Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How I Did It: She Suffered Postpartum Mental Illness, Now Helps Others

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

How I Did It: She Suffered Postpartum Mental Illness, Now Helps Others

Article excerpt

Christina "Tina" Duepner escaped her postpartum psychosis, through postpartum depression, and now helps others navigate their own rough times.

She's active in Postpartum Progress, a national organization that helps mothers who have overcome problems connect with mothers who are struggling, "so they know they're not alone."

Duepner's struggle began in August 2010 about a week after having her son, Landon. She began to feel strange and act erratically. She heard sounds and voices. She had nightmares so vivid she would wake up sweating and panicked. She stopped sleeping. She couldn't function.

One day, her racing thoughts and "bizarre" rantings had gotten so bad that her husband, Jason, forced her to a hospital where she stayed for about a week.

Some of the past is lost in a blur, she said.

She said she was lucky to be surrounded by her mother, in-laws, her husband, all of whom knew her problem was urgent. "I don't know what would have happened if they weren't there," she said.

Her hospitalization lasted about a week; doctors diagnosed anxiety.

Later, awful thoughts returned. Beneath guilt, a feeling of worthlessness and confusion, she pondered that her son would be better off without her.

The voices returned. "I thought God was talking to me," she said. "I had a hard time having faith that I could mother Landon."

The story is common, said Katherine Stone, founder and director of Postpartum Progress. The organization helps mothers battle postpartum mental illness. "It's a huge gift to have a child, and then you feel like you're not worthy to be a mother. It's like you're a defective human being."

Stone suffered postpartum depression when she had her first child in 2001. Two years later, she started a blog that went viral not really a common term in those days.

"I felt I had to do something to help others dealing with what I went through," she said.

In 2011, she incorporated Postpartum Progress as a nonprofit in Atlanta. Now, it has representatives across the country; Duepner represents the group in the St. Louis region.

Helping others and getting the word out about the condition is essential, she said. So often women's feelings are dismissed as simple fatigue, and they are told to just rest, that things will get better with some sleep. "There's always been a stigma with mental illness," Stone said.

Duepner said she was lucky. Her family detected her suicidal comments and forced her back to a hospital. This time she received a better diagnosis: postpartum psychosis. It was followed by severe depression. For eight days the hospital worked on medications that could ease her mental state.

When Duepner was released, her orders included no time alone with her son. Also, she had to stop breast-feeding because of the medication she was taking.

"You feel like you're never going to get better," she said. "I felt like I was all alone in such a bad place. …

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