Postpartum & Family Suicide | Aurora Cruz @PushingThroughPostpartum

Please share a bit about your background. I am a licensed clinical social worker based in NYC. I am currently trying to get accepted into a PhD program. I started this platform because I had postpartum depression. I am 35. I have a 12 year old bonus child and a child I gave birth to who is 2. We have been together for more than 5 years. She is very supportive. Statistically I am an outlier- both of my parents barely finished high school, and yet I have a Master’s from an Ivy league school and I am currently applying for a PhD program. My road through academia is much like my road through life- it’s not where you started but where you choose to take yourself next. I’ve lived in NYC pretty much my whole life. Most of my childhood and teen years I was very aware of my mental health journey, which probably started when my mother committed suicide when I was 18. She struggled with postpartum depression as well and did not have the support system she needed. It wasn’t something talked about or publicized at the time. By the time I was ready to have a child, I was very aware this could be a possibility and it was scary. 

When you are a lesbian, you really have to make plans on having a child. I had been seeing a therapist for over 10 years already and had been working through my traumas. I am a therapist and truly believe everyone should see a therapist as preventive care. Once I had my son, I describe it if you watched Harry Potter, it felt like a dementor was sucking my soul. It felt hard every day. Almost immediately people thought it was the Baby blues until at least he was 6 months old when I was prescribed medication and started feeling better. Before having my son, my mother committed suicide. I was in the building when she jumped off the building.

I thought having my son would be the perfect time of my life. In some regards, it was, and in many regards, it wasn’t. He was wonderful and beautiful but it was cold and isolating and scary and it didn’t help that the world was shut down when he was born. 

I was very lucky I knew how to advocate for myself and was able to put proper measures in place. 

How do you know Carolina? We met through Instagram. She reached out to me. We both have postpartum focused platforms. 

How and when were you diagnosed?  I got diagnosed with PTSD. That was around the time I started seeing my current therapist who I’ve been seeing for 10 years. My Mom died in 2005. I never allowed myself that space of his diagnosis. 

I had tried to see other therapists in the past. In about 2012/2013 I started seeing my current therapist. 

How was it to receive the news? It totally made sense and I got it. In terms of my PPD diagnosis, I had already talked about it with my therapist and he 100% agreed. When I got diagnosed by my primary care physician, it was for medication. I knew the symptoms and I knew there was something wrong and I knew it was postpartum and I was trying to work it out on my own but I knew it wasn’t enough so I sought out additional treatment. I felt relieved to hear the diagnosis. I wasn’t angry or surprised. This was the validation I needed to say ‘hey, this is really happening’. We’d tried all these avenues but now we have to try something a little bit more. 

What has been your treatment? It has been great overall. I had a great network of support from my primary care physician that is a woman and Mom and I believe she also suffered PPD as well as from my therapist. When I went on medication, I did feel very fearful especially around my Mothers family. There was a lot of stigma. I was very guarded with people even though I was so vocal and had this account. However, I am a believer in medication. If I have a cold, for example, I take medications so if my brain/emotions need it, I will take it. Medication is necessary but often medicating providers can do a disservice to our profession, because they forget to highlight the importance of weaning off medication to patients; which includes careful monitoring with additional therapeutic services on an as needed basis. I am not a medicating provider but these conversations should be had. I do recommend for anyone taking psychiatric medication not to come off medication without consulting with their doctors as you can end up in a worse place than you began. I personally wouldn’t want that to happen.

What are your Doctors next steps? Any plans on removing medications? I am actually off medication. I still do therapy weekly unless something big is happening we may schedule more sessions. 

Any tips or recommendations you’d give others suffering from it? Trust your instincts. You know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel off and want to talk to somebody, there is no reason not to and no shame in doing so. If you feel anxious, share that with somebody. Even if you feel happy, share it. 

Any resources that you’d recommend for others struggling with mental health? Take it one day at a time. It sounds cliché. And try to stay active. I gave myself to do lists and made plans all the time in advance because it gave me a purpose. It allowed me an opportunity to say ‘hey, this is what I’m going to do’. My son was an infant and I would take 2 hour road trips and that was our plan 2 or 3 times a week to visit family members. I got into nutrition and organizing our apartment. 

Any final comments? When people have a broken leg they don’t hesitate going to a doctor but somehow not for the brain. Why not? I want to normalize this conversation.

As Hispanics, our culture doesn’t allow for feelings. I was taught to be helpful to other people and I believe in that. I also believe I am a person and my feelings should be valued. My feelings are mine, no one can take them from me, how I choose to express them is up for negotiation.

However, it’s also not selfish to have boundaries and say no. 

For more information on Aurora and her journey, make sure to join her platform: @pushingthroughpostpartum

Photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels.com

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