Category Archives: media sensationalism

Thoughts about Ebony

I was going to wait to publish this post until after I’d had time to read it through. But given that I just accidentally posted it, freaked out, made it private, I’m realizing that folks who got it through email will be able to read the entire thing anyway. SO. Here ya go. With a temporary title that obviously will be the permanent title – my ramblings and thoughts regarding Ebony Wilkerson, tragically better known as the mom in Daytona who drove  her minivan into the sea.

The public defender’s office said there was a reason she beat her stomach. “She {is} being held in seclusion naked in her cell,” said Craig Byer.

Public defender James Purdey at first asked for Monday’s hearing to get Wilkerson’s 1.2 million bond reduced.

Purdey instead asked his client be transferred from the Volusia County Branch Jail to a psychiatric ward for longer than a typical Baker Act hold, so she can get mental pre-natal care.

The judge did not rule on the request to move Wilkerson because the judge said it’s something that hasn’t been done before. (Source)

According to the Ebony Wilkerson narrative we have thus far, she drove to Central Florida from South Carolina to escape an abusive partner. Her family struggled to get her help but she signed herself out of the hospital and somehow managed to get the keys to the minivan and drive it and all of her children into the ocean despite the family’s efforts to hide the keys from her.

This week, we are told she has been held naked, in seclusion at the local jail and started punching her stomach, causing her defenders to push for her to be moved to a psychiatric ward for “mental pre-natal care.”

What the hell is wrong with this picture?

From an emotional and advocate standpoint, a lot.

From a logical standpoint, I can understand why these measures may need to be taken, particularly if Ebony has been suicidal. Of course you don’t want to give her anything that she could possibly harm herself with but there has to be a way to do that without completely stripping her down and removing all sense of dignity, something she was more than likely running low on if indeed she was escaping an abusive relationship.

The judge’s reluctance to move her may also be grounded in logic as well. Perhaps she did not feel she had enough facts to justify setting a precedence with Ebony’s case. Or perhaps the Volusia County Jail has the capability to be considered as “clinically appropriate” (as is required of examination/treatment in the Baker Act) and therefore the judge did not see moving her as a necessity. Or perhaps there simply wasn’t anywhere to move her to which offered the same level of security the judge felt Ebony requires at the moment.

But when examined from an emotional and advocate point of view, this is absolutely heartbreaking.

A pregnant mother, escaping an alleged abusive relationship, drives her kids into the ocean despite attempts to help her. To me, this screams of absolute desperation. This is beyond sanity. It’s more than a call for help. This type of behaviour requires action.

But is what Volusia County doing enough?

How do we best handle this type of situation in this day and age?

It’s like I tell my kids and my partner – we can’t fix a problem unless we know about it. Unfortunately, women (and men especially) who are in abusive relationships are often quiet about their situations until it’s almost too late, and some until it is too late. Why? Because they are often threatened by the perpetrator that if they don’t remain silent, there will be repercussions.

Silence is also a hallmark of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders for multiple reasons. Society believes we should be happy when pregnant or in the throes of new parenthood. Thing is, mood disorders have been happening since the dawn of time. Our responses to them over the centuries have varied but even early on, a few folks got it right. Take Asclepiades, for example. According to Thomas Millons Masters Of The Mind, he “argued against dark cells and dungeons for the mentally ill…thought patients should be in settings that were well lit and comfortable.” Asclepiades also proposed that “biological and chemically based treatment would be beneficial” in addition to dividing conditions into acute versus chronic and also distinguished between hallucinations, delusions, and illusions.

The main point of Asclepiades is that even in the early ages (171-110BC, by the way), someone recognized that locking away the mentally ill in dark, dank places was NOT the way to go.

Arataeus believed the “soul was the basis of psychic disturbances” and “mental disorders were exaggerated normal processes”. (Millon)

Then there’s Soranus who posited “consider(ing) culture as a factor in both investigating and treating mental patient.” (Millon, Masters Of The Mind). He also advocated for decent and kind treatment of the mentally ill, asking “his peers to remember who was ill; physicians should not view their patients as disagreeable persons who offended their self-image.” (Millon) It seems to this outside observer that Volusia County is not doing that in Ebony’s case.

