Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And then I woke up.


One morning, not that long ago, in fact, I woke up. I took a look around, and as I got up to make my coffee, I felt different.

But the same.

Different than I had felt in a long time.

But with an easy familiarity.

I felt…like me.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

It seems that once upon a time, I wrote a post that made a small prediction. And then that prediction came true.

As some of you may have gleaned from the tone of a few posts around this space, I have been struggling a bit over the last few months. And finally, I am willing to name that struggle.

You see, friends, I have been dealing with Postpartum Anxiety.

{Whew. There it is, out in the open. Breathe. Out.}

I didn’t really notice it at first. I thought, “Well, this just must be what life is like with a toddler and a newborn,” as I banished the thoughts of how absolutely euphoric I felt after Evelyn’s birth.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love Liam or couldn’t bond with him – that little man stole my heart the second I locked eyes with him, and I loved him fiercely, wholly and immediately.

...I just didn’t feel like me...

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

As I have mentioned before, pregnancy isn’t the greatest of times for me. Don’t get me wrong I love the end result of being pregnant, but it wrecks havoc with my emotional state and I do not like that feeling.

Immediately upon Evelyn being placed on my chest, that feeling of being not quite myself ended. 

When Liam was born, I felt more like me, but not quite there. I still felt, off.

So, I threw myself into mothering two children whole-heartedly. I was doing anything and everything that I had been doing with Evelyn before, not giving myself a break or time to catch up.  I threw myself at my own identity as a mother that I had already come to know, and wondered why the heck it didn’t feel right.

(Never mind the fact that that mother I was thinking of, the mother I had just been, was the mother to an 18 month old, not a newborn and an 18 month old.)

I was already a mom, I told myself, this should feel old hat – all I am doing is folding a whole other human being into the mix. Clearly, I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

The majority of this struggle is blessedly behind me, but this is what it looked like for a while -

I had racing thoughts. I would jump from subject to subject of all of the things I needed to do, so quickly, immediately upon waking, that it would seem overwhelming. And then it would seem so overwhelming that I didn’t know where to start. So, I didn’t. I would just sit. I knew that I needed to be up and accomplishing tasks, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

I worried. A LOT. Not just normal new mom worries. In fact, the first time that my husband took both kids out of the house (for a walk down to the park, so that I could catch up on some sleep), I was drifting off when all of a sudden I had a flash of Evelyn jumping off of her trike and running into the busy street, and her Daddy running after her with our brand new baby strapped to his chest. Horrifying.

It worried me so much that I actually called him so that I could remind him that the trike didn’t have a strap to keep her restrained and that he needed to be really careful. I tried to brush the thoughts away and thing of it as just a silly worry. Of course my husband is a responsible adult and great father, of course he already knows these things. But, what if. 

What if it happened and I hadn’t called? Then what? How would I feel? I couldn’t. I couldn’t brush it off and it consumed my thoughts until I called him.

Hand in hand with the worrying, I had intrusive, disturbing, fleeting thoughts. They happened swiftly and strongly. I never had visions of hurting myself or my children, but of awful, awful things happening to us. Now every mother, I think, has thoughts like these once in a while – but these were so graphic and realistic.

The first time I ever got on the highway with both kids in the car, I almost had a panic attack. Not the cute, haha, new mom driving so slowly and carefully with her new baby in the car scene. This was intense.

Almost immediately all of the god-awful things that could happen to us started flooding into my mind. I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly, and I knew that those things weren’t going to happen, but I could not stop those images from playing the worst scenes in my brain.

Stories from the news? They would shake me to my very core. 

It was awful, and I knew that I didn’t feel like myself – but I knew that I was getting better, and incrementally so, so I figured I could just wait it out.

Every two weeks or so, I would look around and think, “Wow, two weeks ago I thought I felt normal and had crossed the threshold, but now I feel even more normal. So, is this me – normal me – or is this just another stepping stone along the way?”

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

I didn’t talk to anyone about it – not my closest friends, not even my husband for a long time. And I hid all of these things pretty well (which is not helpful, or recommended, by the by). And denied that something was wrong. I didn’t have post partum depression after all, I was happy, loved my kids…I was just overwhelmed.

