Saturday, January 8, 2011

My battle with post partum anxiety.

As we begin a new year and reflect on the last, I realize how much of my time was spent battling my mind these first eight months of motherhood. It kind of surprises me that women don't talk more about post partum depression, anxiety or emotional battles. We all hear about the 'baby blues', but in reality it's far more than just the blues.

I have chosen to tell my story here so that maybe it will help someone else. I also think it will be an overdue explanation to many loved ones in my life who wonder why I sometimes do (or don't do) the things I do. I hope that as I continue to fight this battle that having the awareness and support of those around me will continue to encourage me.

When I was about 10 or so, I was diagnosed with OCD - obsessive compulsive disorder. It was bad. I was not sleeping at night. I would wake up and check the doors, the appliances, my parents breathing. Then, I went through a phase where I was compulsively confessing every thought that came through my mind aloud to my mother - day and night. I couldn't help it. I felt so trapped.

For those with OCD, you know how horrifying it can feel. Locked in your own brain, unable to get out. For those who don't fully understand OCD, it's basically when compulsions and obssessions reach a point where they are debilitating in your life. It varies in its severity. And for me, it comes and goes in my life. It rears its ugly head usually when there's a big life change I'm facing.

So, when I went to high school, college, had a tumultuous relationship, graduated from college, went through a rough break up, got married - all of these times my OCD would flare up. Along with the flare ups, I was often times diagnosed with depression. Being locked inside my own messy mind would bring me down. Oh so down.

In college, I was so terrified of blood and germs that my hands were bleeding from repetitive hand washing. I've driven back home countless times to check the door, or the dog or the coffee pot. OCD is often a drain on my relationships and friendships. I'm not always fun to be around.

All of this to say, I don't know why on earth it didn't cross my mind to speak to my OB about this. It made perfect sense that I was a prime candidate for post partum depression. Even without the likelihood of post partum issues, the big life change of having a kid was certain to send me into a tailspin.

And it was instant. the anxiety came over me like a big dark cloud. I was on the lookout for post partum depression, but I never felt depressed. I never felt sad or harbored any negative feelings towards Asher (other than wishing he'd sleep!). But I did feel panic. I couldn't sleep. I wanted to protect my child from all the germs swarming around me. You know that feeling where you feel like your heart may come out of your chest because you are so nervous about something? That's how I felt day in and day out. I was on edge. I cried a lot. I yelled a lot. I made my husband miserable. I am sure Asher could feel my tension.

I kept telling myself that it was just a new mom thing. You worried about your baby. You made people wash their hands. You lost sleep and a little bit of your mind with it. I didn't feel depressed, so I still didn't think it was post partum depression.

I remember flipping out on Rusty one night for sleeping with a tissue in his hand (his allergies were acting up) because what if it landed in Asher's bed and he choked on it? I remember calling my mom and sister countless times to be talked off the ledge. I remember being obsessed with SIDS. I remember arguing with Rusty and my mom about the proper way to blanket Asher.  I remember crying. A lot. I would lie awake at night contemplating his swaddle, his grunting, his sleeping habits, the future. There are so many ridiculous examples to list. I'm sure if you'd ask Rusty he could give you a list off the top of his head. And some of this probably sounds normal to other mommies out there, and I think some of it is. But for me, it was all consuming.

It was neverending panic. I was not enjoying this baby like I should. After months of this misery, I decided to reach out to a psychiatrist. I've been on meds in the past and knew how helpful they could be with my OCD and depression. I thought, maybe this is more than just mommy worry.

My suspiscions were validated. I was battling post partum anxiety. It was a real thing. And I could be helped. So, I began taking Zoloft, and I was able to keep nursing while on it. My dosage was upped a couple of times until I reached a point where I truly could feel an improvement.

So now, about four months in, I feel better. Do I feel great? No. Do I still battle my worries and my mind? Every day. Do I still drive Rusty crazy? I'm sure. Those close to me know that it's a serious matter. They understand that when I start to spiral into panic mode that I cannot help it. They know that taking my baby to a big family reunion and having people passing him around literally makes me panic. They know that when I ask you to wash your hands, I mean really wash them for 20 seconds or else it's not really cleaning off the germs. They know when we are out and about, I want to wipe down our dinner table and pass around my hand sanitizer. They know that every day is a challenge for me.

This year I want to move forward trying even harder to beat this crap. I don't want worries to replace happy thoughts with Asher. And I'm getting better. But I've got a ways to go, still.

