Lauren Hale

Lauren Hale tells it like it is about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders over at My Postpartum Voice. She is also the founder of #PPDChat, an online Twitter & FB Community dedicated to supporting moms on their journey by harnessing the power of the Internet. You can find her on Twitter @unxpctdblessing.

Intrusive Thoughts: A Conversation

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emergency-stop-buttonYesterday, I wrote “Let’s Talk About Intrusive Thoughts.” Today? I’ve intertwined stories from moms (including myself) who have all experienced intrusive thoughts in one form or another during their postpartum experience. For one mom, she didn’t experience them until her son was two and she was off medication, something that made the experience even more difficult.

Again, as with yesterday’s post, if you are in a fragile state, please skip reading, particularly if you find that you are easily influenced by reading the experiences of others. We don’t hold anything back.

I also want to remind our readers that every mother’s experience and subsequent reaction/seeking of help is different; molded to her own life and journey. These mothers did the best they could with what they had available to them at the time – the important thing, though, is that each one of them fought like hell the best way they could to get free of these horrible thoughts holding them captive.

Today’s video is a fun one. Tiny Hamsters Tiny Date. Hamsters. On a DATE. AWWWWW.

 

 

 

 

coffee-791201_640Picture it, 2015, a small coffee shop on Main Street. A group of women sitting, sipping various hot beverages, chatting among themselves. No one thinks anything of it, until they get close enough to hear their conversation.

“I wanted to smother my daughters on the day my brain nearly broke. The thought played over and over in my head. Before THE day, I had obsessive thoughts about knives. I couldn’t use them. I cleaned obsessively. Scrubbed my hands. I exclusively pumped for my second daughter, which only fed my cleaning obsession. The stress. The meds. They broke me. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Before the thought grew feet, I curled up in the fetal position in bed, afraid that if I got up, I wouldn’t be able to control my actions. I still remember the way the wind rustled through the giant oak outside the window and the squirrels scurrying along the massive limbs. I had never been so scared in my entire life.” Even though she shared her experience this often, her voice still broke as the memories washed over her.

“I wanted to drive my car into oncoming traffic while my kids were in the car. And don’t get me started about the panic attacks I would have while driving,” one of them said.

The rest nodded slowly, their faces somber yet understanding.

“I wanted to drive off overpasses or bridges. I would think, what if I just let go of the steering wheel? I also thought about not waking up in the morning. Something I later found out was what they call passive suicidal idealizations. I didn’t really want to hurt or kill myself, I just didn’t want to wake up. Oh, and while pregnant with my second? I wanted to throw myself down the stairs.”

As the women nodded, one of them clenched her cup a little tighter, then started to speak, softly.

“I…I…..I bounced back and forth between harm and sexual. Mostly knives and pillows were the focus of the harm ones. But really anything I saw turned into a weapon in my mind that could hurt my son. Then, an incident happened at our church where a mother and her husband were assaulting her daughter. My mind latched right on to it as if it were the edge of a cliff and if I let go, I’d fall. I thought she was “normal”…and I thought I was “normal.” If she could do it, then what was to stop me from doing it? This thought swallowed me whole, it was always there, clinging to me: did I wipe too much…was I looking at “it” …. did I want to do something? Mostly with my child but during the worst of it, even when we were in public…which I started to avoid because I was convinced something in my mind flipped and I WAS my thoughts. It was around his first birthday when the other ones popped up. The news or shows I watched determined my obsessive thoughts for the day. During the worst of it, I would say if I had one every 30 seconds..it was a GREAT day as they were always one after another. …no breaks.”

The others in the group again nodded in solidarity. There wasn’t much they hadn’t heard by this point.

“I didn’t realize I had a problem when my son was an infant. I just couldn’t stop picturing the real dangerous chemicals that do actually “off gas.” At some point, I crossed from knowing that this was an environmental hazard to picturing or imagining the chemicals on our skin, in our hair, in the air we were breathing. They eventually had colors. Each type had a different color. The worst was plastic being heated…” her voice trailed off. This realization has been tough for her.

