Valerie lives a relatively quiet life in an upscale Washington neighborhood and helps run a support network for women suffering from postpartum depression. She included a chapter in her book about the postpartum depression she experienced following the birth of her children.
I felt that I had extremely high coping skills, but the depression hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea what was happening to me. My publisher indulged me in letting me tell this little piece of the story, because I feel passionate about it, about education and advocacy. It is so easily diagnosed and easily treated. Maybe my book can help someone else.
Why did you include a chapter on your bout with postpartum depression and were you concerned that the CIA would look unkindly on the fact that you sought help for your condition?
I included the chapter on postpartum depression (PPD) frankly because my publisher, Simon & Schuster, allowed me too, even though it is a departure from the rest of the themes of my book. It is something that I feel passionately about and was actually somewhat painful to write. With the birth of my twins in 2000, I experienced serious postpartum depression and initially had absolutely no idea what was happening. I think it’s fair to say that up to that point in my life, I had demonstrated a high degree of coping abilities under significant stress and had always come through just fine. Here I was, an educated, happily married woman with two beautiful, healthy babies and I was completely thrown off balance by dark feelings I had never before experienced. I sought professional help, once a friend clued me into what might be going on. As I pulled out of this truly troubling period in my life — around the time the twins were about 8 or 9 months old — I thought of the many women who did not have the resources I had and were struggling with their deep, debilitating depression (PPD is estimated to strike at least 15-20% of all new mothers). I became involved in organizations that sought to educate and heighten awareness on PPD. Although I would not wish PPD on my worst enemy, I am a richer and more empathetic person for having gone through it. I had no qualms about revealing that I had sought professional help for my PPD to the CIA during a subsequent medical exam required to serve overseas. I wanted to be honest about my experiences and indeed, felt wiser and more mentally healthy as a result.
Many at the CIA, where Valerie now holds a desk job, treat her as a leper, afraid that association with her could damage their own career. “She’s radioactive,” said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst who was part of her 1985 training class. “She’s keeping her sense of humor but she’s legitimately angry,” said Johnson. “It has completely destroyed her ability to ever work as a case officer, which is what she was trained to do.”
Plame’s lawyer, next-door neighbor Wolf, says she has been barred by the CIA from making public comments. The CIA confirms only that she was denied permission to publish an op-ed piece she wrote to set the record straight. Neighbors and friends, although floored by her dual identity, say Plame remains the same caring friend and conscientious mother she was before her cover was blown. She drives a hybrid car, helps her little boy and girl adjust to kindergarten, takes care of the Tillotsons’ cat when they are away, and keeps some pumpkins and Indian corn on the front porch of their red brick house. The twins, says Plame’s mother, Diane, “are her first priorities and she’s tried to maintain as normal an atmosphere as she possibly can.” Valerie’s book “Fair Game,” hits bookstores this week. In it, the outed CIA agent talks about what she calls her “betrayal” by the White House — as well as her struggle to juggle her career as a spy with mothering young twins.