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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Therapy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All: Part 2

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DSC_6923_editedYesterday, I told you my story of learning through experience that therapy, and mental health care in general, are not a one size fits all type of thing. Today, let’s get down to the practical side of things.

How do you go about trying to find a mental health professional who has at least a working knowledge of PPMD, if not lots of specialized experience?  I’ll give you some tips that helped me, but please realize that this is NOT an exhaustive list, and I would LOVE To hear what has (or has not) worked for other Warrior Moms out there.

  • Use the Postpartum Progress Depression Treatment Programs & Specialists page. Did you know Postpartum Progress has a page specifically for listing postpartum depression treatment programs and specialists who help women with PPMD? We do!!! How awesome is that? Make use of our fantastic resource. Even if you don’t find anyone near you, or anyone near you who is taking new patients, ask them if they can refer you to anyone else.
  • Get specific in your Google search. Throw the word “postpartum” in there, or even a specific PPMD. For example, instead of just doing a basic search for “Atlanta therapist”, try something more specific like “Atlanta therapist postpartum”.
  • See if your insurance has an online in-network provider database. My insurance is through TriCare, so that’s the experience I can speak to/from. TriCare has a website you can go to search for providers who are in network. This gives you contact information and you can then contact the provider directly and ask if they’re still accepting your insurance, taking new patients, and do they have experience with PPMD. Word of caution: make sure they still take TriCare. TriCare’s website has been known to be not entirely accurate/up to date on providers. If you’re with a different insurance company, see if they offer something similar.
  • Use the Psychology Today therapist listings. Psychology Today has listings you can use to look up providers in your area. This can be rather like drinking water from a fire hydrant, but it can give you lots of options to start from and narrow your search field as you go.
  • When you call to set an appointment, ask them directly. Say something like “I’m looking for a therapist who has experience and education dealing with Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Is this an area you have worked in before?” If you’re speaking with a person other than the mental health professional themselves, you can always ask if they can call you back directly to discuss it.
  • Ask your OB/GYN, midwife, psychiatrist, family practice doctor, or other medical professional. They may very well have knowledge about what mental health professionals in the area specialize. Doulas can also be very helpful in this area.
  • See if there’s a birth group in your area and ask them. There is a specific birth group on Facebook that has been invaluable to moms in my area for finding all kinds of help, from OB/GYN and midwife to picking hospital to deliver a baby at to recommendations and reviews on therapists and support groups. If you need help finding a group, feel free to shoot me a message and I can try to help you find a group local to you, or if you find a local doula, they should be able to help you find a group if there is one.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to mental health professionals who specialize in PPMD, and I realize this. If the only therapist you have access to is one who doesn’t have much experience with/education about PPMD, these tips may be helpful. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, it’s just a couple of things that I have learned from past experience.

  • When you make the appointment, make sure they are aware of your situation. This allows them to do some research. Don’t be afraid to recommend Postpartum Progress to them, we even have a page specifically for clinicians.
  • Print off some information to bring with you. Check out the previously mentioned Postpartum Progress page for clinicians and see if there’s anything on there you want to bring with you. Also look around the rest of Postpartum Progress. I am personally a HUGE fan of the Plain Mama English pages that give Plain Mama English descriptions and symptom lists. Print these out and take them with you. Highlight what you feel is applicable, underline stuff, write notes in the margins. I’m actually a huge fan of taking notes like this with me to the doctor in general so I don’t forget my questions or concerns or whatever.
  • Talk to your OB/GYN, midwife, psychiatrist, family practice doctor, or other medical professional. Yes, this is a repeat, but that’s because it’s still applicable. If you are seeing/will be seeing a mental health professional who is not very well versed in PPMD, ask your… let’s say, midwife, for suggestions. Or even your family practice doctor may have some insight on how to prepare for the appointment.

Whatever your situation, I’m glad you’re getting help. And please, don’t be afraid to reach out to the Warrior Moms community. We are here for you. We love you, we see you, we stand with you, we validate you and your experiences. You are not alone.

What tips, stories, or suggestions do you have that you want to share?

Photo credit: Esther Dale

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Therapy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All: Part 1

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Content Warning: This blog post contains mention of miscarriage and links to posts about pregnancy loss.

Once upon a time, I thought that counseling/therapy was a one-size-fits-all thing. Counselors are counselors, and all mental health professionals should be able to help anyone equally, right? It’s ok, you can take a minute to roll around on the floor laughing. I’ll wait.

