anxiety

Self-Care, Anxiety and Post-Partum

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. I’ve taken medications on and off, I’ve been in therapy. After years of therapy and reflection I believe that my issue is mainly anxiety, not depression. While they can go hand-in-hand, anxiety seems to be my biggest problem. I’ve had a lot of therapists over the years, and different types. I’ve gone years without therapy or medication. I know that exercise helps a LOT with the issues I have.

The most recent time I was seeing a counselor, I really liked her a lot. She’d also lost a lot of weight (like 80 pounds I think?) and for the first time I was able to work through some body issue stuff that most people, and most counselors, can’t relate to. She understood. She was great! Then she went out on maternity leave and I had the option to see someone else but decided not to. Of course, she decided not to come back so I couldn’t see her anymore anyways if she came back. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen a therapist and decided it was time to go back.

The search for someone new began.

This part sucks. Big time. Like I said, I’ve had dozens over the years. I moved, insurance changes, therapists leave, etc etc. So I am well-versed in the “find a new therapist, give them the cliffsnotes version and see if we’re a good match” routine. It still sucks. I hate starting over.

This time, I was on a mission. My focus was not going to be body issues or other issues I’ve discussed in therapy in the past. This time I had something very specific to discuss: post-partum depression (PPD).

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Knowing my history with anxiety and depression, being off medications for a year and a half, not knowing what it would be like after the baby arrives, I knew it was good to find someone to talk to NOW and make sure I’m on the right track. I felt like it was better to be prepared. Know the warning signs. Learn some coping skills NOW. Try and avoid what may (or may not) happen.

I know very little about PPD. And I find that in my reading, not a lot of people talk about it. I don’t know why. It seems like it’s a common occurrence.

“Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but they also include:

  • Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the lack of sleep new moms usually get).
  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
  • Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, like thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby.
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby.

According to a CDC survey, 8 to 19% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms. (CDC)”

I’ve seen stats that are kind of all over the place but the general number seems to be between 11-20% of women suffer from PPD. Reading more into it, I feel like what *I* personally need to be more aware of is Post-Partum Anxiety. Considering that anxiety has been my biggest issue (far over depression), it stands to reason that this could become an issue.

Something that I’ve found disappointing with the blog world is the lack of disclosure and the sugar-coating of things. Blogs I loved to read…I ended up feeling disappointed because they’d have a baby and everything would be portrayed as rainbows and sunshine and everything was PERFECT. Then, sometimes (but not always), they’d share months later that things weren’t the perfect portrayal they presented. They struggled. Baby was tongue-tied and couldn’t breastfeed, everyone was suffering stress and exhaustion, mom suffered from PPD, etc etc.

I just wish there was more of a community, more transparency, more honesty. I feel like women are expected to be perfect, not complain about anything…when the reality might be very different and wouldn’t it be NICE to be surrounded by people that understand? And have been through it? Can relate? Can assist? Why isn’t there more of a community??

Anyways…I saw a new therapist and discussed my concerns with her. I really like the new person I’m seeing. She’s a behaviorist and with just a few sessions I already felt like I understood how to “fix” anxiety better with HER than any other therapists I’ve seen.

My post-partum plan:

Of course this is just a plan, it may or may not happen. But it’s my goal, at the very least.

  1. Take a shower and get dressed every day.
  2. When cleared by my doctor, get back to exercising when I can. I know myself and I know that physical activity helps with my anxiety. Even if it’s just taking the little boy and Bella outside for a walk every single day, I need to do something.
  3. Continue going to therapy and learn coping skills for my anxiety.
  4. Self-care!
  5. Get out of the house, see friends and family, do outings! I know myself and being cooped up in the house will make me a little crazy. 🙂 I get stir-crazy after being home sick with a cold for a few days!
  6. Learn to ask for help, and accept help when it’s offered.

 

I talked to a friend recently who suffers from debilitating anxiety. I understand that my anxiety is not a panic disorder (like hers is) and that I do already have SOME coping skills that help me with my anxiety. I’m doing okay–is my anxiety conquered? Not by a long shot. But I am managing it. Anyways, my friend is in cognitive behavioral therapy and she had a fabulous suggestion that she’s being doing for her anxiety. When the panic and anxiety starts to take hold, she closes her eyes and tries to name 5 sounds she hears in that moment. She said it’s really helpful to get her to focus on something else, calm down, take the rising panic out of the anxiety and try and re-focus her energy and mental thread. I’ve tried it and it works!

I really struggle with vague “just try to refocus your thoughts” kind of advice, which is why some therapists have just not worked for me before. I don’t do abstract. Don’t just tell me to be “mindful” tell me what that MEANS. Tell me what it LOOKS like to be “mindful.” So I tried my friend’s advice and I liked it. Trying to name 5 sounds I hear in the moment of anxiety is a good distraction.

self-care
Self-Care

Self-care is kind of a popular buzzword these days but it really is important. In the past self-care for me looked like this: spending time with friends, working out, treating myself to a pedicure, getting regular massages (thank you insurance!), having downtime to read and watch Netflix, cuddling with my fur-babies.

I’ve started keeping a list of things I want to do. Here are some ideas I found on self-care.

80+ Self-Care Ideas

Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress

134 Activities to Add to Your Self-Care Plan

You Just Had a Baby

 

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I’m so excited about the baby’s arrival! I want to BE PREPARED the best I can so I can enjoy every second of this amazing journey we are about to go on.

Do you have any advice or can you relate to this? What helped you?

