Princess Diana Spoke Candidly About Postpartum Depression And Self-Injury In 1995 Interview

(Photo credit: Paisley Scotland)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. She remains a vivid icon, remembered for her charisma, grace and tireless activism. Now, thanks to footage and transcripts from a 1995 interview with BBC1 Panorama’s Martin Bashir, we see another facet of the late princess—her courage to talk about things no one else was talking about.

In the interview, Diana spoke candidly about her experience with postpartum depression and self-injury. She was honest and reflective, and even though us commoners can’t fathom the unique pressures of royal living, her struggles as a new mom are surprisingly relatable.

Here’s what we learned from their conversation.

Diana had PPD with her son William, but didn’t know it until later.

BASHIR: How did the rest of the Royal Family react when they learnt that the child that you were to have was going to be a boy?

DIANA: Well, everybody was thrilled to bits. It had been quite a difficult pregnancy – I hadn’t been very well throughout it – so by the time William arrived it was a great relief because it was all peaceful again, and I was well for a time.

Then I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses, post-natal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself.

BASHIR: Was this completely out of character for you?

DIANA: Yes, very much so. I never had had a depression in my life.

But then when I analysed it I could see that the changes I’d made in the last year had all caught up with me, and my body had said: `We want a rest.’

She received treatment, but lacked community support.

BASHIR: So what treatment did you actually receive?

DIANA: I received a great deal of treatment, but I knew in myself that actually what I needed was space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way. I knew I could do it, but I needed people to be patient and give me the space to do it.

BASHIR: When you say all of the different roles that had come your way, what do you mean?

DIANA: Well, it was a very short space of time: in the space of a year my whole life had changed, turned upside down, and it had its wonderful moments, but it also had challenging moments. And I could see where the rough edges needed to be smoothed.

BASHIR: What was the family’s reaction to your post-natal depression?

DIANA: Well maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it?

BASHIR: What effect did the depression have on your marriage?

DIANA: Well, it gave everybody a wonderful new label – Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.

BASHIR: Are you saying that that label stuck within your marriage?

DIANA: I think people used it and it stuck, yes.

It became so painful that she would self-injure.

BASHIR: According to press reports, it was suggested that it was around this time things became so difficult that you actually tried to injure yourself.

DIANA: Mmm. When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.

For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention, inverted commas.

But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.

So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.

BASHIR: What did you actually do?

DIANA: Well, I just hurt my arms and my legs; and I work in environments now where I see women doing similar things and I’m able to understand completely where they’re coming from.

BASHIR: What was your husband’s reaction to this, when you began to injure yourself in this way?

DIANA: Well, I didn’t actually always do it in front of him. But obviously anyone who loves someone would be very concerned about it.

BASHIR: Did he understand what was behind the physical act of hurting yourself, do you think?

DIANA: No, but then not many people would have taken the time to see that.

Yet she still performed as the Princess of Wales. The public was unaware of her struggle.

BASHIR: Were you able to admit that you were in fact unwell, or did you feel compelled simply to carry on performing as the Princess of Wales?

DIANA: I felt compelled to perform. Well, when I say perform, I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them.

And in a way by being out in public they supported me, although they weren’t aware just how much healing they were giving me, and it carried me through.

The interview reveals how brave Diana was at a time when there was a strong stigma of mental illness. She helped start a conversation, and for that, we have respect.

Hiring A Night Nurse Isn’t Lazy or Indulgent. Here’s How It Saved Us.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Samantha Konikoff, who lives in Bellingham, Washington.   


Eva Amurri Martino and her son. (Photo credit: Eva Amurri Martino on Instagram

While browsing through Facebook this week, I saw a news story about Eva Amurri Martino—the actress, blogger and daughter of Susan Sarandon—who was coming out about the trauma she experienced after a night nurse accidentally fell asleep and dropped her infant son. Thank goodness the baby is just fine.

Without even clicking on the article or comments, I knew that (mostly) women would be throwing stones at Eva because she had a night nurse, a professional hired to care for a baby throughout the night. And sure enough, they were. Commenters scoffed, writing that she is a celebrity and can afford to have someone else raise her baby while “us normal people” do it all on our own.

But why is having a night nurse shunned?

I am not a celebrity. I am middle class. And yet we had a night nurse once a week with our second child. It was the best decision my husband and I ever made, and I believe it helped my mental health.

For five glorious weeks, a night nurse named Nancy was at our house from 10 p.m. on Thursday night until 6 a.m. on Friday. She stayed in our daughter Emma’s room, and when Emma woke up, our nurse Nancy would feed her, change her and rock her, and then leave me notes about it to read when I got up in the morning. We bottle-fed so I didn’t need to be woken up for feedings. If our son (who was 3 at the time) woke up, that was our responsibility. Since she was up all night, she also offered to fold my laundry. Yes, you read that right. When morning came, POOF! Baskets of folded laundry.

When I had my first child, Evan, I experienced postpartum depression/anxiety. One of the triggers was not knowing things and becoming overwhelmed in trying to find the answers. Three years later, when Emma was born, I immediately knew it could happen again. At one point, both kids had colds, and we weren’t sleeping. We needed help.

My mom had a night nurse when I was a newborn in the late 1970s, and she always said how sad she was the day the woman left. And I remembered my friend talking about this amazing night nurse who helped with her twins. My husband and I had received a check from a family member for our daughter’s birth, and we decided this is how the money should be spent.

