Journey of a PPD Survivor – Q/A Series – #1

Welcome to the very first of my Journey of a PPD Survivor Series!

I know many, many survivors whose journeys led them to helping other mothers feel less alone and suffer less than they themselves did.  These women have gone on to become doulas, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, peer support group leaders, founders of not-for-profit groups, bloggers (like myself), book authors (like myself), fundraisers, volunteers (like myself), etc.

Kathy Morelli, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since we met in 2011 at the Postpartum Support International conference in Seattle, has the honor of being my very first interviewee for this series.  Back in 2012, she wrote the most amazing book review for my book.  She herself is a book author in addition to being a licensed professional counselor and licensed massage therapist for pregnant/postpartum women.

Thank you, Kathy, for taking the time to provide my blog readers some insight into your journey as a PPD survivor!

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Question 1:
Can you please describe your journey to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor and Director of BirthTouch, LLC and what motivated your passion for maternal mental health matters
?

Ivy, lol, this could be a looooong answer! I’ll try to keep it reasonably brief!  I came of age in the 1970s when feminism was just starting to impact our society. I was raised to believe that I could go to college and get a good job, just like the boys. But I was also enculturated to stay home with my children. My mom didn’t work outside the home. There was no Title IX, equal funding of boys’ and girls’ sports, etc. when I was growing up. There was no family leave, no daycare centers included on corporate campuses. So, the tantalizing idea that a woman could work equally as a man was out there, but there were no plans for what to do about motherhood. What to do with a newborn during a career trajectory. These things were not in the public discourse at all. So, I never thought about how the integration of career and family is an enormous life challenge. How would I know?

I was the first-generation Italian American in my family to go to college.   I started my career in my 20s in data processing on Wall Street. I worked my way up to be an AVP at a major international bank. I managed the Database Department there. It was extremely stressful and not really emotionally fulfilling to me. But it was a good job that paid well. I was the only woman of 12 mid-level managers. It was challenging to be the only woman in this peer group. I never felt comfortable in that situation. They talked about things I wasn’t interested in. And sometimes they went to a strip club down the street for lunch. I certainly wasn’t going to do that.

The long commute led to my finding a job at another large data processing facility in New Jersey. My husband and I planned to start a family, and I didn’t want to commute on the subways while pregnant.  I had my son (now 22!) when I was 37 years old. I never changed a diaper or babysat very much at all, as my older sister did all that!  I also didn’t know much about the processes of pregnancy and birth, so it was all big mystery to me.

I actually had negative physical reactions to the idea of putting my son in daycare.  Daycare was a new concept 22 years ago. We made the decision for me to stay home with my son for a few years. I had postpartum depression (PPD) after I had my son. Looking back, it’s obvious that the life changes and the identity shifts were challenging for me. I had always been a high achiever, so shifting to taking care of a baby, which I had never done before, was not easy. I felt isolated. The feelings of depression were difficult to handle and caring for a baby on top of that was just so overwhelming.  In retrospect, I should’ve taken medication. But I wouldn’t, as I was nursing and I was concerned about the effect medication would have on my son.  Back then, there wasn’t the abundant research regarding the relationship of psychotropic medication to breastfeeding that there is now. If I had the information available now on such sites as Mother to Baby , I would’ve been able to make an informed choice with research data as input. I would’ve chosen the medication. Even with counseling, I was depressed for two years. It was a joyful yet painful time.

In short, my journey to becoming a therapist has been founded on my desire to have a career where I could make a difference in the world. From my experience, I also had insight into what it was like to become a mother and go through a lot of biological and psychological shifts all at once.

 

Question 2:
Can you provide an overview of what services you provide?

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Massage Therapist in the State of New Jersey. As an LPC, I work with a broad range of people experiencing everyday family and marriage issues, depression, and anxiety. I have an integrative approach and use both traditional verbal therapies and mind-body therapies.  For many years, I’ve had a special focus on perinatal mood disorders, the transition to parenthood, and birth trauma, but I see a broad range of people.

Currently, I am shifting my focus to using interventions such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing (SE) and cranial sacral body work to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for single incident and chronic trauma.  Single incident trauma can be birth trauma, trauma from even necessary medical interventions (such as for cancer), a car accident, a rape, etc. Chronic trauma includes childhood sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse.

