A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness Discussion, Part 2
In Chapter 9, and throughout the entire book, Jennifer discusses risk factors for maternal mental illness and recurrences of mental illness symptoms. Were you aware the risk factors prior to your experience? After you learned about the risk factors were you better able to see how certain things affected your mental health?
CB: I was aware of them because I was already working with pregnant and new moms; but I was in denial for the longest time. It was almost as if I had to ‘check every box’ before I sought help for it.
SK: I had no idea. I did not see any of the warning signs or risk factors until I was well into recovery. Once I saw a list, in my head, I kinda went check, check, check. It’s amazing how a little list of information can mean so much to people, and clarify so much.
LB: I was not aware of my risk factors before my experience. Afterward, I could see it clear as day.
LL: I was aware of my risk factors but still thought it would never happen to me. I think no one ever wants to think it could happen when anticipating what is supposed to be one of the happiest events of life.
ST: I was aware of only one, my prior Depression history. I was just amazed at how soon it hit.
SC: I was aware of my risk factors but I had successfully dealt with anxiety and some depression before so I figured I would be able to handle it if it happened. Like ST said, it hit so soon and I had never experienced such paralyzingly anxiety before.
In Chapter 10 Jennifer talks about finding PSI and in Chapter 15 she goes into how helping others has helped her heal. Do you think that advocating for others has helped your recovery? What did you think about Jennifer’s speaking out about her illness and the reactions that other people had to her speaking out?
SK: This was interesting for me because I feel my advocacy has played a large role in my recovery. My family has been very supportive so I haven’t had the fear that some people have of sharing their stories. When I do encounter a bad reaction I try to use it as a teaching moment, and understand that people just need to be more educated and they don’t understand mental health issues.
CB: I definitely found a passion for maternal mental health after my experience. Not only do I lead a support group, but I participate in many other support groups. I really liked hearing her story because as much as she went through, and as many hospitalizations she went through, it shows that you can make it. The face that she had CPS involved, which is most mom’s fears, can show strength in the story too!
SK: CB I couldn’t believe that CPS got involved. Jennifer Moyer, it seems like you were totally blindsided by them calling CPS. Did you end up changing pediatricians after that? I was just shocked by that whole incident.
Jennifer Moyer: No I didn’t change pediatricians but I did ultimately change churches. The ignorance there is what caused the chain of events.
CB: I took it as another example of the ignorance surrounding maternal mental health….I would hope that we, as advocates, are able to dispel the myths by speaking out.
Jennifer Moyer: In fact, my son still has the same doctor, who sees patients as long as they are in school (college included) 🙂
CB: I’m sure it was a learning experience for the doctor; How about the church official?
Jennifer Moyer: I think it was but he ultimately moved to a different church. I made my peace with him after the event.
CB: That’s good to hear
Jennifer Moyer: Anger and bitterness never helps anyone so I had to let go and make peace with the past.
SR: For me, leading a climb was the most cathartic event in my healing.
SK: SR, yes it gave me back some of my confidence and helped me feel like myself again.
LL: I heard of PSI shortly before reading this book and really want to get involved too! Once I had recovered from the acute worst of my ppd I also really wanted to support and love others dealing with it and let them know they are not alone. Her example is awesome!
LB: Advocating has been very cathartic for me. For the most part, I’ve been really amazed at how supportive others have been. My first step was sharing on Facebook about my diagnosis and, later, medication. Many people wrote to give me support, and several moms shared that they had suffered from PPD but never told anyone. I was floored – so sad that they had suffered that way but also very happy that they shared with me and were feeling better. I also wrote several yelp reviews for various doctors, therapist, and psychiatrists who helped (or in some cases) didn’t help me. The first feedback I got was some very mean emails from a mom at my son’s daycare, who called me a psycho and told me that I needed to get over myself. It really hurt, and it took me some time to get over. I still felt that it was well worth it, especially when a husband contacted me about finding some more help for his wife. Being able to reach out to and help them meant so much to me.
LB: Also I think forgiveness is so important, even though it can be very difficult. Jennifer Moyer, I’m also inspired by how you moved past the actions of the pediatrician and the pastor!!!
