Postpartum anxiety took over my world
Even though I’d experienced anxiety before, I was not prepared for the postpartum anxiety that snuck up on me after the birth of my second child. It came in the middle of the night, robbing me of much needed sleep. My mind was plagued with what-ifs and worst case scenarios. I imagined my death was imminent. I would see my motherless children, my overworked husband, and all those milestones racing by without me in the picture. My mind quietly numbered my days, and my heart would fill with dread. Believe it or not, these were the better nights.
On the worst nights I would imagine something happening to my children or someone else I loved. I was paralyzed with fear. Suddenly, I would be flooded by a loss I couldn’t imagine, and a life I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to live through. My heart would race, and my chest would tighten. In the dead of the night, while my babies and husband slept soundly beside me, I would quietly panic. Eventually, my anxious thoughts crept into my day-to-day life, and would follow me around all day.
Suffering in silence: The stigma of maternal mental health
I struggled for several weeks, and I was ashamed to tell anyone. I was a stay at home mom, what did I really have to worry about? I truly felt that no one would understand what I was going through, so I stayed quiet.
One night, my anxiety got so bad I was sure I was having a heart attack. My husband took me to the hospital, and they told me I was having a panic attack. This was when I realized that the problem was bigger than me and I needed help for myself, and my family.
What followed was a melt-down in my GP’s office and a subscription to Zoloft. I was very hesitant to go the medication route, but recognized that this was beyond my control. I began to research coping strategies that I could use, in addition to taking the medication. Over time, I started feeling better, and along the way, I gained some perspective that I hope can help other moms.
7 tips for the mom struggling with postpartum anxiety
You are not alone. Even thought it doesn’t feel like it now, you will make it through this difficult time. If you or someone you love is struggling with postpartum anxiety, first seek treatment and then spend some time researching your options. Remember: your sweet children deserve nothing but the best, and that means you need to be at your best! Below are just a few of the many strategies that exist for dealing with postpartum anxiety.
1. Don’t be ashamed
While many people are aware of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety is not as widely discussed. If you are struggling, you are NOT alone. Researchers suggest 15% or more of women suffer from postpartum anxiety.
Anxiety can be every bit as crippling as depression. In my worst moments I was a zombie, just going through the motions and losing sight of everything else in the process. I thought because I was living my dream of staying home with my girls, I had no right or reason to be so anxious. I felt silly for having these feelings, even though I couldn’t stop them. I was wrong. There was nothing to be ashamed of.
One of my biggest mistakes when I first started dealing with postpartum anxiety was keeping it to myself. Instead of talking to my husband or my friends about my feelings, I kept them bottled up inside. This only exacerbated the problem, as I had no release.
Once I realized I needed help, I also realized it was okay to talk about it. I become more open with my husband and discussed my fears. I let him know when I was having a really bad day and getting “stuck inside my head.” After talking to friends, I found some safe sounding boards who could relate, and who didn’t shame me for needing that help.
3. Make time for you
It is so easy for us to get lost in our identities as moms. However, be sure to find some time for YOU! Even if it’s just a quick trip to Target. Take the time to be you sans kids. Even a couple of hours alone can be refreshing. Taking care of yourself is so important for your mental health!
4. Take the medication if you need it
Even after realizing that you need help, taking medication can be difficult to do. In addition to the stigma that medication has when it comes to mental health, there were other concerns I had as well.
As a mom, I was worried about breastfeeding while taking medicine. However, I consulted with many doctors and pharmacists, and every professional reassured me it was perfectly safe. Their reassurance helped me feel comfortable with the decision. With medication, I become myself again. My daughters deserve a fully present Mom, who can laugh and live with them.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about meditation. After learning about the benefits that it can have for your mental health, I decided to give it a chance. I tried a few Youtube videos, and even downloaded an app called Headspace. When I take time out of my day to do this, I feel myself wind down and my heart rate slows. My mind and body become more relaxed and calm. It’s especially good to do just before bedtime!
6. Accept that it won’t get better overnight
Healing and recovery takes time. It won’t get better right away, but it will get better! Once you find the right approach to dealing with your anxiety, whether that’s through therapy or medication, or a combination of both, you will feel normal again one day. Be patient, go easy on yourself, and trust you will break through the other side.
7. Remind yourself of your blessings and practice gratitude
This one is huge for me. When I take time to consciously practice gratitude, my outlook is tremendously better. I find just slowing down and being thankful for small moments comforts me. Like when my big baby occasionally falls asleep on me, which never happens any more. Or watching my girls erupt in giggles while playing together. These moments are my calm in the storm.
I briefly kept a gratitude journal, but soon fell behind on it, so I just try to incorporate it into my day. Whether I stop in the moment to reflect, or include it in my nightly prayers, gratitude is crucial to helping me deal with my postpartum anxiety.
About The Author:
Amanda Dover is a stay at home mom to two beautiful girls who have way too many toys and don’t eat enough vegetables. She blogs about being a mom, and keeping it crafty. Follow her blog for craft tutorials, mom advice and more!