Who was Emily Cook Dyches? (Intro written by her husband, Eric Dyches. Taken from www.theemilyeffect.org)
“In short, she was a committed mother, a caring daughter, a loving sister, a compassionate and kind neighbor and, most importantly, she was the beautiful and supportive girl of my dreams. She was the one who smiled at you and put you at ease with her expressive eyes—just because she could. She was the person at the community or church event who actually took the time to talk with you and hear your story. She was the mom who learned your kids’ names and asked about them when she saw you. She was the neighbor with the untidy house and smiling children. She was the mom who worried about not measuring up, but always put her best foot forward. She was the wife who supported her husband and worried more about his well-being than her own. She tried to improve her weaknesses. She worked to develop her talents. She judged when necessary, but always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. Emily was just as common as anyone in most areas, but where it mattered most—namely interpersonal relationships—she was a shining star. She left an impression everywhere she went. And, … she was someone who suffered with a debilitating postpartum mood disorder.
How can that be? How can someone who is seemingly ‘so well adjusted’ have a mental illness? That only happens to the other guy or gal, right?...
She was not the perfect mom by any stretch of the imagination. We often laughed about our individual shortcomings. She wasn’t flawless…but she was attentive. She took notice and cared. She valued the impact of motherhood and structured her life and priorities around her beliefs. She wanted so desperately to have a fifth and final child, even though she was only a couple years away from her dreaded 40th birthday. We decided to take the leap and add one more to the fold…
In March of 2015 Emily gave birth to a healthy, blue-eyed, bouncing baby boy—Trey Hudson. Immediately following the delivery however, Emily experienced a traumatic event which caused her great fear and concern. Due to the capable care of the competent clinicians caring for her at the time, Emily made it through this scary event physically unscathed, but likely carried with her some negative emotional effects upon leaving the hospital and returning home two days later.
Upon arriving home, to take care of her newborn and start her new life as a mother of five and wife of a busy husband, she experienced difficulty nursing Trey. This caused great alarm to her. I immediately sensed something was quite different about her. Her sensitivity to small matters was overly heightened and her ability to reason seemed impaired. We decided to seek professional assistance.
From there Emily was diagnosed and treated for postpartum depression and anxiety. She was treated for the illness for several months.
All of Emily’s suffering came to a climax on the afternoon of February 24, 2016. While riding as a passenger in a car on the interstate, she experienced a major panic attack. This panic attack ended up taking her life. Not knowing how to fully respond to what she was experiencing, Emily exited the vehicle and fled to what she perceived was a safe place. Unfortunately, that panic led her into the path of oncoming traffic. She sadly was struck and killed on impact, leaving my children without the mother they loved and needed so much, and me without the girl who made my world turn.
We are now left to pick up the pieces, and that we will do with dignity and grace, just like she exemplified in everything she did. We cry and mourn, but we don’t blame and point fingers of scorn. We hope and create, but we refuse to find reasons to shrink and hate. Our mission now is to raise awareness through light, hope, and knowledge. And that we will boldly and honorably do, in her name, by sharing with the world The Emily Effect.”
When I read your tribute to Emily on your website, I felt like I automatically loved her. Thank you for writing that.
When did this all begin?
With the prior four children, she didn’t have any complications with postpartum depression or anxiety. She did have the typical “baby blues” after you have a baby, because your hormones drop so drastically. But nothing that she sought treatment for or took medications for… until this time. Right as soon as we returned home from the hospital with our fifth, Trey, in March of 2015, Trey had a difficult time nursing and that caused great anxiety and concern for Emily. It was at that time that I knew something was different. Something was very different. I thought that it would quickly pass, and we would get back to normal, but it didn’t. And so we sought professional treatment at that time.
And when did you feel like it escalated?
We regulated her in March of 2015. She decided to start taking an SSRI, Zoloft, under the guidance of her OB-GYN, but didn’t want to be on any medication. She didn’t want to be dependent on that; just her personal preference. But the medication seemed to help, regulated her, and then in August she decided to go off. Under her doctor’s guidance, she tapered off slowly and seemed to be doing okay in the summertime. But I think it was the first full week in December, it started to come back. She came to me one day and said, “The feelings are coming back.” She went back on the anti-depressant, but even while on the anti-depressant, it came back in January, and then again in February when she had a major panic attack that ultimately ended up taking her life.
What would you say to women who are struggling with postpartum or experiencing any of those feelings?
Eliminate the “damaged goods” label from yourself. You have to get that out of your own mind. You’re not damaged. You’re not broken. Emily, when she was sick… the terminology “broken” would come up. I know that women can feel like they’re “broken”, and “unfixable.” That is certainly not the case; especially with postpartum mood disorders. The research that I’ve seen says it’s “temporary” and that it’s “treatable,” if you have the right treatment at the right time.
So the message I’d say to moms: you are not alone. Many suffer from this. Many in your close circles have suffered from this. And we just have not had the culture in the past; to talk openly about it. Because moms, out of any segment of our society, should be the “superheroes.” Perhaps we unfairly have the expectation that she is someone who is always there, is always put together, always has the right things to say, always has the right touch, always has the right tone of voice, always knows where to kiss the “boo-boo” better… whatever it may be, Mom is always there. And so in their time of need, in a Mom’s time of need, they know the role that they need to continue to play… and so when they feel “broken,” often they don’t talk, they hold it within, and they’re scared, so they don’t really know what to do.
