There is no need to shame a control-freak, God-fearing Catholic. There is no need to add to the torment she has already inflicted upon herself.
Yet, that is exactly what I found a quote from Marianne Williamson doing last night.
It has been six years since I started medication therapy for my postpartum depression and anxiety. Six years of low dose, slight increases, attempts at doing without – and it still serves me. And yet, a small part of me still questions my need for it.
Why isn’t this glorious life God has given me enough reason to rejoice? Why aren’t the three gorgeous gifts of heaven that are my children a daily cause for celebration? Am I not grateful enough for God’s blessings that I need an antidepressant to merely function, never mind embrace this life?
Catholic guilt is a strong force, but not one I blame for these thoughts. I confessed to my pastor that I feared my mental struggles were tied to a crisis of faith. I worried that turning to secular talk therapy turned me away from God’s gentle care. I fretted that medication was a crutch that kept me from leaning on God’s healing power.
My pastor told me that spirituality is an important piece of one’s healing, but not to the exclusion of other beneficial treatments. My trained counselor was helping me process my feelings without judgment and not keeping me from turning to God for quiet reflection. And if prescription medicine existed in God’s world, created by one of the people He put on this earth, why would I not avail myself of this beneficial tool? Most importantly, my pastor told me that God did not cause this suffering to befall me. It was not a punishment for some wrongdoing or turning away on my part. If I gleaned something good from the experience, perhaps God allowed the growth in me, but He certainly did not beset me with these troubles.
As always, the rational mind, while fully aware of such life-affirming and freeing arguments, still can fall prey to its irrational side. I thought I’d have no problem reading the social media post that started a furious online debate about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Yet, as I did, I felt some of the angst I’d been slowly putting to bed for the last six years come creeping back up.
This statement plays to all the fears of the postpartum mother. The guilt of needing medication to enjoy the miracle of life and her role in it. The fact that she can’t come to terms with ‘normal’ changes in her body chemistry. That she has somehow failed by not meditating enough; praying enough; eating healthily enough. And then to judge her own success by the love of others – something over which she has no control. Or does that speak to the love she fails to feel for her child?
I am only living a modicum of successful motherhood because of the very real diagnosis of postpartum depression and its treatment with medicinal drugs. And yet, this statement still elicits a shameful, guilty feeling in me. After SIX successful years of such treatment.
What of the mother just beginning to wonder if she is struggling postpartum? What thoughts and feelings assault her when she reads this? She is already doubting herself and ‘succumbing’ to the crutches of medicine. She already thinks she’s failed. And now to tell her it’s all a ploy by ‘Big Pharma’?
‘Big Pharma’ is not issuing me any big paycheck. I’ve written thirteen different posts about the decision, pros/cons of taking psychotropic drugs, most notably Happy Pills. When the news initially hit that new recommendations called for all pregnant women and mothers to be screened for depression this was my reaction:
I never dreamed news that was so obvious to me would be seen as a negative by others.
I’m going to imagine that Williamson’s comments were born of the assumption that those standing to make a financial gain would encourage a mindless mass to pop a pill and forget their troubles – and a meaningful life. I do not encourage anyone to medicate their troubles away without also doing the hard personal work of introspection and spiritual growth. Meds are not successful in a vacuum. They must be supported by close medical monitoring, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
Choosing medication is not a mutually exclusive option over meditation, prayer, and love.
I fear that the way Williamson’s stance has been presented, the ensuing social media storm will portray just that. God-fearing people do not fear medical marvels. God-fearing people do not judge others for decisions they make concerning their own care. God-fearing people would never want someone to suffer needlessly while thinking it was a fatal flaw of character.