Today, July 12, TIME made the correction online. It still has the part that implies I had PPD, which is something that other reporters have said before even though I have never said I had PPD. I had anxiety, normal for the situation. Later I had Zoloft-induced psychosis. I call it PPZ.
I don’t think that part is as important as the timing of the dangerous thoughts and hallucinations so I am letting that part go. However I find it strange that psychiatrists have managed to label reasonable fear and protectiveness as part of a mental illness.
The corrected version states, “Her son recovered, but after the incident, Philo became preoccupied with his safety and felt severe anxiety about protecting him — a common symptom of PPD.” The bottom of the article also states, “The original version of this article stated that after Amy Philo’s newborn suffered an accidental choking incident, Ms. Philo’s preoccupation with his safety included fear of hurting her baby herself. However, Ms. Philo notes that that particular feeling did not intrude until later, after she began taking antidepressant medications.”
Since the incorrect version will be in print I would appreciate it if people could spread the word about the online version and the correction.
Here’s the ORIGINAL blog entry titled “Time Magazine to Retract False Statement about Amy Philo…” published last night:
First of all, I would just like to preface this post with a statement that I do not feel that the false statement written about me was a malicious statement or reckless mistake by the reporter. I think it was an honest mistake, and perhaps one that anyone could make. I had hoped to just wait for the correction and post the TIME article, “The Melancholy of Motherhood” on this blog as soon as it was fixed. But in order to set the record straight and hopefully minimize potential rumors and misunderstandings, I decided I needed to write about it here as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the magazine has already gone to print, and will be sitting in millions of doctor’s offices, spas, libraries, and living rooms within days. However, according to Catherine Elton, who wrote the article, the online version was supposed to be corrected last night. It’s not fixed yet so I am assuming for now that the editor is just not checking email on the weekend. The issue is the July 20 issue, so you may not have yet seen the article but it is available online.
Overall I was pleased that TIME chose to pay attention to some of the most important problems with The MOTHERS Act and I thought that Catherine Elton did a nice job on this.
However, the false statement written about me was that I had fears that I might hurt Isaac, and then I got put on Zoloft.
“…[I]ncreased screening could lead to an increase in mothers being prescribed psychiatric medication unnecessarily. That concern lies close to the heart of Amy Philo, 31, of Texas, who has become a leader of the anti-Mothers Act movement. In 2004, shortly after her first son was born, he choked on his vomit and needed emergency treatment. Her son recovered, but after the incident, Philo became preoccupied with his safety and even feared hurting him herself — a common symptom of PPD.“
This could not be further from the truth. As I have written about and spoken about for the past four years (on YouTube, radio shows, TV interviews and even to members of the U.S. Senate), I was prescribed Zoloft mainly because I had a panic attack… as my doctor said, for Post Partum Anxiety, to “prevent” PPD because I was considered “at risk.” I was never “diagnosed” with PPD before going to the hospital at 10 days postpartum (the doctor there wasn’t sure what my diagnosis was, but he thought I might have PPD with psychotic features, rather than a reaction to Zoloft. Nor did he think my problems could have been related to reasonable anxiety in the face of witnessing my child almost die – if you read my story you might remember the peachy retort I was fortunate enough to hear from that same doctor, “Your baby didn’t almost die.” Instead I was labeled paranoid and told to take my meds if I wanted to go home.).
From days 3-6 postpartum, it’s true that I was very worried about Isaac’s safety. During the time between his life-threatening choking incident at Children’s hospital and the time I was placed on Zoloft I was having trouble sleeping and did have extreme anxiety, which seemed to be getting somewhat better over time, but I was simultaneously overjoyed with my baby and motherhood. I couldn’t have been more protective and more in love with my baby, while at the same time very concerned about keeping him safe. I think they call that being a mom.
I told Catherine Elton about how I was worried about Isaac, but I never stated that I was worried I might hurt him before Zoloft, only after Zoloft was started. I realize that some women have thoughts of hurting their children before going on medication. But I never did. I was very much in the mindset of protector and very traumatized by our close call.
Before I was put on Zoloft, I wanted him in the same room as me at all times. I was afraid to let him out of my sight. I was worried that he might choke on formula, turn blue again or stop breathing. At one point my husband took him downstairs when I was lying in bed, and when I realized that Isaac was not in the room I freaked out, went downstairs, and found him in my mother-in-law’s arms, and started crying as I asked if I could please have my baby back.
When Isaac nearly choked to death at the age of three days, it was only minutes after our arrival at the hospital. He was trying to cry and vomit but couldn’t make a sound. The relief I felt when the partially digested formula finally came out and he finally started crying and breathing was tremendous, but at the same time I was in a state of horrible trauma from nearly losing him, and I knew that if I hadn’t insisted on calling 911 and brought him in, he would have died in his bassinet while we slept, or if we were awake, we wouldn’t have been able to save him ourselves.
