pht kimberlywongAs a lawyer and an attorney in the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office, I have always considered myself to be strong, energetic and emotionally stable.  But I know from first hand experience how it feels to suffer from the downward spiral of perinatal depression and anxiety.

In May 2003, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  I had a great pregnancy and a fantastic delivery, and then a week after my daughter was born, I stopped being able to sleep, eat or bring a thought to its conclusion.  I called my doctor for help because I didn’t realize what was happening to me.  He told me that I was a Type A attorney who just needed to relax.  He simply prescribed sleeping medication and failed to refer me for further evaluation.  From that point on, my decline was very steep and quick.  I was crying hysterically.  I slept for 2 hours a night for 4 nights, leaving me feeling that I wanted to end my life.

I struggled with depression and anxiety over the next four months.  For three of those months, I was suicidal.  I did not want to continue to live my life the way I was living it.  I spent a total of 3 weeks in a psychiatric hospital, was prescribed medication and participated in individual and group therapy.  Together, these things helped me climb very slowly towards mental health wellness. 

Once my recovery reached a somewhat stable plateau, I realized that my marriage was strained as a result of my postpartum depression. The one-way support from my husband left him without any permission or resources that he needed while weathering this unexpected storm.  With months of couples’ counseling, we were able to strengthen our bond.

Eventually, I made a full recovery.  My recovery was made possible with the help of my supportive husband, family and friends. My family event pooled their resources and  hired a live-in nanny for over three months. Reflecting upon my experience, I realized that locating resources specifically for women with perinatal depression is no easy task.  Also, there aren't many mental health professionals that know much about postpartum depression. I was living in a major metropolitan area, and my cousin had to drive me out of town for my group therapy appointments. If these services weren't available in Los Angeles, where were they going to be?

I began volunteering with Postpartum Support International (PSI), a national organization for women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, in order to do something to help others. I started as a phone support volunteer and eventually served a three-year term on PSI’s Board of Directors. Talking to women and their families, I discovered there was this reoccurring theme of women suffering and there being little support for them. I wanted be a change agent: to help provide something locally that wasn't there for me when I needed it.  That is why I founded the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force in 2007. 

My daughter is my most precious gift, and I am filled with gratitude to be well for myself and to be emotionally available and totally connected to her.  Whatever it is that you need to do to be well, do it; seeking treatment doesn't make you a weak person, it makes you stronger.

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To read first hand accounts of women who have experienced perinatal depression and anxiety, click here.