20 September 2012

Stigmas are like constipated bumholes with hemorrhoids

When I first started spiraling down into the clutches of PostPartum Depression after my first baby was born, one of the things that kept me from reaching out for help was the feeling and notion that I was alone, that nobody would understand what I was going through and dealing with. There was such a huge sense of isolation and it both angered and terrified me. It solidified my decision to keep my mouth shut and just try to deal with things on my own. It's one of the reasons I blog, Tweet, Facebook, and generally take any opportunity I can to talk about PPD, to try to reach out to others who may be feeling the same way. I want everyone to know what I didn't, what I wish I had learned sooner: that far from being alone, there are many others going through the same thing, and more are starting to speak out all every day.

Over the last couple of years since I was fighting my own battle and feeling so terribly alone, I've discovered that there is a whole community of women online who have been there, done that, or are there and doing it right now. The community spans across multiple venues: blogs (I have a few linked here), Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags such as #ppdchat, and more. Everyone has their own story to tell. No two experiences are identical but the goal is: to gain and give support and to fight the stigma that surrounds PostPartum Depression, other PPMD, and mental health in general.

One of the blogs I frequent is called Band Back Together. Yesterday, I was able to(momentarily, while nursing Aaron) join their Twitter chat session #withtheband, hosted by @bandbacktogether. The tweet that caught my attention said
Who's gonna come party with me tonight? We're gonna be putting names and faces to invisible illness, mental disease and others!
Oh cool! I want in on that! So, I hopped on Twitter. I didn't get to stay for very long but in the time I was there, someone tweeted "because stigmas are assholes". I responded "Yes they are. Smelly constipated ones with hemorrhoids."

And you know what? They are. Okay, maybe it's not THE most polite analogy, but you know what? Stigmas aren't polite. When I made the crack (pun not intended), I wasn't thinking any deep thoughts (yeah yeah, how could that particular topic be deep? You might be surprised...). I was just being a smart-ass. Hemorrhoids and constipation were on my brain because they're a couple of the potential nasty little side effects of childbirth which, despite not getting talked about a whole lot, I have had the misfortune to suffer from after all three of my babies now.

Yes, I realized yesterday that I was uncomfortably constipated. So much so that my tummy HURT. I took several laxatives before bed and suffered another 12-plus hours before things finally... ahem... got moving. When I did go, I felt so much better afterwards but holy COW did my butt hurt! My perineum tore a little when Aaron was born so I have stitches there, plus the hemorrhoids and swelling... let's just say it was more than a little unpleasant.

You may be wondering "What in the world do constipation and hemorrhoids have to do with stigma?!?". They have several things in common.

  1. They're gross.
  2. They hurt.
  3. They're a pain in the butt.
  4. Nobody wants them.
  5. They're not polite.
  6. They're no respecter of persons.
  7. If left untreated, they can develop into something serious.
Constipated hemorrhoidal tushies aren't something that anyone wants to be dealing with, and neither are stigmas. They both hurt like the dickens. hey sting, they burn, they're flat-out painful. They both have to be treated or you run the risk of developing more serious complications. They're both uncomfortable topics. And they can't be treated without being acknowledged.

Just as you have to realize that there's a problem with your bum to be able to clear up constipation and hemorrhoids and then go further by actively seeking out the correct treatment (laxatives, ointments, etc.), the stigmas that surround PPD and mental health in general aren't going to get better and go away while people avoid talking about them. As long as people continue to be more comfortable sticking their heads in the sand and pretending it's not an issue while throwing around attitudes and phrases like "It's all in your head, you just need to make up your mind to be happy", "Just get over it already", and "That's just a cop out", the stigmas are here to stay. And as long as the stigmas stick around, people will continue to keep their mouths shut about their problems, feeling ashamed and guilty for something that's not their fault. New moms will continue to battle PPD alone, feeling like they're just a bad mother or they must be doing something wrong.

It's time to stop uselessly scratching an itch and trying to treat the hemorrhoids with ice cubes and pull out the MiraLax and Preparation-H. It's time to start educating ourselves and those around us, time to speak up when we hear something being thrown around that is untrue and hurtful. It's time to flush the poop of stigma down the drain.


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