The births of my children are by far the best experiences of my life. The pure elation I felt when laying eyes on my new babies was unlike any other feeling I’ve ever known.
Like any mother I could go on and on about the warm fuzzy feelings I have for my tiny little people. I could talk endlessly about how they have changed me and the joy they bring. Another topic I never shy away from is my lifelong journey with anxiety and how in the past it manifested its ugly-little-self as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). When the therapy, medication and coping mechanisms made my anxiety and OCD fade away, I felt like I was finally living in the light.
I felt free.
At last, the fog that covered the world as I saw it had been lifted and I was seeing things the way everyone else does. One of the most exhilarating feelings after suffering from daily anxiety, is having your own thoughts back under your control. I spent my *entire* life (from as early as I can remember) suffering from anxious thoughts, so when I was finally able to be myself after years of seeking reprieve, saying I felt relief is an understatement.
I couldn’t wait to start a family with my husband and move forward with our lives. I wish I could tell you that I had my perfect girl and our little family of three rode off peacefully into the sunset. But that would be too easy. I did have my perfect girl and she is the most amazing little person. But, despite my efforts to stave off any unwanted Postpartum Depression (PPD), I was unable to do so completely.
Just as any new mother, I worried about my baby. I had many invasive thoughts that something would happen to her. I was often worried she’d be kidnapped or hurt and I wouldn’t be able to help her. My anxieties rose to such levels that I would have nightmares and was constantly checking on her while she was sleeping. I was so terrified something would happen to her and I wanted her with me at all times so I could be sure she was safe.
I chalked it up to being a new mom, with a history of anxiety. Well—that’s true. But there was more.
It took me a full year and a half to mention these (what I thought were normal) symptoms to my psychiatrist. I mentioned it casually and when I did he immediately retorted “that’s not a normal new mom worry.” What?! My anxiety had outsmarted me once again. The extent of worry I was feeling was not normal. This is when I first learned the term Postpartum Mood Disorders. He shared with me that yes, Postpartum Depression is a very real problem, but it comes in many shapes and sizes. I learned that you can have Postpartum anxiety and also in severe cases, psychosis. I was fortunate, in that I was well aware of my mental state (having dealt with managing my moods for years) and was already seeing a psychiatrist.
PPD looks different on everyone and it can look different from child to child. With my son, I didn’t experience any trouble (not even the baby blues) until my son was 4 months old. This time around I didn’t have just high anxiety, but feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and feeling alone. Again, because I am in a constant state of self evaluation, my little red flags went up and I knew it was time to see help again. Luckily this time my PPD was mild depression and easily treated.
It is important to note that Postpartum Depression is different than baby blues. The baby blues are very much a part of a many new mother’s journeys and are directly related to hormonal changes- but should last no longer than two weeks. Postpartum depression can start anytime in your baby’s first year. Here is a quick read, outlining some differences between baby blues and ppd.
Some symptoms of PPD (as taken from Mayo Clinic’s website) may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Many women do not experience all of these symptoms, so the main thing is to be sure to speak with your doctor if you are not feeling yourself or think you may be experiencing depression. See the full list from the Mayo Clinic here (this is a great site to get a good overview of postpartum depression). Postpartum Support International is another good resource and you can even chat with an expert on their site.
When I started sharing my story with other women, something amazing happened—other mothers came out of the woodwork echoing “me too.”
I am really honored to be sharing the stories of other women who have fought and are fighting PPD in my upcoming post.
Please, know you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.