Nothing brings on the anxiety quite like caring for a newborn. There's so much to worry about. Is my baby eating enough? What if I drop them? Is my baby meeting their milestones? It's no wonder new mothers develop postpartum anxiety (PPA), sometimes called a hidden disorder because it often goes unrecognized. I don't want any mother to have to suffer in silence, so I'm sharing my story. These are the personal red flags that made me realize I was suffering from PPA.
I've been dealing with depression nearly my entire adult life. Anxiety didn't strike until 2010, in the wake of a devastating breakup. In the weeks that followed, my chest would tighten and I would throw up in full-blown panic attack mode. My family convinced me to seek help. I was seeing a therapist, and a psychiatrist prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. The medication made me feel like a character in Alice in Wonderland, and I wasn't able to take it for very long. I dealt with my anxiety on and off for the next three years, with an especially bad bout after the death of my grandfather while I was living abroad. I ended up coming home early.
Then I met my husband and knew there was something special about him. Early on, I would freak out if he didn't text back right away or cry in bed if he turned away, convinced he was leaving me. Gradually, as he proved himself to be a kind, reliable man, I began to feel more secure. The anxiety dissipated. We got engaged, then married, then immediately became pregnant. Along with my doctor, I decided to continue my anti-depressant medication regimen during my pregnancy, because we felt having a healthy, happy mama was the best thing for the baby. I was on alert for any changes in my mental health, but honestly I was doing great. It wasn't until about seven months postpartum when a move to another state, sleep regression, and post-holiday blues combined to make me miserable. I now know it was PPA.
Everyone's unique, so your PPA signs could be completely different than mine. But perhaps reading these will increase your awareness and help you recognize symptoms in yourself. It's important to get help because PPA can interfere with bonding with your baby. If you tell just about any doctor or nurse that your emotional health is preventing you from caring for your child, they will take it seriously. I got a phone call from a nurse within an hour of sending an email and had an appointment the very next day. Just knowing I was doing something for myself helped me feel better. Through behavioral interventions and mindfulness training over the next few months, I was on the road to recovery. It's a constant battle, but I'm determined to be the best me so I can be the best mom possible.