ST: I definitely think it’s helpful to myself and others. The reactions….For me 95% of reactions I’ve gotten have been very positive. The others are just ignorant and refuse to believe it is real. In the beginning it was hurtful, now I blow them off.
SC: I supposed someone could just recover and close the door on PPD without looking back, but Jennifer Moyer turned so much awful stuff into learning experiences and advocacy for herself and others. I definitely feel compelled to do this. I just wish I had more time to devote to this cause.
Jennifer Moyer: SC, I learned to focus on family first as advocacy will always be there. Taking that time helped me be a better advocate now. I still believe advocating as a wife and mother comes first. 🙂
In Chapter 11 Jennifer discusses her advocacy and her efforts for changing policy. I found this to be interesting and made me think more about how to get involved and let the government know that there needs to be change. How did Jennifer’s discussion of governmental policy affect you? Do you have any experience with this or were you inspired by her work?
SK: I really want to try to get more involved in my local and state government. Not sure how to go about that, but I know that if the opportunity arises I will jump at it. For now I am becoming more involved with a local perinatal mental health coalition to help raise awareness and increase resources locally.
CB: I admired her work. I definitely think tha tmore has to be done on the government side; but my social anxiety gets in the way of me taking an active effort in it.
Jennifer Moyer: Meeting with your local representatives is a starting point. They want and need to hear about the issues that matter.
SK: CB, I think if we all do as much as we are comfortable with then things will begin to change little by little. There are a few moms in our community that help with events but don’t want to be out in public talking about it, and I totally respect and understand their decision.
SK: Jennifer Moyer, do we just email or call them to try to meet with them? What information do they want to hear?
Jennifer Moyer: You can email and/or call requesting an appointment to talk about maternal mental health. They schedule appointments while in their district offices so calling to find out their availability is always good. You can take fact sheets, share your story, etc.
CB: Hey one on one doesn’t sound as scary then!
Jennifer Moyer: No, remember they want to get re-elected so they are usually pretty nice LOL
SK: Jennifer Moyer, we would probably have to have some practical examples of what changes could be made or what we would like to see. Is there any current legislation that we could encourage?
Jennifer Moyer: There are some recent developments even at federal level but each state is different so you would need to research on how the state handles mental health such as what state department oversees mental health. Mental health issues can be handled by different committees in each state. I have a friend in TN that couldn’t even find on the state website what department handled mental health so you may have to make do a little research.
SK: Jennifer Moyer, thanks, that gives everyone a good starting point. 🙂
LB: I honestly had only thought of reaching out to other moms through Facebook and Postpartum Progress, but this is another really important thing I can do to help. I’ll definitely do some research into the California laws.
Chapter 12 held a few important topics for me. Jennifer spoke about how traumatic a perinatal mental health issue can be to not only other mother, but also the family. Also how the media’s portrayal of PMADs can make this trauma worse by making a mother scared to seek help. What topic affected you the most in this chapter? Did the stigma surrounding mental health issues hinder you from seeking help or receiving the help you deserved?
CB: I totally agree about trauma to the family; but media portrayal spoke most to me. I struggle because my mom loves entertainment stories and she still brings up cases like Andrea Yates to me — it’s hard to get through. I did an article for our local climb and the headline they wrote was postpartum blues: they didn’t hear anything I said.
SK: The media can be so difficult to deal with because they can portray women with maternal mental health issues in such a bad light. I hope that the more information that is made available and the more advocates get out there, the more people understand that we do not want to have these issues. We cannot control these issues without proper treatment and care. the sad part is most people cannot afford the proper care or are too scared to seek it out.
CB: I know when I hear stories — I’m able to sympathize with the mother and a lot of people I know have trouble with that.
SK: Yes! Getting people to not equate PPD to Baby Blues is a huge struggle! I had one of my co-workers tells me that his wife had the baby blues (his son was 8 months old) and that he was not happy with her reactions around the other children. eventually he asked me for more info and I believe she got help, but it is so hard when people don’t understand.
Jennifer Moyer: So many moms are afraid of losing their child(ren) that they don’t reach out. Sadly, this is still happening way too often and the ignorance out there can cause the families to make it worse.
