A BlogHer How-To Manual for Getting The Best Help for Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
One of the worst things about experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety is the fear. Fear of what's happening to you. Fear that no one else will understand. Fear that you'll never get better.
I'd like to help allay those fears, even just a little bit. I can tell you right now that there are A LOT of people who understand, and with help you'll DEFINITELY get better.
The problem is, of course, you don't know who the heck these people are or how to find them. You don't even know what kind of help you need or where to look for it. Not a problem! Here's a ready-made how-to manual to make it as easy as possible for you to start down the road to recovery.
If you think you may have postpartum depression or a related illness, a great place to start is the website of Postpartum Support International (PSI). PSI is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to supporting moms-to-be and new mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They have an amazing corps of volunteer coordinators in almost every state in the US and scores of countries around the world who will connect you to local services. One really cool program PSI offers is called Chat With the Experts. Every single week you can join in on a toll-free conference call and speak with an expert about any questions or concerns you may have. You can even remain anonymous if you'd like.
Many states have statewide organizations whose mission is to provide very localized support and services for people who reside within their state. They offer everything from support groups and continuing education for physicians, to advocacy for supportive state legislation and lists of psychiatrists and counselors within the state who have a lot of experience treating these illnesses. These include Kansas, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia and a whole load more. You can find a full list of local postpartum depression support non-profits here.
Some of you will be surprised to find that there is a specialized treatment center in your state or country. The physicians at these centers work primarily with women who have perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, as well as other mental health issues women may experience. All are experts, which means you'll be in very good hands. These include places like the Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Women's Mental Health in Boston, Emory's Women's Mental Health Program in Atlanta, the Hennepin Women's Mental Health Program in Minneapolis, the University of North Carolina Center for Women's Mood Disorders in Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins' Womens Mood Disorders Clinic in Baltimore, and many others. There are several options in Chicago and New York City. I try to keep track of them here, so check to see if there is one near you. Some women even choose to travel out of state to these clinics if their situation is severe. By the way, since many of these centers also conduct research, you may be eligible to receive care via a clinical trial if your insurance doesn't allow you to go to that particular hospital.
I know I'm extremely biased, but I'm proud that Postpartum Progress has become the leading consumer voice on postpartum depression and anxiety. We're all about sharing what it's like to go through these illnesses, what you can do to get better, and everything else you'd need to know in between, all written in "plain mama English". You can go there to get the basics, as well as more in-depth information on maternal mental health and how it relates to things like breastfeeding, infertility, miscarriage, past sexual trauma, adoption and more. As a survivor of postpartum OCD myself, I know how important it is to have real people with whom you can speak. Real moms who get it. When you're in the deepest, darkest place, take a look at our Surviving & Thriving Mothers Photo Album and see the faces of women who are just like you who have made it through to the other side.
Also, thanks to the blogosphere, there are lots of amazing and brave current sufferers and survivors around the internet with whom you can commune. You can read the stories of Catherine Connors at Her Bad Mother or Heather Armstrong at Dooce. You can hang out virtually with Lauren at Sharing the Journey, Amber at Beyond Postpartum, Sera at Laughing Through the Chaos, Suzanne at Pretty Swell, Carrie at Mood-Disordered Mama, Erin at Go Erin Go, Pamela at 2 Much Testosterone, Tamra at Surprisingly Sane, Sophie at Sophie in the Moonlight, Kimberly at All Work & No Play Make Mommy Go Something Something, Ivy at Ivy's PPD Blog, the mama at Musings, Musings, Musings, and Laura at Never Be The Same. If you comment on their blogs, they'll comment back. If you need a virtual hug, they'll be there to give it. If you want to read a story about how someone else is getting through it, they're your girls. And if you'd rather just lurk, that's ok too.
I can't even begin to fit every single person or organization that wants to help you in this little post. (There's room for comments though. Add your suggestions, tips, organizations and bloggers below!) But I hope this gives you hope. You will be a happy and healthy mama soon, even though you can't see that now.
Katherine Stone is the founder and author of Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog on postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth, and other mental illnesses related to childbirth. You can also find her on Twitter at @postpartumprog.