I was recently tagged in this challenge:
“All too often, we women find it easier to criticize each other instead of building each other up. Challenge accepted! Upload 3 pictures of you. ONLY you. Then tag 30 or more gorgeous women to do the same. Build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. Share the beauty! I know some of you won’t do this, but no matter what, you are beautiful.“
Now I’m actually part of the group who “won’t do this” not because I have anything against these types of things but for whatever reason, I just don’t like being a part of them. I was that kid who broke the written chain letter, the teen who never forwarded email chains and the adult who donated over doing the bucket challenge.
But lately I’ve been thinking about all the ways we let criticizm into our lives. It’s not just in the words that are said to us, but the words we tell ourselves and ways we compare ourselves to others. Earlier in the day, I had met a friend for coffee. A friend I haven’t spoken with in months because we’ve both been busy. However, while I’ve been busy adjusting the family to preschool, daycare and working again, she’s been busy battling postpartum depression.
My own experience was with Postpartum Anxiety (PPD/A) which hit me the hardest when the twins were about 14 months old and I stopped nursing. Up until that point my main focus had been “feed the babies” but suddenly I had this overwhelming realization that I had to do SO MUCH MORE for SO MUCH LONGER and I didn’t know where to begin. Plus, I was 14 months in and I thought Postpartum was something that only happened within the first few months. It was J who reached out to the Pacific Postpartum Society in BC and once we learned more about it I was able to recognize that my hormones were still balancing and a big part of why I wasn’t feeling like myself, was because I wasn’t chemically myself yet.
My friend’s experience is much different. It’s much darker. That’s the thing with PPD/A, it’s a different battle for everyone, which makes it hard to recognize and even harder to accept. It seems like a similar experience in the beginning. You stop feeling like yourself, you stop enjoying things that used to make you happy, you may feel sad or indifferent and then you beat yourself up for not being happy, strong, confident, better. And you don’t understand what is happening, so you just think you’re tired or that your spouse is being an asshole until one day you realize that you can’t remember the last time you were truly happy and THAT makes you feel guilty, scared and even more upset. It taints your perspective on everything. It also makes it hard for those around you to understand what you’re going through resulting in support that too often sounds like “I’m here for you today and tomorrow and the day after that… but then can you pull it together and get happy already”? as opposed to support which needs to sound more like “I’m here to listen and not to add more pressure to your healing process.” I’m not an expert on PPD/A by any means, but I do understand that depression is really good at triggering self-doubt and guilt. My friend is no exception. She’s someone who, at the core, is about love, support and hugs but at the moment PPD has painted her numb.
As a support system, we can’t force someone to feel better when they are dealing with this VERY REAL AND SERIOUS ILLNESS and because their perspective is often “glass is half empty”, it’s easy for them to feel worse. It’s a fine line to understand that small signs of love and encouragement aren’t falling on deaf ears. They are being stored for a later date when they can fully be heard over the numbness and until that time our job is to listen without adding more pressure or setting goals “we” think should be met. It’s not about us – it’s about THEM realizing that they their brain isn’t sending them the whole picture right now, BUT IT WILL.. and then IT WILL GET BETTER.
As I said, I’m not an expert, I have NO IDEA what to do for her. All I can do is make the effort to reach out more often, listen without interruption, support her in her counselling and therapy and remind her in gentle ways of all of the amazing qualities she STILL possesses. She’s not “damaged”, “crazy”, “lazy” or “a bad parent”, she’s just depleted right now. This link (here) explains PPD in more detail. It is not only important for those who are suffering, but for those of us who are supporting someone who is suffering to understand
I can also write this blog, because while I believe it is a known fact that PPD is a real illness that needs to be addressed in a serious manner, not everyone does and it shouldn’t just be up to those who are currently suffering to be the spokesperson for it. Nobody should feel alone – particularly when they are NOT alone.