The only reason we took him in to Children’s was because I happened to notice him in his bassinet before going to bed, and the skin around his mouth was blue. This alarmed me so I picked him up, and found that he was cold and seemed to have shallow breathing, and his hands and feet were also cold and looked blue. I could not wake him up. I told Joel about it but because Joel saw him breathing he didn’t see why I was worried. I asked my mother-in-law what she thought and she said that she thought something didn’t seem right and it would be better to be safe than sorry. I called 911. They arrived at our house within minutes, but couldn’t determine what might be wrong with him but said he needed to be taken to a hospital. They told us to go back to Children’s which was a 30 minute drive, so he could not be taken by ambulance. They would have had to take him to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids which they did not recommend, so they had us drive him to Minneapolis. On the way to the hospital in the car I had a flashlight on him (it was very dark) occasionally just to check his breathing. So you can imagine that when he started choking and turning red and purple and could not cry, and this happened literally within 2-3 minutes after we got to Children’s Hospital, I was a total mess.
Sending a social worker in to talk to a mother (whose baby is hooked up to IVs, breathing and heart monitors in a bed at Children’s) because she has been crying all night is not the best way to put her at ease. Telling a mother to let it go, and just let others feed her baby formula while she sleeps is not the best plan for a mother who has just witnessed her baby almost die from choking on formula.
Putting a mother on a drug to “prevent” PPD because her baby almost died is not even a compassionate thing to do. But modern medicine tells women that any time they have fears or anxiety, that they are “at risk” or that this is a symptom of a disease called PPD. Rather than supporting women in their new roles as protectors and supporting their spirits and physical bodies through tremendous changes and physical exhaustion, we are told we are mentally ill. This is the most sexist, disrespectful and dishonorable possible attitude and it does absolutely nothing to help women or their families. Instead, it puts them in danger, because of the fact that these medications are extraordinarily hazardous and toxic.
I agree with Catherine Elton’s article when she concludes, “Ensuring the proper support of mothers, however — whether that means treating depression or caring for women in their new roles — would require an effort much more ambitious than a single law.” Proper support of mothers would require an ambitious effort indeed. Perhaps some laws – definitely not The MOTHERS Act – but perhaps some laws need to be passed to prevent the wholesale drugging of our most vulnerable. Perhaps people need to rethink their attitudes and learn how to support women as new mothers. It’s a big change that can turn your life upside down. It can be wonderful and scary and exhausting all at the same time. It would indeed take far more than a law to teach people how to do this, and how to stop labeling women mentally ill any time they show emotions. It would take more than a law to put a stop to the drugging of women for “clinical depression” while covering up their real problems whether physical, financial, medical, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, relational, or situational.
Why do I care so much that someone thinks I had thoughts of hurting Isaac before the medication? Because it’s not true. Zoloft did not add to an instability (because I was not unstable), it turned me from a sane but loving mother who wanted nothing more than to protect her baby, into my own worst nightmare. The moment that I hallucinated throwing Isaac down the stairs (after being on Zoloft for 3 days) was almost the scariest moment of my life up to that point. The scariest moment prior to that was watching Isaac nearly die in the hospital several days earlier. But as soon as I was afraid I might actually hurt him, I was so intensely afraid for him that I wanted to kill myself. I thought that was the only way to protect him. It wasn’t out of guilt that I wanted to die. There was guilt, and I didn’t know how I could look in the mirror. I hated myself. But mostly I saw no way out, no way for him to be safe with me around.
As many more days and weeks on Zoloft took their toll and Zoloft-induced psychotic feelings set in, and the thoughts of suicide were overpowered with constant thoughts of homicide, I was less and less bothered by the thoughts of killing my son, then later my husband, mother, cats, neighbors, and then committing suicide.
In essence these drugs can take away your feelings about everything, and give you overwhelming, nonsensical, violent urges. There is no motive for them but they are persistent and frightening.
It’s eerie to me that people chalk this up to Post Partum Depression. We have been so programmed as a society to believe this. I read the PPD bloggers’ stories and while reading so many of them I wonder what it would be like to start out your child’s life like that. It seems mild compared to what I went through. I would trade for that.
Fortunately, although I feel that the first several months of my son’s life outside the womb were almost totally stolen from me, by going off of the Zoloft I got my own soul back. And this is all that I want people to know, because if you’re on drugs that are making you a monster, you can get yours back too.
I wish I could go back in time and not go through what I did. I wish I could somehow reach all these women and help them understand it so they don’t have to go through it too. I wish I could go back and pull the pills from the hands of mothers swallowing them during pregnancy or breastfeeding who would someday lose their babies because of it. But I can’t. I wish I could have started out Toby’s life without people wondering if I was really unstable and about to snap like I did after Isaac was born. I wish I could go through life without knowledge of what it’s like to contemplate killing your baby, or wanting to kill yourself. But all I can do at this point is just tell the truth and hope it helps someone else not have to learn the hard way.
So here is the still-incorrect version of TIME’s article, The Melancholy of Motherhood.
Feel free to link here, to this article, before you link to the TIME article, to help me set the record straight and clear up the misunderstanding that is being sent out all around the country in print, so that people will really understand that it was Zoloft that started me down this road. It’s not as important to me what people think about me as it is that they know the truth before they start swallowing these deadly drugs themselves.