Much to my chagrin, I learned the hard way that this is not the case. Therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all.

After my middle child was born, I was feeling pretty stressed out. My husband is in the military and we had gotten very short notice that he was the proud recipient of orders to move (PCS, aka Permanent Change of Station) across the country. So, with 1 month’s verbal notice (he didn’t even get the paper orders until 2 weeks out), we moved 2 adults, a 2 year old, a 3 month old, a dog, and 4 cats halfway across the country from Central Texas to the Pacific coast of California in a Ford Explorer with no trailer (we learned at the last minute that nobody rents trailers to Explorers). The move was terrible. The drive was long and stressful and rushed, the vehicle was very crowded, I had to fly back to Texas once our house in California was settled to deal with the movers packing out our stuff from our house there, the movers themselves were a nightmare and a half… the whole thing was a mess. It’s been 4 years and I’m just now recovering, although I still hold a (very deserved) grudge against the moving company.

So there I was with an infant and a toddler, in a brand new place away from my home, with my husband not home a lot because military. I didn’t know anybody in our new home and had left my entire support system back in Texas. I was tired (because new baby and toddler). I was stressed from all the crap from the move (trust me, you’re getting a VERY truncated version). And because of my history with PPMD, I wanted to see a therapist or counselor or some type of mental health professional for a sort of check up to make sure I was really doing ok and figure out some coping strategies with everything that was going on in my life. Makes sense right? Smart move, right? Right. Very smart move. I went online and got information about getting mental health care on TriCare Prime (our insurance), and was happy to learn that it was an easy process. I didn’t have to go to my Primary Care Manager (PCM) for a referral or get any type of pre-authorization, I could just pick a counselor/therapist who was TriCare approved and go see them and as long as I stayed under 8 sessions in the year, I wouldn’t have to get authorizations from insurance. I found a mental health professional who had quite a few years experience as a mental health professional and good reviews and I called and booked my appointment.

Imagine my surprise when I spent most of that appointment explaining Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum PTSD, what my thyroid had to do with it, and why I was there if I didn’t have a diagnosis and didn’t think I had any type of PPMD again. Not even kidding. I mentioned Postpartum Depression and the response was “Huh? Why don’t you tell me about it, what is Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders?”. It didn’t exactly inspire confidence and I never went back to see her again.

Fast forward a few years. After the whole mess with my missed miscarriage of the twins I was carrying as a Gestational Surrogate and some other crappy stuff, I ended up in a place where I realized I wasn’t dealing well with the trauma and grief I had found myself floundering through. I realized that I needed some professional help resolving everything. This time, I reached out the local birth workers community and did some targeted research on Google and was able to find a fantastic therapist who specialized in grief/loss, postpartum adjustments, and infertility. She had even previously helped lead a support group for postpartum moms. My experience with her was a total 180 from my experience with the other therapist a few years prior. It was such a nice feeling to not have to explain the basics and to be working with someone who had experience and education in dealing with the types of things I was struggling with.

The moral of the story is this: don’t just assume that any and every therapist is going to be able to help you, or that every therapist can help you equally. That’s not going to be the case. It is a huge help to find someone who has at least a basic knowledge of whatever you are dealing with. If you’ve been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, you’re probably going to get better results with a therapist who specializes in PPMD or something related than you will with a therapist whose area of expertise is with academic underachievement or divorce. If you broke your ankle in a car wreck and needed surgery on said broken bone, who would you prefer to see and have operate on your ankle, given a choice: an Orthopedic Surgeon who’s been operating on broken bones for 20 years or an Obstetrician who has attended hundreds of births? Why should treating our mental health be any different?

Thanks for reading Therapy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All: Part 1. Check back here tomorrow for part 2, in which I’ll give some tips (and links!) for finding a mental health professional who fits your need and tips for when you don’t have access to a mental health professional who specializes in what you need. And in the meantime, what has been your experience with trying to get therapy for PPMD?


Photo credit: Esther Dale

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6 Tools To Help You Feel Supported & Understood Through PPD

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postpartum depressionWe want to make sure all of the mamas out there (and the therapists and MDs and others who are looking for great stuff to support mamas) know about the different kinds of support and tools Postpartum Progress offers. Our goal as a nonprofit serving women’s mental health is to get you great information, connect you to good help, and provide you with comfort and support from the community of women who have been through perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression.