We all work so diligently on our physical health. I read an article the other day saying, ‘We all have a dentist. We all spend thousands of dollars on our teeth, throughout our lives. And nobody questions that you have a dentist or I have a dentist. But in our culture, in terms of mental health, if I told you I had a therapist, you’d be like 'Hmm, I wonder what’s wrong with Eric? He has a therapist. I certainly don’t have a therapist. Why would he have someone to help him with his mental health?’ In my opinion, there are times in our life when we need a therapist. We need somebody to pick apart what we’re thinking and feeling. Currently, my family has a therapist helping us manage the traumatic stress that our family has been experiencing with the loss of Emily, and she has been completely invaluable to be a sounding board for me. I can tell her the crazy things that are going on in my mind and my heart, and she doesn’t judge me. She just mirrors and shares and explains and helps me process. And so I think the regulate part needs to be a lifestyle. It’s okay to have a therapist. It’s okay to go see a psychiatrist. It’s okay to study about mental health and have conversations within your family, especially if you have a history within your family for mental health issues. That’s what I would tell moms.
If you don’t mind, would you being willing to share how you felt in that moment when you received the phone call from Emily’s father right before the incident happened?
I had been at work that day and I knew Emily had been down visiting her parents. I received a phone call from one of Emily’s dear friends and she explained how she had spoken with Emily, and Emily wasn’t in a great spot. So I decided to give Emily’s dad a call. They were on their way from Moroni, [Utah] to Salem, which is about an hour drive. I was on the phone with Emily’s father and he was telling me that it was escalating. He was nervous. He wasn’t sure what to do. In that moment, he was pulling off the side of I-15. I could hear the ruckus; I could hear Emily’s discomfort, the discomfort in her voice, and what was happening. He was trying to be diplomatic with me, but I could sense some nervousness in his voice. In the meantime, he dropped the phone, as she had hopped out of the car and had started running up the right lane of I-15. Unfortunately she got in the path of traffic, and was hit.
After the phone dropped and went dead, my stomach sank, and I didn’t know the details of what had happened, but I kind of knew what was going on. That’s more of a spiritual side of the story that is sacred to me. I immediately called 911 and told them there was an event going on north of Nephi. I talked to dispatch and heard the tone of her voice, but she just said, “We know what’s going on.” At that point, I knew I had to brace for the worst. It was probably 10 minutes later, I talked with Emily’s dad, and I was in the car driving that way of the accident, and her dad obviously couldn’t speak. By that time, I knew what had happened. He shared with me the fact that she’d been hit, and also some other intimate and personal things we discussed, and just said that they were working on her right then. So then about ten minutes later, he called back and said that she’d been pronounced dead.
I had some time to process all these feelings while driving. Emotionally, I was all over the board. Spiritually, there’s a whole other side to this that helped comfort me and give me understanding immediately. It came immediately. So the feelings that I had, were very scattered, and I continued to process them, and continue to process them now.
May I ask, how is her father doing?
I think he has his ups and downs like we all do, but he took the brunt of it, obviously, and the things he saw, we don’t talk about the details. And I don’t think we ever will. He is currently seeking professional help to guide him through that. As a father seeing that, you wouldn’t wish that on any father. He’s a strong person. He and Emily had a very tight bond. A very tight bond. And so having him there in the last moments of her life brings me great comfort. Because if there’s any man… I mean, he loved her like I love her, and he was there with her. So, he struggles and has a hard time from time to time, but seems to be doing as well as he could, given the circumstances.
Are your kids doing okay?
My kids. We talk a lot about this, and they can always come to me. If they have a bad day or bad night, they end up sleeping with me, which is on a rare occasion. But they know if they need to feel that closeness, they can come sleep by me. They can melt down, and we can talk. It seems the meltdowns for each of us aren’t very frequent, but it seems to help. Once you have a meltdown, you can kind of regroup and catch your breath, and then you can go again. They’re functioning in their normal activities and they’re involved in their regular friends. So we’ll watch them, and the therapist will continue to help me, but I think much like Emily’s dad, given the circumstances, they’re hanging in there, doing the best they can, and doing surprisingly well.
Anything else that you would like my readers to know?
I think for moms I would say what happened to Emily will not happen to you. It’s not the end. That will not be your outcome. We will raise awareness. We will bring greater resources to moms and their partners. And that’s what I plan on doing the rest of my life. I never want to see or speak with a husband or a caregiver that had the same experience that I had. I felt great hopelessness and felt lost. During my care of Emily, I didn’t know where to go. I felt lost in the process. I consider myself a relatively well-educated person and I can make good decisions and can process things. But in this, I was just lost in the process. I needed more help and didn’t know where to turn. I needed more professional support. I needed someone holding my hand and guiding me through the process. And I didn’t have that. We need better resources, we need to end this stigma, and we need to take care of our moms better. And that is my message: that we need to mother our mothers. To bring together the resources out there and to facilitate the dissemination of information for postpartum depression and anxiety, to make sure this doesn’t happen again, that’s the whole goal of “the Emily Effect.”
For some amazing stories of other women battling postpartum mood disorders, head over to www.theemilyeffect.org and click on “Letters of Light.”
Interview reviewed and edited by Eric Dyches prior to release, June 9, 2016
If you have some time, below is an amazing documentary done in honor of Emily. Please share with others you know.