#PPDChat Topic 03.10.2014: Media Sensationalism & PPD


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Join me tonight as we explore the issue of media sensationalism and PPD. So often, as I stated in my post “On Not Wanting To”, when a mom hurts herself or her children, we get the sensationalized version of it and the details of her journey to that point (and her journey after the event) are dramatized as well. I hope you’ll join me for a passionate and insightful chat into why this needs to change as well as why we owe it to ourselves and to society to reach out to every new mother dyad with care, compassion, and understanding.

We cannot let the village continue to fail.

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We Are Advocates – Hear Our Cry


I recently received an email in which it was stated that we, the advocates for women with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, often only raise the battle cry when a woman or child dies. That we are hypocrites because we don’t help or raise the cry for women who cry out for help before a tragedy – or after a tragedy they have survived. This is simply not true.

We may raise the cry even louder when a woman or child dies but this is simply because we are angry that our previous cries have clearly not been heard and yet another mother/child dyad has been failed by multiple levels of the system designed to help them survive and thrive.

As I explore in the post “Is the Postpartum Depression Defense a Cop-Out“, the defense in the legal sense, is not at all a guaranteed path to freedom. When used, this defense often leads to a mental health incarceration of some form for a very lengthy period of time dependent upon the severity of the incident.

Often, when mother has harmed herself and/or her young child(ren), before it splashes headlong into the mainstream media, there’s mention of postpartum depression. Once the story hits, the term is bandied about as carelessly as a bubble blown by a toddler on a sunny summer day by pundits, analysts, reporters, bloggers and the like.

What is this phenomenon and why is there such a horrific misunderstanding of the classification of postpartum depression vs. postpartum psychosis? And even more chilling, has postpartum depression become the new go-to for women who commit crimes against their children or families?

First, let’s get rolling with a little definition education here.

Postpartum Depression, a commonly used umbrella term for the mood disorders on the Postpartum Mood Disorder spectrum, is also the term for one of the disorders on the spectrum. Postpartum Depression may consist of but is not limited to: sadness, crying for no reason, lethargy, lack of interest in previous activities/hobbies, distance from baby and family or social activities, anger, irritability.

Postpartum Psychosis, the most serious of the Postpartum Mood Disorders, often involves (but again, is not limited to): auditory or visual hallucinations, the inability to care for oneself and make decisions. Considered a medical emergency requiring immediate hospitalization, this particular disorder also carries the deadliest rate of both infanticide and suicide.

Second, mothers with Postpartum Depression are less likely than mothers with Postpartum Psychosis to harm themselves, their children, or their families. With Postpartum Psychosis there is a disconnect from reality during which the mother is truly unaware of her actions. It is a very scary place in which to find yourself.

So why is it then that when a mother harms her children it must be because of Postpartum Depression? Why the confusion of terms? This happens time and time again. Everyone immediately jumps on the Postpartum Depression bandwagon.

There may be issues related to a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder for many, as with the recent case of Miriam Carey, who was reported to be delusional to police by her boyfriend not too long after the birth of her now 1 year old daughter, but there are also cases in which the leap is made to a Perinatal Mood Disorder as the root cause where it is not at all the issue.

There are those who feel Miriam’s case, is a difficult one to address. And it is – for a number of reasons. So much is involved. She is far removed from the immediate postpartum period. Then you have the family stating she was hospitalized but other family members minimizing Miriam’s mental health battle despite some strong meds being found in her apartment. Miriam also experienced a head injury which her employer, according to certain accounts, says changed her mannerisms. Miriam also lost her job and had been sued by her townhouse organization. Then there’s race, politics, and the argument regarding the alleged excessive force used by Capitol Police which ultimately ended Miriam’s life.

Bottom line?

We won’t ever know what made Miriam drive to DC with her 1 year old daughter in her car unless someone finds an explicit note somewhere. Even then, there are so many factors that people can extrapolate whatever they want to from it.

Is it right to seize the tragedy to educate the public regarding Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders? Is it okay to talk about Miriam’s life as if we knew her or understood her battle?

