Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Speech to Congress

I am currently sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to Washington D.C where in just a couple days I will be speaking to Congress about maternal mental health initiatives and budget. If you follow my blog you may have read my entry about my experience with PTSD amplified by Post Partum Depression. I will be sharing my personal story with a room full of strangers. I wish I could say I am not the least bit nervous, that I am not worried that my voice will shake or that I will have to fight back tears as I recount several moments in my life that I wish didn't happen the way that they did. Anxiety aside, I know that this will be a pivotal point in my life I will remember. A moment I will reminisce as empowering. Lately I have been using many platforms to share my story publicly and spread awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but this week I will stand emotionally naked in front of a crowd as I divulge some of the worse points of my life. I hope that exposing my vulnerablity will show strength.

Please see my speech below

"Good morning,

My name is Ashley Aldous Pangborn. When I was 19 years old, I was locked in a room at a party and raped by a stranger. Surviving a sexual assault, which one out of four women in the United States endure at some point in their life, later led me to be given a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. About 4 years after the rape occurred, I was in a completely different place in my life and happily married to the man of my dreams, wholly believing that I had left that horrific event in my past. After I gave birth to our son, I struggled when breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me, an issue that ultimately took an unexpectedly profound toll on my physical and mental health. My son was hungry, and I felt like I couldn’t provide for him. My mind unwillingly made connections from the pulsing pain I felt from my second degree tearing and episiotomy sutures I received after giving birth, to the physical pain I experienced after the rape.

My already disrupted sleeping patterns from breastfeeding a newborn were riddled with nightmares and flashbacks, my body sore from the involuntary convulsions experienced during these episodes.  Bruises formed on my legs and arms, my stomach was in knots, and I was completely and totally exhausted in every way. It felt like all personal progress I had made over the past few years evaporated when my son was born. In my heart, I knew I loved him with every fiber of my being, but a small part of me resented him for the acute relapse in trauma I was experiencing. Although I was surrounded by supportive friends and family, I still found myself reverting back to old, unhealthy coping mechanisms.  I spent many nights silently crying next to my husband in order not to wake him. During the day, I would lock myself in our bedroom or my office and sob, not understanding what was happening to me. I was angry, resentful, sad, hopeless, weak, shameful, anxious and conflicted. I knew how I should be feeling in this supposedly joyful time of my life, but that was not what I was actively experiencing. I felt like a failure. I did not know what was wrong with me, and I did not know who to talk to about it. It wasn’t until several months after the birth of my son that I first heard about postpartum depression. Little did I know that by having a preexisting diagnosis of PTSD, I was at a very high risk for postpartum mental health complications, a major red-flag issue in my medical history that had disturbingly never been addressed by a medical professional.

After recovering from Postpartum depression and anxiety, my husband and I still felt our family wasn’t complete. We experienced secondary infertility while trying to conceive our second child, a draining process that included two devastating miscarriages. Once again, no medical professional at the hospital or my OB office informed me I was at a high risk for postpartum depression after these miscarriages. Finally, almost four years after having my son, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter. While the reaction wasn’t immediate as it had been after my first pregnancy, I eventually found myself once again becoming consumed by uncontrollable postpartum anxiety and depression that further triggered my underlying PTSD. It was just another time I had placed my faith in the medical professionals responsible for reviewing my medical history to provide me with appropriate comprehensive care, and the system failed me.

Despite living in one of the most medically progressive countries in the world, many mothers in our nation are still financially unable to seek out and receive the help they so desperately need, and are often unaware that there is even professional help available to them for a very treatable condition such as postpartum depression. Many young parents including myself are financially unable to take the appropriate amount of time away from work to address their physical and mental health needs after pregnancy and giving birth, a risk factor that dramatically increases a woman’s susceptibility to suffering from postpartum depression. Where I live in southwest Florida, young parents such as my husband and myself are dramatically outnumbered by retired, part-time residents, leaving our community with a significant shortage of available resources directed at young people experiencing common conditions such as postpartum depression. In addition, my insurance does not cover mental health counseling at any location close to where I live; the closest available counselor who will accept my insurance is a 3 hour drive away. As a full time working professional and as a mother, this is not a viable treatment option for me.  Even with insurance coverage, many families still cannot afford the absurdly high out-of-pocket cost of professional mental health counseling.


While the medical community in the United States continually endeavors to improve women’s physical health during and after pregnancy, it is imperative to also take appropriate actions to acknowledge and manage common mental health issues affecting young mothers in our country. Every day, mothers in the United States strive and struggle to raise our future generations against a plethora of avoidable challenges designed to make this process so much more difficult than it needs to be. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to provide them with every possible resource to help them succeed, and give families and individuals the opportunity to thrive in our nation starting at birth.

I currently run a blog entitled You, Me and PTSD, which can be found online at
http://www.youmeandptsd.com/. This blog further details my experience as a survivor of rape and PTSD, two horrifyingly common issues affecting young women in the United States. I have made it my personal mission to educate the public about my direct experience with these issues, and to support and guide fellow women and men through what will be one of the most trying times of their lives. I hope that, as our legislators and guardians of our rights as American citizens that you will choose to do the same.

Thank you." 

2 comments:

  1. I suffer from ptsd from the military. It was so hard to get medical care for this. Thank you for writing this post and standing up for what you believe in. You are not only helping mothers but veterans like myself.

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  2. This is amazing. I lost my sister to suicide associated to PPD. She too had a mental health issue prior to becoming pregnant, yet she was never given the facts on PPD. I miss her everyday, my nephew will turn 3 this summer and he'll never know how wonderful his mother was. I run a blog about mental health issues and suicide prevention. Can i ask you, how did you get the opportunity to speak to Congress? Thank you for speaking out about these very important issues.

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