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.