This is my real face.
I am happy. I am probably—to some people—so annoyingly happy. I have everything I could ever want, pray or hope for.
I have three beautiful, healthy children and the most amazing husband. I have family that I’m close to. I also have family that I’m close to AND that physically lives close by. I have the best friends. I’m on a team of amazing women whose sole passion and mission in this life is to inspire and help others live their healthiest, happiest lives. I am healthy. I exercise six days a week. I am so freaking happy!
Which is why something called postpartum anxiety totally and completely sneaked up on me.
I mean, what IS that even!?! How could I sit here, supporting some of my friends who have experienced the same, while being so completely oblivious to recognizing the symptoms in MYSELF?
Looking back, it’s easy to see it. The week before Christmas, the baby was five months old. Our three-year-old got croup. It was the first time I’d had to take a child to the emergency room, and I was so scared. I was worried that the baby would get it. (She didn’t).
For weeks, I had trouble going to sleep because I laid in bed and listened for any little cough from any of the kids, just KNOWING another one would be sick any minute. In February, both of the older kids got a high fever for 10 days. We suspected Influenza A. Again, I was so so worried that the baby would get it. (She didn’t).
But for a couple of weeks, I obsessively checked everyone’s temperatures multiple times each day. And sometimes through the night. I would lay in bed worrying, and even resented my husband snoring beside me, wondering how he could sleep and NOT be worried to death about the kids like I was.
We even went on a beach vacation to Florida, where I was still unable to sleep or relax.
Then I discovered a neck lump on the seven-month-old baby that required surgery to remove. In the weeks that led up to her surgery, sometimes at night I would sit up in bed, wide awake and gasping for air, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. (The surgery went well and the lump was benign, thank the good Lord)!
Let me try to explain—I’m not talking about just worrying. Anxiety is so hard to describe. And it can be different for each person. I’m talking about a constant worry that was interfering with my ability to mother. Or to live my normal life.
On top of that, I was short-tempered with the kids. And it’s hard to admit the rage I sometimes felt. I’m not talking about yelling. I’m talking about sudden rage that scared me and the kids.
I also resented the older two kids because I felt robbed of time and attention that I wanted to be spending with the baby.
I could never focus. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of things I needed to do every day and yet it was so hard to focus that hardly anything got done. This just led to feeling more overwhelmed.
I started to wonder what was wrong with me. I tried to pray it away. But I couldn’t. I tried to keep myself busy—too busy—hoping the distractions would help. They didn’t. It made it worse. And I couldn’t exercise it away either. It helped, but I still couldn’t stop thinking that maybe this extreme worrying and the anxious feelings I had almost constantly were not normal.
My baby was approaching nine-months-old. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t depressed. I was madly in love with the baby and never had scary thoughts about harming her or the other kids or myself.
But the periods of sudden rage and then the subsequent guilt were weighing on me. I didn’t know who I was. Why could I not relax? Why was no one taking care of me? Why was I so resentful? Why couldn’t I catch my breath?
Then, a revelation came.
One day, I was nursing the baby and reading one of my favorite blogger’s Facebook pages. The more I read, the harder I cried. I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. Even less talked about than PPD.
I was so relieved to finally know that I wasn’t crazy. I immediately messaged Lauren and asked her how she knew she needed help.
I called my doctor but chickened out before anyone answered. I kept trying to talk myself out of admitting that anything was wrong. After all, I felt like I had no right to feel the way I was feeling. My rational self kept repeating that I was happy. So how could I have postpartum ANYTHING?
That night I told my husband I needed to talk to my doctor but that I could not call. He thankfully took my tears and distress seriously because the next day he called my doctor’s office and the nurse called me.
After more tears, and much reassurance from my sweet nurse, I had a prescription.
So, what now?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, postpartum anxiety is a mood disorder that affects about 10 percent of moms. It can present as anxiety, or a combination of anxiety and depression. Panic attacks may also be present.
Other symptoms can include changes in eating or sleeping habits, difficulty controlling racing thoughts, constant worry, an impending fear that something bad is going to happen, trouble sitting still or focusing, and even physical symptoms like dizziness or nausea.
I now know I have many friends who have been brave enough to ask for a prescription, too. But man, do I feel ridiculous for not knowing or recognizing the symptoms in myself. And even more ridiculous that I kept thinking I could out-pray or out-exercise my anxiety.
So why do I tell you this?
Because I am standing tall. This is the hardest but possibly most important thing I have ever shared. Because even though I AM happy, and filled with joy and gratitude for this life and my children, I absolutely was not being my best, healthiest self for a few months.
I am thankful that postpartum depression is getting talked about more often. But I hope that no one has to suffer through postpartum anxiety either. I wish I had realized sooner that what I was feeling was not normal.
Postpartum mood disorders do not discriminate. I know that now. It doesn’t matter if you are happy, healthy, have a history of mood disorders or not, are a stay-at-home mom or a work-outside-the-home mom.
I feel so much better and back to my normal self with a little help from a little pill. Will I take it for much longer? I don’t know for sure yet.
But please, if you are in any way feeling like I described, don’t put off calling your doctor. It doesn’t matter how strong you are. Sometimes we all need a little help.