I’ve come to the realization over the past year that some people are never going to understand what it’s like to deal with depression. I’m not saying they can’t ever feel empathy or develop sympathy for those who do. I’ve just reached the point where I believe there are those whose dispositions are sunny enough or constitutions stout enough they’ll never be able to fully comprehend how depression affects a a person.
I don’t begrudge them this fact. In fact, I’m a little jealous I’m not more like them. I guess you could say there are times when I don’t understand them. This can, obviously, lead to all kinds of misconceptions and misunderstandings, because when people like that collide with people like me we may as well be from different planets. I have an idea of how they’re supposed to act, and they have an idea of how I’ve supposed to behave, and, inevitably, neither one of us winds up being correct.
I say all this to set up what may seem like a fairly simple statement: I don’t know much of anything about post-partum depression. The extent of my knowledge is basically this: Moms have babies and then get depressed. A mom being down because of the added workload of caring for a new human life makes perfect sense to me. Moms who have thoughts of harming their babies after giving birth to them does not. I’m not making a judgment here; I just can’t get my brain around it.
So when I awoke this morning to find every news agency in America declaring Miriam Carey – the 34-year-old dental hygienist from Stamford, Connecticut, who was shot and killed yesterday after crashing her car into a White House barrier – suffered from post-partum depression, I was somewhat confused. From everything I had heard about this form of depression, moms who suffer from it don’t usually pack up their 1-year-old toddlers in their vehicles and head off to Washington, D.C., to attempt to … well, whatever it was Carey was attempting to do. Does post-partum depression really have the potential to push a woman that far?
According to Northwestern Medicine Women’s Health Psychiatrist, Dr. Nehama Dresner, the answer to that question seems to be, “Maybe … but not without some help.”
“That kind of behavior comes from another source,” Dresner said in an interview with CBS Chicago. “They may have other challenges, either circumstantial or mental health challenges, such as psychosis. It’s not common at all for women with post-partum depression to become violent.”
An additional report from CNN today indicated Carey may have believed President Barack Obama had her house under electronic surveillance, and her sisters did mention in the same report she had been diagnosed with post-partum psychosis, so it is likely this was more than just a case of the baby blues pushing someone over the edge. What bothers me about what I heard this morning, though, was that again the media attempted to link depression with trying to kill someone.
I mentioned in a post concerning Aaron Alexis, the D.C. naval yard shooter, my concern that people with mental disorders were beginning to be viewed as ticking time bombs. This seems to be another instance of that occurring. It seemed as soon as the word depression was associated with Carey, that became the most likely culprit behind her behavior. The only problem was this theory was mostly being floated by people who didn’t understand post-partum depression or know much of anything about the personal life of this woman.
As I am finishing typing this, I’m watching a story on the news about a man who set himself on fire on the National Mall in the nation’s capitol today. I certainly don’t understand that kind of behavior either. There’s obviously some type of mental issue going on there. Could we at least get the whole story, though, before we slap the “depression” tag on this person? Tragedies like these are never that simple. I think that’s something we all can understand.