I spent my first year of motherhood in therapy (crying hysterically during most sessions) thanks to postpartum depression. My therapist not only helped me get better, but taught me how to accept, embrace, and celebrate the mom I am, not the one I had envisioned I would be before I actually became a mom. She helped me realize that I was normal, not alone, not a horrible person for feeling the things I felt, and that I would get better in time. Now it's time for me to give back. I want all new moms to know that postpartum depression can happen to anyone and there is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. That education, recognizing the risk factors, and talking openly about this sickness is the best way to reduce the stigma so all women feel brave enough to ask for help and seek treatment.
This is why I've decided to interview my therapist. Our talk had so much valuable information that I had to break it in to three parts, posting today, Wednesday and Friday. Trust me, you don't want to miss any of it. And it if you know someone this interview might help, please pass it on.
So here she is, the amazing Dr. Thorne--a clinical psychologist specializing in perinatal mood disorders and the woman largely responsible for my recovery from postpartum depression.
A Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Postpartum Depression
The way I got here was that I had postpartum depression with my first child and that was 20 years ago. I also watched my best friend suffer through postpartum psychosis four times—four pregnancies, all four times. Back then, no one knew what I had so I pretty much suffered silently. No one really knew what was going on with me. I also had a really difficult birth. I probably had more of an adjustment disorder.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) 20 Years Ago
It was diagnosed back then, but Postpartum Support International was pretty small then. I called the president and actually talked to her on the phone. I told her (it felt like it was in secret) that I got depressed after I breastfed. She whispered back, “Yeah that could happen.” It was as if we knew it existed but we couldn’t really talk about it. Now that is called D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex). There is a diagnosis attached. I had to really investigate on my own about what was going on with me. I didn’t take medicine. I got better but it took over a year. I also remember going to a PPD conference when I was 8 months postpartum. They were talking about infanticide and I got overwhelmed with all these feelings, so I asked a question--what does a therapist do with those feelings? They had no answer for me. They thought it was kind of odd.
Postpartum Depression the Second Time Around
I only had postpartum depression with my daughter. With the first, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina at eight months pregnant without any friends or family close by. I left everybody and thought I would just be fine. With the second, my son, I had more of a support network and consistent life. I did go on medication shortly after I had him because of the irritability I had towards my family. That’s what can really push people in that situation--when they get irritable or angry--they won’t do something about it for themselves as mothers, but they will do it for their children. If mom goes down, the whole ship goes down.
The Most Challenging Part of Motherhood
Boundaries and over giving. I felt like with my PPD, I gave too much of myself to my baby and there was nothing left. She was my total world. I still feel like if we over give we aren’t allowing that time four ourselves. That’s why I love how you do things. “This is who I am. This is how I’m doing things.” That’s much better. The more flexible our personalities, the better we will do for ourselves, and the better off we are. The more rigid and attached to all these societal standards, the worse off we become.
What Should Be Celebrated Most About Motherhood
Individual differences. Would you breastfeed if you didn’t feel the pressure to breastfeed? Do you even like it? Some women hate it. We don’t all have to do it the same way. And we shouldn’t be guilted or shamed into it. We shouldn’t adhere to every book’s philosophy and expert opinion. It’s okay to do it your way.
Join me Wednesday when Dr. Thorne and I really delve into the beast that is postpartum depression. Subscribe below so you don’t miss it!
BIO: Dr. Judith M. Thorne practices as a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Charlotte, NC. She possesses an MA in Applied Psychology (1989), an MS in Applied Psychology (1993) and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (1997). She has served on the board of “NC depression after delivery”, has been a resource for “NC moms supporting moms” and has received certification from Postpartum Support International. Dr. Thorne has been in private practice for over 18 years, treating children, adolescents, adults and couples. Over the last 17 years, she has become an expert in perinatal anxiety, mood and psychotic disorders. She also treats those who have experienced infertility and loss. Dr. Thorne has taught at the University level, has conducted continuing education, appeared on local news to provide information and has acted as a supervisor to both psychologists and social workers. She personally experienced a postpartum adjustment after the birth of her first child and is passionate about helping others to navigate through this difficult experience.