While my fellow Canadians were busy engaged in the popular social media campaign known as #BellLetsTalk to reduce the stigma of mental health, our neighbours to the south started their own twitter crusade to enlighten one of their public figures on the seriousness of postpartum depression.
Katherine Stone, founder of the award-winning, Postpartum Progress blog to end the stigma of postpartum depression, quickly enlisted her warrior mom tribe to take to Twitter using the hashtag #meditateonthis after former Congressional candidate and new age spiritual guru Marianne Williamson wrote the following ill-informed and dangerous "rant" on her Facebook page:
CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be "screened for depression" during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to "find the right medication." And how many on the "Task Force" are on big pharma's payroll? Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.
Remarkably, she goes on to defend her stance in offensive replies like this after thousands of numerous objections:
"Depressed women are like canary [sic] in a coal mine. We are often depressed because something is wrong that needs to be made right, and what is wrong is not always what is inside us. Postpartum depression, example, is often a result of a woman's heartbreak over having to go back to work sooner than her body, mind and heart are ready to," says Williamson. "It's a can of worms that needs to be open."
Ok, so let's open it!
Postpartum depression and anxiety are the most common complications in pregnancy and postpartum and according to a recent study, suicide is the second leading cause of death in postpartum women, with one in five of the women in the study having had thoughts of harming themselves.
Postpartum depression sufferers and survivors were flabbergasted, as was I. Thanks to Stone, who quickly rallied us into an organized effort to help Ms. Williamson see the error of her ways, #MeditateOnThis quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, right after #BellLetsTalk. Many tweets, mine included, displayed both hashtags, doubling the impact.
According to Postpartum Progress, between 6:30 p.m. last night and 9:30 a.m. this morning, "705 people on twitter sent out 6,049 tweets about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The messages were delivered to 26,364,508 timelines with a total reach of 1,529,958 people."
Let's hope our message was heard.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are very real and without medication, I wouldn't be here today. I suffered from it twice. The first time, I tried the route Ms. Williamson purports. I meditated and attempted to get to the truth of my suffering. In fact, that's when I first discovered Ms. Williamson and the new age spiritual movement. I tread a very dangerous path. Instead of getting properly treated with medication, I chose meditation and became manic. I thought angels were communicating with me, that there were messages and signs in numbers and nature just for me, and that God had blessed with me postpartum depression for a grander mission. I quit my job because that's what I thought God was telling me to do. I spent all of my money on new age courses and eventually had to sell my house because of it.
And I'm lucky that's all that happened.
After the birth of my second baby, I started getting panic attacks, derealization, and intrusive thoughts like driving off a cliff with my baby. I quickly turned to my spiritual arsenal to no avail. The situation was getting perilous. Though I struggled to hold onto my holistic and spiritual beliefs, for the sake and safety of myself and my family, I finally decided to get properly treated for my postpartum depression and anxiety, what I finally understood was a real illness.
You want to talk about signs? The moment I took my first pill, balling and feeling like a failure for giving into "big pharma", I went outside and a rainbow appeared above my house. Within a few weeks, I started to feel better and soon I was myself again, able to care for my kids and more importantly, enjoy motherhood.
So Ms. Williamson, if you believe God grants us suffering for a reason, then surely the reason I suffered from postpartum depression -- twice no less -- was to show me that His healing exists in many forms and that I had to love myself enough to take the lifeline He was granting me in the form of mediCation.
I still meditate and practice yoga and love spirituality, but rest assured, I never miss a dose of my postpartum depression medication.
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