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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Warrior Mom Conference – Need your Questions

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We wget answersant to hear from our warrior mom community as we begin our first ever Warrior Mom Conference.  The first morning of the conference is filled with an amazing panel of speakers.  We will have a moderated question and answer session.  Follow along with us on social media as we live tweet the question and answer session.  We want to hear from you.  Our speakers that are part of the Educate & Empower panel are Dr. Ruta Nonacs, Mara Acel-Green, Dr. Lekeisha Sumner, and Peggy Kaufman.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking.  What do you wish you had known about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? How can we help moms access treatment more easily?  What obstacles have you faced with regards to finding the right treatment?  How can we increase our reach to underserved communities?  What type of community supports should be in place? If you have encountered obstacles in finding community support, what were they?  Submit your comments to the Facebook page.

 

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Postpartum Progress Impact Report 2014

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Postpartum Progress Mission 2014

If you’re like me, Postpartum Progress has impacted your life in more ways than one. After having my daughter in 2010, I discovered this powerful community of Warrior Moms at a time when I needed it most. I not only found invaluable information, but also felt the kindness, care and dedication of so many during my own journey through treatment and recovery. I hope you have too, because truly we are none of us alone.

There are many volunteers who work behind the scenes of this passionate organization, and I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you. Your time and talents make the recently released 2014 Postpartum Progress Impact Report possible. Our many programs and campaigns are coordinated by those who strongly believe in our mission, those who offer their time and talents to make these programs a success.

Postpartum Progress IS making an impact in many communities. Below are just a few highlights, but I encourage you to check out the complete report here.

Postpartum Progress 2014 ReachMaternal Mental Health Awareness

Increasing awareness has always been a primary mission. To that end, Postpartum Progress develops and provides materials at not cost to help moms identify PPD and related illnesses, reduce stigma, and encourage mothers to seek professional help. In 2014, 4,250 of our new discreet, pocket-sized “Hugs Cards” were distributed to local peer advocates across the country to share information on where moms can access the free resources and support we provide. Our new Tools page, offers free downloads of our most popular patient resources, including a new 2014 infographic about the negative downstream consequences of untreated PPD.

PostpartumProgress.com and Other Media Reach

Individuals from more than 200 countries visited PostpartumProgress.com in 2014 at a rate of 1.6 million pageviews, with most traffic coming from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Philippines and Singapore. We continue to reach growing numbers of women and families via our social media channels.

Our reach into other media included a feature on BuzzFeed “Can You Tell a Mom has Postpartum Depression Just by Looking at Her,” which garnered more than 275,000 pageviews in the US alone, and was translated into Spanish and French for global audiences. We were proud to be featured on the national Healthy Mother, Healthy Babies Coalition blog in May during Maternal Mental Health Month, as well as in a full page story in Woman’s World magazine, a supermarket weekly with 1.6 million readers. Also in 2014, we were honored with the Iris Award at the Mom 2.0 Summit in the category of Industry Influence – Philanthropic Work, given for excellence and quality in parent blogging and social media.

Climb Out of the Darkness

Our 2nd Annual Climb Out of the Darkness saw tremendous growth and excitement from 200 participants to 2013 to more than 1,500 last year. Awareness is a major objective of the Climb, and we were thrilled to see the event covered by CNN, The New York Times‘ Motherlode blog, and numerous local newspaper and television news outlets. “It is abundantly clear that Warrior Moms needed an event to call their own, where they could turn their shame upside down and let the world know how important it is to recognize their illnesses,” said Postpartum Progress Executive Director Katherine Stone. Be sure to join us for our 3rd Annual Climb Out of the Darkness on June 20, 2015.

Peer Support & Community

Peer support and community is a vital part of the Postpartum Progress mission. We are truly stronger together. Our Smart Patients private support forum for moms currently struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders grew from 230 members in 2013 to 1,600, many of whom have no access to support groups where they live. And in 2014 we announced we’d be hosting the first patient-centered conference on maternal mental illness, the Warrior Mom Conference, to be held in Boston in July 2015. If you are unable to attend, please join our fellow Homestead Warriors.

Research

Postpartum Progress is interested in collaborating with organizations to not only measure the impact of our own work but to help identify new and better ways to support moms. In 2014, we conducted our first audience impact survey, which revealed that users of Postpartum Progress’ resources are influenced to both seek professional help and speak out about their illnesses with others. For more information about this survey and our first foray into research collaboration, please visit the 2104 Impact Report.

Looking Ahead in 2015

There are many great things to come this year and beyond for Postpartum Progress. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting our efforts. We couldn’t do any of this without you,” said Katherine Stone.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s the amazing individuals who volunteer their time and those who raise funds that make these programs possible. I for one am profoundly grateful to all of you.

For more information, read the full 2014 Postpartum Progress Impact Report.

Warrior Mom

 

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Postpartum Depression: A Feminist Issue

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Image-1 (1)
Do not dismiss postpartum depression with a shrug and an eye roll, Ms. Albert.  It affects one out of every seven women.  Ms. Elisa Albert wrote a book After Birth that I will definitely not be reading.  Her main premise is that women do not have enough support for the choices that they are making.  I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and the overall theme of her book.  Based on an article with the Guardian, she then contradicted the primary theme of her book as she heaped judgement and shame on women who choose medication as an option to treat their postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

I recognize the responsibility that I have as a Warrior Mom and as a mental health advocate.  I am not a trained professional.  I offer support and encouragement to moms who are struggling.  I share what worked for me to simply encourage a mom who is struggling to have as many options as possible.  Medication saves lives; my medication saved mine.  My medication was one of the tools in my toolbox.  I utilized many tools in my toolbox to help me recover: therapy, online peer support through Postpartum Progress, support from my friends and family, exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, journaling, singing, and sharing my story with other moms.

Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders manifest themselves differently because each mom is unique.  What worked for me may work for a friend, but it may not.  Making blanket statements does a disservice to all moms.  Ms. Albert made this statement.  “The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time.” Guess what Ms. Albert? I had all of that, and I still struggled.  I spent my entire pregnancy anxious and depressed.  With time and perspective my family and I have been able to pinpoint how these symptoms manifested themselves immediately after I became pregnant.  My antenatal depression manifested itself in irritability and rage.  I had support from both my mother and my mother-in-law while I was on maternity leave for three months.  I had a supportive network of friends and family.  I still struggled for seventeen months until I finally got the help I so desperately needed.  My baby girl was seven months by the time I realized that I was not getting better.  Do not speak for me or for the community of Warrior Moms.  Let us tell our stories.

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