So many women talk to me about their pregnancy and birth experiences and how traumatic and medicalized childbirth is. Sometimes the medical trauma is something that is necessary such as when there are true complications and other times the medical trauma is from too many unnecessary, cascading interventions coupled with a general atmosphere that lacks compassion at an individual level.

So, I’m an advocate for woman and family-centered childbirth and have been for 22 years. I’m an advocate for social programs that promote a true family centered focus in our society.

 

Question 3:
You wrote three books, correct? Can you give an overview of what your books are about? 

Yes, I did!  They are all about self help and education for women and families in the childbearing year. They are all available on Amazon!

BirthTouch® Shiatsu and Acupressure for the Childbearing Year is all about education and self-help for the pregnant mom and her family.  There’s information about the difference between infant bonding and attachment, emotional management and safe touch to promote the relaxation response and family bonding during and after pregnancy.  There are numerous studies that conclude that safe massage promotes the relaxation response and family bonding. Safe touch promotes the release of relaxing endorphins and oxytocin and downregulates cortisol, the stress hormone. It’s all about self care in the family unit. Shiatsu is done fully clothed, and it’s a simple shiatsu routine, so even small children can participate, as well as an acupressure routine that is known to promote childbirth. As a massage therapist, I have certifications in shiatsu and acupressure, so the mind body connection is quite relevant to me and how I practice.

BirthTouch® Healing for Parents in the NICU  is a slim volume meant for parents who have a baby in the NICU. The focus in the NICU, is, of course, on the baby, but this slim volume is meant for the parents to help remind them to turn towards each other and support each other through this difficult time. It is a short-seated shiatsu routine that can be done in a waiting room.

BirthTouch® Guide to Perinatal Mood Disorders for Childbirth Educator is a slim volume meant for childbirth professionals, who are often the first line of support for the new mom. This slim volume fully delineates the different perinatal mood disorders and their differential diagnoses for the childbirth educator, so s/he can know what to look for.  It also explains why it’s not always easy to differentiate between the various perinatal mood disorders, because of the overlap and subtlety of symptoms.

 

Question 4:
Can you please explain how shiatsu and acupressure can help a pregnant/new mother? How did you learn these techniques and how did you discover that they can be effective in treating perinatal mood disorders?

I studied shiatsu and Jin Shin Do® Acupressure at the Meridian Shiatsu Institute in Pennsylvania from 1996 – 2000. I became certified in both modalities. The owner of the school retired over a decade ago and closed the school.  I started BirthTouch® around that time, which was a massage and bright hypnosis business for pregnant moms and their families. Women and midwives started to ask me what the acupoints were to begin birthing. I would write them out on a piece of scrap paper at first for my clients, and then eventually I developed a short workbook.  I began studying psychology. I found the intersection of my two fields, touch and psychology, in the seminal work of Dr. Tiffany Field at the Touch Institute in Miami.  Her studies were really the first research examining the effects of touch on mood in pregnant/postpartum women and in infants. Now, it’s a mainstream idea and you can see there are hundreds of studies that validate the use of touch to promote relaxation and mitigate the symptoms of depression and anxiety in pregnant/postpartum women.

After working with many women and families, I realized that people wanted to learn some safe, easy techniques for touch during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. After teaching these techniques for many years and seeing the clinical benefits, I wrote my BirthTouch® book in 2012.  I hope to run a research project specifically around BirthTouch® techniques in 2019. I will keep you posted on this!

 

Question 5:
I can remember when I first met you at a Postpartum Support International conference a number of years back. How long have you been a member?  What prompted you to become a member?

I think I’ve been a member of Postpartum Support International since 2010.  I was a Warmline Volunteer for about a year on Wednesday evenings, but then it was too difficult to keep it up, as my practice was so busy and Wednesday evening is prime time! I now do some work for the New Jersey Chapter of Postpartum Support International. I wanted to become a member, as I wanted to complete their training and to attend the wonderful conferences and actually meet and be a part of the researchers and clinicians who work in women and family advocacy every day!

 

Question 6:
Is there one key piece of advice you would offer to an expecting or new mom?