There will be people who will say no.

There will be people who will say yes.

There will be people who will say there are no such things as Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

There will be people who will claim excessive force was used because of her skin colour.

There will be people who… you get the point by now, right?

We cannot make every one happy with this regardless of how we discuss it.

It happened in the public venue, however, and in a city central to a political firestorm and still reeling from another tragedy just a few miles away from where Miriam died. So it is being discussed. Postpartum has been dragged into the discussion.

So I will discuss it, even if the primary focus cause of Miriam’s action on Thursday is not directly related to a PMAD. Because the media has jumped on the PPD sensationalism bandwagon, I will fight back and educate, I will correct, and I will make sure that I do all I can to keep women from falling through the cracks even when, like Miriam, things continue to stack up against them.

When you’re fighting against a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, your best chance at recovery is to focus on recovery. But when you have a snowball effect of things following it, eventually you want to jump out of your life just to get everything to stop – it’s like wiping off a cluttered table, if you will. You either take the time to put things away neatly or you just shove everything to the floor and let it fall where it may because you don’t have the energy to focus on being neat and organized about it.

My goal, the goal of every advocate and survivor I know, is to re-organize their lives into some semblance of normal. For advocates, we are dedicated to providing women who reach out to us with the tools they need to reach their semblance of normal. We know we can only save those who reach out to us and we try to expand that access by any means necessary because when someone like Miriam is failed, we take it personally.

This loss has raised many voices and not all of us agree on how to proceed. That’s okay, though, because we are all going to react the way we need to react. It’s okay to process this how YOU need to process it – if that means you need to write about it, great. If you need to stay quiet, fine. You have every right to do so. We still love you and respect you. You are not alone.

I hope, that through the discussion of this loss, we are able to stay strong, stay connected, and stay passionate, despite our differing viewpoints on how to handle this tragedy. Because our strength, our compassion, our knowledge – it is all we have to fight back against misinformation. If we manage to educate just one person, seizing the tragedy will have been more than worth it.

Casey Anthony: An Unhealthy Obsession


Long before the advent of social media, we relied upon newspapers, letters, and eventually television news anchors to deliver news to our homes. People crowded outside stores to hear of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on TV. They gathered in living rooms to watch the Apollo land on the moon. Americans are obsessed with news. So much so that there are now full networks solely dedicated to delivering news of all sorts to our homes, our places of business, our phones, our computers, our everything every second of every day. We fear we will miss something.

Today, a verdict in a high-profile case sped across fiber-optic networks, flung itself through the air and landed in our laps. Casey Anthony. Not guilty of first degree murder. Reaction to the verdict was swift. Filled with shock as we often are when a child’s murder hangs in the balance. As parents, it is hard to understand how another parent could possibly do the unthinkable and murder the very being which sprung from their bodies. In fear, in anger, we judge those who commit these horrific acts long before any court hears the evidence, long before any jury is given time to deliberate the delivered evidence.

Our court system is no longer allowed to do its job before we jump to conclusions about the innocence of the accused. Instead, we assign their fate in our mind long before any motion is even filed to bring charges. We discuss our opinions at length with those available to us via social media. Our hands fly across the keyboard in desperate attempts to make sense of tragedy without all the facts at hand, spilling our judgments forth to those who will listen and respond in kind. In doing so, we create a society filled with hatred and judgment. In doing so, we create a society now steeped in anxiety and fear. In doing so, we fail to allow our society to function in a just and proper manner. In doing so, we gossip.

So many mothers have come to me to express struggles with the Casey Anthony case. They can’t turn off the live coverage. It seeps into their life. Through Twitter. Through Facebook. Through the news networks. Through the frenzied need we all have to discuss how a mother could possibly murder her own child. IF she murdered her own child, a truth we will probably never be privy to now. More than anything, I am grateful this case is over for the time being. My heart breaks for Casey. For Caylee. For the mothers who are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder and have been horrifically triggered by this case as they themselves struggle through the darkness. The anxiety and fear caused by media sensationalism of the Anthony case has been mind-blowing for so many.

