Oy. That’s a difficult title to type out.
So, some of my classes have heard me talk about having Postpartum Anxiety after the birth of my son. I’ve talked about how it created this cloud over my life, and how I was too overwhelmed to even want to get help. Ironic, isn’t it? The childbirth educator, after talking for years about how it’s OK to ask for help…couldn’t.
But let me back up.
In retrospect, I’ve had bouts of anxiety off and on for years. When my son was born, though, it was a perfect storm for anxiety to spring up: We moved weeks after he was born, from our house in Rochester to a tiny townhome in Woodbury with a teensy kitchen and noisy neighbors. Money was tight, as I was on unpaid maternity leave. We had moved away from most of my support structure. There were no grandparents closer than 45 minutes away. I was in a new city with two little ones. And when I had a falling out with one of the few people I knew in the area prior to moving, well….hello anxiety.
I’d like to think that I did ok-ish, but I did find a lot of things completely overwhelming. I struggled with simple things, like figuring out how to juggle one sick kid and one healthy one on my own. Small issues would become so major to me. My sweet husband deserves an award for being kind and patient and supportive and helpful while I floundered. But the main thing was that I started having issues sleeping at night. I would lie in bed for hours and hours, thoughts racing through my mind. My saving grace, the one thing that kept me going through those dark nights, was the iPod touch my sister gave me and the podcasts I would listen to when I couldn’t sleep. I would have been better off, though, had I asked for help. And ironically, as I started to get to know local psychologists who worked with Postpartum Mood Disorders….I still couldn’t find the strength to admit how much I was struggling.
I am glad to say, though, that while my youngest is now in Kindergarten (and so I’m out of the “postpartum” window), a few months ago I FINALLY found the strength to ask for help. My anxiety was getting in the way of my life again, and it took a friend who also was being treated for anxiety to look me in the eyes and tealk to me about getting help. Maybe it’s becasue she knew what I was going through that I was willing to listen. All I know is that I made an appointment that day, and by the end of the week, I had a plan to start feeling better.
Do I feel anxiety-free? No, not yet. But I do feel so much better than I used to. And guess what? It wasn’t as scary to get help as I thought it was going to be.
If you are struggling, there ARE resources out there. My favorite organization is Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota; they have lots of local mental health workers who specialize in Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Disorders and they even have a help line staffed by trained volunteers who will return your call in 24 hours and will help you find resources. And no, it does not make you a bad mom to ask for help. If you’re breastfeeding, taking medication doesn’t usually mean you have to stop breastfeeding. But really, take it from me–ask for help. It’ll be OK.
I’ll admit, too, that I would never have wanted to write this post, had I not read over the weekend that one in six American adults are dealing with anxiety at any given time. So at least I know I’m not alone.
Thanks for listening.