I’m a guest on Lauren Hale’s #PPDCHAT on Twitter on Monday, April 29th at 8:30 PM EST.
Lauren asked me to talk about how part of the healing journey is telling your story and being heard, and being accepted and held in support by others in community.
I wanted to first-off, acknowledge Lauren for her tireless, personal, charitable, work in support of the emotional health of moms and their families. She gives so much of her time and herself. Much love directed towards you, Lauren!
There is just so much research and clinical work to support this wonderful peer-to-peer experience of sharing and support.
Women Gather Together in Community and Tend and Befriend
Researchers Shelley Taylor, PhD, and her colleagues in California, say that females under stress will “tend and befriend,” in order to reduce stress, isolation and fear. Taylor says the tend and befriend response is an additional natural neurohormonal reaction to stress is as primal as the ancient fight or flight response.
The tend and befriend response enacts social and bonding behaviors, thus making fight or flight less likely to occur. Tend and befriend is a protective, inward response where females with young quietly draw together and perform such tasks as care-taking of the young, communicating with other females and gathering into a tight community, as a way to manage threatening or potentially harmful situations.
And there’s the therapeutic aspects of telling your story and feeling supported. Blogging, sharing and creative expression have been shown to be highly therapeutic. In the above blog post, I did some research about the therapeutic aspects of telling your story and also interviewed several bloggers about how they feel about blogging.
Research and clinical evidence supports that social support for women in the childbearing years improves mom’s mental health.
There is so much healing to creative expression and to sharing your life story with others. I love James Pennebaker’s research and his book, Opening Up is all about the healing aspects of deep sharing and creative writing. Another writer who writes about the healing aspects of creative expression is Barbara Ganim. Her book The Art of Healing, is beautiful.
You know, as a therapist, we are trained to not tell our stories. We are told not to share as that would somehow damage the therapeutic technique needed for our clients to heal.
So, I kept it quiet that I suffered from postpartum depression for many years. I was ashamed that I suffered from depression and mostly ashamed about my episode of postpartum depression, as I had a baby to take care of and somehow this condition marked me as not a good mother.
Then, I started blogging and discovered the online communities of mental health bloggers, composed of both interested activists and mental health therapists.
I started to wonder why I was keeping my real self a secret. It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. As one of my colleagues said, if we, as a society, deem a 19 year old mature enough to command a platoon in Afghanistan, then I can probably safely make my own judgments about my life.
In my opinion, the secretive nature of my profession contributes to the stigma of mental illness and perpetuates the idea that mental illness is some mysterious condition, cloaked in darkness, treated only by special secretive methods, rather than a medical condition that can be helped with open treatment.
After deeply thinking about the artificial constraints of my profession, and also looking at the personal work of many other therapists who chose to openly discuss their own mental health struggles, with trepidation, two years ago, I decided to out myself on my blog for World Mental Health Day in 2010. Here is my story.
It’s also worth mentioning, that on my blog, I’m doing a series on therapists who identify themselves as Perinatal Mood Disorders specialists. Many of these professionals seeded their work from their own personal struggle with perinatal mental illness.
Some people say that you shouldn’t be a therapist if you a have a need to reveal yourself. Pretty harsh judgment coming from people in my own profession. But anyway, that’s some of the back story on the stress my profession subjects people to about talking about their own struggles to maintain mental health.
So, there will be alot of area to cover on #PPDCHAT this coming Monday evening!
We’ll talk about the healing wisdom of revealing your personal story in a sacred, safe space: a supportive community. Any questions you have for me are welcome.
Thank you for your kind attention to this blog post,
Namaste means: the light within me salutes the light in you and in that moment, we are one. )