Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Faking postpartum anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety.


That's what I like to call my issue. However, deep down, I know that having babies only amplifies what I've had going on my entire life. I've always had anxiety. As much as I'd like to pretend and tell people it's only a postpartum issue (blame it on pregnancy and suddenly you're not crazy), it's really not.

In Kindergarten, I was terrified of picture day. I remember being so confused by the change in our day. I was nervous standing in that stupid line in the gym waiting for my turn in the photo booth. And then, when I had to walk back to class by myself, I was so scared that I forgot how to get back to my classroom.

In 3rd grade, we learned about Arbor Day and how cutting down trees will deplete our oxygen supply. A few days later, my dad decided to clear out the strip of woods between our house and the street. Naturally, I freaked out, crying and screaming because we were killing the earth and all the humans in it. I worried for months.

In 7th grade, I thought all of my friends hated me. I'd stand alone during our lunch break, watching them all have fun without me. I truly believed they disliked me and didn't want me around. I just remember the pain I put myself through for no reason at all.

That same year, my 2 sisters and I were all given our own rooms in the basement of our home. I was terrified to sleep there, though. I felt lonely. Once I finally convinced my parents to let me move upstairs next to their room, I'd lay awake and terrified during thunderstorms, imagining the lightning striking me through the windows.

In high school, I stayed up late each night, waiting for everyone to go to sleep so I could make sure every door was locked, including my bedroom door. I was so scared that someone would break in.

In college, I relaxed A TON. That's probably one reason why it was the best time in my life. I felt safe with my friends and roommates. Yes, I still believed from time to time that they all hated me, for no reason at all. But, I still had major anxiety when I'd miss homework assignments.

Oh, and then there were all those years I was a music major. I developed what was called, Performance Anxiety. In practice, I'd play wonderfully. In solo performances, I sounded like a 4th grader. Performing was so bad for me (emotionally) that I finally quit the program and turned to Communications. Oh, and my Performance Anxiety? Yeah, that was just my regular anxiety amplified by the fear screwing up in front of everyone.

There are just way too many stories portraying my anxiety throughout my entire life. My earliest anxious memory is from the age of 3. My most recent? Um, right now?

Pregnancy definitely amplifies my anxiety a bajillion times. But, here I am, over a year after my second kid and one months after weaning him and you know what? I'm still having anxiety. I worry constantly, overreact about every little thing, and over-think like nobody's business.

For the past 26 years, I had no clue that my reactions to all of these events were all centered around one little word that starts with an "A," the friendliest letter in the alphabet. Now that I know, it's soooo much easier to deal with. When I start to get anxious, I am actually aware now and can ask myself, "Is this really an issue or is anxiety amplifying it?"

I finally feel some relief and control in my life. I'm definitely at the bottom of an uphill hike, but, at least I know I can do it (thanks to the best therapist in the world).

Medications definitely help as well, though I detest taking them. I'm having memory loss issues with Zoloft and I want to be done with it. I just want to be able to live my life happily without relying on any pills. They all have side effects, which terrifies me. (Hello, anxiety.) But, it's just part of the journey.

Yes, I could live the rest of my life without getting help. But, I don't want to. I want to be as happy and healthy as I can be. I want to enjoy my life as much as I possibly can.

Oh, and why am I divulging these intimate parts of my life? Because mental health is such a taboo subject, which is stupid because everyone's mental status is different. It's not like some people have healthy brains while others have unhealthy brains. Rather, everyone's brains just function differently. That's all.


  1. I love your ending statement, it's so true.

  2. I feel your pain.... we should talk about it some time :)

  3. If it makes you feel any better, I have memory issues, too, and I'm not even on any medications! I think having kids does that to you, too.

  4. I agree about mental health being unnecessarily taboo. I was feeling crazy anxious and depressed several months after my baby, and every said it couldn't be a postpartum thing because it was so far away from my baby's birth. I disagree - but... that said... I've also had my bouts of anxiety pre-baby so maybe it was just enhanced by the postpartum stuff. I think it's important to recognize these issues in ourselves. It's nothing to be ashamed of! It's probably more normal than weird. (Does that make sense?)

  5. I completely agree with your statement that even just having a Name for your issue gives you more control! I was the same way when I heard about "EDNOS" (eating disorder that isn't really anorexia), it was like a light went on, there was such relief and power that I wasn't just stuffed in the corner of some other diagnosis or unnamed "something wrong"! There was a name for what I had, and there were strategies to control it! Thank you for conquering your anxiety to post such a brave post.

  6. I suffer from mild depression all of my life, most days are ok, but somedays (like today) not so much. I went on medication after a horrific car accident that gave me PTSD. I took medication for years hating it every day but after seeing a great "fuddy-duddy" doctor was given the advice I needed and presto, the very next day after following his advice the medication made me feel like me for the first time in over a year. I followed this for several years until one day I wanted to see how I did without it. I went to my doctor about weening myself off if the medication but didn't tell my husband I wanted to know what he really thought of my moods without the preconceived notion that all my mood changes were medication related. After amonth I asked him about it, he hadn't noticed a change so we continued to ween off. But after all this if I had to take medication for the rest of my life I would be ok with that. And I too often feel like everyone hates me secretly :)

  7. This is my first time reading your blog. I feel like I am reading my story exactly. I have dealt with anxiety my entire life but never knew what to call it until after having my baby. Your part about being convinced your friends hated you....Soooo me. Thank you for putting this into words. I am going to ask my husband to read it :)

  8. Thanks to a certain amazing lady we both know and love well, the OTHER Mrs. Hancock, I am realizing my own anxiety issues. Good for you for putting it all out there- acknowledging it seems to minimize its effects. Another bad side to anxiety- rumination. I am SO bad at this. When I am doing mundane tasks around the house, I find myself ruminating, or mindlessly reflecting on a situation that caused me anxiety, and turning it over and over in my head, playing out what I should have or could have done better. When I do notice it happening, I stop, look at my kids who need and deserve me in the present, allow myself to feel blessed, and try to move on without being hard on yourself (good luck, right?).