I do not know if Casey Anthony murdered Caylee. The death of any child is senseless. We fail to understand the heartbreaking loss unless we have, ourselves, been through such senseless loss. We fail to understand the motives of a parent who murders a child unless we, ourselves, have done so. As a parent who has, in the past, been dangerously close to committing such a crime, I understand the desperation. I understand the fear, the irrational thoughts which grab you by the hand and lead you down the dark deep path of filicide and infanticide. I almost reached the end of my path. Thankfully, I did not. A detour presented itself – a road called Help. Along this road were family, friends, understanding doctors. Not all mothers encounter this detour. Many mothers find themselves wandering down this dark lane, alone, without a shred of hope to light the way. There is literally no other way out for them.

Again, I do not know why or if Casey Anthony murdered poor little Caylee. But if she did, I know her heart is struggling. I know her parents are mourning the loss of their granddaughter. There is a lot of hurt within the Anthony family. I pray they are able to move forward with their lives.

It saddens me to see many of the comments on Twitter in judgment of Casey. It’s not our place. It’s not our responsibility. She has been tried by her peers in a court of law. They made the decision they thought best with information provided to them by the prosecution. Yes, we should absolutely protect our children at all costs. Yes, we should do all we can, in our power, as parents, to ensure our children thrive. It’s also our responsibility to raise them to be fair. To be just. To be loving, responsible, respectful. Are we doing that when we sit in judgment of Casey instead of loving her as a very hurt mother and person? Are we doing that when we allow ourselves to be flooded with anger about her verdict? Are we doing that when we lie down and allow the media to create a circus out of a very tragic situation? No. We’re feeding into the frenzy. We are granting the media permission to continue to judge us, to try us in a public court without the facts – just opinions. We are blurring the very lines of right and wrong. We are blurring the line of just and unjust. We are feeding the anxiety filled beast which keeps so many of us up at night.

Years ago, I turned off the news after watching a live car chase. At the end of the car chase, a man jumped out of the vehicle, clutching an infant in one arm, a hand gun in the other. My just born son was in my own arms when this happened. I shrieked, scaring my son. My husband made me turn off the TV right then and there. I don’t know what happened. I don’t want to know what happened. My son was safe. I was safe. Nothing more mattered. I read my news online. I only click if I feel I can handle the information awaiting me behind my click. When you struggle with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, you have to control the information which comes into your life. This means cancelling newspaper subscriptions. Turning off the evening news. When was the last time you saw a positive news story on the 6 o’clock news? Walk away. Break the information addiction. Teach your children life is not just about death and dying. Don’t overprotect them to the point that they don’t understand death and dying, but don’t allow it to become their life. Find a balance. For yourself. For your children. Refuse to lie down and let the media control your emotions. Stand up. Take charge. Fight back. Reclaim your peace. You owe it to yourself. And to your children.

An Open Letter to any Media outlet Exploiting Charlie Sheen


Dear members of the media including but not limited to ABC, TMZ, NBC:

You make me sick. Sick, angry, and sad.

A celebrity is in the midst of a dire emergency and you’ve erected circus tents around him replete with cameras.

ABC? You get a special mention here because you even allowed his CHILDREN to be present at one of the many interviews you filmed with Charlie Sheen. His children.

On what planet is it okay to be cool with nearly two year old children around someone who claims to have “tiger blood?”

But it’s okay, you say.

Okay because Charlie says he’s okay.

Right.

You drug tested him. Drew blood.

Nothing there.

Guess what, ABC?

Mental illness?

Yeah. That’s not diagnosable via test tube or pee cup.

Now that you’ve “ruled out” drugs, are there plans for you to play Psychiatrist too as America watches?

I feel heartbroken for his family. For his ex wife, Denise Richards, who has now had to assure the American public that her kids have not been with Charlie these past two weeks. I feel for Brooke who is clearly in a state of confusion. I know where she’s at …. somewhat. I’ve been there. It sucks. You don’t know which way is up or down. It’s a vortex in which you do the best you can do just to stay afloat but mostly you want to collapse and scream and ask WHY?!?! But instead you go numb and trudge forward toward safety. You hope.