“I had visions of stabbing my precious new baby over and over.  I couldn’t stop them.  I couldn’t conjure up a happy thought.  I couldn’t distract myself.  I couldn’t relax.  I sure as hell couldn’t zone out watching the Food Channel with knives being brandished left and right.  It was like being stuck in rough surf close to the beach where you just can’t seem to make headway on land before the next wave crashes over you.  I was in a black hole of terror that started a few days after my beloved son was born.  My soul draining each moment as the horror show played over and over in my head.  What kind of a mother would ever think such a thing?”

Finally, the last woman in the group spoke, “My story doesn’t start when my son was an infant. Two years later, and off medication, my anxiety came back, fiercely. I was a very angry person. Was off for three months. Never felt quite like myself. Then we went on vacation. I don’t know if it was the stress of the trip or my brain just not being well, but my anxiety came back just as it was when the baby was born. But worse…I thought I had moved past it all. I was very angry. Couldn’t look at my child. I even had a fleeting intrusive thought of pushing him in front of a moving car while we went for an evening walk. And whenever my son wanted to wrestle around, as boys do, I had urges to actually cause him harm. Thoughts would pop up of pushing him down or being really rough with him.”

Customers in the coffee shop came and went, catching fragments of the conversation as they did so, each of them slightly perplexed at the depth and magnitude of the topic contrasted with the seemingly nonchalant way these women were discussing these dark thoughts in public. But not one of them stopped to comment or join in. There were a few raised eyebrows and strange looks as the snippets delved into their space, but nothing beyond that.

The women continued, sipping coffee and tea as the sun peered through the window of the quiet coffee shop, discussing how they each managed to move past these thoughts intruding on their lives.

“I ended up in the ER, then in a psychiatric ward. My med was changed. I began practicing self-care. I threw myself into advocacy and growing my own support group. I needed to know that my crazy wasn’t going to be permanent, that others had survived. Eventually, I ended up on meds and in therapy. I’m still on meds, for OCD & anxiety, and I am okay with that. I remember hating the pills. But now? They’re part of me and just the way things are. I’m a much stronger woman and mother because of what I have been through. And my self-care skills rock.”

“I would shake my head to banish these thoughts of driving into oncoming traffic from my mind. Eventually, I realized I am not my thoughts. They didn’t hold any power over me. I listened to music, books on tape, called friends and family, used deep breathing techniques from yoga. I pictured these horrible thoughts as bubbles just floating away. The thoughts still crop up from time to time when I am sleep deprived or very stressed. Medication and therapy were key to helping me develop the tools I needed. I needed to change that negative loop in my head and realize that my thoughts were just thoughts.“ She sipped her coffee, legs crossed as she glanced around the cozy shop.

“Medication helped immensely. Therapy helped me find strategies to cope with and shut down the thoughts. When my anxiety is high these days, I still struggle with Intrusive rage-filled thoughts. But I am better armed to recognize them and cope,” she said, firmly.

“I constantly asked my husband if he thought I would xyz. I was told that I had to stop confessing so the thoughts would become less important to me. That was SO hard, because I thought if I just “sat” with them in my mind, it meant I was ok with the thoughts. But eventually, I saw that it did work. It was a hard battle to be ok with them NOT bothering me because I was always told crazy people don’t know they’re crazy…the thoughts don’t bother them. When they started to bother me less, I worried!!! I still have them, but now I can brush them off. If I let myself slip and start confessing, it’s like a drug. It stops the anxiety for just a little bit. It feels so good you want to continue! I have to also watch what I read or see on tv because I find myself comparing: if they did that, maybe I would too. I even remember comparing myself to all those mass shooters. I searched for news stories of Andrea Yates, seeking any tiny trait similar between those folks and me. Now, I always try to bring up intrusive thoughts with my moms. Intrusive thoughts are SO not talked about and really should be.”