We hired Nancy when Emma was about five weeks old. She was amazing. She had been doing this for over 25 years and was a kind and sweet and caring woman. During one of her visits, we talked about the postpartum depression I had with my son. She said that with new moms, she always keeps her feelers out for depression, and had dealt with it before.

For the five weeks that Nancy was with us, I had her knowledge at my fingertips any time I needed it. I would call her and ask her about feeding schedules, how to drop a night feeding and whether it was the right time, and how to get the baby to sleep less during the day and more at night. I had an expert at my disposal and that was worth its weight in gold.

I wish that when moms are sent home from the hospital or birth center, or at least at their baby’s first doctor visit, they should be given a list of night nurses.

It truly takes a village to raise our children, and if you can get a postpartum doula, night nurse, family member, or friend to stay up with your baby for a night here or there, I’d say take the sleep. Your mental health may depend on it.

Birth Matters: A Collaborative Research Project Exploring Birth Trauma

trauma; traumatic

Editor’s note: Since our original publication of this piece on November 29th, we’ve received a lot of feedback about survey participants only being eligible if they’re six months postpartum or less. We know that often trauma and a diagnosis of PTSD come long after the six month mark, however we have to limit our eligibility criteria. The information collected from this survey will give us the evidence to do more work with more moms – and expand our criteria in the future. The deadline to participate is January 31, 2017.

The most humbling part of being a staff member at Postpartum Progress is meeting moms and hearing their stories. Whether a mom is newly diagnosed, or is recovered from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder there is something special about being entrusted with her story.

The more I listen the more I notice common themes; many women tell me about events during pregnancy or birth they consider to be traumatic. These often contribute to their later diagnosis of postpartum depression, anxiety or another mental health concern.

One of most common issues that comes up is birth trauma. So many of our moms experience something traumatic that leaves them feeling scared and alone. And trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Trauma can occur if your wants and needs are ignored and you are treated without respect. Poor communication from your doctor that leaves you uncertain about your health or that of your baby can be traumatic. Protracted labor, poor pain management, medical interventions, emergency c-section, a baby in distress, a stay in the NICU; any of these can be traumatic and each of us responds differently.

Because responses to childbirth can vary from very positive to negative and traumatic, Postpartum Progress is teaming up with Dr. Sharon Dekel from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital to collect information about emotional responses to childbirth. We want to learn about different reactions to childbirth, why they happen, and what their long-term impacts to mom and baby are.

We want to survey as many women as possible, with all kinds of childbirth experiences – to find out what is the emotional impact of childbirth on women.  Our goal is to know how we can help women overcome their negative experiences and improve positive ones. This information can help to develop assessment and prevention tools for traumatic childbirth reactions.

No matter your birth experience, if you are at least 18 years old and have had a baby in the past six months can take our survey. It is completely anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to finish.

Together we can start to better understand and treat traumatic birth experiences.  Click here to find out more about the survey and to participate!  The deadline to participate is January 31, 2017.

Mental Health in Color Initiative: Training Scholarships

mental health in color initiativeResearch shows people often feel more comfortable seeking help from someone who looks like them. We know that Black moms suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety face unique challenges. The Postpartum Progress mission includes ALL women and for that reason we have established strategic goals around addressing the very vulnerable women who are not being served by a discriminating system. Most recently we have created tools to empower women of color:

Being seen and heard without the roadblocks of judgment and bias are important in obtaining recovery for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Often the racial differences between client and provider can make an already difficult process even more difficult. All of these providers are also women, because we believe in the unique power and ability for women to help one another.

Postpartum Progress seeks to change the landscape of maternal mental health for women of color by investing in what they need to be well. We are allocating funds to give training scholarships to mental health providers of color who are interested in expanding their professional expertise into maternal mental health. We will provide $2500 each to 4 scholarship recipients to fund their continued education via any one of the specific training programs we’ve chosen. Those training programs include the Postpartum Stress Center’s 12-Hour Post Graduate Training, Postpartum Support International’s 2-day Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Certificate Training and the Seleni Institute’s 2-day Maternal Mental Health Intensive. We do this with the sole expectation that funding the training of more mental health providers of color to become specialists in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders will improve the standard of care for everyone.

“We know there’s a massive shortage of mental health providers who are specialists in maternal mental health, but that shortage grows a hundredfold when it comes to providers of color. We want the mothers in our community to have access to the help they need, which is why we’re so pleased to be able to launch this scholarship program in 2016 to four Black mental health providers,” said Katherine Stone, founder and CEO of Postpartum Progress Inc. “As our operating budget grows, it’s our goal to be able to offer even more scholarships in the future and to extend them to providers serving marginalized Latinas, the Asian Pacific Islander community and more. And we would ask any entity willing to match our expenditure to join us in this program so that we can expand the number of people who can provide the best care for struggling mothers.”

If you are interested in being considered for Postpartum Progress’ Mental Health in Color 2016 scholarships, please make sure you meet all of the qualifications below. If so, please complete and submit this form by December 19th. We will choose all of our applicants by December 27th.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • You identify as a cis woman, femme, or trans woman
  • You identify as belonging to the Black/African Diaspora and are committed to the well-being of Black people living in the United States.
  • You are a licensed mental health professional or are a candidate for licensure in your state within the next 3 months.
  • You intend to work with women in their childbearing years and are interested in addressing health disparities for communities of color.
  • You have a working knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or you are motivated to learn more about them, their impact and treat the women in your community who have them.

For more information or assistance with applying please contact Jasmine Banks at climbout@postpartumprogress.org