Testimonial from Emily Beltran, LCSW, PMH-C
How did you discover PHA’s Warmline?
In 2012 I was pregnant for the first time. I have had anxiety my whole life and before trying to get pregnant I thought and assumed I needed to come off medication for the safety of the baby. So, I went off my SSRI and was doing well until pregnancy hormones kicked in. I have always been very sensitive to hormonal shifts but did NOT expect this. We got pregnant immediately once we started trying which was a gift and very hard at the same time. We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. My anxiety amped up and I began waking up every morning with panic attacks. I was living in a constant state of dread and fear. My anxiety can be very physical, and I was constantly shaking. I felt trapped in my own body and head but kept thinking this was just what my pregnancy was going to be like, and I had thought medication was out of the picture. I was nauseous and terrified daily, and it just got so overwhelming I remembered hearing about the PHA warmline and thought I’d call to see if what I was going through was “normal.”
What was your experience like with the volunteer Peer Support Specialist who returned your call? Did she help connect you with valuable/helpful resources?
I called one evening while very emotional and I was greeted by a very calm and caring voice on the other line. I just remember sobbing asking “is this normal? Do I feel this way due to the hormones?” The response I received was caring and nonjudgmental. I remember feeling heard and safe. The message I received from her was that I should not be feeling this terrified all day and every day, and I didn’t NEED to feel this way. There was help and I could hopefully start enjoying this pregnancy that I had originally really wanted. She looked up psychiatrists that took my insurance and set me up with Dr. Hirst at UCSD’s Reproductive Mental Health Psychiatry program.
I often say Dr. Katie Hirst saved my pregnancy. I was met once again with kind, calm and caring support, hearing the same message that I did NOT need to suffer. I was allowed to feel better and enjoy my pregnancy. She also didn’t immediately prescribe me medication. She listened and got to know my history and really heard my fears of the assumed “dangers” of medications while pregnant. She shared what research has shown in regards to medication and pregnancy. I never felt pushed, and I felt optimistic for the first time in this pregnancy. I soon after started on Zoloft and began to fall in love and bond with my baby. I saw Dr. Katie Hirst throughout my pregnancy in 2012 and saw her again postpartum in 2013.
What brought you back to PHA and made you decide to become a member?
During my first pregnancy in 2013 I passed my licensing exam and became a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) at 37 weeks pregnant. I remember Dr. Katie Hirst telling me about the specialty of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and about other organizations like Postpartum Support International. This information stuck with me. After I returned to work after my first born, I began shifting my focus from early childhood mental health to perinatal mental health. I often referred my own clients to PHA and had a few colleagues that were members. In 2022 I left my full-time government job and began building my part-time therapy private practice to full-time and finally had time to join this wonderful organization.
How has your own experience with PMADs helped guide you in your career?
I have always worked with children and families and always assumed pregnancy and motherhood would be so easy for me. I was shocked that it was as hard as it was (it still is 3 kids in!) Since my first pregnancy experience with severe anxiety, I have felt a strong need and passion to help educate and empower others suffering during pregnancy and postpartum. I have experienced how one kind person with the right training could completely change the whole perinatal experience. I have become so passionate about PMADs that I have taken many trainings from PSI, 2020 MOM Project, Life Perspectives and The Touchstone Institute. I was able to complete my Perinatal Mental Health Certificate exam in 2021 during my last pregnancy. Sitting taking the test during my first trimester with my third son felt like a full circle.