“My thoughts would get softer, like music, if I could avoid them. I tried to shop my way out of it, too. Organic cloth diapers with wool covers hand made by other moms. Glass and stainless steel. Only one brand of organic formula. Organic foods for me and the baby. New shower curtain, fabric and then a phthalate-free liner. I cleaned with vinegar or baking soda. Washing clothes. I did so much laundry. I knew all the ingredients in my laundry detergent. I could handle even pajamas with flame retardant chemicals if I just washed them enough….which doesn’t actually do much, but it was not as logical a compulsion as it seemed to be. I also sought out other moms who worried about the same things, or did the same things, so that I could talk about cleaning with essential oils or lanolizing wool without sounding “crazy.” I’m just now starting to talk about what all of this really was. It explains so much about my many behaviours.”

“I slowly got better with therapy and medication. The intrusive thoughts ebbed and finally faded.  Only there was still this huge gaping hole in my heart. I swear you could see all the way to infinity and back that hole was so big. I was sure I would never really be happy again or be joyful as mother because this terrible experience haunted me. I put on brave face. I cared for and played with my baby. I worked hard at my job. I prayed, tried to meditate, did yoga, spent time with dear family and friends, and watched chick flicks. I did all my happy things. Only it was still there—that void of fear and sadness over this experience. One day I found a blog full of other mothers’ stories of surviving postpartum mood disorders.  The founder put it out there in a matter-of-fact way about how postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis are simply treatable diseases. And she got other women to share their stories on her blog.  Reading these stories let me know I wasn’t alone. It was huge. Apparently, a lot of us moms obsess over just one terrible image. Our brains all go haywire in a similar way!”

Every mother there nodded in agreement, knowing exactly how it felt to be the owner of a brain gone horribly haywire.

“I would have to stop playtime, breathe and regroup my thoughts. Knowing I didn’t WANT to cause him harm, and wouldn’t, but was scared of what might happen if I continued. I’ve come to terms with so much the past six months. The Climb and all my warrior moms have really helped a lot this year. I am a proudly medicated mommy! Things are much better these days. Much better.”

The moms chatted for awhile longer, about more acceptable things, such as childhood milestones, what kind of wines they preferred, and what their weekend plans were for the upcoming holiday. As the conversation navigated in this direction, the reaction of the customers in the coffee shop as they passed by them changed. They smiled, offered suggestions about local events for the upcoming holiday, and one older woman even complimented one of the mothers on her jewelry.

As the mothers stood to leave, each of them grabbing their purses, making sure they had their phones and their keys, they hugged, a little tighter than they would normally, because they had bonded in a way mothers who haven’t been in this type of hell can’t.

They went their separate ways, then, their hearts and minds forever entwined as fierce survivors and warriors.

 

PS. If today’s post has you feeling fragile, please find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing or email me at mypostpartumvoice(@) gmail.com. I will be happy to talk with you about whatever it is you’re feeling.

 

{photo source, pixabay}

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Let’s Talk About Intrusive Thoughts

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emergency-stop-buttonThis post deals with Intrusive Thoughts. If you are struggling, fragile, or easily influenced by reading the intrusive thoughts and obsessions of others, please avoid reading this post. For those who choose to stop reading now, I want you to know at the very least that you are not alone. The thoughts eventually quiet and fade – becoming less like rambunctious uncontrollable toddlers and more like almost well-behaved teenagers (ie, pushing the limits every so often but mostly listening to you).

In the meantime, if you’re not up for this piece, go watch this – the official video for the 2015 Climb Out – and see the survivors and fighters who aren’t giving up on any mother still fighting.

Intrusive thoughts, y’all. They’re the bane of so many a new mother’s existence. And yet, we do not talk about them. We still whisper about them, afraid that if we say them out loud they might jump out of our heads and become real, like the monsters and creatures in the Goosebumps series. And nobody wants to have a bunch of creepy monsters running free, right?

