Diana, A True Musical Story

Happy Daylight Savings Day! Happy International Women’s Day! And happy longer & warmer days!  Looks like the groundhog was right…at least here in the NY metro area, spring is starting early this year!  I’m not going to speak of snow, specifically, for fear of jinxing myself.

I haven’t blogged in ages!  I’ve said that I have slowed down on blogging but will probably never fully stop, as I always have thoughts about postpartum depression (PPD).  I’ve blogged previously about television shows, movies and Broadway shows that delve into the topic of mental health and PPD, in particular. This time, it is the Broadway musical “Diana, A True Musical Story” that is motivating me to write today.  I saw the musical 2 nights ago in its first week of previews, and loved it.  Though, I do think the end needs some fine-tuning; I guess being in previews for the next few weeks leaves them some room to make adjustments, hopefully?  The music was written by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan who’d won a Tony award for “Memphis” and who I’m fairly sure will get a Tony nomination for Diana.  Another certain Tony nom is the one for best leading actress in a musical for Jeanna de Waal who is amazing as Princess Di….she captures all of Princess Di’s mannerisms, the way she carried herself, walked, etc.   There will no doubt be other Tony noms, including one for Judy Kaye for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, Best Costume Design of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, and of course Best Musical.

I am blogging about this show and about Diana because she posed as a beacon of light for those suffering from mental health issues.  During one of the scenes in which Diana had just given birth to Prince William, postpartum depression was mentioned.  Hey, a shout out about the condition that affects 1 out of 7 new moms!  I couldn’t contain myself and said out loud “Wow, they actually mentioned postpartum depression.” Good for you, Christopher Ashley and Joe DiPietro, for including this important experience of Princess Diana in this musical production!   I am grateful that this show was created to share with young and old: those who were around and when she was alive and loved her (like me) and those who weren’t born until after her death.   She wasn’t referred to the People’s Princess for nothing.  In her short life, she touched so many lives, most of whom had never even met her.

She was a woman ahead of her time, inspiring not only fashion trends, but through her courage of not holding back, not letting her situation crush her, and moving on with her life the way she wanted to live it….

Free of the yoke of being told what she could/couldn’t do because it was considered unbecoming of a princess and a woman.  While reciting her wedding vow to Prince Charles chose to omit the word “obey”….she was the first royal bride to do this, with Kate Middleton and Megan Markle following in her footsteps.  Additionally, she wore her infamous off-the-shoulder and body hugging black “Revenge Dress” (I won’t spoil what the show referred to this dress as, it will crack you up, I assure you) to a Vanity Fair dinner on June 29, 1994 because she knew Prince Charles was going to officially confess his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles there.

Free of the yoke of being tied to a man who didn’t love her.  She confronted Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman Prince Charles was having an affair with, at Camilla’s sister’s 40th birthday party.  During the BBC interview, she let the public know “There were three in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”  And soon after the interview in 1996, she again broke from religious/royal convention by getting divorced.

Free of the yoke of being Princess of Wales, speaking her mind, leading from her heart, and making the world fall in love with her.

  • She broke from the mold of royalty by being true to herself and honest and open about her feelings with the public.  Her interviews, biographies, recordings and book “Diana-Her True Story by Andrew Morton” (published in 1992) reveal her sense of humor, candor, and heart of gold. Diana was not afraid to tell the world that her life with Prince Charles was far from the fairytale-like marriage people believe it to be.  People in England and all over the world fell in love with her.

 

  • She was determined to fight the stigma of HIV and AIDS even though the Queen often voiced her displeasure about such efforts.  There are numerous pictures of her shaking hands and conversing with HIV/AIDS patients without any protective gear on.  She became involved with numerous charities in Africa that made a huge impact internationally with respect to the treatment of AIDS.

