I was talking to someone in private today about the possibility of postpartum depression. She wasn’t sure that her symptoms would qualify. They’re not that bad. She’s had it worse. Other people have had it worse.
It made me think about how much we compare ourselves to others. Just like other illnesses — alcoholism, for one — there’s a general belief that only the people who hit rock bottom, who are unable to function on any level at all, are the ones who are in trouble or the ones who need help.
The rest of us just need to try a little harder, we think.
That other mom is single.
That other mom doesn’t have childcare, or someone to clean the house.
That other mom doesn’t have friends and family around her to support her.
That other mom is so sick she can’t go anywhere or do anything.
If we’re not like her we must not need help, or, even worse, we may think we don’t deserve help. We shouldn’t be bothering people with our less-serious problems.
Please don’t believe that. Don’t compare yourself. Postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and the like manifest for different people in very different ways. As individuals we all have significantly different sets of circumstances and symptoms and supports. Sure someone somewhere is worse off! That’s going to be the case in any situation, but just because that’s true doesn’t mean that each of us isn’t worthy and deserving of reaching out.
Maybe you’re someone who can still get dressed in the morning. You can take care of what you need to. Still, you don’t feel like yourself and you’re confused and frustrated, and you’ve known it for a while but you see other people talking about their PPD and it seems so much worse so you think you shouldn’t speak out. Forget that. Make the call. Tell whoever you need to, “This isn’t going well for me. I’m functioning okay, but I’m unhappy and unsure and I’d like to talk about it.”
Maybe it will turn out you don’t have postpartum depression, but that you needed someone to talk to with whom you could air out your concerns and feelings and get some validation. Maybe you need a few new coping skills for the transition to motherhood. Maybe you have mild PPD, or moderate. Maybe even more but you’ve been ignoring the signs. It doesn’t matter what your level of severity is.
What matters is whether you’re able to function as YOU would like. What matters is that you are as well as YOU would like to be.
We all need varying levels of support, and if it turns out that you need slightly less than someone else, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t need it, or deserve it, at all.
With thanks to C.