Brooke Shields

In a previous show, Brooke Shields discussed her battle with postpartum depression. For the first time, she talked about her mental collapse, the disturbing voices she heard in her head and how she managed to survive the darkest period of her life.

Her new book is called Down Came the Rain
Dr. Robin Smith

Dr. Robin Smith, who has worked with many women who have suffered from postpartum depression, says there are three significant signs that a woman is suffering from the illness:
  1. The inability to experience pleasure of any sort. "Pleasure can be going out with friends to have lunch, pleasure can be connecting with your baby, pleasure could be having sex with your partner again," she says. "But … it feels like pleasure doesn't belong to you any longer."
  2. Feeling isolated, hopeless and guilty. "Just that sense that you're set apart, you're feeling hopeless, like nothing can make it better. … And that it's never going to get better," Dr. Smith says.
  3. Drastic physical changes. "Eating too much; not eating enough. Oversleeping; not sleeping enough."

Since having her baby 10 months ago Candace says that she's had gruesome thoughts.

"Making a bottle, I would peer over at a cabinet where I knew the household cleaners were and I could actually envision myself taking cleaners and putting them in the bottle," she says. "If I was holding her and I could see our reflection in the window, I would think, 'What if I just threw her out the window right now?' The scariest part was actually being able to see it play out in my mind and it was me doing these things to her and I didn't want to hurt her but I could not stifle these intrusive thoughts about hurting her."

Candace says although she is currently on antidepressant medication, she still has the horrific thoughts of harming her baby.

"Like every healing process, it's a day-to-day journey," she says. "There are days I don't have thoughts at all and I'll think, 'Wow, this is great,' and one day, I'll wake up and I'll have an off day and I'll think, 'What if I take this knife and I stab her?' It's like I know I don't want to hurt her and I know these thoughts are wrong but they're just in my head and they cause me to even consider taking my own life because I think 'What kind of monster am I? What kind of mother could have these thoughts about her child?'"

Diana is a nurse and the mother of two girls. She says her bout with postpartum depression consisted of horrific thoughts of harming her children.

"I had mild postpartum depression with my first child," Diana says. "It went away after a couple of days. I had this vision, a vivid vision of her flying off of a balcony. Not myself doing it. It caused such anxiety and panic that I couldn't bring her upstairs. With my next child, again the same thing happened—I kept thinking of an ice pick in her fontanel."
Michael and Diana

Diana says her depression spiraled out of control when her husband went out of town for three weeks on business. "One night I had this vivid picture of my daughter being stabbed in the fontanel with a knife," Diana says. "And every time I went into the kitchen I panicked and I had to avoid my kitchen. And I buried my knives in the backyard and anything that was sharp. And I sat and I locked myself in the garage and cried.

"And then I started with my own feelings of jumping from tall buildings. My office had an atrium staircase and the thought would come, 'You could just jump.' And I'd think, again, '[It's] only four stories—not going to do any good.' … It's always, 'Where is this thought coming from?' I would never, ever do this to my child. My child means everything in the world to me.

"I remember talking to my girlfriend and I said, 'Something is really wrong.' She said, 'You need to call your doctor.' And I said, 'Yeah, I probably do'—but there's that stigma with mental illness."

Diana finally got help when her girlfriend called her obstetrician. "She told him that if I didn't call him that day he needed to call me," Diana says. The doctor had a crisis intervention psychiatrist call her immediately, and Diana met with a psychiatrist the next day. "The psychiatrist started me on three different kinds of medication," Diana says, "which I'm still taking after three-and-a-half years. I also began seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist."

Diana's husband, Michael, was stunned when Diana told him about her disturbing thoughts. "It was wild," Michael says. "I hadn't heard about anyone that had gone through anything like that before, so it just completely blindsided me." Michael says he didn't think his wife was "crazy;" he just thought she was overstressed.

Michael says didn't think his wife was dangerous until his friends "put that thought into my head," he says.

"That's good, I'm glad they did," Dr. Smith says. "Sometimes we can want to minimize something because we don't know how to manage it."

It took 10 years for Michael and his wife, Annie, to have the child of their dreams. With the birth of baby Jonathan, it seemed their life was complete and perfect—until Annie left the house to run errands and never returned.

Annie had gone to buy groceries but instead killed herself with a 9-millimeter handgun.

Oprah: What were Annie's signs?

Michael: She couldn't produce enough milk. And that made her feel like a bad mother. I've talked to her friends that [said] she was always a perfectionist. She always did everything well. She felt that she was not a good mother. Not good enough. The day she left, she kissed us and smiled and said, "You guys will be wonderful together," and she walked out the door.

Tammy says when she had her daughter eight years ago, she heard voices that told her to hurt her baby.

"It was, 'Okay, you're going to go home and do this to her.' I talked to myself in my head. 'No, you're not—yes, you are.' It was a constant struggle in my head fighting with myself. And taking my own life—I felt that way, too.

"I went through it for a month and a half before I broke down at work finally and got help," Tammy says. "I felt like I was crazy."

Tammy finally visited a doctor at the urging of her friend. "He put me on medicine and I took a week off work and it started looking up from there. But I thought I was absolutely nuts. I thought they were going to have to put me away or something. It was bad."
FROM: When a Mother Secretly Thinks About Killing Her Children
Published on July 11, 2005


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