On My Worst Days, On My Best Days

I honestly think I could count on one, maybe two hands the number of times I’ve taken all three kids somewhere by myself (outside of back and forth to school).

Scott’s done it more times than I’d even try to count. He often takes all three of them grocery shopping, leaving me here to work… which, to be completely honest, mostly just means leaving me here to be in silence and not feel the urge to scream.

For me, postpartum anxiety means living on edge. It means not only battling the intrusive thoughts, the obsessive fears, and the rapid and shallow rise and fall of my breath, but also this feeling of the walls quickly closing in on me whenever things get out of control. Obviously that’s something I run the risk of often when tasked with caring for 3 kids in public.

On my worst days, postpartum anxiety means truly struggling to get dressed, and then struggling even more to get out the door. I would say it’s a struggle to get out of bed, and it can be, but most days I have no choice because a 10 month old is calling out for me over the baby monitor, and nursing him in a quiet room is calming.

On my worst days, I run the necessary errands, but beyond that, there are no casual trips to the park or the post office or the library with the kids. An outing to the zoo or the pool are COMPLETELY out of question. No. I can not. Can not even deal with the thought of it.

But on days like today, one of the good days, I catch a glimpse of the future. I’m reminded that I will get to the point where taking all 3 somewhere with me, be it mundane errands or epic playdates, will become a non-issue. Granted, I don’t think it will ever be without it’s challenges, but future-me will at least be able to manage the thought of taking them somewhere by myself without fighting back a deep feeling of dread.

Today, I loaded up all 3 kids and took them to the local gym. I signed us up for a family membership, and I dropped the kids off at the on-site childcare. I hopped on a treadmill, unsure what my plan was. All I really expected out of myself was 30 minutes of movement. I gave myself permission to take easy outs. I started out at a decent pace, but told myself it was only for a mile. Then I could go slower. And after 2 miles, I could stop. I could walk. It was my first day in a gym in years.

As my feet found their rhythm, my headphones pounded in my ears to songs I’ve never heard in my life, and didn’t chose, but that Workout playlist on Spotify is the next best thing to a personal trainer. I kept up my pace. I passed one mile. I started to go faster.

I carried on, it wasn’t easy, but I found I craved the feeling of accomplishment more than a rest at every point that I’d given myself permission to back out.

I finished a 5k in 33 minutes.

I walked off that treadmill recognizing that I didn’t just kick that workout’s ass. I kicked postpartum anxiety’s ass. At least for today.

When I see people talk about how to “prevent and/or treat” postpartum mental disorders, exercise is almost always mentioned. And yes, it is powerful. I am really looking forward to incorporating it into my routine… if I can manage to keep a routine. I am really looking forward to that blast of endorphins, and all the other ways it can help me feel better, and get through this.

That said, I want to end this with a little note about the advice to just exercise PPMDs away.

On my worst days, there was no way I could get it together enough to exercise. On my worst days, I couldn’t even get it together enough to feed myself.

For me, the only way I got through all of that and to the point where I could even consider exercise was with getting real help and taking prescription medication.

Yes, exercise and self care can do a great deal to treat PPMDs, but please don’t ever assume it’s all that you or anyone else needs.

My anxiety meds are the life preserver that pulled me to the shore where I can finally stand up on my own two feet and run like hell from PPA.

Speaking of kicking PPA’s ass, please consider donating $10 or more to my Climb Out Of The Darkness fundraiser to benefit Postpartum Progress! There are great prizes up for grabs. More details here.

  • Lauren - Thanks for this! Almost 18 months postpartum and I’m still dealing with the postpartum anxiety – I totally get the walls closing in thing. And I get the exercise helps thing, but getting over that hump of panic, etc of all the things to do that won’t be done while exercising has always been so hard. Meds help, as much as I hate the crutch, they help me be the mom I want/need to be. So thanks for normalizing it. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there feeling like this.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - I also struggled with PP anxiety. It was very severe for the first five months post partum and then slowly for better. I’ve been fine now for over a year but as I think/desire/contemplate getting pregnant against anxiety is high. I talked to an OBGYN about my desire to be on anxiety meds during and after my next pregnancy. He said it’s better to start during the second trimester. Curious what medications you have taken and when. He acted very hesitant and made me weigh the risks heavily. So I agreed to see how it goes and let him know if I need them during pregnancy. Any advice and opinions would be appreciated.ReplyCancel

    • JennyK - I can tell you that I took Prozac (anti-depressant but also helps anxiety) throughout both pregnancies. Helped a lot. I also took clonazepam/Klonipin postpartum for PPA. Hope that helps. Good luck. I don’t know if you can take clonazepam while pregnant.ReplyCancel

      • JennyK - BTW, I should have said, the clonazepam was an absolute lifesaver in terms of the anxiety. Unbelievable and worked w/in a few days. My psychopharmacologist is amazing and explained to me the adrenaline/fight/flight response that gets activated by giving birth/hormone release, etc and how we feel our babies are always in danger and that in other times or with other species that feeling can be very helpful but without a way to release that adrenaline it just becomes this debilitating anxiety (I’m sure I’m butchering his explanation). Anyway, clonazepam saved my life and allowed me to be the mother I was meant to be to my baby. And I still take Prozac. Good luck.ReplyCancel

