligence (EI)
  2. Removing the Stigma: understanding/talking about /seeking help for mental illness, which applies to 11% of teenagers by the time they hit 18; girls more susceptible than boys
  3. A Powerful New Tool for Girls’ Courage & Confidence: Self-Compassion: practicing mindfulness and self-compassion rather than self-destructive thinking

I want to bring particular attention to the 3rd post because it highlights issues all too many girls face, which are explained in such an on-point fashion in this post the likes of which I have not seen anywhere else to date:

  • tendency to dwell / fixate on their problems rather than realize/following through on solutions
  • tendency to feel more shame / self hatred than boys
  • tendency to feel the need to “fit in” and they are thus more easily influenced by social media, which appeal to girls more than boys.  Social media sites, such as Instagram and Facebook (which I will not allow my daughter to access until she can drive), are just another way to make girls feel more isolated and bad about themselves because these sites, for the most part, only provide glimpses of the positive moments in other people’s lives.  Let me illustrate. My Facebook circle is a rather small one compared to other people’s circles.  Of this circle less than 50% are considered active (i.e., log on, post, like and comment at least a few times a week).  Of my active Facebook friends, only about 5% post things that are truly accurate reflections of what’s going on in their minds and lives….like me.  I say what’s on my mind without sugar coating anything.  Of the remaining 95% or so of the active posters, you’ll see the accomplishments, smiling faces, and all is fine-and-dandy posts / pictures (with a couple people doing it more regularly than others).  It’s these kinds of posts that can influence young girls–ones with the tendency to dwell/fixate on problems, feel bad about themselves, and feel like the one priority in life is fitting in/belonging–into comparing themselves with others and believing that everyone else is living much better and happier lives.  Hence, the “why me, my life sucks” mindsets.  These sites are just as anti-social as they are “social” because rather than encouraging face-to-face interactions, they make you believe that interaction limited to the Internet is all you need to be “social.”

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.

Help Me Finish the Sentence: Just Because She Doesn’t Look Depressed…..

A super duper quick post tonight, as I have had too many windows open on my PC and need to shut it down to give my PC a break…not to mention install some updates.  Before I shut my PC down tonight I need to briefly jump onto my soapbox and put my thoughts out into cyberspace about not making assumptions and not judging books by their covers.  These 2 thoughts combined and in the context of new mothers produces the following:

Don’t assume that a new mom wearing makeup and a smile is happy.  

How would you know better, then, you ask?  Well, the only way you’re going to know for sure is if you care enough to ask how a new mom is doing.  Take the time to have a chat with her and show you care. Look into her eyes when speaking.  Being the empath that I am, I can usually sense when something is a bit off with someone.  But I would most certainly confirm what my gut is telling me by talking to them.

I’ve also blogged about this previously (click here to read), but I do want to make sure you go over to Eve Canavan’s blog Small Time Mum and check out her blog post titled “You Can’t Be Depressed Dear, the Forestry Commission Don’t Have to Be Called to Trim Your Bush.” It’s a great post.

So, just because she (a new mom) doesn’t look depressed does NOT mean she is NOT depressed, and the only way you’re going to know is if you stop and ask how she’s doing and look her in the eyes.

Blue Light and PPD

Just a short blurb today to share an interesting Huffington post article on the connection of blue light with melatonin secretion (the hormone that induces sleep) and thus postpartum depression (PPD).  The title of the article is “The Connection Between Blue Light and Postpartum Depression” by Matt Berical.

I’ve always been fascinated in the biology behind PPD, in particular insomnia as a symptom, hence here I am popping onto my blog this July 4th weekend ever so quickly to blog.  I had previously blogged about blue light in my post from 2 years ago titled “Sleep is So Important, Especially to the New Mom.”  If insomnia is plaguing you on a antepartum (or prenatal) or postpartum (or postnatal) basis, or if you are an expectant mom who just wants to be in the know to reduce the chances of PPD hitting you from left field like it does for so many moms, then please read the Huffington Post article and my previous blog post.

I had not known what depression and insomnia were like before I was hit from left field with both, so I’m always happy when I see information made available to the public to educate people.  An important word I’ve heard used before, just not in conjunction with something like PPD prevention, is prophylactic.   It’s a synonym, after all, for preventive measure, which in the case of pregnancy prevention comes in the form of a condom and/or the pill, but in the context of PPD prevention comes in the form of knowledge of symptoms, where/how to get treatment, lining up adequate social/emotional/practical support, and if you want to avoid disruption of sleep, orange-tinted sunglasses that can be effective in blocking blue light. These sunglasses are recommended for anyone that has to either stay up late on a regular basis, like teenagers studying and being on computers (which emit blue light), to expectant moms who have difficulty sleeping due to having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and new moms who have to wake up every 2-3 hours to feed their babies.

Whether it’s the anxiety that comes with new mom challenges or the hormonal fluctuations and decrease in serotonin and/or melatonin–both of which are hormones critical for sleep–sensitivity to circadian rhythm changes are further aggravated by exposure to blue light, a biological trigger to wake up, which means that repeated exposure to it during the night can mess with our circadian rhythms and melatonin production.

And hence, insomnia, which for me was my very first PPD symptom.