So, it’s Saturday afternoon, right? And you’re probably thinking you should take a nap, right? (Right. Always nap. Do not question me on this one.)
Well, don’t nap until you’ve read the latest post in the Rally.
This afternoon, one of my friends to the north (i.e. Canada), Robin from Farewell, Stranger, is talking about labels and mental health and how people avoid talking about mental health because they want to avoid being labeled.
Robin is a sweet, sweet soul and she’s going through a difficult time right now in regards to her recovery from PPD/A. Send her your good thoughts and encouragement.
Labels are hard. Especially when they relate to mental health.
I’ve always been kind of afraid of “mental health” issues. Even after I realized I was dealing with one.
After my son was born I had postpartum depression but I didn’t know it. When a counsellor suggested that’s what I was dealing with, I didn’t just shrug it off – I actually told her I wasn’t interested in discussing it. I didn’t want the label.
Eventually, quite by coincidence, I came across a reference to postpartum depression in a book I was reading. It mentioned anger and a tendency toward outbursts that were all too familiar. So PPD isn’t just “depression”? I sure wish someone had told me that before.
After that, I started to accept the label. PPD. Okay, I could handle that. It was clearly linked to having had a baby.
But my son is now almost three, so is it still PPD? There are lots of theories on that, and generally I still choose to refer to myself as having PPD, though I’m now starting to accept that I also had issues with depression much earlier in my life (including antenatal depression, which I now remember Googling, thinking, “huh,” and then deciding to ignore entirely). Delving further, I realized I’m no stranger to anxiety either, and after that it just became a can of worms. The way I see it, I may as well fish with those worms. Bound to find something at the bottom of this pond that will help.
I’m now regularly seeing my GP, a therapist and a psychiatrist. I’m taking medication and, for right now, I’m actually on a leave from work. All this for someone who originally didn’t even want to talk about a little three-letter acronym yet spent an hour a week crying in a counsellor’s office when my child was eight months old.
My road to dealing with my mental health issues has been long, and it’s because I wasn’t willing to accept the labels. The stigma.
So much of this road I’m travelling is because I didn’t know enough about it. And neither did my family or my friends or even my family doctor.
I didn’t know that rage was a symptom of depression.
I didn’t know that postpartum depression could start when your baby is a few months old.
I didn’t know that some of what I was experiencing – and that was preventing me from dealing with the other stuff – was anxiety.
I thought medication was scary. I didn’t know how helpful it could be (even if it doesn’t solve all the problems).
I thought asking for help was an admission of weakness. I didn’t know it’s actually a sign of strength.
I thought telling people would make them think less of me. I didn’t know it would make them think I was brave.
I wish I’d known all of this before. If I had, maybe my road to recovery would have been a little less long. But if I had, maybe I wouldn’t have learned as much, and met others with similar issues, and been willing to talk about it. Because it turns out those labels aren’t so scary after all, and there are lots of people willing to hold your hand and walk that road with you.
Robin has a gift for words, y’all. A real, honest, straight-out-of-the-box gift. She explains the title of her blog in the post On Motherhood and Losing Yourself. Go read it. It’s so true. She hosts a weekly blog link-up called Fledgling Fridays designed to give exposure to those new to the blogging world.