Today’s interview is with Tracy Thompson, the author of “The Beast: A Journey Through Depression” and “The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression.” She has won numerous mental health awards, including one from NAMI for her “lasting contributions to mental health issues.”
Question: The first two sentences of your book are brilliant: “Motherhood and depression are two countries with a long common border. The terrain is chilly and inhospitable, and when mothers speak of it at all, it is usually in guarded terms, or in euphemisms.”
You’re obviously on my team of those moms fighting against the stigma of mental illness. But even I shy away at times — like when someone will joke about another mom being “so schizophrenic” — of telling people how strongly I feel against discrimination. If I’m in a good and confident place, I’ll blab about my psychiatric history. And then I retreat, thinking “oh no, now David won’t have anyone to play with,” and then I blab again, and so it goes. What about you? Do you openly talk about your depression to the moms you interact with on a daily basis?
Tracy Thompson: Do I blab about my psychiatric history? No. Do I talk freely? Yes. By which I mean that when the context is appropriate, I’ll speak up. Recently a friend told me she hadn’t heard from her brother in months. She assumed he was sulking about something. I said, “Make sure he’s not depressed.”
Or there will be a story in the news about some psychiatric patient that people will be talking about, and I’ll have a chance to say, “No, psychotropic drugs like that are not addictive.” And then people will say, “What makes you an expert?” and I’ll say, “I’m not an expert on everything but I do know about this from experience.” This is especially true when the subject is PPD, because new moms (especially first-time mothers) can be made to feel so incredibly guilty about having it, and an amazing number of medical personnel are still ignorant about it.
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