This Isn't What I Expected

Notes on healing postpartum depression

No Time for Therapy

Prioritizing is hard when a baby is in the picture.

"I Don't Have Time for Therapy"

This is true. Postpartum women don’t have time. This may be the biggest factor that impedes recovery from the outset. Women with new babies (whether they are depressed or not) are overwhelmed, exhausted and trying desperately to cope with unknown and random variables. Their heads are spinning as they attempt to incorporate previously simple tasks into their new family structure. Some of them fit nicely. Many do not. Women with postpartum depression are less able to navigate these challenges and find themselves easily overcome by the demands of simply getting through the day. Finding time to squeeze just one more thing in, can feel impossible.

But time is a relative concept. Most of us know this to be true in our own lives. I don’t have time to exercise, is a good example. Or, I don’t have time to sit with my husband and relax or read a book. Everyone works hard. Everyone does the best she can. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time in the day and in her life. And yet some people do seem to have more time to do get things done don’t they? Why is that? Are they are more motivated? Better organized? More efficient? More compulsive? Less compulsive? Do they care more about certain things? Are they more focused or less exhausted? Are they eating better? There are all kinds of reasons. But the fact remains that we all have precisely the same amount of time. If taking care of yourself means you must do less of something else, that’s a choice each of us is free to make. This is not to suggest that this is easy. But it’s a choice, nonetheless.

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In this context, we need to do our best to help a postpartum woman pick the option of taking care of herself instead of putting herself at the bottom of her list of things to take care of. We can rely on scores of clichés to help us make this point to our clients: You can take better care of your children if you take care of yourself. Happy healthy mothers have happy healthy babies. Flight attendants remind parents to put the oxygen mask over their own mouths first so they can save their children.

And finally, keep this in mind. When postpartum women say they do not have time to come to therapy or seek treatment or get help, it is more than just an excuse. It is a symptom. Asking for and accepting help is just another way of screaming “I’m sick” and many women do not feel ready or able to accept that.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as giving them permission to do so.

 

Karen Kleiman, LCSW  postpartumstress.com

Adapted from "Therapy and the Postpartum Woman" (Routledge, 2009)

 

Karen Kleiman is founder and director of The Postpartum Stress Center, a treatment and training center for prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

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