Please plan for the Fourth Trimester!  Here’s a link to my website BirthTouch®, with an article about the Fourth Trimester.  Don’t try to do it all yourself or with your partner.  If you don’t have local friends or family who are free to physically help you, then hire some help. It is well worth it! Ask for help, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor how you feel and if you need help, don’t suffer alone. Planning for the Fourth Trimester is key! Have list of resources at ready, in case you need them….friends, family, community resources, food prep, sleep plan, therapist phone number, doctor phone numbers, etc.  Talking to a therapist and taking medication is not shameful!

 

Question 7:
What would you want to say to women currently suffering with a postpartum mood disorder?

Recognize that you have a treatable mood disorder and that taking care of your emotional health is as important as, if not more important than, taking care of your physical body.  Talk to your primary care physician, your obstetrician, a therapist, or a psychiatrist.  Perinatal mood disorders are treated by talking to a therapist and/or taking medication.

Taking care of a baby is hard work. Please get yourself help in many different ways: sleep, food prep, taking time off from baby care by asking family or hiring help, etc. This new dynamic of having an infant to care for sets off feelings where you wonder whether you need to attend to my baby’s needs or my needs? Of course, the baby’s needs must be fulfilled and you need to include your needs in there in some way as well. It’s a new way of being.

To find resources in your area, call Postpartum Support International’s Warmline where you will be connected to someone in your area who can refer you to perinatal mental health resources in your community.

Postpartum Support International Warmline: 1-800-944-4773

 

Question 8:
What advice would you offer to friends/family members of a woman who is currently suffering with a postpartum mood disorder?

Please recognize that your loved one needs support and understanding. Don’t undercut her mothering skills by giving suggestions on how she should manage her baby. If she is struggling, ask her how she feels. Use active listening techniques, ask open-ended questions, and help her get to a therapist and/or doctor to get the help she needs.

And also, as caregiver, try to remember to take care of yourself, although this can be challenging. Caregivers get burned out and depressed as well. Take it easy on yourself and practice lovingkindness towards yourself and others.

 

Question 9:
In your practice, what kinds of treatments for PPD do you recommend? Is there a type of therapy/ies you would recommend?

I think the best treatment is developing a realistic baby-feeding, sleeping and self-care plan that take into account both mom’s and baby’s needs….all of this can be truly overwhelming.

Going to a therapist who has special training in perinatal mood disorders to help process the feelings around the transition to motherhood and the feelings around childbirth events is a good way to manage perinatal mood disorders.

Sometimes talk therapy is not enough. If medication is needed, going to a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist is a normal part of treatment.  Feel proud you are taking steps to care for yourself.

In my practice, I take an integrative approach and use a variety of therapies tailored to the individual’s needs. My basis is insight-oriented therapy, combined with some dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and cranial sacral therapy (CST) tools.

 

Question 10:
What do you see as the biggest challenge in helping a mother recover from a postpartum mood disorder?

 The biggest challenge is that people often don’t want to reach out for professional help. They think they can manage okay by toughing it out and ignoring their own needs. This approach isn’t emotionally healthy. You want to learn to optimize your own and your family’s emotional health.  If mama ain’t happy, no one is happy!

 

Question 11:
What do you think medical health practitioners who come in contact with new mothers, like OB/GYNs, GPs and pediatricians, can do to help prevent, detect and treat perinatal mood disorders?

Prevention starts with a solid social safety net, which our society does not provide.

Individual medical practitioners can coach pregnancy moms and their partners about the possibility of the occurrence of perianal mood disorders, and help them recognize this before the mom becomes seriously incapacitated from a mental health issue. If a mom has a previous episode or a family history of perinatal mood disorder, then pre-treatment–with counseling and perhaps medication–is the best way to minimize occurrence.

Medical practitioners who come in contact with new mothers need to be trained to recognize the presence of a perinatal mood disorder and have resources to offer her and her family. Studies show that having the mom complete an abbreviated 3 question version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Scale is as effective as the original 10 question EPDS.

Medical practitioners who treat new mothers for perinatal mood disorders should take specific trainings in these disorders in order to effectively treat their patients. Postpartum Support International has such trainings and also a supportive professional community that shares resources and knowledge.