Charlie, a father with four children, is clearly struggling with a multitude of issues.

Instead of offering help to Charlie, you’re putting on a show for the rest of us with him as the star. You ask him things like “Do you worry about your kids learning about this?” To which he replies, “God no! What a lesson!” What kind of a lesson, exactly? That it’s okay to go crazy, seek attention, shout inane things from the top of the world, and demand that you get paid more for services you’re clearly not capable of at the moment? There is a lesson in all of this – it’s that when you hurt, you get help. When you see someone hurt, you GET them help. You don’t put them on display.

Wait. You’re the media. You do put it all on display. No matter what the moral and ethical bounds are – it’s all about the ratings. The wilder the better, right?

I’m not watching. Many people I know are not watching.

But many are… and the damage being done to those who are mentally ill and struggling with addiction by your organizations is atrocious. Here, let me serve up some stigma on a silver platter. Watch.

Have we, as a society, taught you this behaviour, through our obsession with reality TV?

Has reality TV finally blurred the line? Have we really come to this?

Is our society so starved for entertainment we are willing to watch, in real time, as a celebrity implodes live on the air?

I know it’s about ratings. If people watch, you make money on advertising, etc. Have you no soul? No decency left among you?

In my opinion, the only company that has done something right is CBS. I stand with them in canceling the rest of the season of Two and a Half Men. It’s unfair to the rest of the cast and the crew, but not to Charlie.

There needs to be someone holding him accountable for his behavior. Yes, he is an adult and shouldn’t have to have anyone treat him like he’s 12. Unfortunately, he’s also a very ill person in crisis right now. Sometimes we have to take steps back in order to regain our footing.

I sincerely ask you to stop exploiting Mr. Charlie Sheen’s tragic situation.

Your exploitation of his situation is possibly even more tragic and disturbing than Charlie’s fall from grace.

Warmest,

Lauren Hale

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Whatever Wednesday: The Exploitation of Charlie Sheen


For the past three years, I have been attending, off and on, family recovery meetings with my husband. There’s childcare. The meetings have grown from a small group of 10-15 to a group almost three or four times that size.

I have sat in group with hurting people. I can’t disclose their issues because what is said in group, stays in group. It is a safe place in which to heal from your addictions and the very real wounds they cause within you and in the ones you love.

Three years ago this month, actually, I was in a car accident. Not only was my car totaled, my life as I knew it would soon follow suit.

I was not the one high.

My husband was the addict.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on our car insurance.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on vehicle registration.

He even fashioned a FAKE sticker for our license plate, y’all.

Addicts lie. It’s part of the lifestyle.

Here in Georgia, driving without insurance AND vehicle registration is a jailable offense.

Yes.

Oh yes.

Not even three months after the birth of our son and I found myself sitting in a jail cell. For something I didn’t do. For something my husband had lied to me about because of his addiction.

We never dealt with the mania that Charlie Sheen is now exhibiting on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

We never thrown into a media circus because of our issue.

Our issue had ripples too – it hurt me, it hurt our kids, our families, enraged my brothers, destroyed my milk supply (I had to put our son on formula at 6 months old when he was diagnosed as failure to thrive.)

We still deal with the fallout today. Sure, we’re better. But we’re far from perfect. And we sure as hell aren’t screaming it from the roof tops.

I’m not a professional. I’m the wife of a recovering addict disgusted with the media for the giving Charlie Sheen the time of day instead of encouraging him to get help. I’m disgusted that this is happening. I’m disgusted that Charlie Sheen is being called crazy, insane, nuts, and several other offensive things. As this week has worn on, I have watched my Twitter stream explode with Charlie Sheen jokes. Jokes about addicts. About how crazy they are. Sure, Charlie Sheen is the case in point and I get that, but I also see the many faces of the addicts I see on Thursday nights when I read these jokes. They are hurting, people. Hurting. They, thankfully, are getting help. Charlie Sheen is not. Instead, the media is literally glorifying his lifestyle. They are putting his words and his mania on display. And people are eating it up.

