Treatment & PPD- How stigma prevents moms from getting the help they need.
Treatment, of course, is a top priority and now that I’m on the other side healthy and recovered, I can see that it looks different for everyone. My youngest daughter was born in the summer of 2013, July 1st in fact. I knew something was wrong almost immediately, by 2 weeks for sure, yet it wasn’t until April of 2014 that I finally stopped trying to figure it out alone and reached out for outside help. That was 9 whole months of suffering in silence and for what? Why was it so hard to ask for help?
Last week I shared part one of my Medicine X Presentation which talks about Dr. Google and the negative side effects of denial and self-management. Today I wanted to share with you what treatment looked like for me, but more importantly, to shed light on why reaching out can be so difficult for most women struggling in silence.
Once I finally hit rock bottom and realized doing this on my own wasn’t working, I knew I needed outside help. The word “treatment” was something I associated with being sick, that the illness was out of my control and therefore for so was my life. If I’m being honest, the word itself is terrifying. To receive “treatment” for some reason felt like it meant I was a complete failure, which in those early days, definitely added to the stress of the situation.
Treatment in my mind at that time looked very black and white. It was either medication or nothing and that was overwhelming, to say the least. I’d never been on medication before, I barely take Tylenol for a headache let alone antidepressants and it was all a new concept. The lack of clear options, specifically for a breastfeeding mom, and the stigma that surrounded medication was a huge obstacle for me.
Looking back now, all I want to say is F*^K Stigma!
If someone would have sat me down, explained to me that medications are safe for breastfeeding and that it’s simply a tool in the toolkit, I may have made different choices at that point. Medication isn’t for everyone and for me, it wasn’t something that I ended up using. But knowing what I do now, knowing more about the negative sides of untreated PPD, which for the record, no one wants to talk about either, maybe it would have saved me months and months of suffering. Maybe it would have helped me get my feet on the ground so I could keep working the rest of the self-care plan that was also vital to my recovery. I’ll never know but if you’re reading this now and are in the same position I was back then, ask your Doctor, drop me a message and let’s chat about it. Stigma doesn’t get to tell you how to take care of yourself, it just doesn’t! Anyways, I kept moving forward, I had to get better.
I will never forget the very first time I reached out. After frantically searching for online resources I came across a woman who did phone support sessions so I booked one for the following day. I was petrified, and I mean PETRIFIED! To this day I still have no idea who this woman was or what her website is called, but what I can tell you is that it was one of the most important phone calls I have ever had. A complete stranger, some random person I found on the internet was able to give me three things that day and it made a world of difference.
First, she was able to share a ray of hope by simply telling me this is going to be ok, it was not my fault. Secondly, she gave me perspective by letting me know this is very common and that she had also experienced similar feelings and recovered and that I would too. And lastly, she gave me practical tools in the form of a tangible, yet short list of things I could do immediately to move forward towards recovery.
Although my recovery still took a good year from that moment, it was that phone call and the social support on the other end that lifted a huge burden off my shoulders and started me on the path to regaining my health. Throughout the year that followed, social support continued to be a massive part of my recovery and connecting with moms who were going through the same thing was very empowering and healing all rolled into one.
When looking at treatment plans for a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, we not only have to find a way to end stigma so that women actually reach out for help, but we also have to view it through a holistic lens so women can educate themselves and be a part of the decision making process. We need to support them on all fronts which may include education around medication use, providing in-home practical support, helping them access social support from someone like myself or connecting them to professional counselors in the area. Above all, PPD is layered in terms of causation, it’s layered in terms of treatment and recovery is far from linear. As a community who is invested in the health and wellness of new mothers, we need to work together so that they can feel better and regain their health.
Above all, there is power in “me too!”. Helping mothers connect and break down barriers of isolation is a major piece of the puzzle and will always be my top priority.
If you need help and want to start taking control of your mental health but aren’t quite sure where to start, I would love to work with you. Set up an appointment today, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can figure it out together!