I probably would have gotten past all of this a lot sooner had I sought help from my support network – I have a wonderful one – but I didn’t. Instead, I just sort of withdrew.

As I began to suspect what was going on, having had done research and reading about all of this back when I wrote that prophesizing post, I read more and more. I read some posts by some other moms that mirrored what I was experiencing. 

I came to understand (and be grateful for the fact) that what I was experiencing was fairly low on the spectrum of perinatal disorders. The frequency with which these thoughts and worries were occurring began to ebb at a noticeable rate.

I knew what was going on and could feel myself getting “better.” I could (thankfully) identify what behaviors helped me have better days, and how to adjust on days that weren’t so great. I forced myself to make the choice in the moments that it would arise, to consciously release the anxiety.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

Yes, I did this without talking to a professional, or without medication – BUT – if you are experiencing any of these same things, please do not take this as any sort of recommendation from me that you do the same. Talk to your support people, reflect, do research and decide what is right for YOU. 

Thankfully – this worked out for me, and my issues managed to resolve themselves rather quickly, though at times I wondered if I would ever feel like myself again.

I am at the point now where I can chuckle about the fact that I am just getting around to mailing Liam’s birth announcements.

Yes, he is almost six months old – Surprise! We had a baby! {Ha! That’s a joke! You can laugh now. No, really.}

A few months ago, it was not so funny that the reason they hadn’t been ordered yet was because my computer deleted my current address list for my family and friends somewhere between Christmas and Liam’s birth, which is a pain to anyone. 

But, to me in those days, the tasks of obtaining those addresses again, sitting down and writing out thank you notes and addressing envelopes, hell, even settling on a design that I would be happy with seemed absolutely insurmountable. There were so many choices and I had so much to do, how would I ever accomplish all of that without letting the rest of everything fall to pieces?

It seems silly now, but it literally seemed like such a big deal, I just…didn’t do it.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t feel like myself, until I felt like myself again.

I really wrestled with whether to write about this or not, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get back to blogging and writing more authentically this year, sharing the good, the bad and the in between, and other moms stories helped me so much to see that all of this falls on a spectrum. You can have a little or a lot of a whole variety of symptoms – this was just my part of that spectrum.

Additionally, there was a recent study done showing that mothers are more likely to experience anxiety than depression. 1 in 6 new moms - 1 in 5 first time mothers. Yet, you don't hear about it. 

So, here I am, sharing my experience. 

I have no idea how or why this particular thing hit me this go round and not after my first pregnancy. I have no idea if it will come around again on my next – or if it does, if it will even look the same.

I am going to link all the places that were helpful for me {Baby RabiesPostpartum Progress}, even though most of them were already linked through my first post about all of this, here.

Visit them, support them, and help raise awareness levels of all of this. This could affect you, your sister, your best friend, or your coworker. The more you know, the better you will be positioned to offer or find support.



Evelyn Rae is TWO years old, Liam is five months old

...and now that *that* is out of the way, let's get back to the fun stuff.

9 comments:

  1. Wow! I'm sure this wasn't easy for you to share. But I'm very thankful you did so I can be more aware for myself as well as others! I'm so glad you're feeling better and more "normal"! Take care of yourself! xoxo

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    1. Thanks Laura! I hope you are having fun with that new precious baby girl! xoxo

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  2. I had the same issue, I didn't start feeling like myself until Addison was closer to 6 months. I spoke to my doctor about it and went on medication. It was hard to love a new baby and be so overwhelmed. Glad you are feeling better!

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    1. I am glad you are feeling better too Lauren, Addison is an absolute baby doll. Thanks for sharing <3

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  3. Oh gosh! I got awful ppd and anxiety with both my kiddos. Worse with Zelda for sure. One thing I found that helped a ton was taking extra vitamin D supplements. Being pregnant depletes your stores and a lack of vitamin D causes serious mood problems. The summer sun helps too. :)

    We're here for ya! xoxoxo

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  4. I'm super late to this, but I'm really glad you shared. I dealt with bad PPA after Luke was born, especially right before I returned to work and the first few months after. It's something that is so common and SHOULD be something we don't hesitate to talk about/write about.

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