My personal battle with Postpartum anxiety.
I had always been a bit of a worrier. I could imagine a worst-case scenario with the best of them. But I remember this moving up a notch when I became pregnant. I thought it was just part and parcel to having child. You worry more. There is one more person to worry about so this seemed totally normal. Expected even.
There is a history of depression in my family. I would say common, so I was hyper aware of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. I was on a hunt for them. And I didn’t really exhibit any of them (other than that first week after giving birth to my little dude when you could set your watch by when I would cry; 6pm every single night). The term postpartum depression and the awareness of this condition were everywhere.
What I wasn’t on the lookout for was the hyper anxiety. I started using that word more often. My husband started using that word more often. Even my little sister referred to me as anxious. I started avoiding social situations because I would spiral out of control worrying about what people would think of me (and my body) now that I had a kid. I would have trouble breathing and start talking really quickly, relating all the thoughts that were happening in my brain. If Sully fell off the play structure, I would immediately start imagining him in an operating room and what Conor and I would do if we lost him. My business started to suffer because I was having trouble teaching in front of people. I would head into full blown anxiety attacks any time a Mama had to stop coming to class because I thought I was going to bankrupt our family.
This is the point where (I am sure) many of you who know me well are saying in your heads “WHHHAAAAATTT?!?!?!? But you are so social?? And upbeat!!!”. Yup. Constant worry. And then I felt I needed to hide it 24/7 and keep up the front that everything was fine. Because I am fine. I am fine. I had a baby. Many people have babies and are totally fine. I am totally fine.
It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that I was reading an article and a Mama referenced to something called “pervasive thoughts” and a seldom discussed condition called “postpartum anxiety”. Lightbulbs starting going off in my head. This was me! At first I felt a huge relief that I finally had a definition for what was happening inside if me, but incredibly sad that I was now a statistic and my A-type personality had a really hard time reconciling that.
I am still spending much of my time reconciling that. I have postpartum anxiety. What is a normal incident to most people is life altering in my head.
I am outing myself because if this reaches even one Mama who feels the way I feel, I have succeeded in helping someone else feel less like ‘other’ and more ‘normal’.
I am finally taking active steps towards lowering my anxiety and am happy to share what has been working for me. Obviously these things won’t work for everyone but it is a good start for me.
1) I signed up for Headspace, a meditation app. I had done their beginner program but really wanted to delve in and they have a session specifically for anxiety so I am working my way through that.
2) I am going to Yoga once a week. Stretching is integral for me to slow my brain down.
3) I am biking, dancing, and singing again. These are things I let drop by the wayside when I had a kid and returning to these things that feel like me are helping me feel more in my own skin.
4) I am learning to say no to situations that I know will send me into a tailspin. I used to just say yes to everything to push THROUGH the feelings I was having; ignoring all the physical and mental signs that it wouldn’t be healthy for me.
5) I am spending time by myself. I get very overwhelmed very quickly when I don’t get time to myself. Because most of my day is spent around my little dude and then a large group of Mamas and babies, I need time to decompress. And I am finally taking this time.
So that is my confession, Mamas. I am working on it. Every day.
I hope that if you feel in a place where your thoughts aren’t quite what you thought they would be that you reach out, delve deep, and figure out what can get you to the other side of feeling ‘normal’ again.
Much love (and worries),