I wanted to share this very beautiful piece about postpartum depression (PPD), written and read by Helen Ferguson Crawford to introduce a speech about depression made by a former LA Times President and Head of CNN in Atlanta. Not only is Helen a talented poet, she’s an award-winning artist, architect, and designer living in Atlanta.
Helen received her art and architecture education at Parsons School of Design in New York, and at Princeton University. Her work has appeared in exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, among other places. Helen has provided commentary for NPR, Metropolis magazine and the New York Times, and was featured as one of “30 Artists: 30 and Under” in the New York Times Magazine.
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Dear Post Partum Depression,
After the birth of my daughter, you silently slipped in, and settled down.
I recovered from birth, hugged my family, and watched autumn change to winter, while you slowly grew.
You hid behind other temporary, post partum illnesses, undetected.
You fed on stress. You fed on fear, until I found myself in a black hole so deep, dark and terrifying.
The sides were wet, damp and crumbly dirt; the width of my arms.
Up far above, the sky was barely visible.
Sometimes I could feel the sun for seconds.
There in that place, I accepted that you were here.
With intense fear, I stood up and gathered my army – friends, family, therapist and psychiatrist.
But even at night, when I lay on the cool floor of my porch, listening for anything – birds, trains, wind – waiting for the anxiety attacks to stop, waiting weeks for the medication to work, waiting for sunlight, sleep and appetite to return, I knew you were not me.
Depression, you are something that happened along the way – a situation. I accept this. You do not define me.
I laugh, sleep, play with my children, talk with my husband, draw, paint, smile, pray, cry, spend days with friends and live.
I climb, inch by inch, fingers dug in the sides, pulling myself up.
Each inch I climb is a triumph. I am on this path that is life.
My light shines from within.
– Helen Ferguson Crawford
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I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with Helen over the past few months. She constantly amazes me with not just her artistic and creative talents, but also for her dedication in seeking supporters through such social media forums as Facebook and Twitter. She formed the FB Group – “Sign This – Post Partum Mother’s Act.” Having gone through a serious bout of PPD and still in recovery, she is determined to contribute to positive change that is desperately needed in this country with respect to early detection and treatment of PPD, which occurs at rate of one out of eight new mothers. That’s right, PPD occurs in approximately 15% of all new mothers!
Helen and many other advocates for PPD education and public awareness—like myself, Katherine Stone, Lauren Hale, Amber Koter-Puline and others—do what we do because of our experiences and want to help prevent other moms from having to go through what we went through, not knowing, fearful, miserable, deprived of a joyful motherhood experience, and with doctors, friends and family members not necessarily helping or understanding due to lack of awareness. Out of lack of awareness comes stigma. From our experiences, came the realization that our experiences could have been minimized or prevented had we known about perinatal mood disorders the way we do today, had we been screened early enough to detect that something was wrong before our illnesses spiraled into nightmarish experiences. We realized that what this country desperately needs are the following: 1) education and awareness, 2) increased research into effectively detecting and treating perinatal mood disorders, and 3) an increase in training of healthcare practitioners. Without these improvements, mothers will suffer the way we suffered, or worse—families being torn apart, death of the mother and/or baby(ies).
EVERY MOTHER DESERVES TO HAVE A GOOD POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE. So, if you haven’t done so already, please sign the petition today in support of this long overdue legislation!