Participating in the 2014 Climb Out of the Darkness was inspirational. It’s got me thinking, how can I give back? What can I do to help? What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Eliminating the stigma of postpartum mood disorders has been on my mind quite a bit lately. On Sunday morning when I finally cracked it wide-open for myself I just had to write it down.
What I think it boils down to is this: we live in a world of social media and reality TV and public personas and while a lot of times it’s helpful to feel a part of a much larger community or connected to far away friends we also play this game (or at least I know I play this game) ‘at least my life is better than…’ I think like this often. Comparing myself to others to prove to myself the grass is greener under my own feel. I wish I could say I’m doing a reality check “I only have first world problems, where there are real problems in this world.” Sometimes it is. But a lot of times? I’m thinking: ‘my life is not as bad as the person right next to me.’
It is my opinion that this kind of thinking does not have any place in the mental health community.
My ability to appreciate my own climb out of darkness is often tempered by the opinion I have that my postpartum anxiety wasn’t as bad as someone else’s. In the beginning, this got in the way of me seeking treatment. When comparing myself to others my worries, my fears, my catastrophic thinking didn’t seem so bad. My own definition of postpartum depression was so narrow that it only included the women who harmed their own children. I couldn’t possibly fall into that category…
Because I spent so much time thinking that it wasn’t ‘that bad’ I nearly convinced myself that I could get better on my own. No need for a support system. No need to make
changes in diet. No changes in my behavior. No talk therapy. And, of course, no drugs. I was so caught up on comparing myself to other people and then congratulating myself for not being “that bad” I was completely blind to the most important fact:
If I took the time to compare me to myself it was obvious that things were different. I’ve always been impatient and moody and a little controlling… but now my impatience and my moodiness and my need for control were taking over my life in ways that I ultimately wasn’t comfortable with. It was only when I stepped back and looked at myself that I was able to even see that there was something worth fixing.
The women who reach out to me on a fairly frequent basis often say similar things. And I’m coming out and saying it right now: Comparing yourself to others is like the old adage about the rocking chair: it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.