Part 3 of a 3-Part Coping with Postpartum Depression SeriesIn my previous articles on postpartum depression, I looked at some differences between the normal adjustments that women experience after pregnancy and the postpartum distress that requires support. I also suggested some steps you can take to help you negotiate this challenging period. In this third article, I consider the distinction between acknowledging your true needs and not engaging in self-sabotage, distractions, or numbing. You need to recognize self-destructive behavior and/or thoughts so that you are able to tell yourself the truth and take steps to stay grounded in reality.
Telling Yourself the Truth
Learning to decipher what your needs truly are can actually be quite difficult as a new mom, or in your ever-adjusting role of mom as you adapt to multiple children. There is so much going one, between your own negative self-talk and all the ways you feel others are expecting or demanding your time. You need to examine what is really being asked or required of you (your baby’s needs, your partner’s expectations and needs, your home duties, and work deadlines) versus what you are expecting of yourself. This is one way to tell yourself the truth.
Nobody Can Do it All
A mom needs to find some time for herself, in which she can rejuvenate in the ways specific to her. Maybe this will be having a date night with your husband, getting a fun night out with friends, or just spending an hour alone to read, nap, or take a long bath. Instead of feeling guilty that you cannot “do it all,” recognize that everybody needs a way to unwind and recharge. Nobody can do it all. There are limitations. This is another part of telling yourself the truth.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts
Imagine yourself on your worst day, the day when the baby would not stop crying and when everything you did was “wrong” or “off.” What was going through your mind that day? Can you remember? Maybe you were repeating to yourself: “Why can’t I stop feeling this way?!” “What is wrong with me?!” “I just want to get OUT of here!” This negative self-talk only harms you, in the midst of the already-difficult process you are in. Are there ways that you can pay attention to the thoughts running through your mind, with the goal of “capturing the lies” and orienting yourself around the reality and truth of your life? Maybe it is through journaling, or writing truth statements and placing them in visible areas of your home or car. Think about some ways you can do this.
Give Yourself Some Time Out
Giving yourself some time out is crucial in your role as a mom. Breathing exercises, self-examination, truth-telling, and grounding are all ways to give yourself some time, even in the midst of your busy day. Some days feel as if you are just “coping;” and that is ok. There really are days when you have only gotten a few hours of sleep, whether because you could not shut off your brain or because the baby was crying, and you are just trying to make it until you have help and/or time to sleep. Take the time you need as soon as you can.
Identify and Savor a Grounding Moment
One way to keep perspective by telling yourself the truth is to remember a self-defining, grounding moment. This may be one of your best days with the kids, or a fun time away from the kids. It may be a moment in church when you connected with Grace or something you read. Whatever it is, remember how you felt at that moment. What was happening? This too is your reality. You are still that mom – that woman who felt loving and successful and “good enough” at the role you play in your children’s lives. Savor those moments.
Communicate with Your Partner and Friends
Be specific with your partner and trusted friends about what you need. After you have deciphered what your needs truly are, ask. Our partners cannot read our minds. And our friends really can help, even if they do not understand fully. Just ask. Set realistic goals, so that you can actually meet them.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Cope with Postpartum Depression
If you find yourself unable to connect or apply any of this, or if you are engaging in self-destructive behavior, or feel completely overwhelmed by your present state of mind and reality, please ask for professional help. Christian counseling can provide a safe space in which you can process your experience and gain new skills for coping in your new situation. For more information on how Christian counseling can help you with postpartum depression, please reach out to me here.
“Le temps de la confrontation” by L’Echappee Volee, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Sunset Silhouette,” by subhadipin, Image ID 1412362, freeimages.com
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