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Removing the Shame from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Even though I wrote about postpartum anxiety yesterday, I did it with little intent of seeking help. I have a bit of a habit of this. I can identify a problem I have, but I don’t want to seek help. Sometimes it’s laziness, but other times, like this one, it’s embarrassment. It’s a sense of shame.

I know that if I went back to my OB she would be incredibly kind and helpful, but I would feel so embarrassed having to ask for that help because I feel like I should be able to sort this out on my own. Like I’m less of a mother if I can’t buck up and soldier on.

I have tried to figure out how I came to this belief, why I feel like I’m failing when I ask for help. Why I feel like I need to use the words postpartum depression/anxiety in a whisper. And the answer fell into my lap this morning, in the form of a comment on yesterday’s post.

The comment I’m referring to (and by the way, the commenter actually did leave her name, I removed her name for the sake of anonymity) said,

Common? Sure. Normal? I’m sorry, no. I think you need help.

I unfollowed you on Twitter because your tweets about your baby made me sad.

Now, let’s be clear, you’re all welcome to unfollow me at your discretion on twitter. That’s fine. It’s that this person had to take a moment to tell me, to shame me, for what I’m going through. Because I am not tweeting enough happy things about my son. Because I am not happy enough.

And I think this is at the crux of why I’m embarrassed to get help. It feels like being honest, tweeting about real things, is somehow wrong. That in not pretending that everything is easy (because it really isn’t) or by not sucking it up, that I’m weak, that I’m a bad mother. It makes me feel that I should be quiet, that I should be ashamed. And I am. I want to pull myself up by the bootstraps and move on, but I can’t. I want to be unconditionally happy, but that’s not reality right now.

And I don’t think I should be expected to be all smiles and rainbows. I think it should be okay, if not encouraged for more women to speak their truth. To admit that parenting is hard. To admit that sleep deprivation and growth spurts are tortuous. Because they are and if no one says it out loud, how will we ever know we’re not alone?

I don’t think that commenter was trying to be mean, but the result was that I feel more embarrassed and more ashamed than I did before I spoke out yesterday. I now question all the words I use, whether the pictures are happy enough, because the last thing I want to do is seem like I don’t love being Elijah’s mother. It is hands down the best thing I’ve ever done. But it is also unbelievably hard and I am struggling. I don’t know how to be honest about what I’m going through and also appear happy enough.

What this makes me realize is that we as mothers need to do more to support each other, not increase the shame we feel. If you see a mother struggling, why not send her a tweet, email or message offering support? Why not politely provide information on how to get help? Why not do ANYTHING besides pile on guilt or shame to an already difficult situation?

It is because of this shame that so many mothers, myself included, do not seek help. It’s that shame that convinces us to suffer more quietly, to try to pretend like everything is fine, even when it isn’t, even when we need the support we’re having to hide ourselves from.

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