June 20, 2014

Postpartum Dark Days

As I find out more and more of my mom friends (or are more of my friends becoming moms?) are reading my blog, I've really turned this into a place where I explore and reflect on motherhood and all the great things that come with it - activities, milestones, products, etc. I love showing off my babies and talking about all the fun days we have together. However, I think it's important to address the hard days too. To be an honest and helpful blogger is to admit that there are hardships within motherhood, and to realize your not alone, and it's okay.

With my first pregnancy I had experienced some depression at the start of my third trimester. It was a sudden rush of emotions that ranged from emptiness to just a sadness that I couldn't explain. After discussing it with my midwife we decided to put me on Citalopram (a generic form of the anti-anxiety/depression medication Celexa). After that it was smooth sailing, and my midwife kept me on it throughout my postpartum days "just in case." I went through much of the next few months with very little to no problems. Some days were harder than others, but mostly due to normal hormone fluctuations and emotions from just having a baby. After a few months we lowered my dosage and I became active in order to keep those stressful days at bay. I missed pills once and a while and nothing really happened. I figured, I was fine.

Enter pregnancy #2...I thought I was prepared. I felt much healthier this time around and also felt knowledgeable about my depression symptoms. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise, and terror, when I experienced my first postpartum anxiety attack. It came out of nowhere. Joey and I were talking and I mentioned how I had seen a child in a wheelchair earlier in the day and how sad it made me, and how thankful I was for our children's health. Then my mind started running wild with thoughts that literally were suffocating me. I couldn't stop thinking about sick children, then the impact that must make on their parents, and then I started thinking about my own children becoming sick. My chest started feeling tight and blown up. I couldn't breathe. I felt like my heart was going to explode or my lungs were going to collapse. I imagine this is what it feels like before one has a heart attack. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I felt completely out of control. I didn't know if I wanted to just shut down, or if I wanted to run and never stop. I had never even imagined panic like this before. I didn't know this type of panic existed.

I felt like I was losing more and more of myself as the minutes went on. Luckily, I recognized the symptoms for a panic attack and was able to tell Joey right away that I thought I was having one. He helped me through it - talking to me, and reminding me to take deep breaths. To take my mind off of it as it passed through me, I decided to fold some laundry. As I was doing this simple task, every time I lost control, I felt crazy. When a sock was stuck to a towel, I remember throwing the whole towel down in frustration and having to walk away from the laundry, because I just couldn't handle it. Not being able to pull the sock immediately off the towel almost caused me to burst into tears. It was so scary to feel so out of control, and to not be able to handle myself. The feeling would come back strong, fade, then come back again, and this went on for about 90 minutes before I finally felt like myself again. At some points I was holding back tears because I felt so out of it, and felt so lost. I wasn't myself, and not being in control is a very scary thing. At the peak of the panic attack, I felt like I was dying.

After I returned to normal, I googled "postpartum anxiety attacks" right away and knew as soon as I saw the list of symptoms that, this was indeed what had just happened to me.
Racing heart?
Sense of terror, impending doom or death?
Chest pains?
Breathing difficulties?
Feeling a loss of control?
All of the above happened. It was so horrible; something I would never wish on anyone. In the morning I felt nauseous every time I thought about what had happened the night before and my heart would start racing. I felt like I was going to relapse and get another attack. This was on Saturday. I felt more or less the same way until Monday morning. I felt like I was walking on eggshells and one wrong move would bring all the panic back. I made an appointment with my doctor immediately on Monday and got my medication dosage upped, and have since then felt better and have not had another attack. I now am very, very careful about my pills and make sure I take them correctly every single day. I also pay attention to triggers that may affect my anxiety, such as dehydration, breast feeding fluctuations, and so forth.

It didn't take me too long to open up about my anxiety this time around because I know that this is not my fault, and not a sign of weakness, or a cause for shame. I had felt anxious and sad last time I was pregnant, and felt like at a time where I should be so happy and so blessed, it was shameful that I felt depressed. I didn't like or want people to know I was feeling down after a wonderful thing (like getting pregnant and having a baby) happened to me. I also never wanted to discuss my feelings of anxiety because I felt like somehow that linked me with being weak - not a fit mother. I'm much more accepting of it now, seeing that this is my second baby, and I've just come to terms about a lot of things in motherhood. There are just some things that happen. They are out of our control. It's totally okay, and makes sense why it would happen. Our bodies just went through this crazy hormonal roller coaster, where our hormones changed, the chemicals changed in our brains, our bodies physically, and our minds mentally were altered - things are bound to not be perfect after such a change. Not to mention breastfeeding also plays a part in all this because that too releases hormones. With fluctuations in milk production, that can get things messy too.

Like I said before, I think in order to really reach to readers, in particular, other moms, one needs to address the hard parts of motherhood too. It's not all about dressing your kids cute, planning parties, and going to the park. ;) It's realistic that our days are not perfect. It's natural that some things are out of our control. Not enough people admit to these days. I am because it took me a long time to accept it, and what helped me most was finding out other moms I knew went through it too. I wasn't alone, and it was such a relief. It was refreshing to hear about the bad days, and know that there was nothing wrong with me. It was also helpful to talk to other moms about the anxiety and to know that I would be able to get through it. (In particular, thanks to my friend Heather. I know you are reading this. Love you.)

So if you find yourself sad, or feeling anxiety, get help. Ask others about it. You aren't alone. And you'll be okay! Motherhood isn't always sunny, but it's worth it. :) Best of luck!

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