I have the honor of sharing Cindy Patterson’s Mama Story with you today, and we are getting into a topic that is under-shared far too often: postpartum depression.
The World Health Organization estimates that 10-15% of all mothers experience postpartum depression, yet it is under-diagnosed and under-treated. Cindy shares the intimate details of what it is like to experience uncontrollable anxiety, worry, tearfulness, and irritability, and how she found peace.
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PLEASE NOTE – If you find yourself feeling triggered as you read or become aware that you are experiencing some of the feelings Cindy describes, I encourage you to use the warmline hosted by Postpartum Support International. You can call and receive further information, support, and referrals to resources in your location.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted everything to be perfect when I arrived home from the hospital.
I visualized what life would look like postpartum.
Rocking him to sleep at night…because he eventually would sleep, right?
Waking up in the morning to a smiling and cooing baby…because eventually you do fall asleep, right?
What I didn’t visualize were the periods of irritability, anxiety, worry, and the episodes of uncontrollable crying or tearfulness.
All of these symptoms I experienced, and what 10-15% of women experience postpartum is typically referred to as postpartum depression (PPD).
I found myself in a vicious cycle of emotional turmoil.
I was definitely sleep deprived, but what new mother is not sleep deprived?
In addition, I had difficulty breast feeding and a very challenging baby.
I found it difficult adjusting to my new role as a mother and in letting go of the “perfect mom” expectations I had of myself.
The hormonal and physical changes coupled with stress was taking its toll on my physical and mental well-being.
I had completely lost control.
I was using all the energy I had to “fake it” while keeping my depression silent from others.
With all my energy spent, I had none left for myself.
In retrospect, I was in a state of self-neglect and self-denial, and my inner critic was never letting me forget how I was doing everything wrong.
As the years have passed and I have grown as a person and a mother, I now realize an important quality to possess in dealing with life’s difficult situations and the emotions that come with them is self-compassion.
Self-compassion is empathy towards oneself even when life’s circumstances include failure, personal inadequacies or suffering.
Rather than trying to avoid those difficult emotions or avoid those parts of ourselves, can we learn to treat ourselves with kindness and gentleness?
Why not treat yourself like you would your best friend?
I find we are way too hard on ourselves and can, in a way, become our own worst enemy.
So I’d like to share some resources on self-compassion, in hopes that you can begin to cultivate this for yourself.
“Self-compassion is approaching ourselves, our inner experience with spaciousness, with the quality of allowing which has a quality of gentleness. Instead of our usual tendency to want to get over something, to fix it, to make it go away, the path of compassion is totally different. Compassion allows.” – Robert Gonzales
How we can embody Self-Compassion?
Kindness to One’s Self – Be kind to yourself and do so in a non-judgmental way. When we start judging ourselves and making ourselves feel abnormal, we begin to isolate ourselves from others. We need to learn to open our heart to the dark and the light inside us and realize that we are perfectly normal as we are. We can begin to activate this kindness to ourselves by stopping our inner critic voice and its hurtful language.
Recognize Suffering – You are not alone in your suffering, feelings of failure, or imperfection. The human experience is not perfect and we are all in this together. There will always be others who are suffering and going through a similar experience.
Be Mindful – Become aware of your thoughts and emotions without suppressing or trying to change them. This means being open and receptive to all feelings whether they are negative or not. We can approach our thoughts, feelings and emotions from a place of equanimity.
Step 1 – Find a comfortable seated position. Begin by placing your right hand over the center of your chest and then place your left hand on top of the right hand. Feel the warmth of the hands as they rest on your heart center. Bring your awareness to your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils. Let your awareness rest in this breath as your hands rest on your heart center.
Step 2 – Become aware of this moment and the suffering or difficult emotions that you are experiencing. You may repeat the following phrases silently to yourself or you may say them out loud.
“I am feeling…..”
“This suffering is part of life.”
“May I be kind to myself in this moment.”
“May I give myself the compassion I need right now.”
If you are interested in learning more about self-compassion, a good place to start is the Center for Mindful Compassion http://centerformsc.org.
Cindy Patterson currently resides in Spring Hill, Tennessee and is a Yoga Teacher/Educator, a Yoga Therapist and a mom to two very active and compassionate boys. When she’s not teaching private yoga clients, she can be found volunteering in the community or promoting the therapeutic benefits of yoga for physical and mental well-being. You can learn more about Cindy and her work at www.mindfulmovement.care