Postpartum Anxiety Is a Very Real Thing
I’m about to get extremely personal with you tonight. This post won’t really be funny or witty, it might even be downright depressing and pathetic, but it’s what I’m dealing with. For the last 6 months, I’ve been taking medication for postpartum depression, however it wasn’t until recently I realized it was so much more than that. ANXIETY is what cripples me every day.
I was diagnosed with PPD after my daughter began suffering major GI issues and spent time in the children’s hospital. I had rapidly stopped breastfeeding and my hormones were all over the place, not to mention the stress of my child nearly dying. I felt sad from the second I woke up until the second I went to sleep every day. My whole world felt like it was crumbling around me and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. I was spiraling. I felt crazy. My doctor started me on a very low-dose medication and as our lives got back into a normal routine, I started to feel better. I didn’t feel sad or scared, and I had control of my own life.
All was well for two more months, then it was time for me to go back to work. Oh my goodness how I wished and wished I didn’t have to go back! I had gotten so used to spending every second with my beautiful baby and now I would have to leave her for MANY hours out of the day. My very first day back, my boss scheduled me for a 16-hour shift. That’s right, I had to work from 7 AM to 11 PM. In the EMS world, that really isn’t that bad of a shift, most of us work 24 hours or more at a time. But my first day back?! I dreaded it all week, I knew it was coming and thinking about it made me feel worse. I didn’t get any sleep the night before, I ran around my house like a mad woman. I packed everything for Clara I could think of, all of her meds and toys and extra clothes and burps cloths and a bib and a blanket and formula and a clean bottle and diapers and wipes…do you see how my mind works?
I got through the first day, it wasn’t easy, but I did it. I took calls, laughed with my co-workers, and made the most of the day. I thought to myself, “Ok, I can handle this. It will get easier from here.” It didn’t. It flat out did NOT. Every single day was worse. I hated leaving her. I hated waking her up at 4 o’clock in the morning and wrestling her into her cars eat when all she wanted to do was sleep. Worst of all, I hated feeling like I was missing every milestone. She was only three months old and just starting to learn the world around her, the idea of missing even one thing sent me into a panic. I was blessed to have had a family member watch her during the day and send me pictures, it helped a little, but not enough to quell my anxiety.
As the months went on and my schedule changed, I found I was able to stay home with Clara more often and only bring her to the sitter a few times (or even once) a week. This was great! I had a front row seat in the show that was her life. I was able to be a part of many more milestones, first foods, crawling, high-fives, all the goods. I loved every single second of it, but when it came time to go to work, I wanted to cry. I mean CRY, actual tears. Being away from her was getting worse and worse. How am I supposed to take of care patients when I can barely function?
My doctor wasn’t much help, “It’s your depression, just keep taking more meds.” But after some research, I learned more about Postpartum Anxiety, and how its almost never talked about. After reading all the symptoms: thoughts racing, unable to quiet my mind, unable to settle down, unable to RELAX. The symptom that really did it for me was the worrying. This was the thing I felt myself doing more than ever before. I understand that as a new mom, I’m naturally going to worry if I’m doing things right, but this was on a whole other level. I find myself worrying about her in the car, with the sitter, with my parents, with Mike’s parents, sleeping in her own room. If I am not right there with her, I internally freak out. It’s a horrible feeling, the rational part of my brain knows I’m being crazy, but I can. Not. Help it. These horrible scenarios play in my mind all day long and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
It's not just my baby I worry for all day, but also my husband. As a paramedic, he often finds himself in peculiar situations, some of them dangerous. Not that I haven’t been in dangerous situations as an EMT, but not nearly as many as he is. He calls me on the phone to tell me about a call he was on where the patient wanted to fight or he had to stop them from pulling a knife on him and his partner and I just lose it. WHY THOUGH??? I never used to worry about things like that, I lived it! When I was working in city EMS I dealt with that stuff all the time and didn’t even blink an eye!
As I count down the shifts I need to work until I am no longer full time on the road (t-4 shifts), my stress has been through the roof. My patients call 911 for stupid reasons (not even kidding, some have been calling for ride to work), my co-workers aggravate me, and I find myself developing severe headaches every day. I walk into work wishing I could just go home. I know I sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess I am, but I don’t know how else to describe how I feel. I can only hope that as I stay home more with my daughter and take some time to just relax, I can begin healing and ridding myself of this anxiety. I have already began dedicating 30 minutes out of my day to exercise and relieve some of that stress. I know that as I continue to take care of my body, it will be easier to take care of my mind.
This was not easy to talk about. In this age of social media, our instinct is to focus only the good, creating a seemingly perfect life. But life is messy and crazy and a roller coaster.
“Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”