This week the US Preventative Services Task Force published their recommendation that all pregnant and new moms be screened for postpartum mood disorders.
I rejoiced! What a fantastic step forward in the right direction, right? It’s really one of those things so positive, so well-intentioned that when I began to hear of negative pushback I was super confused.
There’s a whole story behind the #MeditateOnThis hashtag (that trended on Twitter last night) that you can read about over on Rage Against The Minivan — a guest post by Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress.
And while this was sparked by one individual (hugely influential) person, I can’t say that was the only place I saw/heard these sentiments. Not yesterday, not for the years I’ve been aware of postpartum depression and anxiety.
So this video isn’t to call out that person specifically, though I do sincerely hope she watches and listens to it.
This is in response to everyone who has ever said that postpartum mood disorders aren’t real, and that women are being tricked by Big Pharma into numbing themselves. It’s a response to every person who has told a struggling mother to do more yoga, pray more, eat better, get more sleep. It’s a response to anyone who has ever made a mother feel shame for needing medication to get to shore.
This is personal, you guys. This is my raw story. This is my truth.
You can read the transcript of the video below. Also, check my Facebook page for a version of the video that is easy to share.
At my lowest point I couldn’t shake the vision of a knife flying from my hands and into my baby’s face. I didn’t want to leave the house because every time I was in the car I had this unshakeable belief that it would fly off the road, crash and burn. I couldn’t bear to even look at flights of stairs without seeing my baby falling over the railing onto his head below.
I was full of rage. For the first time in my life, I not only understood why parents shake their babies, but I had compassion for them. I feared that I could become one of them.
I feared that I could become one of those mothers on the news.
If you’re thinking that none of this sounds normal, you’re right.
If you’re thinking all of this makes me a bad mother, you’re wrong.
I was struggling with Postpartum Anxiety and OCD.
I spent a year after my first baby was born, and 9 months after my 2nd baby was born believing I was just an awful person, not made for motherhood.
I had no idea that what was happening to me was treatable, that it had a name. I was never screened for these symptoms.
It wasn’t until I found Postpartum Progress and their list of symptoms of Postpartum Depression AND Anxiety that I realized I wasn’t an awful mother. I was just sick.
Let me be clear. At this point, I’d lost 20 lbs because I couldn’t bring myself to eat. Getting dressed was a struggle. I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night, I was tired, and I was paralyzed by fear. PARALYZED.
And yet, I thought I would try to treat this on my own. Because I “wasn’t the type” to take pills.
I thought exercise would help- but I didn’t even have the energy or the will power to walk outside. I thought giving up caffeine would work, but I still had zero appetite for anything else. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t do anything by try all day, all hours, every minute to STOP thinking about my baby dying.
On a day when I thought, truly BELIEVED, I was dying from a heart attack, I walked into a Dr’s office and begged him to see me. When he suggested a low dose of Zoloft, I took the prescription and told myself I’d think about it. I’d think about if I was, indeed, the “type” to need to take pills.
Turns out? I am.
Within days of starting my prescription, I smiled so much my face hurt. I enjoyed my babies. I. DIDNT. YELL.
The medication pulled me from a deep sea of despair where I was drowning. It drug me to shore. Once I was to the shore THEN I could focus on things like exercise and eating better, talking this out, sleeping better.
There are people who would have me believe that I’m part of a big conspiracy by “Big Pharma” That if I just would have tried harder, prayed, done yoga, given it time, that I wouldn’t need the pills.
To them, I say with as much kindness as I can muster, you are wrong.
There are people who are concerned that the US Preventative Task Force’s recommendation that all pregnant and new mothers receive screening for mood & anxiety disorders is part of a scheme to medicate women and fill the pockets of “Big Pharma.”
To them, I say, again with kindness, that belief is damaging and unfounded.
I stand beside my fellow Warrior Moms, survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and celebrate this step in the right direction. Routine screening for these diseases will save lives.
And whether those moms get help from medication OR meditation, is none of my business. I won’t shame them for EITHER approach. And you shouldn’t either.