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If you wish to contact Kathy, she has an office Wayne, New Jersey
Her phone number is 973-713-5966
Her websites are: kathymorelli.com  and birthtouch.com

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What Hayden and Drew and These 8 Other Celebrity Moms Have in Common

I have to admit, I am a bit behind on blogging about current events that by now are no longer current in the literal sense, but will always be an important topic that should always discussed in as many media as possible–in person via conversations and in both online and print format.  Postpartum depression (PPD), or actually mental health, is a topic that must stay in mainstream news.  Experiences must be shared regularly everywhere if we want to clear away the stigma and misconceptions about PPD.

In the past few weeks, most if not all of us who keep abreast of news have heard about Hayden Panetierre’s struggle with PPD.  Click here for a video of her interview on “Live with Kelly and Michael” and here for a recording of a discussion about PPD on On Point with Tom Ashbrook that includes Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody (Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Mood Disorders), Aimee Danielson (Director of the Women’s Mental Health Program in the Department of Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital), and Dr. Deborah Da Costa (Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada).  Realizing her condition was something that she needed professional help for, she checked herself into a facility to help with her recovery.

Ever since her role in Heroes, I have admired her.  I admired her even more when I learned she’s a huge marine wildlife activist and very much involved with Sea Shepherd.  I am passionate about marine wildlife and support Sea Shepherd.  And I admire her even more now that I know she’s struggled with PPD and realizes the urgency of spreading awareness and the great deal of stigma that is associated with PPD.

Coincidentally, right around the same time, Drew Barrymore opened up about her battle with PPD.

And then a few other articles popped up via Hollywood Reporter and US Magazine about other celebrity PPD survivors, like Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, Bryce Dallas Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow–all of whom I’ve blogged previously about–plus Courteney Cox, Vanessa Lachey, Amanda Peet and Alanis Morissette.

I am truly grateful for these celebrity moms sharing with the public the fact that they struggled with a postpartum mood disorder (PMD).  By sharing their struggles it further shows that new mothers of all financial and social situations may experience a PMD.  One out of eight (or approximately 15-20%) of new mothers succumb to PPD.  PPD is experienced by women of all cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and religions.  It’s primarily thanks to celebrities speaking up about their experiences that postpartum depression stories reach people far and wide.  It’s extremely challenging for the average mother’s story (like mine or any of the other mothers chosen for the A Plus article I blogged about last night) to get any attention, which is why–and I must reiterate from yesterday–I am so grateful that A Plus chose my story to share with its readership.

Call to Participate in a PPD Survey

My dear friend Walker Karraa, er, I mean Dr. Walker Karraa, is looking for postpartum depression (PPD) survivors to participate in a survey on ways PPD changes women who experience it.

For those who have followed my blog for at least the past year, Walker’s name may sound familiar.  Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about her need for participants in a dissertation on the transformational dimensions of PPD.  Thanks to the participants of that study, she was able to put together a wonderful dissertation that helped her earn her PhD in Philosophy (she uses philosophy to examine scientific, social and cultural paradigms of women’s mental health — particularly maternal mental health).

With respect to this survey for which she is now seeking participation of at least 500 women, the results will be used for the book she is now working on that will be based on her research into the ways PPD changes women.  Please, if you haven’t participated yet, take a few minutes to do so and if you aren’t a PPD survivor and know someone who is, forward them this information and encourage them to participate.  Thank you!

While you’re at it, please also follow Dr. Walker Karraa’s professional page on Facebook, the content of which is dedicated to the full spectrum of issues of regarding women’s mental health and wellness.  You can expect her to keep you abreast of important updates in research, events and news on maternal mental health.

Perinatal Mood Disorder Survivor Stories Over at Home Life Simplified

A very, very short post from me today to let you know that my fellow Mt. Holyoke alumna, Debra Dane, is featuring a monthly series of interviews with perinatal mood disorder survivors over at her blog, Inner Compass Designs.

To check out my interview, which is posted this month, please click here.  Last month featured an interview with my friend Andrea who blogs over at Postpartum and Pigtails.

Check out these other interviews that have been done thus far.  More to come.

