How Culture Sets Us Up for Postpartum Mood Disorders
Updated: May 14
In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would go back to the original reason why I started writing this blog, and talk about postpartum mood disorders. Today, I want to demystify postpartum depression and anxiety a little bit by telling you exactly where they come from.
You see, parents of today's culture were brought up in a way that would make it very difficult NOT to have a postpartum mood disorder. This explains why when almost any mother opens up and starts talking about her struggle with postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, almost every other mother in the room nods and says, "Oh my gosh! Me too!"
It's really very simple. So let's break it down a little bit.
First, the children of my generation were largely brought up to focus on themselves and their own personal progress. As children, we spent most of our childhood focused on doing well in school and filling our spare time with self-enriching activities (sports, music lessons, dance, etc.). There was very little focus on caring for others and the general tribe.
Second, not only did we spend most of our childhood focused on school, but our modern day schooling is all about getting the "right" answer. Western culture has largely lost any respect for intuition, and structured schooling leaves very little room for debate or questioning. Everything is about getting it "right" and getting a stamp of approval from the authorities. Study the text book and regurgitate the right answer for the test. Good girl!
Third, after years of primary education, many of us set our sights on college. All of our education as children leads up to this next step. We study for years in order to get a good standardized test score so that we can go away for college and spend four years with very little direction and acting extremely irresponsibly. Once again, this time frame is completely focused on the self. I study want I want. I make friends that make me look good. I stay out until 4 in the morning drinking because I can. I go to class when I feel like it, etc. You get the picture.
Finally, we enter the work force. Women today have the privilege of being able to achieve higher education and of getting pretty much any job that they want. So after college, they often get a job where they get a taste once again of individual achievement. There is a sense of productivity and the focus is on intellectual pursuits and making money to spend it on whatever YOU want. Each day is pretty predictable and the focus is on your skills and development. eSo the sum of all of these steps trains you to focus on your SELF and your own success. It also prepares you to be in a pretty structured environment and to memorize the right answers in order to be successful.
Then BAM!!!!!! Along the way you get married or find a serious boyfriend or are just irresponsible in a one night stand. Before you know it, you have undergone the extremely primal and animalistic experience of childbirth and you are left with a tiny human to keep alive.
There is no right answer.
There is no regular schedule.
The intellect is completely useless.
Your self, your needs, your desires, get put completely on the back burner.
Being parents, is something that we are COMPLETELY UNPREPARED FOR. Not only are we unprepared, but we are conditioned in a way that honestly makes us extremely poor candidates for the job.
It's no wonder that our minds go haywire! How would we not feel lonely? How could we not panic? How could we not feel bored and unstimulated and like our lives have been overtaken by unending mundane tasks. The truth is that they have!
We go from a lifetime of self-centered pursuits and intellectual stimulation and organized teamwork and getting stamps of approval for memorizing the right answer to diapers and sleeplessness and nonstop care of a helpless creature often in complete isolation where there is no right answer.
And I am in no way saying that motherhood is not full of beauty and wonder and incredible moments. In fact, it completely is. However, we are not prepared to notice these things.
The contrast between what we are prepared for and the fate that we inherit is completely shocking.
So yes, you have postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. So do most of us! But it's not because you have some indefinable hormone imbalance or nutrient deficiency or hidden childhood trauma. The only entity that benefits from that shitty diagnosis is the mental health industry that stands ready at the door with endless pill prescriptions.
The true reality is that today's mothers have the job not only of raising their children, but also of raising themselves so that they can enjoy motherhood and be successful at it. They have to be able to observe and hold their poor little conditioned minds that scream, "I CANNOT do this!" while they hold their screaming babies and toddlers, and find a way that yes, indeed they can.
And the guaranteed road to success is to go back before all of the conditioning and schooling and experiences to the essence of who and what we really are. It is and always will be completely reliable.
You CAN do this. And so can I!