Does being an abused woman or a woman at the hands of a Perinatal Mood Disorder excuse the type of behaviour Ebony Wilkerson has exhibited? No. But both are mitigating factors which led to her behaviour and should absolutely be taken into consideration as her case proceeds.

I’ve written extensively about Postpartum Depression as a defense. Cases like these are both fascinating and heartbreaking because all at once, those of us who have experienced a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, see fractions of ourselves in the women who make headlines. We collectively gasp and think, my God, what if I had given into all those thoughts racing through my head? I could be her. I could be Ebony. I could be Miriam, I could be Andrea, I could be Otty.

We shudder because we were there, with them, in the dark, in the hell, holding their hands and they fell as we watch in horror. The way their fall is paraded in front of society scares the crap out of us and drives many to silence. Is this healthy for society? Yes and no. We should be outraged when children are subjected to death (or the threat thereof) at the hands of their parents. But at the same time, we need to take steps to prevent this type of situation from occurring in the first place.

How do we do that when every single case, every single situation from mother to mother and from birth to birth is different? How do we catch a falling mother if we don’t know she is falling?

Even if we start by putting measures in place to check for signs of falling, we will still fail if the mother doesn’t admit to having a problem or, as in Ebony’s case, refuses help (for whatever reasons – cultural stigma, fear, etc) which is offered to her because she is far past the breaking point and sees death as the only way out. Do we just throw our hands up in the air and let her do what she may? No. So what do we do then?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this:

  • Mothers (and fathers) do not deserve to be alone in this battle
  • Mothers (and fathers) deserve emotional support
  • Mothers and fathers need a village
  • Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are not deserving of whispers, they require shouts
  • We need to speak up, every single time, not just when there is a crisis
  • Accept those who are hurting with open arms and provide a safe space for them to fall apart
  • Not judge those who have/are struggling so harshly

So what can we do to improve the situation for struggling parents across the globe with the very real (and often co-occurring) issue of domestic abuse/violence and Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders?

  • Make it okay to reach out for help and ditch the supermom/superwoman/superman/superdad façade
  • Initiate requirements for ALL health professionals who may come in contact with an expecting or new mother to be well-versed in the ins and outs of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (this includes pediatricians, OBGYN’s, GP’s, Family Doctors, IBCLC’s, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, you get my point…)
  • Create local, state, and national referral networks which incorporate above said training on a regular basis
  • Create networks of parents willing to mentor other parents through these tough situations and make it easy to access across the board

Are these solutions going to fix our current problem? No. But they’re a start and sadly, most of it revolves around a tradition which our current technologically advanced society has strayed greatly from – the tight knit expanded family. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to raise a mother to raise a child right. In my post “On Not Wanting To,” I state the following:

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

Let’s keep the “if I were her, I would” out of the conversation. We do not know what she’s going through. Even if we’ve been through hell ourselves, we do not know *her* hell nor should we take her story as one which portends the downfall of ALL women who struggle with domestic violence/abuse and a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Instead, reach out to mothers, to fathers, let them know it is okay to reach out for help. For that matter, teach it to your kids so that when they get older they don’t feel as if reaching for help is in essence, failure to handle something on their own. Yes, independence is a grand thing but there is a time and a place to lean on someone else. Not to lean in, but to lean on, sometimes for dear life.

Our village has forgotten how to do this very simple yet necessary human act. We are now expected to be everything to everyone and dear GOD help us if we are not. Should we assume something is wrong with every mother? No. But instead of oohing and ahhing at her baby, ask how she’s doing. Ask how Dad is doing. Do not dismiss their very real role in their new situation. By acknowledging them, you acknowledge their existence and empower them to express their feelings. And that, my friends, is possibly one of the most powerful things we can ever do for a new parent.

Will it keep more pregnant women from being held in seclusion, naked in a prison cell, after they’ve attempted to kill their older children and themselves? Not all of them, no. But it’s a start.

An even better start would be to continue educating people about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, including those in the law enforcement and legal arena. I realize they are bound by the courts and must adhere to the law but if they had a better understanding of the facts behind Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, perhaps, at least, the treatment of mothers imprisoned for crimes committed whilst experience these disorders would stand a chance of improving.