Jane from Life on Planet Baby

Debbie from Aspiring Mum

Tina from The Duepners

Kathy from Birth Touch

Cristi from Motherhood Unadorned

Yuz from Not Just About Wee

Robin from Farewell Stranger

Jen from Tranquila Mama

Brooke from Slow Your Home

If you are a perinatal mood disorder survivor, please consider opening up to others about your experience.  It will definitely help other moms who are currently suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) or any one of the other illnesses that comprise the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders that are experienced by more new moms than you would think…since there is a tendency for people to stay quiet about any less-than-positive-experiences at a time that society believes should be nothing but peachy keen.

I’ve found, just like you may very well find, that helping other moms and sharing your experience with others can be extremely cathartic and fulfilling.  Had I known about all the blogs and survivor stories I know now, I would not have felt so alone and helpless during my own struggle with PPD.  The more survivors speak up, the more the public (including healthcare practitioners) will realize the true extent of the prevalence of these postpartum mood disorders and perhaps, just perhaps, there would be more resources to help new mothers cope with and recover from their illnesses….and less stigma!!!!

Thank you, Debra, for interviewing me and for spreading awareness in your mission to share survivor stories!

How Has Postpartum Depression Impacted You?

I have a whole bunch of posts pending…more than I have the time to devote to writing.  Lots of ideas….so little time!

Anyway, I picked this article I read in Parenting.com, parts of which really resonated with me.  The article, “When Postpartum Depression Lasts” by Susanna Sonnenberg, reflects the author’s own PPD experience, which seems to have had a long lasting impact on her, so much so that she has residual feelings of loss, sadness and painful reflections on her first months at being a mother.

How well one mom is able to come to terms will differ from the next mom and will depend on a number of factors such as how severe her symptoms were, whether she was quickly and effectively treated, and whether she received some sort of therapy to cope with her feelings of loss (e.g., lost opportunities in bonding), guilt (e.g., for experiencing PPD to begin with), sadness, etc.   Therapy sessions, journaling/blogging, and providing other mothers with support are some of the ways PPD survivors come to terms with their experiences.

There are women who– like Marg Stark, fellow Mount Holyoke College alumna and author of What No One Tells the Mom– are unable to return to their pre-baby emotional selves. For these women, it seems that the biology behind their moods is permanently altered during the childbirth process.

As for me–and I can only speak for myself here–I pretty much returned to my pre-baby emotional self–except, that is, where it concerns my pre-baby body. As I indicated in my previous blog post titled “Just Because I’m Blogging about PPD Doesn’t Mean…”, I’ve managed to come to terms with my experience, finding it very therapeutic to journal my thoughts and feelings into my book and my blog, meet other PPD survivors and subject matter experts, and help some moms along the way. I did return to my pre-pregnancy weight shockingly fast thanks to the rapid, unintentional weight loss caused by my PPD.  But my completely sedentary lifestyle and confinement within my house for over 3 months did a number on my body. It took a while for my legs to not get tired so easily from simply walking at the nearby mall.  My triglycerides level was at an all-time high (nearly 400), probably thanks to the chemical upheaval from my childbirth experience.  With the help of daily jump roping (400 jumps in about 5 min) for a few months, I was thankfully able to drop the levels by 50%. I had back pain and left hand numbness issues (which turned out to be a pinched nerve from misaligned vertebrae), both of which were resolved by a few visits to my chiropractor.  It also took a while for my hair to re-gain its former thickness.

Do I wish I could provide advice and comfort to others I know, and would being able to do so give me a sense of satisfaction?  Yes!

Would I feel less alone in my own PPD and motherhood experience, knowing that others have had similar experiences–thereby, normalizing my own experience?  A resounding Yes!

Do I envy those who have snappy childbirth experiences?  Hell, yeah!

Do I envy the Gillian’s of the world?  I’d be lying if I said No.

But remember, the key difference between the author’s experience and Gillian’s lies in the amount of support they received.  According to Gillian, she had tons, while the author had very little, if any.  The following sounds so much like my own circumstances:

“In my experience, having a new baby was a lonely trial, friendless, sunless, sleepless…..By choice, I lived thousands of miles from a difficult family, and few of my friends had children. I was without a guide, and every demand of the baby’s felt overwhelming…..I didn’t want to leave [the hospital], didn’t know how we’d do the blanket [in reference to swaddling] at home.”

