May 3, 2011 – It was a lovely Tuesday evening at the Chart House Restaurant at Lincoln Harbor, Weehawken, NJ, and I had the pleasure of a delicious dinner with the backdrop of the gorgeous Manhattan skyline, followed by a lecture given by Laura J. Miller, MD, Vice Chair for Academic Clinical Services Director, Women’s Mental Health Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
I had many reasons to look forward to this event. First, I was going to see the lovely Mariann Moore, Executive Director of the Hudson Perinatal Consortium, whom I befriended at the Postpartum Support International conference in Pittsburgh last October. Second, the topic of Dr. Miller’s lecture on perinatal anxiety disorders was close to my heart, since I had suffered and survived from frightening panic attacks before my medication kicked in. Third, I’ve always wanted to eat at the Chart House. 🙂
Dr. Miller covered over the course of her 2-hour lecture pretty much the ABCs of perinatal anxiety disorders. She started off with an excerpt of Katherine Stone’s experience with postpartum OCD, which Katherine had (coincidentally) posted on her blog right around Mother’s Day five years ago. The paragraph that goes into the excessive concern that her baby meets his milestones on time and tracking down what time and how much he ate and what time and how long he napped….this all sounds like what I went through too (in addition to tracking what time and the type of bowel movements my baby had), though I did not suffer from postpartum OCD. I needed these lists in order for me to get through each day. Just like Katherine, I felt that “If I didn’t write it down, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to remember and wouldn’t know when to do what. Maybe it gave me some false sense of control.” Since all newborns do are sleep, eat and poop, those were the basics of what made up each and everyday for the first weeks postpartum……and creating lists for these baby basics was one of the ways that helped to assure me that all was going okay.
Dr. Miller talked about what made some women more vulnerable to perinatal anxiety disorders than others, effects of anxiety on the fetus and future cognitive and behavioral development of the baby, the gamut of anxiety disorders (i.e., panic disorder, OCD, PTSD), and treatment (non-medication and medication options) during pregnancy and postpartum. All the stuff that I happened to also include in my soon-to-be published book–in addition to estrogen, neurotransmitters, serotonin, risk factors (biological, psychosocial), cortisol, agoraphobia, etc. My book also goes into stigma, social support, myths of motherhood, my experiences, my PPD triggers (all of which were anxiety inducing), and passing on my lessons learned in practical tips.
Oh, and speaking of my book, it will hopefully be published by the end of the summer. It has been 6 long years of reading and journaling my thoughts, experiences, and what I have learned from the time PPD reared its ugly head until I finally stopped writing a year ago to start editing the mammoth manuscript down to something people might, just might, be interested in picking up to read. A main difference in the way in which Dr. Miller presented her lecture, which is how most of the medical professionals that wrote most of the books I’ve read, and the way my book will go into these topics is that I am writing it from the perspective of a mother that has a degree in biology but not a career in a healthcare profession (who usually use scientific jargon that I sometimes even have trouble understanding). I write it in the perspective of a mother who survived her frightening experience and wants to join the other voices out there to help raise awareness and end the stigma associated with perinatal mood disorders and the myths surrounding motherhood that only serve to make matters worse.