First, I want to thank all of you who have been beyond supportive since I told you all about my postpartum anxiety diagnosis last week. You all continually put smiles on my face, and your support means so much. I’m sorry to hear so many of you have been through or are going through the same thing, but I sure do appreciate you sharing your experiences.
I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me since then, wondering if maybe what they’re experiencing might be something similar… wondering what PPA looked like for me, what made me finally ask for help. So here’s the first part of that story.
My mind was nearly always racing. I couldn’t focus on simple tasks, and just thinking about what I hadn’t accomplished made my anxiety levels rise. It was a horrible cycle because my anxiety paralyzed me and made me so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start. So then I’d just do nothing, all the while feeling terribly anxious about doing nothing and knowing it’s going to bite me in the ass. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
It wasn’t just tasks I couldn’t focus on. I’d find myself holding Leyna and zoning out, or just staring at her on the floor, not knowing what to say to her. I didn’t feel connected to her. I loved her, I knew this, and I took care of her. I never neglected her, but I had to force myself to smile at her and coo back at her.
Shatters my heart to a million little pieces admitting that.
I was perpetually irritated. The sound of my children screaming or crying evoked a physical response in me. My heart would pound, my shoulders would tense, my teeth would clench. I could hardly control my urge to scream right back at them.
To be completely honest, most days I couldn’t control that urge at all. I was always yelling.
The simplest tasks seemed insurmountable. Leaving the house with one kid was hard enough. The days I had 2 to take care of, I simply didn’t want to go anywhere. But it’s not like we stayed home and made use of our time here, either. Kendall would easily get bored, and I couldn’t handle constantly entertaining him.
Even things like crayons seemed like enormous burdens, sure to make just another mess I’d have to clean up, which would be just another thing I’d have to do on the long list of things that were never getting done.
The days I was responsible for the kids while Scott worked at his office (he works from home 3 days a week), I would pace anxiously the last hour before he got home. Then I would beg him to please take the kids from me the moment he walked in the door. I felt terrible that I couldn’t even deal with them for 6-8 hours on my own merely 2 freaking days a week without needing assistance.
I’ll note that this got worse as Kendall dropped his nap. That royally fucked me. Hard. I NEEDED those 2-3 hours to recharge… even if Leyna didn’t nap at the same time.
Intrusive thoughts were a part of normal, every day life. It was completely common for me to envision dropping my baby when I picked her up from her crib, backing over my son when I pulled out of the garage (even though I knew he was at school or buckled in the back of the car), hitting other cars head-on as we drove down the highway, flying off the interstate overpasses, and so many other horrific scenarios.
It didn’t mean I wanted to DO any of those things, quite the opposite. I just COULDN’T stop envisioning those things happening. The visions were all very, very detailed and graphic in my head.
I was always thinking about what would happen if I died, or my husband died, or my babies died. All. the. time.
While all intrusive thoughts made my anxiety rise, some stopped me in my tracks, like the thought of accidentally dropping my kids over any sort of railing or balcony. People falling from great heights became a HUGE trigger for me.
One night I happened to be watching the evening news while writing. I looked up to see a man falling 20 feet after reaching out to catch a baseball at a Texas Rangers game. Immediately after the clip, the news anchor said they received word that that man died. He was at the game with his son.
I could not shake that image for weeks. I cried so hard, I wanted to puke. I kept envisioning what he must have seen on his way down, and could hear my own son screaming. I had nightmares. It was terrible, and it was enough to make me beg my husband not to ever sit that close to the railing at any sporting event.
When I went to L.A. at the end of October, I sat on the upper level of Pantages Theater for the Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony, a few rows back from the front of the balcony. I could hardly focus on the show. The whole time I kept thinking about how easy it would be to fall over.
When we stood for applause, I panicked, worried the people behind me would somehow shove me over. I knew it was an irrational fear. I was a good 10 feet away from the front of the balcony, and they’d have to push me over 3 other rows of people, but there was no reasoning with my fear.
That weekend was actually the beginning of what lead me to get help.
I’ll share more about that and what things are like now that I’m starting to feel better next week.
If any of this sounds familiar to you and you’re wondering if you might also have postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, please make an appointment to talk to your doctor. You can see your family doctor. Tell your family you’re due for a checkup if you don’t want to let them know your concerns yet. Though, I’ll say from experience, opening up about it to someone, face to face, makes a world of difference… or it did for me. Also, check out Postpartum Progress for more support.