 

  • She was determined to fight the stigma of mental health issues like self harm, bulimia, and PPD.  Back in 1982 when Diana gave birth to Prince William, PPD was something that was never discussed with anyone. Her pregnancy was a difficult one.  She didn’t feel well throughout it, and things got worse after she had the baby. All the pressures of being a wife, a mother and the people’s princess were too overwhelming for her.  She worried constantly and struggled in silence.  She would cry and feel panicked whenever Prince Charles didn’t come home when he said he was coming home.  She kept her panic to herself.  The public noticed her getting thinner during her public appearances, which she explained was due to the fatigue from first-time motherhood. In her book “Diana-Her True Story” and her famous 1995 BBC interview with Martin Bashir, she finally opened up about her struggles with self harm, eating disorders, and postpartum depression (the root of all had to do with how unhappy she was with her marriage and how alone she felt).  Diana revealed that she had received very little support from the royal family when she was sick with PPD because they didn’t know what to do, because people back then (and even in many places and cases today) didn’t really know what PPD was.  The royal family went around saying that “Diana is unstable, Diana is mentally unbalanced” (these words were used in the musical).  Having such a negative label associated with her was unfortunate.  She wasn’t just a first-time mother trying to be the best mother for her child; she was also a young woman trying to adapt to her life as a princess. Between these pressures and the lack of emotional support / personal time and space, her toxic marriage, history of her own mother walking out of her life when she was a small child, shame from not being able to cope with everything, and lack of self esteem, it’s no wonder she suffered from PPD!  So many risk factors!

When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time that you’ve got ’enough attention.’ But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. – from her BBC interview

She never got professional help because she didn’t really ask for it due to the shame she felt.  And yet she soldiered on….the People’s Princess to the very end of her life that was tragically cut short right after her 36th birthday on August 31, 1997.  I will never forget where I was (I was walking in an open market in Sydney, Australia) when I heard the tragic news.

Please go check it out if you were one of the many who fell in love with Princess Di that you were heartbroken for weeks after she died.  Please go check it out if your life hasn’t previously been touched by Princess Di and want to be inspired by the story of a woman way ahead of her time.  From the beginning of her marriage to Prince Charles to the end of it, she managed to become a powerful, independent woman despite all the royal restrictions that were in place.  In the end, she packed her bags and left, refusing to be stuck in a loveless marriage.

Defiant Girl vs Bull

I wanted to post my memorable adventure into downtown Manhattan yesterday afternoon, but wanted to stick with my determination to avoid being political on this blog. But since I’m such a lover of analogies, it just dawned on me how I could work my experience (my visit with the Defiant Girl statue, also known as “Fearless Girl,” facing off with the Charging Bull at Bowling Green) into my blog.  So, here I am posting the experience of the adventure…with a twist.

I took the PATH train to the World Trade Center. This is only the 2nd time I’ve taken the PATH there since 9/11. I used to take the PATH there every day back when I used to work at 7 WTC.  The first time I took the PATH there post-9/11, the Oculus wasn’t even built.  It’s an amazing architectural feat!

I took the subway to Wall Street and walked over to check out the Defiant Girl statue and needless to say there were throng of tourists present on day 2, post debut.  Thank you, State Street (firm that manages $2.5 trillion in assets) for this statue!  I sincerely hope they will make this a permanent fixture rather than taking it away in a week or month!  State Street chose the perfect time–International Women’s Day– to put the Defiant Girl statue there.  And yes, I did take the day off for #ADayWithoutAwoman but I also took today (Thur) and tomorrow off for a long-overdue vacation. The statue was actually, upon further reading about this statue, a joint effort of State Street and the McCann New York advertising agency.  What a clever marketing effort to not just draw attention to the index fund giant’s effort to get more women into executive positions/board roles but also to the anniversary of the launch of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks companies that have higher levels of gender diversity in their leadership!  The plaque in front of the girl says “SHE makes a difference,” which cleverly not only represents the girl but also the ticker for the ETF.  I was surprised to learn that State Street is has warned the 3500 public companies in which it invests that it will vote their share against them if the directors of these firms do not make tangible progress toward adding women to their boards.

