Dr. Shoshana Bennett shares her PPD / Postpartum Depression story. Dr. Shoshana Bennett is a licensed psychologist who founded Postpartum Assistance for Mothers in 1987 after her second undiagnosed postpartum illness.
In 1983, my husband and I were eagerly anticipating the birth of our first child and everything was going great, marriage and house, and career. I was a special education teacher back then and pregnancy was wonderful, but immediately after I delivered my first child, I knew there was something very, very wrong. I had scary, very, very frightening, horrifying thoughts swirling through my head, nightmares, deep depression, and anxiety through the roof. I really thought my life was over. There was nothing but doom and gloom and this nightmare continued. After a couple of months I went for consultation with my OB. He was a very nice guy, but of course OBs are not trained to handle the postpartum mood disorders unless they go to an in-service training, and back then there was no talk of postpartum depression or any of the other postpartum mood disorders. So he had no idea what he was looking at. I was suicidal and I said, "If life is going to be like this, I do not want to be here anymore," but he did what many very well meaning professionals do. He said, "Shoshana, this is normal. Go home. Do something nice for yourself and it should pass." Well, it did not, and many months later I went to see a psychologist who again was no help at all: never asked me about past family history of any mood disorders, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anything or my own experiences with the trauma, or anything that might have led her to truly help me.
My daughter was two and half when I finally looked at her for the first time and said, "Maybe I can do this mom thing, maybe I actually can take care of her." My hair was beginning to curl again, in retrospect, I was beginning to see in color instead of in shades of gray. I was beginning to taste my food again and enjoy things that I used to enjoy. So I did not know what that nightmare was, but it started to leave and I thought I would never go there again, and I missed the infancy and toddlerhood of my first-born entirely. It was just one big nightmare, but when I was well, I was well, and my husband and I decided to have another baby and again, pregnancy went beautifully, but again, I plummeted down to the bottom of that proverbial well after the birth of my second child because we are very high risk to experience another postpartum episode once we have experienced one.
My son was going on one-year-old. I was again suffering a life-threatening depression and I saw a program on television, and this woman was describing what I had been experiencing off and on for years and I cried, and you know, it was out of relief that there was a name for this disorder and it was also treatable, but I was also outraged that there had not been help for me and for my family and I vowed to myself at that moment that if I had anything to do about it, I would never let another family suffer the way we had. And it became my passion and my mission then to educate medical professionals and mental health professionals and the public. So I started reading everything I could get my hands on from all over the world. I started offering to run support groups and train staff at local hospitals and agencies and organizations and founded Postpartum Assistance For Mothers in 1987. Later went on to become the president of California State Organization and more recently I am the immediate past president of our international organization, Postpartum Support International.
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