Ok, so you have someone in your life who doesn’t understand what you’re going through… or maybe a bunch of someones?
How do you get them to understand? You teach them. I’m a teacher and if I have a student who doesn’t know how to accurately cite research using MLA parenthetical notation (please keep reading, I’ll stop nerding out after this analogy, I promise) then I need to teach it to them. This instance with your partner, in-laws, parents, friends, co-workers – fill-in-the-blank – is no different: it’s a teachable moment.
What I have learned while getting treatment is that majority of women suffering from Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD– the real name since it can start during pregnancy) are helpers. We are teachers, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc.… we help others. We tend to put others’ needs before our own and calling someone out for their insensitivity can go against this need to “help.” However, having someone in your life who is making your healing process more difficult won’t help anyone or anything, including your relationship with that person.
So, how do you “teach” someone about what you’re going through? That’s entirely up to you and it may be different based on who the person is that needs an education, but these 3 ideas may get you started:
- Talk. It seems simple, but sometimes talking is anything but simple. Figure out your words ahead of time and then schedule a sit down to discuss your feelings in a safe place. You may even want to write down your thoughts first so you can figure out the major points you want to make. When it comes to matters of the heart, it can be easy to ramble. Try and stay true to your big issues or points and avoid language that would make whoever you are speaking with feel attacked (“I feel a lot less anxious when visitors wash their hands before touching the baby” versus “I’m asking you to wash your hands, which is a simple request, but you continue to not do it”).
- Ask. Ask someone to do the talking for you. Communicate with your speaker what you would like to be said, but make sure that you trust this person and they have enough knowledge of the situation to adequately respond to any questions the non-understanding party may have.
- My husband took this role and it made me less anxious than having to do it myself (because I KNEW I would cry if I had to do it myself). BUT, I had to really hold back asking him incessant questions like: How did they take it? Were they upset? Do they think I’m crazy? Do they get it?
- Educate. Politely send them *up-to-date* literature about PMAD so that they can learn on their own. You can print articles to give them or you can send them links via email, text, or social media.
- This is a great hands-off approach that would allow the other party to process the information on their own time and in their own space. We all know people who would somehow turn a friendly and open discussion into them being attacked ::eye roll:: This is the way I would handle that kind of person – they can bitch and moan privately and once they put on their big-boy/girl pants then you can one day have a discussion together. You may also want to include in your message that you aren’t ready to talk about it in person at this point, but thought it would help them to better understand what you’re going through in the meantime. That way they don’t see the literature as an opportunity to get their two cents in because, guess what, it’s not about them.
What if they are not teachable at all?
What if you tried any/all of these tactics and nothing worked?
What if being around this person continues to trigger your symptoms?
My advice is, and this is going to be harsh, to just say “fuck them” and move on. If they aren’t aiding in your recovery then perhaps they need to take a backseat to your needs and you can return to them once you are healed. Because guess what? You WILL heal. And just like you, your relationship with that person can be healed too.
I love you. I see you. You’re doing a great job.
Amy is married to her best friend, a mom to a wonderful baby girl, & a pet-mom to two cats and a dog. She enjoys watching Netflix, drinking wine, & laughing at her own jokes (she may even have chuckled as she wrote this).