She assumed that Gillian would need her advice because she would need it, just like she would’ve liked to get it but didn’t, as a first-time mother.

“[She] opened the door, beaming wide, the baby propped over her shoulder; [and] I noticed the wood floor, sun shining onto it through the French doors, dust-free, crumb-free. Her hair was clean. Her laptop stood open on the empty dining table……’I don’t want to tell my friends,’ she said, ‘but [the baby’s] sleeping six hours at a stretch.’…..She praised her in-laws, so helpful and available, told me how excited she was for her mother’s next visit, listed the nonstop help of friends and acquaintances. Her story of becoming a mother was about family and support and glorious spring and strength and new pain and two pushes. Two pushes.”

The picture she paints of Gillian–a woman who appeared to take to motherhood like ducks take to water right from the get-go, like they were born to do so without training of any sort–is one of a woman who appears as if she were born to be a mother, all radiant and confident.  She looked perfect, the house looked perfect, her baby was able to sleep early on in enviously long stretches, and she claimed she received tons of help from friends and family.  And all this after a mere two pushes. The perfect pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood experience all rolled up into one.  I devote a chapter of my book to saying that such perfect experiences are not representative of what all women go through, contrary to what societal beliefs and motherhood myths would have you believe.  Though it’s definitely nice to wish for smooth experiences, it really is best to keep your expectations in check.  Trust me.  Hope for the best…you know how the saying goes.

Like the author, I would like to have the opportunity to offer my help and advice to other new moms, thinking they would need and appreciate it, just as I would’ve appreciated it during my first stab at being a mother. Just like the author, I’ve found that not everyone is going to need or even ask for any help and advice.  My friends and relatives all seemed to have no need for my advice/help, even while knowing what I had gone through, with the PPD and all.  Which makes me feel like I’m the only one in my immediate circle of friends and family who has ever experienced PPD.  The lack of PPD may be due to the abundant support they receive from family during the first critical weeks of motherhood and smooth childbirth experiences (after all, lack of adequate emotional/practical support and a traumatic childbirth experience are risk factors for PPD).  In fact, many of my Chinese friends had their mothers stay with them for the first 2-3 months.  Either the mothers flew in from overseas and stayed for that time period, or they happened to live nearby and came over everyday to help out.  I look at and think about those situations with envy, thinking that that is the way it is supposed to be….and yet why didn’t I have such fortune?  Somewhat selfishly, I’ve yearned to find a friend or relative with a similar experience with respect to childbirth complications, uncertainty at being a new mother and taking care of an infant for the first time and/or having to deal with PPD.  After all, it’s natural to feel the need to find someone with similar experiences to try to normalize your own experience…it would help you feel less alone.

“I’d expected her to feel alone and desperate, and she didn’t. I’d expected that she’d need my support, that no matter how many good minutes she had, the bad hours would overwhelm her. I needed her to be like me, so that I could be the wise one now, the healed and the mighty; then my loneliness and depression wouldn’t have been for naught. I wanted to be the one to teach her that it would get better.  Instead, she reminded me …..that motherhood’s first months gouged a terrible pit in my heart. Becoming a mother was nothing like I’d anticipated.”

Now, I would like you to think about how PPD has impacted you. Has it been many years since you’ve had PPD and you find that you are still struggling with certain feelings of loss from having experienced PPD while trying to deal with the fact that there may be others around you who are like Gillian, seemingly filling the shoes of the so-called perfect mother?  Or have you completely come to terms with your experience, feel no regrets, only a sense that your experience with PPD has made you a stronger person, empowered with knowledge that you can use to help others (that’d be me)?  Or somewhere in between?

I think one of the keys lies in how your motherhood experience turned out relative to your expectations.  The larger the gap, the greater the sense of loss.  If you find that you are struggling with feelings of loss, please don’t take it the wrong way if I suggest you talk to a therapist experienced in treating moms with PPD.  It can do you a world of good to have someone help you process and cope with your feelings and experiences.

Let me end this post by saying that, for a good number of moms, their PPD experiences have motivated them to dedicate their lives to helping other mothers get through their PPD experiences, either by 1) becoming psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, social workers, 2) forming PPD support groups or other not-for-profit organizations like Santa Barbara Postpartum Education for Parents, Postpartum Resource Center of NY, and MotherWoman, 3) blogging, like Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress, or 4) using other social media means to support mothers, like Yael Saar’s PPD to Joy and Lauren Hale’s #PPDChat on Twitter.

