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The ‘M’ Word

January 13, 2011

I’m going to take a risk here. Say something controversial. I feel really nervous saying this – even though those who know me know controversy is nothing new for me – largely because I’m afraid of what others in the PPD community would say.

I don’t consider myself to have a mental illness.

Okay, it’s out there. Here’s where this is coming from.

There’s discussion going on about perceptions of mental illness following what happened in Arizona last weekend. People who have dealt with issues like PPD (see? I can’t even call it a regular old illness) are making the very good point that people need to be more understanding of mental illness.

Heather Armstrong wrote about it on Dooce. Kimberly wrote what I consider a very brave and beautiful post about it on her blog All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. (Great blog title, incidentally.)

But it was Lauren Hale who started me thinking about this with her post on My Postpartum Voice. I saw her question on Twitter: “How did postpartum change your view of mental illness?” My immediate thought: “It didn’t.” I’ve been thinking about this for days now, and it still doesn’t. Not really, anyway.

I’m not sure why that is. Is it because I’m not willing to admit it? Is it because there’s such a stigma attached to that term – mental illness – that I’m not even going to let my brain go there? It took me a really long time to accept that I had a problem and ask for help. It took me even longer to broach the subject of medication. And even longer to actually ask for a prescription.

I had a conversation with some friends at work yesterday about parenting. I admitted that before I had a child I always thought I would manage to be some sort of perfect human being in order to raise him in some sort of perfect way. (Yeah, I know, I have issues. And denial is only the tip of the iceberg.) And then I had a child and, postpartum depression aside, I realized I’m only human and some days I’m less perfect than others and that’s okay. Or, it should be okay. (Yeah, yeah. I’m working on it.) But the point of the conversation was that it seems, for many people, your crazy doesn’t come out until you have kids.

And I’m willing to joke about it in that way. “Oh yeah, my crazy definitely came out after I had a baby.” But it’s only partly a joke. I do accept it as such. I consider it my crazy, without implying judgment in the use of the word the way many people do – and are, after last weekend’s events.

So why don’t I define that as mental illness? I honestly don’t know.

Does it matter? I honestly don’t know.

Are there parts of this I need to accept in order to get better? Maybe. For now I’m just willing to listen to others’ perspectives and allow my thoughts around this to evolve.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 9:01 pm

    Call it what you want. It is what it is. I call it a mental disorder, but that’s just me. The important thing is that you acknowledge and are addressing the issue. Kudos to you!

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