There are a few hard and fast rules about intrusive thoughts I realized on my own as well as through researching Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They are:

Most intrusive thoughts are brief and fleeting. They come and then they’re gone. Like a butterfly perching on your finger. Not nearly as beautiful, but they don’t stay long.

You are immediately horrified by the thought perched in your head. This is a healthy response. It doesn’t mean you will follow through with the thought in your head. It’s a sign of being grounded, actually. It’s when you aren’t horrified by the thoughts that you should seek immediate help.

The thoughts fade. For me, the analogy I like to use is that of listening to a song. They start quietly. Then they build to a loud crescendo, eventually cresting, then sliding down into silence. And just as songs are all different lengths, so is the healing process for every woman experiencing intrusive thoughts.

You want numbers about Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the disorder on the spectrum most commonly associated with Intrusive Thoughts? (Postpartum Anxiety can also include intrusive thoughts). According to Postpartum Support International’s fact page on Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, 3-5% of new moms will experience this. However, it’s most “misunderstood and misdiagnosed” according to their page as well. I definitely had PP OCD but was diagnosed officially as experiencing a Major Depressive Disorder. Nope. Not what I had, but thanks for playing, doc.

I put on a mask to hide the thoughts swirling about in my own head. It was as if I had my own trippy horror movie marathon running in there. My thoughts centered on knives, as were those of several of the mothers I spoke with. Here’s the thing about these thoughts – when you’re caught inside them, it feels as if you are being swallowed whole, a sentiment echoed by Deborah Rimmler, a member of the Board for Postpartum Progress’ nonprofit.

Deborah QuoteFor Deborah, her thoughts, also centered around knives, started just a few days after she gave birth. She was desperately afraid to be alone with her child and mentioned she was grateful to be fortunate enough to arrange her life so that she didn’t spend a single moment alone with her child until he was at least two. She spent time with him, of course, but made sure that there was always, always someone else with them because she was unable to trust her own brain. Can you imagine? I can – and I will tell you that it is indeed, a special level of hell, particularly when society tells you that maternal instinct will kick in – that it will enable you to love and adore your child. Oh, we love and adore our children. We’re just constantly scared as hell about what our brains are telling us to do to them – or to ourselves. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Intrusive thoughts, however, according to Deborah, “…are not based in reality – it is a pathological symptom of a disease.” She’s absolutely right. They are symptomatic more than anything else. Being scared like hell of them is a sign of sanity, and one many of us hold onto like hell because in our broken brains, that fear? Is the one thing standing between us and a complete break. It’s so difficult to let go of that fear, which is most certainly a barrier to healing fully.

We talked, Deborah and I, about how healing from intrusive thoughts has two stages. Stage 1 allows you to mute the thoughts, let them fade into the background. Stage 2 is more like PTSD, where we recover from having experienced the thoughts in the first place. It’s a tough recovery, and one we work on for the rest of our lives thanks to the “normal” mom worrying gene – you know, the one that makes you worry about every little thing that can possibly go wrong with your kid or your life. Letting go is key for us once we have healed. We must force ourselves to trust not only ourselves, but those around us as well as society. And that? Is hard.

The dangerous part of intrusive thoughts lies in the shame and stigma still attached to them. Mothers are often frightened to admit they are experiencing them. Why? What happens if your child is harmed? Child services shows up to take them away, right? Our logic is flawed when we are sick, so many of us strongly believe that if we go to someone and tell them we have had thoughts in which we see ourselves harming our children, of course they will take away our child because that’s what needs to happen to keep them safe, right? Truth be told, that’s the last thing we need to happen. Why? Stress makes intrusive thoughts even worse for so many mothers. One of the things I did when I talked with my therapist any time I needed to talk about my intrusive thoughts specifically, was to ask her what she was required to report and what would trigger a report. I would then talk around those – which, yeah, probably not the best thing to do but in my mind? I was protecting my family.