It was wonderful to see so many young children and families taking pictures of/with the statue. The statue of the girl faces the bull with her hands on her hips and a defiant expression on her face.  I overheard parents explaining to their children what the statue represents. This girl is standing in defiance against the bull, a symbol of not just the market (bull vs bear) but of an industry traditionally dominated by men.  And I thought to myself “This.” Raising a future generation of girls who will be fearless when faced with challenges in women’s rights (e.g., employment, reproductive rights, etc.).  I felt a surge of optimism despite what’s going on under the current Presidency (sorry, I had to mention this because it’s relevant to what I’m writing about). Despite the cold wind as the sun set, I stood there for about an hour, just taking in people’s reactions to the statue.  I will not forget this experience.

Here’s one of many pictures I took of the statue, and she happens to be wearing a pussyhat. I also took a picture of the girl facing off with the bull, which was not an easy thing to do given the number of tourists crowded around both statues and in between, but I managed to get this shot when someone yelled out for everyone to clear the area so pictures could be taken.

Photo credit: Ivy Shih Leung at 5:00 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day

Photo credit: Ivy Shih Leung at 5:30 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day

Here’s where my analogy comes in.

If you are fighting postpartum depression (PPD), think of yourself as the girl–with that look of defiance on her face and with hands on hips–and the PPD as the bull.  Tell it to back the hell off.  *It* can be the PPD itself, stigma associated with it, voices in your head that cause you to feel ashamed for not enjoying your motherhood due to this illness, and/or doctors who tell you to *buck up* or treat you with poor bedside manner.  YOU CAN DO IT.  There are resources and caring people around you who can help. It is not shameful to ask for help. It is not shameful to be sick. It is not shameful to have to take medication (I did). It is not shameful to be unable to feel the joy you thought you would feel after the birth of your baby. PPD is an illness that needs to be treated the same way diabetes or any other illness needs to be treated.  

Photo credit: Sarah Kimball who actually knit the hat (taken around 6:30 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day)

I also wanted to mention that my primary reason for visiting Bowling Green wasn’t even to see the statue (plans were made last week re: pussyhat on the bull but the statue wasn’t put up until 2 days ago, March 7th) but to be present for the pussyhatting of the Charging Bull.  Yes, you heard right. My friend, Sarah Kimball, spent the last couple of weeks knitting a hat just for the bull.  And her goal was to put it on the bull on International Women’s Day.  Here’s a pic of the bull. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw this (or any other picture taken of it last night) somewhere else online or more ideally in a newspaper, like the NY Times. Brava, Sarah Kimball, for your awesome handiwork, a historic moment that I wish had been captured by a news outlet. But the picture is slowing making its way across the Internet, as it’s been shared via Facebook and Twitter. And now with this blog post.

A Sea of Pink Pussyhats at the Women’s March in Washington, DC

pussyhatI have a lot to say about the amazing experience I had with over 500,000 other women, men and children that participated in the Women’s March in DC last Saturday, January 21, 2017.  For now, I just wanted to post this one picture of the rally crowd (before the march started) outside of the Air & Space Museum.

airspace

I took this picture in the welcome space and tranquility of the museum (and after the welcome lady’s room break that I desperately sought for over an hour, struggling to get through the sea of people that were packed like sardines from the point I left my friends by the stage where the speakers were to the inside of the museum).  Several times, I imagined myself peeing myself and saying “Oh well, what choice did I have” and wishing I had not had the cup of coffee and sips of water up to that point in time. I also wished I had worn Depends.

In any event, it was an amazing experience, and I will write more later. This may not have had anything to do with postpartum depression, but I marched in solidarity with other women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights advocates, plus advocates of countless other groups….it wasn’t just a women’s march.  It became a march of the people for the people….a counter-movement, or #resistance of a nightmare regime that we pray will come to an end very shortly and not last the full four  years.