In the meantime, I genuinely hope that Ebony Wilkerson receives the help she so desperately needs as she awaits trial for her actions on the fateful day she drove her minivan into the sea. We’re watching, Volusia County. Don’t fail us more than you already have failed Ebony.

#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.

On Not Wanting To

I’m tired, y’all.

I’m so damn tired of reading about women splashed across the front page because they’ve done something horrible to themselves or their children.

I’m tired of immediately wondering who let her down. I’m tired of wondering at what point did she fall through the cracks. I’m fed up, to be honest.

It happens way too often, these worst case scenarios splayed across the front page for all to read and shake their heads in disgust or sigh in exasperation because yet another mom has lost her mind.

I’m tired of this bullshit.

I get that drama sells and when it comes to sales or clicks, it’s all about the what will draw people in so OF COURSE LET’S SHARE A STORY ABOUT A MOM WHO FAILED.

Where the hell are the stories about the doctors who failed to screen? Where the hell are the stories about the partners who told these new moms to just suck it up? Where are the stories about their loved ones who didn’t show up to help them when they cried out for help? WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE STORIES?

It takes a damn village, people.

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

There was a push for screening but it’s buried in the ACA and we know how well that’s been going with implementation, right?

Then there’s the complication of who will screen. Maternal mental health care crosses so many specialties it’s not even funny. OBGYN, midwives, doulas, Pediatrician, General Practitioner, Lactation Consultants….so who screens? Does the OB? The midwife? The doula? The Pediatrician? The GP? The IBCLC? WHO? Once they screen, what happens? Is the woman informed of her results? Is she successfully referred to the proper care? Is that care knowledgeable about Perinatal Mood Disorders? Will they dismiss her as an exhausted mom instead?

What about the potential physical issues which can masquerade as PPD? Like anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin D deficiencies, etc? Will those be ruled out before she’s put on medication? Or is the doctor just going to toss a script at her and leave her all alone on her skiff in the middle of a hurricane at sea?

Where is this information in childbirth classes? Why are we not informing new moms about this? Why are we not telling them that it can happen, dear caregivers? WHERE ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU FAILING US? WHY ARE YOU GLOSSING OVER THE DANGER???

Wake up.

Women are dying.

Children are dying.

Families are being destroyed.

And you, you are sitting there claiming “It’s not my place.”

But it is.

Your move.

Get it right.

In the Aftermath of Tragedy

There was an event this morning, as I’m sure many are already aware – how could you not be? You won’t find a link to it within this post. It is horrible, and people struggle to make sense of this senseless tragedy as the news races across every platform to which I (and you) belong.

People sharing every shred of new information as the media spoon feeds it to us, commenting on how the media should be handling the situation, what could have been done to prevent it, quarterbacking the chaotic mess from the safety of their living rooms, coffee houses, and wherever else they may be. For some, it may be their job. For others, they may simply be newshounds obsessed with over-sharing the hot story of the day or the moment. For others, they may have followers in the area or live there themselves.

For those of us who struggle with things like OCD which sprung up after childbirth, a disorder of which harmful thoughts toward our own children is a hallmark, days like today are HARD. For those of us who struggle with any sort of mental illness and are triggered by disaster or tragedy, days like today are damn near impossible.

I just spent 45 minutes cleaning the bathroom. Why? Because ALL that was on my timeline at Twitter and Facebook was in regards to the events at an elementary school today and I couldn’t cope with every shred of information overwhelming my otherwise cheery feed. I needed today to be happy. Selfish of me considering it’s horrible for so many in that town?

No.

It’s self-protective.

In this day and age, when we have the most access to information, we also have the MOST CONTROL over what comes into our lives, into our digital lives. If we can’t handle it or we find ourselves triggered, turn it off. Walk away. Go do something productive. Don’t let the chaos swallow you whole.

This is a lesson I learned nearly 5 years ago when, after watching a live car chase, the man responsible exited the vehicle with an infant in one arm, a handgun in his other hand. I don’t know how it ended by that image is forever burned on my psyche.