Another dangerous issue at hand with intrusive thoughts is traced to the sensationalism by the media of Postpartum Psychosis. Postpartum OCD feels very similar to the way Psychosis is described. But. When you are fighting OCD? You are grounded. You are horrified by your thoughts. You are not delusional. You’re holding onto sanity with everything you have. With Psychosis, these “thoughts” become your reality and you are moved to act upon them, consequences be damned (or, even scarier – consequences seem to be a relief/escape). Postpartum OCD is not a medical emergency BUT should absolutely be treated by a professional as soon as you feel yourself starting to spiral. Postpartum Psychosis, on the other hand, is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a medical emergency and should be treated as soon as possible.

That’s it for today, ladies. I have a LOT more to say so be sure to come back tomorrow for the second part of this post – when we get into the nitty gritty of the range of Intrusive Thoughts with a few tough mamas and what they’ve done to cope with them. Until then, know that you aren’t alone and that it’s okay to talk to someone about these thoughts.

PS. If today’s post has you feeling fragile, please find me on Twitter @unxpctdblessing or email me at mypostpartumvoice(@) gmail.com. I will be happy to talk with you about whatever it is you’re feeling.

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6 Tips for Healthy Internet Support

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mouse and keyboardThe Internet. For those of us seeking help and company in the horrible isolation that is a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, the Internet can be the helping hand we have longed for as we sink into the depths of our own private hells. The Internet may also be a source of magnification for intrusive thoughts, like one of those games with a claw that reaches down and dispenses toys (only in our case, a new obsession/intrusive thought is dropped into our heads). Or we can get so caught up in the support we have found online that we ignore the support right in front of us, not even realizing we are doing so.

So how do we avoid these pitfalls as we search for our tribe in the darkest of our days?

I’ve gathered a few tips for you:

Have someone you trust search for information for you. If all you are seeking is more information on your condition and not an online support resource, get someone you trust to provide you with information. Explain to them that you just want the facts. Signs, symptoms, treatment, how to handle it. Nothing more, nothing less. No scary stories about moms, just plain and simple facts. In fact, we have something you can use right here at Postpartum Progress..

When using a forum, be mindful of your own healthy boundaries. What do I mean by this? If you know you are easily influenced, don’t read posts by others. Ask your question, read the replies. Don’t meander all over the forum if something might set you off. How can you do this? Esther Dale said she has a keyword list of things she knows trigger her and she will scan for those words before reading anything. This goes for the entire Internet as well. Know thy limits, mama, and keep them.

Speaking of limits, set a TIME limit for participation in any forum. Yes, it’s difficult to set aside any amount of time as a new mother, but with the advent of smartphones (and smartwatches), many new moms have increasing and unlimited access to the Internet at any time of day. Decide when you’ll access the Internet for support and STICK TO THOSE TIMES. Unless, of course, something urgent comes up and you need to reach out. Bottom line, don’t spend your entire day browsing the forums and ingesting a bunch of issues other people are experiencing. Live your life, reach out when you need to, and then step away.

Recognizing a reputable website/forum: This can be difficult, but it’s necessary to be able to do this as in this day and age, anyone can slap a website up and call it a day. I’ve written a post about browsing the Internet safely here. Also, most websites dealing with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders will have:

Heard of/make mention of Postpartum Progress and/or Postpartum Support International

A disclaimer encouraging you to clear any information found on said website with a physician prior to implanting it.

Not promise to CURE your Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. (This one is HUGE. HUGE. Any website which promises to CURE your Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder is preying on you and should be absolutely avoided.)

Demand you send payment to access their information, which, surprisingly, promises to CURE your Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder.

Grow your offline support group instead. While it’s tough for many moms to locate in person support for a myriad of reasons (access, stigma, financial, etc…), it is important to grow your in person support in addition to the support you have online. For those who have partners who are not supportive, have them visit your doctor with you so he/she can discuss any concerns or misunderstandings of your issues with them. Have the doctor explain what they can do to help you through your Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder.

