Lately, I've been struggling a lot with my postpartum depression. I thought I was doing better and I spoke with my doctor about decreasing my dosage. I even have a blog post all written up I wanted to share when I finally got to a balance at a lower dose.
I ran into a few triggers, though, in the last few weeks. Triggers that reminded me of the stress of the twins birth, and triggers that reminded me of the stress I felt over the spring and summer. I added back to my dose this week.
I don't know if bouncing back and forth like this is normal or not. I've been thinking lately, though, about those that I have felt supported by, and those I have not felt supported by in this journey. I thought it would be a great time to share some things that many people do without thinking.
What NOT to Say or Do to a Mother Struggling with Postpartum Depression.
1. "You just need a glass of wine." Because she hasn't tried "conventional" ways of relaxing already.
2. "Life goes on." My personal favorite is when people tell me that there is life after twins. No $hit. Doesn't make what I'm going through any easier though.
3. "You're just having a bad day." Anyone would feel upset after being thrown up on by 2 kids while the 3rd kid made a mess of the entire downstairs. That deep down feeling, though, the one that makes you want to hide in your closet and ugly cry? They don't understand that one.
4. "Have you tried (insert supplement here)?" Bonus points if you sell it through some home-based business marketing venture. Nope, I never tried working out, or supplements, or anything else that would be more natural than the drugs the doctor has me on. Obviously, I wanted to take the "easy way out."
5. "How is your attitude today?" Obviously her feelings aren't valid, and it's all really just that she has a bad attitude toward parenting.
6. "You're the one that wanted kids." She chose to have these kids, now she has to deal with the consequences, right? How could she possibly not consider that she may have to deal with depression while her husband is away at work and she is left for weeks at a time with her kids after her husband already missed their birth (just me?)
7. "You look tired." Don't offer her any help, don't offer to bring her a meal or watch her kids while she takes a much needed nap after months without a full night's sleep.
8. "Do you feel better now?" After listening to her complain for a good 30 minutes, ask her if her problem is solved and don't be understanding when she still feels just as bad. I mean, you've listened to her complain about her wretched life for thirty whole minutes! On that note....
9. "It could be worse." What does she have to complain about anyway? Her husband has a job, she lives in a house, she has kids and a dog. What could be so bad about washing all those clothes she bought for all those kids she has anyway? She could have it much worse, so maybe she should just stop complaining.
10. "Do you have a timeline for when you plan on getting off those meds?" Seriously lady, your kids are 1 year old now, why do you still need meds? Isn't it about time you weened off those things yet? You don't want to be all medicated forever, do you? I know you feel much more balanced with them and all, but when are you going to toughen up and just deal with life? Obviously, she just wants to take the easy way out and stay on medication forever.
11. "New subject!" Do the old subject change. Ask her how she's doing, and when she's actually honest and says she's kind of having a hard time right now, change the subject. Talk about the weather, talk about yourself. Anything but listening to her mope about her life.
How can you help? Understand that depression isn't a choice. Understand that mothers facing postpartum depression are taking it one day at a time. Don't think about yourself and how they aren't focused enough on you. Here are some things that really do help.
Ways You Can Help a Mother Dealing with Postpartum Depression.
1. Offer help. REAL help. Text her and say you're going to the museum with your kid, offer to take her older kid along. Don't ask how you can help, text her and tell her how you can help. Show up on her doorstep and offer to take a baby off her hands.
2. Listen. Really listen. Don't make any attempt to talk about yourself, just be there and be her friend and let her know that you're there for her.
3. Show up. You know she's having a hard time. You know she's lonely. You may have had other plans, but you know she's really struggling right now, so drop some plans and just go hang out with her.
4. Let her sleep. Come visit her and get up with her baby (or babies) for a night or two, or in the morning. Moms are EXHAUSTED. Especially moms taking care of twins and a 4 year old while her husband is away for work.
5. Just be there. Sometimes (or in my case, often) she doesn't want to talk about it. She doesn't want to talk at all. Sometimes, she just wants quiet. Be there and hang out with her and be in her presence without requiring her to be social.
6. Support her treatment. Even if you have never needed anti-depressants, that doesn't mean she doesn't need them. Support her and her doctor in their choices to help her find a balance. Understand that she wants what is best for herself, her children, and her spouse, and be on her side as she works toward the treatment that is best for her.
The worst thing most of us feel is that we are alone in this battle. Your words of discouragement can hurt mothers that are struggling, but your words of support can help.