This is a topic that many moms are afraid to talk about, including myself. Mental health is a real struggle, and not only are you struggling with whatever it is that triggers your mental state, but you struggle to talk about it, which can be a really big problem.
Being that pre and postpartum health is something I specialize in, I would be a real hypocrite if I didn’t practice what I preach. So I made it a point to talk about it with my family and some close friends. And today, I’ve decided to share my story with you.
I’m currently 10 months postpartum, and was officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety at around 8 months postpartum. So my recovery is still pretty fresh – but I feel GREAT now. Will get to that in a moment, but first, I want to start with my discovery of how I was feeling.
I noticed how much my hormones changed after having my second baby around 2 months postpartum. It started with anxiety stints here and there, nothing too out of the ordinary – or so I thought. One major change I noticed was my fear of driving on the highway. I’ve never had issues driving on the highway before, not even after my first daughter. So I knew this must have had to do with hormonal changes after having my second girl. If I drove on the highway, no matter if I had the girls in the car or if I was driving alone, my blood would begin to boil and I would get super jittery. It would then spiral in nausea and slight stomach pains, to the point where one time I even had to pull over and run into the first bathroom I saw. This to me was an easy fix, in the sense that I would just avoid driving on the highway! I would just take side roads, or avoid any plans that required me to get there by highway. I knew it wasn’t quite motion sickness because I was always fine when in the passenger seat on the highway, or driving on any other fast road that wasn’t a highway. It was a weird thing, but I was able to manage it easily, and soon enough, the highway anxiety went away. Around 4 or 5 months postpartum, I was able to tolerate the highway again. Phew! Glad that’s over – or so I thought.
At 7 months postpartum, I got my period back. This is when things got worse. I was and am still breastfeeding, so my hormones are still working itself out, but they really took a turn once Aunt Flo came for a visit. I began having full blown anxiety attacks. They weren’t too often, and they weren’t daily, but when they came they were BAD. So bad that I couldn’t even take care of the kids, let alone take care of myself. It took me a while to realize they were actually anxiety attacks. At first, I just thought I was taking too long to eat a meal and got so hungry that I began to feel dizzy. So I would eat, but the feelings wouldn’t always go away, and sometimes they even got worse.
One morning, I was getting Whitney ready for preschool. Both girls had their breakfast and I was styling Whitney’s hair. Then a wave came over me out of nowhere. My blood got really hot, and I suddenly felt really light headed. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I started eating some food. It didn’t help. I had to take a seat on the couch and take deep breaths. Then I had to lay down and take deeper breaths. I was home alone with the girls so I began to worry what was going to happen to me — what if I fainted? So I called my neighbour and asked her if she wouldn’t mind dropping Whitney off to school for me. Thankfully she works part time and was home that day! I told her I wasn’t feeling well and that I think I was getting the stomach flu, which was really what I thought (I didn’t know what an anxiety attack felt like yet). She came right over and drove Whitney to school. When she left it was Tori’s nap time so I was able to put her down in her crib. The timing was perfect, if you will, because I was able to lay down in my bed, alone without worrying about the kids. I brought over the garbage can in case I needed to vomit as my stomach was turning and turning and kept getting worse. At one point, it felt like someone was twisting my intestines and I had to breathe through the pains as if I were in labour. I called my husband and asked him to come home after his meetings because I thought I was getting the flu. He understood and said he will be home by noon. And then, maybe after 15 minutes or so of “labouring” in my bed, it just went away. And I felt better again. It was SO weird!
I still didn’t realize it was anxiety, until it started happening every few days. That’s when I spoke up to my husband, and told him I think I am struggling with postpartum anxiety. We had a good hour-long discussion about it, my attacks, my feelings, my triggers – all of it. After talking with him, I felt so much better. However, the very next morning, I had another attack, right after he left for work. Thankfully the girls were still sleeping, so I was able to work through some coping mechanisms, but that’s when I said I had enough. I booked an appointment with my doctor for the next day. She prescribed me with some anti-depressants and referred me to a therapist. After about a week of taking the medication, I began to feel like myself again. I am now able to properly work through my responsibilities as a mother, without worrying of having another unforeseen attack.
I knew it was more of a chemical imbalance when the coping mechanisms I was doing weren’t helping. I started exercising again, getting more fresh air, taking more time for myself, changed my diet a bit to reflect better hormonal balance – but it wasn’t helping. It did for a temporary period of time, but my attacks were still happening more and more frequently. So the medication was the best remedy I needed.
I wanted to share my story because this is a very common thing to happen to moms. Our hormones are strong, especially after giving birth. In fact, I read an article recently that stated how the postpartum hormone drop is considered the largest hormone change in the shortest amount of time for any human being, at any point in their life cycle. My anxiety was certainly brought on by hormones, and I knew if I didn’t get help soon, it would quickly escalate to depression. I felt it in my bones that it was my next fate. I’m glad I was able to put a stop to it.
If you are struggling, feel free to reach out to me just to talk. Talking it out works wonders. I know sometimes it’s hard to talk to family and friends because there is often judgement. I am here to say – I have no judgement mama.