Get outside. Take the baby, put them in a stroller, and go for a walk. Breathe in the fresh air, look at the sky, watch the trees sway in the wind. Changing your scenery, getting some good old fashioned Vitamin D, and exhaling your issues helps tremendously. Is it a cure? No. But it’s a baby step toward living life to the fullest again, even if you only manage to get to the mailbox or just down the block on your first try.

Support is key to Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. For many, many, many mamas, that support comes from the Internet. It is important to balance this support with in-life support including your family, a healthcare professional, and friends. It is okay to need a day here or there to yourself, we all need downtime. But if you find yourself constantly checking your phone, reading forums or scanning for information on the Internet obsessively and getting snappy if someone interrupts what you are doing, then it’s time for you to step away from the Internet and back into the real world. Don’t worry, the support on the Internet won’t disappear – it will still be there as you need it. But as you reach out to the Internet, make sure you’re reaching out to the real physical world around you as well. You’re worth it.

 

This is not at all an exhaustive list of signs or suggestions to avoid triggers/maintain mental health while researching or seeking help on the Internet. If you think you or someone you know may be showing signs of Internet Addiction, please talk to someone about it. Likewise, if you are in need of support for Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, you can find it right here, in The Warrior Mom Community. Please use it mindfully.

 

{photo source: Computer, Mouse, keyboard – pixabay}

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Love & Hip Hop: PPD in the ATL

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Love_&_Hip_HopLove & Hip Hop: ATL, is one of the highest cable rated shows on right now. In a recent episode, one of the cast members, Kalenna, openly discussed her recent diagnosis of Postpartum Depression.

During the episode, we go to a therapy appointment with both Kalenna and her husband, Tony Vick. You can view the clip of the appointment here: Kalenna Meets With a Therapist

Kalenna starts out by listing her symptoms:

  • Sad
  • Upset
  • Irritable
  • Very short fuse

Sound familiar to anyone? The last two really hit home for me. My fuse was so short it didn’t take much to light it up.

In an aside, Kalenna says the following:

“I’ve been officially diagnosed as having Postpartum Depression and I gotta say that it’s kind of a relief to finally know the truth.”

Again, boom. Knowing what you are fighting, finally, is a tremendous relief. Why? Because it allows you to employ the proper weapons to fight the beast.

What is triggering Kalenna the most?

“They’re killing young black boys every day. I have boys, baby boys…” she says, with tears rolling down her face. She continues, “I don’t want to be that mom on TV, you know……or somebody shot my son….I’m trying to create a different way…”

In this very pointed and direct comment, Kalenna hits on several points which put her at quite an intersection of struggling through new motherhood. As Dr. Motapanyane stated in an email to me after I reached out to her for some insight, “Kalenna is a woman situated at the intersection of at least two identity markers that leave her vulnerable to experiences of marginalization, discrimination, and oppression – she is a woman and she is black. Her family background seems to be working class. Based on this alone, she is likely to be fatigued before she even becomes a mother.”

A’Driane Nieves, blogger at Butterfly Confessions and founder of the Tessera Collective on FB , a mental health empowerment group for Women of Color, noted the inclusion in Kalenna’s statement here regarding police brutality and how racial trauma has affected her as she has become a new mother. Just last week, the Tessera Collective addressed Race based trauma and self-care in their chat. You can read the Storify here.

It is incredibly difficult not to draw parallels as a new mother, particularly as a woman of colour, between what is happening to other people of colour and the generation for which you are responsible. The exhaustion is oppressive, fatiguing, adding to their fight against any mental health disorder which decides to show up on the doorstep.