Heavy Heart

Death has been on my mind a lot lately. A few people I know peripherally have lost someone close to them in the week, both were children. One was due to a long battle with an illness, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Recently Michael and I met with an attorney to to have a Will drawn up. It seemed like the responsible thing to do as adults and newlyweds who have assets. It didn’t bother me going into it because I’m practical and pragmatic in most things. I’m a planner. If I can plan for something, I will over-plan for it. That’s just who I am. So we met with a local attorney and had the papers drawn up. It still didn’t bother me until it got down to the nitty-gritty stuff. Like who gets the animals if we both go at the same time? I sure as hell don’t want them sitting in a cage at the humane society, where my cats will most likely be euthanized because they are older. I know that when we have kids someday and update this shit it’s going to be even more complicated and emotionally trying–who will take care of them when we both go?

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We also filled out Advance Health Directives–you know, the unplug me if I’m not waking up kind of forms. I’ve always known that I didn’t want my life prolonged if I was never going to wake up or get better. I watched two aunts die very slow, very painful deaths due to a genetic disease that had them in a nursing home with a feeding tube unable to communicate for the last decade of their lives. As a little kid visiting them, I knew then and there I didn’t want that. So it was fairly easy for me to fill out my wishes for the Directive.

It wasn’t comfortable, by any means. Especially when Michael and I started discussing different things and scenarios. We both tried to make jokes, to lighten the mood, but it was still uncomfortable.

I don’t know that anyone deals with loss very well. I know that I didn’t deal well with the big loss of my life, my grandfather. That was the start of my weight gain and depression issues. I had a flare-up of similar feelings this summer as I was preparing to marry the love of my life. It should have been a happy time. Mostly it was, but the stressors that popped up in the planning process triggered feelings in me I didn’t know how to deal with. Well, I did, I ate food I shouldn’t have. Hence the pounds creeping on. The closer the wedding got, the more anxious I felt. I withdrew from a lot of people, I was irritable and cranky, I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something horrible might happen to interfere with the wedding. My internal monologue was, I don’t deserve to be happy, something is going to ruin this. I won’t get my “DAY”.  I talked about this with my therapist. She tried to help me address the irrational anxiety attacks I was suffering from and honestly, once the wedding day was here, everything WAS alright and I WAS happy and nothing was ruined.

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Sure, these are all irrational fears and thoughts, everyone has them. But they were really overwhelming for me. I struggled. I didn’t share these feelings with very many people. I tried to share them with Michael but he doesn’t understand anxiety. He thinks it’s just something you can shut off. “Just stop thinking about it.” Mmmm. Right. I’ll do that.

Anyways. Last night after I got home from the gym, after Michael and I had eaten a delicious dinner he prepared for me and we settled in to watch some TV and relax, I saw something on Instagram from another blogger that made my heart stop and the breathe in my chest pause. She lost her husband.

You may have seen her blog, My Bizzy Kitchen, or you may have seen her comments on my blog. I’ve been a huge fan of her blog for years, since I first discovered blogs. She’s diabetic and counts her calories and her outlook on life has always been upbeat and positive when it comes to weight loss and keeping it off. Her recipes always look delicious and I’ve just enjoyed her posts over the years…

I knew her husband was really sick. He’d been in the hospital off and on this year and most recently he was there for an extended period of time. While I knew it it was serious from the bits and pieces she shared on her blog I had no idea it was this grave. When she posted last night that he had passed away at home surrounded by family, my heart broke for her and everyone there with her. Words just can’t describe how sad it made me feel.

It reminded me just how fragile life is. Things can change in a moment, completely unexpected, completely unplanned for. The rug is pulled out from your feet and you are on the floor on your back with a dazed feeling. That shock of grieve is something that, once you experience, you never forget. The disbelief. The sadness. The anger. All of it. I’ve felt it several times in my lifetime–my grandfather, my coworker a few years ago and one of my coworker’s daughters that died suddenly.

I hugged Michael and tried not to cry, feeling really sad about this blogger’s sudden sorrow. I started to think about the things that make me unhappy in my life and once again I asked myself, “If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with how I spent my time?” Would I be glad I spent time at a job that, while I enjoy the WORK, the environment is a toxic cesspool of unhappy, negative people? Would I be satisfied with how I spent my free time? Spending hours on Netflix disengaging because I just needed to escape? Or should I have spent that time doing something more fulfilling?  What about the countless hours every week I spend in the gym working out when I could be spending it with my husband and friends? People I love? Is the calorie burn more important than that? Is getting up early on the weekend to make a fitness class more important that sleeping in or snuggling with my husband for hours and being lazy? What about that Lean Cuisine I ate for dinner when what I really wanted was something REAL and delicious and nurturing? Was staying under my calories for the day more important that a happy, healthy, satisfied body?

These are things I think about often. I don’t know the answer to any of them. I’m sure we all have feelings of regret like this. It’s important not to be overwhelmed by these feelings. Not every moment of every waking person’s life needs to be focused on the bigger picture…sometimes the stuff we HAVE to do, or SHOULD do really are the priority. But what about that trip to Italy I’ve wanted to take my whole life? I keep putting it off because the money saved should be spent on something PRACTICAL and I don’t want credit card debt…but what if I never get to see Italy?

I think we all get hit with these thoughts and feelings once in awhile. If you are a fan of MyBizzyKitchen, go over to her blog and send her some good vibes. I’m sure this is a really hard time for her and her family. My heart goes out to them. Hug your loved ones.