If you or someone you know is having similar issues, please know that post partum stress and depression and anxiety is very real. I have two friends that are dealing with their versions of it now. One called me the other day in tears, saying she felt so crazy and out of control. She was having panic attacks for no real reason. I sent her to my doctor. And I am confident that she'll be feeling better soon. I'm so thankful she felt that she could talk to me about it.

Being a mommy is so hard. It's all consuming. It's exhausting. It's 24/7. Having any sort of extra stress on your heart or mind can push you over the edge. It's so understandable. Women need extra support and they need to know it's ok to admit that something doesn't feel quite right. There's help out there.

All of this rambling to say, I love my kid. I love my husband. I love my family and friends. And I love that I'm feeling better. And I'm so thankful for each of those things.

p.s. Give me a shout if you're reading and want to talk about what you're going through. I'd love to help in any way I can.

AN UPDATE, and more details of my experience can be found here:


Denise said...

Kira, I am very proud of you for taking charge of this and for being brave enough to tell your story publicly. I know this has already helped me and I know it will help others. I love you!

Melissa said...

Kira Ann - You amaze me. I am so proud of you for speaking up. I am so proud of you for being an amazing mommy to Asher and wife to Rusty. I love you.

ASDmomNC said...

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Mine lasted well into the first year, and was combined with postpartum depression as well. It's so sad because I really don't remember much about my son's first year other than the anxiety and emotional pain. Thank God for videos and photos, or it's like I wasn't even there at all.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I am 31 wks and becoming more and more anxiety ridden about the upcoming baby's arrival, bc I suffer from OCD and am 100% Type A personality. I ahve mentioned it to my OB and voiced concerns so hopefully they will help watch out for signs as well. I have voiced concerns to my friends and support system as well.
Thank you for making this public and helping others out there understand!!

liveforless said...

My new baby is almost 4 weeks old. This is number 6 and I too am sensing this overwhelming anxiety. I don't want to leave any of my kids in fear of something happening. I avoid being around family quite often. I bounce back and forth to whether this is normal or what. I know I will talk to the doctor about it at my 6 week check up if it persists. I don't feel like I'm depressed just a lot of fear and anxious feelings over protecting my kids. When I do leave my kids I worry about what happened while I was gone, so weird, it's like I don't trust anyone.

chicknajsmomma said...

I'm 20 years old with two kids and one year old and a newborn I know back to back I was fine with my daughter but now I feell vevry depressed..HELP I didn't think postpartum because I knew I loved my children but everything else bothred me if my daughter go to close to her brother if my husband didn't answer his phone. Mom being at work soo depressed I don't even wanna wake up please someone HELP I can't stop crying sometimes husband walks in and wonders why I'm crying and I just can't stop to tell him or I just don't know what to say cause I dnt want him to know so sad

Anonymous said...

Thank you do much for posting this! My son is 4 mOnths old and since I left the hospital my anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD spiraled completely out of control dibilitating me to the point I couldn't take care of my son for the first 2 weeks of his life!! I was sure I was going to end up in a mental hospital! I've started Zoloft, just trying to find the right dose and I belong to a postpartum support group! I'm getting better I still have ups and downs and still sometimes wonder if I can do This! But I know in clear moments that it's my OCD and Intrusive Thoughts that are making me think that. This should truly be put out there more and the medical Field needs to have more studies, experience and knowledge!! If everyone speaks out I pray that one day they will be able to help those in need in a faster and more confident way!!! Again Thank You for posting your Story!

Kira said...

Hi there, I wish I knew who you were so I could write to check in on you. I hope that the Zoloft is helping and you're finding the support that you need. Big hugs to you and high five for doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. Good job, momma!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting. I lived with PPA for 5 1/2 years before I finally "hit the wall" when I had my second son. I lived in silence because I didn't recognize a lot of the symptoms and what I did recognize I wouldn't admit to. Whether it be for fear, pride, denial or a whole lot of unawareness, I trudged through until I couldn't trudge anymore.

I feel now like I deal with it more than than before, but I remind myself that this is a result of letting myself feel the PPA and tell people about what I'm experiencing rather than just shoving it down and ignoring it. It of course will feel more present when you acknowledge that it is there. I have gotten much better than I was 6 months ago.

It is so important that mommas out there know that they are normal for feeling this and living with it. It doesn't make you a bad mom.

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