In the days before the Internet — yes, there were such dark, lonely times — the way to draw attention to something was on afternoon talk shows.
In the late 1980s and early ’90s, “Donahue” was for the trendy, “Oprah” was for the more refined and empowered woman, and “Jerry Springer” was for the voyeuristic viewers who wanted to feel better about their own lives.
Now we get all three and more through social media. Hit the right chord at just the right time, and an issue can go viral, for better or worse.
Between posts about Donald Trump and the Russians or the top abs selfies (you won’t believe number three) comes one that deserves to raise public discussion.
Ohio mother Kathy DiVincenzo used her Facebook page to expose her struggle with postpartum depression, a condition that can affect men and women but is most common among women who have recently given birth. Although it causes a variety of symptoms such as low energy, severe mood swings, and feelings of inadequacy in an estimated 10 to 15 percent of new mothers, it’s seldom talked about openly.
Working with photographer Danielle Fantis, she captures an unvarnished look at what it is like to live with the condition. In one photo, she is a portrait of motherhood: neatly dressed and smiling as her oldest child plays nearby and her baby grips her fingers. She is surrounded by organization and order.
In the second, her world shows the disconnection. She and her children are disheveled and toys are scattered without care on the floor. A sense of sadness permeates the room.
The contrast is perhaps uncomfortable for some to see. It is also quite real.
“I feel like it’s time to show you what that can really look like, not just the side of me that’s ‘Facebook worthy,’” she wrote on her Facebook post. “The truth is, both of these pictures represent my life depending on the day. I would only ever comfortably share one of these realities though and that’s the problem. The only thing more exhausting than having these conditions is pretending daily that I don’t.”
Some of the unnecessary silence over postpartum depression is that women particularly — men can suffer from the condition, although the numbers are significantly lower — are made to feel weak or less than perfect for acknowledging what they are going through.
When actress Brooke Shields spoke openly in 2005 about her own bout of postpartum depression and how she was treated with anti-depressants, actor Tom Cruise blasted the decision. He later apologized.
Still, there is a stigma that must be removed. Help is available but only when society makes it conducive to opening up about a frightening condition that affects a larger segment of mothers and fathers than is recognized.
DiVincenzo’s intention might not have been to open a national discussion, but it has — and that discussion is needed.
Postpartum depression does not mean a woman is weak, crazy, or a bad mother.
It means she is human.