One week after Tom Cruise’s fiery denunciation of psychiatry and antidepressants on the Today show, the cause of the lecture – Brooke Shields, for the way she treated her postpartum depression – has answered her critic’s “ridiculous rant,” as she calls it.
In a 715-word essay on Friday’s New York Times op-ed page, the actress writes: “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but after Tom Cruise’s interview with Matt Lauer on the NBC show Today last week, I feel compelled to speak not just for myself but also for the hundreds of thousands of women who have suffered from postpartum depression.”
Countering Cruise’s claim that she and Lauer do not “understand the history of psychiatry,” Shields herself opines, “I’m going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never suffered from postpartum depression.”
She calls the remarks “like those made by Tom Cruise … a disservice to mothers everywhere. To suggest that I was wrong to take drugs to deal with my depression, and that instead I should have taken vitamins and exercised shows an utter lack of understanding about postpartum depression and childbirth in general.”
Explaining the physical and emotional reactions to “the depression … caused by the hormonal shifts that occur after childbirth,” Shields reveals her own problems dealing with the Spring 2003 birth of her daughter, Rowan Francis. “I attributed feelings of doom to simple fatigue and figured that they would eventually go away. But they didn’t; in fact, they got worse,” writes Shields, who admits to wanting to jump out the window.
Her physician diagnosed her condition and prescribed the antidepressant Paxil, she says, confessing, “I wasn’t thrilled to be taking drugs. … But the drugs, along with weekly therapy sessions, are what saved me – and my family.”
As for postpartum depression, “Experts estimate that one in 10 women suffer, usually in silence, with this treatable disease,” says Shields, 40: “We are living in an era of so-called family values, yet because almost all of the postnatal focus is on the baby, mothers are overlooked and left behind to endure what can be very dark times.”
On an upbeat note, Shields, writing under a London dateline (she is appearing there in a revival of the musical Chicago), suggests: “If any good can come of Mr. Cruise’s ridiculous rant, let’s hope that it gives much-needed attention to a serious disease.”