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Behind the Smile
My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression

by Marie Osmond

"From this angle, you can see right up my skirt." This opening line from Behind the Smile figuratively sums up the vulnerability that she is about to share. The journey out of postpartum depression (PPD) is unimaginably difficult. Women suffering from this disorder generally hide their feelings and their symptoms from even those closest to them. One might think: what could Marie Osmond possibly have to complain or be depressed about? Pull up a chair. Her account not only of her own experience with PPD, but also of a childhood and adolescence that led up to her battle, is one that many women, particularly those who have suffered or are suffering from PPD, will recognize and identify with.

The majority of Osmond's book is dedicated to the period of time just before and after the birth of her last son, Matthew. At that time, there was great pressure on her to have her baby and recover so that she could get back to work and her daily talk show. However an ever deepening bout with depression made this impossible.

At what can only be described as the lowest of her many low points, her mother is the only one who can reach her. In a phone conversation, her mother reveals that she too suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her ninth and last child. How is it possible that her mother never told her this before? Like the majority of women who suffer from this disorder, Osmond's mother was ashamed. An estimated 15% of women suffer from some form of PPD and yet only a small fraction of them seek help.

About seeking help, Osmond explains, "I look back at those horrible days and weeks and ask, Why? Why did I allow this to continue? Why didn't I seek help? Why didn't I find a counselor? Why didn't I go to my doctor again? Why didn't I get a second opinion about other antidepressants I could try? Of course, these are all legitimate questions. I can say that if I had been watching a friend go through this experience, I would have asked the same questions. Questions like: What's wrong with her? There are resources a phone call away. Why doesn't she help herself? These are logical questions based on a good common sense and easily asked by a person in her right mind.

This is where depression is most harsh. I was not in my right mind. The depression had shut down all my extra mental and physical resources, leaving only those needed for basic survival. (And sadly, in some cases it robs people of their survival instincts as well.). Even though my mind was rarely at rest, I couldn't collect my thoughts enough to follow through on the steps it would have taken to get help. It's not easy to explain, but the idea of making a phone call, getting one more appointment in my hectic schedule, and then showing up for it and being able to tell the doctor what was going on with me was overwhelming. It was as impossible for me as if a surgeon had said, 'You're having an appendicitis attack,' then handed me the scalpel and added, 'Here you go. Have at it.' Every bit of energy I had went into making sure my husband and kids were okay or doing the show. Almost everything else, including my relationships with my friends and my extended family, fell by the wayside. It was a combination of not having anything to spare and a feeling of deep shame at not being able to pull myself together. After all, it wasn't like appendicitis. No one's going to tell you to 'snap out of it' when you are having an appendicitis attack."

So after months of trying to deny her own situation, Osmond did seek help. She began by seeing Dr. Judith Moore who ordered blood tests and began to uncover the chemical imbalances that were contributing to Osmond's depression. But perhaps even more importantly, she helped Osmond to understand that you cannot treat postpartum depression by only medicating and diminishing the physical symptoms. There is no doubt that the hormonal turmoil that all women go through after giving birth contributes to PPD. But there is another side, an emotional side, that must also be dealt with if one is to really recover and be able to move on.

It is obvious that Osmond is dealing with these emotional issues by writing this book. But there is more to it than that. Her book is not just a personal therapy session. In writing this book, Osmond does for her readers what her mother finally did for her: she lets them know that they are not alone. She writes: "We need to pull open the curtain of silence and talk about the physical and emotional changes that happen during postpartum depression. We have not done others or ourselves any favors by pretending that these changes don't exist." In sharing her own experiences, the laughter and the sorrow, the depression and her recovery, Osmond takes away the shame and encourages women to seek help for themselves.

In the last section of the book, Dr. Judith Moore offers information regarding postpartum depression, its causes and cures. There is a list of symptoms, a quiz that a woman can take to determine if she is suffering from PPD as well as steps to take to get help and possible courses of treatment. Combined, Osmond's personal account of her own experiences and Dr. Moore's explanations make this book a must read not only for women who are suffering or have suffered from PPD, but their husbands, family members and friends who wish to better understand them and offer them support.

Book review by Elsie Bustamante

Read an Interview With Marie Osmond!

To Purchase:
   • Behind the Smile at
   • Behind the Smile at Amazon UK
   • Behind the Smile at Amazon Canada


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