Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Specialty

One of the classes I am currently taking is called Orientation to Professional Counseling. Basically, it's like freshmen orientation except for counselors. We've been discussing different counseling issues and how go about getting licensed and where we want to end up 5, 10 and 15 years down the road.

The main assignment lately has been to focus on our specialty. I feel like I'm picking a major all over again. I entered into counseling for a number of reasons. I worked as a rape counselor during college and it was something that was important to me. It still is. Helping others is important to me. It is something that I feel I'm good at and that I enjoy. Trying to narrow down my specialty has been difficult yet easy all at once.

My original thought was to do family counseling and focus on women and children. I wanted to have that office where kids could come and do play therapy and we could talk and work through their own feelings and emotions. I wanted to work with families in crisis. I never want to see kids suffer. I want to be able to help families heal themselves.

That hasn't changed.

As I've gotten more involved with PPD awareness and working to get out the word on the MOTHER'S Act I've found that the work is rewarding to me. I've found that there is an extreme need all over our country for women to be able to reach out, wherever they are, and get the help they need. I was able to reach out to my OB and get help. She referred me to counseling. She got me started on medication. When I went to search for therapy in my area- groups, individual, whatever- I was hard pressed to find much of anything. I did find a therapist that I loved. I never found a support group, which is what I was hoping for.

The need is there.

I don't know about other states. I don't know how it works in PA or GA or CA or anywhere else. In NJ, I received a questionnaire roughly 10 hours after having given birth to my second child. It was a joke, in my opinion. Plain and simple. I was too afraid to answer the questions honestly. The nurse was not compassionate. I did not feel like this was important. I circled what I needed to circle and handed it back. No one spoke of it again. No one spoke of the fact that PPD symptoms don't generally materialize in symptomatic mothers until roughly a week or so after giving birth. No one spoke of the overwhelming sadness and apprehension that can overcome a woman and her family when PPD is present. No one spoke of anything.

This bothered me. I live in a state where one of our former governors has a wife that survived severe postpartum psychosis. She came out and spoke of it. She spoke of her fears. She spoke of wanting to put her child in the microwave. She spoke of the support her husband gave her. She spoke of the lack of support that she received. She is working to help other women and families get help. I could not understand why all we had was some ridiculous questionnaire. Why wasn't the questionnaire given to me at my 4 week check up with my ob? Why couldn't my pediatrician have given it to me when I brought my daughter in at her 2 week weight check? Why wasn't someone thinking about this logically?

Last week I found out that I have a family member who is in an institution for an action she committed against her child during her postpartum period. It really upset me. It frightened me. To think about it still does. I've stepped away from the issue and not asked questions about it because it's sad. It's so hard to talk about. It's scary for everyone. The questions need to be asked and they will be to the person I know understands why I need to have them answered.

When I found this out it was almost as if the switch flipped in my head. I reached out to a friend who is a PPD advocate in GA and we discussed, confidentially, the situation. We talked about my feelings surrounding it. We talked about why it bothered me and everything surrounding it. It was then that I realized where I needed and wanted to go with my career and life.

I have an incredible choice to make about what direction I want my counseling to take. I have had incredible experiences with women who have survived PPD and come out better on the other side. I have had experiences with women who were afraid to talk about their PPD experiences, who suffered through them alone. That should never be the case. And I believe that I have the ability to make it so that it is never the case.

For the most part I sealed up my specialty this week. I am fairly certain that I want to work with women and families dealing with pregnancy and postpartum issues. I want to make sure that down the road women are not handed a 10 question survey about their feelings that really cannot be significant or reliable. I want to make sure that women have the resources that they need to reach out and ask for help. I want to make sure that people recognize that they are not alone or left on their own when they walk out of the hospital with their child or children.

The MOTHER'S ACT goes to the Senate this week. It is an important piece of legislation that is just the beginning of where we can go with PPD support. I said in my last post and I'll say it again, PLEASE contact your legislators. Get the word out about how important this is. Help other women and families out there. Share your words. Share your experiences. Help others to see that it's ok and there is help out there.

When I approached my OB for help I took the first step towards recovery. Now, I want to help others to take that step as well. For a long time I struggled with how I could help other women and families. All along it was staring me right in the face.

*I've chosen to open up anonymous comments again, at least for this post*


Kellan said...

I had PPD with two of my pregnancies - not severe, but enough that I knew I was in a depression. Luckily, mine passed in both cases without intervention, but I have often said, "I wouldn't wish that on anyone," and meant it. It was a horrible time for me and I think it is so misunderstood and unaddressed - to often. Good luck to you! Kellan

lattemommy said...

I'm so delighted to hear you've made this decision. I think you'll be fantastic. Congratulations on finding your niche. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Having suffered with it once, I knew what steps to take when I had my second child. I agree, there needs to be more education and awareness. I wish I had been more prepared the first time around to deal with all the anxiety and depression, but I had to hit bottom before I realized I was there. As a new mom you think you're supposed to do it all - and most of the time you just can't.

melissa said...

one of my best friends had ppd with 2 of her 3 pregnancies. she said that she felt so ashamed so she wouldn't talk about it...and that made it worse. it was horrible, she said! my sister had a bit of it too. it was horrendous!
you are needed in that area. someone who experienced it is the best person to help someone going through it!!
good luck!!!!!

HRD said...

This is perfect for you!!! Just perfect! Im so happy for you!

Kate said...

I think I got the same form when I was in the hospital. I remember thinking how stupid and useless it was. I think you could really make a difference in people's lives!

Helen E.M. Wright said...

Congratulations!!! It will be great to have compassionate people working in this area!!!!

I'm learning so much from you on this subject. Please keep writing about it!!!!

Momo Fali said...

I am way proud of you. WAY proud.

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