It’s sick.

It’s reprehensibly irresponsible.

You wonder why we have a bully issue? Why we have kids who think it’s okay to make fun of people who have issues and act strange?

Perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror, America.

Perhaps it’s time.

 

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Just Talking Tuesday: How did Postpartum change your view of Mental Illness?


To be honest, before Postpartum crashed into my life, I had no clue what a real person with mental illness was like.

I watched Girl, Interrupted in college. I took a Psych 101 course to meet requirements for my undergrad degree. I knew the terminology. I had seen movies.

To my knowledge, I had never known someone while they were depressed. No one had ever talked to me about the possibility of mental illness in the family.

I went through a lot of grief as I grew up. I knew pain. I knew heartache. But I had not equated myself with someone who was depressed at any time. I had no idea what depression looked like on me because no one had ever talked about the possibility of it happening to me.

And then I got pregnant. I had a daughter. I became trapped in hell. Furious thoughts darted through my head. I couldn’t keep anxiety out of my life. I closed all the shades in our home. I refused to leave the house unless I had to do so. I felt our neighbors judging me. I felt the people in the grocery store judging me. But no, I wasn’t crazy. Not me. Crazy was for everyone else. Not me.

But maybe.

The maybe is what got me to the doctor’s office. The doctor who told me I didn’t have Postpartum but agreed to set me up with the in-house therapist anyway. The therapist who kept rescheduling. Then I cancelled.

Then we moved. I relied on myself. On the internet. I thought I healed. We got pregnant. Had another daughter. She was born with a cleft palate and needed to go to the NICU immediately. I totally lost myself that day. I continued to slip further until Day 56 when I was hospitalized for a nearly psychotic reaction to medication. It was in the hospital that I realized Mental Illness is NOTHING like what the movies showed us. Nothing like what mainstream media shows us. Nothing.

People with mental illness? Are PEOPLE, people. Humans. Like you and me.

What scares us about mental illness, I think, is that it shows us that any one of us is vulnerable. Our mind, the one thing over which you think you have control, is compromised in mental illness. But therein lies the issue. Those who have struggled with mental illness – whether themselves or alongside loved ones, know there is no snapping out of it. Those who have not are convinced that those who have mental illness are just acting. That we can turn it off at our every whim. Thing is? Most of us would love nothing more than to do that very thing. But we can’t. It takes time to heal. Even then, there are mental illnesses which persist a lifetime. Mental illnesses which are severe and debilitating. Mental health treatment and therapy has made some progress. But in the same vein, the stigma existing within American culture is deeply ingrained despite an increase in education efforts by mental health advocates.

What has to happen before we accept the mentally ill as part of our society? Before we jump to conclusions and rush to stigmatize the experience and diagnosis of others?

Just today, I read a story over at Strollerderby about the tragedy in Arizona. Do you want to know what they used as a picture? A straight jacket. Yes. A straight jacket. I tweeted the following in response to their tweet about the story: “Shame on @strollerderby for their story about Jared Lee Loughner. SHAME. A straight jacket as the photo? Really? #STIGMA” I never received a response. In going to get the link for the story, I noticed the photo has since been changed. The tweet was never retweeted. No other tweets were directed at them about the story under a search for @strollerderby. I’m grateful they have changed the photo.Thank you.

One of the biggest reasons I speak up about my experience with Postpartum Depression and OCD (and honestly, probably PTSD after my daughter’s NICU stay) is because when I was at the hospital, a Psych Nurse told me I did not have to tell anyone where I had been that weekend. Even then, in darkest of places, I knew it was not right to hide my experience. Even then, as a struggling new mom with a special needs child, I knew I had to find support. Staying silent would get me nowhere fast.

I raised my voice. I was open. Honest. Brutal. Raw. Insistent. Firm. Empowered.

Almost five years after my second daughter’s birth finds me here today. Blogging. Hosting #PPDChat. Freely supporting other mothers who have also chosen to speak up about their experiences. Encouraging new mothers to speak up about their experiences as well.