Honored to be Selected One of the Top Postpartum Depression Blogs of 2016 by Healthline

On November 4th, I was honored to be selected as one of the Top Postpartum Depression Blogs of 2016 by Healthline.  Thank you, Healthline, for this surprising recognition!

I haven’t blogged about it until now due to my trying to recover from the wind getting knocked out of me by Trump’s election. I’m going to keep my opinions to myself here, since this blog is not meant to be a sounding board for my political views.  Unfortunately, it is influencing me as a person and it is making me more determined than ever before to not lose sight of what’s important. What’s important is that we can’t let hate win, and women must band together and stand up for one another.

My mission to help other mothers will always be my mission. I had my daughter in 2004, suffered from postpartum depression in 2005, started this blog in 2009, published my book in 2011….and I am working on an initiative in New Jersey that I will happily share more about later.   I want to be more involved than I have been in the realm of maternal mental health.  I look forward to seeing what my future holds, but I won’t go about it passively.  I will continue in my blogging, helping mothers who reach out to me via my blog, and other PPD initiatives.  My hope is that we will continue the progress we’re making in maternal mental health advocacy and treatment (doulas, therapists, etc.).  In a world that has enough stressors as it is, we need to be there for one another.

For all those who have been following my blog, I truly hope it has helped you.  My blog has been a great satisfaction to me over the years, as it has enabled me to reach and help mothers around the world with what they are going through.

 

 

Scars to Your Beautiful: We Are All Beautiful in Our Own Way

I have been hearing “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara a lot when I’m in my car. And once I hear it, it keeps repeating in my head over and over and over all day long. I’ve been wanting to blog about this but the election side-tracked this until now.  I decided tonight that I had to blog about something positive and meaningful, what with all of the negativity and disappointment arising from the election results.

For the first time, I watched the video with the lyrics so I could get my arms around the words. And then I watched the official video that stars a diverse group of individuals of all different ages, both women and men, some with visible (a man with a disfigured ear, a woman with an abdominal scar) and some with invisible scars (depression?). There’s a girl with alopecia (the disease that prevents hair growth), a woman with cancer, a transgender model, and even the singer JoJo. And many more.

The first part of the song before the chorus comes in is all about society’s perception of beauty–face and body beautiful enough to be sculpted–that causes body image issues. Society, after all, over emphasizes the thin beauties that grace the covers of magazines to the point that individuals are blind to any other beauty that lies within an individual. This societal obsession of outward beauty causes deep pain and body image issues that can manifest as eating disorders, depression, cutting, etc.  These issues are not visible to the observer, but they are there.  A new mother having difficulty returning to her pre-pregnancy weight and figure (celebrities who brag about their quick returns to pre-pregnancy looks don’t help at all) may suffer body image issues that can lead to postpartum depression. Please click here and here for previous posts about this.

What Alessia wants to remind us all is that you don’t have to be beautiful on the outside to be beautiful.  You can have a beautiful, loving and generous heart which will glow from inside out, and the impression that gives people is more meaningful, more memorable, and more beautiful than the person whose beauty is only skin deep.

The chorus of the song repeats several times throughout the song (and this is the part that keeps repeating in my head over and over again…perhaps my mind is telling me something, I don’t know) reminding us that we’re beautiful just the way we are and we shouldn’t have to change anything. The world should change the way we see beauty in people.

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful

Alessia so sagely writes at the end of her video:

Often times, the world both directly and indirectly
tells us that we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves
if we don’t fit certain beauty standards.
Scars to your beautiful is a reminder that beauty isn’t only
one look, shape, size, or colour. It isn’t even always tangible.
It comes in an endless amount of forms
and we need to recognize that.”

Thank you, Alessia, for sharing your talent of music writing, your amazing voice, this video, the message contained in the words of this song and video, and your reminder that we are all beautiful in our own way(s).

