While America watched Marie Osmond laugh, sing, and entertain countless fans, no one, not even Marie, suspected what was happening to her Behind the Smile. In her book, BEHIND THE SMILE: My Journey out of Postpartum Depression, Marie Osmond reaches out to women with PPD as she recalls her feelings of utter desperation and sorrow and how she was finally able to emerge from the darkness.
Q. In the fall of 1999, the nation was shocked to learn that you suffered severely from Postpartum Depression (PPD). After all, we watched America's Sweetheart grow up before our eyes. What happened? You looked like you had it all.
A. Yes, I guess so, and in many ways I doa loving husband, beautiful children, a supportive family, a successful career, but as wonderful as those things are, none could have prevented the emptiness I felt during PPD. More than one in ten new mothers suffer from PPD after childbirth, yet like me, few seek help because of their feelings of shame, guilt, or fear.
Q. You're often thought of as a woman who could handle almost any situation or crisis, and then be able to laugh about it afterwards. You always seem so together, what do you think contributed to your ordeal?
A. I've often used humor to survive tough times. But even through the laughter, I've always been hard on myself, setting high expectations, as many women seem to do. I was known as "one take Osmond" the dependable one that always got it right the first time. However complimentary, that was too much pressure on a kid.
My parents made growing up on the road a wonderful experience for the family, but living life in the public eye made it necessary for me to put my personal wants and needs second. Like so many women, I unconsciously took those burdens into adulthood.
As I learned more about PPD, I realized how much I had in common with other mothers. The days and weeks after giving birth should be the happiest time of our lives, yet when suffering from PPD, we wonder "How can I feel so awful when I have this new beautiful baby?" Our loved ones depend on us for everything from dinner to Band-Aids and we love to do it, but if you just give without filling your own well, you eventually lose the ability to give, because you have nothing left.
Q. In BEHIND THE SMILE, you address some very personal experiences, such as your relationship with your husband, your divorce, crash diets, and even sexual abuse. How did these things contribute to your bout with PPD, and do you think it sends a message?
A. Yes, I feel these experiences, as well as low self-esteem contributed to my PPD. I felt it necessary to be truthful to my readers in an effort to help others be truthful in dealing with their own situations; and in their own lives. I'm not just a smiling face on their televisions, but a real person, and like them have very real issues to deal with.
But the real message that bears repeating is that women do not have to endure PPD alone. You'd be surprised at how many women suffer through this in silence. They don't have to. I've found that there are resources that can help to ease the symptoms, such as herbal remedies and hormone replacement therapy, as well as counselors who really understand what you're going through and the reasons why.
Q. You tried to deal with PPD on your own, not admitting that it was something bigger than you could handle. What finally made you go for help?
A. Well, I don't think I could have been any lower, but the real turning point for me was my mother's confession: she has experienced PPD, too, and had reacted the same way I did. This was something I never knew, but once I realized it could happen to, in my opinion, the world's greatest mother, I started to think, maybe I'm not such a bad person after all, maybe this is something I need help with.
My good friend, Dr. Judith Moore helped me see why I needed to adjust my lifestyle to cope with the out-and-out war that was going on inside my body (and keep my family from dropping me off at the nearest bus stop!). I've asked her to share her knowledge with other women, and in BEHIND THE SMILE, you'll find a comprehensive and helpful section written by Dr. Moore. She explains how so many elements contribute to PPD, such as hormone levels, like how DHEA and Cortisol (a.k.a. the "stress hormone") can effect everything from the body's immune system to blood pressure to weight gain; how adrenaline is produced causing anxiety and panic attacks. She also offers good advice about prescription drug therapy, homeopathic remedies, and relaxation techniques.
Q. You try to keep your personal live privatewhat made you come forward with your story?
A. When I think back on how I felt; completely alone, totally hopeless, ashamed, and in despair, and then how long it took for me to acknowledge the fact that I needed helpI wonder "What took me so long?" I really want to help women recognize the symptoms and offer them an empathetic shoulder to cry on. My mother helped me so much by telling me her story, and I hope I can do the same by telling mine. I have seven childrensome day they may be parents too. I want my daughters to feel comfortable discussing their feelings as they enter motherhood, and I want my sons to be understanding husbands and fathers.
Q. In addition to your demanding career, you're a wife and mother of seven children. How did your PPD effect your loved ones?
A. Naturally, my family has always been my top priority, so I tried to keep things to myself. But kids know when their mom isn't happy or acting normally. Even my toddlers could sense something was wrong. I eventually felt that they needed to understand the truththat I wasn't well, and it wasn't them causing it. They needed to be reassured that although mommy was sick, she was going to get better.
Q. What's next for Marie Osmond?
A. Right now my main concern is my family and getting us all healedthen I hope to continue spreading the word about PPD. I'd like to reach out to women and let them know they don't have to be ashamed for feeling the way they do, that there is help, and that there is a light at the end of the PPD tunnel.
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• Behind the Smile at Amazon.com
• Behind the Smile at Amazon UK
• Behind the Smile at Amazon Canada