I have a fast and hard rule – unless it affects me directly, I don’t watch or read the news. I haven’t intentionally turned on a network based news broadcast in years. If I watch anything political, I watch CSPAN. Why? Because I know that I am easily triggered.

If you’re active on Social Media, as I am, please ask yourself before you RT every bit of evidence/news regarding an unfolding story -

  • What’s the point of this RT?
  • How will it help my followers?
  • Do they need to know this?

If you have followers in the area in which the situation is unfolding, then yes, share. I RT’d a lot of information regarding Sandy and resources – even though Sandy was and still is somewhat triggering for me. But if the event will only serve to potentially trigger my followers (most of whom follow me for my PPD work), I don’t RT it. Not because I want them to be in the dark, but because I don’t want to add to something which may already be triggering for them. Instead, I let them know that I am aware of the situation and I’m available to talk if they need. Then I suggest they @ or DM me – because I’m not going to be active on Social Media once an event like today’s blows up my timeline.

If you find yourself triggered today as well, know that there is help. Reach out. Talk to someone. Unplug from Social Media and the Internet if it’s too much. Go do a puzzle. Take a walk. Bake a cake. Coffee with a friend. Playground with your kids. Watch a funny movie or some stand-up comedy. Call your therapist if you have to.

Laugh. Live. Love.

Days like today hurt because they remind us of our mortality and how fragile it is – no one wants to be reminded of that. No one wants to have it shoved in our faces.

Sometimes, as hard as they had it, I think our forefathers had it easier because they didn’t get this sort of thing tearing into their day. Sure they lived shorter lives because they didn’t have access to the medical technology and other technology which extends our lives today but you know what?

I’m willing to bet their lives were happier.

If you are in the U.S. and find yourself triggered by today’s events, please reach out to @distressline on Twitter or call their Hotline (1-800-985-5990) or SMS (text TalkWithUs to 66746) operate 24/7 to be connected with a trained volunteer who can talk you through your feelings & connect you with local resources.

When Marketing forgoes facts

This past Tuesday, an article by Sheryl Paul entitled “Three Tips for Navigating Motherhood” was published at Maria Shriver’s website. After public outcry regarding the contents, the article has subsequently been removed. But for 48 hours, the article existed and was accessible to an enormous amount of traffic. Maria Shriver has just over 900k followers on Twitter and is well known as an activist and celebrity. When she speaks or shares something, a lot of people listen.

In this case, the danger of deciding to post Sheryl Paul’s article lies within the manner in which Ms. Paul treats Postpartum Depression. According to Ms. Paul’s article at Maria’s site,

“Pregnancy anxiety and postpartum depression are avoidable and preventable! They both result from normal thoughts and feelings that are pushed underground because we don’t realize that they’re normal, where they then grow into an unmanageable state.”

While I agree that most pregnancy anxiety and postpartum depression is avoidable and preventable, some cases are not. These cases more than likely do not result from normal thoughts and feelings which are pushed underground. Research over the past years has proven a biological and chemical link to more severe cases of Postpartum Mood Disorders. Cortisone levels, etc, are often higher in those who experience Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Research continues into the root cause of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders so we can better help those who struggle with this difficult condition. Ms. Paul also stated these emotions are rooted in a deep sense of loss which accompanies any transition, emotions we push aside in order to “focus on buying the right car seat.” These emotions then “mutate into anxiety, and your doctor suggests anti-anxiety medication.” Really, Ms. Paul? Because Hippocrates wrote about PMAD’s and I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks didn’t need to purchase car seats.

First of all, shame on any doctor who prescribes an anti-anxiety med just because. Secondly, some women truly do suffer from anxiety. From depression. Regardless of how intuitive they are with their own emotions. Failure to explore yourself emotionally at every stage of a transition is not the root of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. To tell a woman in the throes of a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder such sets her up for even more guilt and anxiety in my personal opinion. Time and time again, we must defend our experience with this issue. Time and time again we are told by too many our experiences are not real. If we had only done this or done that, we would be fine. It’s all in our heads. We need to buck up, just get over it, snap out of it, look inward, pull ourselves up, grin and bear it.