CB: My close friend was hospitalized and unmedicated for a week–at the end they told her she was fine and Italian that liked to talk a lot–she left there unmedicated — she’s still struggling two years postpartum and she’s just now doing better.
SK: Also, like Jennifer Moyer, it caused some major difficulties in my relationship. We had to rebuild after I sought treatment and learn how to communicate better.
Jennifer Moyer; I cannot say enough about the benefits of the right professional therapy. It helped save my family.
SK: Mine too, I cannot imagine where my relationship would be without it.
CB: Yes SK — I was there too and divorce was brought up — I am happy we were able to make it through and learn to communicate on a new level.
Jennifer Moyer: CB I hope your friend is getting peer support as well as professional support. There is still so much stigma and ignorance out there.
CB: Yes, Jennifer Moyer — she runs the peer support group with me 🙂
SK: Also Jennifer Moyer, I like how you discussed your son going to therapy. One thing I have gained from all this, is the knowledge that if my son needs help with any mental health issues, I will hopefully be able to better spot them and help him get treatment.
LB: Stigma definitely prevented me from getting help at first – not because I was afraid of what would happen to me or my child, but because of my family’s initial reaction. They didn’t understand and kept telling me to get ahold of myself, and that I could handle this. They talked about all the amazing things I had done in my life, and tried to reassure me. They told me to stop crying and worrying. they said having a baby is just hard. So I thought all moms went through what I experienced. I was too embarrassed to seek help for a long time. I remember the Andrea Yates case but had never heard of postpartum depression (yes, I Know, I’m one of those weird people who doesn’t match much tv or care about celebrities and didn’t know about Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise ducking it out 🙂 ) so I guess I was inversely affected by media coverage. It never was on my radar at all.
ST: the stigma prevented me from disclosing my illness to friends. I worried they would shun me. Silly now, all of them were very receptive. the “what next” paragraph on page 172 hit me hard. learning how to live with my new body and mind was scary after PPD. It’s scary now with this most recent bout of depression.
Chapter 13 discusses Jennifer’s research into alternate forms of healing and not understanding that PMADs can develop into lifetime mental health issues. Did you attempt to use any homeopathic or alternative forms of treatment? Did your health providers ever inform you that you may need to consider that your PMAD could lead to needing lifetime treatment?
SK: I did not understand that this could turn into a lifetime of mental health issues, but now I do and am at peace with that. I will handle things as they come and if that means I stay on medication then that’s okay. I didn’t try any homeopathic forms of treatment, however, I do try to stay aware of my body and keep better control of my anxiety through mindfulness and CBT.
CB: I’m with SK! Though, I did have a doctor tell me about my issues and PMDD is my diagnosis–so I’m mindful of how I’m feeling. I would like to try oils one day; but for now I medicate and use exercise; and I’m okay with that.
LB: During the thick of my battle with PPD/PPA, my acupuncturist treated me a couple of times. It was helpful and she was very supportive. She suggested weekly visits but shortly after that, after that, I became so overwhelmed that I only left the house to go to work (so I could pretend I was fine) and take walks because I was so restless. It was too intimidating to go anywhere else for quite a while. Later she suggested an excellent naturopath, who is monitoring my hormones, adrenal gland and thyroid functions. She is also helping me wean off of antidepressants and sleeping pills by replacing them with supplements and helping me make some great lifestyle changes It’s been amazing, I’m not sure whether this is in the right category as an answer to this question, but I also did a lot of therapy on letting go of my past. I was sexually and mentally abused as a child and during PPD I somehow felt like the roles were reversed and my baby was abusing me. I don’t know whether this crosses the line into psychosis. But in any case, one of the therapists and I used a technique called EMDR to go back into my memories and let the trauma out. It made a huge difference. I’m so grateful for the help I was able to receive! Oh, and yes, my caregivers did let me know that this could be a long term issue.
ST: I didn’t look into any homeopathic remedies, except St. John’s Wort, and I nixed it. AS for the lifetime of mental illness, I was already a three time sufferer of depression prior to PPD. It was kinda a given.
Join our Warrior Mom Book Club to read and discuss books about maternal mental health with other Warrior Moms. See you next time!