I’m not sad. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. My life feels complete, so why does my chest hurt?
It hurts so bad, as though an elephant is sitting on it and I’m gasping for air. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you spend a few too many seconds underwater. I’m not drowning. In fact, I feel as though I have everything under control.
I’m so in control that I’m white knuckling my way through each day. I’m bending anyone who comes into my path to my will, and quickly becoming miffed with those who don’t meet my standard.
That’s how postpartum anxiety manifests itself in my life. Control. The funny thing about control is the more I try to control, the less I feel in control. It’s the weirdest catch 22.
The more I try to control, the more I feel as though I’m drowning. The more I try to control, the more I feel as though I’m failing. Worst of all, the more I try to control, the more I feel disconnected from the people I love. It’s exhausting.
When did this start:
I’ve always been a slightly anxious person. I have the “standard” anxieties – public speaking, flying, and dying. I didn’t consider myself any more or less neurotic than the average anxious person, until I had my first child. Whoa! The anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. It hit me so hard that I became a bit of a recluse for a few months. Then eventually, the feelings subsided, until I became pregnant with my second daughter.
It was during my second pregnancy that I learned about pregnancy related anxiety. Everyone talks about postpartum depression, but anxiety related to peri and postpartum wasn’t really something I’d heard about.
I visited the Woman’s Hospital website to learn about symptoms and was able to check off almost each warning sign on their list.
Racing thoughts. Yep.
Constantly checking the baby. That’s me!
Can’t sit still or relax. Check!
What helps me:
Talking about it. If you can relate to this, tell a friend or partner how you’re feeling. I often find that speaking my anxiety helps me to feel less anxious.
Breathe. When I feel anxious, I try to focus on the simplicity of my breath. Pausing to focus on the simple rising and falling of abdomen while I inhale, and exhale works wonders for me.
Mention these feelings to your provider. Let your primary care physician or OB know how you’re feeling. This is the most important way you can advocate for yourself.
Finally, take care of yourself. Know when to seek professional help. There’s nothing wrong with saying you need help.