Guidance Center client shares her journey from hurt to healing through Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program
This is the transcript of a speech given by Samantha Sutfin-Gray at the Guidance Center’s 2022 Sunset Soirée fundraiser, September 8, 2022.
My name is Samantha Sutfin-Gray and in June of 2021, I became a first-time mom, to a beautiful baby boy. Without the services from the Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program at North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center and the love and support from my husband and family, my son, Samuel, would not have a mother.
As a trained clinical social worker, I knew about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I knew the signs and symptoms; I knew what to look out for and I thought that my knowledge and education would protect me. I was wrong.
After having a high-risk pregnancy and a traumatic birth experience, I thought I had paid my dues and that I wouldn’t be one of the 1 in 7 women who experience Post-Partum Depression and Post-Partum Anxiety within the first year after giving birth. But I was wrong.
My symptoms started in just hours after giving birth. I was in a perpetual state of terror. I was convinced that I shouldn’t take my eyes off of my son or that he would stop breathing. It got to the point that I wouldn’t allow myself to sleep. I knew then that I needed help but when I asked for it, I was just told to take melatonin. With that sage advice, I thought that I was in this alone.
I was hopeful that once we left the hospital that my fears and symptoms would reduce, thinking naively that the hospital environment was to blame for everything. Through everything, I wanted to maintain hope that I could manage everything I was feeling on my own and being the perfect Mom that I had always envisioned being.
I muddled through for a few weeks trying to convince myself everything was ok. But things continued to get significantly worse. I knew the signs, intrusive thoughts, racing thoughts, inability to sleep despite crippling exhaustion, the feeling of inadequacy, thinking that my family would be better off without me, nightmares, and phantom cries. I thought I could beat it on my own. That if I was just a better mother that the symptoms would go away.
I obsessed over every part of Sam’s schedule, his sleeping, his feeding, how much I was pumping, even how much he was pooping, and any perceived deficiency would send me spiraling. I was never good enough because I could never control everything. From the outside perspective, I appeared to be the happy new Mom but internally, my mind was attacking me, sending me constant messages that I was never good enough. I was convinced that I was failing as a parent and that I was abusing my son because he cried, or because he didn’t finish a bottle or because he hadn’t pooped in a while and very quickly my thoughts turned to self-harm, to planning a way to kill myself or remove myself from my family because I was convinced, I was the problem.
I was trapped in the bottom of a hole that I couldn’t find a way out of.
It wasn’t until a Friday afternoon, about 6 weeks after I had given birth, where I spent the better part of the day strategizing how I could kill myself and make it look like an accident, that I came to the realization that I needed to get help.
I turned to North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center. From the beginning, they let me know that I mattered. That what I was going through was normal but that they understood that it didn’t feel normal to me. I was connected to a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a support group within days of making an initial call. I was welcomed into a community that understood what it was like to be a mom and was able to connect with other moms who had felt the same.
My therapist helped me understand that it was ok not to be Wonder Woman every day. She helped me to accept that even though I know the process, the diagnosis and definitions, I needed to ask for help and to manage my stress. She helped me to understand what I already knew that the hormones surging through my body were tricking my brain into thinking things that were quantifiably not true. And most importantly, she helped me remember that my family would not be better off if I wasn’t there.
I count myself as lucky. Because of my position in society, my understanding of mental health and the resources at my fingertips, I was able to find a program like The Guidance Center Not many women are in the same position as me. 1 in 7 women experience Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. PPD doesn’t discriminate by age, race, or class. It can happen to any parent and the effects can be devastating.
Postpartum Depression tears a person apart, it steals away the part of your soul that makes you who you are. During my darkest days, I loved my family unconditionally, but I couldn’t express it and I couldn’t see the devastation it was creating in my house. Postpartum Depression is an illness one person can have that the whole family suffers from. The Guidance Center’s Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program understands this. They created a treatment plan that addressed the functioning of my whole family and were able to help me repair the holes that my depression caused.
I can’t even imagine where I would be or how far my suffering would have taken me, if I hadn’t sought treatment on that Friday afternoon in July 2021, I probably wouldn’t have the pleasure to be standing here talking to you today. The Guidance Center helped me to see that there was a light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and they were with me every step of the way. For that, my family and I are eternally grateful. Every day, I get to watch my son grow and explore and learn new things and I don’t obsess about his poop nearly as much.