How being treated outpatient for Postpartum Depression (PPD) changed my perspective on mental health
Obstetrics: “Do You Know that You’re Depressed?”
I remember my 6-week postpartum visit like it was yesterday. When my physician entered the room, I began to cry. He warmly greeted me and helped me unpack some of my feelings and concerns. He then gave me a questionnaire. Upon completion, he said, “Your score is terrible! Do you know that you’re depressed?” He confirmed what I already knew; I was in no condition to return to work.
My doctor equipped me with every resource that I needed to overcome PPD: he instructed me to seek help at the Women’s Mental Health Program; he gave me a number for talk therapy and insisted that I call on the spot to schedule; and he called my husband and explained the seriousness of my condition.
Psychiatry: Could You be a Better Mother if You Were Not Depressed?
Upon arrival, my psychiatrist evaluated me. She asked a lot of the right questions and listened intently; she also adjusted my medications each visit. One day, she asked if I thought I could be a better mother if I was not depressed. It forced me to acknowledge the toll my symptoms may be taking on my children, particularly my eldest; often, I found myself handing over my phone rather than engaging her with a game, a book, or a conversation. It saddened me but brought about awareness.
Talk Therapy: “Searching for Vitality”
“I met Laray in April 2019. She was by far one of the MOST depressed clients I have ever seen in my career. Here is this beautiful lady, with a gorgeous new baby boy, and she can hardly make it to my office. She looked like she had not showered in several days, deep bags under both eyes… She looked at me and asked, “Am I a good enough mother?” and began to cry. That question comes up often in this population. And my response is always, “absolutely” (Jenny Barwick, LPC, CPCS, Searching For Vitality, LLC).
Early on in my therapy, Jenny recommended resources to in aid the support she was providing, including mommy groups. I attended but never really felt at home—all the other mothers seemed happy, and their “problems” were much less severe than mine. In time, Jenny recommended Intensive Outpatient Treatment. I was afraid of the type of people I would meet in a hospital setting and intimidated by the perceived severity of my condition. Nevertheless, I was desperate for a breakthrough, so I consented to take part.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment: “They’re Just Like You”
During intake, I mentioned my fear of obtaining treatment with individuals who suffered with mental illness. In response, the intake coordinator said, “They’re just like you.” Three days per week, several hours at a time, for six weeks, I worked with an interdisciplinary clinical team—a nurse, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist. In addition, I participated in a small group, learning and practicing coping and preventative awareness skills. Indeed, it was intense, but it supplied the level of support that I needed.
Mental Health is a Journey, Not a Destination
There are several things in my testimony that I want to bring to light:
- My obstetrician did everything right; I am confident that he saved my life. If you do not feel that your healthcare provider sees you, hears you, and knows how to guide you, find one who will.
- My psychiatrist asked me open-ended, high value questions and listened attentively; she did not lead with drugs and medications.
- My therapist related to and developed a relationship with me. She welcomed my baby, and invited my husband and mother, on separate occasions, to take part in my therapy for psychoeducation and support; and although PPD is usually treatable with counseling and medication alone, she saw a greater need and referred me for intensive therapy.
- My intake coordinator, in a phrase, destigmatized mental illness saying, “They’re just like you.” He was right.
- All my health care providers were willing to collaborate and work together to ensure that I did not slip through the cracks.
- In faith, coupled with critical self-care, I did the work to become a healthy-minded mother for my children.
For a season, I needed a massive amount of care to equip me to return to work and it did. Six months later, I returned to outpatient treatment for another six weeks—not because I reverted to my original state but because the transition was hard and called for a measure of continued support and follow-up. Two years later, though far less often, I maintain psychiatry and therapy appointments as a part of my strategic self-care plan. For me, mental health is a journey, not a destination.
Diagnosed in March 2019, Author turned Faith-based Mental Health Coach for Moms Laray E. Dyer suffered a severe case of Postpartum Depression (PPD).
As a part of her recovery, Laray wrote “When the Bough Breaks: Unearthing the Roots of Postpartum Depression.” In this text, she is remarkably transparent, revealing raw emotion and personal health records.
In 2021, Laray founded Abundant Grace Coaching Community, a Christian company that empowers secretly frustrated and discouraged moms to rediscover, prioritize, and accomplish their dreams and aspirations beyond motherhood.
Through her book, small-group coaching, a support group, Laray hopes to destabilize the stigma around PPD and open the conversation among moms, their loved ones, and healthcare providers.
Laray is a happily married mother of two residing in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 14 years of experience providing business and technology solutions to advance the mission of agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University, a Master of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University, a Project Management Professional certification with the Project Management Institute, and a Health Coach Certification with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
To connect with Laray, visit http://www.abundantgraceactivation.com.