We had the good fortune of connecting with Laray Dyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laray, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
For decades, I have been guided toward taking better care of myself without context nor instruction. Atlanta-based author, Anana Harris Parris, on the other hand, concisely lays the foundation that self-care is holistic, revolutionary, and requires a plan. Indeed, Anana’s work, “Self Care Matters: A Revolutionary’s Approach,” not only defines the topic and the categories of care therein—spiritual/emotional, economic, artistic, physical, educational, and social—but also provides strategy and a complete guide to creating a plan. I reread and listen to “Self Care Matters” regularly. Doing so empowers me to refine my curated plan, address my critical needs, and grow in areas that support my physical and mental health. This book is an invaluable tool.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally. Why did you write your book and what impact has it had?
If you are a mom who has had a scary thought about yourself or your baby, or know someone who has, then “When the Bough Breaks” is for you. Having experienced depression and anxiety for over two decades, being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression (PPD) did not come as a surprise to me; the complexity of Postpartum Depression (PPD), however, did. Battling with newly acquired physical demands, as well as complex emotions and behaviors, PPD is nothing short of overwhelming. “When the Bough Breaks” is a ground-breaking memoir that not only considers my journey to PPD, but also the perspective of my providers. Much like you have never seen your own face without the aid of a mirror, I did not realize the extent of my anxiety and depression until I experienced it with an infant in tow and looked at it through the lens of my care team via personal health records. My book reveals the roots of my history with depression and anxiety; details how to overcome struggles with seeking professional help as a Christian; empowers other women who’ve been suffering in silence to share their stories unapologetically; and shares how I continue to deal with and overcome PPD. Albeit two years ago, I remember walking into the doctor’s office for my six-week postnatal check like it was yesterday. I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was at an all-time high; I wasn’t eating nor sleeping. In fact, I was so exhausted that I wanted to kill myself. I had so much on my mind but could hardly think straight. I felt very sad and even more overwhelmed. I was worried about returning to work—train wreck that I was—because I didn’t think I’d be able to maintain my workload. It’s no wonder that I was irritable beyond measure, not wanting to be bothered with anyone or anything, including my sweet baby. I just wasn’t myself and didn’t feel confident that I could return to business as usual. I was in crisis. Since then, I’ve learned that recovery from a mental health crisis is a process that can take weeks, months, and sometimes years. To this day, I still have moments where I feel my head is under water and need time from work. I also still require many of the same interventions put in place to cultivate and sustain my well-being postpartum—critical self-care and spiritual practice, the help of family and friends, the aid of medication, and psychotherapy—and may always have a need for this support. But thanks to engaging the writing process, I know and understand the root, signs, symptoms, and manifestations of the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced most of my life and I am no longer beholden to it. I am healing. My recovery may not be overnight but it’s on the horizon. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please seek professional help right away.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
While I rarely find the time, I love exploring Atlanta and surrounding communities. I get in my brown SUV, open the panoramic sunroof, let the windows down, crank the radio up, and try my best to get lost! I’ve done this for nearly two decades, and while I seldom get lost hopping from one neighborhood to the next, I often find local goodies therein—ice cream and coffee shops, mom and pop restaurants, and antiques and boutiques. I love to stop, sample, and let the streets tell their stories. Most recently, I drove a little further than I needed to and stumbled across historic McDonough Square. Excited to spot Planter’s Walk Antique Mall, Scoops Ice Cream Shop, and a handful of local eateries, I made a note to return with my husband, kids, and our dog Grace, to walk the square and enjoy its offerings; the outing did not disappoint. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
After the birth of my son Malakai, I found myself in the valley of death; but, with critical self-care and spiritual practice, the help of family and friends, and the aid of medication, psychotherapy, intensive outpatient therapy, and support groups, I survived a destabilizing case of Postpartum Depression (PPD). To this end, I want to recognize my amazing family and friends who love me regardless. Specifically, I want to shout out Silbert Dyer (husband) and Lynn Scott (mother). You two continue to prove beacons of light in my dark places and I am forever grateful. I am also thankful for my sisters, Camille Trott and Marianna Scott, for your love and support. As I began to recover from PPD, I published my first book, “When the Bough Breaks: Unearthing the Roots of Postpartum Depression,” documenting my journey to mental health crisis and beyond; and offering experiential insights into best practices and interventions for cultivating and sustaining well-being postpartum. This accomplishment is not my achievement alone; rather, I owe a debt of gratitude to several women who helped me along the way. Shoutouts to: 1) Stanlee Holbrook (deceased), a young Black mother lost to PPD, my inspiration for “When the Bough Breaks.” While her story ends tragically, the legacy she leaves—one of awareness, courage, and hope—deserves recognition; 2) Chanel Martin, CEO and founder of Beyond The Book Media, here in Atlanta. Chanel empowered me to “just write” and through her services provided an environment for me to do so successfully; and 3) Women who have experienced and overcame postpartum depression, especially those who graciously shared their stories in “When the Bough Breaks”—Kholiwe Dlamini, Maureen Dyer, LuShaun Falconer, De’Anna Reaves, Anana and Chanel. Despite two successful births, for a long time, I suffered in silence—before, during, and after the delivery of my children. I lost a little one and suffered even more. But with your support, I no longer suffer alone and am healing. Sincere thanks to all of you.
Victor Coker Photography