Postpartum Anxiety in the Year 2012
So glad I found you. Your blogs have made me laugh (and cry here and there) and you always seem to do it with such wit and the perfect amount of neuroses so that I know I am not the ONLY slightly crazy one. 🙂
My background: I just turned 35 last week, a new mom of a freakishly tall (29.5 inches) 6 month old baby boy. He is perfection, if I do say so myself. The problem is: moi.
I struggled with the baby blues preeeeettty bad. I felt like my life was over, that I would never go anywhere or do anything ever again. I would hear songs from college and cry. I was alone a lot, as my husband travels for work and having moved across the country from a tight knit group of friends….well, there was a lot of adjustment going on. More recently, I thought those days were over. I have been showering regularly, bought new jeans that weren’t full panel maternity, and can now run errands with baby with ease.
Until now. I have been having all of these crazy fears about 2012. As I am writing this, I KNOW how nuts it sounds. I am annoyingly rational and practical most of the time. But, I seriously have a bat by the changing table in case a zombie suddenly bursts into the room during my 4AM feeding. And I’m thinking of stashing canned goods and bottled water. And although I could MAYBE get away with that without being considered a raving loony, I am even considering putting off baby #2 until I know for sure that we are out of the woods and well into 2013 (which because of my age is not what I really want).
I get scared at night. Like, really, really scared. Anxiety dreams galore. (As if my night’s sleep wasn’t interrupted enough) And I have all of these fears about taking care of my boy should I be one of the survivors in an apocalypse. I’ve never loved anyone like I love him and the thought that I may not be able to protect him, well….it’s freaking me out. I guess I should also mention that I lost my father and brother suddenly when I was 18. That always seems to bite me in the butt with my anxiety.
I guess my question is: Is this just more postpartum junk?? Is there anyone else out there worrying themselves to death about media nonsense that even if by some minute chance is true, is completely out of their control??
Come on, Amy, pull out every ounce of neuroses you got and help a sista out. Thanks!
Spooked & Pooped
So look: Mental health diagnosis via online advice column is…you know, not really my forte. Or something I can even attempt without Isabel (understandably) clawing her face off because gaaaaaaaaahhhhh for entertainment purposes only no medical advice stuff pleeeeeeease.
But: Your anxiety is excessive. Your anxiety is intrusive. Your anxiety is at a level that no one should be dealing with and your anxiety clearly needs to be addressed before it gets worse and you’re having full-on uncontrollable panic attacks or dangerous thoughts about “saving” your baby from terrible end-of-the-world scenarios. Because if there’s one thing I know from my personal experiences with anxiety disorders, they unfortunately tend to move in one steady solid direction if left unchecked. And that’s worse.
Your anxiety is also very, very common. Postpartum depression is NOT just depression. For many women it manifests as anxiety, OCD, panic, paranoia, anger problems, mood swings, etc. But because they’re managing to get out of bed every morning and aren’t crying all the time or thinking about hurting themselves (and/or the baby)…you know, the “classic” PPD symptoms we all tend to hear the most about, they don’t realize that yes, actually, they are dealing with PPD. Just in a slightly different form.
You don’t mention seeking help for your earlier, more “traditional” depressive symptoms…if you didn’t, that does make it less surprising that the problem would escalate to this consuming fear of the apocalypse and zombies and ancient prophesies that the (&$(@#, don’t get me started) History Channel has decided to mine for all it’s worth. I know a LOT of people are getting into the 2012 stuff, to varying degrees (I have a friend who’s been joking about hosting an End of the World party, but who I can tell is also a teeny bit nervous about the whole thing), but to let it get to the point where you can’t sleep and are obsessing over post-apocalyptic custody arrangements, well…again. Excessive. That word I am using…well, excessively.
And if you were my real-life friend describing your fears while sitting across from me at the coffee shop while our six- and seven-month-olds threw applesauce at each other…I would very much implore you to please, please get some help. Talk to someone. TELL someone about all of it, the nightmares and the obsessing and the bat and your dad and the moving baby #2 plans, with no jokes about “oh I know this sounds so funny/crazy, hee hee” or downplaying it as “postpartum junk.”
You DO NOT have to live with this amount of fear over something that 1) really mostly likely I SWEAR isn’t going to happen, and 2) is completely out of your control ANYWAY, but you’re allowing to rule your life. Imagine if, instead of the end of the world, your anxiety was centered around getting injured or dying in a car crash. And you refused to get in a car, or to put your baby in a car, or have another baby because you’d have to drive to OB visits and the hospital and what if you got into an accident while pregnant and what if what if what if. At some point (I HOPE) someone around you would push you into a doctor’s and/or therapist office to address your fears and get them under control. I don’t know if you’re simply hoping things will magically get better once we hit December 22nd, and think you can just stash some cans and water in the meantime to help “take the edge off,” but sadly, anxiety and PPD don’t work like that.
One last personal bit: I live in the DC area. I lived in DC on September 11, 2001, and was stuck in traffic on a bridge over the Potomac river, watching smoke rising from the Pentagon off in the far distance. I was…rattled, of course, but thought I was coping pretty well, considering. Then a little over a year later, the Beltway sniper attacks started and a switch was flipped in my brain. I hadn’t even had a baby yet, but oh my God, my anxiety levels went through the roof. I didn’t sleep. I locked and relocked doors. I would start trembling in the car on the way to work and shriek and duck at loud noises, like cars backfiring. I would mentally rank my surroundings at all times in order of their appeal as targets for terrorists. I kept my cat’s carrier out in our foyer all the time so I could shove him in it before evacuating in case our building was bombed. The snipers were caught, but nothing changed for me. My anxiety simmered and ebbed and ultimately raged out of control as I found new scary things to obsess over until I GOT SOME HELP. For me, it was a combination of temporary medication and therapy to talk through my fears — why they were irrational, but what more rational fears were lurking underneath, fears that I could do something about — and get coping mechanisms to deal with the symptoms of panic. And I got better. So will you. Promise. *HIGH FIVE*
If you are unsure of who to talk to, please visit Postpartum.net, or call them 1-800-944-4PPD. They’ll help you find someone local who specializes in postpartum anxiety disorders. Your pediatrician’s office or OB/GYN can also be a good place to start, but if you don’t feel like they’re taking you seriously enough, don’t feel like you need to go back to suffering in scared silence.
Photo credit: ThinkstockPublished January 11, 2012. Last updated October 29, 2017.