I have postpartum anxiety.
I've stared at this screen for awhile now trying to find the best way to say it, to talk about it, and in all honesty, it is why I haven't written anything in three months; I didn't know how. I've always been a pretty open person, in that I wear my heart on my sleeve...I like to think that I wear all of who I am on my sleeve actually, a what you see is what you get kind of girl but this, this I hid. I think we spend so much time talking about the baby after he or she is born that we seldom find the time to talk about what is really going on with us. Or maybe we don't talk about it because we're embarrassed, believing that we no longer fit this ideal of perfection placed on us by the world around us. We're moms, with this beautiful new life, aren't we supposed to be in control? Except I wasn't. Instead, I felt as if I were going crazy or that people would think that I WAS crazy, so I kept it to myself (with the exception of a few people) until I realized that I was doing more harm than good.
The symptoms first popped up around six weeks postpartum, and up until that point I had been feeling pretty great. Even with Ava spending those first two weeks in the NICU, I didn't have any complaints, life was good. Then, the Saturday before Easter I was driving with my mother when I suddenly felt dizzy, and felt my heart skip a beat which freaked me out because that had never happened before. It was like a switch went off in my body because for the next week I suffered through various symptoms: nausea, headaches, tingling in my arms, a pressure on my chest, shortness of breath, a burning/tingling sensation throughout my scalp, dizziness, etc. Most of those symptoms I kept hidden, even from Chad, because I felt this obligation to be strong for my family, and for this new baby girl who needed me to be fully functioning. I also think that by not talking about it, I was able to deny this growing fear that something was really wrong with me from completely taking over my life until I could no longer ignore it. I spent the Monday after Easter feeling as if I were having a heart attack and by that night Chad and I were in the ER. They ran several tests, which all came back negative, and discharged me with papers discussing heart palpitations and recommended that I follow-up with a Cardiologist who might have more insight as to what was really going on. The Cardiologist had me do a stress test (which was a good reminder that I was out of shape) and ran another EKG but again, both of those tests came back negative. Although that should have been a relief, and it was to an extent, I still wanted answers, I wanted someone to tell me what I already knew in my heart (and Chad had begun to suggest) but couldn't admit out loud: I had anxiety. We scheduled an appointment with my General Physician who finally said it, told me that I was suffering from a mild case of anxiety and it was like a weight had been lifted. He recommended diet changes such as eliminating caffeine and adding more exercise to my routine to see if that helped before we would discuss putting me on any medication especially, since I was exclusively breastfeeding Ava. This was like music to my ears because to me, none of that medicine actually fixes the problem, it just masks the problem, and I had already been wearing a mask for the last month;I wanted a solution. Leaving his office that day was the first time in a month that I felt free from the prison that is Anxiety. Finally putting a name to those pesky symptoms, and acknowledging that I had anxiety was the first step towards getting myself back. The second step was following Doctor's orders and researching other methods to relieve anxiety symptoms. This is what I've learned so far and what continues to help me:
While I've never been the GOTTA HAVE it kind of girl, I do enjoy the occasional soda and I really love drinking hot tea so eliminating all caffeine was pretty hard at first...Heck, it's still hard! I can go days without feeling any symptoms, or even a week feeling great, which tricks me into thinking that I can drink something caffeinated only to be reminded shortly after what a bad idea that was. So these days I try to stick to chamomile tea or Sprite if I'm looking for a fix! :)
I've added running back into my fitness routine (which might I add, was slacking majorly), it's something I truly enjoy, and it is the one thing I really feel improved my situation. I've even set a goal for myself to run a marathon!! :)
I've learned that certain vitamins/herbs work wonders for anxiety and/or depression and have added magnesium and B6 vitamins to the fish oil, and prenatal I'm already taking. I've also heard St. John's Wort is really great but, I haven't researched it enough yet to add it.
I pray A LOT but, then again, I always have. This verse was sent to me by my wonderful cousin Val and it's the one I repeat in my head when I'm feeling a little anxious.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety can be a frightening, and lonely place if you stay in it. If you give into the fear, the belief that no one could possibly understand what you're going through, the idea that you'll never again be in control of your own life. I'm here to tell you that is not true. The people in your life, the ones who truly love you, are not there to judge you and I think you'll find that once you seek their help you'll find out that many of them also have something they've been too afraid to seek help for. As that saying goes, we all have battles we're facing and we certainly shouldn't have to face them alone.
Mostly, I am just taking things day by day, because after all, that is really all that I can do. Since April there have been weeks where I feel nothing, I feel normal again, and those weeks, those days, are absolutely amazing. Then there are days where I feel that all too familiar pressure on my chest but even then, I'm able to talk myself out of it. I've never wavered in my faith that I'll wake up one day free from it entirely, I've never let it change me, or wallow in pity. I've never been depressed about it or let it consume me but I also know that it is part of my life at the moment...and well, that's just it, its part of my life. I also want to point out that I have an incredible husband one whom supported me, comforted me and kept me sane during this entire time and two beautiful children that gave me a reason to fight through it. I'm hopeful that by posting this, it'll reach someone who needed to know that they aren't alone and they aren't crazy...or maybe it'll help someone seek the help they need. I know for me, finally writing it all out, admitting my little secret sure feels good!!