On Postpartum Anxiety

My Thoughts on Postpartum AnxietyAs time seems to go faster and faster, I’m learning to slow down and take in all that has happened this past year. Sometimes we are just doing our best to get through whatever experience we are in, and digesting it doesn’t come until much later.

If I am being honest, it’s been a really hard year for me. As a new mom, there are all of these pressures to enjoy and savor every moment with your new baby. There is the mom guilt that you are doing something wrong, or not at the right time, or that there is a better way to do something. Even on the best days, you may hear that voice creep in and you can ignore it but sometimes it will come back and the volume will be turned up all the way. You don’t have a choice but to listen it.

In moments like those, whether it is mom guilt, anxiety or any other emotion, it often feels unwelcome. I didn’t invite these bad feelings… how dare they take up residence in my mind? It can feel like an ungrateful house guest – one who is messy and doesn’t get the hint that it’s time for them to go elsewhere. You can say the same things over and over, but after awhile you will realize that the house guest doesn’t actually speak English. You need to look at them, and really look at them to understand what they are saying and what they need to move on.

In my experience, actually sitting with my pain and anxiety is very unsettling. I mean, why would I want to hang out with that house guest? Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. I have realized over time that unless I spend the non-judgmental time to understand my emotions, they will just amplify so that they are heard. When you push things down, they often come back bubbling over until the mess is so much larger.

Everyone’s path looks different, but for me the answer was self-care. As a new mom, it can be really tricky to find the balance and the time to take care of yourself… but it is so critical. If I could give any mom-to-be or new mom advice it would be to not forget about yourself. Just as if you were taking care of a sick friend or family member, you need to remember the caretaker. You can only give when you have something to give.

Now that I am feeling better, I can look back on this last year with compassion. It was really hard. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. There were days where I couldn’t leave the house. On the good days, I would walk around the block, thinking about how “far” I was from home, and would quickly run back. It felt like the world was going to swallow me up and in those days, I forgot how to breathe.

It was such a hard time. On the one hand, I had this perfect, beautiful, angel of a child who I love more than anything. And I was falling apart. It felt like I was given this incredible gift and didn’t have the ability to open it. It was very frustrating and I was really hard on myself for not being able to just let go of the anxiety and move on from it.

Matt was a great support, and really helped me find the time to take care of myself. I started seeing someone who I could talk to, and I made it a priority to do yoga and cardio. Matt reminded me of how it is so important to be gentle with yourself. There were many days where I wasn’t sure that I would get beyond it. The anxiety felt all-consuming. But somehow he knew it would pass, and his reassurance meant so much to me. It gave me clarity that there would be a day where I felt less weighed down, even if I couldn’t see the road, that it was there.

I feel really good these days. Milo is doing so well, and I am able to enjoy him. I have found a balance (although it is always a work in progress) between being a mom, taking care of myself, and work. Now, I need to figure out how to add more hours to spend time with friends and do all the creative things I’d like to do. How do you fit it all in? That’s the big question.

I feel very grateful that I had so many people in my corner, cheering me on. I really wasn’t sure that I would feel good again. And that is a very scary and lonely place to be. I have wanted to write this so many times, but it’s too challenging (and frankly, painful) to articulate something when you are in the thick of it.

In the end, I am humbled by the postpartum anxiety I experienced… and may experience again. It reminded me just how important it is to take care of yourself, and how nothing is more important than love. That’s really the bottom line: love from others, loving others, and loving yourself. So in those moments of raw hurt, you can remember that the house guest is offering some form of love, even if it looks ugly and has thorns.