Dealing With Postpartum Anxiety
Your beautiful baby is here after months of only seeing her/him through a ultrasound monitor, yet you feel life is so much more hectic and unbalanced than ever. What options do we have as parents to keep our anxiety under control when raising a baby?
After suffering from years of crippling anxiety, I began taking medication that helped me immensely. Like most anxiety medications, mine was incompatible with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Throughout my pregnancy I was given a safe alternative which helped with some, but not all of my anxious behavior. Once my daughter was born the anxiety intensified, not only did my anxious and intrusive thoughts continue from pregnancy, having a small human to keep alive added so many more. Anxiety is irrational, and for most of us sufferers we KNOW that it is irrational; I know that the chances of somebody grabbing my baby out of the locked car while I push the cart into the corral two feet away is unlikely, I know that when she faces forward in her stroller the likelihood of someone coughing or sneezing directly in her face her is low, I am aware that she is able to simply touch water without the possibility of drowning, but my brain just doesn't seem to get the message. Before I became pregnant, my anxiety was focused around daily tedious things: what will I eat today, where will I park today, what if traffic is bad, what if we have a long wait at the restaurant? These unnecessary questions consumed my mind at a constant rate; silly things that no human being should be worrying about, I worried about, and I worried a lot, to the point of affecting every area of my life. I eventually became begrudgingly comfortable with my daily struggles; medication helped, alcohol helped, and my husband was finally understanding that my brain is simply wired a different (more frustrating) way. This all changed when I became pregnant, a new chain of worries and fears began filling my brain involving pregnancy and childbirth. So many things can go wrong and for an anxious mind this was all consuming, and although every women has a list of fears when pregnant, my fears consumed my brain and interfered with daily tasks. After my daughter was born this intensified, every normal thought or question that goes through a new mothers mind was going around and around in my mind like a broken record player, this is not including the constant worries of my daughter passing away from SIDS, being abducted, falling and hitting her head, etc. Every and any possible negative thing that could happen to my daughter was in the back of my head every minute, compounded with the normal daily struggle of motherhood. Breastfeeding automatically excludes most medications that treat severe anxiety, so what did I do?
Let Go Of Control- The anxiety I suffer is uncontrollable. I have thoughts that intrude into my mind without any control or possibility of stopping them. Although I am admittedly a bit of a control freak, I began to grasp the reality that I will never be able to control these anxious thoughts, the only thing I can control is how I deal with them.
Gave Myself Daily Wake Up Calls-When an irrational thought enters my brain and I recognize it, I calmly tell myself that this is the anxiety talking and everything is and will be just fine.
Mental List Of Happy Thoughts- My daughter has made my life so incredible, when I had her I realized what my life had been missing all along. She may have brought on more things to worry about, but she also brought me indescribable happiness.
Give Her A Kiss- When my mind becomes too much too handle, I grab my daughter and hold her tight. This reassures my anxious mind that she is physically fine and happy as can be.
Keep Medication On Standby- Although I once believed I could never go this long without my meds, panic attacks can happen. At this point I haven’t had one severe enough that I couldn't talk myself down from, but I do keep some on hand just in case one strikes. This also gives my mind comfort in knowing that if I need it, I have it.
A Glass Of Wine- Wine is my weakness; before pregnancy I drank moderately, possibly a little too much (early twenties, can you blame me?) I have a glass or two when I can't shake what I am worked up about, this calms me down enough to recognize my anxiety is taking over and I need to relax.
Call A Friend- When all else fails, I distracted myself. I would call a friend and have them tell me about their day, or head to my parents house to unload onto them. Other distractions could be having a snack, going shopping or just talking a walk or drive.
I still struggle every day, but utilizing these behaviors keeps me in check and my anxiety at a tolerable level. After having been on medication for my anxiety I once thought going off of it would be impossible, but I've learned that it IS manageable and the trade off is having an adorable little human that loves and needs me unconditionally.