Author’s note: This is a part of a series written at different stages of my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you feel like something is not right, please reach out. You do not have to suffer. You can read part one of my journey here.
I am writing this with the benefit of hindsight. Quite simply because it would be impossible to write about the raging storm inside my head whilst it was churning. My first post of this series was written when I believed things were better. I am still stumped as to why I was improving, and then it all spiraled out of control. But spiral it did. In truth, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Before I get ahead of myself, let me back up to the time where I thought I was doing better.
I was coasting along, trying to juggle all the plates we carry as moms. My older kids got sick, things needed repairing in the house, the baby got congestion from the older kids … and on and on. You know, “life” was happening. We all deal with these things as mothers. So I am not sure which straw broke the camel’s back. But the insomnia returned. The baby would be sleeping and I couldn’t sleep. It always happened after his middle of the night feeding. I would lay there worrying. Then I worried about not sleeping, and how I would function as a sleep deprived mom. Then I worried that I was SO WORRIED!
The first panic attack came on a Friday night, although I did not know that was what it was.
I had just fed the baby around 3:30am, he went right back to sleep and I laid there awake. Knowing the next day was Saturday, and I had all three kids to take care of alone. I could not fall asleep and every time I checked the clock, more time passed. I never did fall asleep. I got 3.5 hours of sleep that night. I noticed the baby seemed more congested, and it sounded like his breathing was labored. I unproductively tried to suction his nose. So I called the pediatrician and got an appointment ASAP.
Long story short, he was fine. All we needed was saline, a bulb syringe and for him to sneeze out a very large booger. That day I told my husband it was strange that the lack of sleep was bringing back all those feelings of intense anxiety from the early postpartum weeks. I was nervous about my kids getting hurt and could not stop the thoughts. I attributed it to lack of sleep and did not give it much thought. That night, I went to bed early, woke with the baby and fell right back asleep and again on the following night. Two nights after I lay awake after the middle of the night feeding, it happened again. In the midst of my racing thoughts and worry, I felt similar physical symptoms :: cold sweats, heart racing, and G.I. upset. I still did not know this was a panic attack.
The anxiety got worse.
I walked around that day feeling like my nerves were on the outside of my skin. That everyone who looked at me knew the battle going on inside my mind. I could not quiet the thoughts during conversation, and I believed that was apparent to all who came in contact with me that day. I really thought I was going crazy. Which perpetuated the cycle of thoughts: “How can I be a good mother when I cannot even carry on a conversation,” eventually led to “they will take my children away” and/or “they will have to hospitalize me.” The periods of intense anxiety were inevitably followed by the lowest lows. I remember curling up in the fetal position in my rocking chair and sobbing to my husband that I have never felt so low in my life. I felt I could melt into the floor. I looked at this baby that I prayed for, that I waited so long for, and begged for his forgiveness. I told him I was sorry. Truthfully, I sobbed that I was sorry.
I knew I needed help, I could not go on like this.
So I reached out to my husband first; I needed him to know how bad this was. Next, I reached out to friends, my lifesavers. I was immediately connected with a group of psychiatrists. I also reached out to my OB and through her wonderful NP, I was connected with a social worker. Within 2 days of hitting rock bottom, I had an appointment with the social worker and with a psychiatrist. I knew I needed both, I could no longer manage the anxiety on my own. All of my self-talk and self-care techniques were not cutting it. I needed professional help and I needed it fast!