Another important issue Kalenna intimates to is the Strong Black Woman Complex. Dr. Motapanyane sums this up as: “Black women, according to this narrative, stoically withstand just about any life challenge. This has compounded the structural mechanisms at a macro level that silence the experiences, needs, and political interests of the most vulnerable women among us.” Therefore, the overwhelming, historic, and expected need to be all and do all for all people. To not allow anyone to see you as weak, something which interferes with the ability to seek help for any mental health issue. Kalenna nails it in this aside (emphasis mine, meant to reflect her pattern of speech in the clip):

“Therapy is a scary thing. As a Black Woman, I grew up believing you either heal yourself or you go to church. But I’m doing this because I NEED TO. And the truth is? I feel VALIDATED. I’m not crazy. I’m not a hysterical female. I have a TRUE medical condition that exasperates all the stress I’ve been feeling and it steals all the joy away from how I should be feeling about my beautiful baby boy.”

Kalenna goes on, however, according to Dr. Motapanyane, to talk “as if she is a single mother” as she discusses her decision to continue her career. Dr. Motapanyane notes “She is talking as if she is a single mother. …she constructs this narrative as a means of supporting the argument that she needs her career because it is for the future security of her sons. She cannot seem to say that she needs her career because she simply loves it and it brings her joy, or that she wants a sense of her own financial security independent of her husband.” Again, this may well be the Strong Black Woman Complex rearing its head, or it may be that Tony has several other children with several other women which leaves Kalenna determined to have something of her own.

Kalenna is also socially isolated with little to no support. Tony hasn’t realized how much her music meant to her and what a tremendous outlet it was for her as she navigated through this long weary path of Postpartum Depression. In fact, the only time Kalenna brightens during the therapy session is when she is discussing how much her music means to her and how it has been an important outlet. She makes mention of pouring everything into the mic.

I want to step out of the flow for a minute and discuss the issue of race and therapy. I was glad that Kalenna took the time to make the statements that “therapy is a scary thing” and followed it up with how she needed to do therapy – how it validated her – how she isn’t crazy. Therapy is often viewed as a “white” thing, and in “Staying The Course: Psychotherapy In The African American Community” by Dr. Janis Sanchez Hucles states the following: “….black individuals fear that if they seek formal mental-health assistance, they will be labeled ‘crazy’ or blamed for their problems. Unlike other patients, African-Americans are also reluctant to seek services because of a longstanding tradition that dirty laundry should not be aired to others, and that they must solve their problems on their own.”

In her piece, Dr. Sanchez-Hucles goes on to examine what happens when African Americans when they meet with white therapists:

“When African Americans obtain assistance and meet with a white therapist, they are often fearful that these therapists will be biased, use stereotypes, minimize clients’ experiences of discrimination, and not understand black cultural traditions. Even if a black client has a black therapist, the client may rightly fear that the therapist may be unable to relate to the client due to the differences in education, class, or life experiences.”

This brings up a huge points in the clip with Kalenna, Tony, and the therapist. First, the therapist is an African-American woman who appears to not only understand Postpartum Depression, but artfully discusses the cultural challenges and racial issues Kalenna faces as complexities with her own struggle therein. For me, and for A’Driane Nieves, this was a huge point.

Overall, while I know that Postpartum Depression is hell and it takes a lot of strength to fight through it, I am very glad to see that it is being discussed so openly, particularly on a show which has such a cultural intersection – womanhood, motherhood, and navigating the often misogynistic realm of the hip-hop world. Later in the show, Tony and the other men were standing on a creek bank, fishing. Tony was asked how things were going and brought up, freely, Kalenna’s diagnosis. None of the other men seemed shocked, in fact, they seemed to briefly openly discuss it (not in detail, mind you, but without judgment or bias), and gave Tony their support as best they could. For me, that was a huge moment.

We still have a very, very long way to go in removing the stigma of battling against Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders, but Love & Hip Hop: ATL, just took a HUGE leap forward for all families of color fighting against this insidious true medical condition. Thank you.

 

Further recommended reading:

Motapanyane, Maki, ed. Mothering in Hip-Hop Culture: Representation and Experience BradfordDemeter Press, 2012.

Sanchez-Hucles, Janis. The First Session With African Americans: A Step-by-Step Guide. Jossey-Bass, 1999.

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