After all, we PPD survivors do share a common bond.  We know what it’s like to have PPD.   We understand.  We care. We are what is referred to on Twitter as the #PPDArmy!

Start off 2011 by Saying “No” to Sensationalistic Media

Wishing you a Happy & Healthy 2011!

I was hoping to find inspiration in and blog about something positive to start the new year off on a pleasant foot, but…..Katherine Stone’s blog post today was about one of my all-time favorite topics–media using their spotlight to help spread misconceptions about postpartum mood disorders–and that got me going.  I can’t help but be dismayed, to say the very least, that Time magazine has struck out again as far as editing their content about a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD) before publishing is concerned.  

What did they do this time?  Well, in the article titled “Study: Depression, Fear of Abandonment Can Lead Moms to Kill Babies,” the author Bonnie Rochman uses the words “mad mommies” and “psychotic nut jobs.”  C’mon now….are these words really necessary?  I wish I could tell her and other authors like her to try being realistic rather than trying too hard to grab people’s attention.   There’s simply no need for that.  It’s articles like this that, though the author no doubt thinks she’s doing a huge favor by publishing an article in the health section and educating the public, she’s doing quite the opposite.   Articles like these in a magazine like Time–and we’re not even talking about the National Enquirer or some other gossip mag–only serve to scare new moms out there from getting the help they so desperately need.  It’s this fear of being viewed as “nut jobs” that only contribute to all the moms out there who are falling through the cracks, struggling with a PPMD but going undiagnosed and untreated and sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. 

Thanks, but no thanks for keeping the stigma of mental health going, Ms. Rochman.  Time Magazine, when are you going to help, rather than hinder, progress when it comes to public awareness and education about PPMDs, sticking with the facts and nothing but the facts (i.e., sans sensationalistic terms)?  

For all you PPMD survivor mamas out there–and family members who have seen you suffer and emerge from the dark and desolate tunnel of your experience–please, please, please do your part to help raise awareness.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, be an advocate.  Speak up.  Don’t be afraid to share your stories with your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.  Don’t be afraid to comment on these articles that incorrectly portray PPMDs, and even submit letters to media outlets that put out articles like this.  If you hear remarks like this being said by those around you, don’t be afraid to provide your honest opinion that comes from experience.  You PPD survivor mamas have what most of these authors and people in the media don’t have…..firsthand experience of what it’s truly like to suffer from a PPMD.  And DON’T YOU FORGET IT!

PPD Survivor Mamas at BlogHer10

Last Friday was Day 1 of BlogHer 10 in New York City.  It was my second BlogHer conference I’ve ever attended.  Last year’s conference in Chicago was my first.  With the conference taking place in my own hometown–well, practically hometown since I’m there for work 5 days a week–I couldn’t NOT attend this annual conference of bloggers.  This year, the number of attendees reached 2,400 at the New York Hilton.  It was such an awesome experience to be in the presence of SO MANY bloggers.  

This year’s conference was even more special due to the fact that it was my first time ever meeting Katherine Stone.  PLUS, Katherine coordinated a photo session that night of PPD survivor mamas. 

For some inspiration, here are the pics that were taken.  For those who are currently struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, look closely at these smiling, lovely ladies.  We each have different personalities, different life experiences, and different backgrounds and yet we share a common bond, which is that we are PPD survivor mamas!  You would never think that any of us suffered a postpartum mood disorder, but we did.  Each of us has survived.  You will too! 

Pictured in back row (L-R): Suzanne from Pretty Swell, Emily from Aprons and Heels, Alexis from depressionsandconfessions, Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress, Morra from Women And Work, and Beth Anne from Heir to Blair.

Front row (L-R): Aliza Sherman, Casey from Moosh in Indy, me, and Morgan from The 818.

Over at Postpartum Progress, Katherine has posted a video taken during this photo session.  Please go check it out if you haven’t already done so!

Photos taken by Kim Orlandini @kimorlandini http://kimsueellen.blogspot.com.