Motherhood & Madness: Pregnancy meets psychiatry

Motherhood&Madness

A few weeks ago I had my first appointment at a local women’s hospital in their psychiatric program that supports pregnant women and mothers with mental health issues. It was a very different experience from my other psychiatric encounters and I don’t know if I could explain why. Possibly because the concern is not only my but also my ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy and eventually people a healthy mother to a newborn. More scrutinized! That’s what it feels like! This was also the first time I have ever spoken with a female psychiatrist.

It has been difficult to shake the unsettled feeling that I have had since I left the psychiatrist’s office. I feel like I was answering her questions and then later in the conversation when I would bring something up that was related to a previous question she would say something like, “Oh, why didn’t you say that earlier?!” Well, maybe because you asked the question in a way that didn’t make me think a particular experience was relevant, or you didn’t understand something I had said or you didn’t let me finish a thought. For example, she asked me if I had ever experienced abuse. I said yes, that I have experienced emotional abuse from intimate partners and “so-called friends” when I was younger. Later on, when I gave specifics about what the “so-called” friends would say as it related to another question she said, “Oh, you were bullied! Why didn’t you say that?” I just smiled and laughed as she flipped back a few pages to make notes. I said my friends emotionally abused me. That is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Maybe you should have asked earlier how that emotional abuse looked in each scenario? Just a thought.

This psychiatrist also disagrees with my borderline traits diagnosis which according to a colleague is common in this program. No one wants people to have a borderline label. This is a label I am 100% ok with so saying it’s not good is not something I would like to hear. I have found the borderline label to be a nice, all-encompassing name, to give my experiences and this psychiatrist ended up breaking my experiences into little pieces and giving each one a name. Here is what I wrote on a Facebook Group about it:

“I found it interesting that the psychiatrist didn’t like my current “borderline personality traits” diagnosis. Every psychiatrist has their own view of our experiences. So what she ended up giving me was major depression, generalized anxiety (I have never had that diagnosis before) and then said I have severe reactive interpersonal sensitivities. I feel like she just broke down my experience into small chunks, making them seem separate when they are really deeply connected. All of my emotional pain really stems from my sensitivities and I am worried that these professionals will just focus on how to make me less sad and less anxious and ignore the “interpersonal sensitivity”.”

I will have to wait and see how the counsellor I am assigned to deals with these different labels but I do not know if I feel very hopefully. I think I will ignore these labels and the assumptions that come with them and focus on what I know will be my biggest barrier: getting myself out of the house (which the psychiatrist bolded and said must be addressed ASAP).

The part that sent terror running through my body was how casually the psychiatrist talked about psych drugs. I know that this is her job and for many people psych drugs are not a big deal but for me, it is a huge deal and actually a life or death situation. The psychiatrist did acknowledge that I do appear to consistently experience the suicidality side effect of psych drugs and said that there is no reason I should be on psych drugs right now. The fear set in when she said that if at any point I start going downhill then it is something she would suggest  to me. She said that it’s important to have a healthy mother for a healthy baby. Trust me, I do understand that. I want a healthy mother for my baby. I just have no reason to believe that psych drugs will create that health. They have never created that health. I have made amazing progress in my life without psych drugs.

Some good things did happen in this meeting. The psychiatrist was very happy that I am not married to the idea of breastfeeding. She asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I explained that I’m open to it, would almost prefer not to and care more about the baby being fed then how the baby is fed. She was very vocal with her approval as she explained that some women refuse to consider bottle feeding and then when their baby or their own bodies have difficulty with breastfeeding they become extremely sad and at risk for postpartum issues. Breastfeeding is one way to feed a baby. Some women do not want to breastfeed, some women physically cannot. Some babies cannot physically breastfeed because of mouth issues or their bodies reject breast milk.

She was also glad that pregnancy wasn’t giving me mood swings. I explained that if anything it has calmed me down and given me time to think about where I should put my efforts. This is another protective factor.

I know I wrote a lot of bad. I’m still giving this program a shot. I know I need support and will need it a lot after birth. This is just beginning and I need to see where it all goes. I know that I can advocate for myself and the more we all get to know each other the better it can become.

 

 

8 Tips for Dealing With Mental Health Stigma (Discrimination)

Stan Popovich, on The Huffington Post, shared his 8 tips for dealing with mental health stigma (I prefer the word discrimination).

  1. Talk to a counsellor– “Seeking professional help will help you to overcome your current issues. In addition, a counselor will be able to give you additional advice on how to deal with your friends and coworkers.”
  2. Don’t argue with others-“It is not your job to convince people that you are right and they are wrong. Your health is more important than what other people may think.”
  3. Watch who you hang out with– “It is important to surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from those people who are giving you a difficult time.”
  4. You are not alone– “There are millions of people around the world who struggle with their fears, anxieties, depression, and stresses. The key is to find those people who can relate to you through various support groups in your area.”
  5. Stand your ground– “It is important to stand your ground when dealing with family members and coworkers who are giving you a hard time. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, however don’t let them hassle you.”
  6. Join a support group– “These support groups will be supportive of your situation and give you additional advice regarding your problems. Joining a support group is very important in a person’s recovery and ability to find people who can relate to you.”
  7. Learn to take it one day at a time– “Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems.”
  8. Don’t give up– “You will not get better if you sit on the couch and don’t make an effort to get better. You need to know that you will eventually get better. Do not lose hope even during the worse of times. You problems will not last forever, and things do eventually change for the better.”

This is a good list. These are all strategies we should engage in but I find the strategies on this list to be very passive and more so putting pressure on the individual to handle other people’s stupidity. I would like to add a tip to this list.

9. Become a mental health advocate.

Critically and constructively challenge discriminatory views. Educate others about your experience and the experience of others. Help friends and family learn where they have learned what they know about mental health. Start a blog, tumblr, Twitter, Facebook page, group, etc that puts the truth out there and supports recovery.

Becoming a mental health advocate is what has helped me the most and I have seen the power I have to show people another way of thinking and being. I know this kind of work is not for everyone but every little bit counts.

Do you have any tips for dealing with mental health discrimination?