10 Things Men Need To Stop Saying About Postpartum Depression, Immediately
Prior to having my son, I had lightly researched postpartum depression (PPD) and all it entails. It was casually mentioned during a doctor's appointment and there was a small chapter about PPD in a few parenting books and I felt confident that, if I did get PPD, I would be able to "handle it." I was wrong. Suffering through postpartum depression was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and that difficulty was exacerbated by the judgment, shame and stigma that came with it. That's why there are things men need to stop saying about PPD. Hell, that's why there are things society needs to stop saying about PPD. Having postpartum depression is difficult enough. Being forced to listen to ignorant statements, makes it worse.
I was so very fortunate that I had a partner who, while physically unable to ever experience postpartum depression, was supportive and understanding and empathetic. My partner didn't tell me to "get over it" and never doubted my diagnoses. He didn't compare me to other mothers and he didn't tell me to forgo medication or treatment. It seems that, for many, it's easy to discredit postpartum depression because they'll never experience it, especially cisgender men who will never become pregnant and, therefore, will never run the risk of having postpartum depression. For some, having never gone through something makes it easier for them to point that that "something" and say, "That's not real, and neither is your experience." That's why so many women stay silent when they realize they're suffering from postpartum depression. That's why mothers are afraid to speak up or ask for help. That's why "suffering" and postpartum depression, tragically, go hand-in-hand.
That's also why it's vital that we change the conversation about and surrounding postpartum depression. Women need to feel supported and understood, and men can help facilitate that necessary support by refusing to say the following things. You don't have to experience postpartum depression yourself, to realize that the women who do suffer through PPD need support.
"Is That Even A Real Thing?"
Yes, yes it is a real thing. Just because you can't and/or haven't experienced something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Arguably one of the worst things a partner can do to a woman suffering from postpartum depression, is force her to fight to validate her postpartum depression. No. No no no no no. Postpartum depression is a real thing that affects 1 in 7 mothers.
"Can't You Just Snap Out Of It?"
Oh, if only it was that simple. No, you can't just "snap out" of postpartum depression. If you could, trust me, countless woman would. However, telling a new mom suffering from postpartum depression that she should just "snap out of it," makes her feel like she's flawed or broken because she can't. You're literally making her postpartum depression worse, by telling her that she should do something she physically and mentally cannot do.
"I Know Other New Moms That Are Really Happy"
Pitting women against one another by way of constant comparison seems to be par for society's sexist course. I would argue the constant comparisons and unrealistic expectations grow even worse, once you become a mother. Comparing one new mom to the next is not only hurtful, it tells one mother (hell, every mother) that she's not enough. When you're suffering from postpartum depression, being told that other mothers are happy and being asked, "Why can't you be more like them?" is like hearing, "There's something wrong with you and you're not good enough and who you are, as a human being and a woman and a mother, is wrong."
"You're Just Sad"
There is a massive difference between postpartum depression and sadness. They're not the same. They'll never be the same. They don't feel the same or look the same. Please, don't downplay someone's postpartum depression by equating it to a feeling you get when your favorite television show is canceled.
"Can't You Make Yourself Happy?"
The idea that just gritting your teeth and pushing through emotional pain and essentially "getting over it" is a valid option for women suffering from postpartum depression (or anyone suffering from any mental illness) is why the suffering continues. If you wouldn't tell a person to just make their broken arm fix itself, you shouldn't tell a woman suffering from postpartum depression to just make herself happy. That's not how this works.
"This Means You Don't Want To Be A Mom..."
Postpartum depression absolutely does not mean that a woman doesn't want to be a mom. It's not indicitive of how much love she has for her child or what kind of parent she's going to be. This ignorant notion is one of the many reasons why mothers with postpartum depression stay silent. The judgment and the shame and the idea that moms are"bad mothers" because they have PPD, is actually hurting women.
"...And You've Made A Mistake..."
Nope. False. Absolutely not. No.
"...And You Won't Be A Good Mother"
Struggling doesn't make you a bad mother. Needing help doesn't make you a bad mother. Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed doesn't make you a bad mother. Admitting that sometimes you don't want to be a mother, doesn't make you a bad mother. And, no, having postpartum depression doesn't make you a bad mother.
"You Don't Need Medication"
Unless you are a licensed medical practitioner and/or mental health professional, you don't get to decide if someone does or does not need medication.
"Postpartum Depression Is Just A Cry For Attention"
You'll hear "a cry for attention," sadly, whenever you talk about most mental illnesses or just mental health in general. Unfortunately, some people discredit conditions like depression or anxiety by claiming someone suffering is "dramatic" or even a liar. It's disgusting. It's rooted in ignorance. It's keeping people from getting the help and treatment and support they need and deserve. It's usually said by people who have never experienced depression or any other kind of mental illness.
Postpartum depression isn't a dramatic "cry for help," it's a condition that is so stigmatized and judged, that women are too embarrassed or guilt-ridden to get diagnosed and seek treatment. It's something completely out of a mother's control. It's something we all need to better understand so that, in turn, we can better support women.