I’ve had some time since I last told you all about my postpartum anxiety diagnosis. I’ve been on medication (Zoloft, for those wondering) for over a month now.
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a long time. It’s just not an easy one to type out. Sometimes just thinking about the anxiety brings it back a bit.
But yesterday Postpartum Progress published this post: 70 Postpartum Depression Survivors: I Knew I Was Getting Better When… and I could relate with so many of those feelings. While I don’t think I’m completely “better” just yet, I know that I’m improving and just looking back makes me realize how far I’ve come. Which is sort of scary because a couple months ago I was convinced there was nothing really wrong with me, and I’m really glad it was something relatively benign that made me reach out for help. Though, at the time, it was incredibly frightening in my head.
Things Got Worse Before They Got Better:
As the baby weight started to come off this time around, I began to notice a weird ridge of what seemed like cellulite on the front of my left thigh. It’s really not that big at all. It’s just I have chicken legs, so any sort of pocket of fat really stands out. I have a cluster of cellulite that I’ve had since I was 16 on the back of my right leg, and this looked similar. For a few weeks, I would see it in the bathroom mirror and think it looked odd, but then I brushed it off.
The weekend I went to L.A. at the end of October, I suddenly went from being blase about it to convincing myself it was cancer. And not just cancer, but stage 4 cancer that’s probably metastasized and is rapidly killing me. I rubbed the spot where the fat rested, over and over feeling for a mass, so much that I bruised myself. But then I couldn’t tell if I caused that bruise or the cancer caused the bruise.
Prior to this, for months, I let my mind focus on worrying about death and illness. I was perpetually convinced someone I love or I would get cancer and die. I remember having a similar episode after Kendall turned 1. A clogged milk duct sent me spiraling, crying in a GYN’s office, convinced I had breast cancer.
The rational in my mind? That my life was going TOO good. I have too many blessings. I’ve had too easy a road. Something bad was bound to happen to me. It’s just a matter of time.
So, back to the lump of fat on my leg. When I got back from L.A. the anxiety only got worse. By the time Tuesday rolled around (3 days later), I walked into a doctor’s office that’s near my son’s school after I dropped him off. I was happy I hadn’t got into an accident driving him to school because my heart was racing and I thought I might pass out. I made an appointment to have the lump of fat looked at. I was going to beg them to biopsy it. They couldn’t get me in until Friday.
A few hours later, I felt like I was having a stroke. My arms were tingling, my tongue was numb. I was dizzy, my heart was pounding through my chest. Oh my God? Was this a sign the cancer had spread to my heart or lungs??
Anxiety breeds anxiety. I was on a roller coaster I could not get off.
I called the doctor back and begged for them to get me in sooner.
When I went in the next day, I could barely sign in, my hands were shaking so bad.
“What are you here for?” the doctor asked.
“Well, I have this lump… and it’s probably just fat, but it’s scaring me, and I felt like I had a stroke yesterday, but obviously I’m fine… and, well, honestly? I think my problem is anxiety,” I fired all that off in about .2 seconds.
He took a look at my leg.
“Uh, well, that just looks like…. cellulite?” I could tell he was trying to put it delicately that I have a lump of fat on my leg.
“Oh, that’s okay! That’s GOOD! I’d much rather have cellulite than cancer!” I nervously laughed.
That was when we got into the anxiety thing. I won’t re-hash everything we talked about, but I’ll say I was floored when he so quickly diagnosed me and offered up a prescription for anti-depressants.
But I wasn’t depressed??
Surely he didn’t know what he’s talking about. I thought he would tell me to get more exercise, more sleep, to work through this with a better diet. Meds? He thinks I need medication? I’m not THAT bad, I thought.
So I didn’t fill the prescription that day. No, I am *not* the type who needs to be medicated. That is just silly. I will get through this on my own.
Scott works from home Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the same days Kendall goes to school. Mondays and Fridays had been a struggle for me for the last few months leading up to my diagnosis. I have both kids to take care of and no help. I know, cue the world’s smallest violin. Stay At Home Mom has to care for 2 kids by herself 2 days a week. It’s a rough life.
But for me, with all of this going on, that truly was an enormous task. I dreaded Mondays and Fridays.
On that Friday after the anxiety attack and diagnosis, we had a particularly rough day. I don’t remember why I was so on edge, but I spent most of the day yelling, pacing, stressing, and beating myself up. Kendall went to timeout more times than I can count.
At a point in the afternoon, when I was rocking Leyna to sleep for her nap, shortly before Scott was supposed to get home, I had a conversation with myself that I will never forget. And it was a life changer.
And it takes a fucking ton of courage for me to type this and let you all in on this. It’s a big reason why it’s taken me so long to publish this post. Please offer me some grace and understanding.
As I rocked my baby, I looked at her and I reflected on how stressed and angry I was… with everyone…. for everything. And I thought, “Jill, if you don’t get help, you’ll be one of those moms on the news one day. You’ll snap. Maybe not today or next month, but this is a bad road you’re on, and you can’t get yourself off without help.”
When Scott walked in the door from work, I looked at him with tears in my eyes and told him I needed him to watch the kids because I needed to run an errand.
“Just a minute. I need to do something first,” he said.
“NO. WHEN I SAY I NEED TO GET AWAY FROM HERE, I MEAN RIGHT NOW. RIGHT. NOW. NOT IN 5 MINUTES. RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW.” I shouted.
Then I grabbed my keys, and drove to Walgreens. I picked up a bottle of Zoloft.
Yes, as it turns out, I am the “type” who needs it.
I Knew I Was Getting Better When…
I’m not going to lead you all to believe that I took some magic pills and suddenly everything was rainbows and kittens. I’ve had good days, and I’ve had really bad days.
Right after I started the Zoloft, there were some very, very bad days that made me want to give up taking medication altogether. But, the doctor and others had warned me that that was how it would go, and to stick with it.
It took a couple weeks and a change in my dosage, but I’m finally at the point where I have more good days than bad.
Immediately after starting the meds, I noticed I suddenly had patience. I could sit there and let my 3 year old try to put on his own clothes and not get so annoyed at the 2.5 minutes it was taking him. I could laugh at the silly things he did instead of getting annoyed by their minor inconvenience. I started referring to my meds as my “patience pills.”
We went to the pumpkin patch the day after I started taking them, and I remember saying to Scott that I couldn’t remember the last time I had so much fun. I had a smile so big that whole day that my face hurt that night.
Possibly the biggest change for me, the one that hurts the most to notice, is the connection I have with Leyna now. After starting meds, she suddenly felt… real to me. I don’t know how else to describe that. She felt more warm, more alive, more a part of me. I wanted to hold her. I wasn’t just rocking her as a means to get her to sleep so I could have some silence. I rocked her to sleep and then rocked her some more, and I apologized to her while she slept in my arms.
“I am so sorry. You deserved such a better mother. You WILL have a better mother. I WILL be a better mother.”
Another difference? I’m now able to fully take a deep breath. I mean, not a ragged, quick, heart-pounding one. If that makes sense.
I’m still irritable at times. I still lose it on occasion, but I suspect that’s more to do with me being human and not a Fembot. I wake up most days with anxiety for no apparent reason, but then I take my pill and am usually good to go shortly after.
I hate that it took me so long to get help. I hate that I missed out on so much bonding with Leyna, and I know Kendall’s attitude and aggression are a direct correlation to the anxiety he was sensing from me, and how I reacted to him.
I don’t know how long it will take me to correct all that, but I know I owe it to both of them to get better. They deserve so much more than a mom who’s constantly yelling and counting down the minutes until bedtime.
Go here for more info on living with postpartum depression.