My Experience With Postpartum Anxiety
I think that postpartum anxiety feels like you are underwater. Everything around you happens through this lens. You know you need to come up for air, but what if you can’t? All the sounds around you are amplified.
I struggled with postpartum anxiety after each of my babies, manifesting in a different way each time.
- My daughter had major medical issues as a result of a misdiagnosed urinary tract infection in the first few months of life. Finally, she was diagnosed with failure to thrive. All it would have taken was a quick urine test. Our pediatrician clearly never looked at her file to see that she was born with a kidney condition. My doctor told me that breastfeeding wasn’t working. I was “crazy” for worrying about it and to just give her formula. Eventually, we treated the UTI and within a month she bounced back into the 80th percentile for growth.
- Secondly, we moved across the country and I lost my entire community and support network. My son was 5 months old.
- Thirdly, my last baby had some genetic medical issues and feeding issues resulting from a tongue tie. I had a major autoimmune flare up that left me with chronic pain in the first few months after giving birth. I also had some major life trauma from the past circling around in my brain that needed resolution.
What Postpartum Anxiety Feels Like
Interestingly, I don’t think there is one solid or universal description of postpartum anxiety. It is now believed to be as common as postpartum depression. My anxiety made me feel prickly. The constant touching of motherhood left me feeling totally touched out. I experienced headaches and sensitivity to sounds. I also noticed that I could NEVER shut my brain off. My thoughts were constantly racing about one hundred different things. It felt inescapable, like being underwater and drowning in the overwhelming thoughts. I couldn’t sleep at night, no matter how tired I was. It made me snap at my kids all the time, and it was destroying our relationship.
My Darkest Hours
In my darkest hours, I found myself My unrecognizable. I felt like my babies deserved a better mom. They would be better off with someone else.They needed someone who could better care for them. I wanted to run away, just to escape the racing thoughts and think clearly.
Make it stop.
I wanted peace in my mind and heart. I was drowning in anxiety and I wanted to come up for air.
Finally, I was ready to take action.
My Plan For Managing Anxiety
I’m not a mental health professional, and this is not health advice. But I can tell you the personal steps I took to change my life. I was living in my darkest hours. I said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and I decided I couldn’t live that way anymore. Finally, change was necessary.
- I found an amazing mental health professional that specializes in perinatal mood disorders. My work with her has been an amazing, life changing experience. The WNY Postpartum Connection has a great website with a ton of local resources. Finally, I was able to unpack some lifelong trauma that caused me to be an anxiety-riddled adult.
- Secondly, I made an appointment with my doctor. There is nothing wrong with using medication to manage anxiety, but I wanted to run some blood work to check for imbalances. This was so important for me. It revealed my autoimmune disorder and I was able to make significant health changes to manage it. Did you know that 65% of people with autoimmune disorders have a diagnosed anxiety disorder?
- Thirdly, I made some nutrition and lifestyle changes. I started eating an AIP diet to manage my autoimmune issues. I had chronic pain and daily migraine headaches. Making diet changes and using nutrition mindfully were extremely helpful to me.
- Lastly, I incorporated daily movement and exercise. I used whatever felt right at the time. Walking outdoors was helpful, but anything helps. In particular, weighted exercise was highly beneficial.
Birth and postpartum doulas can help you find resources for support with postpartum anxiety. We refer families to local resources. Birth doulas can also support you in exploring your risk factors for postpartum anxiety before birth. Also, doulas help you plan your resources and support network.
The WNY Postpartum Connection has great resources with lists of local professionals. Don’t hesitate. If you are struggling, please reach out!