Emotional Chaos Turns to Tragedy

Miriam Carey,  a 34-year old woman whom was a dental hygienist was killed by police on Thursday October 3 after a high-speed chase through Washington, D.C., that led to a lockdown of Capitol Hill.  The suspect’s mother reported to ABC news that she suffered post-partum depression following the recent birth of her daughter and was hospitalized within this last year for psychosis and delusional thinking.   It is such a tragedy that this wild car chase ended in death, leaving the one-year-old child in the car motherless and traumatized.  It is a very sad ending to this new mother’s life with her beautiful baby daughter.

According to the American Psychological Association, 9-16% of new mothers will experience Post Partum Depression.  This also includes Post Partum Psychosis, which appears to be what Miriam Carey may have been struggling with in this last year.  These disorders not treated with the proper medical and or psychological treatment can be very detrimental and life changing for new moms and their baby’s cognitive and emotional development.

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Here are the top 3 symptoms of Post Partum Depression (PPD):

  1. The lack of the ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear
  2. Difficulty in providing developmentally appropriate care to infants
  3. Loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child

These symptoms can particularly be problematic because of the social role adjustments expected of new mothers, which include immediate and constant infant care, redefining spousal and familial relationships, and work role.

Some new mothers can be embarrassed to seek help for Post Partum Depression. This may be due to the shame of feeling extremely sad after giving birth to a new baby which is perceived as a “miracle and joyous time” for families.  Due to the social stigma attached to mental health many individuals will not take the proper precautions and treatment for mood disorders.

5 Tips to Cope with Post Partum Depression

  1. Self-care.  Make sure you take out at least one hour of each day to something that brings joy or relaxation to you as a new mother.  Take a walk, read a book, bubble bath, watch a favorite movie or TV show, eat your favorite food, or calling friends to catch up or laugh.
  2. Asking for help and staying connected with friends.  Make sure to stay in constant contact as much as you can with good friends, your spouse, and close family.  Invite them to come over and spend time with you and the baby.  Share with your support system your true feelings and struggles with being a new mom.  Ask them for assistance with cooking meals, shopping, holding the baby, or watching them while you go out to the store.  Get a sitter so you can run errands to get 1 hour of freedom from constant care or responsibility of the baby.  Some say it takes a village to raise a child so asking for help with care of a child is acceptable and necessary for caregivers.  Supportive spouses really help lighten the load so ask them for help when needed.
  3. Exercising and eating healthy.  Research keeps showing that mood is correlated with food that we eat and that exercise produces endorphins that fights depression and brings positivity.  Sugar and carbs and cause peaks and then crashes with mood.  Walk the baby in a stroller if you cannot find time to independently exercise.
  4. Don’t blame yourself.
 Understand that you can’t be blamed for feelings of despair or depression. If you start feeling excessive or inappropriate guilt, recognize that you didn’t choose this disorder. “You haven’t done anything wrong,” Dr. Phil stresses. “This isn’t something that you should feel guilty about.”
  5. Seek professional help.  One to one counseling can really help new moms to process their feelings in a safe neutral supportive environment.  So many changes are going on hormonally and relationally.  Getting that extra support can help reduce the symptoms.  Medication may be needed as well.  Research shows that talk therapy with diet, exercise and or medication significantly reduces depression.

Call a mental health professional who specializes in Depression.

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Author: Dana West, MSW, LCSW is an Orlando Depression Counselor and Sexual Abuse Trauma Therapist with Total Life Counseling Center with offices in Southwest Orlando, East Orlando, Winter Park, Lake Mary & Clermont Florida.