Postnatal Depression: When your own expectations are letting you down…

So, as I alluded to in my previous post, I’ve lately been feeling as though my medication has simply stopped working.  My mood seems intensely darkened again, my HF and I are fighting about every little thing, my ability to cope seems to have shortened significantly.  Hence, in a gallant effort to bring my PND-M (Postnatal Depression Monster) down to his knees, I made yet another appointment with the wonderful Dr J to discuss what is happening.  And this is what she said…

“Cut yourself some slack.  You can’t do everything.”

Okay, so maybe the LM has been sick for the better part of 3 months (with only a few days relief here and there in between).  Maybe I have returned to work and, despite this being a positive thing in my mind, it does impact my weekly routine in a way it wasn’t impacted whilst I was on leave.  Maybe I did have the worst case of tonsillitis I’ve had in a number of years and didn’t take any significant time to adequately recuperate.  Maybe, just maybe I think I can do more than I actually can – ?

“Lower the expectations you have for yourself.  Taking the postnatal depression out of it, even then what’s going on for you would cause anyone to experience a “down” time in their life.  The down times still happen.”

From Dr J’s perspective, it makes sense.  When there are a number of significant pressures on you, when things are compounding and your general health starts being effected, of course your mood and general ability to cope is compromised.  Depression, or no depression, this is perfectly normal.  What I understand now is, my feeling that my medication was no longer working comes from a much deeper fear… The fear I have of going back to “that place”.   Whenever I wake up feeling less than able to deal with the day ahead of me, I begin to question my PND status and fear sliding back down that slippery slope of helplessness.  Pair together a number of weeks waking up feeling this way and as you can imagine my fear and anxiety were out of control!  I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK THERE!!!!  I think my making the appointment with Dr J helped put things back into a realistic perspective.  She explained things to me in a very black and white manner.   She gave me an open invitation to make another appointment if I felt things were getting worse.  She wants me to make another appointment in 2 weeks time regardless, just to “check-in” .  Dr J has given me the confidence I needed to tackle my anxiety, and the safety net I was looking for just in case that nasty monster was in fact rearing his ugly head yet again.  Fear of relapse – yet another obstacle we must face during our postnatal depression recovery.

“Let go of your expectations.  Trust your medication is working for you.  But most importantly, trust in yourself.”

Remember Dr J’s original “broken arm” analogy (“Postnatal Depression:  A not-so-surprising diagnosis…”)?  Well, that’s exactly what her advice centred around this time also.  I simply can’t expect to do everything as I normally would BD (Before Diagnosis).  I have to let go of this overwhelming need I have to prove to myself, and everyone else around me, that I still have what it takes to cope with any and all obstacles thrown in my path.  Sure, once upon a time I may have been able to deal with everything all at once.  The simple reality for me now is… I can’t.  Get over it.  Build a bridge.  Move on!  Of course it’s much easier said than done, particularly when you’re a self-confessed perfectionist used to being in control.  It’s something I guess I’m coming to terms with (albeit slowly) and certainly something I need to work very hard on letting go… My expectations.

The whole topic of expectations reminds me of an article I once read by Dr Brenda Shoshanna,  “Building Bridges” .  Her article provides a viewpoint on expectations I often refer back to when dealing with relationships in an effort to keep things in perspective (obviously I need to refer to it more often!).  She speaks of our need to let go of any negativity and see every meeting (or situation) for what it is at that time, a bridge to the next experience.  I like her reference to the need for each of us to take ownership of our “part in the dance” and accept that people (and I guess, situations) can only offer what they are capable of offering at that particular time in their life.   It is only our expectations of ourselves and others that is letting us down, nothing more.  So incredibly true!  Now that I think about it, I can use this article when thinking about (and fearing) the return of my PND-M.  In an effort to lower my expectations, it would make sense to work on forgiving myself, and thus make peace with the pain I’ve suffered, allowing resentment and judgement (of myself) to subside.   In other words, maybe I need to make friends with my PND-M – ???  When next he knocks, perhaps I need to invite him in for a coffee and embrace what it is he has to teach me at this moment in my life.   It’s an interesting perspective and one I hadn’t really thought of until now.

Well, tonight I am off on a date-night with my HF which I’m hoping will be a lovely evening for us both.  It’s certainly been needed for a long time and is something we hope to do more regularly.  Thank you as always for reading my post and please be sure to share any thoughts you may have on your own ability to deal with expectations.  I would love to hear from you!

Take care until next time,

TSM  xx

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2 thoughts on “Postnatal Depression: When your own expectations are letting you down…

  1. Laura says:

    Let me just tell you – much of my therapy sessions are focused on the extremely high expectations I have of myself. My therapist has asked me countless times why I expect things out of myself that I don’t expect out of other people. Or why I would have compassion for a mother in a similar situation but not for myself. I generally answer with, “I don’t know.”

    I like this quote, “People can only offer what they are capable of offering at that particular time in their life.” I’m going to try and remind myself of this when I start to beat myself up about certain things.

  2. It seems to be so common amongst mums with PND, doesn’t it? My therapist says exactly the same things to me… And really, why aren’t we thinking of ourselves in the same light? You’ve quoted my favourite line also, Lauren. Just that simple phrase quite often has the ability to bring me back down to earth and helps me question where they real unrest is coming from… And most of the time it’s indeed coming from what I expect of others (or myself). Frustrating, but is good to know! Thanks so much for your comment and glad my post may have helped (even just a little bit). x

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