But I will go beyond Alessia’s lyrics and say that just because someone is beautiful on the outside does not mean they are beautiful inside. Sometimes the darkness within–hate, jealousy, prejudice, etc.–breaks through that outward beauty and cancels it out, preventing others from seeing the beauty that is only skin deep.

Watch this video. Listen to the music. Never mind any negative thoughts that your mind may be telling you. Never mind any negative thoughts that others may be telling you. Forget the bullies on social media.  Forget the haters.

You are beautiful, and don’t you forget that.

Let’s Be Real When It Comes to Women Supporting Women

I wasn’t going to post until after the AFSP Out of the Darkness walk, but I wanted to just quickly say a few words on a topic near and dear to my heart:  Mommy wars and breastfeeding zealots.

Let me start off by saying this:

  • Women supporting women ≠ women verbally attacking other women for choosing how they would like to raise their children, including how to feed them
  • Women supporting women = proactively doing something to promote the wellbeing of other women through S-U-P-P-O-R-T (e.g., help with baby, help around the house, providing social/emotional support in person, by phone or online, doula services, lactation support)

I find it highly ironic that women who purport to have women and their babies’ interests at heart  via radical views on breastfeeding and a fetus’ right to life, while also being the first to attack other women for common-sense notions that are moderate in nature and don’t align with theirs.  They will lunge at you (imagine a monster with glowing red eyes, sharp teeth and claws) whenever they–and I have to laugh about this–stumble across a blog like mine and think that I don’t have other women and babies’ interests at heart and call my blog a disservice to others and the mere fact that my blog is recognized by others in the mental health and women’s health communities as atrocious.

Unlike these fanatical individuals, I’m moderate.  I’m right down the middle.  I’m objective.  I’m logical. I’m empathic. I’m considerate. I look at the COMPLETE picture.  I have no extreme, one-sided, I-don’t-care-about-other-people’s-circumstances-I-only-care-about-my-own, narrow-minded, holier-than-thou, views.  Bottom line, I have no time for bullshit like this.

I GET that breastfeeding is good.  Did I ever say on my blog that it wasn’t?  If you find any indication on my blog that I’m anti-breastfeeding, then I welcome you to please show me.  I totally welcome you to try.

I will also be right down the middle when it comes to abortions.  There is never one right answer for the reasons people need to have abortions.  And I absolutely abhor it when I see people who have no clue about what others are going through making their holier-than-thou claims that anyone who has one–whether it be to save their own lives or consequences of rape/incest–is automatically committing a sin.  Again, who are you to judge this?  Who made you judge and jury?  Everyone has beliefs, but let your beliefs guide you in your OWN life, not OTHER PEOPLE’S lives.  Other people’s lives and how they choose to live them from the circumstances with which they are faced (remember that sometimes things get really ugly for people out of no fault of theirs) is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

There are WAY TOO MANY people who have nothing better to do than judge other people and try to take pot shots at them for the oddest of reasons.  WAY TOO MANY.  Like the extremely conservative, far right, narrow-minded,  religiously fanatical to the point of obsession ways of thinking trolls that pop out from under their figurative bridge anytime there is anything like breastfeeding or abortions in the headlines.

So when I run into women who claim to support other women that make claims like “Oh, I support all moms who breastfeed and everyone else be damned” (and I don’t care what their situation is, I just know that I’m right and they’re wrong), I WANT TO GAG. And I very much wish I could press a “Make that troll disappear” button to make them go away.

Women supporting other women does not mean you go and attack others simply for not thinking, behaving and having the same exact circumstances as you.  Because guess what?  Each person is a unique individual with genes and life experiences that make them who they are.  We do not live in a Stepford Wives world.  Wake the f$ck up.

#gotnotimefordatshit
#trollbegone
#crawlbackunderbridgeyoupoppedoutfrom
#notaStepfordWivesworld

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?