By Stacey Lurie, LCSW
Group Therapy Los Angeles
I didn’t enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this year. But you never would have guessed it from looking at me.
My husband and I got into a fight early in the day. I don’t even remember what it was about. My four-year-old was grumpy because he was getting sick. My older (and only) sister and I used to be very close; lately we have drifted apart which is sad.
A week later, when my mom asked me if I enjoyed the holiday, I didn’t know what to say. To admit to my mom that I didn’t really find any enjoyment or pleasure in being with our whole family would be incredibly hurtful to her. My mom did not work outside of the home when I was growing up. She used to say that her family was her job. To tell my mom the truth about how I felt seemed almost traitorous.
But I realized it wasn’t traitorous to her as I initially feared. It was traitorous to my patients and to myself.
As a mental health professional, part of my work (as I see it) is to encourage, help and model how to communicate honestly, regardless of how the message might be perceived or misperceived. To remove whatever obstacles are keeping people from having the freeing experience that comes from truthful, genuine and authentic expression.
The people that sit on the couch in my office trust that I am qualified to guide them through this process. For me to ask them to do something that I was unable to do was problematic for me.
Then the realization hit me like a hammer. My discomfort revolved around one meal on one day of the year. This is what daily life is like for moms suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. Every. Single. Day.
Moms with postpartum depression work hard everyday to accomplish two things; make it through the day and conceal, minimize, mask what they are actually experiencing. If any given day is filled with seemingly insurmountable tasks, what are the holidays like for a mom who is fighting episodes of depression or bouts of anxiety? What amount of effort, angst and pain must it take to project, not only the appearance of wellness, but the appearance of contentment and joy?
The effort of this feat would exhaust even the most intact and functional of psyches. For the already fragile and fatigued psyche of a depressed mom, the effort is mammoth.
A recent article on the website psychcentral.com sums it up beautifully; “just because it’s holiday season doesn’t mean everyone should pretend to be happy when they are not, because that can, in itself, be depressing”.
I have a new and greater sense of empathy for women battling the debilitating symptoms of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. And in the spirit of the season, I would like to offer them all a gift: be whoever you are and wherever you are in your struggle with PPD. If you are not able to find or feel any joy in this year’s holiday season, there will be others in the future when you will. You are not alone in this fight.
To join a PPD support group, please contact us at [email protected]