I have been to that shame-filled, dark place, twice- which is why it enrages me when I hear ignorant statements made about the topic- in the Blogosphere, in Hollywood (a la Tom Crusie ) or by so-called “experts” being quoted by “reputable” news sites.
Last week AOL News ran a story about Shaquan Duley who recently confessed to suffocating her 2 children. In their story, they referenced the likeness between Duley and Susan Smith, who was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis (an extreme & rare case of PPD) and then went on to quote criminal profiling “expert”, Dr. Pat Brown as saying:
“Most women who suffer depression after their children are born are suffering from post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life? They may be depressed, but it is their situation and their psychopathic personality that brings them to kill their children, and not some chemical malfunction.”
One of the hardest parts of Postpartum Depression is accepting it and trying to fight the shame that you feel. It is the question of validity and message behind statements like Pat Brown’s, that made me refuse medication after having my 1st child.
Contrary to what most people associate PPD with, I can honestly tell you that I never once thought about harming myself or my baby. I did however feel disconnected, overwhelmed, helpless, defeated… and moreover- robbed- from all those gushy feelings I read in books that I was suppose to feel. I resented my husband, my mother and anyone else who seemed to be sharing moments with my son that I emotionally could not. There were days I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and be left alone to cry… and there were (many) days that I did just that.
I remember bursting into tears as the doctor walked in for my 1st office check up. My doctor and family both encouraged me to take something to help, but at that time I was disappointed in myself for not being able to “deal”. I mean who was I to be depressed? I had a beautiful, loving fiance’ and now a perfectly healthy and beautiful baby- it was my time to be beaming and glowing with that new Mom love. I was afraid taking medication would mean -I was weak, unappreciative of all of the things I was blessed with…. or worse “Crazy”. I turned the medication down.
I continued to suffer through a roller coaster of emotions for 18-long-months.
When I had my second child, I was aware of the feelings that could resurface and was prepared to get help if I needed it. To my surprise though, this time- I felt all of those amazing feelings I missed out on the first time. I was elated. Until about 1 month after, when suddenly I started experiencing severe anxiety. I would go from fine to freaked out in a matter of seconds over the silliest things… and I didn’t just want to cry- I wanted to scream. I was scared. And once again found myself ashamed of my feelings during a time that I had nothing but everything to be happy about. These feelings were very different from the first time but I knew something was not right. So even though it was just as difficult to accept as it was the first time, I got help and was successfully treated for PPD because I remembered how painful it was suffering without help, pretending everything was ok and the weight of carrying around shame for 18 months.
When articles are written, like the one by AOL News- it makes me nauseous because I imagine a woman who is looking for support online anonymously because she’s too ashamed to talk about it in person, a woman looking for answers for feelings that no one- not even she, herself can understand… and then reading a statement like Brown’s basically reconfirming her worst fear- that its all in her head…. and because of it- choosing (as I did) to suffer 18 long months- or worse.
I would like to say that I think if Pat Brown had any inkling as to how incredibly damaging this statement could be to women who are hiding and suffering with their pain like I did, that she would never have said it. However, after reading many of the responses people have received from her in response to her statement- I highly doubt it.
I do not know if Shaquan Duley suffered from this illness, I am not a doctor- and I certainly do not I play one online and even if she did – her actions are horrific and absolutely need to dealt with. However, as someone who has battled it twice I can tell you that the very real- reality of the illness is that it effects women in all sorts of ways and is absolutely treatable before it reaches the a dangerous point.
I urge anyone who may be going through this to seek support and help from real doctors and experts, because it is not in your head, you are not alone, and it does get better.