It is not entirely clear whether or not we should consider this postpartum anxiety, but it is certainly something we need to keep an eye on.
As dusk was casting its shade over the passing day, I sat at a red light on my way home from work considering the conversation I just had with my therapist over the phone. I had attempted to describe some of the feelings I was experiencing.
Anxiety was an old friend of mine, a friend that I had closed the door to for some time now. But, as I drove from work back home to my babies, I was curious:
Do I have postpartum anxiety or is this just my regular old anxiety coming back to visit now that I have children? And does it matter what I call it?
What my therapist said to me after these questions came up is an important message I feel so many new mothers need to hear.
She told me that whether or not we gave my “symptoms” a label or a diagnosis, the most important thing to remember was that there is no need to suffer either way, and that she wanted me to tell her more about what I was feeling.
That was what she said. What I heard was you don’t have to feel like this, and I am holding a safe space for you to talk about it more.
In the weeks that followed, I worked hard to notice and be aware of when my mind and body would crawl back into that chaotic place where calmness and clarity was nowhere to be found so I could explore it in my safe space.
I found that it was somewhat ever-present, yet somehow still sneaked up on me in unexpected ways.
I felt it when I thought I may need a moment alone, but also deeply hated every second away from my kids.
I felt it when I wanted to talk, but also could not find the strength to whisper a single sound out loud.
I felt it when I wanted to clean, but would walk ferociously frazzled in and out of each room of my house entirely overwhelmed by not knowing where or how to start.
I felt it when I wanted to have an adult conversation and the phone would ring, but I would walk in circles trying to anticipate how the conversation might go and miss the call anyway.
I felt it when I’d see other moms taking a walk together with their kids and a shadow of jealousy would walk next to me, but I couldn’t muster the means to call or text my own friends and ask them to join me.
I felt it when I would try to get myself and my children ready to go somewhere, but would end up sitting on the floor staring into space envisioning everything I needed to do as they danced around me.
I felt it when I’d go for a manicure, watch a funny television show, or read a book and try to enjoy them, but instead would scroll through social media and sabotage my chance for a mental vacation.
I felt it when I would try to put on an outfit and feel somewhat good in my clothes, but change no less than eight times before I ended up in my regular comfortable, not-very-nice, go-to yoga pants and sink in shame.
I felt it when I would try to make plans to visit with family or friends ahead of time, but would worry about unexpected on-goings that might make me uncomfortable and then try to avoid it.
I felt it when I would try to meal plan, shop, and prep to save time later in the week, but would undoubtedly realize I’d forgotten a single item and fester in foul depletion.
I felt it when I would try to sit and be present around others, but the thoughts of all the other things I could be doing would consume me and then unbearable restlessness would overtake my bones.
I felt it when it seemed like I was rambling aloud faster than anyone listening could surely make sense of, only to realize that I was not speaking at all and it was all just in my head.
I felt it when it seemed like someone was holding my throat, only to realize that it was my own fears tightening their grip on my desires.
I felt it when it seemed like something was squashing my chest, only to realize that it was my own ego pressuring me to stand still, paralyzed in time.
I felt it when it seemed like there was a drum beating in my head, only to realize that it was my own soul shaking me until I finally acquiesced to rest.
I felt it on and off, it came in and out, I was up and down.
But, I got help. And I practiced awareness.
My safe space and my awareness led me to see, to notice, to be, to breathe, to release, to change, to forgive, to let go, to accept, to heal . . . and it led me to feel calm, safe, and clear.
It led me to gratitude and growth.
So now these days I feel a little less like a mountain’s peaks and valleys and a lot more like a wave’s beautiful white edges on the shore that never quite stays in either ebb or flow for too long, always finding that strong, centered space over the sand, the gravitational pull that holds all the scattered droplets in unity.
And it is a much more pleasant place to be.
Mama, meet me in the sea. Will you, my friend?
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