Marla K. Ruhana, Psychotherapist

Women's Renewal Retreats

Published in St. Clair Shores Sentinel October 3, 2007

Vigil to focus on faith, education
Tree of Hope Foundation stretching arms further into community

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

January 9, 2002 was one of the happiest days of Troy resident Kelly Taylor’s life.

Her daughter Madeline was born following 12 hours of labor and a forced c-section as a result of failed forceps.

“I was thrilled to have a girl and cried when they announced her gender to me,” Taylor recalls. “I’m sure I also cried because of relief.”

But something was feeling not right.

“I assumed I had failed somehow by not being able to push out my own child,” she said. But she kept her head up, after all everyone told her how joyous motherhood would be and how her life would change for the better.

“I decided to try nursing. Up until her birth, however, I wasn’t sure,” Taylor said. “Then I figured, ‘Hey there’s milk in there, I may as well try it.’ I’m glad I did and don’t regret it, however, I now know that nursing contributed to my eventual PPD (postpartum depression).”

The day she and Madeline were sent home, Taylor said she sobbed because she didn’t want to leave the safety of the hospital.

“I liked being taken care of and having professionals help me with this new little person,” she said. “Now I was going to have to be in charge.”

Taylor was unaffected by the lack of sleep at first. However, after three or four weeks, she found her new life harder and harder to bear.

“I figured I was a failure as a mother since I didn’t love being with my baby every minute,” Taylor said. “I longed for my life before the baby and mourned the loss of the person that I was.”

She eventually contracted mastitis in her breasts making nursing excruciatingly painful.

“I also was then beginning to be affected by the lack of sleep and depression began to seep in,” Taylor said. “I was desperate to wean Madeline. I wanted so badly to have my body back, for my breasts to stop hurting, and to have her eating through a bottle. It took a while and during this process my anxiety grew and grew.”

It was then that the situation came to a head and Taylor looked to her husband Jeff for support. The two decided that medical help was needed.

“You don’t want to admit that you feel this way,” she said. “But you have to. You have to learn that it’s OK to feel that way; it’s chemical, it’s hormonal and something can be done. There should be less of a stigma attached to it.”

Getting this word out about PPD and other mental illnesses is what the Tree of Hope Foundation is seeking to accomplish. The non-profit organization was founded in 2005 to promote research, education and awareness of postpartum-related mood disorders following the tragic deaths of 37-year-old Mary Ellen Moffitt and her 5-month-old daughter Caroline Moffitt in July 2004 — a result of the impacts of postpartum depression.

Tree of Hope is sponsoring National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding, and interdenominational service will be held at St. Joan of Arc Church at 7 p.m. Oct. 9.

The candlelight service is being held to recognize those suffering from or surviving with mental illness. Family members, friends, and mental health professionals are also invited to participate in the event by lighting candles to symbolize and promote enlightened knowledge, treatment and resources for people suffering with mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia to psychosis.

The national day of prayer will be held each year on the Tuesday of Mental Illness Awareness Week during the week in October, and it’s just one of numerous events, programs and support groups offered by Tree of Hope.

“The support group is growing in numbers every week,” said psychotherapist Marla Ruhana of a PPD support group that meets weekly at St. Joan of Arc.

Ruhana said concerns being addressed during meetings are the signs and symptoms of PPD, suggestions for coping, ways to enhance support system, benefits of physical activity and dietary changes, safety issues, and suggestions for caring not only for newborn but other children as well.

“We also address helpful techniques for assisting spouses and other loved ones to understand this illness and alleviate stigma,” said Ruhana who also hosts Women’s Renewal Retreats the next of which will be held Oct. 5-7.

“Attendees (in the weekly support group) gain knowledge and better understanding that PPD is real, an illness, not a weakness,” Ruhana said.

Henry Ford Cottage psychiatric nurse Nancy Nevedal of St. Clair Shores said in her 17 years of experience she has seen how mental illnesses such as PPD are often misunderstood.

“People need to be understood that it’s not a character flaw,” she said.

Nevedal said getting the right help is also key. As in Taylor’s case, the wrong kind of medication — and event the wrong dosage — can be harmful.

“Too often you don’t even know someone is going through this; they’re walking around with this persona that they have it all together, and inside they’re like ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me. I’ve always been the strong one,’” she said. “They’re suffering in silence.”

Taylor did not — she spoke up about her feelings and today enjoys her life with 5-year-old Madeline and 2 1/2-year-old Emma.

“This experience was a learning one for me. It was the worst time of my life,” Taylor said. “I’d never been to such a dark place before even though I’d had experience with depression. This was different. This bout included shame, fear, mourning and desperation. I would never wish PPD upon my worst enemy.”

Taylor was hospitalized for more than a week during her ordeal, and prescribed different medications for her anxiety and depression.

“I’m thankful for the wonderful support of my family, friends and doctors,” she said. “However, the one person who stood by me, no matter what, was my husband. Not all women are lucky enough to have a supportive husband in such situations. I’m thankful every day for him and feel proud of myself for having survived such a nightmare.”

St. Joan of Arc Church is located at 22412 Overlake, east of Greater Mack and north of Eight Mile. For more information on the Women’s Renewal Retreats, go to www.marlaruhana.com.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586) 498-1039.