I call bullshit.

Some of us have true issues. Mental Illness is not some facade. It’s not some excuse we use to get out of Motherhood. It’s not something into which we collapse willingly because Motherhood isn’t all we dreamed it would be once we arrive. It’s not because we don’t know ourselves. It’s not because we didn’t get in touch with our inner “woman” before giving birth. It’s certainly not because we didn’t accept the loss of self prior to and/or after birth. There are physical causes in which some cases of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders are rooted – thyroid issues, iron deficiencies, Vitamin D deficiencies, trauma, etc, all of which cannot be cured by simply “emotionally exploring oneself during transitional phases.” To quote Rene Russo from Lethal Weapon 4: “THIS IS NO GODDAMN ASPECT OF A TRANSITION PHASE!”

Yes, there are transitions involved with Motherhood. There is a loss of sense of self. Many struggle to adjust. But even those who are the picture of perfection may fall into Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. You see, PMAD’s are non-discriminatory. They don’t recognize emotional health, societal status, natural or medicated childbirth, breastfeeding or not-breastfeeding, traumatic or non-traumatic birth, etc. I’ve known professional therapists, psychiatrists, and OB caregivers who have struggled with a PMAD and not recognized what’s going on with them. People in the know, people aware of what’s going on in the transitional phases. And yet, they still end up with a PMAD. Yes, some pre-existing conditions do put you at a higher risk but overall, Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders are the number one complication of childbirth regardless of your monetary or social support bank account.

When you recognize the signs and symptoms of a PMAD within yourself or a loved one, you seek answers. Solutions. That answer or solution should never discount your feelings or emotions. The issue at hand is not easily solved in 10-15 minutes per day as Sheryl Paul claims about her courses within a video at her website:

“If you follow this road map, which isn’t hard to do, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, you will prevent Postpartum Depression, you will feel empowered as a new mother, and you will be giving your baby the best possible beginning for emotional health.”

The above quote preys upon vulnerable mothers who desperately want a better life for their “baby.” It’s irresponsible marketing, pure and simple. The only goal here is to get $200 into Sheryl Paul’s pocket – a bargain, she says, at her website, because the course is easily worth $1000 but because she wants everyone to have access, she only charges $197 for it. You can also opt to pay for it in two installments. So you see, for about the same price as a car seat, you can buy your way into avoiding Postpartum Depression but avoid shelling out money for anti-anxiety meds.

Careful, Sheryl, if someone buys your course and still experiences Postpartum Depression? Under the Lanham Act, she can sue you. She can also report you to the FTC. The Better Business Bureau. Also? Instructing a severely depressed mother to “explore her feelings” may lead her to conclude suicide is the only way out. Is that something you really want on your hands? What about Psychosis, which is a medical emergency? Should a mother “explore” those feelings as well? If you are going to mention Postpartum Mood Disorders, you absolutely need to be responsible in regards to all aspects of the spectrum, something this piece and your website fail to do, which is extremely dangerous.

I have zero respect for any caregiver treating Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders as a fallacy or claiming to completely prevent the experience. For those of us who have fought the battle, it feels as if we have been discounted. As if we must stand up and defend ourselves. It tears us down. Angers us to see our difficult journey dismissed. It makes us feel we failed because we didn’t prevent our experience. Would you tear someone’s cast off and beat their broken bone? No. You wouldn’t. Don’t do the same to those of us who have experienced a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder.

Birth is a powerful event. Every woman has a different story, a journey which is all her own. No one, anywhere, should ever discount the story of another. If you’ve avoided a PMAD, I’m happy for you. I’m happy you were not subjected to the many circles of hell so many mothers (including myself) have been. I’m glad you found something which worked for you. Don’t claim to cure my situation with your solution. Don’t ignore the facts. Support me as I find my own, regardless of what that may include. I may need to take medication. I may need therapy. I may need hospitalization. And that’s okay. It’s also okay if you found success with natural approaches.You have to do what works for you. Be open to the fact that my path may be different than yours.

