Every time a young mother and/or her child(ren) dies tragically, we rally to raise awareness. The media scrambles for experts who sometimes purport accurate explanations and sometimes they perpetuate misinformation. This is an occupational hazard that goes with the territory.
No one would argue that raising awareness is exactly what we should be doing. Our collective response is to do our best to inform the public, educate our healthcare providers and guide mothers everywhere on behalf of maximizing a woman’s access to prompt and precise medical care.
We scream that women are not getting the right care.
We cry that we have lost wonderful women like Miriam who die while wrestling with demons beyond our comprehension.
We protest that society is not doing enough. Families are not doing enough. Doctors are not doing enough. We even confess that mothers who are suffering are not doing enough.
We proclaim we need to take this more seriously; that awful unthinkable things can happen if we continue to put our heads in the sand and hope this goes away by itself if we just don’t talk about it.
We hope someone is listening when we do talk about it. We hope the people who are in a position to do something about this, are indeed listening.
Unfortunately, this call to attention has a profound downside. By far, the most disturbing consequence of our push for greater awareness is how it triggers women who are currently suffering or women who have previously struggled with symptoms of depression or psychosis. The agitation is palpable. Bloggers are ferociously blogging, media is devouring the shocking details and the postpartum community is understandably both outraged and disheartened. The bottom line? Women are frightened beyond belief.
The anxiety that ensues out of a tragedy of this scope can be the driving force behind much needed change. It can also, however, simultaneously, thwart whatever progress we have made in this direction. Women are incredibly scared. They are scared they have it, might get it, or will somehow lose control completely and be the victim of another horrendous catastrophe. In response to this considerable fear, some women stand up and fight to be heard, others shut down. They withdraw into the very silence we are trying to discourage.
And so I say, again, to postpartum women who are struggling:
Talk about your postpartum depression.
Talk about your postpartum psychosis.
If you are not sure what your symptoms mean, find someone you trust and tell them how you are feeling.
Do not let your feelings of uncertainty stop you from doing what you need to do to get help.
Do not let the enormous anxiety that surrounds this issue unnerve you.
Stand in the face of this great fear and talk about your symptoms.
Do it for Miriam’s family.
Do it for your family.
Do it for yourself.
There are professionals who know exactly what to do to help you feel like yourself again.
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