Today I’m going to give you a quick list so you don’t miss out on some things we have to offer:

1) Specialists – Still looking for someone to help you who actually seems like they know a little bit about postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum bipolar, postpartum psychosis, birth trauma or depression or anxiety during pregnancy? We’ve got a list of more than 400 specialists that are Warrior Mom™ approved. You can find them all here (and be sure to check back because we add to it all the time): Maternal Mental Health Specialists 

2) Postpartum Progress Private Forum – Newly diagnosed? Not sure if you have a maternal mental illness and trying to find out if you should seek help? Live in a place where there’s no in-person support group to attend, or just can’t get out of the house? Our private forum hosted by Smart Patients is a place where you can hear from other moms who are currently struggling, ask questions or share your own story. It’s free, and you can remain anonymous if you’d prefer. We pride ourselves on maintaining a community there that is positive, embracing and non-judgmental, and now more than 2,300 women strong. You can sign up here: Postpartum Progress Private Forum 

3) Downloadables – Need a free checklist you can download to help you start a conversation with your doctor? Use our New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help. All you have to do is enter your name and email and we’ll send it to you in PDF form. Want a nice clean and pretty handout version of the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Plain Mama English to share with a patient or maybe a not-so-sure family member? Get it here. We’re creating new tools all the time to help you navigate through the thorny forest of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and find your way back to yourself.

4) Social Media – We are everywhere you are on social media. Well, except maybe Snapchat. Or Vine. But anyway …

Facebook – Have you liked our Facebook page yet? We help you keep track of Postpartum Progress events and share the latest news so you know what’s happening in the maternal mental health world.

Pinterest – If you think you might need an inspirational quote to pin to your bathroom mirror to help remind you that you really ARE going to make it through this, we’ve got that! Just follow our PPD Hope Pinterest Board and you’ll join more than 2,000 others who are looking for some inspiration too!

Instagram – Yes, we finally launched an Instagram account. Follow Postpartum Progress on Instagram and see what women who go through perinatal mood and anxiety disorders look like. (Hint: A lot like you.)

Twitter – Follow us on Twitter at @postpartumprog!

5) Warrior Mom Playlist on Spotify – Sometimes you’re having a super crappy day — or, let’s be honest, during PPD (or related illnesses) a LOT of times you’re having a super crappy day — and you need some music to pick you up. The Warrior Mom™ Playlist on Spotify features 2 hours’ worth of music to get you through, all selected by moms who’ve had the SAME crappy days. Sign up for a free Spotify account and then access it here (or just search for “Warrior Moms Playlist”).

6) Daily Hope – If a quote or two from our Pinterest board isn’t going to cut it and you’re thinking you really need daily reminders that you WILL get better, then Daily Hope is for you. I wrote every single message myself and you can get them delivered each Monday through Friday to your inbox for a year. Here’s what one subscriber recently told us about her experience with Daily Hope:

Was it helpful?  EVERYDAY!!!
Was it what you expected?  IT WAS MORE!
Overall, do you feel it helped you through this past year? MOST DEF.  I remember waking up at times doubting certain things and Daily Hope had those answers and helped get me through my day.

You can sign up for Daily Hope here.

Also, once you’ve had some time to get care of yourself, get the treatment that’s right for you and start down the road of recovery, you might consider the following:

7) If you want to keep an eye out for our announcement of the dates for the 2016 Warrior Mom™ Conference, or be one of the first people to join a team for the 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness, well then you probably want to sign up to get our newsletter and keep up to date on all the latest happenings. And don’t worry, we don’t send it out that often because we don’t want to overwhelm your inbox. We know you’re overwhelmed enough as it is!

8) Ready to volunteer to pay it forward and help at least one other mom? Join our Warrior Mom Battalion, moms just like you who know how important it is for women with PPD or anxiety or OCD or psychosis or depression or anxiety during pregnancy to feel understood and not alone. Fill out this survey to help us learn a little more about you.

9) Show your Warrior Mom pride (or have your babies’ show theirs) with something from our brand new Warrior Mom™ shop. Would you believe we’ve already sold out of the first run of our kids’ tees and moms’ tank tops?

As always, there’s more on the way. We’re excited to keep innovating every year so that we can make sure you know you are not alone and that maternal mental illness is temporary and treatable with professional help.

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