Bottom line here: People who claim to completely prevent Postpartum Depression are dangerous. You can do everything Sheryl tells you to and still end up with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. And yet, you won’t be educated about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. You’ll be educated instead in how to explore your emotions instead of what to do when you can’t get out of bed in the morning or brush your teeth, or even make small talk with another adult. You won’t know how to recognize Psychosis. You won’t know that an intrusive thought isn’t Psychosis. You won’t be empowered to go to your doctor for help because well, Sheryl’s program more than likely doesn’t cover such a course of action.

If you or someone you love is struggling during pregnancy or after birth with a possible Mood Disorder, go visit Postpartum Support International for information and support. If you’re suicidal, there’s a helpline at the top of the sidebar here at My Postpartum Voice. If you want a powerful community at your fingertips, go visit Twitter and use the hashtag #PPDChat for moms just like you. Our moms range from those who have been hospitalized to those who have used natural methods, etc, to battle Postpartum Mood Disorders. We are all over the world and there is always someone watching the hashtag. You’re not alone and we’ll give you more than 10-15 minutes of our time every day if you need it. Best of all? It’s FREE.

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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Media Sensationalism, AOL, and Postpartum Mood Disorders

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Oh, hey.

You’re here. Excellent.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

Why am I counting? You’ll find out in a bit. For now, just go with it.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

In the United States, from October 2008 through October 2009, 4,148,000 live babies were born.

The statistical rate of Postpartum Mood Disorder is up to 20% of all new mothers. And by new, I mean just gave birth, not first time mom. Postpartum Mood Disorder is one of those fabulous non-discriminating kinda things which will walk up to anyone and cold cock them for no reason at all. Regardless of how well prepared said person may be. It’s kinda like getting mugged. Repeatedly.

This means that from October 2008 – October 2009, approximately 829,600 new mothers more than likely struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder at some level. This means 2 out of every 10 moms struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder (hence, the counting).

There is no data which tells us how many of those 829,600 mothers sought help.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

I have been in the trenches with Postpartum Mood Disorders since 2004. You see, I had a very horrible episode of Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first daughter. After her birth, vicious thoughts swirled about in my head. Visions too. Instead of enjoying my brand new baby’s time here, I was swallowed whole with anxiety, shoved into fight mode to protect her from myself, and left thinking the whole world was out to get me because they knew how much I sucked at this whole motherhood thing.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.

For the record? I did the right thing. I called my doctor and made an appointment. I had to take my daughter with me because my husband was unable to get off work. So off we went, into the wild blue yonder where this thing called Help lived. We arrived, waltzed through the front door and signed my name with a flourish because dammit, we were there to do the right thing.

Only my doctor was not there to do the right thing.

He was there to judge me. To inform me that all my hormones had slid magically back into their little slots at 4 weeks postpartum and there was nothing wrong with me.

Whaaaa????

Wait a second.

I JUST handed you a scale. On which I answered YES to having thoughts of harming myself AND my child. And YOU, a trained medical professional, are dismissing this? Did I miss something here? I am no professional but.. uh… um…. really?

THEN… oh then… the icing:

“How important is breastfeeding to you?” he asked, quite seriously as he peered at me from behind his large and imposing wooden desk as my daughter screamed her head off to be nursed beside me.

I should have gotten her out of her car seat and started to nurse right then and there. But I didn’t. Shock slacked my jaw and curled my mouth into a grin. This “professional” clearly did not have the capacity to help me. I smiled my way right out of the appointment and drove home with tears sliding down my face. You see, the Internet had told me just what to do – to go seek help. To make an appointment with my doctor. The Internet had said nothing about what to do when you are shot down by your doctor.

So there I was……driving baby, me, and my shattered heart all the way home. Alone. Isolated. Abandoned. Scared as hell.

Never before in my life had I experienced a hell quite like the one in which I now found myself mired. Never before had I, a perfectly normal person prior to giving birth to my daughter, given any thought to harming another person. NEVER. And the day on which I discovered my pregnancy? There was no way I would have ever thought that less than three months after giving birth I would want to go back in time so I would never get pregnant. I wanted to run, hide, make this new me go away.

In what state did all of this take place?

South.Frigging.Carolina.

