Is it fair to judge moms on what type of treatment they use for postpartum depression?

No, says author Therese Borchard. I just saw the following as I’m trying to catch up on my reading of her blog Beyond Blue , and I thought it was really fantastic. Therese is a survivor of PPD and has struggled throughout her life with depression.

Two days ago, at my doctor’s visit, I ended up crying, again, as I talked about my resentment toward those people in my life who took advantage of my suicidal days as an opportunity to push their philosophies about the Law of Attraction [she’s referring to that book that Oprah promoted]. They scared me by saying “You are losing your personality to medication,” and “Medicine is today’s biggest industry — It’s a conspiracy, and you are the guinea pig.” They very strongly encouraged me to go off all of my meds, to center myself, and look to the light. They performed Reiki on me.

And they told me, as I sobbed: “You are a weak person if you have to rely on medication. It’s a shame you weren’t stronger.”

I believed them for a very long time. Too long. And so whenever I hear someone sound like them, I have to put my hands in my ears and yell this message:

1.) Depression is a legitimate brain disease, as legitimate as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and dementia. For the medical reports and explanations, read Peter Kramer’s “Against Depression.” Or read my post “Depression Is a Brain Disease.”

2.) I have seen what happens when people who have mood disorders don’t take accountability for their illnesses–what happens when they rely soley on positive thinking and visualization techniques: their family members have to pick up the pieces and do all of the responsibilities that the person has neglected because he/she won’t take medication, or is in denial. Or they take their own lives. At the age of 16, I saw that too (my Godmother, a bipolar, took her life then.)

3.) I am holistic in my approach. I engage body, mind, and spirit in my recovery more than you know. I think about my brain at every meal, conversation, and work out.I pray. I meditate. I take fish-oil capsules. I exercise like Lance Armstrong. I get outside. I use a light lamp. I get regular sleep. I keep a gratitude journal. I try to do charity.

4.) The most irresponsible thing for me to do right now for my family would be for me to go off my meds. I have seen what happens when I do. So part of the reason I stay on, and not experiment with weaning is because I love them. I love them so much that I will take my meds, even if I don’t want to.

Please. Don’t say things like you just did. If you only knew how hurt I still am by those who utter similar words to my face, at my lowest point, you would take them back. At least I hope you would. Support those who face mental illness head on, and don’t hide behind empty feel-good philosophies.”

Wow, Therese. You are one powerful Warrior Mom.

Do you know how many women I hear from who call me when they’re 8 or 9 months postpartum, or even at a year, sobbing, wondering what they’ve done wrong? They’ve figured out by now that they have postpartum depression, or something akin to it, and they know that if they could just exercise more, or find a better brand of vitamin, or maybe get even closer to God, or think happy thoughts that it would all get better. If they just did one more thing, or worked a little bit harder, this would all go away. They’re convinced this is all their fault because they’re obviously not doing it right, even though they’ve been trying like crazy for months on end and it hasn’t worked. They’ve been made to feel that certain postpartum depression treatment choices are simply off limits because others look down upon them. How much of that suffering could be eliminated if these moms had felt safer trying something different rather than continuing to bang their heads against the wall?

I think it’s important to inform yourself of all the things that help to make your brain work better and to do them, as long as you yourselfare comfortable with them. It’s YOUR decision and no one else’s. If you find a postpartum depression treatment method that works for you, whatever it is, I SAY AMEN SISTER! But if your illness keeps going, and going, and going, don’t be afraid to try something else just because it’s not what others think is right.

I happen to take Flaxseed oil capsules. I have started exercising 4-5 times a week. Do I like exercising? No, not a big fan. Am I doing it to lose weight? No, because now that I’m turning 40 my metabolism has stopped and I can’t lose weight for the life of me. (UGH!) I do it because I can literally feel it releasing stress. I could get 4 to 5 more hours of work done a week instead of exercising — time that I could really use working. But instead I’m exercising because it’s crucial for my brain. I could also get up early, or go to bed even later than I already do, to get everything done that I’d like to. But NOPE, won’t do that either. Sleep is like oxygen and I’m making sure I get enough. I go to church and my faith happens to help me. I have supportive family and friends. Therapy has been great for me. I also believe that meds worked for me and I’m glad I took them for postpartum depression, and, horror of horrors, continue to take them for my OCD. I’ve made my own decisions and I’m comfortable with them. These things have worked for me. But who cares what has worked for me? What matters is what works for you.

There will be people who will tell you “this works for everyone” when it comes to trying to recover from postpartum depression. I’ve heard:

  • “[Insert antidepressant brand here] saved me!”
  • “Stopping breastfeeding saved me!” or conversely “Continuing to breastfeed saved me!”
  • “Eating my baby’s placenta saved me!”
  • “Thyroid treatment saved me!”
  • “Progesterone cream saved me!”
  • “My support group saved me!”
  • “[Insert doctor’s/therapist’s name here] saved me!”

It may have indeed saved them. But it doesn’t mean it will save you. What I have done, or your best friend did, or your mom’s coworker did won’t necessarily save you. I haven’t come upon anything yet for postpartum depression and anxiety that works the exact same way and has the exact same impact on everyone. Each of us is different from the next, and there are simply too many variables– your genetics, your family life, your doctor’s/therapist’s personality/approach/expertise/bedside manner, how severe your illness is, your family history, your general health, your economic situation. That is why you have to find trusted, experienced professionals to help you sort this out based on YOU and only YOU. And you have to do your own research and educate yourself. And keep in mind that, for many people, it takes more than one course of action to get better — you may need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself in a variety of ways and not relying on one magic “whatever” to make you better.

It is awful that people judge, and quite ridiculous actually. DO NOT JUDGE. You have NO PLACE. Don’t prevent women from getting whatever kind of help it is they need to get back to being themselves again.