"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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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!
• Behind the Smile at Amazon.com
• Behind the Smile at Amazon UK
• Behind the Smile at Amazon Canada