Just a couple of hours away from Orangeburg and less than 45 minutes away from where Susan Smith, well, you know.

Let me tell you a bit about rural South Carolina.

There is nothing in rural South Carolina. Small towns there are devoid of much of anything. Residents in these towns are intent on keeping outsiders out and insiders in. We barely made any friends while there. The town in which we lived seemed to have some sort of an addiction problem as most wandered around mindlessly. The poverty level? Wow. We were on the high end of the scale for living because we: Rented a HOUSE instead of a trailer and owned TWO cars instead of one or none at all. The house we rented was tiny. But that didn’t matter. We were considered to be upper class in the town despite the fact that we were just squeaking by on my husband’s salary as a restaurant manager.

In this town, there lived a family everyone knew to avoid. They didn’t have running water so they never bathed which made them reek to high heaven. If you were fortunate enough to be at the local Wal-mart or Bi-Lo when they were, you learned to walk to the other side of the store if you saw them coming.

High School graduates were also hard to come by as well. Many young people had to go to work early to help support the family. They worked at whatever they could find – sometimes driving long distances for good jobs. Even then it was hard to get good work because the jobs in the city were very picky if you lived too far away. Understandable concern but it really does put a crimp on improving your life when you are living in the middle of nowhere and cannot afford a move into the city until you get a better job which of course, you can’t get because you live too far away. It is a very vicious cycle.

Oh, and the Klan had a central PUBLIC meeting location.

And yes, you read that right.

Bottom line here – South Carolina has problems. A lot of problems. Many states do but never before in my life had I witnessed a perfect storm – poverty, ignorance, and a lack of support for its residents.

Since I have left, there has been the development of a Postpartum Coalition there. I’ve been asked to speak at their annual conference in October 2011. I am really looking forward to coming full circle with my experience and helping to educate providers and citizens alike in a state which so desperately needs raised awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Why did I just walk you through all of that history?

Earlier this week, a mother in South Carolina was arrested for the deaths of her two toddler sons. According to news articles, she was unemployed, frustrated, and had some heated words with her mother the night before the incident. This mother has since confessed to her actions and is now in jail facing court and charges.

For some reason, various members of the media have dragged the idea of this mother having Postpartum Depression into the Speculation surrounding her case. Now, Dr. Arlene Huysman, author of The Postpartum Effect, an excellent book which examines why mothers kill, postulates that Susan Smith and others may struggle with something called Progressive Postpartum Depression.

Here’s how she describes it on page 43 (empasis mine):

“The mother with progressive postpartum depression (PPPD), however, does NOT recover without treatment. She merely experiences a hiatus until her next episode. Subsequent episodes are very often triggered by rejections, separations, and losses, and recur throughout the woman’s life. Usually the next episode is worse than the last. If this pattern goes unchecked, the mother will spiral into a cycle of illness that can destroy her life and her family.

When a mother is in the grip of this disease in its most serious form, she passes beyond reason. In the place of the capable woman is one full of dread, rage, and confusion. She feels unloved and unlovable and loses her ability to distinguish right from wrong. She may hear voices in her head and be listening to them rather than the voices of her family. This is not a symptom of schizophrenia, but rather a reflection of her own obsessive thinking. Death may become a preoccupation. She is in the throes of what feels like an unending despair.”

Yesterday, (Please do not click on the following link if you are still struggling as it may be triggering.) AOL News contributor, David Lohr, published an article about this South Carolina mother at AOL News. In the original version, he included a quote from criminal profiler Pat Brown. Ms. Brown, based out of Washington DC, has been featured in many outlets including CNN, Court TV, and various other sources. Makes perfect sense to get a quote from a criminal profiler for a case involving well, crime.

But David Lohr and AOL news made an egregious error in their publication of the quote by Ms. Brown. AOL news has since removed the quote from the story and appended the story with an editor’s note to this effect. Ms. Brown has gone on the defensive in regards to a very public and viral outburst by many of the women I am proud to blog and tweet with on a daily basis.

The offensive quote:

“Most women who suffer depression after their children are born are suffering from post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life? They may be depressed, but it is their situation and their psychopathic personality that brings them to kill their children, and not some chemical malfunction.”

