Conversations about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can be stigmatizing. We live in a country that has severed the relationship between mental and physical health. However, with more women entering the field of psychiatry, there is already achange in place and the social media has become a good place to discuss it.
When my first daughter was born, I was near the end of my intern year of residency. My pregnancy was flawless without complications and I worked up until her due date. I was lucky. Fast forward two weeks after her birth and everything changed.
She was born on a Monday. After a brief stay in the NICU, we were both discharged four days later. This is where my journey starts.
Here I go…
The first day home I remember looking fondly at this little human being. I couldn’t help but feel an intense overwhelm thinking how perfect she was. She had the temperament most parents wished their babies had. She fed; she slept; she occasionally cried. Though I found myself looking at her in awe, I couldn’t help but notice that with each passing day, things began to change in me. I began to feel a force pulling me from her. Though we were never physically separated, it felt as though I was miles away from her because every day the force pulling on me became stronger.
After a short period of time, what remained was an empty shell resembling me. This went on for weeks. I tried to fight through it. “I am fine,” I would tell myself. I pretended to smile. Being a mother was supposed to be such a joyous occasion but the more I pretended, the more numb I became. Getting up to address her very few needs became a chore. Until one day, the numbness turned to paralysis and I felt frozen in time. My husband would care for her every need both day and night while I slept. No matter how much I wanted to feel normal again, it occurred to me that it would never happen without the help of my physicians. I was numb. Undoing that would take courage and an acceptance of what I was suffering from.
Although outward conversations about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety were just starting to happen in society, it was still highly stigmatized. And despite the fact that millions of Americans live with a mental health condition, it is still an area of medicine that lacks transparency. However, with more women entering the field of psychiatry, this was beginning to change.
Dr. Jessi Gold, Psychiatrist
The social constructs of medicine have historically discouraged physicians from voicing outward opinions in large forums like social media. In addition to this, it has also been slow to speak outwardly on the stigma of mental illness. However, for Dr. Gold, this is where she shines.
Dr. Gold is unlike any other psychiatrist that I have met. Her unapologetic ability to speak about mental illness and her use of social media as one of her platforms is courageous. “I love to hear about people’s stories,” she told me. “We live in a country that has severed the relationship between mental and physical health. I wanted to help change this. I realized that social media became a good place to discuss it because I saw the need and demand for it in spaces like Twitter so I changed it.”
Her authenticity is what makes her commentary that much more real. As a contributor to Forbes and Newsweek, she is starting to create a name for herself. “My goal is to provide a better community for others. Since social media allows me to connect to individuals across the country, it allows me to extend the community I help.”
When I asked her about how she works to empower women she said, “Women need to not be afraid of being told no. Many opportunities that have come to me have come because of others that have not gone in my favor. Challenging the status quo is the only way to change it. If I want to help change the perception of mental health in America, it requires me to put myself out there knowing that not everyone will agree with what I have to say. Part of my ability to do this is wrapped in all things therapy. There is no wrong time to talk to someone. In fact, to do this is to reinvest in ourselves which strengthens self-compassion.”
Had I had Dr. Gold when I suffered from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I am convinced my struggle would have been less. It would take another four to six weeks after seeking help for me to start feeling better. I am convinced however that the continued perseverance of female physicians like Dr. Gold is making the stigma of mental health disorders less and more of a normalcy that many individuals suffer from.
It is my hope that other psychiatrists follow the lead of Dr. Gold by creating a safe place to speak about mental health. Perhaps if so, the fractured relationship between mental and physical health can be mended.
To learn more about Dr. Jessi Gold and to see her works please visit her website at drjessigold.com.
Dr. Megan Babb is THE ORIGINAL SEKHMET of our time.
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