I remember after having my first child four years ago, being careful of watching myself for postpartum depression signs. What I wasn’t looking out for or even knew much about was postpartum anxiety. As we brought my son home and the dust started to settle with our new world things started to unravel quickly. The exhaustion set in, my husband returned to work, and my son started to grow more colicky, but I persisted in my thought that this was just what motherhood looked like.
I spent the better part of my son’s first year convincing myself that everything I was feeling and experiencing was all just part of adjusting to being a new mom. I know now that I couldn’t have been more wrong. My body was trying desperately to tell me something was very wrong.
1. The inability to make a decision – my mind would swirl when trying to decide which diaper cream to use, what to dress him in, were to set him while I went to fix a bottle. My brain was on a was a never-ending loop of trying to methodically think through every scenario. I struggled to quiet my thoughts enough to make a decision and when I did, I would question the decision for hours, sometimes days.
2. Guilt – I had guilt about just about everything. Leaving my son, staying with him, not feeding him the right food, you name it and I likely felt guilty about it. The all-consuming guilt I couldn’t shake over the decision I was making.
3. Tingly hands – this one really threw me for a loop. I honestly thought something was horrible physically was happening. I went to the doctor even to have them run blood tests and found nothing. I was ‘fine’. I know now, I wasn’t fine, it was anxiety playing tricks on me and thinking that it was all physical when in fact was my body’s way of trying to get my attention.
4. Shingles – I broke out in shingles 4 months postpartum. There are conflicting ideas on how and why people get the shingles virus, but some camps believe stress can cause a breakout. It was a painful episode which I think was lengthened due to the anxiety. I had months of nerve pain even after the painful rash went away.
5. Irrational fears – my fear manifested itself through being afraid of it getting dark. I’d panic every night when the sun would start to set about how the night would go. I had so much fear on the impending night that I would usually start building the anxious thoughts long before it even got dark.
6. Panic attacks –I had never actually experienced a classic ‘panic attack’ before having my son, so I wasn’t even quite sure what was happening. My attacks mainly happened at night when those irrational fears took over and got too strong to deal with.
7. Crying – I didn’t cry often, but when I did it was usually accompanied with the above panic attacks and like those, they were uncontrollable loss of emotions.
8. Fuzzy brain – I caught myself having conversations with people and realizing several seconds in that I wasn’t paying attention at all to what they were saying. I had always been a fantastic listener so I would ask them to repeat only to find my brain wander again and not to focus on something else but to get totally lost. The fuzziness also made it hard to find words to respond or saying something that I didn’t really mean to say.
9. Insomnia – I was truly blessed with a wonderful sleeping baby who slept through the night by 8 weeks, but it didn’t matter because I managed to keep myself up even though he wasn’t with the consistent worry, anxiousness and panic.
10. Social anxiety –Outings were unpleasant. I dreaded going places and seeing people. I wanted to be locked away and didn’t want to talk or meet with anyone if I didn’t have to.
Being on the other side of my postpartum anxiety and now seeing a world with a second child where there was no postpartum anxiety, I see now that all of the signs were there, I just ignored all of them. If you are feeling anything above or just feeling ‘off’ even just a little bit, please reach out to anyone who will listen. Every mother deserves to be happy and healthy to enjoy her beautiful gift given to her.