    • Marcie - Jessica– I talked to my OB/GYN about this during my preconception visit (I’m currently on Zoloft). He said that if I felt better on the meds, then having a mom who was able to take care of herself outweighed any risks to the baby by taking it. There have also been lots of studies of Zoloft in particular in pregnant women, with only very rare side effects.ReplyCancel

    • Samantha H - My anxiety started in my 7th month with my 2nd baby. Dr put me on welbutrin for the remainder of the pregnancy and a year after. It worked well with no side effects for the baby.ReplyCancel

  • Jill Huynh - Great job mama! I hope one day I can get to the point where an outing like the zoo just sounds like a fun day and not like the worst day ever. Keep going!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany Liggitt - I haven’t read past posts, so I might be missing something. But where did you go for help? Your ob/gyn? It a psychiatrist. I think I struggled with mild post partum anxiety after my first, and now that I’m pregnant again, I’m already terrified of feeling that way again. And worse. I talked with my practitioner after my first, and she assured me what I was feeling was normal, but looking back, I’m not so sure.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny Kanevsky - Great post. Thank you for sharing and kudos to you on your treadmill victory. You did it today. If you do it tomorrow, great, if you don’t want to leave the house tomorrow, that’s OK too. The gym childcare was a huge help for me, but the solution was my medication. Without it, there’s no way I’d be here today. Exercise just helped a lot, and so did getting out of the house and not being with the kids ALL FREAKING DAY BY MYSELF. Been there, felt that. It does get better. I promise. Mine are 12 and 9 now. It was with my 9 yo that I had severe PPD/A and I now go everywhere with both (even on airplanes!) without wanting to lock myself in the restroom and not come out.

    Now, as for what you say below, Brittany, I echo what Susan Petcher says, OBs are really not the best for this issue, a psychiatrist specializing in PPD/A can help the most. A good OB/GYN can refer you. Since you suspect you suffered with your first child, I’d perhaps talk to someone now. It’s possible to have issues during pregnancy too so you may (or not, don’t want to scare you) be at risk. It might make you feel less afraid if you had someone on board now who knew what your experience was before and could help you before things got bad (they may not, but being prepared will help you feel less anxious anyway). My OB/GYN referred and I got in immediately when I called in crisis in a panic when my second son was two weeks. They took me seriously, called a specialist, and he got me in that day and within three days the meds started to work and I was on my climb out of the darkness. Good luck and keep reaching out.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny Kanevsky - Great post. Thank you for sharing and kudos to you on your treadmill victory. You did it today. If you do it tomorrow, great, if you don’t want to leave the house tomorrow, that’s OK too. The gym childcare was a huge help for me, but the solution was my medication. Without it, there’s no way I’d be here today. Exercise just helped a lot, and so did getting out of the house and not being with the kids ALL FREAKING DAY BY MYSELF. Been there, felt that. It does get better. I promise. Mine are 12 and 9 now. It was with my 9 yo that I had severe PPD/A and I now go everywhere with both (even on airplanes!) without wanting to lock myself in the restroom and not come out.

    Now, as for what you say below, Brittany, I echo what Susan Petcher says, OBs are really not the best for this issue, a psychiatrist specializing in PPD/A can help the most. A good OB/GYN can refer you. Since you suspect you suffered with your first child, I’d perhaps talk to someone now. It’s possible to have issues during pregnancy too so you may (or not, don’t want to scare you) be at risk. It might make you feel less afraid if you had someone on board now who knew what your experience was before and could help you before things got bad (they may not, but being prepared will help you feel less anxious anyway). My OB/GYN referred and I got in immediately when I called in crisis in a panic when my second son was two weeks. They took me seriously, called a specialist, and he got me in that day and within three days the meds started to work and I was on my climb out of the darkness. Good luck and keep reaching out.ReplyCancel

  • Marcie - Thank you so much for your honesty regarding this topic. As someone who’s suffered with depression and anxiety during my entire adult life, I worry about what’s going to happen after I give birth. I take solace in the fact that those around me can tell (sometimes even better than I can) when I’m spiraling.
    The NY Times just posted a 2-article series on PPMDs: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/16/health/thinking-of-ways-to-harm-her.html & http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/health/maternal-mental-illness-can-arrive-months-after-baby.htmlReplyCancel

    • Jill - Those articles are like a punch to the gut, but such very important reads. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Samantha H - Good work! I just had my third and it’s my first time not having violent hallucinations. I’ve had a bit of anxiety, but to curb it and not go on meds I’ve declined to go back to my stressful job, nurse the baby exclusively, exercise, and lower my expectations of myself as a mother. Some days I yell far too much at my older kids and other days we go to the library, the park, etc. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin @ In Between the Piles - Thank you for sharing your personal fight with PPA. I stumbled upon your blog when I had a teething baby making short work of her crib rail. I not only found a pattern for a crib rail cover but also found my first blog. When you shared about your struggles after having Leyna, it helped me to not feel alone and to realize that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety/depression (after being treated for depression/anxiety for 14 years). I was taking the same medications and seeing a psychiatrist, but it wasn’t cutting it. Thank you for helping me to not feel alone and helping me to learn about Postpartum Progress. Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

  • PPD is real and you need help - […] her challenges with PPD / PPA very openly and honestly.   It didn’t click with me until a recent post that included a picture of her running shoes.   Before having babies, I worked out 1-2 hours a […]ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*