Mental illness changed my life.

It changed the lives of those around me as my advocacy empowered me to educate them about my experience and the experience of others.

Mental illness may well have saved my marriage as my own struggles with mental illness enabled me to better cope with my own husband’s depression and subsequent admission to addiction.

For me, mental illness was not a negative experience.

When I gave birth to my daughters, I also gave birth to a mental health advocate. It just took me some time to find her.

How did Postpartum change your perception of mental illness? Did it change the lives of those around you? Have you changed the lives of others as a result of your Postpartum? Let’s get to Just Talking.

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Absolutely OUTRAGED


UGH!

As if it’s not enough that we already face enough during PPD, the stigma, the refusal of acknowledgement, the confusion over baby blues, postpartum depression, other mood disorders, and Postpartum Psychosis – then along comes an article like this one: Woman found insane in Baby Blues Case seeks Sanity Restoration with the subtitle specifying: Sheryl Massip was found not guilty by reason of insanity 20 years ago for killing her infant son while suffering from post-partum psychosis.

Cover your ears. Prepare your eyes. i’m about to yell. And I mean YELL.

THE BABY BLUES ARE NOT AT ALL SIMILAR TO 

POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Get your facts straight Mr. Welborn. (by the way, you can email him and call him (714 834-3784.) Let him know that he is seriously mistaken with his usage of terms.

Let’s revisit the facts, shall we?

According to an article by Helen Jones at the Postpartum Support International website, the baby blues affect up to 80% of new moms and involve crying for no reason or general stress or anxiety that dissipates after the first few weeks.

Within the same article, Jones defines Postpartum Psychosis as:

Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)

The onset is usually sudden, with symptoms including: delusions (strange beliefs) and/or hallucinations; feeling very irritated, hyperactive and unable to sleep; significant mood changes; and using poor judgment in making decisions. Women who are more vulnerable are individuals who have a previous history of psychiatric disorders, previous postpartum mood disorders, or a family history of psychiatric disorders. Women who display any of these symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately. Family members should be alert for these symptoms as well, since they are often able to recognize serious symptoms sooner than the mother does.

 Do these even SOUND like they’re in the same ball park?

NO.

In fact, Baby Blues aren’t even classified as a mental health disorder.

Could referring to PPP as the baby blues scare a brand new mother who may be feeling a little weepy or be starting to become seriously depressed? HECK YEAH.

To make matters worse, Mr. Welborn also later refers to PPP as an extreme form of Postpartum Depression. Let me make one thing crystal clear. POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION IS NOT THE SAME THING AS POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS. It’s an entirely different creature consisting of a break with reality. From what I understand, Postpartum Depression cannot develop into Postpartum Psychosis. (I’m doing some checking into that and will get back with you regarding research on that point)

I am very disappointed in Mr. Welborn’s apparent lack of tact and compassion for new mothers struggling with this range of disorders. And even more disappointed that the newspaper he works for would publish this article without such a brazen irresponsibility and lack of concrete understanding into the condition on which they are reporting. VERY DISAPPOINTED. Did I mention I’m pissed too? Or have you already figured that out?

Those of you who either read this blog regularly or know me should recognize that I don’t do this very often but when I do, I mean it and I am truly, deeply saddnened that this is still happening. Media sensationalism of these cases is a barrier to treatment for women – I’ve had many women share with me that they or their husbands are fearful of admitting they have postpartum mood issues for fear that what happens to the women they read about in the paper may happen to them. UGH! I can’t personally guarantee that you won’t develop PPP but I CAN tell you that it is rare – extremely rare BUT these cases are the ones who make the news. Not the positive cases of recovery – no – the ones that end in sheer tragedy and will bring in viewers.

Email Mr. Welborn. Call him. Contact the OC Register’s Editorial Staff and Operating Management. Let them know we won’t stand for this. Let them know that if they’re going to cover a PPD story they need to get their facts straight and focus on the positive rather than the negative. BE SENSITIVE not only to the people in the story but the people who may be reading the story. They owe us that much.