Turning the tide after Postpartum Depression

When Christi sent me a link to a new APA article on PPD, I quickly read through the well-written piece and found it to be a good resource for basic information about PPD.

But the “backstory” of the woman they interviewed – Christi Hibbert, PsyD, – interests me far more. The study’s author cited several PPD experts throughout the article, all great researchers who have mightily contributed to our PPD knowledge base.

But I would have liked to read more about Christi’s profound transition from PPD survivor to her life today as colleague, friend and fellow advocate who has “walked the walk”. She is a licensed clinician, PPD advocate, educator and producer of some great training materials which emphasize PPD as a family illness!

So I asked Christi to write an intro about how she journeyed from the darkest experiences of PPD to her present role of providing light and resources that others need… resources that were not available to Christi when she was first challenged by PPD. Resources which her dedication and self-prescribed mission have now brought to women in AZ and across the country!

Below is her deeply moving and inspirational story. And if you like this story, head over to Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress where she maintains a “Surviving and Thriving” album, a pictorial tribute to women who have overcome these illnesses and lived to tell.. and show.. others that there is indeed hope.

There is one fact that “experts”, advocates, educators and researchers all agree about – the sooner treatment begins, the sooner a mother can begin to feel better. This means reduced or eliminated negative impact to herself, her infant and her entire family. Christi’s work of creating and increasing access to needed services will help make “sooner” and “better” a new possibility for women and families in AZ.

“After my first experience with postpartum depression 15 years ago, I knew I wanted to make a difference for other women suffering from these disorders soI started graduate school in Los Angeles while still a postpartum mom. Through Jane Honikman’s (founder of Postpartum Support International), I began volunteering for PSI. As my education progressed, I focused my studies on perinatal mental illness and for my doctoral dissertation researched the father’s role, producing a video, Postpartum Couples, which offers education about how the illness impacts both parents.

During my last year of graduate school, I became pregnant with my third baby–my first little girl. I graduated on a Sunday, gave birth to our daughter the next Sunday and moved back to my home state of AZ the next Friday. Although now a licensed psychologist, I still found myself struggling with depression and anxiety. This postpartum experience seemed a little bit easier, however, since I knew where to turn for support and resources; it re-fueled my desire to help other mothers know where to turn.

I have spent the following months years devoted to that mission. I helped initiate AZ’s PPD Warmline, became the AZ state coordinator for PSI, and eventually participated in the first AZ state forum on postpartum mood disorders which resulted in the founding of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition. I developed a brochure, “Postpartum Mood Disorders: What Every New Parent Should Know” and used my website, to post information, resources and the warmline number. With two colleagues, I developed a 2-day Postpartum Mood Disorders: Evaluation and Treatment program; served on the PSI Board of Directors and spent time traveling throughout the state to provide education on the topic.

After one more pregnancy during which my postpartum period was saddened by the loss of my sister, (whose husband had passed away two months earlier), I found myself caretaking their two young sons in addition to my newborn and my three other children. Little could I have known when I started my work so many years ago, how badly I would need those support services I’d helped establish. Through the support and knowledge I had gained over the years, I was able to weather this difficult time well.

It is now 3 years later and I am healed. My work as an educator, clinician and advocate continues. Mostly, though, I am a wife and mother. I have an incredible husband who has supported me every bit of the way and 6 healthy and happy children, (we adopted our nephews). I feel more dedicated than ever to helping the postpartum woman, the overwhelmed partner, the struggling family. We need each other in our times of trial. I plan to be there when I am needed. ~Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D.

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