When I was on leave from work last year to deal with the ongoing effects of postpartum depression, I was seeing a psychiatrist I hated. At one of our visits, she suggested making a list for myself of things I needed to do each day, explaining that doing so would help me recover from PPD.
The problem I had with this was that she was suggesting the things on my to-do list should be things like showering. Or eating breakfast. Very basic things.
It was all I could do not to smack her.
I have it together, thank you very much! I’m Type A, dammit! I don’t need to be told to take a shower!
Except I kind of did.
At that time, I wasn’t going to work so I wasn’t getting up and getting dressed every morning like I usually would. My husband was doing all the kid care so I wasn’t going to play dates. If I absolutely had to go out, I pulled on some sweats and a hat and tossed a hoodie over my pajama top.
It’s not that I wasn’t showering at all. It’s just that there was really no impetus for showering at a certain time. Most days, I would still be in some state of undress at 4 p.m. and would hop into the shower around the time my husband started to make dinner.
Even I could see it wasn’t helping me.
So in the end I followed the psychiatrist’s advice and made a list. It was as much to force myself to think about how to help myself feel better as it was to have some things to check off each day. It wasn’t an ambitious list. I decided I would shower before noon every day (see? not ambitious) and get dressed in something other than pajama pants. I knew I needed to get out of the house but wasn’t up for much, so my husband and I agreed that it would be my job to walk the dog. He needs a walk every day and I knew it was my job to do it. That, more than almost anything else, was what really helped me get some perspective (doubly so if I had showered before we went on the walk).
In that original conversation with my psychiatrist, her suggestion to put these sorts of things on a list came across as very condescending. It didn’t acknowledge that underneath the postpartum depression I still was my normal, quite competent self, and I just needed a little prodding to find her again.
What that psychiatrist should have said, in my opinion, was this:
You have the ability to help yourself feel better.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that’s going on, but if you do this it will help you see what you’ve been doing that has not actually been helping you.
It’s okay to want to stay in your pajamas every day. And some days that’s fine. But by making the effort to get dressed, pajamas will start to feel less like the only appealing option.
We all sabotage ourselves sometimes – either a little or a lot. In this situation, make the decision not to do that to yourself.
She didn’t say any of those things to me. Instead, I figured them out myself, but only after getting mad and rebelling a little bit first.
So today I’m saying those things to you. Pajamas are okay. Really, they are. But maybe, just for today, take them off. Pull on your sweats and a hat, and go for a walk.
And then come back and tell me about it.
~ Robin Farr
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