Thursday, January 28, 2016

Marianne Williamson is Wrong.

Up until yesterday, I'd never heard of Marianne Williamson.

She is a writer and a motivational speaker with over 600,000 followers, one that appeared on my newsfeed because of something she'd written about mothers with post partum depression. Here is the text of her post, taken directly from her Facebook page:

CODE ALERT: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should be "screened for depression" during and after pregnancy. Their answer, of course, is to "find the right medication." And how many on the "Task Force" are on big pharma's payroll? Follow the money on this one. Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are NORMAL. Mood changes are NORMAL. Meditation helps. Prayer helps. Nutritional support helps. Love helps.

Her target audience is women. She writes her books for women. Thousands of women follow her. 

After perusing her page briefly, I knew immediately why I didn't know who she is. I would never choose to follow someone like her, someone that insists that prayer and faith and positive thinking seem to be the cure for all that ails the world. I'm far too much a realist to engage ideas such as the ones she promotes.

If they work for you, fine. It's just not my cup of tea.

Anyhow, after writing that post yesterday, a few of my friends, friends who are currently more vocal in the movement to ensure adequate care for postpartum mothers than I can be, friends who fight for women every single day, they started responding. 

They shared her post. They shared their stories. They took to Twitter like the warrior moms that they are and tried and tried and tried to make people understand just how wrong she was in making her statement.

By employing strategic quotation marks, she makes it seem like "depression" isn't real. That depression during pregnancy and in the postpartum period isn't real. That the feelings many of us endure aren't real. That those of us who've flirted handily with psychosis were just imagining it all. She insists that the goal here is to "find the right medication" for women who might be struggling, and that those on the "Task Force" must be on big pharma's payroll. 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Asking, demanding, requiring providers at all stages in pregnancy care to screen women for mental health concerns is a huge step forward. Pregnant women can come into pregnancy with pre-existing depression, they can develop depression during pregnancy, they can develop it afterwards. Post partum depression can lay dormant for weeks or months after delivery. 

For many women, particularly those with otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies, those well-baby checks and single postpartum recovery visit may be their only contact with the health care system at all. 

Asking the providers caring for these women to run through some questions, take a few moments to evaluate how mom is doing emotionally, to check and see if she might have developed more than just the baby blues, and yes, in some cases, to recommend medication is not a part of some larger conspiracy to turn women into catatonic addicts at the mercy of big pharma. 

It is not. 

"Hormonal changes after pregnancy are normal."

Post partum depression is NOT normal. 

"Mood changes are normal."

Post partum depression altering mood is NOT normal.

"Meditation helps."

Of course it helps some women. It doesn't help them all.

"Prayer helps." (?)

Maybe it helps some people. A suggestion like that would anger me endlessly. I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a part of any standard medical protocol. Not everyone believes the same things. Not everyone prays. Women shouldn't be made to feel that some higher power could somehow remove the chemical imbalance in her head if she just prayed hard enough...because if you believe that, then you must also believe that the higher power caused it in the first place.

"Nutritional support helps." 

Of course a balanced diet and exercise help. Those things won't help everyone.

"Love helps."

Of course love helps. Love can't cure diabetes or cancer or depression. It can't. It's not enough for everyone.

The very definition of post partum depression involves the set of symptoms she ascribes to the baby blues, but lasting longer, or occurring in greater magnitude than she seems to realize exists. 

I was fortunate to escape PPD with my first child. With my second, the voice started whispering in the back of my mind. With my third, I fell down the rabbit hole, deeper and deeper and deeper still. I fell for over a year. I didn't get help even though I am a doula. I am trained to recognize the symptoms. I knew something was wrong. I KNEW. And I did nothing. It spiraled out of control until I ended up hysterical one night in bed. I suffered alone, in silence, for over a year.

When my fourth child was born, it didn't return as badly. My provider did an excellent job of following up with me. 

And then my fifth came. I prepared this time, knowing that it might come back again. I had my placenta encapsulated. I had long stopped hiding the condition, telling myself that I could keep it a secret and it would go away. It came back anyway. 

I wrote this last night on my personal wall. 

More people need to read it. 

Lots of mothers live with PPD. Some suffer with it more than once. I'm one of them. I'm making this public on purpose, because those of us who've been down that tunnel and escaped need to speak out now.
Some of us recover without any major interventions necessary.
Some of us seek therapy.
Some of us meditate.
Some of us encapsulate our placenta the next time in the hope it won't come back.
Some of us need medication.
Too many of us do nothing.
Too many of us don't have help.
Too many of us don't have support.
Too many of us are mocked for the ways we heal.
Too many of us are judged.
Too many of us are laughed at by people we consider friends, family.
Some of us never recover.
And because of that truth, some of us will die.
Some of us will die.
Do you hear me?
Some. Of. Us. Will. Die.
Can you hear me now?

To all the mothers out there right now, whether you're in some stage of treatment, whether you've just started to develop symptoms, whether you're trying to convince yourself that you're fine and it will go away...please, please, please know that Marianne Williamson is wrong. She doesn't speak for me and she doesn't speak for you. 

Please talk to someone. Please seek therapy if you need. Please ask for help. Please be open to medications if you need them. 



  1. Thank you so much for sharing your truth, Kelly. It's important for us to do so. It matters. You matter. Thank you.

  2. I wish I knew you when I had my son 24 yrs ago! Much love to you Kelly!

  3. The whole idea that any mental illness is not real and that you "just need to be stronger" really scares me! At this day and age, you would think we would finally have moved past this thinking!

    1. My hope is that someday we will get there. ♡

  4. Thank you for this article and sharing your story. I'm happy that our voices are being heard more and more and that we are slowly eliminating the stigma surrounding maternal mood disorders. I am a survivor, warrior mom and climb out leader and if it wasn't for this fierce community of women, I don't know where I'd be. I'm so grateful for Mamas like you who use their voice and empowerment via the internet as it reaches and impacts so many!

  5. I'm so glad you wrote this and shared your experience. Yes, eating right and resting and meditating and praying help make us feel better, but what happens if you are so depressed - in SUCH a hole - that you can't even do these things? That is where the danger lies.

  6. Hi I came across your post. I am not a mother. My friend is currently writing a lot about post partum you can follow her on instagram @stackyourbones....My sense is that Marianne Williamson is not necessarily being critical of women or taking women who experience depressions seriously. My sense is what MW is getting it is we live in a society that sees depression as something to fix with a medication with a very individualistic focus without questioning the societal factors. We live in a society that doesn't truly value motherhood nor provides the care that a new mother needs to navigate this crucial rite of passage. We are society that is cut off from wisdom of the ancients who have been birthing babies far longer than our medical system. Depression in general is way too focused on the individual when what we should be looking at is how our collective depression as an ill of society. Just my take.


Some of My Most Popular Posts