5.25.2010

Advice

I receive many different reactions whenever I express my dislike of pregnancy. In all honesty, it's similar to the reactions I receive when I share my feelings in the midst of depression. I think it's always hard for people to know what to say or do when confronted with {my} negative feelings, but in general they try to fix it. Common things I've been told recently include:

Be grateful that at least you can have a child. I/A Friend/A Loved One have experienced years of infertility/lost a child/have had multiple miscarriages/are waiting to adopt and would give anything to be miserably pregnant the way you are.

Be grateful that your baby is healthy. I/A Friend/A Loved One have had to watch helplessly as my/their baby struggled in NICU/was born with a disability/suffered from a chronic illness. You yourself had a health-of-the-baby scare, but seem to have forgotten that so quickly.

Be grateful that you only have 10 weeks left. I/A Friend/A Loved One have endured hardships much harder/that have lasted much longer than a mere 10 weeks. You/Young People have no concept of how quickly time flies.

Be grateful for the kicks of the baby/the changes in your body/the experience of being pregnant. Someday you will be nostalgic about it and maybe even miss it.

None of these things are ever said in meanness. People are not trying to be critical or judgmental, just helpful and encouraging. They hope that they're giving me a different way of looking at things, a perspective that will make a lightbulb go off in my head and burn away the discomfort, pain, discontent and depression that I'm going through. Everything they say is true and right. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way for me. Here's why:

Several years ago, when I was suicidally depressed and struggling just to survive without running away or hurting myself or my children, I tried to talk myself out of the way I was feeling.

"What have you to be depressed about?" I'd ask myself, "You have a husband and a roof over your head and a steady income. You live in a free country-- a wealthy, healthy nation and enjoy luxuries and freedoms that some people can only dream of. For heaven's sake, people managed to live through a holocaust without being as miserable as you are, so what is wrong with you? Just stop it!"

It seemed that every 15 minutes, I was berating myself with comparisons to people who had a harder life than I did. Sometimes, it would push me into bucking up a bit and completing a task that felt impossible at the time. Mostly, it made me feel inadequate and ashamed. I still felt suicidally depressed, only now I didn't want to let anyone know how I felt because I didn't feel I had a right to feel that way. {It was like being 13 again, feeling that everyone was always looking at me and talking about me and finding me seriously disappointing.}

Part of getting better was accepting my reality, which was that I was in pain and miserable. Nobody else's hardships were able to negate my reality, and I had to decide that it was okay to feel that way and okay to talk about it and okay to get help.

It's the same way with pregnancy.

I am grateful that I can have children. I know I'm lucky that the baby is healthy, that I can carry it to term, that I haven't lost a child {except to miscarriages}, that I only have a mere 10 weeks of discomfort left. I know that there are much harder things in life than being big and pregnant while off of depression medication.

But my current reality is that I am in pain and I can't sleep and I suffer from depression. I've decided that it's okay to feel that way and it's okay to talk about it and as soon as this baby is safely born, it will be okay for me to take medication again and get over it.

Until then, I offer you a deal: I'll listen politely to your advice, then promptly ignore it, if you'll listen politely to some of my negativity and then promptly ignore it. We'll call it even. :)

{image. How I wish this were true for me!}

13 comments:

LisAway said...

Yeah, we don't really need to add guilt into the mix, do we? :) I can certainly understand why people think and sometimes say things like that but it is just quite clear that they don't really know exactly how you feel (and can't, of course). I'm glad you can try to not let it get you. I understand guilt is often such a part of depression anyway that you really don't need to stress yourself with comparisons.

I wrote a post awhile ago about how our feelings are all legitimate and the fact that someone suffers the same thing even worse or something different doesn't change the fact that we are suffering too. I think it can be a hard thing to understand but I think it's really important, especially for women, to understand.

Hang in there.

Tiffany said...

This is a great post for which you should never apologize. Part of why I read your blog is because you have captured what it is like to live with depression so well. It has helped me to understand other people in my life. Often I think that when people offer pick-yourself-up advice is it more about their inability to be comfortable with negative emotion.

I loved what you said: "Nobody else's hardships were able to negate my reality, and I had to decide that it was okay to feel that way and okay to talk about it and okay to get help."

Bravo, girl. You're exactly right.

Carrie Stuart said...

This is SO right on. It's like when you have a child with a disability and you GRIEVE for all the typical things that you may never get to see that child do or experience...and someone says, "At least your child doesn't have (fill in the blank)" I HATED that. I have a right to grieve for my own experience. It's not helpful to try to negate my feelings. I'm glad that you can recognize this and do what you need to do. Wishing you all the best as you try to make it through this the best you can!

Janae said...

I appreciate you being willing to talk about depression and pregnancy publicly. I've learned a lot from how you keep enduring, and you are an inspiration to me.

I also appreciate you saying, "Nobody else's hardships were able to negate my reality, and I had to decide that it was okay to feel that way and okay to talk about it and okay to get help."

I so often feel like I SHOULDN'T be feeling depressed or sad. Like something's wrong with me. But it is normal to have all types of feelings, and you writing this allowed me to realize that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog!

Kristina said...

I know how you feel. It's like a cousin put it, "Everyone's bad is different." Our trials are given to us for us to endure. No one else. We can't compare ourselves to others. In my first depressive episode, I did the same thing as you: mentally beat myself up for being depressed. And you know what, it made it worse. Like you, I had to recognize my feelings, realize it was ok that I felt that way, and find someone (a therapist) to talk to about it. That's when I started to heal. That, and summer came, which usually dispels depression and brings on the hypomania.
You know what else bugs me? When people try to "make me feel better" by comparing themselves to me. I find that it belittles what I'm going through. Anyhow. I don't think you were offensive. But then again, I've been in the same boat as you (well, not the pregnant part).

amersrae said...

Keep smiling. However melancholy it might be. :)

Bonnie said...

People just don't get it. Depression is a disease! If someone has cancer you don't tell them to "snap out of it" or "aren't you glad you aren't paralyzed?"
I think you are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

Rae said...

I didn't find this offensive in the least. Your life is just that- yours- and we're all dealing with our own, with each of their varying degrees of difficulty. I appreciate your candor and honesty. There isn't enough of that in the world, so thank you for your blog.

Leca said...

WOW! I've never heard anyone talk openly about their depression. I think we all pretend it just doesn't happen. I've been on meds for several years myself. I recently tried to get off of them but it didn't go so well. My docotor keeps telling me it's a disease. If you had high blood pressure you'd take meds right? Well this is the same thing. I've lived for years avoiding the topic so hats off to you that you can talk about it.
I hope that this 10 weeks goes quickly. I know it's like a breath of fresh air to be on meds and feel like yourself again. I too knew I had a great life and nothing to be upset about-- it just wasn't a feeling I could take away.
Thanks for giving me courage to be more open.

If you need a laugh check out my blog www.lecaunplugged.blogspot.com

allie said...

You just said what I have felt with each of my pregnancies. I feel for you and hope you get what you need to make it through. Thanks for posting this!

Em said...

Tell it, sista!

Kim said...

My advisor at school once told me to "Fake it till you make it" after I told her I couldn't continue with my PhD program because I had to deal with my depression first.

She obviously had no clue what depression is all about. I tried the "faking" being happy for a long time, it doesn't work.

The Queen Vee said...

It's a deal!

As hard as we might try we can never really walk in someone else's moccasins.

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