If most women were truly suffering from “post-how-did-I-get-stuck-with-this-kid, this body, this life” then all we would need is a personal trainer or plastic surgeon, a nanny, and a million dollars to effectively change our stars. Oh wait – speaking of stars, don’t celebs have this too? Bryce Dallas Howard had it. Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, and many others. Granted, they did not kill their children but they still struggled (even severely) with Postpartum Mood Disorders. And they had access to all the help in the world.

Postpartum Mood Disorders do not just strike poor down on their luck moms.

Postpartum Mood Disorders are NOT the only possible explanation for filicide.

Postpartum Mood Disorders may not be definitively caused by a hormonal or “chemical malfunction” but study after study shows there are differing rates of various hormones of women struggling with PMD’s. Researchers have not yet defined what this means yet but I suspect that with sustained research we will get closer to answers each and every day.

The ignorance of Ms. Pat Brown in making such a sweeping statement in regards to an entire population of struggling moms is highly irresponsible. With her reach and popularity as a commentator for several national shows including the Today Show, the CBS Early Show, Larry King, Inside Edition, Nancy Grace, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Joy Behar, and America’s Most Wanted as well as featured on the Court TV show I, Detective, it frightens me to hear her make such a grandiose and untrue statement. The possibility that a hurting mother somewhere may have read her statement and then dismissed her own issues scares the hell out of me.

We, mothers who have struggled with Postpartum Mood Disorders, have issue enough with gathering strength to make that first call for help. We become convinced we are bad mothers. That we have failed and will never get better. We talk ourselves down even further the rabbit hole into which we tripped after we gave birth to children we love more than life itself.

Moms with Postpartum Depression are NOT:

Bad Mothers

Mourning the loss of our previous supermodel body

Tragically sad because now we have a little person stuck with us

Moms with Postpartum Depression ARE:

Madly in love with their children

Good moms who want to heal

Desperate to find reliable help

I can’t even begin to fathom the damage this statement has made. I have had more mothers tell me they are a bad mom because they are sad. It’s not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be happy. I don’t love my son, daughter, husband, etc. What is wrong with me? The confusion, angst, sorrow, frustration, guilt, all adds to their journey with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Then if they are unable to find the help they need (like me), they are left to their own devices for recovery. Unfortunately, some of us never find the right help and are not surrounded by empowering people who can lift them up and guide them toward recovery.

If you are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder or hurting, sad, upset, and thinking of harming yourself or others, PLEASE reach out for help. If it’s after the birth of a child, you can call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4PPD. Volunteers check the messages on a daily basis (I’m one of them and these ladies are DEDICATED. We will get you in touch with someone in your area who can help you). If you need urgent help, please go to the nearest ER. If you’re feeling suicidal, you can call 1-800-273-TALK anytime of the day, even at 2am on a Sunday.

I remember that sense of isolation. The need to reach out and talk with someone who has been there and done that was overpowering. The desperation I felt in my incapacity to locate professional help. I tried for four days before I broke down to call my doctor. I hung up as soon as the automation came on the line. Have you ever tried to admit to someone that things are NOT okay when you are supposed to be at your happiest, especially according to Johnson & Johnson? It is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Hands down.

Fittingly, Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud just came on Pandora as I’m wrapping this up.

I thank everyone out there who got LOUD yesterday to let AOL, Pat Brown, and David Lohr know how wrong they were.

AOL, you need to apologize. The quote should never have been published to begin with.

Pat? I challenge you to read Dr. Huysman’s book, The Postpartum Effect if you have not already. It’s available at Amazon. Hell, I might just mail you a copy. Anyone else want to flood her office with copies? It’s about $15 or so. If that wouldn’t get her attention…..

And David Lohr, the next time you need a quote about something related to Postpartum Depression? Try Postpartum Support International. I believe they know a thing or two about Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Did you watch Postpartum Nightmares?

What were your thoughts?

Did you think Discovery Health did a good job? Or was it just more sensationalism that hurt the public perception of Postpartum Mood Disorders?

What did you like?

What did you not like?

Let me (and Discovery) know what you thought of this documentary!