Listen, friends, my early motherhood months were no picnic. I was already on medication, though, thanks to my own experience and my doctors’ awareness. They were open and listened to me. They helped me find the support I needed – and for me that was in the form of meds.
I found online support within my local moms’ group. And I used to joke that I had “PPD-lite”—I even thought I made up the name PPA. I never knew it was a legitimate postpartum mental health diagnosis. Postpartum anxiety. It’s not just legitimate, it’s very real. Real in that it impacts so many mothers – all day, every day.
Remember, I’m a licensed clinical social worker. And I didn’t know that postpartum anxiety was actually a thing.
Whatever it is you’re experiencing? Whatever you’re feeling in these early postpartum days? It’s real.
You may think to yourself, well, I get out of bed, I take care of my baby, and I actually leave the house – so I can’t have postpartum depression, right?
Right. Or maybe not.
Maybe you leave the house and don’t talk to anyone. Maybe you don’t attend playdates or meet up with other moms or talk to your neighbors because you’re anxious about too many things. This all counts. Maybe you actually do all these things I’m mentioning, but your heart races and you can’t breathe normally the entire time you’re doing them. That counts, too.
You may think to yourself, I’ve never ever thought of hurting my baby. I could never feel that way. I just wish I could sleep for a week and that’s just motherhood, right?
Right. Or maybe not.
Maybe you don’t just want to sleep for a week, but you’re so tired of your baby’s crying that you don’t even want to pick him up from the crib when he wails. Maybe you’re practically pulling your hair out when you hear his screech. Or you don’t want to be the one he needs. Maybe that’s anxiety hitting you hard. Maybe it’s any other postpartum mood disorder. You don’t have to be diagnosed with postpartum psychosis to be in need of help. You don’t have to be at the end of your rope to reach out for it, either. People are here to listen and to help you. No matter what you’re going through.
You may think to yourself, my baby is one now! It makes sense that I’m nervous that she’s starting to get into everything and it’s fine that I don’t want to leave the house with her because what if she gets hurt or worse? That’s a part of life, right?
Right. Or maybe not.
Take a moment to assess the levels of your anxiety. How do you feel when you consider visiting a friend and taking your child with you? What comes to mind when your partner suggests going to the park for a few hours, or heading out to the lake?
Does your heart start racing? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts? Thoughts that have you worrying about the dangers of taking your child outside of your home? There are so many reasons for this, and you’re not alone. You’re allowed to ask for help. Please do.
The reason I’m writing about this today is because I want to be sure you know that no matter what it is you’re experiencing, no matter what your diagnosis, no matter what levels of fears, anxieties, and hurt you’re living with, you deserve to feel loved and supported. You deserve to know that people out there have your back. Many of us have been where you are and you’re not alone. No matter what you think is happening and how awful some of it may or may not seem – you are entitled to help.
You don’t have to be completely on either end of the spectrum to be struggling. And there’s no need for you to suffer. We’re here for you. Talk to your friends, your family, your doctors, therapists, find a local support group, look for resources online (PSI has MANY!). Get the help you need. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone.
Andrea is a native New Yorker living in NC who has become quite accustomed to wearing flip-flops year-round. An LCSW, she works part-time, benefitting her social media addiction, and volunteers regularly for several non-profit organizations helping women in need of support. Andrea has been published on sites like Carolina Parent, Postpartum Progress, Scary Mommy and Midlife Boulevard. You can also find her at her own website, Good Girl Gone Redneck, writing about her life as a mom, her family, important causes, and incredible books you absolutely must read.