Sunday, September 10, 2017

PPD and Me; pt. 2 - Authenticity

Most of you know I suffer from postpartum depression (PPD). If you didn't, you do now! I explained my PPD earlier. What I didn't explain was how difficult it is to remain "authentic" or true to myself. 

It's common knowledge that everyone puts their best foot forward when sharing personal stories online. Hollywood has trained us to want happy endings. You read a story about someone's difficulties in hopes there is a nice ending, an ending that makes you smile. The truth of reality is there are no such things as "happy endings" while we're still alive. That's not to say there aren't happy moments. Because there are a ton of those. It's that they aren't endings. There aren't really any endings in life. Everything is a moment passing by. (I feel like the way I'm phrasing this is really cynical and depressing, but I'm not meaning to say it that way. I'm trying to convey that life doesn't create neatly packaged little stories for you. Life is a string of moments--both happy and sad--that continue forever. It's not a bad thing.)

I enjoy "happy endings" in stories. I enjoy finding out that the dog finds a "furever" home. I love when strangers help each other out of tragic situations. I'm not immune to those. They melt my heart. But they are never the whole story. The dog doesn't find a home and then cease to exist. He'll likely pee on the carpet, get scolded for stealing table food, or bark at 3 in the morning. The stranger that carried the old woman through flood waters has to go back to a destroyed home. The old woman now has to worry about finding food when she is unable to walk alone. It's not all flowers and sunshine. It's life. 

That's what I want to share with you today. I want to be real with you. I want to be "authentic". It's important to me that you understand you aren't alone. You experience setback and pains and there is no "happily ever after" for some of those. This story isn't going to end, at least not with "and then my PPD went away and I was able to live happily forever!" It'll likely end subtly, after many ups and downs. I won't wake up one morning and have my PPD suddenly be washed away in the shower. It'll take time, and I likely won't realize it's gone until months after when I haven't posted about it, when I haven't thought about it. And I likely won't know what to say to wrap it into a neat little package. 

It's difficult to maintain authenticity when you suffer from any sort of mental illness. It's not because we don't want to be ourselves, but because no one wants to hear about the sad parts. People want to hear that you're "okay". They want to know that you aren't suffering. Not because they don't care, but because they can't help. That's alright. There's nothing wrong with wanting our loved ones to be okay. I always want my loved ones to be more than okay. I also want myself to be "okay". Some days, though, I'm just not okay. And that's alright. I don't always need to be okay. But I always need to be honest about it. 

We all do. It never helps anyone to put on a mask and pretend they're okay when friends ask. It helps them to be honest. It helps to say "hey, you know what, I am suffering from a lot of anxiety right now, and I don't think I can meet up for lunch." It helps to be able to answer "I'm not doing so great" when someone asks how you are. That's what relieves some of the pressure. 

Society unintentionally wants us to all be "okay." We want happy answers. We want to feel like the world is alright. Because of that, those suffering feel like we are burdening the world. We answer "okay" so we don't create more problems. It's not fair to "unload" by telling people we aren't okay. 

You can't tell, but these are
my footy pajamas. 
But that's all wrong. Not just that society wants us to answer "okay", but that we are burdens. We aren't. When I began suffering from PPD, I didn't want people to know. I wasn't ashamed, I just felt like it didn't need to be shared. I don't introduce myself and say "I'm Morgan, and I have postpartum depression. Also I sleep in footy pajamas." Those aren't things we say to each other right off the bat. But they are things we should say (maybe not the pajamas part, but seriously they're perfect for cold nights). The more I thought about it and read about PPD, the more I understood that in order for life to get better, I had to let others acknowledge the "not okay" parts. 

I had to say "hey, I know you were going to come visit, but I am suffering from some major depression and having company is overwhelming to me. Can we take a raincheck?" Know what that friend answered? "Of course! I'm really sorry to hear you're suffering from that. I know it can't be easy. I'll text you in a couple of days to see how you're doing." And then she did. She wasn't ignoring the problem, she was giving me space, and then showing she cared about me. 

By writing this, I want to show others they aren't alone. I'm not trying to normalize depression (because it's already a normal thing in the lives of most people). I want people to understand that PPD, and life in general, doesn't need to be perfectly cropped Instagram photos, or "happily ever afters". Life is a string of events. 

I so badly want to write happy endings on this blog. I want to say "Look at what I overcame." The truth is, my life isn't like that. I have overcome a lot (C-section anyone?), but I also am continuing to do that. My life isn't in cute little boxes. My life is more like my office, a cluttered mess of things I need. My life is a series of going to the elementary school, going to work, trying to get M to let go of my hair, and acknowledging that I can't do it all. 

Just like every other blogger on the planet, I want views. If I didn't want views, I wouldn't be putting it online. What gets views? Happy endings. Happy endings spread like wildfire. My blog will have happy moments, and happy posts, but it's likely not going to have a lot of happy endings. That's not authentic. It's not real. 

Real is me telling you that I had to stop doing the 0-200 challenge I mentioned because I had a C-section four months ago. Real is me showing you my life, good and bad, without sugar coatings. It's tough to do that. No one wants to read about someone else's failures (unless you want to make yourself feel better about your own...). 

If you're wondering what
oil made my nose scruch,
it was this one.
10K a Day can be painful.
As I write about PPD and my experiences with it, I fight with myself. "Throw in a happy ending." "No, don't do that. That's not real." "What is real?" "I don't know, I don't remember philosophy 1010." It's a constant discussion in my head. It's hard. It's hard to say "I am not perfect" because I am perfectly me. My leg currently doesn't want to walk a whole lot (10,000 steps is a lot a day). My inside scars don't feel so great. I'm exhausted and I don't want to see people. But I want to put on a happy face and share silly anecdotes (like the time I fell backwards over a chair in front of at least 2 dozen people). I want to tell you about how bad I am at keeping my facial expressions even when smelling the worst essential oil I have ever smelled. Sometimes, those feel like lies. They all happened, but they don't always feel real because there's more than that little tidbit. It's important to me to share all the aspects of life, the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. That's what I find authentic. Sometimes I'll have moments that seem like happy endings, but they're really just happy moments. Sometimes, I'll write painfully long posts about how hard it is to make important connections when it takes all your effort to just get out of bed.  

PPD has made it abundantly clear to me that life isn't all happy moments. There is the flip side where things are hard and dark. Those moments need to be shared, too. Without sugar, without funny pictures, without a happy ending. PPD doesn't have happy endings. It doesn't have sad ones either. It just doesn't have an ending. It might fade over time, maybe you "get over it", but it will forever shape your life. You will forever have that moment in your life. That's what life is about. Nothing truly ends. It continues and grows and morphs into more than one moment. I'll look back on this PPD someday and I'll remember how it shaped my ability to write. I'll remember what sacrifices I made just to take care of M. It will be a part of my life forever. It might not be active, but it will never end

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